Mr. Terres to Mr. Foster.

No. 135.]

Sir: I now beg leave to report that the case of Mr. Mevs was the first called up for trial at the opening of the session of the correctional court here, December 1, and after the hearing of the informer and the four witnesses cited to appear, no grounds whatever were found whereon to base a conviction, and Mr. Mevs was dismissed séance tenante.

Inclosure 1 is a copy of the report of the trial, taken by a stenographer, which is accompanied by a free translation thereof.

Inclosure 2 is a letter received from Mr. Mevs, setting forth his grievances, and concludes by asking that some action be taken to compensate [Page 359] him fully for this outrage and what he has suffered thereby, which he estimates at $1,000 per day for each day of his detention in prison.

The frivolity of the charge and the injustice done to our citizen are so clear that I do not feel it necessary to make further comment thereon, but await most respectfully your instructions before taking further steps in the matter.

I have, etc.,

John B. Terres,
Vice Consul-General.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 135.—Translation.]

Report of the trial of Mr. F. Mevs.

Correctional audience of the 1st of December, 1892—civil court of Port au Prince, presided by Judge M. Romain.

At 10:10 a.m. the correctional court is opened to try the case of Frederick Mevs. Assistant attorney of Government, Laferriere, explains that Mr. F. Mevs is accused of having committed an act of smuggling, for which he had been arrested on the 12th of November last.

Witnesses are called viz: Mrs. Paul Andreoli, Louis Edward, Capt. Kenaebel for the defense, and Mr. Lavictoire and D. Hendricks witnesses for the Government. Witnesses are remanded. N. Leger, lawyer for the defendant, demands the preliminary examination of the informer. Complying with this demand, the judge has Mr. Lavictoire brought up.

Q. What is your name and forename?—A. Eugene Lavictoire Smith.

Q. Your age?—A. 20 years.

Q. Your profession?—A. Aid-de-camp to the President and public employé.

Q. Relate to the court what you know about the ail air for which Mr. Mevs has been arrested.—A. Saturday nights I generally go to my fathers inn or to J. J. Audain’s; just that night I was on the corner of the street talking to the Commissary of Police Sevère, when I saw Dorelus Hendricks coming out of his house accompanied by Mr. Mevs, who carried a package; seeing me talk to a member of the police and knowing that I myself am a public officer, Dorelus tried to hide Mevs with the package. I remembered that recently one of our compatriots had been disgraced for smuggling of a few suits which he had bought on board, and I thought that what is a crime for a Haitian should also be one for a foreigner. Seeing Dorelus entering the grand café with Mevs, who had the package under his arm, I said to Severe, you can not allow a foreigner to smuggle in this manner; it is your duty to arrest Mevs. In leaving the bar room and just before reaching the house of Etienne fils he was arrested. Seeing he was arrested he preferred to take a carriage to go to the head police station. At his arrival there he protested declaring that it was a present an American captain brought to his sister.

Q. What time was it when the affair took place?—A. Eight o’clock at night.

Q. You are sure that Mevs was coming from the wharf?—A. I was standing before the small house of the secretary of the port, waiting for somebody, when I saw these gentlemen.

Mr. Laferriere (Government attorney). Then you saw Mevs leaving the house?

A. No, I don’t know whether he came from the house, but I saw him before it.

Mr. Laferriere. Then you can not say if he came from the house?

A. No, but from that direction.

Mr. Laferriere. Where is the house in question situated?

A. In the neighborhood of the wharf.

Mr. Laferriere. I think I know the neighborhood; you say you saw these gentlemen before the house of the secretary of the port; it seems to me that Rivière’s house also faces the same street; to accuse Mevs of smuggling, I should think you ought to have special reasons or indications.

A. I am perfectly aware that from 8 o’clock on it is entirely impossible for one to come from the wharf with a package, as there are no stores there; therefore, if one is seen in that direction with a parcel, be sure it is a case of smuggling.

Mr. Leger (defendant’s lawyer). I would ask the witness if he saw Mr. Mevs on the wharf?

A. I can not say, because I had my back turned to the wharf, only he came from that direction.

Mr. Leger. That is not an answer; has witness seen Mr. Mevs on the wharf; yes or no?

A. I have seen him in the direction of the wharf.

[Page 360]

Mr. Leger. Where was lie at that moment?

A. Opposite the post-office, about abreast of Mr. Riviére’s gate.

Mr. Leger. Nearly opposite of Brun?

