The Cuban Intervention

The million that was supplied Saint-Simon to pay his troops by the "Ladies of Havana"...may, with truth, be regarded as the "bottom dollars" upon which the edifice of American independence was erected.*

In 1777-78 George Washington and his troops were in dire need. The Revolutionary forces were in desperate shape and near mutiny because there was not enough money for supplies.

In 1780 Admiral de Grasse was on his way from France to America with a powerful French fleet. He stopped in Haiti in the West Indies for reprovisioning. There he got word from Rochambeau, Commander of the French Forces in America, about the tragic economic situation of the American revolutionaries. De Grasse sent Saint Simon to nearby Cuba with an appeal. In Cuba Francisco Miranda heard about the situation and organized a fund- raising drive.

One particular group, the "Ladies of Havana" responded with great enthusiasm. Over 1,200,000 pounds of silver (25 million dollars in today's equivalent) were collected within a few hours. This generous offering was made to the American and French military not as a loan, but as a willing gift.

Admiral de Grasse proceeded northward to unite his navy with the Revolutionary forces. The silver was divided between Washington and Rochambeau, and the army was able to move ahead toward their destined victory against the superior force at Yorktown in 1781.

And NOW the American people and officials have forgotten or never knew what the Cuban ladies said when they asked for the money in Havana. The Cuban ladies said that the purpose of the gift was "So the American mothers' sons are not born as slaves.

Now the American sons are free. And the Cubans need help. The Cuban exiles are now asking the American nation to NOT support Castro's regime. The Cubans are not asking for a free favor. It's a privilege which they have earned through their efforts and sacrifices. Let's not support Castro. Let's maintain the embargo.

*When the French Were Here by Stephen Bonsal, Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc. 1945, pp. 119-120.

by Lillian Martinez

Source: RECE newsletter, P O Box 011898, Miami, FL 33101. February 1975

More info from the newsgroup soc.culture.cuba:

Date: Tue, 4 Jul 2000 09:42:27 -0700 (PDT)
From: robert solera
To: Larry Daley
Subject: Re: Cuban support for American Independence (fwd)


"Los Otros Extranjeros en la Revolucion Norteamericana", pages 126, 127,128, by Herminio Portell Vil�, ISBN 0-89729-173-5, 1978, Ediciones Universal.

"Miranda when he learned of the failure of St. Simon mission he used his closeness to the Captain General of Cuba. Enthusiastic supporter of the American Revolution himself, he knew it was a popular cause amongst his Cuban friends and he enquired among them as to their willingness to participate in fund-raising for the Admiral De Grasse and George Washington armies.

The reaction was extremely favorable, especially among Cuban women who donated their money and their jewelry and convinced their relatives and friends to contribute to the fund-raising...Cuban women got together (to raise) one million and two hundred "tournesse pounds"...the frigate L' pick up the collection in Havana and sail to Virginia.

..and Steve Bonsal, perhaps the first American historian in write this topic said"...the million that St. Simon was given by the Havana ladies to pay his troops, might well be considered as the foundations over which the building of the American independence was erected", When the French Were Here", Stephen Bonsal, Fort Washington, N.Y. 1945, pags. 119-120. My translation.

--- Larry Daley wrote:

In "Farewell young Elian - Our Prayers Are With You," The Washington Times, Editorial Section, by Antonio Benedi is a former special assistant freedom-loving Cuban alive. Many Cubans bravely fought on U.S. soil in the War of Independence.

Cubans, as a people, helped raise much-well documented. The inscription that the "Ladies of Havana" wrote on their contribution was:

"So the American mothers' sons are not born as slaves."

The pledge of the Havana's Ladies, remained very little known, with the exception of an American historian Stephen Bonsal, who wrote: "That sum collected [by the Havana's Ladies] must be considered as the ground whereon was erected the American independence."

