From: Robert E. Perdue, Jr.
I continue my study of the history of the Dauphin Plantation and the Fort Liberte area. Any incident here is of interest as are related events leading directly to or following that incident. This is a short summary of the Pelletier affair, based on J. N. Leger's account. (Haiti: Her History and Her Detractors, Reprint of 1907 edition, Negro Universities Press, Westport, CT, 1970, pages 232-234 and 238-239.) He based his story on accounts in "Foreign Relations of the United States."
Part II: April 13, 1861 letter, from G. Eustis Hubbard, Commercial Agent, Cap Haitien, to the Secretary of State.
Part III: Attachments to Hubbard's letter to Secretary of State.
The Hubbard letter and attachments were recorded from a microfilm print-out of hand-written documents in the National Archives, College Park, MD: "Despatches from U. S. Consuls in Cap Haitien, Haiti, 1797-1906", M9, 17 rolls. (These documents are on Roll 9.)
My thanks to Maria Persinos for creating these files from very difficult hand-written copy.
Robert E. Perdue, Jr
Basic story of Pelletier based on J.N. Leger
On March 31,1861, the schooner Guillaume Tell, flying the French flag and owned by Jules Letellier, entered Fort Liberte harbor. His intent was to encourage inhabitants to board the ship and then carry them off to be sold into slavery. This he tried to accomplish by pretending to the authorities that his ship needed repairs so as to coax workmen aboard. He further announced there would be a dance aboard the ship. This conspiracy was betrayed by one of his crew who then deserted him.
Subsequently, the French Consul at Cap Haitien came to Fort Liberte to investigate and found that the ship's owner was not Letellier but Antonio Pelletier and the ship not the Guillaume Tell but the Williams and was not authorized to fly the French flag.
Although Pelletier was born French he became a naturalized United States citizen in 1852 and was a well-known slave trader. His ship had been captured in 1859 off the Congo River in Africa by a United States Man-of-War.
In January 1861, Pelletier had entered Port-au-Prince harbor with the Williams flying the flag of the United States. His intent was to take aboard about 150 Haitiens and sell them in Cuba. He tried to entice Haitians aboard under the pretext of taking on board a cargo of guano from Navassa Island. When a crew member informed the authorities that the Williams was a slaver the police searched the ship and found many handcuffs and other items typically carried by slave ships. Pelletier was ordered away and escorted for a distance by a Haitian Man-of-War. He had been released with the understanding he would sail for New Orleans but when the Haitian ship turned away Pelltier changed course and cruised along the north coast of Haiti and subsequently entered Fort Liberte as explained above.
On April 13, 1861, G. Eustis Hubbard, United States Commercial Agent at Cap Haitien reported to the United States Secretary of State: "I have no doubt that the intention of Captain Pelltier was to induce a number of Haitians to go on board of his vessel, under contract or otherwise, and then make his escape with them and sell them into slavery".
Pelletier was brought to trial and on August 30, 1861, sentenced to death by the criminal court in Port-au-Prince. Six weeks later, on October 14, his sentence was overturned by the Haitian Supreme Court.
Pelltier was subsequently tried again by a court in Cap Haitien and sentenced to five-years imprisonment. When he became ill in 1863 he was transferred to a hospital from which he escaped and fled to Jamaica.
Eighteen years later in 1879, the United States Minister in Port-au-Prince introduced a claim on behalf of Pelltier in the amount of almost $2.5 M. Under arbitration the amount was reduced to $57,200. Before the arbiter, G. Eustis Hubbard, United States Commercial Agent in Cap Haitien in 1861, stated: "It has always been my belief from that day to this that the Haitian Government ought to have executed the man as a pirate and confiscated his vessel and property beyond redemption." After protest by the Haitian Legation in Washington, the United States State Department put aside the award. United States Secretary of State T. F. Bayard stated: "I do not hesitate to say that, in my judgement, the claim of Pelltier is one which this Government should not press on Haiti, either by persuasion or by force, and I come to this conclusion, first because Haiti had jurisdiction to inflict on him the very punishment of which he complains, such punishment being in no way excessive in view of the heinousness of the offense, and secondly, because his cause is of itself so saturated with turpitude and infamy that on it no action, judicial or diplomatic, can be based."
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