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FOREIGN RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES 1900, ITALY

 

NOTE: The following are transcriptions (some translated) of diplomatic letters, depositions, attachments, etc., written between July 26, 1899 and December 4, 1900 concerning the details of the July 20, 1899 lynching of five Italians in Tallulah.  This international event caused worldwide concern and threatened US relations with Italy. These letters involved, among others, United States Secretary of State, John Hay, United States President, William McKinley, King Umberto of Italy, Italian Ambassador to the United States, Baron Fava, and Louisiana Governor, Murphy J. Foster. RPS August 2004 dicksevier@gmail.com

 

LYNCHING OF PERSONS OF ITALIAN ORIGIN AT TALLULAH, LA.[1]

 

Baron Fava (Italian Ambassador to the United States) to Mr. Hay (United States Secretary of State.)

 

[Translation]

 

ITALIAN EMBASSY

Washington January 15, 1900.

 

MR. SECRETARY of STATE: In the correspondence which the honorable Department of State has exchanged with this embassy with regard to the Tallulah lynching, your excellency has been constantly pleased to assure me that every exertion would he made by the Federal Government to secure the punishment of the parties guilty of that massacre. To that end I think that I am now acting in accordance with your excellency’s wishes in furnishing you herewith some information of no little importance concerning the lynchers, which information will, in my opinion, facilitate the work of attaining those ends of justice which you have in view.

 

I have received from the acting Italian Consul at New Orleans a report in which Signor Papini sends me --

 

(a) A list of the lynchers, furnished by two brothers – negroes -- who were witnesses of the lynching. One of these negroes is said to have been murdered, either on suspicion or because he had talked too much about the lynchers. The other, whose name is Joe Evans, was employed for more than two years by Frank Difatta, one of the men lynched. Evans is said to have declared, moreover, that he knows two other negroes -- the brothers Paul and Billy Bruse -- whose names are on the list, and who can testify against the lynchers, because they were constantly with him during the lynching.

 

(b) An original procès verbal containing the affidavit (see also) made in the office of the Italian consular agency at Vicksburg by Giuseppe Defina, an Italian subject, the brother-in-law of one of the men lynched, who was himself threatened with death by the lynchers, but succeeded in escaping from Milliken’s Bend, a village near Tallulah, on the night of July 20 last, abandoning his house and property and taking refuge at Vicksburg.

 

I think it expedient to annex to the present letter certified copies:

1. Of the report of the acting royal consul at New Orleans.

2. Of the above-mentioned list of the lynchers.

3. An extract from the affidavit referred to above.

 

Postponing a fuller discussion of the contents of this affidavit until I come into possession of further information on the subject, I must for the present, call the attention of the Federal Government to that  paragraph of the affidavit in question in which Defina gave the names of Drs. Ward and Gane (Gaines), who went to him to warn of the hostile intentions of the same gang who had lynched the five Italians at Tallulah. The names of the lynchers were evidently known to these two doctors, and justice could be enlightened by them, al least, if by no others.

 

The importance of the statements made in the three documents which I now submit to you will certainly not escape your excellency, and you will agree with me in finding in them every evidence of their truthfulness, or, at least, abundant grounds for the intervention of the representative of the law. This action has not yet been taken by the local magistrates, nor is it to be expected, in view of the peculiar conditions prevailing in that region, that it will be taken in future. Nor does it yet appear that the governor and attorney general of Louisiana have attempted to carry out the assurances repeatedly made by them to the Federal Government that justice would certainly be done, and this in spite of the provisions of the revised statutes of Louisiana. Article 1018 of those statutes provides: 

 

Whenever the attorney-general or any district attorney shall be informed that a crime has been committed and that no complaint or declaration thereof has been made before any judge or justice of the peace it shall be their duty, respectively to inquire, ex officio, into the fact by causing all persons they shall suppose to have some knowledge of the fact to be summoned before some judge or justice of the peace that their depositions may be taken. 

 

It is clear that the spirit and the letter of this law are intended to confer upon the attorney-general of the State the power and the duty of instituting and conducting investigations concerning criminal acts of which the ordinary judicial authorities neglect to take cognizance This is also the opinion of eminent American lawyers whom I have consulted on the subject.

 

And if there is any case in which that attorney-general should make use of his powers, it is certainly that of the Tallulah lynching, where there was not even a meeting of the grand jury to give some show of proceedings in the case.

 

I cherish the hope that the inclosed documents will afford the Federal Government an opportunity and new and effectual grounds for pressing the Louisiana authorities to fulfill the contractual obligations of the confederation to which they belong, and to comply with the laws of their own State and the general principles of universal justice.

 

Accept, etc.,

FAVA

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[Inclosure 1.]

 

The acting Italian consul at New Orleans to Baron Fava

 

[Translation.]

 

NEW ORLEANS, January 13, 1900

 

YOUR EXCELLENCY: Guiseppe Defina, the brother-in-law of one of the men who were lynched, came to my office some time ago and brought me a list of names of people at Tallulah who wanted to go to Millikens Bend to lynch him. This list was made by two brothers, negroes, who are ready to testify that these persons were at the head of the Tallulah lynchers.

 

I requested Defina to return at once to Vicksburg and to have the affidavits of the two negroes taken before a notary public and before the royal consular agent, Piazza. But I learned, from information which I received, that no notary at Vicksburg would draw up such a document.

 

I likewise learned that, in consequence of suspicion or because he had talked too freely about the lynchers, one of the two negroes who were ready to testify had been murdered.

 

The other negro, whose name is Joe Evans, 30 years of age, was for more than two years in the employ of Frank Difatto, who was lynched.

 

I have to add to this general information that Joe Evans has asserted that he knows two other negroes, the brothers Paul and Billy Bruse, whose names are in the said list and who can testify against the lynchers, as they were with him the whole time during the lynching.

 

I inclose a certified copy of the said list, and the original procès verbal of Defina’s affidavit taken in Vicksburg in the office of the royal consular agent there.

