Mr. Hollister to Mr. Seward.
Legation of the United States,
May 8, 1868.
Sir: I have the honor to represent that for the
last two weeks this city has been kept in a constant state of
disturbance in the night season by a mob. It has not been safe for any
one to go into the streets after dark, as muskets were fired off without
reference to men, women, or children, not aimed at, but liable to be hit
any moment by a chance shot. Last Monday General Salnave returned, and
made his triumphal entry into the city at 12 o’clock, noon. The
demonstration was noisy but not violent. The next day troops arrived
from Gonaives, and were, in common with those already in town, furnished
with ammunition. They ranged the streets in a turbulent way all the
afternoon. In the evening I went to town and spent the night at the
office of legation, which is kept at Mr. Conard’s house. The house was
full of refugees, men, women, and children, Do the number of one hundred
and fifty. The utmost consternation prevailed. On Wednesday morning I
called on Mr. St. John, the British chargé d’affaires, and afterwards on
Count Méjare and Mr. Alvarez. We concluded to meet Mr. Delorme,
secretary of foreign affairs, and see what could be done to keep the
peace. Delorme had already threatened to take the refugees out of the
French consulate in the evening, but at last thought better of it, and
wrote us all a note inviting us to meet him at 3 o’clock p. m., which we
did. He was very conciliatory, and assured us that the peace should be
kept and the city quiet. My apprehensions were lulled a good deal, but
still the streets were filled with armed soldiers, and many of them were
intoxicated. I had hardly reached home when I heard muskets go off, and
at last whole volleys were fired in quick succession. To those in town
it was a horrible night, and on my arrival in the morning I found that
the stores and houses of many persons had been robbed, and several men
killed and wounded, business suspended, and everybody in a state of
alarm. It is believed that property to the amount of a million of
dollars had been stolen during the night. I at once wrote Mr. Secretary
Delorme the letter, a copy of which I send inclosed, and then waited on
the chargés from England, France, and Spain, and proposed that we should
draw up a joint letter of remonstrance, and beg for an early interview
with the President. This was done. That my letter was timely and put an
end to the mischief I have no doubt. I acted on the best advice that I
could get at the time. I knew that nothing but firmness would bring the
authorities to their senses. The more these men are flattered the more
assured they are that they will be allowed to do what they please. We
have had rest now for two nights, and the stores are again opened. The
authorities are responsible for the mob, however stoutly they may deny
it. Do please send me one or more ships of war at once, as the rebellion
is still raging at St. Marc, Aux Cayes, Gonaives, Jacmel, and I expect
new demonstrations here. The country is in a wretched condition. I also
beg instructions in relation to the receiving of refugees. [Page 355] It does more mischief here
than it does good, and is really, as it is practiced, little more than
offering a premium for factious disturbances and a bid for sedition. The
three chargés here are ready to recommend the discontinuance of this
much abused custom if our government is ready to take the step. I have
sent you a copy of my letter to Secretary Delorme of the 6th instant,
but on account of the uncertainty of communication I thought it best to
send you another. As I am confined to the office of legation every
moment, and have no suitable stationery here, I beg you will excuse the
appearance of this hastily written letter.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
P. S.—Commodore Boggs arrived here last evening in the De Soto. I
begged him to remain and protect us. The inclosed copies will
explain the situation of both parties. Please send me a ship, with
orders to remain until the troubles are over.
G. H. H.
Mr. Hollister to Commodore Boggs.
Legation United States of
May 18, 1868.
Sir: From information which I have received
since I left your ship, I am compelled to enter my most earnest
protest against your leaving the American citizens in this city in
this defenseless condition. President Salnave threatens to burn the
town, and I have good reasons to believe that he intends to do
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
United States Steamer Be Soto, Harbor of
Commodore Boggs to Mr. Hollister.
United States Steamer De
Soto, (2d rate,) Harbor of
May 18, 1868.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the
receipt of your communication of this date.
I regret extremely my inability to comply with your request, from
want of provisions, having only four days’ on board, and the
positive orders from the rear-admiral commanding the North Atlantic
squadron, I must sail this afternoon.
Should I find a vessel at Key West, I will immediately dispatch her
to this port; in default of finding one, I will return as soon I
have taken in supplies.
I am, respectfully,
CHAS. S. BOGGS, Commodore United States
Navy, Com’d’g De Soto.
G. H. Hollister,
United States Minister, &c., &c.,
Mr Hollister to Mr. Delorme.
May 6, 1868.
