Mr. de La Reintrie to Mr. F. W. Seward.

No. 39.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith an extract of an official letter of the 29th ultimo, received from Mr. Richard Gibbs, the consular agent of the United States at Nuevitas, one of the dependencies of this consulate general.

I inclose, also, a copy of the bond referred to by Mr. Gibbs in his communication.

You will perceive that the evil complained of arises from a police regulation of this island respecting free persons of color coining to this island.

In view of the facts set forth in Mr. Gibbs’s letter, I would respectfully request your instructions, in order, if possible, to remove this restriction and tax upon the free colored people and commerce of the United States.

I have not deemed it proper to address myself directly to the captain general upon the subject before ascertaining the views and instructions of the department.

This question has, I understand, been hitherto referred to the Department of State, but it has not received, so far as I am informed, a definite reply or solution.

I am, sir, with great respect, your very obedient servant,

H. R. DE LA REINTRIE, Vice-Consul General.

Hon. F. W. Seward, Assistant Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

[Extract.]

Mr. Gibbs to Mr. de La Reintrie.

* * * * * * *

I beg leave to call your attention to certain charges made on American vessels, which go to augment the very heavy expenses already paid by American tonnage in Cuban ports, not only as a charge but, an act of severity to those who are now American citizens. I refer to colored seamen arriving at Cuban ports under the American flag.

All vessels having colored men or women that may act as stewardesses aboard, the authorities here exact from the consignee a bond of one thousand dollars that such colored people will not come ashore during the stay of the vessel in port; if such bonds are not given, the police go aboard of the vessel and the parties are taken and placed in prison until the vessel leaves. When the bond is given, the fees of bond and copy, ordered on stamped paper, amount to $5 25. I inclose a copy of the bond. This charge comes directly on the vessel, and is paid by the captain, who prefers paying it to having his men taken from aboard.

It is an old law, and in this port had not been carried into effect for some time, until about four years ago, when they have again placed it in operation, and is now vigorously carried out. Some of the captains inform me that it is not so in other parts of the island.

* * * * * * *

Your most obedient servant,

RICHARD GIBBS, United States Consular Agent.

H. R. de La Reintrie, Vice-Consul General of the United States of America, Habana.

[Translation.]

Copy of the bond.

In the city of Nuevitas, on the 27th of February, 1868, before me, a notary public, and witnesses, appeared Mr. Richard Gibbs, representative of the commercial house of R. Gibbs & Co., a resident of this place, and declareth: That the American brig Udola, Captain Whittemore, from New York, consigned to him, anchored in this port on the 25th instant, having on board, as sailors, the negro men George Trimple and Johnny Trimple; and in compliance with article 23 of the Island Decrees, and 21 of Instructions issued the 1st of April, 1849, to prevent the negroes from being taken from the vessel by the police and imprisoned on land till the vessel is ready to leave, he hereby constitutes himself and his commercial house surety for the said negroes, and binds [Page 11]himself to keep them on board, under the captain’s eyes, and not allow them to go on shore under any pretext whatever, so long as the vessel remains in this port; and if it is proved that they have violated this contract, the surety now present shall pay a fine of 2,000 crowns (exudos) or $1,000; the penalty inflicted by said article 23 to be collected as by regular suit of court; and to this he subjects all his property, present and future, without recourse of privileges or legal rights.

This is the act of the deponent, and I attest his hand, in presence of the witnesses Hipolito Mier, Manuel Villafuerte, and Idalecio Barreto, all present.

R. GIBBS & CO. MELCHOR SILVA.

This copy conforms with the original in my notarial office, and I accord it to the petitioner on this day and date.

MELCHOR SILVA.

Fees for copy and stamp, five dollars and two reals, ($5 25,) paid.