 

PAPINI, Acting Consul,

 

A true copy of the original on file at the royal Italian embassy at Washington.

FAVA.

WASHINGTON, January 16, 1900

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[Inclosure 2.]

 

List.

 

Mr. Rogers (was the leader to go to Millikens Bend to hang Joseph Delfino and his son), Fred Lichslider, Edward Stewart, Mr. Coleman (he was the one that climbed the tree and tied the rope), Burt Severe, Tom Nola, Dave Evans, Jim Johnson, Fred Johnson (was the one that carried the rope), Scott, Anden Severe (furnished the rope), John Yerger, Jim Ervesie, Jim Stone, Tom Broders, Fred Broders, Sam Slank, Paul Bruse, Billy Bruse.

 

A true copy of the original.

C. PAPINI, Acting Consul of Italy.

NEW ORLEANS. January 16, l901.

 

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[Inclosure 3 --Translation.]

 

Extract from an affidavit taken by the Royal consular agency of His Majesty the King Italy, at Vicksburg.

 

In the reign of H. M. Umberto I, by the grace of God and the will of the people, King of Italy

 

Vicksburg, Mississippi, December 18, 1899, at the Royal consular agency of Italy

 

Before me, Cav. Natale Piazza, Royal consular agent, assisted by Signor A. L Tirelli, acting as clerk,

 

Personally appeared Giuseppe Defina, son of Matteo, deceased, a native of Cefalu, residing at Anguilla, Miss., who, after having been duly sworn, testified as follows:

 

NOTE: A slightly different (probably due to translation) but more complete version of this deposition will be found later in this article and may be seen by clicking here.

 

I emigrated to America in 1889 and went to New Orleans, and in 1892 I went to live at Millikens Bend, Louisiana, where I opened a shop for provisions and other articles. By my good conduct I soon acquired a reputation in the village for honesty above the other shopkeepers, and thereby gained many customers, and in a short time I found myself in an enviable position and was able to lend money and sell my goods on credit to the families of the place until the cotton crop was gotten in.

 

On the night of July 20 last, at Tallulah, after the lynching of my unfortunate brothers-in-law, the lynchers, who knew me well, because I frequently went to Tallulah on business, after finishing their work resolved to go to Millikens Bend to lynch me so as to root out the last Italian in the county.

 

Mr. Ward, a resident of Millikens, who was on the road between Tallulah and Millikens that night, met a body of armed men, and as he knew them, I believe he asked them where they were going, and they replied: "We are going to Millikens Bend to lynch Defina."  Ward, who had always displayed sincere friendship for me, was very much surprised and pained at the plan which those people were carrying out and interceded for me, praising me highly; but, not able to persuade those scoundrels who were not yet satiated with our blood, he, by dint of eloquence, obtained two hours’ time for me to leave the country if I valued my life. As that gentleman could not go to my house, after asking and obtaining the withdrawal of the lynchers he met on the road Dr. Ganes, of Millikens Bend, who was coming back from Tallulah from a visit with Dr. Hodge in connection with the lynching and was going home and he was requested by Ward to inform me of my banishment from Millikens within two hours by order of those murderers, and to tell me, that if I did not I within the time fixed I would be lynched without mercy.

 

When l heard the sad news I could see that Ganes knew the threats of the lynchers against me before leaving Tallulah that night and without having seen the gang whom the Ward met. A few minutes before the arrival of the doctor at my house I had been informed of the occurrences of the night by a negro a who had been with the doctor on his way to Tallulah and back, and while l was awaiting fuller information I noticed that several persons at Millikens were whispering together, probably about the occurrences of the night at Tallulah, and also, I think, about the threats of the lynchers against me.  I noticed that those persons were very sorry for my situation, but I do not think that if the lynchers had come to Millikens they would have opposed the murderers in order to save me and my children.

 

Having been informed by Ganes that Hodge was dying, and that if he died I would certainly not be spared by their revenge, I decided to fly with my children without loss of time on a small boat. Having been warned by Ganes and others that it would be very dangerous for me to leave Millikens by land, I went to Vicksburg by the Mississippi River; and you can testify that you saw me here in a deplorable state, suffering with a high fever, as you remember, when I told you all that had happened to me.

GIUSEPPE DEFINA,

The Deponent

 

N. PIAZZA,

The Royal Consular Agent

 

N. L. TIRELLI,

Acting Clerk

 

A true copy of the original on file at the Royal Embassy of Italy at Washington

Washington, January 15, 1900.

FAVA,

The Royal Ambassador.

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Mr. Hay to Baron Fava.

 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

 Washington, February 15, 1900

 

EXCELLENCY: I regret to find that your note of January 15 last, in further reference to the case of the lynching of persons of Italian origin at Tallulah, La., and with which, you inclosed a report from the acting consul at New Orleans, was, through an unaccountable oversight, not acknowledged at the time of its receipt.

 

Copy of your note, with its inclosure, was, however, immediately sent to the governor of Louisiana with appropriate commendation to his excellency's early and attentive notice.

 

Be pleased to accept, etc.,

JOHN HAY

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Baron Fava to Mr. Hay.

[Translation.]

 

EMBASSY OF HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF ITALY,

Washington, March 5, 1900

 

MR. SECRETARY OF STATE: By note of the 15th of January last, I had the honor to furnish to your excellency new and important evidence which went to show that, according to article 1018 title of the Revised Statutes of Louisiana, intervention was justified on the part  of the attorney-general of that State or of the district attorney competent to investigate the acts of the lynchers of Tallulah, and to proceed against them.

 

In reply you were pleased to inform me, under date of the 15th ultimo, that a copy of my note had been immediately forwarded to the governor of Louisiana, and that his excellency's attention had duly been called to its contents.

 

I thank you for this courteous assurance, and I should be grateful to you, Mr. Secretary of State, if you now have the kindness to communicate to me the tenor of the reply which the aforesaid governor doubtless has not failed to send to the honorable Department of State on this subject.

