No. 309.
Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.

No. 358.]

Sir: On the 23d of December last President Domingue issued a proclamation convoking in extraordinary session, for the 11th of January [Page 684] following, the National Constituent Assembly, acting under the constitution as the Corps Legislatif. The only reason given for the step in the proclamation was in these words: “That a treaty of peace, commerce, navigation, and extradition has been concluded between the Republic of Hayti and the Dominican Republic; that, according to the terms of article 40 of this treaty, its provisions must be ratified and the ratification exchanged at Port au Prince within a delay of three months from the 9th of November last.”

The assembly promptly ratified the treaty on the 20th of January, (see my No. 346, of February 3, 1875,) and might then have supposed, from the terms of the president’s proclamation, that the work for which it had been convened was finished; but it continued in session thereafter two months, occupying itself with the regular business of the legislative body, and acting in full harmony with the executive on nearly, if not quite, all questions. On the 19th ultimo, the usual legislative work done at the annual sittings of the Corps Legislatif having been well advanced, the assembly adjourned without day, and the president issued a proclamation announcing that “the next legislative session, which ought to be opened the first Monday in the month of April, in this year, is postponed, and will take place the 20th of next September.”

The assembly’s work after the ratification of the treaty related chiefly to internal affairs; but there were two or three measures adopted which may possess interest of a wider scope. Among these may be noted the opening to foreign commerce of the port of Ansé d’Hainault, situated at the end of the western peninsula of the republic. Another act of some interest was the vote to erect a befitting monument to the memory of the Emperor Dessalines and of other distinguished actors in the first revolution. It has seemed to me that there has been heretofore a strange neglect on the part of this government and people in regard to the memory of the really extraordinary men in the history of Hayti. One almost never hears the name of Toussaint 1’Ouverture here, and I have sought in vain for an accurate likeness of him. Known and cherished as are his name and fame in foreign lands, his memory is almost “without honor in his own country.”

But the most important measures acted upon by the assembly were those looking to an improvement of the financial condition of the republic, which, it must be confessed, has been, and still is, deplorable. President Domiugue, on his accession to power, found the finances exhausted, the French debt, that standing burden to Hayti, in arrears, the army unpaid, the country staggering under interior debts, and floundering generally in financial embarrassment. The government, therefore, in December last judged it necessary to negotiate, and did negotiate, with the English house of Messrs. White, Hartraann & Co. here, a loan of three millions of dollars, with which to liquidate the arrears of the French debt and meet the installments coming due thereon, release itself from its engagements to this same house for loans advanced under the former administration, to effect the retreat of the paper currency, and to consolidate some of its smaller floating interior debts.

The terms upon which this loan was made were quite favorable to the lenders. It was to be refunded in installments running through ten years, the first payment to be made within six months after the loan was effected. The interest was so fixed that it amounted to nearly sixteen per centum per annum, and a lien was given upon the customs-revenues in guarantee for both principal and interest. As these revenues had already been mortgaged for the French debt, the contract necessarily [Page 685] received in some form an approval through the French legation, and duplicates of it were lodged in both the French and English legations. Moreover, the government engaged itself not to contract any other loan within the ten years without first giving the preference to Messrs. White, Hartmann & Co.

During the month of February it was claimed that the three million were not sufficient for the end in view, and finally that the lenders had not fairly kept to their engagements in the matter. And on the 10th of that month the Assembly authorized the government to contract a new loan of twelve millions of dollars, with which it might be enabled (1) to pay off the three millions recently borrowed of Messrs. White, Hartmann & Co.; (2) to liquidate entirely the French debt, which is now estimated at about eleven millions of francs(3) to pay all other debts of the country, amounting to about four millions of francs; and (4) to enter upon and complete numerous internal improvements.

On the 8th ultimo a contract was signed to effect this new loan, and three days later it was sanctioned by the Assembly, it had been agreed upon between the Executive and Messrs. Emile Pievers & Co., the later acting as agents of capitalists in Paris, My colleague, the French minister plenipotentiary, gave his concurrence to the contract as far as the provisions for the French debt were concerned. The terms agreed upon for this loan were thought to be more favorable than those of the former one. The principal is to be paid in ‘installments covering forty years, the first installment to be paid in 1882. The rate of interest is fourteen per centum per aunum, and the guarantee was the export duties. The government afterward asked that the guarantee be changed to forty-five per centum of the duties on imports. With this modification the contract has gone forward to the Paris capitalists by the hands of a special commissioner of the government.

This financial measure is justly regarded as an important one for this government, and the result of the negotiations of the government commission with the capitalists in Paris is looked for with interest.

I am, &c.,