Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish
Port au Prince , February 24, 1875. (Received March 11.)
Sir: I have the painful duty of reporting to you that on the evening of the 11th instant a fire broke out in the most populous section of this city, known as the Croix des Boussales, and, in spite of all efforts that could be put forth to arrest it, steadily gained headway for six long hours, blazing before the strong laud-breezes with terrific fury, crushing and consuming everything in its way, lighting up the sea and the mountainsides for miles around in awful sublimity, and spreading consternation among all classes domiciled or having interests here. Many destructive tires have occurred in this city since the independence of Hayti, those of 1820, 1822, 1865, 1866, and 1869 being particularly memorable. But this one of the 11th instant was probably more destructive than any former one. It completely burned ten squares, and partly five more. It is estimated that eight hundred houses were reduced to ashes; that eight hundred families, about one-fourth of the city’s entire population, were rendered homeless; that three millions of dollars’ worth of property was utterly destroyed, and that suffering and loss more or less severe have been entailed upon more than half of the inhabitants of the capital of Hayti.
There are, however, two or three points of relief in all this sadness. The large American commercial house of Oliver Cutts & Company resisted the fiery burning. It stood like a wall of adamant when everything around it was in flames. I was myself on the spot during the conflagration, and particularly noticed that there was less disposition than usual on the part of the evil-minded to avail themselves of the confusion to commit depredations. Indeed, movable property rescued from the flames without the knowledge of the owners was in many instances restored to them without the usual interference of the authorities. The government put forth all its energies to arrest the flames. President Domingue on the following day issued a proclamation expressing the sympathy of the government for the sufferers, and promising them all the aid it could properly give them; and an appropriation of several thousand dollars for their temporary relief was promptly made.
The efforts customary in such cases here were put forth to give a political significance to this sad occurrence, following, as it did, so [Page 680] soon after a similar one at Aux Cayes. Bat the President himself told me that he should lend no countenance to any attempts to give it such a character. He thought that the fire had its origin in an accident, and that no other than the most commendable disposition had been shown by any class of citizens in reference to the calamity. Such is, I think, the general opinion here now.
I am, &c.,