Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.
Port au Prince, September 15, 1873. (Received Oct. 8.)
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.,