Mr. Thompson to Mr. Bayard.
Port au Prince, Hayti, December 24, 1888.
(Received January 9, 1889.)
Sir: Early on Thursday morning, the 20th instant, the two United States ships, Galena and Yantic, of the North Atlantic squadron, and under command of Rear-Admiral Luce, came into this port. The former anchored in the outer harbor, the latter ran alongside of the American steamer Haytien Republic in the inner harbor, and was prepared to tow out such steamer. Lieutenant Griffin came up to the legation, and I immediately, after reading my dispatches, went on board the Yantic, the rear-admiral being there. It was determined that I go to the palace and request the immediate surrender of the steamer Haytien Republic, and if they refuse to give her up, to demand her by 3 o’clock that afternoon. In company with Lieutenant Meigs I went to the palace. We [Page 492]met Mr. Margron, minister of foreign affairs, whom I requested to see alone. On explaining to him my mission he left us to consult with President Légitime. Returning, he said they refused to give up the ship without being forced so to do. Mr. Margron again left us to consult with President Légitime, and returned with the proposition to refer the case to the diplomatic body at Port au Prince. This I informed him as unworthy of a second thought after the prior decision of so high an authority, and further declined to talk in that manner on the subject, saying I was ready to meet the president and the ministers. General Légitime came in with his ministers, and after some discussion they decided to give up the steamer, but reserving all rights to place the matter in a court of admiralty in the United States for adjudication. Inclosure 1 is a translation of Mr. Margron’s dispatch on the subject.
They were not apparently satisfied with the decision rendered by the President of the United States, as shown in conversation during an official visit the 21st instant, and wished to appeal therefrom. They appeared to have an idea that in leaving the question to be decided upon by our Government that the Senate and House of Representatives, should have taken it up, and although it was explained to them, as Chief Magistrate, the President of the United States answered for the Government, and, as far as it was concerned, such decision was final, still they could not be convinced but that their case should be appealed.
Referring to my dispatch No. 237, it has been ascertained that the crew that were brought here on the Atlas steamer Arran were here for the purpose of carrying the Haytien Republic to New York, there to place her case in our courts for decision.
Regarding indemnity, Mr. Morse claimed $200,000 for the detention of the vessel and $150,000 for the officers, passengers, and crew, making a total of $350,000. In reply to this request, they appeared to understand from the decision that the question of indemnity was one for later investigation.
The ship was towed out by the steamer Grande Riviére, one of Riviére’s coasting-boats, and was duly handed over to Mr. B. C. Morse, the agent for the owners, by Rear-Admiral Luce, on Sunday, the 23d instant, as per copy of dispatch herein inclosed.
I have had interviews on this question of indemnity, with a view of settling the case satisfactorily to the owners and without the delay that usually follows international claims when partially settled, but at present, owing to the amount of indemnity requested, I have been unable to do anything. If Mr. Morse will accept a compromise doubtless the affair can be finished in a few days. If such a settlement by compromise was affected the owners of the vessel would escape further legal litigation which may entail expense in the future, as the authorities here would doubtless consider the affair finished.
I have, etc.,