Valeriano Weyler, 1st Duke of Rubí : biography
Don Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, Marquis of Tenerife, Duke of Rubí, Grandee of Spain, (September 17, 1838 – October 20, 1930) was a Spanish general, and Governor General of the Philippines and Cuba. He was famous for his Reconcentración policy, which was the first of the similar acts known today as internment, as used later by the United Kingdom (to the Transvaal Colony), the United States (to Filipinos and General William Tecumseh Sherman’s campaign), Germany (to Jews), and Russia (to the Japanese).
On his return to Spain in 1892, he was appointed to command the 6th Army Corps in the Basque Provinces and Navarre, where he soon quelled agitations. He was then made captain-general at Barcelona, where he remained until January 1896. In Catalonia, with a state of siege, he made himself the terror of the anarchists and socialists.
After Arsenio Martínez Campos had failed to pacify the Cuban rebellion, the Conservative government of Antonio Cánovas del Castillo sent Weyler out to replace him. This selection met the approval of most Spaniards, who thought him the proper man to crush the rebellion. While serving as a Spanish general, he was called "Butcher Weyler" because hundreds of thousands of people died in his concentration camps.
He was made governor of Cuba with full powers to suppress the insurgency (rebellion was widespread in Cuba) and restore the island to political order and its sugar production to greater profitability. Initially, Weyler was greatly frustrated by the same factors that had made victory difficult for all generals of traditional standing armies fighting against an insurgency. While the Spanish troops marched in regulation and required substantial supplies, their opponents practiced hit-and-run tactics and lived off the land, blending in with the non-combatant population. He came to the same conclusions as his predecessors as well—that to win Cuba back for Spain, he would have to separate the rebels from the civilians by putting the latter in safe havens, protected by loyal Spanish troops. By the end of 1897, General Weyler had relocated more than 300,000 into such "reconcentration camps." Weyler learned this tactic from studying General William Tecumseh Sherman’s campaign while assigned to the post of military attaché in the Spanish Embassy in Washington D.C. However, many mistakenly believe him to be the origin of the tactic after it was later used by the British in the Second Boer War and later evolved into a designation to describe the concentration camps of the 20th century regimes of Hitler and Stalin. Although he was successful in moving vast numbers of people, he failed to provide for them adequately. Consequently, these areas became cesspools of hunger and disease, where many hundreds of thousands died.
Weyler’s "reconcentration" policy had another important effect. While it made Weyler’s military objectives easier to accomplish, it had devastating political consequences. The Spanish Conservative government supported Weyler’s tactics wholeheartedly, but the Liberals denounced them vigorously for their toll on the Cuban civilian population. In the propaganda war waged in the United States, Cuban émigrés made much of Weyler’s inhumanity to their countrymen and won the sympathy of broad groups of the U.S. population to their cause. He was nicknamed "the Butcher" Weyler by yellow journalists like William Randolph Hearst.
Weyler’s strategy also backfired militarily due to the rebellion in the Philippines that required the redeployment of some troops already in Cuba in 1897. When Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas del Castillo was assassinated in June, Weyler lost his principal supporter in Spain. He resigned his post in late 1897 and returned to Europe. He was replaced in Cuba by the more conciliatory Ramón Blanco y Erenas.
Canary Islands and the Philippines
From 1878 to 1883, Weyler served as captain-general of Canary Islands. In 1888, Weyler was made Governor General of the Philippines. Weyler granted the petitions of 20 young women of Malolos, Bulacan, to receive education and to have a night school. The women became known as the Women of Malolos. The original petition was denied by the parish priest of Malolos, who argued that women should always stay at home and take care of the family. Weyler happened to visit Malolos after that and he granted the petition on account of the persistence the women displayed for their petition. José Rizal wrote a letter to the women, upon request by Marcelo H. del Pilar, praising their initiative and sensibility on their high hopes for women’s education and progress. In 1895, he earned the Grand Cross of Maria Christina for his command of troops in the Philippines, wherein he fought an uprising of the Tagalogs and conduct an offensive against the Moros in Mindanao.
Return to Spain
He served as Minister of War three separate times (1901–1902, 1905, 1906–1907).
After his return to Spain, Weyler’s reputation as a strong and ambitious soldier made him one of those who, in case of any constitutional disturbance, might be expected to play an important role, and his political position was nationally affected by this consideration; his appointment in 1900 as captain-general of Madrid resulted indeed in more than one ministerial crisis. He was minister of war for a short time at the end of 1901, and again in 1905. At the end of October 1909 he was appointed captain-general at Barcelona, where the disturbances connected with the execution of Francisco Ferrer were quelled by him without bloodshed.
He was charged, imprisoned and released for opposing the military dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera in the 1920s. He died in Madrid on 20 October 1930. He was buried the next day in a simple casket without state ceremony, as he himself requested.
Early life and career
Weyler was born in 1838 at Palma, Majorca, Spain. He was educated in his place of birth and in Granada. Weyler decided to enter the Spanish army, being influenced by his father who was a military doctor. He graduated from the Infantry School of Toledo at the age of 16. By age 20, Weyler achieved the rank of lieutenant, and was appointed the rank of captain in 1861. In 1863, he was transferred to Cuba and his participation in the campaign of Santo Domingo earned him the Laureate Cross of Saint Ferdinand. During the Ten Years’ War that was fought between 1868-1878, he served as a colonel under General Arsenio Martínez-Campos y Antón, but he returned to Spain before the end of the war to fight against Carlists in the Third Carlist War in 1873. In 1878, he was made general.