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A Fervent Hope for the Success of Haiti: An Address Delivered in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on December 11, 1889



U.S. Legation, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dispatches to the State Department, RG 84, Records
of Foreign Service Posts, State Department, DNA. Another text in Brown, , 1: 78-79.

On the morning of 11 December 1889, Douglass made a brief address at the
National Palace in Port-au-Prince while presenting a letter from Benjamin
Harrison to Haitian President Louis M. F. Hyppolite. According to diplomatic
convention, Douglass sent Hyppolite copies of the letter and of his own
planned remarks in advance of this audience. In response, Hyppolite sent
Douglass an advanced copy of his intended reply. After all of this preparation,
Douglass reported that Hyppolite had received him “with pleasing dignity
and marked cordiality” and gave him the presidential carriage to use for his
ride back to the U.S. legation. Douglass wrote Secretary of State James G.
Blaine that he interpreted “the marked civility and deference shown to me on
every occasion by the President, the Government and the people of Haiti, as
an evidence of their desire to cultivate the best of relations with the United
States." Hyppolite’s response to Douglass and Douglass’s report on this au-
dience are reproduced in Appendixes D and E. Douglass to Anténor Firmin, 7
December 1889, Douglass to James G. Blaine, 9, 14 December 1889, An-
ténor Firmin to Douglass, 9 December 1891, U.S. Legation, Port-au-Prince,
Haiti, Dispatches to the State Department, RG 84, Records of Foreign Service
Posts, State Department, DNA; Brown, , 1: 71-74,

President:1Louis Mondestin Florvil Hyppolite. In pursuance of instructions received from the Department of
State at Washington, I have sought this audience through your honorable
Minister of Foreign Afifairs,2A native of Cap-Haitien, Joseph-Anténor Firmin (1850-1911) was a political journalist who had married a daughter of the late Haitian President Sylvain Salvane in 1876. He directed the diplomatic efforts of Louis M. F. Hyppolite's side in the nation's civil war of 1888-89. After Hyppolite's victory, Firmin became a popular figure for holding off U.S. efforts to acquire a coaling station at the Môle St. Nicolas. He later served as Haiti's ambassador to France. In 1902, Firmin sought election to the presidency. This electoral contest soon devolved into a military struggle which Firmin's side lost to the followers of Pierre Nord-Alexis. He then went into exile in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. He was one of the few public figures in late nineteenth-century Haiti to argue in favor of the expansion of both political and social democracy. Perusse, , 37-38, 54; Davis, , 136-37, 243; Rotberg, , 246, 252-53; Logan, , 422-23, 434-51. to present to Your Excellency the original


letter of the President of the United States, in answer to your letter an-
nouncing to him your election to the Presidency of the Republic of Haiti.

As Minister Resident near Your Government, I am very happy to be the
bearer to Your Excellency of this letter from the President of the United

I beg to assure Your Excellency also, that it is not to be taken merely as
a formal recognition of your election demanded and responded to by
custom, but as a letter expressive of sincere friendship for Your Excellency
and a fervent hope for the success of Your Government and for the hap-
piness of your people.

It gives me pleasure also to state that the American Republic should not
be contemplated now in the light of what it was a quarter of a century ago.
Its progress in liberal ideas has been rapid, vast and wonderful. Thirty
years ago it practically limited human rights to a particular variety of the
human family. It now hails with high satisfaction the progress of liberty,
without regard to race, color or antecedents.


Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895




Yale University Press 1992



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