Mr. Preston to Mr. Bayard.
Washington, December 6, 1888. (Received December 7.)
The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the Republic of Hayti, has the honor to acknowledge the reception of the note with which the Secretary of State of the United States addressed him on the 4th instant relative to the capture of the steamer Haytien Republic.
The undersigned thought that by the very terms of the agreement which had been made at Port au Prince between the councillor charged with the foreign relations of Hayti and the minister resident of the United States the whole affair was referred to the Government of the United States.
The very words used by the United States minister at Port au Prince were:
You do not hesitate to refer the case of the Haytien Republic to the Government of the United States, and express a desire so to do. (Mr. Thompson to Mr. Margron, November 15, 1888.)
And to indicate clearly the character of this reference Mr. Margron, in a note of the same date, said to Mr. Thompson:
Hence the Government of Hayti does not hesitate to leave to your Government the decision of the case of the Haytien Republic, all the documents of which will be submitted to its august consideration by our minister at Washington.
But it appears, from the note which the honorable Secretary of State-wrote to the undersigned on the 4th instant, that, without awaiting the communication of the documents which the Haytian Government had instructed the undersigned to transmit, with his explanations, to the honorable Secretary of State; the surrender of the Haytien Republic is demanded on the strength of some ex parte documents, which the United States Government has not even communicated to the undersigned.
The undersigned, being brought face to face with this state of things, when he has neither been heard nor even enabled to examine the documents on which the notes of November 28 and of the 4th instant are based, will content himself with making the following proposition to the Secretary of State of the United States:
The steamer Haytien Republic, captured by a Haytian man-of war, is now, according to international law, Haytian property.[Page 505]
The title, of the Haytian Government rests on the act of capture and on possession; this being the state of the case, the undersigned, duly empowered for that purpose, proposes to the honorable Secretary of State that the steamer Haytien Republic be placed under the guard of a United States man of-war, which shall take it to the port from which it set out, that is to say, New York. As soon as the said steamer shall arrive at that port the Haytian Government shall immediately institute proceedings in the United States court (in the district court for the southern district of New York).
With this view it will libel the steamer Haytien Republic; then the court having jurisdiction in the case will decide whether the title of the Haytian Government to the steamer Haytien Republic is valid, and will at the same time decide the incidental questions which depend on this principal question. It will be understood that the keeping of the steamer Haytien Republic, as long as she is intrusted to the United States, and until the Federal court of New York has taken jurisdiction, shall not in any ease constitute, in the legal sense of the term, an abandonment of the rights of the captor over the capture, so that the question of the validity of the Haytian title to the captured property shall be presented in its entirety to the district court of the United States sitting at New York. In other words, the decision which that court may render shall not be in the least prejudiced, anticipated, or affected by the act of surrender of the steamer Haytien Republic to the United States, represented by one of their vessels.
This proposition appears to the undersigned of a nature to meet all the requirements of the situation, and it appears to him also to be in perfect conformity with the terms of the “ reference” agreed to at Port au Prince November 15.
In fact, the case is thus definitely left to the tribunals of the Federal Government, which, according to the Constitution of the United States, the terms of which foreign nations are presumed to know, form one of the branches of this Government.
In conclusion, the undersigned would call the attention of the honorable Secretary of State to the fact that if this should be found preferable the Government of the undersigned would put a prize crew on board the Haytien Republic and would send it at its own expense to New York, where the proceedings above mentioned would be instituted.
In making these propositions to the honorable Secretary of State, the undersigned requests that he will see in them a new and complete proof of the feelings of high esteem and sincere friendship cherished by the Government of the undersigned towards the United States and their institutions.
Returning, by way of conclusion, to the note of the honorable Secretary of State of the United States dated November 28, the undersigned would mention briefly a few of the important points in which the proofs which he has in his hands contradict those upon which the honorable Secretary of State rests.
- David T. Compton knew perfectly well that the armed troops who were on board his ship were intended to arouse, excite, and develop the insurrection at Gonaïves, at St. Marc, at Les Cayes, and Jacmel; the pretended passengers who were found on board the vessel at the moment of her capture were the members of the revolutionary committee on their mission.
- On the 17th of October, from 6 o’clock in the morning until noon, the Haytien Republic was at Miragoane, and that day, in that same city of Miragoane, Compton learned of the blockade of the North.
- On the 18th he again heard of it at Les Cayes, and on the 19th at Jacmel.
- In Hayti the promulgation of laws does not take place through their insertion in the “Moniteur,” but by publication in every district. As to that, in France, from which almost all the laws of Hayti arc taken, the promulgation of the laws is not made by their insertion in the official journal.
The undersigned, not wishing to prolong the discussion at present, will restrict himself to these brief remarks relative to the note of the honorable Secretary of State dated November 28.
The other questions which are investigated in it will be the subject of a subsequent communication on the part of the undersigned, who has the honor, etc.