 

Thanking your excellency in advance, I renew, etc.,

FAVA.

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Mr. Hay to Baron Fava.

 

  DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, March 15, 1900.

 

EXCELLENCY:  In response to your note of the 5th instant I have the honor to say that no reply has yet been received from the governor of Louisiana to the Department's letter of January 24 last, inclosing copy of your note of the 15th of the same month.

 

Accept, etc.,

JOHN HAY.

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Baron Fava to Mr. Hay.

[Translation.]

ITALIAN EMBASSY,

Washington, March 15, 1900.

 

MR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Your excellency was pleased to inform me in your kind note of to-day that the honorable governor of Louisiana has not yet replied to the letter of January 24 last, in which the Department of State, sent him a copy of this embassy's note of the 15th of that month.

 

While thanking you, Mr. Secretary of State, for this communication, I would be greatly indebted to you if you would kindly inform me what measures the Federal Government intends to take, in view of this protracted silence on the part of that governor, for the purpose of having search made, on the basis of the facts collected by the Royal consulate at New Orleans, and of prosecuting the Tallulah lynchers in accordance with the Revised Statutes of the State of Louisiana, article 1018, the text of which I had the honor to submit to you on the 15th January last.

 

Accept, etc., 

FAVA.

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Mr. Hay to Baron Fava.

 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, March 31, 1900.

 

EXCELLENCY: Upon receipt of your note of the 15th instant, in further reference to the lynching at Tallulah, I again brought the subject to the attention of his excellency, the governor of Louisiana reviewing the correspondence heretofore exchanged and the fact, reported in the investigation of the lynching, and requesting that the governor bring these statements to the knowledge of the attorney general of Louisiana, and that he inform the Department what action has been or will he taken in the premises.

 

 I now have the honor to inform you that I am in receipt of a reply from Governor Foster stating that he has duly forwarded my communication to the attorney-general calling his attention to the importance of the matter at issue. He states, further that he has promptly followed the wishes of this Department in laying my several communications before the officers of the law in the district in which Tallulah and the parish of Madison are situated and in requesting their official action on the same. The governor adds that he is not prepared to say what further steps will he taken in the matter, but that he is assured that they have done and will do their full duty under the law. 

 

Be pleased to accept, etc.,

 

 JOHN HAY

*******************************************************************************************************************

Baron Fava to Mr. Hay.

 

[Translation]

 

EMBASSY OF H. M. THE KING OF ITALY,

Washington, April 2, 1900

 

MR. SECRETARY OF STATE: By your excellency's esteemed note of the 31st instant I am apprised that, in reply to the communications sent to Governor Foster by you in compliance with the note which I had the honor to address to you on the 15th of January last, furnishing new and important information concerning the Tallulah lynchers, his excellencv, the governor, has informed you that he has transmitted these communications to the attorney-general of the State and has called that officer's attention to them. Governor Foster adds that he has promptly complied with your desire that he should likewise call this matter to the attention of the authorities of the district in which Tallulah and Madison Parish are situated, and that he has urged them to take official action. He states, in conclusion, “he is assured that they have done and will do their full duly under the law."

 

The fact that although ten months have passed since the cruel lynching at Tallulah, and that although I transmitted even the names of the presumptive murderers to the Federal Government not one of them has been brought to justice, and that not even the slightest judicial investigation looking to this has been held, is indeed discouraging and can not induce me to share the optimistic feeling which has, even at this late day, been expressed by the governor. Certainly the authorities of Louisiana have not done their duty in the past. If they had the murderers would not hitherto have remained unpunished.

 

I trust that they will soon decide to act as justice requires that they should; but your excellency will share the painful surprise felt It by me when I received this statement of the governor as the only reply to the grave charges and circumstances which I submitted by my note of January 15.

 

I have the honor to beg your excellency to observe to his excellency, Governor Foster, that any further delay in investigating lynchers, whose names are in the mouth of everybody, is without justification, and that it is now more important than ever that I should be enabled to assure the King's Government that the said lynchers have been criminally prosecuted in due form of law.

 

Accept, etc.,

 FAVA.

 

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Mr. Hill to Baron Fava.

 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, April 17, 1900.

 

EXCELLENCY: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 2nd instant in regard to the lynching of certain persons of Italian origin in Tallulah, La.

 

In reply I have a the honor to inclose a copy of a letter addressed to the governor of Louisiana on the 29th ultimo by the district attorney of the ninth judicial district of Louisiana, reporting that the third grand jury has investigated the affair, without finding evidence to implicate anyone.

 

Accept, etc.,

DAVID J. HILL,

Acting Secretary.

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[Inclosure.]

 

District attorney, ninth judicial district of Louisiana, to the governor of Louisiana.

 

TALLULAH, La., March 29, 1900.

 

DEAR SIR: The matter of the alleged lynching of the Italians here was investigated by the grand jury which has just adjourned. All the witnesses mentioned in your communication whose attendance could be compelled were summoned and testified on oath that they knew nothing of the affair. They, none of them, gave any testimony which implicated anyone, and positively swore they knew nothing of the matter whatever.

 

This is the third grand jury which has thoroughly investigated this matter, and each investigation has been thorough and has resulted in failure to implicate anyone.

 

I am, etc.,

WM. S. HOLMES.

 

*******************************************************************************************************************

Baron Fava to Mr. Hay.

[Translation]

 

EMBASSY OF H. M. THE KING OF ITALY

Washington, May 6, 1900.

 

MR. SECRETARY OF STATE: I duly received your note of the 17th ultimo, whereby your excellency, replying to mine of the 2d of that month, was pleased to send me a copy of a letter from a competent district attorney, who informed the governor of Louisiana that the third grand jury had thoroughly investigated the cruel lynching at Tallulah without being able to secure any indication or evidence of criminality against anybody.

