Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.
Port au Prince, May 9, 1874. (Received May 21.)
Sir: The United States war steamer Kansas came into this harbor on the afternoon of Sunday, the 28th ultimo, and on the morning of the 27th her gallant commander, Allen V. Reed, and myself went together to pay our respects to President Saget, at the national palace, where we were cordially received by both his excellency and his ministers.
Commander Reed informed me that he was not under special orders to touch at Port au Prince, but as he was obliged to coal here, he was not ready for sea until the morning of the 1st instant. The first of May is everywhere in Hayti devoted to the celebration by the authorities, and especially by the common people, of the agricultural fête. Many rumors were afloat that there were dangers of popular uprisings, and perhaps of an attempt at a coup d’état, on that day. These rumors, under the existing condition of affairs here, naturally caused some uneasiness. I therefore thought it well to suggest to Commander Reed the desirability of his delaying his departure until the morning of the 2d instant. He not only readily assented to my suggestion, but said that he would remain longer “if there should be any troubles which would make the presence of a national vessel necessary or desirable.”
Late on the 2d instant, fortunately no circumstance having arisen to make his continued presence necessary, he weighed anchor for Cayemites, the bay of Aux Cayes, Aquin, Jacmel, and Cape Haytien, to make in the first three of these localities a survey of reefs and shoals.
Before leaving, he kindly and voluntarily promised to return to this port, if I should notify him, during his stay around the island, of any necessity or desirability for his presence here.
Early Wednesday morning, the 6th instant, the Kansas re-entered this port, and Commander Reed notified me that the cause of his unexpected return was, that while he was proceeding with his survey at Cayemites, the officer commanding a neighboring place, called Pestel, appeared and made such objections to the continuance of his work as induced him to decide to come to Port au Prince to represent his mission through this legation to the superior authorities of the government of Hayti.
We at once repaired to the national palace, where we met the President and his ministers of state, and represented the facts in the case to the minister of foreign affairs, who listened attentively to our statements, and said that there should, of course, be no objections made to the mission of the Kansas, and that if I would send him a brief note of the case, so that he might read it to his colleagues, he would immediately give it his attention.
Within an hour I caused to be handed to him a note (inclosure 1) explaining the duty on which Commander Reed was sent to Haytian waters, and asking that such instructions be given as would allow him to fulfill that mission without interruption or question from the local authorities. And soon after the commencement of afternoon business-hours the minister responded (inclosure 2) that, his government sympathizing with Commander Reed’s mission, the latter could undertake, whenever he wished, the work intrusted to him in these waters, and that the department of the interior would not fail to give directions to the authorities of the designated localities, in order that they might, according to need, lend all the concourse which might be demanded of them for the success of the commanders mission.[Page 610]
I passed this note to Commander Reed, and during the evening of the same day he once more sailed from this harbor for the fulfillment of the duty with which he was charged.
While the Kansas was in port the 2d instant three of her men came on shore and did not return, and could not be found to be sent on board in time for the sailing of the steamer. Neither Commander Reed nor myself thought, from the circumstances, that they intended to desert, and when I found them, on the 4th instant, I started them, under a guide, who was to accompany them part of the distance, to our consular agent at Jacmel, with an instruction to the latter to report them to the commander and return them on board the Kansas when she should reach that place. But they pretended to become discouraged at the prospect of the journey on foot, and came back to Port au Prince. They were seen here on the 6th instant, but I have not yet learned whether they went on board the Kansas before she sailed on the evening of that day or not.
I ought perhaps to add that the authorities, and almost everybody else here, expressed satisfaction with the presence of Commander Reed and his officers, and several signified to me their pleasure at meeting both him and them.
I am, &c.,