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Captain Alfred T. Mahan to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

July 28th [1898]

Dear Mr. Long:

     I venture to put my oar in again, because I think I have an idea which will scarcely occur to any one else. I assume that the published news of Spain asking our terms of peace is true.1 It is not improbable that she will ask an armistice, which I trust will not be granted; but whether she asks or not, the agitation of the question of peace puts a new view upon our proposed expedition to the Straits of Gibraltar, &c. It is said that the expected approach of Watson’s2 squadron stirred up the war sprit; and a recent confidential dispatch of our secret service at Madrid, through our attaché at Paris,3 said (I quote from memory) that the postponement of Watson’s sailing strengthened Sagasta’s4 hand - i.e., for peace. Now what I have to suggest is this: While a general armistice could work us nothing but injury and expense, local armistices are not uncommon. Whether Spain ask an armistice or not, it would be open to us to say that we had a large expedition just ready to start for the Coast of Spain, but, understanding that the effect of such a step upon the susceptibilities of the Spanish people would be unfavorable to the attainment of peace (which we most heartily desire), we will consent to postpone the sailing of the fleet for a reasonable space to permit the conclusion of negotiations, and will accept an armistice for the European possessions of Spain, including her European trade and the Canaries; provided, that Spain on her part engages not to molest our two battleships and our cruiser and colliers, which were to have gone to the East under cover of the operations, nor to object to their coaling (from their own colliers?) in neutral Mediterranean ports. I should insist that those ships must go forward without delay, because we must increase our force in the Pacific; and that unless they accept this condition the fleet will sail as first proposed.

     It is evident this step would relieve us from an onerous undertaking, and it seems to me also evident that it will tend to facilitate peace. We should undertake that the two ships would not appear in sight of the Coast of Spain except as unavoidable in passing through the Straits.

Very Respectfully,

A. T. Mahan


Dear Mr. Long- There are some good suggestions in the foregoing. Think of them. W McK4

July 28 98

Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, Papers of Alfred T. Mahan, reel 3.

Footnote 1: The Kingdom of Spain initiated contact on 18 July through Jules Cambon, the French ambassador to the United States. Chadwick, The Spanish-American War, II, 427.

Footnote 2: Commo. John C. Watson, Commander, Eastern Squadron.

Footnote 3: United States Naval Attaché in Paris, Lt. William S. Sims.

Footnote 5: President William McKinley. Although the President approved, none of these ideas were acted upon.

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