No. 212.
Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.

No. 196.]

Sir: On the night of the 23d ultimo, three Dominicans took refuge in the British vice-consul’s residence at Puerto Plata, San Domingo. On the following morning the Dominican authorities made a demand that these refugees be delivered over to them. This demand was refused. In the afternoon of that day the demand was repeated, and again refused. Thereupon the Dominican authorities, among whom was the Dominican minister, Ricardo Curiel, against the protest of the British vice-consul, forcibly entered his house, and wrested therefrom the refugees, who were taken to San Domingo City, where they are supposed now to be incarcerated.

Inclosure A is a copy of the statement of the occurrences which was sent to my colleague, the British minister resident here, by his vice-consul at Puerto Plata. Inclosure B is a dispatch sent by the governor of the district of Puerto Plata to the governor of Turk’s Island, in which an explanation of the circumstances, from a Dominican stand-point, is made. It may be inferred from this explanation that a view taken by the Dominican authorities of the proceedings is, that they were in accord with the law of that republic, and that there was in them no violation of the British vice-consulate, but only a forcible entry, made in proper form, upon the premises of the private residence of a person domiciled in Puerto Plata, who happened to be the British vice-consul.

As soon as these communications had reached my colleague, who is also Her Britannic Majesty’s chargé d’affaires to the Dominican Republic, he sent a statement of the occurrences to his government, asking for definite instructions by which he might be guided in regulating the somewhat delicate question which has been raised. At the same time he wrote to his vice-consul at Puerto Plata a dispatch, which he requested to be read to the Dominican authorities. In this dispatch he [Page 461] seems to consider the proceedings complained of as an outrage on the rights guaranteed to Her Britannic Majesty’s vice-consuls in San Domingo, and demands of that government full satisfaction for the alleged offense. His demands, as I have gathered them from what he has himself said to me, are that the refugees taken from the vice-consular residence shall be immediately returned, or at least released temporarily from custody; that the Dominican authorities who violated the consular residence shall be made sensible of the displeasure of their government, and that a national salute be given by that government to the British flag.

In his dispatches relating to the affair my colleague has laid down the doctrine that wherever the flag of a consular officer of Her Britannic Majesty floats, there is his consulate.

The British admiral commanding Her Britannic Majesty’s West India squadron, whose principal station in these waters is at Kingston, Jamaica, having learned of the occurrences, placed at the disposition of my colleague Her Britannic Majesty’s war-steamer Niobe, commanded by Sir Lambton F. Lorraine, which arrived here on the 13th instant, and after ample conference had with my colleague, sailed for Puerto Plata and San Domingo City on the 16th instant. I learned while dining with Sir Lambton and my colleague that the mission of the former to San Domingo is to inquire into the facts of the alleged outrage on the British flag, and to gather the disposition of the Dominican government to accede to the terms of settlement already stated.

I availed myself of the opportunity to write by the Niobe to our consular officers at Puerto Plata and San Domingo City personal letters, asking for full information of all that may have transpired in regard to the event under consideration up to the Niobe’s sailing for Port au Prince.

I do not think it likely that there will be any receding from the demands which my colleague has preferred on the government of San Domingo. And if, as he has said to me, that government has already taken the lives of the persons wrested from the consular dwelling at Puerto Plata, or shall take them before the affair be regulated, there will then arise a circumstance somewhat similar to that which caused the bombardment of Cape Haytien in 1865. I trust that there may be no further violence growing out of the affair, as in that case serious embarrassments must arise, at least for the Dominican government, and I think, in any issue which it may have, the right of asylum to political refugees in the British vice-consulates in San Domingo, which has hitherto existed, will be withdrawn.

On the return of the Niobe I shall probably be put in possession of further advices concerning the issues which may grow out of the affair referred to, and I will then promptly convey to the Department any features of importance which these advices may contain or suggest.

I have, &c.,


Mr. Hamburger to Mr. St. John.

