President Estrada Palma And His Mother
( Originally Published 1902 )
IN a conversation which I had with General Palma, the new President of Cuba, about his career, he made the following beautiful reference to his mother :
" Every true son has the highest respect and love for his mother, but I have a special cause for gratitude, as my mother was one of the truest and best of women. What little I am, and what little I have done for my country, I owe to her. My father died when I was young. I was the only child, and mother lived for me. She taught me the path of rectitude, and my love for freedom she breathed into my spirit from her patriotic soul."
" General Palma," said I, " you have mentioned the debt of gratitude you owe to your mother. I have heard that she was murdered by the Spaniards. Have you any objections to telling me of her death?"
" It was in this manner," said he ; " during the Ten Years' War, my mother followed me to the camp. She could have lived in the city in comfort, but I was her only child, and she would not remain away from me, but kept as close to me as she could. In 1873, she undertook to make her way to me, but was captured by Spanish soldiers. She was unable to keep up with the soldiers on the march, and they left her alone in the forest. It was in the rainy season, and for fourteen days she wandered about, without shelter, and with nothing to eat but the scanty wild fruit which she found. I learned of the capture, and sent men to rescue her, but they did not find her until she had been so wasted by starvation and exposure that she died the next day."
" General," I remarked, " I noticed a statement in one of the papers that revenge for this foul murder of your mother intensified your relentless warfare on Spain."
Josť Palma, the oldest son of the general, who was seated near us, said : " That statement is incorrect. My father's services have been rendered out of love for the country for which his mother died, and not from revenge for her fate. Some time after his mother's death, he served as a member of a court-martial, which was trying for his life a Spanish captain who had been captured leading a guerrilla band. My father objected to the death sentence, whereat a member of the court said to him : ` You ought to be the last person to befriend this prisoner, as the Spaniards killed your mother, and this is your opportunity to avenge the crime with blood.' My father answered: `My love for my mother is so intense, and my memory of her is so sacred, that I cannot associate with them the idea of vengeance.' "
I suggested that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had quite a discussion over the vital question of recognizing God's providence in the Constitution.
General Palma said, with some emphasis : " There was only one man who opposed that recognition of God; all the rest favored it. The new republic had no hesitancy in recording that faith in God, which the people feel. My mother taught me, at the start, that such trust is necessary to high character, usefulness, and happiness. I consider that all moral law and order are based on faith in the Almighty, and that we must have His guidance in industrial and national life."
The sainted mother has two immortalities, one in the other life, the other in this, in the spirit and service of her child.