VIRGINIUS AFFAIR, THE. It was in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba that the historic "Virginius affair," occurred in 1873, which almost caused a war be tween the United States and Spain. The "Virginius," a ship registered in the New York custom house Sept. 26, 1870, as the property of an American citizen, was captured on the high seas near Jamaica, by the Spanish man-of-war "Tornado," Oct. 31, 1873. The reason given was that she was about to land men and arms in Cuba, which was then engaged in the "Ten Years' War" against Spain. At the time of capture the "Virginias" was flying the American flag. She was taken to Santiago. President Grant remon strated with the Spanish Government, and through the United States minister to Spain, General Daniel E. Sickles, de manded the release of the "Virginius" and her crew.
Spain was at that time a republic under President Castelar, and while his government was asking for time to ob tain information and was making prom ises, the authorities in Cuba deter mined to take matters into their own hands. On Nov. 7, 1873, the captain of the "Virginius," Joseph Fry, and 36 of the crew, were shot. The next day 12 of the most prominent passengers were also shot. The Captain-General of Cuba, General De Rodas, directly sanctioned these murders. When the news of this action became known in the United States the excitement was intense. Meetings were held, and the bloody work was de nounced. President Grant authorized the putting of the navy on a war foot ing, diplomatic relations were on the point of severance and war was immi nent. Meanwhile President Castelar
made the excuse that his orders to stay proceedings were received too late to pre vent the crime.
Several times it seemed that hostilities could not be avoided. Once, General Sickles sent for a ship to take him from Spain. At last, however, on Nov. 29, a protocol was signed between Secretary Fish and Admiral Polo, by which Spain agreed to surrender the survivors of the crew and passengers of the "Virginius," together with the ship, and to salute the flag of the United States on Dec. 25. If, however, it should be proved in the inter val that the "Virginius" had no right to fly the United States flag, the salute should be dispensed with, though Spain should disclaim any intention to insult the flag. Three days before the time agreed on, Secretary Fish announced himself as satisfied that the "Virginius" had no right to fly the flag, and the salute was dispensed with. On Jan. 23 Admiral Polo made the disclaimer agreed on. The "Virginius" was delivered to the United States navy at Bahia Honda on Dec. 16, with the American flag flying. She was, however, unseaworthy and, encountering a heavy storm off Cape Fear, sank. The prisoners who sur vived were surrendered on Dec. 18, at Santiago de Cuba, and landed in safety in New York.