Mr. Langston to Mr. Evarts.
Port au Prince, Hayti, June 30, 1879. (Received July 23.)
Sir: At this time, when the Corps Legislatif is in session, and the people are anxiously awaiting their determinations and acts having reference to the public welfare, opinions are being expressed by persons in different parts of the republic with regard to the industrial and material condition of the country, as well as the measures to be adopted calculated to ameliorate it.
These opinions, as they appear in the public journals, entirely agree as to the general unfortunate condition which exists, and agree in ascribing its existence to the lack of interest on the part of the people in agriculture and the neglect of ordinary industry.
These opinions so far are correct; for here there is no suitable attention given to agriculture, and common labor is not cultivated with vigor and efficiency.
On the 21st instant there appeared in Le Peuple, one of the ablest newspapers published in this city, a communication, written evidently by a Haytian gentlemen of intelligence, with special information and thought upon the subject on which he writes, entitled “La misère publique.”
In this article occur several interesting statements and suggestions, which, as translated, show with clearness and force the feelings of the writer with regard to the topics upon which he dwells.
He states, first, what is probably true:
Hayti, a country essentially agricultural, has always encountered, in the development of this branch of labor, grave difficulties, which had their birth with the war of our independence. The beautiful plantations which, at the time of the colonists, covered our island with richness and made it the Queen of the Antilles, all disappeared in the flames. Becoming masters of the country, where of old superb habitations had been established, producing in abundance sugar, coffee, cotton, &c., we saw only a heap of ashes, sad but noble and disinterested witnesses of the fury which had guided the conduct of our fathers, and of the valor which they had to display to bequeath to us this free soil. Were these ruins necessary? It belongs to posterity—that is, to us, born after these terrible convulsions—to say that the misery which besieges us, the absence of labor which has caused it, are so many proofs exceptional against these means.
Certainly we do not regret the expulsion of the colonists, but we do regret that all the traces of labor, of prosperity, have disappeared with them.
Really, the labors of the fields, abandoned by the fact of war, were difficult of re-establishment. The slaves of yesterday, to-day free, regarded with aversion those same [Page 561] fields which they had for so long a time watered with their sweat, and where they always seemed to see the whip of the commander, alas, still marked by their blood, and which reminded them of things too painful. Besides, so many ruins, where formerly one saw so much wealth, reacted upon the spirit of those old slaves, and they preferred to serve as soldiers than to use again the hoe and the manchette.
We have gone from fall to fall, and we have reached to-day the edge of the precipice, the complete annihilation of our agriculture.
These last words present a dark picture, but there is, alas, too much truth in them, and, so far as statements are made on this subject, they are sustained by the general utterance.
The words of this entire quotation contain matter worthy of serious thought. It is well to recollect, however, in this connection, that the fact that so little is absolutely needed to supply the ordinary wants of the common man, the laborer of this country, and that little is so abundantly supplied by nature, in many respects, without the least effort from him other than that of appropriation, that the tendency in purpose and action is idleness) there is no pressure of necessity to drive one to work.
In the second place, with regard to general industry, the writer says:
The cultivation of the earth is that which, among all, is the most fruitful of wealth; but it has never sufficed, alone, in any country, to assume really the general welfare. It is necessary that by the side of agriculture walks her dearly beloved sister industry. It is time that it be established among us! It is time that our youth, idle now, learn to put on the blouse of the artificer and cease to multiply in the public bureaus! It is time that Hayti leave the state of lethargy in which she is plunged, and regain her ancient title of Queen of the Antilles.
But some one will object that, to regain that place which she occupied anciently, to restore her influence of labor, it is necessary for us to have means, which we have not—we need capital! Capital is needed, we admit truly! It is an easy matter to bring capital to you. For that you have only to be at least egotistical, to pronounce definitively against the exclusion which all of our constitutions have consecrated against foreigners.
Thereafter the writer becomes bold in his advocacy of immigration, and advises recurrence thereto; not to the immigration of the blacks, for unsatisfactory results, in this regard, have been experienced already, but to the immigration of the whites. For this purpose he demands that the constitution be amended. Whether it has been wise in the people of Hayti to continue to deny to white men the privilege of becoming citizens and property-holders in this country, is a matter about which honest and patriotic persons may differ.
The Haytian, inexperienced in all the solid and more important elements of wise and progressive industry; without habits of forecast and endurance; wanting in those lessons of wisdom which efforts in providing for the future impart and impress; and, like the residents of the tropics generally, possessing little energy and a small amount of earnest and positive industrial purpose, to say nothing of his admitted want of means and general intelligence, might find it a difficult task to maintain his own in free competition with a class which, in addition to its intelligence and wealth, commands all those qualities which assure success.
But the opinion that this exclusion of white men should be removed is not general. I know of but one or two influential Haytians who defend it. The great body of the people, even did they believe its removal would bring capital and industrial improvement, would, I think, oppose it. For, besides the fear of competition, there exists here considerable feeling among the more illiterate against foreigners; and the feeling against color, even as between mixed persons and blacks, natives and [Page 562] residents of the country, is too general; and at times shows itself in positive and active manner.
In the present session of the Corps Legislatif, in which party spirit runs high, there have been offensive exhibitions of this color-feeling as between the members of the two political parties. Where there exists such feeling of one colored man against another, what must be their feeling toward white men? In exhorting the members of the Corps Legislatif to an intelligent and earnest performance of their duties to the country in its present condition, the writer of the article named uses the following words:
To occupy themselves to establish our finances; to elevate agriculture; to implant industry; to explore our abundant resources; to continue to encourage public instruction; to give, with the regular transmission of the executive in 1880, an active and intelligent administration; and, finally, to have introduced among us foreign capital by the repeal of Article 7 of the constitution.
This definition of the duty of the Haytian lawmaker seems well enough so far as it goes, but is there not underlying all that is said therein a subject more fundamental and pressing, which, first of all, should command his attention when reconstruction and amelioration are demanded? It is, what is the capability of the people and the country; and how can political and industrial adjustments be made so as to secure, in the highest and best sense, the development and growth of this capability?
To these questions the lawmaker should address himself at once in the spirit of the largest patriotism, and the other subjects, which are comparatively superficial, though important, will find an easy solution.
The extracts which I have given must prove interesting as showing the general sentiment with regard to the industrial conditions of the country, and the judgment and feeling with respect to change and amelioration in that behalf.
I am, &c.,