 

From a deep sense of dignity I prefer not to discuss this singular assertion, made by a grand jury of a State belonging to a highly civilized Republic, which assertion can not fail to astonish and discourage those friendly nations which, like Italy, earnestly desire to sustain constant and cordial relation with tile United States.

 

It is, however, my duty most solemnly to protest to your excellency on account of this additional violation of treaties bearing the signature of the United States Government, and in view of the evident and patent denial of justice which has been renewed by one of it’s States, which is strictly bound to observe the laws of the Confederation of which it is an integral part.

 

However, as your excellency confined yourself to informing me, purely and simply, of this unqualifiable verdict of the Louisiana jury, without apprising me, at the same time, of the view taken by the Federal Government on the subject, I refrained, from a feeling of high respect for that Government and for your excellency personally from reporting it to His Majesty's Government.

 

I now, however, desire to beg you, Mr. Secretary of State, to be pleased to let me know what measures the Federal Government intends to take in order to settle this unfortunate matter in a manner conformable to the pledges which bind it. In this connection I scarcely need remind you that the authorities and enlightened word of the President has already marked out to Congress the proper course to be taken, and that I have faith in the efficient action of your excellency for the prevention, in future, of any repetition of such atrocious outrages, and for the application of remedial measures to the failure, on the part of the Louisiana authorities, to do justice.

 

Be pleased to accept, etc.

FAVA.

*******************************************************************************************************************

Mr. Hay to Baron Fava.

 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

 Washington, June 12, 1900.

EXCELLENCY: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency's esteemed favor of May 6, in relation to the cruel lynching at Tallulah.

 

In answer to your inquiry as to "what measures the Federal Government intends to take in order to settle this unfortunate, matter," and to the assurance of your faith in the efficient action of the Department for the prevention in future of any repetition of such atrocious outrage, and for the application of remedial measures to the failure on the part of the Louisiana authorities to do justice, it should hardly seem necessary to testify to your excellency the unqualified condemnation with which the Government of the United States views all such acts of lawless violence, whether committed against the subjects of other States residing in the United States or against its own citizens.

 

Your excellency is advised of the dual nature of our Government, and of the defect in the Federal laws, which the President has sought, so far as lies in his power, to have remedied, and of the prompt and energetic measures adopted by the Department of State with a view to the punishment, by the only competent authorities, of the authors of the crime under discussion.

 

It having been shown that Italian subjects were slain by said lynching and that there has been a failure on the part of the only competent authorities to indict or bring the guilty parties to trial in any form the president feels that a case has been established that should be submitted to the consideration of Congress with a view to the relief of the families of Italian subjects will lost their lives by lawless violence, which will accordingly be done on the reassembling Congress in December next.

 

Accept, etc,                                                                    

JOHN HAY.

 

 ******************************************************************************************************************

Baron Fava to Mr. Hay.

[Translation.]

 

EMBASSY OF HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF ITALY,

Washington, October 14, 1900.

 

Mr. SECRETARY Or STATE: Your excellency was pleased to express to me, in your esteemed note of the 12th of June last in reply to my protest of the 6th of May of this year, the sentiments of high reprobation of the Federal Government for the unspeakable acts of violence committed the year before at Tallulah against Italian subjects.

 

But you reminded me of the dual nature of the Government in the United States and of the inadequacy of the Federal laws, which the President had, within the bounds of his powers, endeavored to remedy.

 

Lastly, your excellency informed me that since the failure of the proper authorities to indict or bring the guilty to any form of trial had been established, it was the President's intent that the case should, on the coming December, be laid before Congress for the purpose of relieving the families of the Italian subjects who had fallen victims to that slaughter.

 

I have the honor to take formal notice of that communication, which I shall not fail to bring to the knowledge of the Government of the King. I am sure it will appreciate the explicit condemnation with which the Federal Government, hampered by the working of its powers, in conjunction with those of the States has branded, by the mouth of your excellency, the excesses of Tallulah and the doings of the judicial authorities of Louisiana.

 

Yet this straightforward and spontaneous condemnation will afford it a well-founded plea for insisting upon the now pressing necessity of preventing the recurrence of such frequent deeds of blood, which can not but find encouragement in their present impunity. This can not be accomplished without appropriate laws for the protection of the safety reciprocally guaranteed by the treaties, and your excellency correctly surmises in adverting, in the note which I am answering, to the efforts made in that direction by the President, within the bounds of his powers. The two bills in that sense now pending in Congress are indeed the outcome of the earnest recommendations made in his message of December last, and I am confident that it will be pleased to continue till the end the exercise of his efficient action toward convincing those legislative bodies that the approval of the two bills under discussion will happily remove the only but frequent causes of difference between our two countries, whose mutual friendship is so strong.

 

Now, with respect to the purpose of the President, as communicated by you, concerning an indemnity for the families of the Iynched Italians, I am of opinion that the Government of the King has no right to object to or to refuse a measure taken in an absolute spontaneous manner by the Administration and Congress of the United States, especially if such a measure should be, in strict justice, extended to such of the lynched Italians who had assumed the citizenship of the United States as have remained Italian subjects.

 

But a measure of that character, prompted by considerations of humanity toward the families of the victims, can not dispose of the question raised for the Italian Government by the cruel slaughter at Tallulah. It has asked no more than the effective course of justice and the protection guaranteed by the treaties. As affecting the relations between the two Governments, the question can not at be solved otherwise than by provisions of law similar to those contained in the Davis and Hitt bills now pending in the Senate and House of Representatives which modify the Federal jurisdiction. It would therefore be desirable not to let the indemnity measure for which the President purposes to call upon Congress assume or be given the character of a final solution to the unpleasant question. Nothing could be more contrary to the true condition of things:

 

It is for your excellency alone to judge what will be the best means of attaining this end and of preventing influences in both Houses to use that act of humanity for an argument against carrying out Federal legislation for the protection of aliens now under consideration in the American Parliament.

