Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.
Port au Prince, July 16, 1875. (Received July 26.)
Sir: An English schooner, called the “Laura Pride,” of Turk’s Island, Capt. J. W. Stevens, of the burden of one hundred and five tons or thereabouts, left New York on the 1st of June, ultimo, chartered by a Mr. Hollander, laden with sixty-five tons of coal, with arms and ammunition shipped by a Mr. Burnette, a small supply of provisions, and a few agricultural implements; the arms and ammunition being consigned to the Haytian minister of war and marine, the coals to order, and the rest of the cargo to a Mr. Fernandez, a Cuban employed as a professor in the national college here, and generally understood to be an agent of the Cuban insurgents.
When she cast anchor in this harbor on the 27th ultimo, she was immediately thereafter boarded by Mr. Fernandez, who is said to have represented himself as authorized to direct, and, in fact, to have actually directed, Captain Stevens to land his cargo; including the arms and ammunition, at a place called the Platform, on the northern coast, beyond the Môle St. Nicholas. At this time a Spanish war-vessel, the Churruca, appeared in the outer harbor. Inquieted alike by Mr. Fernandez’s speech and manner, and by the approach of the Spanish war-vessel, Captain Stevens promptly declined to act upon Mr. Fernandez’s statements, and came to the British vice-consulate, giving to my colleague his ship’s papers and an account of Mr. Fernandez’s visit aboard, at the same time expressing his suspicions and protesting his ignorance of a design on the part of the Cuban agents in New York to press him and his vessel into their service. The result of the conversation was that my colleague, Mr. Byron, informally notified the Spanish consul and the authorities of this government of the facts in the case.
Thereupon our Spanish colleague and his naval commander, who had obtained full and precise information of the schooner’s departure from New York, and of the very details of her cargo, went to the government to denounce the “Laura Pride,” to demand that her cargo be seized, confiscated, and handed over to them, that Mr. Fernandez be dismissed from the public employ, and that Mr. Preston, Haytian minister at Washington, who had, according to Captain Stevens’s statement, in some way sanctioned the shipment of the arms and ammunition to the government, be also dismissed from his office as minister.
The government promptly disowned all knowledge of or participation in the shipment of the war material, agreed to dismiss Mr. Fernandez from the public service, pretending to be astonished and offended at his conduct relative to the schooner, and pretending also to know nothing of his alleged connection with Cuban insurgents. It also agreed to cause all the schooner’s cargo to be discharged and placed in depot here, (see inclosure A,) and to inquire into Mr. Preston’s alleged conduct in consenting to the vessel’s departure from New York for this port with the war material on board.
But it would seem that the difficulty is not yet fully arranged. The Spanish representative now distinctly demands that the arms and ammunition be handed over to him, and that Mr. Fernandez receive some further mark of the disapprobation of this government, such as that he be expelled from Haytian territory or delivered over to the Spanish authorities. This my colleague of Spain himself tells me. On the other hand, [Page 710] my British colleague, Mr. Byron, denies the right of any one to touch, except by a regular commercial transaction, that part of the schooner’s cargo, the coal, which was consigned to order, and has, I believe, entered a protest in that sense. Two Spanish war-steamers, the “Churruca” and the “Bazan,” are in the harbor. But I anticipate an amicable settlement of the whole affair at an early day.
I am, &c.,