The Minister in Honduras (Jones) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 72

Sir: Referring to my cablegram of the 9th instant 4 P.M. concerning the desecration of the American Flag by alleged drunken men at Juticalpa, I have the honor to report as follows:

As I informed you in my despatch No. 68 of the 9th instant,16 in view of the very friendly and cordial expressions and relations at all times existing in my dealings with the President and his Cabinet, [Page 396] I called informally upon the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs and after giving him all the details in hand suggested, in response to his request, that an investigation and punishment of the offenders and an expression of regret, which I knew the President felt, would be quite agreeable. To my surprise, a day or two later, the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs called with a telegraphic communication from President Bertrand saying that the men were drunk and the Flags were without official standing, in any case. There were neither regrets expressed or the slightest suggestion of investigation or punishment. After maturely considering the whole matter and believing that an acceptance of such a reply was intolerable, and believing further that an utter failure of the Government to investigate and to punish the offenders or to even take the matter seriously, would invite other insults and abuses and open the door to unending friction, I addressed the Foreign Office in a formal Note, copy of which is hereto attached.

He had promised to furnish me with a copy of the telegraphic memorandum of the President above referred to, but to the present time failed to do so. Since then he has stated that he was carefully considering my communication and would later make reply.

Three things stood out in my mind in considering this entire incident:

The occasion was a demonstration in honor of the Honduranean President and the Flags were displayed by official leave.
The offenders were drunk but just drunk enough to desecrate the American and British Flags but sober enough not to touch the Honduranean Flag.
The President had as his guest and adviser, at Juticalpa at the time, Mariano Vasquez, former Secretary for Foreign Affairs and who, it is reported, will be the new Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and an active propagandist of Central American union …

I hereto attach copy of certification from Major William G. Luckhardt in relation to the matter, which was received to-day.16

I have [etc.]

T. Sambola Jones

The American Minister (Jones) to the Honduran Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (López Ponce)

Mr. Sub-Secretary: After thoroughly considering the informal telegraphic reply of His Excellency President Bertrand to the complaint made on account of the desecration of the American Flag [Page 397] by a drunken mob at Juticalpa, which reply you handed me this morning, I have deemed it proper to call to your further consideration and, through you, to the attention of His Excellency, President Bertrand, the following facts, viz:

Under the laws and usages of the United States Government, there is no added or sacramental import to an official Flag, in contradistinction to an unofficial Flag and no official authorization is required to display a Flag. Besides, I have been officially informed that the consent of the local authorities had been obtained for the display, not only of the American, but of the British and Honduranean Flags on the occasion referred to. This outrageous insult had added significance and affront by reason of the fact that the display of the American Flag was intended as a compliment and honor to the President of a friendly Sister Republic.

Under the uniform interpretation of the law, a man in a state of inebriation is not excused from the penalties of his crime because he was drunk. If such were the case, the plea of drunkenness would undo and set at naught every process of punitive justice. At this particular time, when the United States has passed through such an ordeal of blood and sacrifice in which its Flag has been the Emblem, not only of Honor and Justice but of supreme sacrifice, we have so jealously guarded and protected It and so regarded the slightest affront to its sacredness as that long years of penal servitude have been imposed upon those who have in the slightest degree, insulted or desecrated It. I am quite sure that my Government would view with regret and disappointment a dismissal of so grave a charge as that made against the drunken men who not only insulted its Emblem, but tore It down and desecrated It, with a mere statement that they were drunk and that the Flag had no official standing.

I am equally sure that your Government, so closely allied with Mine in recent difficulties, not only in sentiments and sympathies, but in deeds and acts; so generously and cordially disposed in every matter related to their mutual relationships, reprobates and discounternances all such acts as those complained of. I deem it, therefore, pertinent to ask that the guilty parties be sought out and punished and that the usual sentiments between friendly Governments in such circumstances be expressed.

I take [etc.]

T. Sambola Jones
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