Mr. Seward to Mr. Hollister.
Sir: I recur to your dispatch of the 21st of October, No. 13, in which you mention that on the 5th of October last the United States steamship Maratanza arrived at Port-au-Prince, having been sent by Messrs. A. S. and W. G. Lewis, of Boston, to be sold to the government, if terms could be agreed upon. You further mention that it was found necessary for you to visit our consular agents at Jeremie, and, insomuch as you could not ask commanders of certain foreign ships of war to convey you there, and had no American ship of war to carry you, that you therefore obtained a passage on the Maratanza, with the promise that you should be landed at Jeremie for that purpose. You further mention that on arriving off Jeremie you found that the Alexandre Petion was there, with the President on board, bombarding the town; that you asked to be sent on shore that you might assist in protecting American interests; that the captain of the Msratanza declined your request, upon the ground that he had been informed by the captain of the Alexandre Petion that the rebels in port had fired upon a flag of truce the day before, and that he, the captain of the Maratanza, would not be responsible for your safety or that of his men if you attempted to go ashore; that the President of Hayti then came on board the Maratanza, and you were soon after informed that the Haytien government had bought that ship; that the United States colors were then at once hauled down and replaced by the Haytien flag, and immediate preparations were made for bombarding the town; that you requested the officers of the ships to refrain from their attack until you could be landed, if not in Jeremie, at [Page 369] some other convenient place; that your request was disregarded, and that the captain, while you were thus detained on board, fired upon the town, discharging eight shots.
From this statement it would appear that you embarked on board a United States vessel which you were aware at the time was proceeding for the purpose of being sold there to the Haytien government, to be used as a ship of war. It is not to be doubted that you trusted in the good faith of the commander to respect your official character and the neutrality laws of the United States, so long as you should remain on board as a passenger. The result, however, proves that you were mistaken in that confidence. Your proceeding must, therefore, be regarded as very indiscreet, and one which must not be repeated hereafter. It is to be presumed that the captain of the Maratanza was a citizen of the United States. His conduct on the occasion is inexcusable, and proper measures will be taken for the punishment of the offense which he committed by your detention, and by engaging in the assault upon that occasion.
The President of Hayti, having been present and commanding on board the Maratanza, the United States must hold the Haytien government responsible for your unlawful detention, under the circumstances mentioned, on board the Maratanza.
You will address a letter to the minister for foreign affairs, in which you will inform him that the United States will expect an early explanation, with due atonement, for the injury thus committed by the President of the Haytien Republic.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Gideon H. Hollister, Esq., &c., &c., &c.