Mr. Thompson to Mr. Bayard.
Port au Prince Hayti , May 26, 1888. (Received June 18.)
Sir: Rumors of political troubles have been spreading over this Republic ever since the report some two months ago that President Salomon was mortally ill and would request of Congress a congé in order to leave Hayti and receive medical treatment abroad; and notwithstanding repeated open denials of the verity of these stories by the President they were retailed as truths.
Lately it has been said that the minister of France and myself had each sent for war vessels to assist the President in escaping from the country should civil troubles arise, the feeling being that his health would prevent him combating enemies that attempted to overthrow him.[Page 885]
Wednesday, the 23d instant, in an audience with President Salomon, when speaking of the situation, he assured me that everything was perfectly quiet, and that he had no anxiety.
Thursday morning a great commotion occurred in this city. Business houses were quickly closed 5 people were running here and there, seeking refuge in legations and consulates; the troops were called out; private citizens and soldiers were going about most conspicuously armed. I immediately left the legation to discover the cause of the trouble. Arriving at the office of the commandant of the “Place,” I found the soldiers in great numbers loading their rifles with ball-cartridge and bringing out boxes of ammunition. I met my colleagues of France and Great Britain at the latter’s legation, and we determined to use every means in our power to keep peace and tranquillity in the city for the benefit of protecting the lives and property of foreign citizens should the apparently serious turn of events continue. We sent for our horses and rode around the city, meeting at the post-office President Salomon, his ministers, many officers, and aids-decamp. We were particular to approach him. After shaking hands with each, he said words to the effect that it was not a serious affair, as he had been forewarned; it only appeared that some people were tired of living. This sounded sufficiently serious to us, sustained by the looks of belligerents all around.
The city was declared in a state of siege by the publication of the following order:
Salomon, President of Hayti, in view of articles 197 and 198 of the constitution and the law of April 13 on the state of siege, with the advice of the council of the secretaries of state, has decreed and decrees what follows:
- Art. 1. The arrondissement of Port au Prince is declared to he in a state of siege.
- Art. 2. The present decree shall be printed, published, and executed at the diligence of the secretaries of state, each in what concerns him.
Given at the National Palace the 24th of May, 1888, the eighty-fifth year of the independence.
By the President:
The secretary of state of war and of marine,
T. A. S. Sam.
The secretary of state of the interior and of agriculture,
The secretary of state of public instruction and justice,
At the arsenal a piece of cannon guarded the street, and sentinels were stationed all about the city. The two Haytiau war vessels were hauled around, presenting their broadsides to the city.
The report through the city was that Senator F. D. Légitime, ex-secretary of the interior and of agriculture, was suspected of being at the head of the movement. A guard was placed around his house, which was said to contain many armed men, who would resist should an attempt be made to arrest him. At this legation I was informed by several—all serious men, some in politics, others that were not—that If Senator Légitime was arrested, as they knew him to be an honorable man and not a conspirator, they, too, would return to their homes, arm themselves, and resist against such arrest. I again mounted my horse and went to confer with my two colleagues. They also had heard of these threats that were being openly made all over the city. Understanding that at midday troops would be sent to his house to arrest him or fire [Page 886] upon him, we determined to go to the palace, confer with President Salomon, and, if possible, alleviate the peril of the situation. Arriving there a few minutes before noon, we found the grounds literally crowded with soldiers and armed citizens; a large mitrailleuse stood beside a heavy cannon, each fully equipped and menacing the entrance to the palace. The President was in council with his ministers, and requested us to ascend there without any delay. The French minister, the Count de Sesmaisons, dean of the diplomatic body, explained that we were not there to interfere in the least with the internal affairs or politics of Hayti, but in order to foster tranquillity in the city and pacify threatening danger we had felt it our duty to come before him and point out facts that we believed to be true, and which we also believed we could, with his permission, modify, so that they would have a less aspect of approaching warfare. While we were in this council I saw the steam-yacht of the Transatlantic Company, which is always under the French minister’s orders, steaming out of the harbor, bound for the Mole St. Nicholas, carrying, among cablegrams from the French and British representatives, one from me, as follows:
Secretary of State,
Washington, U. S. A.,
Send war vessel; revolution imminent.
I felt then we must use every endeavor to pacify matters for a few days; anything legal to gain time.
The President said at the moment we entered they were trying to formulate some manner of having Senator Légitime brought to the palace without any disturbance. We then proposed to accompany him there and act as bondsmen of his word of honor, if he declared that he would not by any method employ means of a revolutionary character or otherwise to upset, interfere with, or embitter the government of President Salomon. Some of the ministers objected to this, and finally, after rehearsing the whole affair, the President said:
I assure you, gentlemen, that Senator Légitime will come to this palace and depart therefrom in safety. I wish to talk with him; three of his friends and colleagues, the Minister St. Victor, the president of the senate, and Senator Pierre, my brother-in-law, will bring him here and return with him.
We could well appreciate the calming effect that would be produced upon the populace when seeing a suspected man they nearly all appear to honor quietly riding to the palace in such company. Our intervention had had its effect. That afternoon I received, as did my two colleagues, a card from Mr. Légitime, which, translated, read as follows:
I will write to-morrow to the diplomatic body. In the interval permit me to express my thanks for your intervention during this day.
The following morning I received the letter (copy herein transmitted, with translation) marked, respectively, “B” and “C.”
The city remains in a “state of siege,” and a feverish, latent uneasiness seems to pervade the thoughts and actions of every one.
I have, etc.,