A. No; opposite of the post-office

Mr. Leger. Then you saw him coming by the road of the ice house?

A. I can not say, as I was close to Rivière’s fence.

Mr. Leger. Riviére’s fence starts from the beach and terminates at the next corner; everybody knows what a vast property it is; the witness must state precisely the exact spot where he stood at thetime; he can not have forgotten it.

A. I stood before the large gate; I was waiting for some one; I hid myself on account of the reflection of the lamp which illuminated me, so that I was in a devil’s obscurity.

Mr. Leger. So the witness admits that he was concealed watching at Riviére’s gate; he admits that it was as dark as in hell; how could he recognize that it were Mevs and Hendricks that were smuggling unless he could see in hell.

A. I said there was the light of the lamp which illuminated as far as the wharf and even the whole street, and had I been on top of the Eiffel tower, this light would have enabled me to see all that was passing below.

Mr. Leger. Then despite the obscurity the witness could see? Now I would beg the court to ask witness how is the house of the secretary, Hendricks, situated relating to the sea?

A. As far as from here to the house on the opposite side of the street.

Mr. Leger. I do not want the distance, but ask if the house is situated to the right or to the left; that is, on the side of Mr. Brim’s store or on the opposite side toward the sea?

A. It is on the corner.

Mr. Laferriere (Government attorney). Lavictoire declares that he stood at the gate. Did he face south or east?

A. East.

Mr. Laferriere. Then some one could come from the wharf without being perceived by him?

A. Yes; but on approaching he would be seen.

Mr. Laferriere. Witness says that he stood at Rivière’s gate, which is a few steps from the beach; how then could he distinguish two persons at the corner of Brim’s and see they were smuggling?

A. I saw one of them with a parcel under his arm and the other trying to cover him from view. I understood that it was a case of smuggling. I told the commissaire of police to go and see if it was smuggling. At the police station Mevs declared that it was a present from a captain.

Mr. Laferriere. Witness says that he understood it was smuggling because Hendricks tried to conceal Mevs from view. On the other hand, he had declared that he was himself in obscurity and that one could not see him. How could he observe this?

A. The bridge leading to the café of Andreoli upon which they crossed is very narrow.

Mr. Leger. I beg the court to notice that according to declaration of witness he became suspicious upon having seen Hendricks try to conceal Mevs; he himself admits that he saw them from Rivière’s gate when they were on the bridge leading to the café.

Witness was dismissed.

Next witness, Hendricks, is called up and questioned as follows:

Q. What is your name and forename?—A. Dorelus Hendricks.

Q. What is your age?—A. Forty-three years.

Q. Your profession?—A. Public employé.

Q. Where do you live?—A. Port-au-Prince.

Q. Relate what you know of the affair in question?—A. That evening I was sitting before my door when Mevs arrived with a small package under his arm. He came from his store to go down to the wharf. He requested me to allow him to deposit the package to take it upon his return. Upon his return he took back his parcel and invited me to go and have a drink at Mrs. Paul Andreoli’s. We went and in passing the corner we met Lavictoire; after having had a drink with Mevs I left him. A few moments after I heard some noise; and upon going to see what it was I saw Lavictoire in the act of having Mevs arrested. I wanted to explain and observed that Mevs had come with the parcel, whereupon Lavictoire cries to the police “Do your duty; I am aide-de-camp to the President.” I saw no more, thinking I would be called to furnish information. It is only to-day that I have been called and questioned. Since twelve years lam at the port-office; my conduct has always been perfect and I have always done my duty. My name has never been mentioned. Never would I facilitate any smuggling, and if I had not always done my duty I would not have remained so long at the port.

[Page 361]

Q. Was Mevs arrested in your presence? Was it immediately after you left him?—A. As soon as I heard the noise I returned, hut Mevs was already arrested, surrounded by police.

Q. Did Mevs come to you with a parcel under his arm?—A. Yes; he came with the parcel from uptown; no doubt from his store.

Q. When you saw him did you know what the parcel contained?—A. No.

Q. You are a friend of Mevs.—A. I am on the same terms with him as with all my friends.

Q. Where did you meet Lavictoire?—A. On the corner of the Grand Café.

Q. At what distance from you was he?—A. As far as from here to the door.

Q. Did he speak to you?—A. He saluted me and asked me, How goes it?

Q. After that you left him at the Grand Café?—A. It is only when I heard the noise that I returned to make some observations.

