The Acting Secretary of State to Minister Powell.

No. 711.]

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 1811, of the 6th instant.

It is reported in your dispatch that Mr. Charles Cameau and Mr. Auguste Elie, members of the auditing committee, came to the American legation and requested asylum. It is stated that they informed you that according to law they rendered a yearly report to the legislative corps in which they stated that in the expenditures of the government for 1903–4 they could not find any vouchers for $5,334,099.53, Haitian money. You further state that when the report [Page 553] was brought to the attention of the President he declared that it was false and desired that they withdraw it and substitute another; that they refused to do so, declaring their report to be correct; that the President declared that it was an effort on the part of the committee to bring reproach upon the government; that they were in league with his enemies and conspirators and were about to be shot. You report that you gave them asylum until the government granted them permission to leave the country. You add that they were permitted by the President to return to their homes under his personal guaranty.

The Department regrets its inability to approve of your giving them asylum until the government should grant them permission to leave the country. The effect of this would be to shield them from whatever legal liability they were under, if any, to the Haitian laws and to the due process of the laws. The grant of shelter under the circumstances stated might easily lead to abuse of the privilege of shelter through the simple representation on the part of the fugitives that they were threatened with death, and in the absence of any material evidences to indicate such imminent peril of lawlessness or mob violence as would warrant the granting of shelter. In this connection you are referred to the Department’s instruction No. 528, August 6, 1902, to you, and to the Department’s No. 89, of June 5, 1899, to Mr. Sampson, Foreign Relations, 1899, page 257. While there may be circumstances not fully disclosed in your dispatch which would justify the grant of the privilege of asylum in the legation, it is a privilege which should only be accorded upon a most careful investigation of the circumstances in order that the legation may not become the refuge for persons whose real object is to evade their ordinary liabilities under the laws.

I am, etc.,

Herbert H. D. Peirce.