VIRGINIUS AFFAIR, The. The Wir ginius affair) occurred in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba in 1873 and almost caused a war be tween the United States and Spain. The Virginins, a ship registered in the New York custom-house 26 Sept. 1870 as the property of an American citizen, was captured on the high seas near Jamaica by the Spanish man-of-war Tornado, 31 Oct. 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 remonstrated with the Spanish govern ment, and through the United States Minister to Spain, Gen. Daniel E. Sickles, demanded the release of the Virginias and her crew.
Spain was at that time a republic. under President Castelar, and while his government was asking for time to obtain information and was malting promises, the authorities in Cuba determined to take matters into their own hands. On 7 Nov. 1873 the captain of the Virginius, Joseph Pry, and 36 of the crew, were shot. The next day 12 of the most promi nent passengers were also shot. When the news of this action became known in the United States the excitement was intense, meetings were held, and the bloody work was denounced.
President Grant authorized the putting of the navy on a war footing, diplomatic relations were on the point of severance and war was istuninent Meanwhile President Castelar made the excuse that his orders to stay proceedings were received too late to prevent 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, how ever, on 29 November, 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 25 December. If, how ever, it should be proved in the interval 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 23 January Admiral Polo made the dis claimer agreed on. The Virgimus was de livered to the United States navy at Bahia Honda on 16 December with the American flag flying. She was, however, unseaworthy and, encountering a heavy storm off Cape Fear, sank. The prisoners who survived were, surrendered on 18 Decetnber at Santiago de Cuba, and landed in safety in New York.