Mr. Leger. You see that the witness Lavictoire is caught in flagrant delit of inexactitude; he has affirmed that he was close to Rivière’s gate, whereas they have just said that he was standing on the corner; they tell you that they could see him, whereas he declares that he was hiding himself awaiting somebody.

The witness, Hendricks, having nothing more to say, Mrs. Andreoli is called up.

Q. What is your name?—A. Mme. Paul Andreoli.

Q. Your age?—A. Fifty-four years.

Q. Your profession?—A. Merchant.

Q. Relate to the court what you know of this matter.—A. I know nothing; I had seen Mr. Mevs leave with a small parcel under his arm; he closed his store, and I closed mine, and went down to my bar-room; some minutes after I saw Mevs coming into the bar with the secretary of the port to have a drink. All at once I heard a noise outside; it was Mr. Mevs they were arresting for smuggling the little parcel which he had with him when leaving his store.

Q. So, then, he carried a package under his arm?—A. Yes; he had it on leaving his store, and he had it again when he returned to the bar-room with the secretary.

Q. This is all that you know?—A. Yes.

Q, Does the counsel of the accused wish to examine the witness?

Mr. Leger. I would spoil this testimony if I would attempt to add anything to it.

Next witness, L. Edouard, is called.

Q. What is your name?—A. Louis Edouard.

Q. Your age?—A. Thirty-eight years.

Q. Your profession?—A. Merchant.

Q. Your residence?—A. Port-au-Prince.

Q. Relate to the court what you know of this matter.—A. I was sitting before my door when Mr. Mevs passed with a parcel under his arm. Some moments after I went down to the wharf and in coming back I met Mr. Mevs coming out of the Grand Café. At the same moment we were surrounded by police. I demanded an explanation of Mr. Lavictoire, who replied that he had discovered a case of smuggling. I wanted to make my observations, and explain that Mr. Mevs had left his store with a parcel of samples, as it appeared to me, but he would not listen to me.

Mr. Leger. Magistrate, what can I add to this? One sees it is all cut and dried to make of Mr. Mevs a smuggler.

Next witness, Capt. Knaeble.

Q. Your name?—A. Max Knaebel.

Q. Your age?—A. Forty-two years.

Q. Your profession?—A. Merchant.

Q. Relate to the court what you know of the affair of Mevs.—A. I know but this: I brought down to the store one dozen chemises and one half-dozen nightshirts for Mr. Mevs. Saturday night I left as usual. Mr. Mevs, in closing the store, must have taken the package which belonged to him.

Q. So then he left the store with the package?—A. Yes; proof of which is that the package was there Saturday night and not there Monday morning.

Q. This is all you know?—A. Yes.

Witness dismissed.

The accused is called up to be examined.

Q. Your name?—A. Frederick Mevs.

Q. Your age?—A. Thirty-one years.

Q. Your profession?—A. Merchant.

Q. The place of your birth?—A. New York.

Q. Relate to the court the circumstances of your arrest.—A. Saturday night, after closing the store, which I left, with a parcel under my arm, to go down to the wharf to deliver a letter for the coast, I passed Mr. Hendricks’s door, and, seeing him sitting outside, I asked him to allow me to leave the parcel until my return, which he consented to. In coming back I took my parcel from him, inviting him at the same time to go and have a drink at the Grand Café. Upon leaving, to my great surprise, I found myself surrounded by police, headed by Mr. Lavictoire, who declared that [Page 362] I had been smuggling. I protested against this arrest, which was not listened to. I took a carriage and was conducted to the police station.

Q. You left with the parcel?—A. Yes; from my store.

Q. Is that all yon have to say?—A. Yes.

Defendant sent back to his seat. Upon which the Government attorney takes the floor.

Mr. Laferriere. Your honors, as to documents accusing Mr. Mevs of having smuggled, to the prejudice of the revenue, we have only the report of the police which was drawn up upon the information of Mr. Lavictoire, so that to base his convictions the Government attorney only waited the testimony of witnesses. All the witnesses heard have declared that Mr. Mevs left his store with the parcel which caused his presence here in his possession. Mr. Lavictoire, who informed against Mr. Mevs, upon being interrogated can not say that he saw Mr. Mevs coming out of a boat nor from the wharf with this parcel, therefore we have the right to say that Mr. Lavictoire had been mistaken. As the attorney-general is not obliged, despite everything, to maintain the accusations, I think it will meet with the assent of the court to discharge Mr. Mevs.

