File No. 315.112G75/1

Chargé Spencer to the Secretary of State

No. 344

Sir: I have the honor to report to the Department that yesterday I received a telegram from Consul Dyer at La Ceiba giving the facts concerning the burning of a leading hotel, the town hall, and some five other buildings in Tela, on the north coast of Honduras. The conflagration occurred about two o’clock in the early morning of August 28 last.

It appears that the hotel was leased to and under the management of Mr. J. W. Grace, an American citizen, and that it carried no insurance. Furthermore it is stated that the above-mentioned Mr. Grace lost all his worldly belongings in the fire.

After the fire had started Mr. Grace was ordered under arrest by the Justice of the Peace, pending an investigation of the origin and result of the conflagration. On the active representations of Mr. Rivers, the American Consular Agent at Tela, Mr. Grace was released from custody, only to be later peremptorily summoned by the Commandant of the district, who, it seems, was drunk and very [Page 395] abusive and declared lie would send Mr. Grace bound hand and foot to a military prison at San Pedro, would show that Americans could not burn up towns, and made general threats.

I have telegraphed Consul Dyer requesting information as to just how long Mr. Grace was under detention and whether he is now at liberty. As yet I have received no reply to this telegram and I shall not make formal representations to the Minister of Foreign Relations until I am certain that grave injustice has been done an American citizen.

This case, while apparently not falling directly under the head of cases within Law No. 40 of the Republic of Honduras, which is the law of arson about which the Department gave me definite instruction in No. 108 of June 17, 1916, is, nevertheless, analogous.

I shall continue to give this case my closest attention and report promptly to the Department any further developments.

I have [etc.]

Willing Spencer