Mr. Bassett to Mr. Fish.
Port au Prince , May 19, 1875. (Received May 31.)
Sir: Referring to my No. 364, of the 8th instant, and especially to its inclosures A, D, E, and F, which relate to the asylum sought and obtained in the legation by persons under pursuit by the authorities of this government, I have the honor to state that I have had further correspondence and personal conference on the same subject with the minister of foreign affairs and his colleagues; that I have been successful in obtaining permission to embark, and have already embarked for foreign territory, Messieurs Alerte, Modé, and Iacinthe, named in the inclosure F above referred to, also a Mr. Floriot, one of the supposed associates of General Boisrond Canal, and in connection with my colleague of Great Britain, Ex-Minister Ethéart, and Ex-Senator Duval, and that there are now left in asylum under our flag here only General Boisrond Oaual and his younger brother.
Under date of the 8th instant the minister sent me a dispatch, (inclosure A,) in which, denying my right to extend asylum to General Canal, he insists that I should deliver him up, and notifies me that in case I cannot agree to the view of his dispatch, his government is decided to refer the question to Washington.
To this I returned Answer (inclosure B) on the 12th instant, assuring him that I differed with him as to the application under existing circumstances of the view he had expressed, and that I maintained the tenor of my previous dispatches on the subject, which would of course call into operation his expressed purpose to refer the question to you, and by consequence, it seemed to me, suspend further official correspondence relative thereto between this legation and his government until his appeal could be heard from.
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Accordingly, on the 14th instant, the minister addressed me another note, (inclosure C,) rather mildly worded, saying that his government had charged him to express to me anew, before submitting the question to Washington, its desire that I should deliver over General Boisrond Canal to “justice.” I acknowledged receipt (inclosure D) of this note on the 17th instant, repeating the view expressed in my dispatch of the 5th instant, (see inclosure F to my No. 364,) and seating that no departure would for the present be made from any ground which we had heretofore taken on the subject.
It was while this correspondence was going on that I secured, by friendly personal representations to the minister and his colleagues, permission to embark my refugees other than General Boisrond Canal and his younger brother, and that my colleague of Great Britain also succeeded in obtaining a like permission to em bark General Loyer Barreau, who was especially named in one of the government decrees with General Canal. These permissions were obtained in the face of a decree from the minister of interior announcing that all persons here included in the decree of banishment who did not quit the country within twenty-four hours would be considered outside of the law, and every citizen would be invited to shoot them down at sight.
I am not unaware that the ground taken in my several dispatches, marked as inclosures D and F to my No. 364, and B and D herewith sent, may not be in accord with the requirements of public law, as it is [Page 697] recognized by states perfectly constituted and established; nor am I ununmiudful of the views entertained by the Department as they are expressed to me in your No. 24, of December 16, 1869, but circumstances seemed to crowd in upon me without warning, and in such a way as to leave me almost no choice. Men maddened by passion, inflamed, as I am credibly informed, by rum, and elated by consciousness of armed power, were pursuing their fellow-countrymen with red-handed violence. To have closed my door upon the men pursued would have been for me to denythem their last chance of escape from being brutally put to death before my eyes. I thought it my duty under the circumstances to do what I could to protect them from such a fate and to guard them until passion might cool and violence spend its force.
There are other grounds also for the tenor of my said dispatches. The right of asylum has never been renounced by this government. On the contrary, each successive administration has clung to that right, and practically, once or twice formally, refused to assent to its discontinuance. Only lately, as I had the honor of stating to you personally, when I was at the Department in November last, the work of completing our consular treaty with this government was arrested because the Haytian plenipotentiary would not agree to having the exercise of this right taken away from even our consulates in the inferior ports. And besides, no foreign power represented here has ever withdrawn the right from its legation in this country. Great Britain alone has formally prohibited the exercise of the right in its vice-consulates in this island, but it did this only after bombarding Cape Haytian in 1865 and humiliating Santo Domingo in 1873, in vindication of its perfect right to act solely according to its own pleasure as to the continuation of the practice of granting asylum in those consulates. It was partly in view of such facts as these, it may be supposed, that you instructed me in your No. 32, of February 4, 1870, that “since the custom is tolerated by the other great powers, the Department is not disposed to place the representative of the United States in an invidious position by positively forbidding him to continue the practice.” I note also in the same dispatch your admonition to be discreet in exercising this tacit permission for its continuance.