Mr. Leger. This summing up of the case by the assistant commissary of Government shows the honorable sentiments by which this magistrate is actuated. Nevertheless I must express my great disappointment at the absence of the Government attorney himself at court to-day, because the reproaches which I must now withhold were to be directed against himself personally without resting upon the bases of the case. I would limit myself to some general considerations, and you will allow me to deplore the inconsiderate manner in which individual liberty is dealt with in Haiti. Assuredly we have made some progress, hut it is not in the sense of liberty; formerly we had certain respects for foreign residents in our country. Haitians only were liable to be arbitrarily incarcerated, but at present it appears as if we would establish equality in vexations and humiliations. Mr. Mevs has been treated as though he was a Haitian. I have more than once protested against the illegal arrest of Haitians. I am happy to be able to-day to make the same protestations in favor of a foreigner. I would desire to see the Haitian Government afford the same protection to every one residing upon our territory without national distinction. How yon, decorated with the white cockade emblem of honor, you do not fear to turn informer against Mr. Mevs! You advanced that he carried a smuggled package. Mr. Mevs was arrested and lodged in jail without his identity being established in the usual form at the police station; he was not even asked his name. And what is still more deplorable is the Government attorney having acted with the same indifference in the matter. They did not inquire whether the person arrested was really Mr. Mevs, or you, or myself, or any other. Moreover he has never had one single hearing to allow him to prove his innocence. According to my judgment I think that the chief of police is less reproachable; for the Government attorney could have repaired the mistake made by his subordinate. For this reason I repeat my regret of not finding him in court instead of his assistant, to point out to him how he had not given the matter a second thought when Mr. Mevs was brought to him—sending him unceremoniously to prison where he was kept for twenty days without taking in consideration that this would cause his ruin as a merchant, besides the stigma upon his character. If here in our country smuggling is not considered a dishonor, where our merchants grow rich through it and attain the highest rank, even unto that of minister, in other countries a smuggler is a degraded personage and outlawed; and if the New York friends and relations and relatives of Mr. Mevs become aware of the facts, that would no doubt cause him irreparable harm. You save him from this dishonor in acquitting him honorably and in severely rebuking the informer.

One of the witnesses told yon that the police would not listen to his explanations. These explanations would have sufficed to prove that the crime of smuggling imputed to Mr. Mevs existed only in the imagination of Mr. Lavictoire, but they did not put themselves to the trouble to investigate, and decided to make a smuggler of Mr. Mevs. It is through such irregular proceedings that we expose very often our unfortunate country to humiliations by great powers. In the interest of our country we should blame the functionaries who, through their negligence and stupidity, do not take the desirable precaution and forget to abide by the laws. I have even been told that Mr. Mevs would have been refused to be set at liberty temporarily had he demanded it, and notwithstanding that at present there are Haitians here in court accused of smuggling but enjoying their liberty. But it is necessary to have but one weight and measure; if not we will open a large gate for the ingress of diplomatic reclamations. Fortunately we have to deal with Mr. Mevs, members of whose family are old residents of this country since Boyer’s time and have never caused any trouble to the country, but have on the contrary contributed to its progress in propagating the distinguished art of cabinetmaking. Mr. Mevs has already suffered twenty days in jail; you will do an act of sound justice in pronouncing his acquittal and stigmatizing his accuser.

[Page 363]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 135.]

Mr. Mevs to Mr. Terres.

Sir: I beg leave herewith to bring to your notice that I was tried on the 1st instant on the alleged charge of smuggling, for which I was arrested and held in prison since the 12th ultimo.

You already know the details of the case, and that it resulted in my entire acquittal, no proofs having been obtainable against me by the court, after an illegal detention of twenty days in prison without the least investigation having been made during that time.

As you know yourself, this matter was an outrage to me personally, and moreover as an American citizen, for had I been a Haitien I would have been released the morning following my arrest without further being said, for the authorities were perfectly aware that my arrest was unfounded. But having committed himself, the Government attorney saw the grave nature of the matter and was determined to keep me in prison and eventually condemn me if possible.

In the extract of the testimony pro and con and likewise that of the argument of my lawyer, who fully sets forth the arbitrary manner in which I was used, will enable you to perceive the truth of my statement and facts of the case.

My affairs have suffered through this incalculably, and the stigma on my standing, private and commercially, is unimaginable, for which I earnestly request that you submit these facts to the home Government and ask that some action be taken to compensate me fully for this outrage and what I have suffered by it, which I conscientiously put down at $1,000 each day of my detention in prison.

Trusting that you will not fail to give this matter all due attention,

I am, etc.,

Frederick Mevs.