No. 360.
Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.

No. 243.]

Sir: As an indication of the feeling engendered toward foreigners by certain long existing practices here, I send herewith inclosed a rather sarcastically worded circular, addressed by the minister of interior, who is also minister of foreign affairs, to the common councils of the republic, charging them to prepare and send to this department a list of all foreigners domiciled in their respective localities, with a view of forestalling in the future the “political apostacy” of a class of persons who, born on Haytian soil, avail themselves of the benefits of Haytian [Page 586] citizenship as long as it may serve their convenience, and then manage to get recognition from foreign powers for the purpose of placing themselves in some respects above the municipal law, and sometimes apparently of ultimately preferring reclamations against the government.

The circular might have been expressed in more delicate language, it is true. But it is also true that there are a few such persons here as it names, and that the practice of which it complains has come to be almost a noticeable fact. In its origin, the practice is, I think, in a manner chargeable to the undue assumptions of authority, if not now and then to the mere dispositions of the representatives of European powers that hold possessions in these waters, at a period when those representatives are said to have assumed at pleasure toward this government an almost dictatorial attitude, for which the unsettled condition of this country, from time to time, afforded ample opportunity. I scarcely think, however, that the practice is on the increase. But it has become quite too common for persons of the class referred to, and another class akin to them, to prefer claims upon the government of Hayti. One result of this line of conduct has been very naturally to increase the lurking feeling against foreigners which more or less exists in all countries like Hayti, to the prejudice and injury of that portion of foreign residents who are worthy members of the community.

In this connection it is due to our legation to observe that I have uniformly and carefully avoided giving cause of offense to the sensibilities of this government on the subject. Whenever in any application made to me for redress of injuries there has seemed to be just grounds of doubt of our full right to intervene, I have, without exception, placed at the service of the complaining party my personal good offices, which thus far have generally proved availing, or else I have sought to place the case in such a position as to afford opportunity to this government to express itself upon the nationality of the complainant, without agreeing, however, to be bound by its view upon the point.

I heartily concur in the view which has been more than once expressed by the Department that bona-fide American citizens residing abroad are, in justifiable cases, entitled to an appeal to our government for the redress of injuries inflicted upon them by the authorities of foreign governments. At the same time I think that to encourage the pretensions of the classes of persons mentioned in Minister Lamothe’s circular and in this dispatch “would be to tolerate a fraud upon both the governments, enabling a man to enjoy the advantages of two nationalities and to escape the duties and burdens of both.”

I am, &c.,


Section of general correspondence—No. 1160.


The Secretary of State of the Interior and of Agriculture to the Common Councils of the Republic:

Gentlemen Councilors: It has become indispensable that, from the present, you should cause to be sent to the department of the interior a list of the names of all the foreigners who reside in your respective localities. You will therefore come to an understanding [Page 587] with, the other agents of the public administration to have a tabular statement to this effect made out as promptly as possible, for the want of such a document has already been the cause of very heavy international reclamations against the government, which it is expedient to prevent from this time forward.

Certain individuals, after having been born among us, lived in our midst, enjoyed all the privileges attached to the quality of a Haytian, take a fancy, one fine day, that they do not wish longer to be our countrymen. That is of little consequence to us as far “as they are concerned—for dignity requires that we should have for brothers only our brothers—but the object to which I draw your scrupulous attention is the fraud of which we are every day the victims.

The administration has discovered that licenses (patentes) have been delivered to individuals as being foreigners but who are unquestionably Haytians, and that this sort of renegades, without any title, boast of this license as proof that they have always lived among us as foreigners. If they were only satisfied with the change of denomination, without causing us injury, I would say again it is of little consequence to us; but it has occurred that by means of this fraud, besides the menace of their pretended all-powerfulness, they seek to fatten on the public treasury! the real object of their political apostasy. Consequently you will not, in future, deliver any license under the denomination of foreigner without having first ascertained the fact from documentary proof that the person is a foreigner.

I depend on your patriotism to follow strictly this measure, and salute you with consideration.