 

By way of simple suggestion, I take the liberty of saying that the difficulties which l submit to the high consideration of your excellency might be eluded if the proposition for the indemnity to the families of the victims were presented after the approval of the two above-mentioned bills, which approval is, I believe, made secure by the good and efficient offices of the President and the Administration.

 

Be pleased, etc.,

FAVA

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Baron Favor to Mr. Hay.

 

EMBASSY OF HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF ITALY,

Washington, October 14, 1900.

 

MR. SECRETARY or STATE: When I laid before your excellency with my note of the 15th of January of this year certain et evidence to help in the detention of the guilty in the Tallulah lynching, I had occasion to advert also to the case of Giuseppe Defina, a brother-in-law of the Difatta brothers, who was, on the evening of the lynching, threatened with death by the mob if he should not depart from Millikens Bend, where he lived, and had to repair to Vicksburg, leaving house and property behind.

 

I reserved to myself the right of again taking up this matter, concerning which I wanted to collect more precise information.

 

I now transmit herewith to your excellency, with a request that they be returned to me, the following papers:

 

  1. Certified copy of an extract from an account of the lynching, given under date of July 26, 1889, by the representative of the consulate at New Orleans, who had gone to inquire on the spot (Ann. A). \
  2. . Certified copy of an affidavit of Giuseppe Defina, taken by the Royal consular agent at Vicksburg (Ann. B).

 

3. Copy of a report from the Royal consulate at New Orleans of the 18th September 1899 (Ann. C).

 

From these documents, which, I am privately assured are in accordance with the facts, there results: First, that Defina actually had to abandon his property, with his family, in order to save his life. The testimony of Drs. Ward and Gane, who may be examined in this connection, and who warned him of the danger he would be in if he did not put himself immediately out of harm's way, is especially important in that respect. Second, that in spite of the sheriff's assurances Defina was on all hands advised not to return to the spot, which, indeed, he never visited again. Finally, that Defina, who has now lost his all, sets his loss at about $5,000.

 

Under ordinary circumstances I would have advised him to apply to the local judicial authorities. But your excellency is not the person to whom I need demonstrate how the conditions of justice in that district are such as to make any kind of resort to those courts wholly superfluous. Nor does it avail to say that he would have a special jurisdiction open to him in the Federal courts of Louisiana in his character of an alien for he could find no one inclined to testify for fear of vengeance. The judicial point would at length be raised whether the country or the parish were responsible for the violence of the mob for the scanty safety of the place or whether the several individuals should be held responsible, in which case it would not be involved to find them out. There would be, in addition, the costs involved in such a procedure.

 

It has therefore seemed to me that this was a proper case to submit to the equity of the Federal Government, owing to its connection with a condition of things that your excellency has not hesitated to acknowledge and deplore. I send you herewith, to that effect a petition (Ann. D) that Lawyer Commander Baisini, head of the International Judicial Institute, counsel of Defina, has addressed to the Royal ministry for foreign affairs and that the latter has transmitted to me with special recent recommendation that I ask of the Federal Government such indemnification for damages as Defina would appear to be unable to secure in any other way.

 

I doubt not that your excellency, fully appreciating the justice of the case, will direct an examination of the papers and take the present application in benevolent consideration.

 

Be pleased, etc.,

FAVA.

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[Inclosure I. --Translation.]

 

Mr. Cavalli to Mr. Papini

NEW ORLEANS, LA., July 26, 1899.

 

[Notes of the representative of the Royal consulate in the investigation made by the consular agent, Mr. N. Piazza, at Tallulah, La.]

 

I deem it my duty, in order to justify the delay of forty-eight hours in leaving Vicksburg for Tallulah, as the assistant of this Royal consulate in the official investigation ordered by the Royal agent to make the following statement:

 

As soon as I had arrived at Vicksburg I called on the Royal consular agent, who had already received a telegram from the consul notifying him of my arrival. The agent received me, but, having heard that I proposed to go to Tallulah at once in company with him, he refused positively to leave Vicksburg, declaring that he would not do so on any account because --

 

1. The occurrence took place outside of his jurisdiction, he being the Royal agent for Mississippi, and the lynching having taken place in Louisiana.

 

2. He had been advised by everybody not to go, owing to the risk that he would run, the minds of the people, as he had been informed, not yet being pacified. Among his advisers was Attorney Pat Henry, who, having gone alone to Tallulah on Friday to look after the interests of Romano, a creditor of Frank Difatta, was very coldly received and observed in the district manifest signs of aversion to any person who came there on account of matters connected with the lynching.

 

3. He considered any investigation at Tallulah as being useless and out of place, the entire colony residing there having been broken up.

 

It was therefore not to be presumed that sincere, honest, and dispassionate declarations could be had of the inhabitants, and it appeared from the testimony of one person who had witnessed the crime, but who was unwilling to make himself known, owing to the fear which he felt, that all, or almost all, the persons composing the population of that village had taken part directly in the murder or had consented to it.

 

4.  Because it would be easier for him to make an investigation in some place other than that in which the murder had been committed.

 

In view of these objections, I, thinking that the instructions received from Royal consulate authorized me to act as an assistant to the aforesaid officer in investigation which the Royal agent was ordered to make, informed this Royal consulate by telephone of the objections of the agent, requesting the consulate to telegraph again to the agent, insisting that he should start with me.

 

At the same time, with a view to overcoming the hesitation of the Royal agent, I requested the consulate to procure, without delay, from the governor of the State some sort of an assurance that the Royal agent and the representative of the consulate would have no trouble if they went to the place. A dispatch from the consulate was soon received insuring the Royal agent that he might freely go to Tallulah.  When I informed him of this he told me that he had, of his own accord telegraphed to the sheriff of Tallulah, and that the latter had answered him, giving him the most ample assurances. At this point the hesitation of the Royal agent ceased. But at my urgent request that he would set out immediately on Sunday the 23rd, and, the train, which arrived at 11.35 had to be awaited, that he would start in the morning early, hiring a carriage in order to arrive promptly at the place, and thus having ample time to examine the place and investigate the case as fully as possible, the Royal agent objected, saying that on Sunday, according to the American custom the persons who were to furnish to us their assistance could not be relied upon that purpose, and that it was not proper to disturb these gentlemen on Sunday. He consequently thought that we ought to wait till Monday.

