From: Robert E. Perdue, Jr.
April 13, 1861 letter, from G. Eustis Hubbard, Commercial Agent, Cap Haitien, to the 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.
Commercial Agency of the United States of America
City of Cape Haytien, April 13th, 1861
Honble Wm H. Seward
Secretary of State
I have the honor of informing you that the American Bark William of New Orleans, Captain Antonio Pelletier, has been seized by the Haytien authorities at Fort Liberte, a small closed sea port about twenty miles east from this City, as a slaver, and under very suspicious circumstances.
From all the reports and evidences which I can collect, it would appear that the Bark William, after a very roundabout and apparently illegitimate voyage on the Spanish Main and among the West India Islands, arrived, on the 21st of January last, in Port au Prince, where the Master entered his vessel as coming from New Orleans, although he could show no regular clearance from that City. This irregularity was passed over, and the vessel duly entered in the Custom house at Port au Prince, there she was suspected as being a slaver, which suspicion was substantiated by the written evidence of several of her crew and passengers, and the proofs were so strong that the authorities of Port au Prince visited and searched the vessel, but, contrary to law and usage without having advised the United States Commercial Agent of the facts and their proceedings, there were found on board twenty pairs hand-cuffs, twelve six barrel revolvers, four rifles, one pistol revolver with poignard attached, and two kegs of powder - certainly a very large amount of arms and ammunition for a vessel in a legal trade - and in the hold a large number of beams cross bars and plank, water casks (the report is for more than one hundred of the latter) and a large quantity of provisions. The hand-cuffs were taken away and delivered to the Government. After these proceedings, Captain Pelletier declared that his vessel had been seized, the American flag trampled upon, and abandoned her, demanding a large amount of money as damages, these matters were arranged by the United States Commercial Agent at Port au Prince with the Government, and after Captain Pelletier had sold some goods, which it would appear had been shipped on board of the vessel on freight in Carthegena to be delivered in Rio Hache, and taken a few tons of logwood, he left Port of Prince on the 20th of February. About the number of crew employed on board of the William, I have no definite information, but from all accounts it is very large, not less than twenty men of all nations but principally runaway Frenchmen and Spaniards. As far as I can learn, the real object of Captain Pelletier in going to Port au Prince, and which he endeavored to effect there without success, was to engage fifty men and six women, Haytiens, for the given purpose of working a guano Island. When the William left Port au Prince, she was accompanied off the coast as far as Cape St. Nicolai Mole by the Haytien war steamer, the Geffrard.
On the 25th March, the signal station of this City reported a square-rigged vessel in the North-east; on the 26th I saw the vessel myself from this port and made her out to be a bark, beating up to Windward against a stiff breeze, when from the position in which I saw her, she might easily have entered into this port in a few hours. For five days she was in sight from the signal station, laying off and on the coast under easy sail, gradually working up to windward and sometimes anchoring in the small bays and inlets of the coast. One night the vessel, anchored in a small bay called Ford blanc near the village of Caracol, and the next morning a quantity of footprints were found in the sand on the beach near her anchorage, altogether, her movements in these environs were very suspicious and extraordinary, and we were here quite at a loss to account for her actions. The same bark was passed near here on the 29th March by an American Schooner bound to this port, in passing the bark saluted with the French flag; the schr. arrived here at noon the same day, and I enclose herewith an affidavit of Isaac B. Gage, her Master, concerning these facts. On the 31st March the then unknown bark went into Fort Liberte and anchored. I would mention herewith that during the whole time the vessel was in the neighborhood of the Cape, she might have arrived here in a few hours. On his arrival at Fort Liberte, the master reported his vessel to be the French barque Guillaume Tell, of and from Havre to Havanna, and that his own name was Jules Letelier; and stated there that he had got aground in the silver keys and wished to engage a number of workmen to go over there with him and save a portion of his cargo which he had thrown overboard there to lighten his vessel. The next day, April 1st, he wrote a letter in the French language to the French Vice Consul at this City, stating that his rudder was broken and that he would arrange it as soon as possible, and proceed to this port with his vessel to put himself under his protection; a translated copy of this letter is herewith enclosed. It would appear that on his arrival in Fort Liberte, the Master of the vessel did his utmost to put himself on a good footing with the authorities and people there, and one day invited a number of persons on board to dinner, treating them with great politeness, and that the inhabitants of that town had not the slightest suspicion about the vessel until the 3rd of April, when one of the sailors escaped on shore, and made his declaration that she was the American Bark William of New Orleans, Captain A. Pelletier, and that the intention of the Master was to kidnap a number of Haytiens and sell them into slavery. These statements aroused at once the people of Fort Liberte into action, the National Guard was called out, the Fort prepared, and the entire population of the town held themselves ready to report any movement made against them. That same night, Captain Pelletier