No. 649.
Mr. Thompson to Mr. Bayard.

No. 199.]

Sir: The Haytian Government, in order to relieve the victims of the late fires, have passed a law contributing $250,000, payable in four installments, to be distributed according to the loss sustained by each sufferer. I inclose herein, with translation, copy of such law, marked, respectively, A and B.

The soap factory (a concession granted to a British subject, but which has been carried on lately under the supervision of Mr. N. B. Walker, a citizen of the United States and attorney for a certain New York firm) having been totally destroyed, Mr. Walker placed a protest in the hands of the British consul-general, who in turn communicated with the Haytian foreign office.

I had a casual glance at the copy held by Mr. Walker of the reply from the minister of foreign affairs, which, one must admit, in a legal point of view, appears worthy of the most serious attention. Of course the protest was but the forerunner of a claim to be made against this Government, and the reply thereto, although it ignored any allusion to the object of the protest in that light, expressed the surprise of the minister at its reception, and also at certain allegations it contained, as if holding the Government responsible for the loss of property, notwithstanding the efforts of the fire brigade, with the assistance of foreigners and every means possible employed to stop the progress of the flames, which spread with surprising rapidity, owing to the wind that was blowing with great violence toward the sea. It further said that Hayti was an independent country, made so by suffering and blood; [Page 903] that other countries were also harassed some by their commoners, by dynamiters; that a man caught trying to fire a building was immediately taken and shot; it was the work of incendiaries; but during all of that exciting time not a shot was fired against the Government forces; that the Government had through Congress voted a certain amount to be divided among the victims of the disaster, and that the soap factory would be considered exactly as the others, and it appeared to me he meant under no circumstances with any more advantages than the others.

I understand that the representatives of England and France and Spain have informed their compatriots to send to them lists of their losses, preparatory to making claims against the Government. I have particularly abstained from giving any opinion pro or con on the subject of claims in the cases alluded to.

I believe those gentlemen above named hold that the fact of this city being under “martial law” since the 24th of May last renders the authorities liable, no matter by what means a misfortune happened.

I have the honor, etc.,

John E. W. Thompson.
[Inclosure in No. 199.—Translation.]

law giving assistance to the victims of the fires of july 4 and 7, 1888.

Salomon, President of Hayti, using the initiative conferred on him by article 79 of the constitution.

Whereas that, in presence of the many unfortunates occasioned by the fires of which the city of Port au Prince has become the theater during the 4th and 7th days of July instant, it is the duty of the Government to lend succor to the victims of that public calamity, as the President of Hayti has, moreover, announced in his proclamation of July 4 instant:

Whereas that to be efficacious the succor should be given in money, on the basis of an equitable repartition and according to the means that the financial situation of the country may offer.

From the advice of the council of the secretaries of state, has proposed, and the legislative body voted, the urgency of the following law:

  • Art. 1. An extraordinary credit of $250,000, to be raised from the overplus estimated on the custom-house dues, both of importations and exportations, is opened to the Government, to enable it to aid the victims of the fires of July 4 and 7 instant. This credit shall be divided as follows: $50,000 to be deducted from the receipts 1887–’88; $50,000 to be deducted from the receipts 1888–’89; $75,000 to be deducted from the receipts 1889–’90; $75,000 to be deducted from the receipts 1890–’91.
  • Art. 2. A commission, with the object of putting in execution the present law, shall be appointed by the executive power.
  • Art. 3. The amount to be distributed under the title of assistance to the victims of the fires of the 4th and 7th of July, 1888, shall be unseizable. In consequence, the creditors of the victims of the two fires can not, from any motive whatever, seize or stop the values that may become due to their debtors from the distribution that shall be made in virtue of this present law.
  • Art. 4. The proprietors and merchants, victims of the aforementioned fires, shall be exonerated from all license dues and from all house or land taxes from the 1st of October, 1888, up to the 30th of September, 1889.
  • Art. 5. The present law shall be printed, published, and executed at the diligence of the secretaries of state of the interior and of finances, each in what may concern him.

Given at the house of representatives July 23, 1888, the 85th year of the independence.

The president of the house.

J. C. Antoine.

The secretaries.

Cl. Lafontant,

Paul Marsan.

[Page 904]

Given at the National House at Port au Prince July 24, 1888, the 85th year o£ the independence.

The president of the senate.

B. Maignan.

The secretaries.


A. V. Cabèche.

In the name of the Republic, the President of Hayti orders that the above law of the legislative body be vested with the seal of the Republic, printed, published, and executed.

Given at the National Palace of Port au Prince July 24, 1888, the 85th year of the the independence.


By the President:

The secretary of state of the interior.

M. Montasse.

The secretary of state of finance and of commerce.

C. Fouchard.