Mr. Durham to Mr. Foster.

No. 149.]

Sir: I have to report that I opened the negotiations in the Mevs case yesterday afternoon in a consultation with the minister for foreign relations. I stated the case and repeated the President’s instruction that the Government of the United States relies upon the Haitian sense of justice to make proper reparation to Mr. Mevs. His first question was: How much money do you want? I replied that I had hoped that he would not put the United States in the position of dickering for money, and that my superiors at Washington trusted to his Government to make the amende honorable to the American who had suffered the horrors of a Haitian jail.

Our failure to receive any reply from the Department to Dr. Terres’s No. 135, of December 17, transmitting the claim of Mr. Mevs, made it a trifle awkward for me to reply to the minister’s question. After much talking, however, I asked for the sum named by Mr. Mevs, $20,000. I added that the request ought to include the expenses of the vessel of war which is in this service, but that I had no instructions on that point and would waive it.

The minister reminded me that there are two points to be considered:

Was there any outrage committed? Can the Haitian Government with dignity accept the principle involved?
If yes, then how much money would fairly compensate Mr. Mevs?

Both of these points, said the minister, will require serious deliberation on the part of his Government.

I replied that two weeks ago I had formally laid the former point before the President of Haiti and himself, requesting that they lay the matter before the cabinet for investigation, and that I could scarcely [Page 373] believe that they had been indifferent to a request so seriously and courteously made.

He said that the phases of the matter had changed since then, and that it must be studied, and he assured me that both the points in the matter would have his most careful attention. He asked for a written statement of the case. Obeying your orders I promised it. This morning I sent him a note, of which I inclose a copy, giving a summary of the case.

I shall continue to urge the matter until instructed by you to suspend my efforts.

I have, etc.,

John S. Durham.
[Inclosure in No. 149.]

Mr. Durham to Mr. Lespinasse.

Sir: In conformity with your request of yesterday that I present you with a summary of the statements made to your Government during the past fifteen days in presenting the case of the illegal imprisonment of Mr. Mevs, permit me to remind you: That on the 12th day of November Mr. Frederick Mevs, a citizen of the United States, was arrested on the charge of smuggling; that no procès-verbal was taken at the time of the arrest; that he was detained in prison twenty days without interrogation of any character; that when brought before the proper tribunal of your country no case could be established against the accused man; that the matter was brought to the attention of the ministry of foreign affairs by this legation; that article 14 of the constitution states that no one can be detained except by virtue of an order emanating from a competent functionary. This order must first, express formally the cause for the detention and the statement of the law which punishes the act charged; second, that it be served on the person detained, and that a copy be left with him; that no order was served on Mr. Mevs, and no copy of the order of imprisonment was left with him.

That according to articles 11 and 12 of the law of August 2, 1872, the commissaries and the agents of the administrative police should send to the communal police the charges and complaints which they receive. Mr. Mevs was not sent to the communal police.

That according to article 30 of the code of criminal instructions it is only in case of flagrant délit that the commissary of the Government can give an order for incarceration, and that by the terms of this article 30, and admitting that there was flagrant delit, the commissary of the Government should interrogate at once immediately after the accused shall have been brought before him.

That from article 25 of the code of criminal instruction the commissary of the Government should invite the accused to give explanation about the shirts seized, and should draw up a procès-verbal signed by the accused, or making mention of the accused’s refusal to sign.

That neither the commissary of the administrative police nor the communal police, or the justice of the peace who, after article 12 of the code of criminal instructions should conclude his instruction within three days, nor the commissary of the Government nor the judge of instruction has interrogated Mr. Mevs, not even to verify his identity.

That in view of these facts Mr. Mevs has suffered a real injustice, to recognize which would be dignified and proper on the part of the Haitian Government.

That the President of the United States instructs me to say that the matter must be adjusted through this legation and that he trusts to the Haitian sense of justice to make proper indemnification to Mr. Mevs.

I also beg leave to remind you that this written statement is made for your personal and official convenience.

With renewed assurances of distinguished consideration,

I have, etc.,

John S. Durham.