No. 216.
Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.

No. 212.]

Sir: In my No. 179, of the 17th of February last, in speaking of the elections then recently held in Hayti for members of the corps législatif, I had the honor to give some intimations of the purposes entertained by this government in regard to those elections, as well as of the animus with which it had conducted itself toward them, and at the end of that dispatch I took occasion to state some reasons for apprehension that difficulties and embarrassments might result from the proceedings which had been observed during the progress of the voting.

It becomes my duty to record in this dispatch a partial fulfillment of some of those apprehensions, and to state that, to all appearances, Hayti finds itself again upon the high road to open irregularities of government, and perhaps upon the eve of civil commotion.

The constitution in its seventy-fifth article fixes the first Monday in April as the date for the opening of each annual session of the corps législatif, and in its eighty-fourth article directs that two-thirds of the members of each house shall constitute a quorum of each. The number of members of the chamber of deputies is seventy-four. Therefore the presence of fifty members was considered necessary for the opening of that body. The members to this number were not present until the 21st of April, two weeks after the date fixed by the constitution for their organization. On that day a provisional organization was effected for the examination and verification of the members’ credentials. All went on sufficiently smoothly until the credentials of Mr. Boyer Bazelais were offered, and then a lively discussion arose in which considerable bitterness and partisan spirit were apparent. Mr. Bazelais was the only one who presented credentials for Port au Prince. It was well known that he is opposed to General Domingue’s pretensions as to the presidency, and that he would likely exert an effective influence against those pretensions in the National [Page 467] Assembly, which, should be composed of the members of the present corps législatif and which should next year elect a successor to President Saget. Finally, when the question was put to the assembly, it was decided by a vote of thirty-four to eighteen that Mr. Bazelais should be admitted. Thereupon the eighteen, headed by Mr. Septimus Rameau, brother of the minister of justice, or kinsman, and violent partisan of Domingue, entered a protest against Bazelais’s admission, and withdrew from the chamber, reserving to themselves, however, their rights as deputies of the people.

As, owing to the circumstances attending the election, which are outlined in my No. 179, only sixty-five out of the seventy-four members of the chamber were returned, the withdrawal of these eighteen left that body without what had always been considered a quorum. Immediately thereafter discussions, generally heated, but now and then temperate and reasonable, crimination and recrimination, and all the intrigues known to the political arena, were put into requisition with the view of securing a decisive victory to the one or the other of the embittered factions in the chamber of deputies. Self-constituted committees called upon the Executive, but for once that department of the government maintained a remarkable reserve. Naturally, much inquietude and alarm prevailed during this unsettled condition of affairs. But at last, on the 2d instant, at the suggestion of the senators, the house went into session and organized with forty-five members, a step which was claimed to be constitutional on the ground that there were present two-thirds of all the sixty-five members actually elected, although it has always maintained that two-thirds of its members was to be interpreted as meaning two-thirds of the whole house of seventy-four. General Brice, late minister plenipotentiary to Europe, was elected president, and the customary message was sent to the Executive giving notification that the house was organized and ready to proceed to business. The President promptly returned an answer to this message of the house on the 3d instant. This answer is signed by all the ministers of state, and is addressed, not to the chamber of deputies, but to the “citizens chosen as representatives, who met yesterday in the hall affected to the national representation,” and says, in effect, that as the senate could not organize because of lacking one member of the constitutional quorum, so the house must await its constitutional majority of two-thirds before it can be recognized by the Executive. I inclose a copy of this document, marked A.

Meanwhile the minority of eighteen had gained accessions to their ranks. It is freely reported that money has been liberally used, both to keep firm those who at first seceded and to increase their numbers, all in the interest of the Domingue faction. They drew up and signed a protest against the action of the majority, asserted their determination to persist in the course they had chosen, declared the impossibility of having a legally-constituted corps législatif this year, and practically prayed the Executive to assume dictatorial powers until next year, when elections can be legally held in the communes which failed this year to send forward members with credentials that could not be questioned.

Such are the leading facts and occurrences bearing upon the present critical situation of affairs here up to this date. But it is very clear that the end is not yet. I predicted in my No. 179 that there might be no quorum of the corps législatif elected this year, and this prediction seems about to be substantially verified. For when it was ascertained that a sufficient number of members to form a quorum had been elected, and that all the menaces and intrigues said to have been resorted [Page 468] to by the Executive and its candidate for its own successor, Domingue, bad failed to terrify or cajole into voting, according to its plans and purposes, even the majority of electors who had the hardihood to be present at the polls at all, other measures to attain the end apparently sought by the Executive and its partisans seem to have been at once concocted and put into operation by them. The outward results of these measures up to the present writing I have endeavored to trace in this dispatch.

It would seem now as if the plan to put into the hands of the Executive the means of either holding on to power for another term or of installing its own chosen successor may be realized. President Saget’s term expires in May of next year. His successor should, according to the constitution, be elected by an aggregate vote of two-thirds of the two houses together in national assembly. But the senators are elected by the house on nominations from the several arrondissements. The terms of a sufficient number of senators to leave the senate without a quorum expire with the session of the corps législatif which should have been held this year. It is probable, therefore, that, at best, when the time comes for the meeting of the legislative body next April there will be no quorum of the senate, and that there may be none in time for that body to take its constitutional part in the election of President Saget’s successor in the following month of May. And, besides, what is presumed to have been accomplished by Executive connivance, intrigue, and menace as to the house in 1873, may be accomplished in regard to that body by the same means in 1874. In a word, it would now seem that nothing short of an armed revolution can avert a practical dictatorship for Hayti. If this dictatorship should come it is, perhaps, not yet quite time to state with precision who will be at its head. For it has occurred to me that the present Executive, while seeming at least to be serving the interests and pretensions of Domingue, may in the end, when it is too late to retrace its steps, find itself frustrated and outgeneraled by that crafty, determined, cold-blooded aspirant.

I am, &c.,


The council of the secretaries of state to the citizens chosen as representatives who met yesterday in the hall affected to the national representation.


Gentlemen: As the senate for want of one member to make up its constitutional majority of twenty, that is to say, two-thirds of the thirty members composing this grand body, could not organize last week, so the chamber of representatives should await the majority of its members, demanded by the combined requirements of the 84th and 51st articles of the constitution, before organizing or taking any action capable of receiving the sanction of the executive power.

It is the duty of us all to respect the fundamental law, and it is to conjure to this end that we send to you the expression of our very high consideration.

    Secretary of War, &c., &c., &c.
    Secretary of Interior, &c., &c., &c.
    Secretary of Finance, &c., &c., &c.
  • O. RAMEAU,
    Secretary of Justice, &c., &c., &c.