Moreover, any weaker ground than that which 1 took in my said dispatches to the Haytian minister, would, in my opinion, have probably led to the invasion of my residence, violence against men under our protection, and a consequent humiliation of the American flag, unless, yielding in a cowardly manner to intimated menaces, I had delivered the men up. This may be called acting upon expedients rather than upon the full requirements of rigid law. But I am faithfully stating to you facts.
I firmly maintain all that is said in the last pages of my No. 364, in reference to * * * charges of conspiracy upon which men are persecuted, exiled, and outlawed, and in reference to General Boisrond Canal and his alleged associates. I do not think he, who is sought for with so much passion and ill-concealed desire for vengeance, is a criminal. * * * He is a man who, as far as I can learn, is without a personal enemy, although known everywhere in this country, both for his own manly character and as the grandson of General Boisrond Tonnerre, secretary to the Emperor Dessalines and the author of the declaration of Haytian independence.
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The same method was adopted with me here in 1869 and 1870, when I protected numbers of Salnave’s friends from violence, and had under [Page 698] our flag, men who were then, as this man is now, charged with crimes, and declared outside of the law. It was adopted against Ex-Minister Haentjens, and more recently against Ex-Minister Lamothe, when each of these found refuge in the British legation; and I predict that it will continue to be adopted against every prominent man who, pursued by government wrath, may find himself under a foreign flag in this country.
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Now this government has, it seems, taken an appeal to you, through Minister Preston, as to the case of General Boisrond Canal, just as it has recently appealed to Her Britannic Majesty’s government in the case of Her Majesty’s vice-consul at Port au Paix, (see my No. 360 of the 17th ultimo,) just as it wished to, and some way did make the same appeal in the case of Ex-Minister Lamothe, (see my No. 355, of April 9, 1875,) and as it appealed in 1873 to the French government in regard to the action of the French chargé d’affaires, on the claims question. I speak after a conscientious balancing of all the evidence within the reach of my six years’ residence here, and a full knowledge of all these men, their habits of thought and action, after careful consultation with my diplomatic colleagues, who may be supposed to be in this case impartial men, when I say that I sincerely hope that my action in behalf of General Boisrond Canal may not be disapproved, that this government may receive no encouragement to look lightly upon our legation flag, and no encouragement to vent any instincts it may have against au honest man and worthy citizen who finds himself, certainly without any wish or desire of mine, under the protection of our flag. I do not wish to see our flag lowered before the eyes of foreign representatives here.
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I beg you to believe also that if we were to accede to the demand to deliver up General Canal, this people, including the very men who make the demand, would despise us at heart, and inwardly execrate our conduct for being the first ever to yield to such a demand under any circumstances.
It has been the universal custom, in this country, to allow persons who have found asylum under the flag of a foreign representative, without regard to the charges or prejudices against such persons for the time being, to embark for foreign territory, or more rarely to return quietly to their homes. I know of no single instance where this rule has been departed from, by the government of Hayti, the affair at Cape Haytian in 1865, not falling strictly without this rule, and we certainly ought to be allowed to avail ourselves of it in the case of General Boisrond Canal. I would respectfully suggest, if you will permit me to do so, that an intimation to this effect be given to Mr. Preston, should he make his government’s appeal to you in the matter.
I have trusted that my good personal relations with all the members of this government, and with all my colleagues, who feel naturally enough a lively interest in the question, would enable me to calm down passion, so that I might make the embarkation; and while still hoping to be able to accomplish this end, I must say that I have never found the chief of state more obstinate in any case than in this. He receives my representations about it in the most friendly manner, but says he must insist on the delivery over to the government of General Boisrond Canal, never mentioning his associate, General Calice Carrié, who is quietly in refuge at the British consulate. My premises are still surrounded by hundreds of armed men, watching every movement within, filling with fear and anxiety my household, giving us all no inconsiderable [Page 699] annoyance, and rendering us liable at least to accident at any moment.
I think the friendly presence of one of our national vessels would add moral force to my representations to the authorities in these rather trying circumstances, as the presence of such vessels of Great Britain and Spain has already added to similar representations of my colleagues from those countries.
I am, &c.,