Sir: I have the honor to bring to your notice the following occurrence:

On the evening of the 23d instant there came to my dwelling-house General Juan [Page 462] Nuezi, former governor of this city, and his sons Martin and Claudio Nuezi, and stated that they had been at the head of an armed demonstration to protest against the government of this republic for leasing or ceding the bay and peninsula of Samana or any other part of the territory; that the government had considered them as rebels, and fearing that their lives were in danger, they put themselves under the protection of the British flag. I took said persons under my protection, and early on the 24th I informed the governor thereof. I received no answer to my communication; but later there came a magistrate and other officials, and, by order of the governor, demanded the immediate surrender of the said Juan Nuezi and his two sons.

I replied that said persons were under my protection, that I would not deliver them against their will, and that I requested them to respect my house, which I declared was the British vice-consulate, and over which the British flag floated. Their demand to give up the refugees was repeated, and threatened me to take them out by force of arms, and if need be break open the house. I again refused to give up the men, and told them that their threat and the execution of it I would consider as an insult to the British flag and make them responsible for the consequences. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon there came a force of police and soldiers, and on my refusing to give up the refugees, they pulled down the door, filled the house with armed men, and took out and carried to prison the said General Nuezi and his sons Martin and Claudio Nuezi.

I called all the foreign consuls resident in this city, informed them of what had occurred, and they agreed that I could not have acted otherwise.

It is important to mention that Mr. Ricardo Curiel, minister of war, finances, &c., &c., and on commission from the executive to represent it in these provinces, did personally order and direct the act already mentioned, and who, on seeing that the soldiers were reluctant to enter my house, actually pushed them in with his own hands.

After having received such insult I took down the flag, and will not raise it again until this question is settled.

I have chartered a schooner to bring this communication to Cape Haytien, and request Her Majesty’s consul there to forward it to you by express.

Awaiting your arrival, or such steps as you may deem advisable,

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,


Spencer St. John, Esq.,
Her Britannic Majesty’s Chargé d’ Affaires, Port au Prince.

Mr. Gonzales to governor of Turk’s Island.

Dear Sir: As an additional proof of esteem for you, I hurry to explain certain facts which, reaching you wrongly represented, might cause surprise.

As governor of the district I received early yesterday morning the following dispatch from the British vice-consul at this, viz:

“I have the honor to inform you that General Juan Nuezi, former governor of this city, and his sons Martin and Claudio, are now at my house, they having claimed the protection of the British flag.


I beg to call your attention to the circumstance that General Nuezi and his sons are fugitive political offenders for the last month, and that one of those sons, Claudio, is even implicated in a criminal plot, which the court is investigating just now.

By one of my aids I ascertained that nobody was at the consulate, which is located in Mr. Hamburger’s business place, but that the said refugees stopped at Mr. H.’s private residence.

I called, through the alcalde of this city, Mr. Hamburger’s attention to the difference which exists between Mr. H.’s dwelling and the British vice-consulate, which is rendered conspicuous to the public and inviolable to the authorities by its being the depository of the archives, and its display of an escutcheon bearing the arms of Great Britain.

On this basis, which Mr. H. would not admit of, I ordered the judicial proceedings prescribed by our laws. These once gone through, Mr. H., who, foreseeing the extraction of the Nuezi family, closed his house hermetically, defying the purpose of the law thereby, was thrice summoned in the name of the law to open and give over to the alcalde. On his refusing to comply with this legal demand the one door was opened, and General Nuezi and his two sons taken into custody.

These are the plain facts of what has transpired. No infraction of international law, [Page 463] no violation of consular prerogatives, no offense either intended or offered to the British flag, but simply fugitive offenders extracted with all the formalities of the laws from under the roof of a private individual in order to insure public safety.

According to law, copy of the entire proceedings was left with Mr. Hamburger.

I regret that too much zeal has induced Mr. H. to misunderstand a question so plain and simple.

I remain, sir, &c.,


The Governor of Turk’s Island.