Mr. Thompson to Mr. Bayard.
Port au Prince Hayti , August 1, 1888. (Received August 24.)
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.,