Page images



It has been assumed as a principle from the outset that the quickest means of pacifying and civilizing the Philippine Archipelago is to cover it with a network of telegraph wires. Commanding officers can crush an incipient uprising suddenly and before it has time to assume dangerous proportions by concentrating by telegraph the garrisons from all directions upon the one point involved. Already there are about 2,500 miles of land telegraph lines in operation in the Philippines, and about two hundred and sixty miles of inter-island and lake cables have been laid, every mile constructed by the United States Signal Corps since the battle of Manila Bay. At the last report the telegraphic messages in the Island of Luzon alone exceeded 6,500 per day, averaging over forty words each, or approximately 260,000 words daily.

It may be added that the telegraph is practically the only mail service that exists.

In Luzon two trunk lines have been established-one along the west coast, the other along the Rio Grande de Cagayan. The islands of Cebu and Leyte have been connected by cable, and a complete new route from Manila to Iloilo is in operation, furnishing a duplicate route to the present English cable direct from Manila to Iloilo. In the Department of Mindanao and Jolo, the plan involves direct communication, by cable, between the principal islands, and by land lines and cable to the telegraph system in the Department of the Visayas, and from thence, by duplicate routes to Manila.


The growing commercial importance of Alaska, and the prospective future of that country, have made the construction of a telegraph system for this territory an imperative necessity. Congress at its last session authorized an expenditure of

$450,000 for the construction of such a line.

Owing to the shortness of the working season in this latitude, and the very unusual conditions under which the line must be constructed, as well as the lack of any adequate transportation, it was not hoped to complete the work this season.

The military cables connecting the gold district of Cape Nome with the Headquarters at St. Michael, and also connecting St. Michael with Unalaklik, which is to be the terminus of the land line up the Yukon, have been completed and have placed the Department Commander at St. Michael in direct communication with Cape Nome.

These submarine cables, involving in the aggregate nearly two hundred miles, were constructed by an American manufacturer, and were laid, equipped, and operated by American engineers.

The military forts to be connected, with the approximate distances, are shown in the following table:

[blocks in formation]

By a recent temporary arrangement with the Canadian authorities this telegraph system will be enabled to reach the United States over the line now being constructed by the Canadian Government between Atlin and Quesnelle—a distance of about nine hundred miles.


In order to bind together the local land telegraph systems which have been outlined above, these systems should be directly connected at an early date with the United States. First in this colonial system, comes the proposed transPacific Cable, connecting California with the Hawaiian Islands, thence to Midway

Island, thence to the Island of Guam, and from there to the Island of Luzon.

A cable system from Vancouver via the Aleutian Islands to Japan and the Philippines has long been proposed, and has many points, commercial and technical, in its favor as a trans-Pacific route. The true solution is thought to be the early construction of both of these transPacific cable lines, thereby furnishing, first, a direct connection to the Alaskan system, and by a later extension to the Philippines a duplicate route for the protection of the more southern line via Hawaii. A short cable from Sitka to Valdez would be one means of perfecting a junction with the Alaska land sys


The recent acquisition by the United States of the island of Tutuila, and the construction in Pago Pago Harbor of a coaling station, makes it desirable to join this advanced American station in the southwestern Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands by submarine cable.

This can probably be most readily accomplished by connecting it directly to Fiji, a station on the British-Pacific cable


To further complete this proposed colonial telegraph system, it will be necessary to connect the island of Porto Rico by submarine cable to the United States, and, although of greater length, a line direct from New York to Porto Rico is suggested as offering many advantages. The shortest line is not always the most advantageous. For instance, Haiti is connected direct to New York City, instead of to the coast of Florida, which would be much nearer, and Bermuda is connected direct with Halifax, for the sole object of exclusive British control under all circumstances.

Trans-Pacific cable, San Francisco
via Hawaiian Islands, Midway
Island, and Island of Guam to


Inter-island communication for the Hawaiian group


To complete the Inter-island telegraph system of the Philippines.. For Alaska telegraph system, as already authorized by Congress To extend the Alaska telegraph system and to connect it to the United States by direct cables, and also for further extension to the Philippines via the Aleutian Islands, providing a duplicate trans-Pacific route to the Philippines

For cable connections with Tutuila Island coaling station at Pago Pago Harbor ...

CABLES IN THE ATLANTIC. Direct cable from the coast of the United States to the island of Porto Rico

[blocks in formation]






1,500,000 .$25,000,000

.$200,000,000 I to 8

This estimate, which is necessarily a very general one, due to the great fluctuations in the price of materials, the inexperience of American manufacturers, etc., shows that with an expenditure of $25,000,000, or perhaps $30,000,000 at most, the United States can have a telegraph system connecting all her possessions, and placing each part of such possessions in direct connection with the United States by the best and most efficient means of communication known.

