Mr. Terres to Mr. Foster.

No. 129.]

Sir: I beg leave to report to you the following facts regarding the arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Frederick Mevs, one of our citizens residing and doing business in this city.

On Saturday night last, the 12th instant, at 10 o’clock, I was telephoned to by Mr. Eugene Mevs, informing me that his brother Frederick had been arrested and sent to prison without any just cause, and would I please look into the matter and obtain his release as soon as possible. On Sunday morning he called on me and explained to me the cause of the arrest of his brother. I went immediately to see the minister of foreign affairs, arriving at his private residence about 10 o’clock. I explained the case to him and asked that he would please give it his attention, telling him that Mr. Mevs had been placed in a dirty, filthy cell among all classes of criminals, and as far as I could learn, without any just cause. He promised me that he would give it his attention, saying at the same time that he did not think that anything could be done until Monday morning, 14th, but at that time he would have the case attended to. I awaited on Monday up to 3:30 o’clock. I then telephoned the minister and asked what steps had been taken in the affair. He replied that he had been very busy all day and had not had the time to attend to it, but that he would immediately give the case his attention. I thanked him, and at the same time asked to have Mr. Mevs released during the afternoon, to which he replied that he would.

I awaited up to 12 o’clock on Tuesday, receiving no reply. In the meantime the inclosed protest was sent to me, telling me that he (Mr. Mevs) was still in prison, and that according to the Haitian laws, which demand that a person imprisoned should be interrogated within forty-eight hours after confinement, had not been fulfilled. Taking in consideration the steps that I had taken and that no attention had been paid to it by the minister, I decided to send a dispatch, of which inclosure 2 is a copy, which I did at 12 o’clock on Tuesday. Up to the present-Friday, 18th, 3 p.m.—I have received no reply to my dispatch, and nothing has been done with the prisoner. He remains still confined in prison, without being interrogated to see whether or not he is guilty of the charge made against him.

Mr. Mevs is a member of an American firm of Boston (Green, Kenaebel & Co.), doing quite a large business in this city. They pay to the Haitian Government at least $75,000 a year customs duties, and it is too absurd to think that a member of a respectable firm would attempt to smuggle an article on which the duties, according to the Haitian tariff, would be $2. It is only a pretext to show their animosity against an American. The night of his arrest Mr. Mevs offered the commissaire [Page 356] of the Government $200 as a deposit for his appearance the next day. The reply was, “No; not for a million,” and he was sent to prison.

Inclosure No. 3 is the copy of a protest just received from Mr. Mevs.

I deem it my duty to present this case to the Department as it now stands, respectfully awaiting any instructions it may deem fit to give on the subject.

I have, etc.,

John B. Terres,
Vice Consul-General.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 129.]

Mr. Mevs to Mr. Terres.

Sir: I hereby beg to bring to your notice the following facts:

On Saturday, at 7 o’clock p.m. of the 12th instant, I left my store after closing and proceeded to the wharf to deliver a letter for St. Marc by one of the boats.

Having taken a parcel along containing 1 dozen cotton chemises and one-half dozen nightshirts, I left same (to obviate carrying it along to the wharf) at the private house of the secretary of the port, which is situated close by, and called for it upon my return, inviting the secretary at the same time to have a drink at an opposite bar.

After having been together about one-quarter of an hour, I proceeded for home, when I was suddenly surrounded in one the prominent streets by an armed force of guards, accompanied by an aide-de-camp of the President of Haiti, recently accused and tried for assassination in the courts here, who insisted upon the guards arresting me for contraband, claiming having observed me coming from the secretary’s house with a parcel.

I was forcibly arrested, despite my protests and those of the people who were present and had seen me with the parcel coming from the direction of my store.

On being brought before the general in chief of police, my accuser was questioned by him regarding the particulars of my arrest; whereupon he could not state having seen me landing or leaving the wharf with the parcel, but had merely seen same in my possession on leaving the house of the secretary, which is the only foundation for his accusation of my having participated in a contraband.

The foregoing statements of my accuser were taken down in the proces verbal, drawn up as usual by the authorities.

From the bureau of police I was conducted to the attorney-general, who refused to see or hear me, but ordered me to be taken immediately to prison, which was done, and I was thrown into a filthy, vermin-infested cell among criminals of the lowest grade of humanity, not fit for any civilized man to come in contact with.

I am still waiting without having had a hearing, and this fact in itself constitutes a breach of the Haitian law, which prescribes that all persons shall have a hearing within twenty-four hours of their arrest.

I have now been in prison over sixty hours without a hearing, and do hereby formally protest against this illegal and arbitrary proceeding against me, and request you to extend to me the protection of the United States, of which I am a citizen.

I am, etc.,

Frederick Mevs.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 129.]

Mr. Terres to Mr. Lespinasse.

Sir: I have the honor to bring to your attention and that of your Government that on Saturday night last, the 12th instant, a citizen of the United States, Mr. Frederick Mevs, residing at Port au Prince, was arrested by the officials of your Government, as appears, without any just or legal proofs whatsoever against him, imprisoned in the common jail of the city, and has been there confined up to the present time.

[Page 357]

This case is, therefore, most respectfully brought to your attention, with the hope that it will command the immediate and just consideration of your Government, and that such course be taken therein as may lead to the release of Mr. Mevs without unnecessary delay.

I have, etc.

John B. Terres,
Vice Consul-General.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 129.]

Mr. Mevs to Mr. Terres.

Sir: I herewith beg to advise you that I am still retained in prison without a hearing, which, according to Haitian law, should have taken place within forty-eight hours of my arrest, in default of which it becomes amenable to damages.

I formally protest against this arbitrary manner of treating an American citizen by the Haitian authorities in direct violation of their own laws.

Trusting that you have and are still giving my case your careful attention,

I am, etc.,

Frederick Mevs.