Minister Powell to the Secretary of State.
Port au Prince, October 20, 1905.
Sir; I have the honor to state to the Department that our Syrian citizens (naturalized Americans) are in trouble again.
A number waited on me yesterday, requesting that I would intervene in their behalf and prevent the government from closing their stores, which, they informed me, would take place to-day, and whether they should resist the government by force.
I have replied to them that the wisest course for them to follow would be to obey the laws of the country in which they lived; if these laws bore heavily upon them, then to close their stores and leave the country. If the officers of the government served notice upon them to close, they should do so; they could at the time protest in writing to the government against its action, and to send to our legation a copy of this protest, and they could also send to the honorable Secretary of State a statement of the action of the government and request our government to intervene in their behalf in regard to such features of the law which they deemed unjust, but under the present circumstances it was impossible for me to intervene.
They then informed me that they had applied for patents from the government, on the possession of which a license is issued by the communal authorities to conduct business as stated in the patent within the time stated and had deposited the money for the same, but up to the present time the government had not granted to them the patents requested, while others, not Syrians by birth, and who had applied since they had, had secured theirs. They further requested that if I could not prevent their stores from being closed, that I would secure from the government a limited time (six months) for them to liquidate their businesses.
I have informed them that since there was no existing treaty between the two governments it was impossible for me to do anything in this direction in their behalf without instruction from the Department; that they must submit to the law, and again counseled them not to resist the officers of the government if they were ordered to close their stores. If they did resist and their stores were pillaged and some of them were injured, I was not in a position to help them, and their best course would be to close until such time as they could secure a license. Later I was informed that the officers had visited each of these people [Page 548] and closed their places of business and ordered that they should not sell any merchandise in the future.
The facts are briefly these: Under Article V of the late treaty, Americans in business enjoyed the same rights as Haitians in like businesses. Since this treaty was denounced, our citizens are treated like all others not Haitians. Under the constitution and laws of the country, no foreigner is allowed to do business in the interior of the country (Compagnie Haitienne excepted) or at any of the closed ports, and at no place in the country are they allowed to do a retail business. Under our treaty this was not so; our citizens for this reason enjoyed exceptional advantages over those of other countries.
A recent law * * * foretells the action of the government in regard to this matter, and the government reserves to itself the right to grant or refuse an applicant a patent, and in case of refusal that it can not be called upon to give its reasons for such refusal, etc. * * *
This government, for some reason I know not, has a bitter dislike for these people, though some of them have become Haitian citizens by naturalization. Many of them are Turkish citizens, under the protection in this country of the French legation; others are Dominicans, English, and Italians, and, as I have stated, a number are Americans by naturalization. All do a retail business and are thriving. Under the terms of the law they can only do a wholesale business. The unfortunate feature of this matter is that nearly all of them are carrying a large stock of goods, and if they are not allowed to sell or dispose of them in some way they will be subject to a considerable loss, and not only they, but many of our citizens, especially in New York, from whom they have bought goods, must in consequence suffer with them, as it will be impossible for them to pay.
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I have, etc.,