No. 208.
Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.

No. 179.]

Sir: The corps legislatif, which ended its session on the 25th of August last, was known as the thirteenth “legislature,” a technical phrase used here very much as we use the word “congress,” to cover the period for which the representatives of the people are elected. The session which closed on the above-named date was the last of the thirteenth legislature. During that session the law providing for the election of deputies was so changed as to allow citizens from the 1st of October until the end of December to enregister, and twenty-five days from the 10th of January for the voting. The manner of conducting the election is so cumbersome that even the twenty-five days are scarcely sufficient for it. It is this:

The electors of each commune assemble in one given locality and organize by electing one of their number as president, another as vice-president, and three or four more as secretaries. This is called the “primary assembly,” and the officers thus elected constitute its “bureau.” The voting then begins, and is effected in such a way that only one deputy can be chosen at a time. A person, to be elected, must receive an absolute majority of all the votes cast while he is a candidate, and thus it may happen that the voting may proceed for several days without the election of a single deputy; and, besides, if the number of voters marked on the check-list does not exactly correspond with the number of ballots in the “urn,” these ballots are at once destroyed, and the voting must commence de novo.

The vote for the members of the fourteenth legislature has just been taken throughout the republic. In it there has been an unusual interest manifested, chiefly because, at its second session in 1874, it is to elect a successor to Nissage Saget as President of the republic. The members of the corps legislatif also enjoy an immunity from arrests and all manner of open persecution—a very considerable immunity in a country like this. There was, of course, an unusual number of candidates, each one nominating himself and urging his own election. It was noticeable that several of the candidates, in their efforts to commend themselves to the electors, appealed to the real or supposed feeling against foreigners and against annexation. One of these candidates was charged, in an anonymous poster, with being in my service as a spy.

The government had clandestinely been very active, with the view of securing the election of deputies favorable to its own aims and plans, its candidate for President Saget’s successor being General Domingue, who is at present commander of the department of the south, and to [Page 457] whom some allusions are made in my No. 35, of January 15, 1870, and again in my private No. 4, of March 22, 1870. Finding, however, that the electors were disposed to exercise their constitutional privilege to vote for whom they might choose, and that the majority did not choose to vote exactly according to its wishes and plans, the government took measures which it is said no other government in Hayti has ever before attempted. On the 15th ultimo, in the midst of the voting here, a military demonstration was made, the alarm-gun was fired, troops were marched to the polls, several persons were arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned, others precipitately fled to seek safety in friends’ houses or in the woods or elsewhere, the rest of the voters present were dispersed, and the officers of the primary assembly resigned, all of which was done on the plea that the safety of society was menaced by conspiracies then culminating against the government. It is believed, however, that the special offense given, by what promised to be a majority of the electors, was that they were voting for General Salomon, who is now in Jamaica. This General Salomon was a minister of state under Soulouque, and minister plenipotentiary to Europe under Salnave. He is a black man of remarkable moderation, ability, and culture, whom the party in power here fear very much, but whose great talents and influence many patriotic Haytiens desire to have felt in the direction of their public affairs.

The friends and partisans of General Salomon having been dispersed and silenced, the bureau was, a few days after these occurrences, re-organized. To the apparent surprise of the government, however, the officers of the bureau were not selected, nor the voting conducted, even this time, according to its plans. It thereupon caused to be made a second military demonstration, and sent the commander of the arrondissement to disperse the voters and take possession of the polls. It then proclaimed martial law. This last step, taken under the same plea as were taken the proceedings on the 15th ultimo, effectually ended the balloting, and Port au Prince, since it would not be represented by mere government candidates, will probably not be represented at all, unless the corps legislatif shall take the matter up and order a new election.

It is perhaps worthy of remark, in connection with this recital of facts, that I was privately told by persons in governmental confidence, months before the election, that there would be no representation from the capital; and what I have described as having occurred here has substantially taken place in other communes of the republic. From these proceedings on the part of the government, it would seem as if it might result (1) that there may be either no quorum of the corps legislatif elected, or if there be a quorum, that it may be made up of partisans of the government, and thus, on the one hand, either Saget may endeavor to hold on to his power for another term, or, on the other hand, General Domingue may be declared president; (2) that if, however, the intrigues and menaces of the government have not succeeded, after all, in securing a legislature to its liking, or in preventing an election of a quorum of independent members, it will be called to a severe account for its conduct in regard to the elections and perhaps in regard to other matters; (3) that in either case a determined revolution may occur, because it is claimed that this government, having gained power by overthrowing Salnave upon a certain principle, has now itself most flagrantly violated that very same principle.

The date fixed for opening the first session of the fourteenth legislature is the first or second week of April, and it will soon thereafter be seen what may result from the facts narrated in this dispatch.

I have, &c.,