No. 215.
Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.

No. 210.]

Sir: Referring to my dispatch No. 188, of March 11, which outlined the occurrences at Gonaives on the 3d of that month, I have the honor to state that subsequent developments have substantially confirmed all the recitals made therein.

There are, however, two or three facts connected with the outbreak alluded to which ought, perhaps, to be placed upon record. And first let me refer to the frightful executions which the government officials at Gonaives visited almost indiscriminately upon every one to whom the slightest suspicion of complicity or sympathy with the insurgents could be traced. Men were taken from their homes and led off to execution without ceremony and without warning. No form of trial was had in any case, as far as I have learned or believe. The commander of the department, General Benjamin, sent word to the government at Port au Prince saying, it is currently reported that he would give no account of his proceedings in regard to the insurgents and their sympathizers until after a certain number of days, the idea being that he intended to wreak vengeance on them before he would receive any instructions or directions from his superior officers here, and his conduct has been applauded by the government authorities. The official list of those executed contains thirty-four names. But I am reliably informed that about twice that number have actually been summarily put to death, pursuant to the orders of General Benjamin. In some cases, I am assured, the bodies of those who had fallen were allowed to lie unburied in the scorching sun, and to be devoured by ravenous animals. It is even said that in at least one well-marked case these animals began their sickening work before the life of their human victim was extinct.

Our consular agent at Gonaives, Mr. Heberlein, in his last dispatch to me on the subject, remarks: “From the terror inspired by these events, with their wholesale and indiscriminate executions, the conviction that this country is only capable of self-government under the guidance of a large, well-governed, and just community, is gaining ground more and more, especially among that class of Haytien citizens who have social or pecuniary interests at stake.”

It is, of course, to be expected in any country that when men combine to overthrow, by force, the existing authorities, they should be made to feel in some way the power of those authorities. But in this country the results that have attended the system of summary executions for this class of offenses, which has been acted upon since the foundation of Haytien independence, ought certainly now, after more than sixty-nine years of trial, to teach the authorities that such a revolting system is no remedy for existing evils and no guarantee for the peace and tranquillity of the state. And besides, there is scarcely room for a doubt that it has seriously affected the growth of the population and the sanctity of the family relation.

At first none of those resting under suspicion of complicity with the outbreak sought refuge in the foreign consulates, but later a few came into our consular office at Gonaives. But the authorities made no demand for them, and showed no disrespect to our consular agent, to his office, or to his dwelling. I wrote him, under date of March 15, as follows: “You will be expected, in all cases, to use judiciously your good [Page 466] offices and the moral influence of your official position in behalf of humanity, but in every circumstance to exercise a wise discretion, and to seek to avoid all difficulties and misunderstandings with the authorities of this government within your district. The (so-called) right of asylum for political refugees in foreign consulates is not recognized by public law or by the Government of the United States.” I am happy to be able to state that Mr. Heberlein has well acted upon this instruction in the case of those who sought in his office shelter from merciless pursuers.

In my No. 188 I alluded to the mention, made by the President in his proclamation, of the name of General Salomon. It seems that General Salomon felt at last that juice to himself and his friends demanded of him some notice of these repeated attempts on the part of the authorities of this government to connect his name with abortive insurrectionary movements against them. Accordingly he caused to be published a well-written circular, which has, much to the discomfiture and chagrin of the government, found its way here in considerable numbers. I inclose herewith a copy of it.

I am, &c.,