Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 7, 1911
File No. 339.112C42/5.
The American Minister to the Secretary of State.
Santo Domingo , May 5, 1911 .
Referring to the cables on the subject,1 I now have the honor to inclose you herewith copies and translations of all the correspondence relating to the incident that took place on the 16th of April between the guard of the barracks in this city and the commanding officer of the U. S. S. Chester.
The Spanish word “amonestados” employed in the note from the minister for foreign affairs means “reprimanded” or “warned of doing something wrong and intimation not to repeat.”
The Commanding Officer of U. S. S. “Chester” to the American Minister.
Santo Domingo City , April 17, 1911 .
Sir: The following facts regarding an insult to my uniform are brought to your attention with the request that, as our diplomatic representative to the Republic of Santo Domingo, you take steps to secure apologies from the officials concerned.
- On the evening of April 16, 1911, about 8.30 p.m., while returning to my ship, I passed a barracks near the water front. Seeing a guard and officer, I inquired as to the name of the building. The lieutenant grasped my arm and forced me toward the street, indicating that I was to leave. I pointed to my uniform and shoulder straps, and stated my position to be that of the captain of the American man-of-war. This produced no effect and he ordered the guard to send me away. The guard grabbed me by the arms and hustled me down the street until, by persistently demanding to see the commandante, I was permitted to do so. I found him to be in civilian’s clothes, and that he had been quietly sitting and watching the spectacle at the entrance to the building. I was accused of trying to enter the building, which was not true. The conduct of the men that were handling me indicated that they were amused at the chance they had, and that they were acting under an approving superior. There was light enough, as the moon was up, to distinguish my uniform, as I distinguished theirs.
- Upon appealing to the commandante I obtained no redress whatever. The commandante and the lieutenant should apologize to me in the presence of the guard that was on duty, which guard should present arms during the ceremony. The men that put their hands on me should be put in irons for 10 days. The commandante, in addition to the apology in front of the barracks where the affair took place, should be required to call on board my ship, should be relieved of his command, and the entire command reviewed by me and my officers.
- There were some civilian spectators to my affair. One lad that spoke English followed me half way to my boat.
- I have been told that the soldiers are insulting my men. It is needless to invite your attention to the dangers of such a condition of affairs to the peace of this community, and the Government should use most stringent measures to see that the United States uniform is respected.
Commander, V. S. Navy, Commanding.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs to the American Minister .
Santo Domingo , April 19, 1911 .
Mr. Minister: Referring to the regrettable incident that took place at the entrance to the fortress on the night of the 16th instant, and about which we have had several interviews, I quote to you from a communication to this ministry from the minister of war:
I send you herewith, to be returned, the communication which the military commandant of the fortress here addressed to this ministry in regard to the incident that took place at the entrance to the fortress, between soldiers of the watch on duty at the said fortress, and the commander of the American man-of-war Chester. As may be seen from the satisfactory explanations given in this matter by the military commandant, it is clear that our military officers could not have had the remotest idea of provoking any friction which might belie the good and cordial relations which exist between the two Governments. In the hope that the explanations given by the military commandant of the fortress here will definitely put an end to the displeasure on the part of Commander B. C. Decker, to which, under other circumstances, the unforeseen incident that took place at the entrance to the fortress on the night of the 16th instant might have given rise, this ministry expresses to you its highest consideration.
The official letter from the military commandant of this fortress, to which the above-quoted communication refers, states, among other things, as essential points, that neither he nor his officers were acquainted with the commander of the American cruiser Chester; that although the above-mentioned commander made known his rank, it was thought he was some stranger, who, making use of a military uniform, was trying to enter the said fortress for some unknown purpose; all the more so as the commander of the Chester persisted in his intention of entering.
The military commandant of this fortress concludes his report with a statement to the effect that he would be very glad to have the commander of the Chester informed that, during those hours when entrance to the fortress is not forbidden, he would take especial pleasure in showing it to him, as well as in giving him in person the preceding explanations.
I take, etc.,
The American Minister to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Santo Domingo , April 25, 1911 .
Mr. Minister: I have the honor to refer to a communication from your excellency’s predecessor, No. 116 of April 19, in regard to the incident at the military barracks on the night of the 16th instant between the guard of said barracks and the commanding officer of the United States cruiser Chester. My Government has been made acquainted with all of the facts in the case, and of the contents of the communication of his excellency the minister of war, and feels that the harsh and violent treatment of an officer of the high rank of Commander Decker, who was in the harbor with his ship on such a friendly mission, was entirely unnecessary and uncalled for. The commandant of the barracks admits that Capt. Decker made him understand who he was, but takes the rather strange position that he did not believe him, but thought he was some stranger disguised in the uniform of a naval officer of the United States who was attempting to enter the barracks.
In view of all the circumstances in the case, and of the absolute absence, on the part of Capt. Decker, of any evil intent, my Government expects an assurance from the Dominican Government that the commissioned officers directly connected with this assault be punished.
I take this occasion to renew to your excellency the assurance of my most distinguished consideration.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs to the American Minister .
Santo Domingo , May 3, 1911 .
Mr. Minister: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s courteous communication No. 41 of April 25, last.
As my colleague of the department of war and marine was informed of the contents of your excellency’s courteous note above referred to, I quote as follows to your excellency from said minister’s answer to me: He says:
Referring to the particulars in your communication of the 29th of last month, Book A, No. 584, I take the occasion to inform you that the officers directly concerned with the disagreeable incident at the entrance to the fortress on the night of the 16th of last month have been reprimanded.
I hope that the foregoing will sufficiently satisfy your excellency, and I am pleased to embrace this opportunity etc.,
- Not printed.↩