Gen. Jean Baptiste de Rochambeau wrote in his "Daily Memoirs," available in the Library of Congress: "The joy was enormous when it was received, the money from Havana: The contribution of 800,000 silver pounds which helped stop the financial bankruptcy (of the Revolutionary Army) and raised up the moral spirit of the Army that had began to dissolve."

Carmen Maria Rodriguez has also done research into this chapter of the Revolutionary war. She writes:

This July 4th, New York will be scenario of the largest maritime event in the history of humankind. In this regard, the city, and the nation are outdoing themselves to stage along with simulatenous fireworks, one of the most impressive displays of popular joy and freedom ever staged commemorating a nation's freedom.

Being Cuban born and living within sight of the Statue of Liberty, I cannot help but think of who and what made this possible. My mind races back to a demonstration held in New York by Cuban Americans when someone handed to me a piece of paper in which the former US Ambassador to Cuba Stephen Bonsal wrote, "The Contribution of Cuban women by way of their jewelry, could very well be the foundation on which is founded, the freedom of the United States". Bonsal, having lived in Havana, also penned a book, "When the French were here".

A friend of mine, Tirso Gonzalez, veteran of the 2506 Brigade, once heard me talking about this case, and both he and I sent out to investigate in the NY Public Library if this indeed was true. This is what we both found out:

General George Washington had a dream to liberate the colonies from the English. He also had a band of mercenaries whom to pay, since he relied on these type of soldiers to wage the war which he felt was just and necessary. The French were here in the colonies helping out, and given that there was no money to finance the mercenaries or the war, Lafayette commanded the frigate known as "L'Aigrrette", to travel first to Cadiz, Spain, to see if money could be gotten. To no avail, the Spanish in Cadiz were very kind but not financially forthcomming. The ship then went on to Saint Domingue, what is now Haiti, and what was then the riches of all colonies given the enourmeous wealth to be had in the sugar industry. The French there told the French on the ship, "Nous n'avons pas d'argent", in other words, there would be no money from Saint Domingue sent to Washington. L'Aigrette then set sail to the Port of Havana to obtain water and supplies to return up to Virginia. It was there that word got out, our traditional "Radio Bemba" of the time, that Washington needed funding to stage a battle which was at the time only in the planning stage. Women, girls, from Havana, to Matanzas to Pinar del Rio gave freely of their jewelry, the French even documenting that they disposed of their diamonds, to help Washington in his quest for freedom and his financing of his mercenaries. The women of Cuba came forth, knowing that this was a just cause, giving up of their only wealth which was their gold, to assist the love of independence of another nation. When L'Agraitte set sail and arrived in September of 1781 in Virginia, General Washington upon knowing that there was sufficient financing of over 1,200,000 pounds of Cuban gold, silver and diamonds, historians point out that he lost his usual sedate composure and threw his hat in the air from sheer joy. Cuban Women's Contribution to the cause of American Independence thus made possible the financing of the decisive battle of American Independece, known as the Yorktown Battle. In fact, it was then on 31 October 1781, that General Cornwallis of England, had his sable turned over to General Washington, as a sign of surrender of the English to a band of dreamers know as the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. May G-d bless the children of these Cuban women who loved their own freedom, but knew that the cause of liberty and justice is one to be pursued at all costs everywhere in the world where there is need for such a state of affairs.

When New York rejoices this Fourth of July, I too in a way shall rejoice doubly, since it was our Cuban ancestors, and despite all the disdain for Cubans present now in this land, that made possible, the freedom and bounty of so many. And by writing this, I hope to start waking up people's minds that Cubans even today as in 1781, maintain their unique tradition of defending freedom above all else.

"...Cubans...made a donation...for the battle of Yorktown...most of the treasure brought from Cuba was intended to pay the French around 800,000 tournesse pounds...another 400,000 tournesse pounds were used to pay the soldiers of Washington troops...The weight of the one million two hundred tournesse pounds was so heavy that it was necessary to reinforce the floors of the Yorktown house where the money was deposited to be shared by soldiers and sailors...", page 128, my translation of the same book cited previously.

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