For the expense of three or four firstclass battleships, the United States can provide herself with the most powerful means known for extending and preserving her commercial influence and for the speedy pacification and civilization of the people who have recently come under her control, and can secure a strategic advantage-military, naval, and politicalwhich is necessary to her position as a world power.

Submarine cables are now established for colonial, political, and diplomatic reasons, as really as for their purely commercial purposes. Nor is actual state of war of the country itself the only fear; witness the present plight of France due

to the Transvaal War; owing to the fact that the cables to South Africa are under the control of England, and the establishment by her of a war censorship, France is absolutely dependent upon England not only for news from the Transvaal, but also for communication with her own colony of Madagascar, and her South Africa possessions. The importance of this subject has led her Colonial Commission to recommend recently the immediate construction of submarine cables, joining France with Senegal, Madagascar, and Tonkin, the latter connecting with the Danish company's cables. Indeed, the plan ultimately involves an estimated expenditure of $25,000,000 and includes a complete colonial cable system.


The International Convention for the Protection of Submarine Cables, which met at Paris in 1884, made no provision defining the rights and immunities of cable property in time of war.

In addition to incorporating an article in the convention stipulating that this convention shall in no wise affect the liberty of belligerents, Lord Lyons, the British delegate, submitted the following declaration at the moment of signing the convention: "Her Majesty's Government understands Article XV in this sense, that in time of war, a belligerent, a signatory of the convention, shall be free to act in regard to submarine cables, as if the convention did not exist."

M. Leopold Orben, in the name of the Belgian Government, also submitted the following declaration :

"The Belgian Government, through its delegates to the conference, has maintained that the convention has no effect upon the rights of belligerent powers. Those rights would be neither more or less extensive after the signature than they are now. The mention inserted in Article XV, although absolutely useless in the opinion of the Belgian Govern

ment, would not, however, justify a refusal on its part to unite in a work the expediency of which is indisputable."

Before the Spanish-American War there were few examples of damages done to submarine cables by belligerents.

As has been pointed out, Article XV of the Convention of Paris, of 1884, for the Protection of Submarine Cables, subscribed to by twenty-six nations, specifically states that "The stipulations of this convention shall in no wise affect the liberty of belligerents." In consequence, the question as to what, if any, special protection was to be accorded submarine cables in time of war, remained theoretical until the Spanish-American War of 1898, when a practical rule of action was outlined by General A. W. Greely, Chief Signal Officer of the United States Army.

Upon the declaration of war, General Greely, upon whom by law devolved the operation of military telegraph lines and cables, was called into the national council for his opinion as to the line of action best calculated to subserve the legitimate rights of commerce and industry, while conserving the military interests of the United States. He took the view that, inasmuch as postal communications were forbidden between belligerents, prohibitive orders should be issued against such telegraphic correspondence as as might benefit the public enemy, pointing out that telegrams, by their secrecy and rapidity, produce military results much more important and injurious than are possible by the use of the mail.

General Greely advised that cable operations should continue over the international cables between Havana and Florida, of course under strict military censorship, and his firm stand prevented any interruptions of this cable system. By his orders Captain R. E. Thompson, Signal Corps, United States Army, took military possession of the Key West telegraph office on April 23, 1898, and cut the cables so that Jacksonville could no longer work with Havana. Domestic and

business messages in open text were allowed to be sent and received from Havana, but only under strict military censorship. Similar action was taken at Havana by the Governor-General of Cuba, who established a rigid Spanish military censorship, so that all messages were subject to double scrutiny.

By his instructions General Greely recognized the existence of five classes of cables:

First: Those of which the termini are in the enemy's country; for instance, the Cuba Submarine Cable system along the south coast of Cuba.

Second: Cables which directly connect countries at war, so that each belligerent controls one end of cable; for instance, that of the International Oceanic Telegraph Company between Florida and Havana.

Third: Where one end of the cable is in the enemy's country and the other in neutral territory; for instance, the West India and Panama cables extending through Cuba to Porto Rico, and thence to Saint Thomas.

Fourth: Where a cable extends from the coast of an offensive belligerent to a neutral country contiguous to the territory of the defensive belligerent; for instance, the Haiti Cable from New York City to Haiti, where there is direct cable. connection with the Island of Cuba.

