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#115: Pelletier Affair, Part II (Hubbard letter to Sec State) (fwd)

From: Robert Perdue <vtandwi@erols.com>

The following is a typewritten copy of a handwritten document (on
microfilm) in the National Archives, College Park. MD.
This is in "Despatches from U.S. Consuls in Cap Haitien, Haiti,
1797-1906", M9, 17 rolls.  (This document is on Roll 9.)

This document is an April 13, 1861 letter from G. Eustis Hubbard,
Commercial Agent, Cap Haitien, to the Secretary of State.

 Commercial Agency of the United States of America
 City of Cape Haytien, April 13th, 1861
No 41

Honble Wm H. Seward
  Secretary of State
   Washington City


    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 Libert, a small closed sea port about twenty miles
east from this City, as a slaver, and under very suspicious

 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 Libert 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 Libert, 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 Libert,
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 Libert 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
Libert, 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 Libert, 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 Libert.  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 Libert; 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 Libert, 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

 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
        Very Respectfully
       Your Obedt Servant
          G. Eustis Hubbard
No 1  Affidavit of Isaac B. Gage
   2  Letter of J. Letellier to the French Vice Consul
   3  Captain A. Pelletier's letter addressed to me
   4  My dispatch to Captain Pelletier
   5  Letter from the French Vice Consul denying the hoisting of
the American flag on board of the William.
the last four copies