Mr. Langston to Mr. Evarts.
Port au Prince, Hayti, June 30, 1879. (Received July 23.)
Sir: Reference is had to the subject of this dispatch again, for the purpose of presenting certain pecularities concerning the constitution of the Haytian Corps Législatif which make such conditions of disagreement between the two chambers as at present exist, possible, and, in exciting political times, when power is being shifted from one party to another, well-nigh certain.
In the first place the corps is composed of the Senate and Chamber of Representatives of communes, and when these branches meet jointly they constitute the National Assembly.
The popular branch of this body is the Chamber of Representatives. It comes directly from the people, and to it is committed the duty of electing the senators, as is seen in the case of M. Prophète, so lately elected to the Senate, and in connection with whose admission thereto the present difference between the House and Senate had its origin.[Page 563]
The House is composed of 75 members, and ordinarily at least 50 are required to be present to organize the chamber and to transact business. But a smaller number sometimes, when for political and other reasons it has been difficult to secure the attendance of so many as 50, has proceeded with the organization and transaction of business. This was the case in 1867, 1870, and 1873. Then there were only 44 members present; but both the House and the Senate were of the same political complexion, and the legality of the constitution of the former was not questioned.
The Senate is composed of 30 members, and it is understood generally and admitted that 20 senators must be present to organize and transact ordinary business. But it is claimed by certain of the leaders of the National party to-day that there have been times in the past, as in 1867, 1870, and 1873, when 20 were not present. And yet the constitution and transaction of the Senate then were not called into question. But this was owing probably to the fact already mentioned, that at that time both the House and Senate were, in their majorities, of the same politics, and it is apparent that difference will not originate under such circumstances.
It is only when one party holds the House and the other the Senate that such difficulties are possible.
Such is the case to-day. The Nationals hold the House and the liberals the Senate. The Senate holds the House to the strict observance of the rule that 50 representatives must be present to organize and do business, while the House contends in justification and support of its claim that a less number may answer, that the necessities of the case warrant deviation from this requirement, ordinarily recognized as just, and that certain precedents furnished, as already indicated in the history of both the Senate and House, justify this position.
It is impossible for the House to secure the attendance of 50 members at this time. This number is said to have been present at the organization, which was recognized by the Senate as legal, and hence it joined with the House in declaring the opening of the National Assembly.
Since the organization of the House two of its members have died, one has been imprisoned by its order, as being in some way involved in an insurrection, and the law on “abstention” has been enforced against others, as Mr. Bazelais, and thus its numbers have been so reduced that they are now less than 50. Indeed, the House proposes to work with only 38.
The results of the elections which have just been held have not yet been made known. The Nationals in the House are hoping for large accessions from this source; while the Liberals of the Senate feel that their power may be increased by the election of a large number of adherents of their political faith.
How the dead-lock of the Senate and House is to be removed is a matter of vital and pressing importance.
The executive, enjoying the real sympathy of neither branch of the Corps Législatif, even if he be earnest (and some question his motives) in his efforts to secure reconciliation, seems unable to accomplish anything in this regard.
And now it is reported that, in the chamber, elections which have just taken place, in so far as they are not agreeable to it, will be contested and invalidated. This state of things must result, sooner or later, if continued, in revolution; it may be bloody; it certainly will be widespread and decisive.
I have referred to the vote of the chamber declaring the seat of [Page 564] Boyer Bazelais vacant. Against this action Mr. Bazelais has made an earnest, though neither an able nor a patriotic, protest; and on the 25th ultimo the chamber voted to adhere to its action, and gave notice accordingly to the secretary of state of the interior, and asked that an order be taken to fill this vacancy by a new election.
This action tends to increase and intensify popular feeling, already sufficiently excited.
But another peculiarity of the Chamber and Senate, worthy of mention, is found in the fact that they each elect their officers, presidents and secretaries, every month, from their number. M. Délorme, the chief of the National party, was chosen president of the chamber at the organization of the present session, and holds the same position as reelected on the 1st instant. M. Dénis, a prominent and influential Liberal, was chosen president of the Senate at its opening, and still presides as re-elected on the first of this month. The secretaries of either body are of like party character with the different presiding officers.
Why this rule of frequent change in the officers of these bodies was originally adopted it is now difficult to say. Intimations are sometimes made that aspirants are numerous, and such arrangement meets better the conveniences of all concerned, and sustains peace and harmony. It is probable, however, that this arrangement was adopted to compel each member of the bodies to do his full share of duty, both as member and officer, except as excused by his colleagues. And this reason will appear to have force when it is understood that neither the presiding officer of either body, nor the secretaries, receive additional compensation for services performed in each capacity.
Each member of the chamber is entitled to $200 per month during each session; and each senator to $125 per month for the two years during which he holds his position.
The re-election of M. Délorme gave special dissatisfaction to the Liberals, as it was understood that Mr. Bazelais would not, for certain personal reasons, enter the chamber taking the oath of office from him; while the re-election of M. Dénis, and the election of two members, as secretaries of the senate, who had distinguished themselves by their efforts and votes against the admission of General Prophète, were regarded by the Nationals as an expression of positive and determined opposition to them by the Liberals. And so matters stood when Mr. Bazelais made his protest.
I am, &c.,