 

As it was therefore not possible for me to prevail upon him to start, I was obliged to wait until Monday, the 24th, when we finally set out.

 

It can easily be imagined that at Tallulah, for reasons that can be more easily guessed than described, it would not be possible to secure any information as all parties there were pledged to silence. The Royal agent, however, did not fail to do all in his power to perform his task properly. I should have been glad to remain all day at Tallulah, and night too, and to leave on the next day by a freight train that arrived in the morning. I had expressed this desire to the Royal agent, not because I was convinced that we could accomplish anything by remaining or because I thought that by remaining we could learn more than was already known. I only wished to do so to order to give moral satisfaction to the Royal consulate, to the inhabitants of the locality by showing them that we were in no haste to leave, likewise to the people of Vicksburg. The Royal agent was informed of my desire and I telegraphed to the Royal consulate, saying that we should stop there over night, but a few moments afterward, the Royal agent told me that he desired to leave by the next train, for reasons known to himself, which he told me afterwards. In this state of things I, in my turn, requested the Royal agent to suppress the notice given to this Royal consulate, and, at about 4 o’clock, we left. The Royal agent did not think proper to remain any longer, because there was no ground to hope to obtain from those gentlemen any reliable information, and because, as we both, for very good reasons, had been obliged to accept the hospitality so generously extended to us and the cordial welcome or those persons, a part of whom perhaps – if not all -- had taken part in the murder, it would not be proper to go beyond the bounds which we would certainly have been obliged to do had we remained.

 

EXPLANATION MADE AT VICKSBURG, MISS. WITH REGARD TO THE LYNCHING.

 

One Frank Raymond, a traveling painter who frequently visited Tallulah and its vicinity was on the best of terms with the deceased Frank Difatta. He was examined at length by me at Vicksburg. He claimed that he knew the name of an upright and disinterested person who, in all probability, had witnessed the lynching which took place on the 20th, and who, if examined in a distant place where he could be sure that he would not be exposed to danger on account of his answers, might give valuable testimony. That person, the painter said, was a man named Blander, a barber at Tallulah, who conducted his business opposite to the establishment of one John Wilson, who (Raymond said) had been an instigator of or participant in the murder. Raymond declared that he was ready to answer any questions. He knew the deceased, spoke well of them, and knew that there was a latent grudge against them and that he had often warned them to avoid difficulties that might result in a catastrophe. If that is true, he was a prophet.

 

 It is claimed that a certain ----------, a saloon keeper, egged on the crowd to perpetuate the murder, promising whisky and beer gratis to them if they would lynch the Italians Frank Difatta, Rosario Fiducia, and Cirone. According to Raymond there was a plot, not among the Italians to do harm to the doctor, but among the shopkeepers of the village and others, from a spirit of rivalry in trade, and from a desire to prevent the Italians from voting. From the examination of Giuseppe Defina, of Cefalu, a brother-in-law of Frank Difatta, and a tradesman, apparently in good standing, which examination was held by the undersigned, it would appear that he fled precipitately in order to avoid death, together or with his son Salvatore.

 

He resided at Millikens Bend, La., a village about 5 miles from Tallulah, and he lived there for about six years. His business was flourishing. On the evening of the lynching a boss met a crowd of armed men on the road from Tallulah to Millikens Bend. He stopped them and asked them where they were going. He was told that they were go going to Defina’s house to kill him. He dissuaded the crowd from doing so, assuring them, that Defina did not deserve to be lynched, as he had done nothing that called for such a measure.

 

He succeeded in inducing the crowd to retrace their steps, but they told him to let Defina know that twenty-four hours' time would be given him to leave that locality, and that if he failed to do so in that time he would be killed

 

On the following day Dr. Ghem (Gaines), having learned at Tallulah that the twenty-four hours’ delay which had been granted to Defina had been reduced by those rascals to two hours, and having been unable to induce them to change their minds, went to Defina’s residence and told him to leave the village at once if he did not wish to be killed.

 

 Defina then secured a small boat and made his escape on the river, repairing to Vicksburg and leaving his store and the debts that were due him to their fate, since he could not do otherwise. It appears, however, that the store was respected. At Tallulah the writer inquired of the authorities whether Defina could return to his home; he was told in reply that he could do so without running any risk, but that, as friends, they could not advise him to remain there long.

 

The reliable person mentioned in the report of the Royal agent (which report I had the honor to draw up) is a priest, who does not wish to have his name mentioned, inasmuch as he is obliged to go to Tallulah from time to time to perform the duties of his ministry.  He resides at Lake Providence. He is a Frenchman. He had a long conversation with the undersigned. His opinion is that all the people of the locality took part, either directly or indirectly, in the killing of the Italians, who were disliked for the reasons above mentioned.

 

He mentioned the name of Judge Montgomery, of the court at Tallulah, as a possible impartial witness. The judge, when interviewed at Vicksburg on the morning of the 24th by the royal consular agent and requested to throw some light on the subject, excused himself on the ground of the judicial position which he held at Tallulah, which was incompatible, as he said, with the position of a witness.

 

I have nothing more to add.

ENRICO CAVALLI.

A true copy of the original.

C. PAPINI [L. S.]

In Charge.

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[Inclosure 2.]

 

Royal consular agency of his Majesty the King of Italy at Vicksburg.

 

In the reign of His Majesty Humbert I, by the grace of God and the will of the nation, King of Italy.

