Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.
Port au Prince, August 9, 1875. (Received August 24.)
Sir: In my No. 383, of the 16th ultimo, as well as in others of my dispatches which touch upon the question of the refugees under our legation flag, Ihave had the honor to convey to you an intimation, both of the general surprise created here by the conduct of this government in persistently and stubbornly refusing to give the traditional consent for the embarkation of these persons for neutral territory, and of my view that the severities which were inaugurated the 1st day of May last by the authorities here were inspired, not by any conspiracy against it, as alleged, but by a determination to eliminate from the political arena the possible elements of future insecurity to the present administration.
I refer to these two points now for the purpose of stating a few facts bearing upon them.
When it was known, on the 3d of May, that there were persons in refuge at my house, it was almost universally and confidently supposed here that my personal relations with the president and all his intimate advisers would enable me without difficulty to embark the men, whatever might be the feeling of the government against them.
* * * * * * *
But alas! all my personal exertions have not succeeded in removing the difficulty. It still exists.
Another ground for general surprise at the government’s conduct in this regard is that it has turned squarely against all the traditions and precedents established in the thousands of similar cases that have occurred here since Haytian independence. In no single instance in all those thousands has there ever been any approach to the conduct that the government has observed and still is observing in this case of my refugees, Boisrond Canal and his brother, and in no single one of these instances has a refugee ever been given up.
What wonder is it, therefore, that the country stands in surprise, and amazement even, as it sees the government rejecting every possible friendly appeal, and contemptuously casting aside all the precedents of two generations—precedents established and consecrated, too, by itself?
It would seem as if the government had something more than an ordinary motive to push it up to such conduct. What that motive is, as I understand it, I have explained in my No. 383.
* * * * * * *
For illustration, let me state that, shortly after the occurrences of the 1st of May, a commission was appointed, of course by the government, to gather up and report proofs to show that there was to break forth that day a conspiracy, in which Generals Brice, Pierre, and Canal were leaders. Three months of investigation have developed absolutely nothing of such proofs. Indeed, no impartial or fair-minded person here believes that any such conspiracy existed as was charged.
Again, the refugee Calice Carrié, who was at the British consulate, and who was condemned to death with Boisrond Canal, quietly marched out of his place of refuge to a friend’s house, one day last week, and found means to embark right at the wharf of regular embarkation, no one questioning him or stopping him. No word of surprise or regret at his departure comes from the government M. Meuriot, who was also [Page 726] condemned to death with Boisrond Canal, was allowed by the government itself to go quietly to Jamaica.
Moreover, there were seventeen other persons who were put npon trial charged with participation in the pretended conspiracy of the 1st of May. They were of course all condemned to death. This was the 29th ultimo. But their sentence of death was, on the 2d instant, removed in every instance. Of the seventeen, nine were pardoned entirely, two were exiled, three were consigned to prison for six years, and three for ten years.
Now, unless there be something special against Boisrond Canal, why is it that upon his case such unprecedented stress is laid? Of his alleged associates in the conspiracy, condemned to death equally with himself, some are exiled, some pardoned entirely, some allowed to embark, and some have their sentences commuted to imprisonment, while; in reference to Boisrond Canal himself such unprecedented proceedings have not only already been taken, but will—I say it most respectfully—be continued in every possible form which promises success to the determination to get rid of him, just as long as the appeals of this government in the case are well entertained at Washington.
I do not see any disposition manifested by the government to remove the difficulty, which is daily becoming sorer and more trying.
* * * * * * * *
I am, &c.,
P. S.—A fair example of the feeling here in regard to the refugees may, perhaps, be given by quoting a remark made to me by the British minister. Some days ago that gentleman came to my office and said he had come to say to me that he had taken careful pains to find the sentiment existing here on the subject. He said: “I have talked it over extensively with a great many intelligent persons, foreigners and natives, and I find but one single view from everybody, and that is that the conduct of this government toward you about those refugees, under the circumstances, is most extraordinary.”