Fifth Cables having one terminus in the territory of the offensive belligerent and the other in neutral regions remote from the scene of hostility; for instance, the Atlantic cables connecting the United States with Europe.

To cables of the first class, whether the property of the defending enemy or a neutral corporation, was applied the simple and well-known rule that they are subject to the vicissitudes of war, and that being in use for war purposes they are proper objects of offensive military operations. The orders issued to the officers of the Signal Corps looked upon these cables, whether they were laid in

the high sea or along the immediate. coast, as liable to seizure and total destruction.

Cables of the second class were easily dealt with. The cables between Key West and Havana were taken possession of, militarily, by Spain in Cuba and by the American Army in Key West. Messages going and coming were subjected to the most rigid military censorship at both ends of the cable. Only messages in plain text bearing upon business and social subjects were permitted, and where any suspicion existed as to the loyalty of the sender were either refused or not sent. Exceptional cipher messages were permitted as a matter of courtesy and favor to selected diplomatic representatives of neutral nations.

The cables of the third class were viewed as contraband of war; but it was also recognized that their liability to destruction depended in a measure on the locality of the cable. General Greely recognized as unsettled and of doubtful expediency the right of any belligerent to raise from the bottom and destroy on the high sea a neutral cable, merely on the ground that such cable landed in a hostile country. He, however, applied a more rigid rule to such portions of cables, cable huts, instruments, etc., as were located within the territorial jurisdiction of the enemy. This rule was based on the principle that such cable property, whether belonging to an enemy or to neutral corporations, is not only subject to the vicissitudes of war, but, being contraband of war, is a legitimate object of military operations. In accordance with this view his orders to Colonel James Allen, Signal Corps, charged him to use his utmost efforts to cut off the south coast of Cuba any cable that could be grappled and picked up, either within a marine league of the coast, or within range of Spanish batteries.

In Cuba and Porto Rico, during the Spanish-American War, certain neutral cable stations of this class fell within the

power of the Army of the United States. In such cases the officials of the neutral cable companies were given a choice of action. They could abandon their property to the vicissitudes of war, or accepting the force majeure, were allowed to transact business under strict military censorship. Even during the siege of Santiago the orders permitted the French Telegraphic Cable Company to accept business for Santiago de Cuba within the Spanish lines, every such message, however, to be viséd by the military censor.

The fourth class of cables were seized by the military forces of the United States and operated under strict military censorship. Code and cipher messages were absolutely refused save for the authorized government agents and certain excepted diplomatic representatives, the latter as a matter of courtesy.

Cables of the fifth class were placed under a military censorship. Of these, there were six systems comprising separate cables. Most of these telegraph cables were only constructively seized, General Greely taking the responsibility of intrusting the direct censorship of messages, under the general supervision of an officer of the Signal Corps, to the respective superintendents, men of high character, whose good faith was guaranteed by the companies whose interests they likewise guarded. The interests of the United States were thus subserved while the privacy of the affairs of the companies was conserved. The responsible officials gave a written pledge to observe such rules as might be filed by the Chief Signal Officer with the companies. These rules prohibited all messages to and from Spain, and also certain other classes which were deemed prejudicial to the military interests of the United States. In cases of doubt, messages of the latter character were examined and viséd by the military censor.

The events of the Spanish-American War brought to attention the whole subject of the legal rights of cable property

and the control of the same under varying and complex conditions in time of war. In the absence of definite international law upon the many points involved, the United States was forced to take the initiative and use this powerful military weapon for the benefit of the cause of the United States, while at the same time respecting and subserving the rights of neutrals with an equity and fairness which has always characterized the actions of this Government when possible.

In the West Indian cables, as well as in the cable connecting the Philippines. with Asia, the cable question was always a paramount one, and the United States finds herself now confronted with legal questions, growing out of actions necessary in time of war. Since submarine cables have become such a dominant influence in time of war, and since the cases which may naturally arise are often complex and involved, it is clear that a further international cable conference is a necessity of the near future, by which a more definite international understanding of methods of procedure in time of war may be attained. This international conference could properly consider other international cable matters, which the great advance in submarine telegraphy has made important. Among these may be mentioned the construction and authoriza

tion of a uniform international cable code, for the economical and efficient communication between different parts of the world in any of the principal languages now authorized by the international telegraph rules.


It seems clear from the history of the Spanish-American War that provisions must be made for laying, picking up, cutting, and operating submarine cables in time of war. From the outbreak of this war every attention was given to the problem of isolating the island of Cuba from Spain.

« PreviousContinue »