No. 323.
Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.

No. 387.]

Sir: I have had the honor to receive your dispatch No. 231, covering a copy of a note addressed to you by the Haytian minister plenipotentiary, [Page 723] Mr. Preston, and calling my attention to two points in the said note relative (1) to my alleged refusal to furnish the government with a list of the refugees under my flag, and (2) to the allegation that some of those refugees entered my premises with arms and ammunition. I take pleasure in complying with your instruction to make an explanation of these two points.

And first, permit me to state that in my No. 364, of the 8th of May last, and its inclosures, will be found in detail the official demand (see inclosure A to my 364) made upon me in this regard, representing that the (Haytian) government “had knowledge” that “certain rebels had taken retuge in the house occupied by you (me) in the country,” and that it desired to know the names of these persons. In inclosure D to my said No. 364 will be found also my response to that demand. In this response, I availed myself of the same ground which was taken under similar circumstances in the beginning of 1870, (see inclosure D to my No. 36 of January 15, 1870, and see also my dispatch marked “private No. 3” of January 16, 1870,) which was not quite altogether disapproved of by the Department at the time, in declining to furnish an official list of the persons supposed to be in refuge at my house. I had the honor also to enumerate to you in my said dispatch No. 364 other reasons for assuming this ground, observing, among other things, that in my opinion any weaker ground than the one assumed might, and probably would, under the then existing condition of affairs, have resulted in serious consequences.

The demand above referred to for a list of the refugees, made the very day when those persons entered my house, when the city was in a blaze of excitement about them, and when talk of violence against my premises was rife on the street, is the only one that has been made upon me for that list. I even expressed at the time a willingness to the minister to furnish him with any information, personally, that he might wish, and subsequently did give to him and to the president all the details about the refugees. You may notice, however, that Mr. Preston, in his note, speaks of an official list of the refugees. It may be noticed that the minister, in his note of May 3, (see inclosure A to my No. 364,) expressly states that his government had “knowledge” of the refugees at my house. It may be further remarked that all his dispatches to me on the subject since that date (see inclosures to my Nos. 364, 365, and 384) have been based on that idea. Moreover, promptly, on that same 3d of May, twelve hundred armed soldiers—that was the estimated number—were stationed in hostile array around my premises, for the avowed purpose of guarding against the escape of Boisrond Canal from my house. Do these facts and circumstances look as if the government did not know that Boisrond Canal was under my flag? In fine, I think I may affirm that the fact that Boisrond Canal and his brother were at my house has not at any time been, and is not now, a secret either to the government or to any other persons in this community.

Again, in my said dispatch No. 364, I gave what I intended as a full recital of all the circumstances attending the entrance of the refugees into into my house about 3 o’clock on the morning of the 3d of May last. I find, however, that I omitted this point about the arms, probably because I did not then think it of sufficient importance to bring to your attention in a dispatch already too long and full of details. The facts upon the point are, however, soon told. Boisrond Canal, the one person who has been and is still sought after above all others, pursued by government forces, came into my residence with a severe sprain in both ankles, which he must have received some hours before, and in [Page 724] consequence quite unable to walk or to stand up even, except by the support of his two companions, and suffering intense pain. He had no arms whatever, and could not possibly have fired, as alleged, upon the soldiers who attacked him and his companions in their flight in the road, (Chemin Lalue,) nearly a mile opposite my residence. I noticed, however, that his two companions had each a musket in their hands. These I took away from them and locked up securely in my bed-room, telling the men that no weapon of any kind whatever could for one moment be allowed in their possession after entering under my roof. These facts—and there are no others upon this point that I know of—I have given in full orally, not only to the ministers but to the president himself. Inclosures A and B to my No. 384, of the 22d ultimo, will show the official correspondence had between me and the minister of foreign affairs upon the subject. I suppose I need not say that I have tried to act conscientiously for the honor and prestige of our flag here, in full view of all these trying circumstances and of my good acquaintance and knowledge of the Haytian people. * * * As it might possibly appear, from the manner in which those statements are made, that my present relations with the members of this government have been impaired by reason of the affair of the refugees, it may be proper for me to state that such is in no way the case. On the contrary, whenever I meet them, as I often do, they give me unmistakable proofs of the old cordiality. The president talks with me about his affairs almost as if I were a member of his household, and rarely fails to say to me in a hearty manner that it is always a new pleasure for him to see me. Even about this very refugee difficulty he has talked to me in the kindest manner, even almost without the conventional reserve, and has more than once expressed to me his regret over the occurrence, especially because it is “such an embarrassment for us both.”

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I am, &c.,