finding his plans were discovered, endeavored to escape from the place, but being unacquainted with the channel, got aground almost under the guns of the Fort; the next day, the 4th, the French Vice Consul of this City arrived in Fort Liberte, and immediately commenced to investigate the case, and wrote a letter to the Captain J. Letellier (he still keeping up his character as a French citizen commanding the French barque Guillaume Tell) requesting him to come on shore and deliver up his papers, this letter remained unanswered, the Master verbally refusing to leave his ship. The next day, the 5th April, the French Vice Consul sent another summons on board for the Master to come on shore immediately, threatening to employ force if he did not come voluntarily, the Master then replied by letter that he could not leave the vessel until she got afloat; afterwards, finding that hostile steps would certainly be commenced against him if he did not comply with the Consul's request, he hoisted a white flag at the main, and addressed a second letter to the Consul, requesting a safe conduct to shore, which was at once forwarded to him. Copies of the two above mentioned letters from the Master to the Consul, signed J. Letelier, are in my possession, but their contents are without particular importance. The Captain then came on shore, his papers were examined, and the vessel was proved to be the American Bark William of New Orleans commanded by Antonio Pelletier, the same vessel already suspected of having been a slaver in Port au Prince. After depositions of the statements of the Captain and crew had been taken, they were confined in prison. The vessel was then got afloat, brought back into the harbor of Fort Liberte, and anchored near the town, seals were put on the hatches and a guard of Haytien soldiers placed on board, the papers of the vessel, Captain's letters etc. being deposited in the bureau of the Place together with all the arms and ammunition found on board, the Captain's wife was allowed to remain on board together with the cabin boy and cook.
On the 6th inst as a last resource, Captain A. Pelletier addressed me in a long open letter, pretending to give an account of his proceedings and the reason for his having changed his vessel's name and his own, a copy of which letter is herewith enclosed, together with a copy of my dispatch in answer in which I announce to him that in consequence of his highly suspicious actions, I do not deem it my duty to interfere in the matter with the Haytien authorities. The letter of Captain Pelletier to me is well calculated to excite sympathy and pity for him in his present position, but unfortunately for him, his assertions are notoriously untrue. I have proved to him in my letter - finally, that it is impossible that he had lost his rudder and false keel - secondly, that he might have arrived in this port at anytime from the 25th to 30th March - thirdly that he knew perfectly well where he was going and on what coast he was and fourthly, that he had piractically employed the French flag before arriving in Fort Liberte. Besides these he asserts in his letter that the American ensign was floating at the mizzen peak of the William when she was seized. This is not true and I enclose herewith a letter from the French Vice Consul to me, positively declaring that the American flag was never hoisted on board of the vessel in Fort Liberte; she was seized as the French Barque Guillaume Tell and it was only after examination of her papers that she was proved to be the William. Captain Pelletier also complains that his wife has been thrown into prison, which is also untrue, as the lady still remains on board.
Another very suspicious circumstance about the William is that after leaving Port au Prince, the name of the vessel and the port to which belonging was erased from the stern, so that the vessel bears on her hulls no indication or mark of her name or nationality.
In my opinion the entire movements of the Bark William about this Island have been highly suspicious, and I have no doubt but that the intention of Captain Pelletier was to induce a member of Haytiens to go on board of his vessel under contract or otherwise, and then make his escape with them and sell them into slavery. This project is most hardy and daring, and it is difficult to understand its conception at the present advanced age. It is very possible however that he would have succeeded in his nefarious design, had not the vessel already had suspicion fixed upon her in Port au Prince, indeed my own doubts about the legality of the vessel's proceedings were so great, that had she escaped from Fort Liberte, I should at once have written to St. Thomas, Aspinwall and Havanna, requesting the American Consuls of these places to lay the facts before the Commander of any foreign man of war in port, so that the vessel might have been apprehended and her real intentions discovered.
It is possible that the vessel may be brought to this port and the Captain and crew escorted here for trial. I would therefore most respectfully ask information from the Government what course I am to take if the vessel is afterwards given up, and part of the crew released after examination, the latter of which will probably be the case. It is an undoubted fact that these men are composed of the refuse of all nations, and that they are not on a legal voyage although provided with American protection. I would very respectfully call the attention of the Department to these facts, and solicit an early answer as to what course I am to pursue in this matter.
I have the honor to be
Your Obedt Servant
G. Eustis Hubbard
No 1 Affidavit of Isaac B. Gage
No 2 Letter of J. Letellier to the French Vice Consul
No 3 Captain A. Pelletier's letter addressed to me
No 4 My dispatch to Captain Pelletier
No 5 Letter from the French Vice Consul denying the hoisting of the American flag on board of the William.
the last four copies
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