Mr. Durham to Mr. Foster.

No. 143.]

Sir: Referring to my previous dispatches concerning the case of Mr. Mevs, I have to inclose the accompanying note from the minister of foreign relations. I regret that the pressure upon my time by the routine work of the consulate-general prevents my inclosing translation. In his note, the minister strongly protests against what seems to his Government as irregular conduct, and informs me that the case will be taken up by the new minister to Washington, who will sail immediately. He is careful to insert in the body of his dispatch the statement that the friendship for the country of Washington, Sumner, and John Brown, of which Haiti has constantly given proofs, makes it the duty of his Government to say that it could not in any circumstance have intention of “outraging the United States of America.”

[Page 367]

Only two or three hours before, this new minister, Mr. Clément Haentjens, had left me with the understanding that the matter would be talked over by myself and the minister of foreign relations, or any other person whom the President might name with authority. Mr. Haentjens was a member of Firmin’s cabinet, and while I know his sentiments perfectly, I believe that his good sense had overcome his prejudices and that he was acting in good faith. The object of his visit must have been to get a better idea of our position, for the prompt arrival of Mr. Lespinasse’s note shows that at the time of Mr. Haentjen’s visit not only had the Hank movement of the Haitians been decided upon, but also that the note itself must have been in the course of preparation.

I of course promptly decided not to permit this to interfere with my observing your instructions. I thought it expedient, however, to accept the no intention disavowal as satisfactory, and to overlook their attempt to have the Department take the matter out of my hands. I indicated my purpose to maintain the firm attitude which I have assumed and to insist on my return that proper reparation be made. I inclose a copy of my note.

The case is regarded not so especially American in character but as representing all foreign interests in this Republic. The leading merchants and financiers of this capital without regard to nationality feel that their property and their liberty will be affected seriously if the United States should take one step backward in this matter.

The consuls have shown the deepest interest unofficially, and I regret that their utterances being entirely of a personal character can not be quoted in an official dispatch.

I therefore, with great insistance, urge that by the 16th of this month the commander of the U. S. S. Atlanta, now in these waters, be instructed by telegraph to cooperate with me in enforcing my request for reparation.

I am, etc.,

John S. Durham.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 143.—Translation.]

Mr. Lespinasse to Mr. Durham.

Mr. Minister: I have reported to the council of secretaries of state the official declaration which you made to his excellency the President of Haiti and to me, on the 4th instant, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, at the national palace, and I have laid before them the note addressed by me to you on the 5th, together with your despatch in reply to said note, bearing date of the same day.

My Government has seen, with the deepest regret, that you have been instructed to lay aside the usual diplomatic forms, and its regret and astonishment are the greater since it vainly seeks the circumstances which have induced the Government of the United States of America thus to abandon the usages of courtesy which are observed among nations, whatever may be their rank and power.

My Government feels convinced that a frank explanation of the facts would have been sufficient to dispel the misunderstandings which seem to exist, and that it would have rendered it possible to reach a solution in harmony with the dignity of the high parties, and this conviction is an additional reason why it deplores the special forms observed in the case now under consideration, in which redress is demanded of us, without any written note having been sent to inform us why it is demanded, or what is to be its nature.

The arrest and detention of Mr. Frederick Mevs, which took place in pursuance of our laws, can in no wise explain the grave determination reached in this case by [Page 368] the Republic of the United States of America as to his trial; we can not suppose that it is the intention of your Government to require that any foreigner brought to trial here should necessarily be convicted.

My Government, Mr. Minister, sees nothing, moreover, in the course of the department of state of foreign relations that should be considered offensive by your legation. Your diplomatic notes, being written in the English language, must be translated before they can be answered, and the conduct of the various ministerial departments being quite distinct, even they have but one acting head; the constant usage is for one of said departments to address communications to another; thus it is that explanations can not be furnished by the department of state of foreign relations relative to a matter within the province of the department of justice until an official request for information has been addressed to the latter department. Such information was transmitted to your legation as soon as it was received by the minister of foreign relations.

In brief, Mr. Minister, replying to the only expression which has been written by you during the present negotiations, the Government does not think that it has outraged the Republic of the United States of America in the person of one of its citizens, and there is nothing in the previous relations of the two republics that could explain such a mode of proceeding on the part of my Government.

The sentiments of friendship which we have ever felt for the country of Washington, Sumner, and John Brown render it the duty of my Government to declare that it can never, under any circumstances, have intended to outrage the Government of the United States of America.

This being the ca&e, Mr. Minister, and as my Government has in no wise failed to fulfill the duties rendered obligatory upon it by the friendly relations which have always existed between your Government and it, it does not think that it owes any redress to the United States of America and can not offer any, since no discussion has shown its obligation to do so. Moreover, the instructions which you have received do not permit you to appreciate, diplomatically, the declarations contained in the present communication, and I therefore hasten to inform you that Mr. Clement Haentjens, who has just been appointed by his excellency the President of Haiti, in consequence of the lamented death of Mr. Price, as our envoy extraordinary near your Government, is to repair to his post without delay, his mission being to state to the Washington Cabinet how greatly we have been surprised and pained at its action in this matter, and to furnish the most frank explanations of the incidents which have given rise to that action.

Be pleased to accept, etc.,

Ed. Lespinasse.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 143.]

Mr. Durham to Mr. Lespinasse .

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your note of to-day, in which you say:

“Les sentiments d’amitié que nous avons constainment éprouvés pour la patrie des Washington, des Sumner, des John Brown font un devoir à mon Gouvernment de déclarer qu’il n’a pas pu en aucune circonstance avoir l’intention d’outrager le Gouvernment des Etats Unis d’Amérique.”

I welcome this declaration from you as well as the explanation that your own Government has explained the conduct of the minister of foreign relations to its own satisfaction, for it was far from the purpose of my Government and this legation to make any personal accusations. I could not with proper respect for my office consent to discuss the Mevs case until such a statement had been made. I find it perfectly satisfactory.

The matter of the lack of courtesy to my Government thus happily removed from consideration, the difficulty is simplified; and I entertain the hope that the friendship for the United States which inspired your denial of intention to show a lack of courtesy for my Government may prompt you to decide to arrange the settlement of the case of Mr. Mevs itself.

If I seem to have ignored your statement, that you intend to send a diplomat over the head of this legation to Washington to discuss the matter at Washington, pardon me. You will agree that I can not receive instructions except from Washington, and that I must, therefore, continue to obey my orders until the new ones which your envoy may secure from the Secretary of State will make my position more agreeable to me personally.

[Page 369]

In the meantime I shall continue on the plan outlined to you in the presence of His Excellency, absenting myself for a few days and returning with the hope that the sense of justice of your Government will prompt you to do what is right.

The Vice-Consul General, Dr. Terres, who joins me in expressions of pleasure that the grave feature of the case has been removed, will receive for me any communication you may desire to make, verbal or written, during my absence.

Accept, etc.,

John S. Durham.