 

In the year 1899, on the 13th day of the month of December, in the State of Mississippi and at the royal consular agency of Italy, before me, Chevalier Natale Piazza, royal consular agent, assisted by Mr. A. J. Tirelli, acting as chancellor, personally appeared Giuseppe Difina, son of Matteo Defina, and Giuseppe  Difina being a native of Cefalu, now residing at Anguilla, Mississippi, and after taking his due form of law before us, made the following statement:

 

I emigrated to America in the year 1889, going at first to New Orleans, and, in 1892, I went to reside at Millikens Bend, Louisiana, where I opened a provision and miscellaneous store.

 

By my good conduct I soon acquired a reputation as being a more honest man than any of the others engaged in similar business, and thus I secured numerous customers and I soon found myself in an enviable position, being able to make loans and to sell my goods on credit to the families of the place, who paid for the goods when they had gathered their cotton crops.

 

On the night of July 20th, at Tallulah, after the lynching of my unfortunate brothers-in-law, the lynchers, who knew me well, because I frequently came to Tallulah on business, having accomplished their cruel deed, decided to go to Millikens Bend for the purpose of lynching me, wishing to kill the last Italian that still lived in the country.

 

 Mr. Ward, an owner of real estate at Millikens Bend who that night was on the road between Tallulah and Millikens Bend fell in with a group of armed men to whom, I believe, he was known. He asked them where they were going, and they said: "we are going to Millikens Bend to lynch the Difinas." Ward, who had always been very friendly to me, was greatly surprised and displeased at the plan which those men proposed to carry out. He implored them in my behalf, praising me highly, but could get no promise from those ruffians, who were still thirsting for our blood. He pleaded so hard, however, that he induced them to promise that I should have two hours to leave the country, in default of which I should be lynched. As Mr. Ward could not go to my house, he fell in with Dr. Ganes after he had induced the lynchers to withdraw. Dr. Ganes is a resident of Millikens Bend, and had just returned from Tallulah, where he had visited Dr Hodge, who was the cause of the lynching.  He was then going to his own house, and was requested by Mr. Ward to inform me of the decision of the murderers, viz, that if I had not got out of the way in two hours I should be lynched without mercy.

 

When I received this unwelcome information I understood that Dr. Ganes, without I having himself seen the band that Mr. Ward had met, had been informed of the threats made by the lynchers against me even before he had left Tallulah that night.

 

A few minutes before the doctor’s arrival at my house, I had been informed of the occurrences of that night by a negro who accompanied the doctor on his trip to Tallulah and back, and while I was awaiting more precise information I observed that various persons living at Millikens Bend had assembled in a group, and that they were secretly talking to each other about the lynching at Tallulah; and also, I think about the threats of the lynchers to kill me. I observed that those persons felt very badly about the plight in which I was in, but I do not believe that if the lynchers had come to Millikens Bend those people would have resisted the assassins in order to save me and my children.

 

Having been informed by Ganes that Hodge was dying, and that if he died my life would certainly not be spared by the lynchers, I decided to flee with my children without loss of time on board of a small boat, having been told by Ganes and others that it would be exceedingly dangerous for me to leave Millikens Bend by land. I went to Vicksburg, sailing along the Mississippi River. You know that you saw me there in a deplorable condition, and suffering from a burning fever. You remember that I told you all what had happened to me. Of course, I left to its fate a well-furnished house, which was full of all kinds of merchandise, household furniture, three horses, four carts, and eleven acres of land planted with indian corn and cabbages, together with other garden stuff which was entirely destroyed by the thieves. I had, moreover, outstanding debts to the value of more than $2,000 as my book will show, without counting various sums, both in money and goods, loaned to persons with whom I did not have an account opened. I have several times reckoned up my losses conscientiously, and have found that I had suffered a loss amounting to about $6,000, but having recovered, through honest persons, the three horses that I had lost which were in the woods dying of hunger and three damaged and useless carts together with some boxes of old merchandise of no value, which had been left by my nocturnal visitors, because the articles of good quality fell into the hands of the conscienceless thieves; thus, having recovered those articles, together with the animals in question I compute my losses as amounting to not less than $6,000.

 

I have inquired of several influential persons living at Millikens Bend whether I could return to that place in order to settle up my affairs without being disturbed by the enemies of the Italians, but they have all told me that if I should return I would certainly be maltreated and even mercilessly lynched, because those people are no jokers.

 

The consul at New Orleans interested herself in procuring an order for me from the governor of the State authorizing me to go to Millikens Bend to settle up my affairs, promising me protection by the local authorities. I have not been willing to accept this, because if those authorities can not prevent a lynching like that which took place at Tallulah, they certainly can not prevent one in the woods at Millikens Bend, through which I should he obliged to pass in order to settle up my affairs.

 

Having been advised, as I have before remarked, by influential persons of the locality, to abandon everything and not go there if I care for my life, I think that the part of a prudent man is to follow this advice.

 

A few days ago my son Matteo, a highly respectable youth who was always well liked before our misfortune at Millikens Bend, desired to go to a farm near there to collect a debt from a farmer who owes me $350. Scarcely had he been seen by some person of the neighborhood when they came to him and urged him as friends to keep out of the neighborhood, and to go away quickly because, as they said, the hatred of the Italians was constantly increasing and, if he should he seen, it would be a serious misfortune to him (observe that the persons in question are friendly to us and owe us nothing); consequently you can understand that my flight from the place was not caused by fear, but by the reality of the threats of those cruel people.

 

In view of my serious loses owing to this unfortunate affair, I find that I have suffered damage to the amount of not less than $5,000, and feeling certain that the Government of my native country will not fail to support my claims, I have, through Mr. Baisini, my representative, made a statement to his excellency the minister of foreign affairs of Italy, setting forth with truth and sincerity all the painful misfortune which I have suffered.

 

I have made a statement of the foregoing, by means of the present procès verbal, which, after having been read and ratified, is subscribed by the deponent in my presence.

 

 The deponent                                                                                         GIUSEPPE DEFINA

 The royal consular agent.

 N. PIAZZA.

 The acting chancellor.

 

A. L. TIRELLI. [L. S.]

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[Inclosure 3.]

