Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.
Fort au Prince , July 16, 1875. (Received July 26.)
Sir: I have the honor to represent that, since the writing of my No. 378, of the 27th ultimo, there has been no essential change in the situation relative to the refugees under our flag here. The refugees are still at my house. My premises are still surrounded and closely watched by armed men in a most needlessly offensive and insolent manner, and this government, still persisting in its original demand for the refugees, manifests no disposition to come to an arrangement of the unfortunate difficulty. The situation in this regard has awakened a widespread and lively interest everywhere in this country. Through my colleagues and others it has also been made a subject of communication to foreign lands. No occurrence in this country for the past thirty years and more, not even its so called civil wars, has excited so deep an interest or caused so much feeling. People every where here are deeply concerned about it, nay, amazed at it; and it has a perceptible effect upon some of the ordinary commercial transactions. The conduct of this government in the case is wholly unprecedented in its history; first of all, in refusing the traditional permission to embark the refugees for foreign territory, and then in refusing to accept, or rather ignoring, your decision upon an appeal which the government itself made to you. No similar conduct has ever been observed by any previous government in Hayti [Page 711] And the experiment is now made with us, as experiment was made with us in the Jastram case, and in the case of Mr. Consular Agent Teel, in 1872. As I have already had the honor to say to you in my dispatches numbered 364 and 365, (the statements and views of which I cannot but still respectfully maintain, so far as they relate to the case in hand,) the whole idea at the bottom of this conduct of the government is now, and never has been any other than, to get rid of Boisrond Canal, for fear of his power and influence in the future.
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The character and reputation of Boisrond Canal were and are such as to mark him out for special attention at their hands.
The first step taken against him was to order his arrest on the 1st of May last. Failing to lay hands upon him, he was outlawed by executive proclamation the following day. The third step was to demand that 1 should deliver him over to the government as a criminal.
The demand not being acceded to, the next step was to make an appeal to you. Because your considerate decision on the appeal did not concede absolutely the point aimed at, this government taxed its energies and cunning to obtain its end by other means, such as annoying me by the continued shouting of hundreds of armed men around my house the whole of every night, and such as causing reports to circulate that it had positive information that I was deserted by my Government in this matter; that my residence had no claim to immunity; that the soldiers were so excited beyond its control that it could not answer for the safety of myself and family. Finding the traditional difficulty of frightening or worrying out Americans, it has recently hit upon another expedient, that of going through with the form of a so-called trial par contumace of the refugees with me and with my colleagues, without, however, giving us any notice as to either the time or the place of the so-called trial. The proceedings were of course summary, before a military tribunal, composed of men who do not pretend to know anything of law, and not one of whom would have dared to even intimate an idea against the fixed purpose of the Executive to have the men on trial all condemned. By this means the authorities hope now to succeed with you. But I affirm, upon my official responsibility, that the so called trial and its surroundings were a farce, and that the almost sole aim and end in view were to open anew the question with you. They hope now to communicate to you, in phrase and expression redolent of devotion to law, the result of this so called trial. Before you they will appear as persons fully in accord with that spirit of civilization which bows its head before the mandate of the law, when in reality there is no law here in such cases except the will of the Executive, and when these men have nothing but rage in their hearts against Boisrond Canal, and his death in their eyes.
Of course, it ought not to be expected that our Government can deviate from any well-settled policy to suit cases like the one which now besets us; but I venture sincerely to hope and to ask, in view of all the peculiar circumstances surrounding this case, that you will concede to this government nothing whatever further than what is already conceded in your No. 227.
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I am, &c., &c.,