Mr. Bayard to Mr. Preston.
Washington, December 8, 1888.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge your communication, dated the 6th instant, and received on the afternoon of yesterday at this Department.
The explicit restatement which your note contains of the reference of the case of the American steamer Haytien Republic to the decision of the Government of the United States, according, as it does, with the statements of the representatives of the provisional government at Port au Prince to Mr. Thompson, the United States minister, makes it unnecessary for the undersigned to repeat the decision arrived at by the Government of the United States, as to the absolute invalidity of the seizure of the steamer Haytien Republic, and the consequent duty of those in authority at Port au Prince to restore the vessel promptly to the possession of her owners or their agents.
The undersigned deems it necessary, however, to draw your attention to the statement contained in your note, to which reply is now made, “that 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,” and the further statement: “The undersigned (Mr. Preston), 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,” etc.
It is evident that you did not bear in mind when so writing that on November 14 you forwarded to this Department and brought to my attention the following papers relative to the capture of the steamer Haytien Republic, which you said you had received by the last mail from Port au Prince:
- Notice of blockade.
- Reply of Minister Thompson.
You proceeded to promise to transmit other papers, which you hoped to receive by the next mail, and on November 19 you communicated to this Department the full text of the decision of the prize commission.
In your note last referred to you expressed a desire to make this decision of the commission the subject of further remark, or of a further [Page 507] communication, in which you proposed “to examine the various aspects of the situation.”
Coincidently with the reception of these documents from you the Department received the official report of Captain Ramsey, of the United States steamer Boston, to which was annexed the full record of the proceedings of the special commission at Port au Prince under which the Haytien Republic was condemned.
From the United States minister at Port au Prince we also received the full text of all the correspondence in relation to the transaction between his legation and the provisional authorities at Port au Prince.
This Government was therefore in possession of the complete and authentic history of the period and the incidents to be reviewed, and proceeded without delay, and with the care and deliberation which the case demanded, to consider and decide as to its duty under treaty and the sanction of international law in the premises.
The decision so arrived at was promptly made known by the communication to you in my letter of November 28, in which the law and facts were fully reviewed and the reasons stated for the judgment so resolved upon.
As you were informed on the 28th of November and the 4th instant, instructions have been sent to our minister at Port au Prince to inform the provisional government there of the decisions of the President of the United States in order that the portions of the machinery removed from the Haytien Republic may be replaced by the provisional authorities and the vessel released and restored to the possession of her owners or their agents.
Prompt and voluntary compliance of the provisional authorities is anticipated, and the presence in Haytian waters of United States national vessels to co-operate in the restoration will undoubtedly be welcome in view of the sanguinary and discordant condition of affairs which is reported to exist, under which bombardment of Haytian cities by the naval force of the provisional government is reported by the United States consul at Cape Haytien.
The proposition contained in your note now under reply, that the Haytien Republic should be placed under guard of a United States man-of-war, brought to New York, and there libeled by the Haytian Government in the United States district court, is declined, and the decision of the President, as already communicated, will be carried into effect.
For testing any rights known to the law the courts of the United States are open to foreign governments, their agents, or to private parties, and can alone decide what matters are therein justiciable.
No power is vested in the executive branch of this Government to confer or restrict the jurisdiction of the judiciary, to whom, as is known throughout the civilized world, questions involving the dispensation of justice are committed with absolute confidence.
No greater or more friendly service to any government can be rendered by another than to assist in restraining the turbulence of anarchy and disorder within its borders and firmly maintain the standard of law.
Guided by this intent, and with this sole object, the Government of the United States has proceeded in the case of the Haytien Republic, and will carefully confine its action within the canons of law of self-preservation to its citizens in order that they may everywhere find protection under its flag when not violating treaties or international law.
Hoping that peace and order may soon be restored to Hayti, the undersigned renews, etc.,