Sir: I have the honor to represent that,
according to my instructions, I have observed the most strict
neutrality in regard to all political matters in this country. It is
true that from what I had heard of the valor of the President, and
of his struggles in the field, I came here inspired with great
admiration for him, and prayed for his success. I had a further
motive to desire such success from the fact that he had associated
with [Page 356] him at the head of
affairs a gentleman not unknown in Europe or America as a writer,
scholar, and civilian, worthy to represent the sentiments expressed
in that noble essay which you sent me a few days ago. I have looked
forward from day to day, hoping to find an end to the disturbances
in the streets of this city; but I have looked in vain. Things kept
growing worse and worse. Only a few days before the return of the
President a young girl was horribly mutilated in the street, and
after that other outrages followed of a worse character.
When the chief arrived I expected, of course, a demonstration, and it
passed off quietly.
Yesterday morning the representatives of the four great powers, the
United States, England, France, and Spain, waited on you by your
special appointment, and received such representations as to the
protection of the rights of our respective nations, and of the
citizens generally, as made us well assured of the future. I left
the office of legation and went to my country seat with perfect
confidence that all would be well. Still, I had observed a large
number of soldiers walking about the city during the day in a
lawless manner, many of whom were intoxicated. They were armed, and
I am informed that ammunition was dealt out to them yesterday by the
government in quantities sufficient to enable them, if they chose,
to commit the outrages which followed.
About 8 o’clock in the evening a mob of soldiers gathered at the
quay, and a musket was fired, and after that, others. At this time
the presence of a single policeman or officer of the guard could
have put an end to the disorder. So far as I know, not a single
refugee has escaped from the asylum that he had chosen, although we
had a right, under the arrangement made with you yesterday, to turn
them all loose in the street at any moment.
It was at the will of your government to put an end to the
disturbances in ten minutes. Yet this mob of intoxicated soldiers
was allowed to have full range of the city for about two hours.
During this time the most brutal excesses were committed— excesses
not to be tolerated by civilized nations. Stores and warehouses were
broken into and robbed. The sanctities of home were violated, and
men were shot defending their property. There is now under my roof a
respectable merchant, a native of Virginia, suffering from the
agonies caused by a wound which he received defending his own
dwelling. I refer to Mr. Hepburn, one of your oldest and most
The house of Mrs. Hamilton was assailed, and one bullet, at least,
passed through her bedroom and near her bed. Several other houses
and stores were broken open and robbed, under cries of “Viva
Salnave.” In some of the houses thus entered, little children were
taken from their beds and thrown upon the floor, and the pillows
upon which they had slept carried off by the robbers.
Not even national flags were respected. As this armed rabble passed
the house of Mr. Hubbard, consul for Brazil and Bremen, and an
American citizen, they saw his flags flying, and cried out, “You may
hang out your flags, and we will trample them under our feet.” Not
even my own house of legation was respected. The soldiers stopped in
front of it; one of them struck the gate with his sword, and another
with some other weapon. It was proposed to fire on it, and I have
reason to believe that this violence would have been done had not
some one in the crowd called out to them to forbear.
They did fire off a volley near the back gate, but not at the house.
Of course, in this condition of things, all business here is at an
end. Many parties are taking refuge on shipboard, or fleeing into
the country. Now, sir, with all kindness, but with all frankness,
permit me to say that these violences must not be repeated.
If national flags have ceased to be the symbol of safe citizenship
and free commerce, guaranteed by treaty, it must be understood that
there is a nationality behind every flag. As regards myself I have
no fears. It is for the citizens of the United States that I speak.
If the city is constantly embroiled in this way, no matter whether
the houses or stores of American citizens are invaded, still their
business is ruined. If the goods of Haytien merchants are burned or
stolen, who are debtors to the Americans, the parties who are robbed
are not Haytiens but Americans. This is a small city of about thirty
thousand inhabitants, the seat of authority, and having within its
limits a large military force. A little care would have prevented
all this crime and destruction of life and property.
I know you are in a state of war, but this makes it all the easier,
armed as you are, to keep up a police adequate to the demands of the
hour. Anticipating evil on my arrival here, I wrote for two or three
ships of war to defend the rights of the citizens of the United
States in the ports of this country. I expect one here soon. If the
authorities cannot keep the peace here, so that persons under my
charge shall be safe, I will undertake to do it, and have no fear
but that I shall succeed.
The claim that the mob of last evening resulted from the opening of
the prison cannot be sustained. Nor did it grow out of the escape of
refugees from my house. Not a single refugee has left the shelter of
The house is filled with defenseless women and children, and the few
men who came have remained. As to the receiving of refugees in the
exceptional way practiced in [Page 357] this country, you know it is not for the benefit of the United
States, but grows out of the unsettled condition of affairs in this
country. Haytiens of all parties and factions have always received
the benefit of it—we only the trouble and blame.
I shall forward a copy of this communication to the Secretary of
State for the United States, and beg an early answer.
I have the honor to be, with high consideration, your obedient
Secretary of State, &c., &c.,