United States Consul at Manila Oscar F. Williams to Commodore George Dewey, Commander, Asiatic Station
O. F. Williams
Of the United States of America
Manila, Philippine Island, Mar. 14- 1898.
Commodore George Dewey.
U.S. Navy, Hong Kong
Your favor by messenger of Br. Consulate1 reached me this hour. Tomorrow by an American bound for Hong Kong I can send reply without having it run the gauntlet of the suspicious officials of Spain.
By letters to you- known to my Spanish Clerk- and by others sent without his knowledge. By a letter of length to your Mr. Caldwell2 and in direct and indirect ways I have striven to inform you.
1- no recent strength has been added to the defenses of either Manila or Cavite.
2d Am informed there are neither torpedoes nor mines protecting Cavite or Manila or her Channels to the sea.
3d I have inspected the forts- the old wall forts are beneath consideration a few old rusty guns of small calibre- brass and about 100 yrs old.- no care taken of anything. Within the walls a large quantity of shell & ball with many large cannon dismounted.
4th The fort at entrance to Pasig river, head of Breakwater, has three or four small guns. I believe it below consideration as defense.
5th Along the Bay front of walled Manila, beyond the walls, and at Mulate3 about two miles from the Entrance to Pasig are a line of forts- guns much larger- and apparently manned ready for action. Those are formidable- none other to be feared.
6th For sometime we have had in Philippine waters four Spanish warships- of the power of which you will know if named as follows, “Don Juan de Austria” “Isla de Cuba” “Reina Christina” and “Castilla”- one has been down to Iloilo- and last week. Wed. I believe, the “Don Juan de Austria” was dispatched north about 300 miles to cooperate with two regiments sent over land to suppress an uprising of rebels.
I cannot tell the period of ships absence, her going confesses a dangerous condition for Spain and one which demands all forces now here- Revolution is rampant and a jubilee would be held if you would capture Manila. Even the Spanish are disgusted as priests rule with inquisitorial hands.
Reports are filling the air. Seven U.S. battle ships are reported, by cable from Spain to be coming here from Hong Kong, Last night I was confidentially informed that three US. battle ships were near Manila, Etc. Etc.
I listen, collect reports and write all to you. I am not an expert, but believe Manila very weak except it be for warships and that you know all about. I believe the Commercial and Church interests would demand and obtain surrender to you if only you throw a few shot and shell into the walled city, the official center of church & state. and into the dock portion of New Manila. where are exclusive warehouses- Yesterday, so as to inform you- I counted 604- craft- steamers, ships [tugs] - Cascoes-4 Etc. in river and slips- You can understand how pressure would be exerted for surrender if your ships [jeopardized] life & property. Especially when all these merchant and shipping interests are disgusted with spain and her laws and inability to stop the war, Little loyalty- here.
I believe you will get other letters before this. The cable is promised for use tomorrow. Your cipher & my reply excited gravest suspicions and were the talk of the city. three spies reported on my track- one [located] at my table- and I am satisfied my room and consulate have both been entered. Tis difficult to act wisely- but if loyalty to our flag be wisdom I shall eclipse Solomon,
Your obedient servant
O.F. Williams, Consul
Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, PGD. Document is on Consulate stationary that lists: “Consular Agencies at/Iloilo/Island of Panay/Cebu/Island of Zebu.”
Footnote 1: British Consul at Manila was Edward Henry Rawson-Walker.
Footnote 2: Flag Secretary Ens. Harry H. Caldwell.
Footnote 3: Proper spelling is Malate.
Footnote 4: Williams attempted to make plural the Spanish word “Casco.” A Casco was a style of square, flat bottomed boat originating in the Philippines.