 

The officer in charge of the royal consulate of Italy at New Orleans, to the royal embassy of Italy at Washington, D. C.

 

NEW ORLEANS, September 18, 1899.

I deem it my duty to report to your excellency the following:

 

Giuseppe Delfino (or Defina) the Italian who escaped from Millikens Bend, when the lynching took place at Tallulah, through fear lest he also should be lynched, informed this consulate that he desired to return to Millikens Bend in order to settle up his affairs and asked that the authorities would guarantee his personal safety.

 

I consequently addressed the governor of the State; Governor Foster wrote to the sheriff at Tallulah, and handed me the sheriff's reply, a copy of which I have the honor herewith to inclose. I likewise sent a copy to Defina, as appears from a letter from him, which I have the honor to submit to your excellency, begging that it may be returned to me; in this letter Defina points out that his life is not sufficiently guaranteed by a piece of paper, and states that he reserves the right to claim indemnity.

 

(Signed)                                                                                                             C. PAPPINI

In Charge of the Italian Consulate at New Orleans.

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[Inclosure 4.]

 

Mr. Baisini to the Royal minister of Foreign Affairs, Rome

 

STRESA, LAGO MAGGIORE

September 19, 1899.

 

I have received very grave news from Vicksburg, which must certainly have been brought to the notice of the Royal ministry under your charge, since the writer of the letter to me is well known at the Royal consular agency there The case as stated to me is as follows: After the killing of the Difatta brothers and their two companions, the band of lynchers, having learned that a brother-in-law of the Difattas, named Giuseppe Defina, of Cefalù, was settled in the village of Millikens Bend, Madison County, held a council, at which they decreed the death of both him and his entire family, for no crime save that he was connected by marriage with the unfortunate men who had been lynched. Without losing any time the lynchers mounted their horses arid started for that village in order to carry out their nefarious design. Fortunately a friend of Defina, a American, having received intelligence of their plan, mounted his best horse and galloped to inform Defina that he was threatened with lynching. The poor man had scarcely time to collect his children and to escape by precipitately crossing the Mississippi River. He had a good business at Millikens where he had 11 acres of land under cultivation, where he raised vegetables, etc. and had outstanding debts to the amount of about $2,000, and he also had furniture, horses, carts, etc. In order to save his life he was obliged to abandon everything, without hope of returning, and he is now, with his children, without employment and plunged in the direst misery.

 

In my capacity as attorney for the unfortunate Defina (as shown by an authenticated instrument bearing date of April 15, 1899, drawn up at the office of the Royal consular chancellor at Vicksburg), I deem it my duty to call the attention of the Royal ministry under your charge to this additional crime perpetuated upon our countrymen, and I respectfully ask that, if proper evidence of this act is obtained, you will, in the negotiations now pending with the United States Government on account of the lynching at Tallulah, efficiently uphold the rights of my poor client to moral and material indemnity.

 

With the most profound esteem, etc.,

(Signed)                                                                                               JACOPO BAISINI

Director-General of the International Law Bureau

 

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Mr. Adee to Baron Fava.

 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, October 19, 1900.

 

EXCELLENCY: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 14th instant, relating to the lynching of certain Italian subjects and persons of Italian origin at Tallulah, La.

 

The suggestion contained in your note will be taken into consideration.

Accept, etc.

ALVEY A. ADEE,

Acting Secretary

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Baron Fava to Mr. Hay.

 

Personal and                                                            EMBASSY OF H. M. THE KING of ITALY,

Confidential.                                                                                      Washington, D. C., November 26, 1900.

 

MY DEAR MR. HAY: On the eve of the reopening of Congress I take the liberty to beg you, in a merely friendly way, to submit courteously to the President the following considerations and requests:

 

The hope that the President expressed in his message of last year that the authorities of Louisiana would duly punish the perpetrators of the Tallulah lynchings has, unhappily, not been fulfilled. The guilty parties have not been punished.

 

In this condition of things the question of the protection of the Italian subjects can only be resolved between the two Governments by legislative provisions which, like those contained in the two bills, Davis and Hitt, afford a guaranty for the future according to the treaties.

 

I appeal again to the well-known sense of justice of the President, in order that this year, too, his authoritative word may explain to the nation its incumbent duty of protecting effectively the safety and lives of the citizens of a friendly country, and kindly suggest to the Congress the speedy adoption of the above-mentioned bills.

 

Believe me, etc.,

FAVA.

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Mr. Hay to Barron Fava.

 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, November 27, 1900.

 

MY DEAR AMBASSADOR: Answering your personal communication of the 20th, I have the pleasure to inform you that the subject of the Tallulah lynchings and the question of providing a Federal forum for such cases, concerning which you have heretofore conferred with me, have been duly considered by the President and will be appropriately treated in his forthcoming message.

 

Believe me to be, etc.                                                                                                       JOHN HAY.

 

*******************************************************************************************************************

Baron Fava to Mr. Hay.

 

EMBASSY OF H. M. THE KING OF ITALY.

Washington, December 4, 1900.

 

Mr. SECRETARY of STATE: I did not fail to inform the minister of foreign affairs of Italy, by telegraph, of the sentiments expressed by the President in his message to Congress on account of the death of His Majesty King Humbert. I also gave in full what is contained in the message with regard to the Tallulah incident.

 

I have the honor, at the same time, to inform you that His Majesty the King, my august sovereign, has, with great pleasure, taken note of the declaration contained in the aforesaid message of the President concerning the conferring upon the Federal courts of jurisdiction in the case of outrages committed against foreigners. I have the honor to request your excellency's kind intervention to make known the gratification felt by my sovereign to His Excellency the President.

 

I tender you, Mr. Secretary of State, my thanks in advance, and reiterate, etc.'

 

FAVA.



[1] See Foreign Relations, 1899, pp. 440-466; also references to same subject in the President's messages to Congress, December 5, 1899, and December 3, 1900.