No. 387.
Mr. Preston to Mr. Bayard.


Sir: The undersigned, minister plenipotentiary and envoy extraordinary of the Republic of Hayti to the United States, begs leave of the honorable Secretary of State of the United States to call his attention to the matter of the claim of Antonio Pellietier against the Government of Hayti and of the award thereon.

It would be a useless task to present here the lengthy and somewhat involved history of the claim.

The undersigned will confine himself to stating that on the 30th of November, 1863, the Hon. W. H. Seward, then Secretary of State of the United States, decided that “it was hot deemed expedient to interfere on behalf of claimant.” (See Antonio Pelletierr’s record> vol. 1, pp. 121, 122), and that on January 6, 1874, a bill “to authorize the President of the United States to request the Republic of Hayti to indemnify Antonio Pellietier” was introduced in the Senate of the United States the bill was read twice, and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, who, on the 9th of June following, presented an adverse report, through the Hon. Mr. McCreery, and thereupon the consideration of the bill was indefinitely postponed. The undersigned, begs leave to attach to this note a copy of the bill and of the report.*

It was about three years after the Senate had thus expressed its opinion about this claim that the Hon. William M. Evarts, then Secretary of-State of the United States, instructed Mr. John M. Langston, then minister to Hayti, to present it to the Government of the undersigned (12th of April, i8785 see record of Pelletrer’s case, pp. 309 et seq.) This action on the part of the United States led to somewhat protracted negotiations, which culminated in the protocol of the 28th of May, 1884.

It was agreed that the claim of Antonio Pellietier, together with that of A. H. Lazare, be referred to the arbitration of the Hon. William Strong. In regard to the true intent and meaning of said protocol, the undersigned entertains the hope that his views are in full accord with those of the Hon. Thomas F. Bayard, whose fairness and high sense of justice are well known to the undersigned.

Besides, he will take the liberty to refer to a decision of that high tribunal whose rulings have so much influence on the progress of international law throughout the civilized world. The Supreme Court of the [Page 631] United States have recently held that “without the treaty the aivard icould have bound nobody, and would have been at most a friendly recommendation.

“By virtue of the treaty it became a most solemn and important international obligation, whereby Great Britain became abound as much as a nation can be bound to pay the amount of the award, and at the same time became freed and discharged from any further liability on account of any claims of that class.” (Great Western Insurance Company vs. The United States, 112 U. S., pp. 197–198.)

In presenting these views to the Secretary of State of the United States the undersigned does not intend to raise the question of the validity, or to discuss the effects, of the protocol entered upon on the 28th of May, 1884, between the Hon. Frederick T. Frelinghuysen and himself, but he concurs in what he has been led to regard as the opinion of the Hon. Thomas F. Bayard, that said protocol can not come within the description of the solemn international compacts referred to in the above-quoted decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. On the other hand, the printed records of the proceedings in the matter of the claim of Pelletier vs. Hayti, which cover nearly two thousand pages, show the informality of the proceedings, since they are not certified by any one, and not even signed by the clerk of the arbitration. But taking for granted that said proceedings are correctly reported, the undersigned begs leave to state that, in his judgment, the case of Pelletier against the Government of the undersigned discloses a state of facts so conflicting with the best established precedents of the Department of State, as to place it among those cases about which the Supreme Court has said with much emphasis in Frelinghuysen vs. Key, that “as between the United States and the claimant, the honesty of the claim is always open to inquiry for the purposes of fair dealing with the government against which through the United States a claim has been made.” (See 110 U., S. pp. 75, 76.)

The undersigned believes that the claim of Pelletier comes within the scope of this proposition. Indeed, the whole correspondence on the part of the Department of State of the United States in relation to this claim assumes that the voyage of the bark William was lawful; that all the charges preferred against the master, the crew, and the ship Were groundless; and that, therefore, there was no ground for the prosecution of Pelletier and of his associates; in other words, the good faith and honest purposes of claimant were fully asserted. But in the light of the facts proved in the course of the arbitration and set forth in the award of the Hon. Win. Strong, it appears that Pelletier, as master of the bark William, was engaged in a slave-trade expedition, and that in the opinion of the arbitrator it is beyond doubt that had the bark been captured and brought into an American port when she was seized at Fort Liberté she would have been condemned by the United States courts as an intended slaver; and I think the Haytian authorities had such reasons for suspecting, even believing, that she was a slaver, with evil designs against their people, that they were justified in seizing her in one of their ports, and arresting her master at least for examination.”

According to the arbitrator this conclusion was reached upon the folio wing grounds:

Pelletier was guilty of the crime of fitting out the bark William at Mobile in the autumn of 1860 for a slave-trading expedition, in violation of the laws of the United States.
He prosecuted that undertaking among the islands of the Caribbean Sea and alongside the coast and in the territorial waters of Hayti until he was arrested at Fort Liberte in April, 1861.
He was tried by the judicial authorities of Hayti, and by due process of law according to the institutions of that country, upon the charge of an “attempt at piracy and slave trading upon the coast of Hayti.”

It is true that upon the question of jurisdiction the arbitrator held “that by the law of nations the authorities of Hayti had no jurisdiction of the person of Pellietier,” and upon this sole ground an award of $57,250 was made on behalf of claimant; the undersigned begs leave to suggest that this award ought not to be collected by the Department of State, and for the following reasons:

A demand for the payment of such an award would be inconsistent with the legislation prohibiting the slave trade, that has governed the United States for over three-quarters of a century.
Under the constant jurisprudence of the Department of State no claimant shown to be guilty of a tort or torts in connection with the subject-matter of a claim is entitled to the interposition of this Government in his favor.
The award discloses the further fact that Pellietier was also guilty of various offenses within the territorial waters of Hayti over which Hayti had most unquestionably jurisdiction. Those offenses are set forth as follows by the honorable arbitrator:

“At Port Liberté he floated a French flag, never an American proclaimed his vessel to be the Guillaume Tell, from Havana, bound to Havre, and asserted that his own name was Jules Letellier. He even caused a letter to be written to the French Consul, repeating these false statements, signed Jules Letellier (see award, p. 7; also authorities cited in brief for defendant Government,) Pelletier’s record, pp. 1786–87–88).

It appears further in the proceedings before the arbitrator that the Hon. William Strong did not feel authorized to pass upon the questions raised here by the undersigned. This is established by the following reference among others:

Mr. de Chambrun. Can Polletier, who stands convicted by the evidence produced before your honor of criminal acts committed at Fort Liberté, recover upon an action founded on tort?

The Arbitrator. The question whether the United States Government ought to have made a reclamation is another question outside of this case. If reclamation has been made then it becomes a question of legal right. (Pelletier’s Record, p. 1781.)

Thus it was not upon the principle of international justice raised by the prosecution of this claim that the arbitrator undertook to pass; he confined himself to the legal, not to say technical, questions growing out of the reference to his arbitration.

Therefore, it is left to the Governments which made the agreement of May 28, 1884, to consider and to determine the following points:

The demand made by the United States on Hayti on behalf of the claim of Antonio Pellietier rested upon the ground that the voyage of the bark William was lawful; but the general presumption of innocence and the repeated declarations of Pellietier were reversed or disproved by positive evidence of guilt furnished to the arbitrator; and, therefore, the undersigned is satisfied that no award made on behalf of Pellietier will be collected by the interposition of the United States.

The undersigned avails, &c.

Stephen Preston.
  1. Not published.