Mr. Powell to Mr. Hay.
Port au Prince, Haiti , August 18, 1899 .
Sir: From the tenor of the cable received yesterday I think the Department is laboring under an error in regard to those who have sought shelter in our legation.
In the decree the Government does not cite these men to be guilty of any offense, either criminal or political, but simply notifies each legation that certain persons who have sought its protection must leave the country by first opportunity; the offense, if it can be called an offense, was in going to the legations for protection.
I do not deny the right of the Government to pass a decree of expulsion upon one or more of its citizens, or for them to assign or not to assign reasons for their expulsion, nor has my legation the right to request of them their reasons for so doing, it being a question in which they are the sole judge.
The facts, though, are simply these: The financial question here, as in Santo Domingo, is the principal cause for this state of affairs; their expenditures for the past few years have been greater than their revenue. [Page 387] To meet the difference they have had to resort to loans at a high rate of interest, in some cases 24 per cent. No country, I care not how rich its resources may be, can long withstand such a rate; there can be but one result. Finding it impossible to secure further loans, having no guaranty to give, all their resources mortgaged in advance, the price of coffee falling in the markets of Europe, the natives or country people, receiving but little for that which they produced, refused to bring or gather it; exchange commencing to rise, until at one time it reached 225 per cent; the exports being curtailed, the imports necessarily were also limited. Importers not being able to meet this high exchange, could not meet their obligations, and had either to go into liquidation or retire from business. To add to the complications, its employees had been unpaid for months; the army, which is the mainstay of the Government, commenced to show signs of dissatisfaction.
The Government was bound to do something to arrest this discontent, repress this murmuring, and endeavor to restore confidence. The means it took was to cause the arrest of those that had criticised its course. The most prominent men were sought, arrested, and thrown into prison. Those that had private grievances and happened to be in power took advantage of the same and denounced their enemies as conspirators against the Government. Duvivier’s case falls under this class.
These arbitrary arrests and stagnation in business have somewhat repressed these murmurs, for fear that the Government may resort to still more violent measures, so that to-day quiet, if not confidence, is restored, giving to the Government a breathing spell, as well as a chance to extricate itself from its present difficulties.
The Government has also been helped by the foreign bankers, who have loaned $200,000 to meet their obligations for the present month. The receipts not mortgaged that will be due next month will be sufficient to meet the demand for September; but if the Government does not within this time adopt some measure for permanent relief October will see an uprising which will end in the violent overthrow of the existing Government, in which all classes will join. Such is the state of affairs.
Those who have sought our protection will leave by the next German steamer, on the 22d of this month, for St. Thomas, from thence to Kingston.
I inclose the correspondence on the subject.
I have, etc.,