Mr. Preston to Mr. Evarts.
Washington, April 4, 1879.
The Government of Hayti having decided to lay directly before the Federal Department of State, with a view to reaching a more speedy settlement, the question raised last year at Port au Prince by the minister resident of the United States on the occasion of the repassage of the license law of October 30, 1876, on August 14, 1877, the undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Hayti, has the honor to submit the following statements to the consideration of the honorable Secretary of State of the United States:
Article 174 of the constitution of Hayti provides that “taxes for the benefit of the state shall be voted annually.”
It was in pursuance of this provision that the license law passed in 1876 was again passed in August, 1877, for the next fiscal year, as the different license laws had been, both before and since the conclusion of the treaty of 1864, between the United States and Hayti. The last, only with the exception of the decree of Ex-President Domingue (which bore date of December 23, 1875), regulating the same matter, called forth a protest from the American legation, although this law is more liberal than those which preceded it.
The Hon. Mr. Langston protested on the 3d day of May, 1878, against the sanction of the law promulgated in 1876, invoking Article V of the treaty between the two republics, and demanding that the sums paid by American citizens, contrarily to the treaty, should be refunded to them.
In a note bearing date of December 7, 1878, the secretary of state of foreign relations of Hayti presented to Mr. Langston a statement of the licenses which have been established by the fiscal laws of the republic since 1860. It appears therefrom that a difference has always existed between the rates required of natives and foreigners, licenses never having been assimilated to the contributions referred to in Article Y, but rather to the provisions of Article VI: “The citizens of each of the contracting parties shall be permitted to engage in business, provided [Page 592] they submit to the laws, as well general as special, relative to the rights of trading.” Likewise, to the provisions of Article XXXV.
The fact that no protest was made against this fiscal measure during the first thirteen years of the existence of the treaty is a sufficient proof that the American Government did not interpret Article V as it now does, but that it agreed with the different branches of the Government of Hayti.
The undersigned deems it necessary to cite the following articles of the Haytian constitution (1867), in order to establish the interpretation of Articles V and VI of the treaty by his government.
Article 44 says: “The law-making power shall be exercised by two representative branches; a House of Commons and a Senate, which (together) shall form the legislative body.”
Article 73, paragraph 3 (of the powers of the National Assembly, house and senate united), says: “To ratify or reject treaties of peace, alliance, neutrality, commerce, and other international conventions concluded by the executive branch of the government.”
According to the constitution of 1846, which was in force in the republic in 1864, this power of the National Assembly was vested in the senate alone (by Article 106). The law-making power was exercised, according to Article 46, “collectively, by the executive and by two representative branches, the House of Representatives and the Senate.”
As the undersigned has stated above, the various license laws never called forth any objection from the representatives of the United States at Port au Prince, except in 1876, on the occasion of a decree bearing date of December 23, 1875, issued by the executive, and establishing this tax in violation of Article 83 of the constitution (1874), which contains the following provision: “The legislative branch shall make laws concerning all matters of public interest. Nevertheless, all laws relative to the public receipts and expenditures, to imposts or contributions, shall be passed first by the House of Representatives.”
The Hon. E. D. Bassett, who was then minister of the United States, protested against the proposed rates, which established a difference of eight times the value between native citizens and foreigners. He invoked, as does his successor, the fifth article of the treaty. The Haytian Government, with a view to putting an end to the question Under discussion, decide to give notice of its desire for the termination of the treaty according to Article 42, and to communicate this notice to the Washington cabinet, through Mr. Bassett.
The undersigned had several interviews on this subject with the Hon. Hamilton Fish, then Secretary of State of the United States. Meanwhile, the events of the month of April, 1876, occurred, which put an end to the Government of President Domingue. The new administration at once suspended the execution of the decree which had given rise to the protest of the American legation, and re-established the state of things that had existed in 1871.
In consequence of various steps, both official and unofficial, which had been taken by the minister resident of the United States near the department of foreign relations of Hayti, as is shown by the two notes that were addressed to him by that department on the 10th of June and 16th of September, 1876, and which were communicated by him to his government, with his dispatches of June 21 and September 16 of the same year, it was agreed that the Government of Hayti should withdraw the note of Mr. Excellent of the 4th of April preceding, whereby he had expressed the desire of the government to terminate the treaty of 1864, according to its provisions.[Page 593]
It was officially agreed (the undersigned thinks that the Hon. Mr. Evarts will find proof of this in the Department of State at Washington) that the protest of Mr. Bassett should be withdrawn, the legislative body of Hayti having re-established the previously existing license fees by the law of October 30, 1876, which is the same that was passed again in August, 1877, and that occasioned the action of Mr. Langston.
The undersigned thinks he can assert that it was thus decided because this tax on licenses, which is the only direct tax paid by foreigners in Hayti, whether to cities, communes, or to the central government, was considered very moderate.
The undersigned will also call the attention of the honorable Secretary of State to the fact that there are scarcely two tax-payers in the entire republic who can legitimately call themselves citizens of the United States.
In view of the interpretation given to Articles V and VI of the treaty, of the fact that; both before and since its ratification, the difference between the rates for licenses was accepted, of the smallness of the amount, of the very small number of tax-payers who are entitled to claim the protection of the Federal Government, and of the understanding which was reached on this subject in 1876 the undersigned hopes that the honorable Secretary of State will consent to the continuance of the established state of things, as did his honorable predecessor, and that he will instruct Mr. Langston’to withdraw his protest.
The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to renew to the honorable Secretary of State the assurances of his very high consideration.