Mr. Thompson to Mr. Bayard.
Port au Prince Hayti, July 8, 1888. (Received July 19.)
Sir: During the session of the chamber of deputies, Wednesday, the 4th instant, at noon, fire was set on the upper floor of the building by some one yet unknown, and in a few minutes the chambers were leveled to the ground. A stiff breeze was blowing toward the sea, and the fire continued, consuming, as it went, about one-tenth of the city. The building of the department of the interior on this street, about ten houses from this legation, was totally destroyed, and I accepted much of their archives, at their risk, until the next day. The military department of the place totally destroyed; also the private dwelling of the minister of war, the Protestant Episcopal church and dwelling of the bishop of Hayti, the new law-school building, inaugurated the evening before; the civil court house, the Government printing-office; in all it is estimated that at least four hundred buildings were consumed by the flames that completely gutted that portion of the city and with all fury were blown towards the sea-shore, directly on the arsenal, causing all to fear that it would blow up; but, fortunately, the street dividing those burning buildings from the arsenal was so wide that by the proper precautions that were taken the fire stopped there, having no further means of sustaining itself.
Yesterday, at 10 o’clock in the morning, fire was set by some one to the private residence of the minister of justice. Again a terrible wind was blowing and the fire, continuing, arrived at one place directly to the sea-shore. Every house in that quarter was totally destroyed and the flames were only arrested by having nothing more to feed upon, after reaching a portion of that part of the city already burned.
The French man-of-war Bisson being in the harbor, the French minister had a squad of sailors to come ashore with implements to assist in stopping the progress of the fire, and they certainly worked bravely and by their persistent efforts succeeded in saving several valuable dwellings. I may say that at least one-fifth of the city is now in ruins.
Guards are placed during the day and at night at nearly every corner, and in the middle of the street a post to prevent unknown persons passing without scrutiny.
The French minister has a guard placed at his legation and gave a certain number of sailors to do guard at the British legation. He offered to do the same by this legation, but I assured him with thanks that I felt we could do very well without any such display here.
There have been a few arrests made. Should those arrested be found guilty and be executed, what will be the result? Will their friends take other means to revenge themselves, and thus place in greater jeopardy the lives and property of people? Is not the Government sufficiently strong to take rigid action in the premises? These and many other questions are now agitating the mind of every one.
Speaking with President Salomon yesterday evening, accompanied by the representatives of France and Great Britain, he said to us he had determined to take certain measures which he thought would without doubt reestablish order; that from all the other cities there were reports of peace and quietness, at Port au Prince alone there was disorder; [Page 898] he said he knew from facts, now, that some foreigners were pushing on these actions, considering themselves safe; they were conspiring against his Government and public order, but he would expel them from Haytian territory the same as he was forced to leave Kingston, Jamaica, when the Haytian Government then in power charged him with conspiring while living in a country in friendly relations with Hayti.
I think it a necessary measure to request that a war vessel be dispatched at once to this city, as every one is on the qui vive, expecting at any moment that some new or more dreadful catastrophe will happen. First, a fire set on the upper floor of the chamber of deputies, which, in consequence of proximity, destroyed the residence of the minister of war; three days later, at the upper part of the house of the minister of justice, and it is rumored that only by vigilant watching has the minister of the interior’s private dwelling, situated at the other end of the city, thus far been secured from the work of a political incendiary. At the fire yesterday the smell of petroleum was noticed by all who inspected the disaster.
It is reported that several were caught with proofs in their possession showing their complicity in the events of the past few days; also several others who were found in the act of setting fire will be tried, and, if found guilty, shot to morrow or Tuesday. The President in his public audience to-day said he would now take the severest measures to protect public order.
I have, etc.,