Mr. Seward to Mr. Hollister.
Sir: Your painfully interesting dispatch of the 8th of May, No. 3, has been received. The lawless condition of society in Hayti which you describe is a subject of grave concern and deep regret. The proceedings by which you remonstrated and reasoned with the government in the interest of public peace and safety at Port-au-Prince are approved. The Secretary of the Navy, on receiving the first intimation of the extreme revolutionary disturbances in Hayti, took the necessary measures for the dispatch of a ship of war to Port-au-Prince, to be employed, if necessary, for the protection of the lives and property of citizens of the United States.
You request an instruction on the subject of the continuance of the exercise of the right of asylum by the legation. The question is attended with much embarrassment. The right of a foreign legation to afford an asylum to political refugees is not recognized by the law of nations as applicable to civilized or constitutionally organized states. It is a practice, however, which, from the necessity of the case, is exercised to a greater or less extent by every civilized state in regard to barbarous or semi-barbarous countries. The revolutionary condition seemed to become chronic in many of the South American nations after they had achieved their independence, and the United States, as well as the European nations, recognized and maintained the right of asylum in their intercourse with those republics. We have, however, constantly employed our influence, for several years, to meliorate and improve the political situation in these republics, with an earnest desire to relinquish the right of asylum there. In the year 1867 we formally relinquished and renounced that right in the republic of Peru. This government has also largely modified the exercise of that right among some of the Oriental nations.
Thus we are prepared to accept the opinion you have deliberately expressed that it is no longer expedient to practice the right of asylum in the Haytien republic. Nevertheless, we should not be willing to relinquish the right abruptly, and in the midst of the anarchy which seems to be now prevailing in Hayti, in the absence of matured convictions on your part. Nor do we think it expedient that it should be renounced by the United States legation any sooner or in any greater degree than it is renounced by the legations of the other important neutral powers. With these reservations, the subject is confidently left to your own discreet judgment.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Gideon H. Hollister, Esq., &c., &c., &c.