Mr. Wetter to Mr. Uhl .
Tamatave , October 26, 1894 . (Received December 3.)
Sir: I have the honor to call your attention to the case of the United States v. John L. Waller, tried in this consular court on Monday, October 1. This case had been originally set for hearing on June 6, and the accused had been duly summoned; but on the day set for trial a letter was received from him containing a certificate signed by the Rev. Dr. Moss, wherein was certified Mr. Waller’s illness and confinement in the L. M. S. Hospital at Antananarivo. From that time up to September 27, although Mr. Waller had been out of the hospital for some weeks, he made no attempt to comply with the original summons, and this consulate would have assuredly found means to bring him to trial but for its being engaged in securing evidence of the value of a certain promissory note, signed by J. Spiral, R. Ratsimihaba, and Thomas Rasafiniandrinsby (the former a renegade Creole, who has joined the Malagasy, and the latter, Andrian Hovas, at Antananarivo) for $1,735.44, which said Waller had turned over to this consulate as the sole assets of the Crockett heirs and estate, together with a draft on the comptoir for the first year’s interest, amounting to $86.77.
The records of this consulate show the net cash received from the Crockett estate by Mr. Waller to have been $1,964.67, against which he put in a claim for $229.23 for certain expenses claimed to have been incurred on behalf of said estate by him. The residuum of the estate he claims to have invested on January 22, 1894, by loan to said parties at Antananarivo.
Evidence could have been introduced whereby a very strong showing of embezzlement could have been made against Mr. Waller, but this court did not feel authorized, under existing conditions, to proceed criminally against Mr. Waller without further instructions from the Department. Waller so strenuously insisted that the note was good, and that he could get the money back at any time, that the entire court (in considering this question at a preliminary hearing just prior to the trial) consented not to call up any evidence proving the value of the note providing he would withdraw same and substitute the money; this he agreed to do if accorded forty-five days to get it in. Not a member of the court but doubted Waller’s ability to produce the money; not a member of the court but believed that said note was fraudulent and that Waller had personally used up the entire funds in his hands, yet, owing to the fact that he had been United States consul here and, in the minds of the mass of the Madagascan public was still identified with the American good name and prestige, it was unanimously decided to give him this chance to retrieve himself if possible.
A copy of the unanimous judgment of the court is inclosed herein for the consideration of the Department. I have not inclosed a copy [Page 392] of the evidence as it is rather voluminous and the postage thereon would be quite heavy, but am ready to send same at any time.
I would call the Department’s attention to the inclosed copy of Mr. Waller’s account for expenses and charges against the Crockett estate, and in particular to the eighth item, dated November 10, 1893. This entire account was disallowed except the seventh item. I would further state that Waller, when questioned why he presumed, in direct violation of paragraph No. 501, Consular Regulations, to take said fee as a personal perquisite, replied: “In that case, I will have to pay that over to you; I thought they were personal fees.” (That the same thing has occurred with the Whitney estate can be easily proved.)
This is in positive violation of paragraph 545, Consular Regulations, and of section 1734, Revised Statutes, and becomes embezzlement.
I would request the Department to cable me on receipt of this dispatch what action to take against Mr. Waller because of this violation of section 1734, Revised Statutes cases, as well as should he fail to comply with the judgment of this court of October 1, 1894, to pay over the money by November 16, belonging to the Crockett estate.
This becomes necessary because he is straining every nerve to get away from here and float his rubber concession scheme, and would have slipped away on September 30 but for the quarantine regulations and this consulate’s vigilance.
In conclusion, I would state that the court was composed, besides myself, of Messrs. Geldart and Ryder (Messrs. Duder and Poupard having been objected to by Mr. Waller), and of Mr. Howe, a new American arrival here. Mr. Geldart is Mr. Waller’s most intimate friend and champion; Messrs. Ryder and Howe are perfectly neutral: hence the utmost impartiality has been secured to Mr. Waller.
I am, etc.,