File No. 838.111/119.
The American Minister to the Secretary of State.
Port au Prince, March 25, 1913.
Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that the Legation continues to have much difficulty in protecting United States citizens of Syrian origin.
In 1912, during the Leconte administration when the persecution of those of Syrian origin commenced under the guise of enforcing the Syrian Exclusion Act of 1903, I finally made an arrangement with the President and the Secretary of Foreign Relations whereby such United States citizens of Syrian origin who were naturalized prior to the going into effect of the law of 1903, and who were in business in Haiti prior to the time, would be considered as having a right under the law to remain in Haiti and engage in commercial affairs.
The Haitian Government already having granted licenses to do business for the year 1911–1912 to some of those who are under the protection of this Legation, I occupied myself with procuring licenses for such others as, in accord with the agreement entered into, had a right to licenses permitting them to do business.
I accordingly furnished the Secretary of Foreign Relations with a list of those without licenses, for each of whom I requested one. On this list I set forth the date of naturalization of each. There being one or two to whom final naturalization papers were issued in 1904, it was agreed that these would be accepted [excepted], for the reason that such persons must have filed their first papers at least two years prior, thereby showing that there was no attempt to evade the Exclusion Act of 1903.
The list as furnished was sent by the Haitian Government to its Minister at Washington with instructions to have it verified. Upon the request of the Haitian Minister the Department supplied the date of naturalization of the parties named and sent me a copy of the list handed to the Haitian Minister. The data of the Department’s list, with one exception, corresponded with that given on the list which I had furnished the Haitian Government. Upon information furnished by the Legation the one exception noted was corrected by the Department and the Haitian Government issued the desired licenses. So much for the history of the affair.
It was expected that the matter, once agreed upon with the Haitian Government, would be settled for all time; but; instead, the Haitian Government has continued to harass and embarrass those to whom licenses were issued. A friend of mine, who is an intimate friend of the President and Secretary Leger, has repeatedly told me that it is the intention of the Haitian Government to harass those of Syrian origin who are still in Haiti until they of their own free will leave. My friend says that Secretary Leger assured him there would not be even an American of Syrian origin in Haiti within a year or two. It appears to me that my friend has correctly informed me as to the attitude of the Haitian Government towards those of Syrian origin, [Page 578] for in no other way can I account for the unnecessary harassment and embarrassment occasioned them.
In so far as the Syrians of American naturalization are concerned, the Haitian Government having once admitted their right to remain in Haiti and do business, it would appear to me that they should be protected against any overt act on the part of the Haitian Government, and the Haitian Government should be clearly informed that our Government intends to protect them; intends to see to it that they are no longer harassed and embarrassed. The Americans of Syrian origin in Haiti are respectable and law-abiding citizens. I know every one of them personally, and I wish all of our native-born citizens who come to Haiti would be as much a credit to our country as they are. These Americans of Syrian origin own stores and deal almost exclusively in American products. They are a benefit to our export trade, a greater benefit than any other class for the reason that they are content with a small profit and a large turn-over and are consequently large and frequent importers of our products, while the merchants of other nationalities, more particularly Haitian, prefer large profits and small sales and are consequently small importers.
I shall not attempt at this time to review the Syrian question in Haiti. I have already sent forward numerous despatches on that subject clearly proving that the campaign against them was ill advised. On this occasion I am calling attention to the treatment accorded Americans of Syrian origin and setting forth what I have recently done to protect them.
[Here follow circumstantial accounts of cases in each of which the Minister, in numerous interviews with the President, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and minor officials, vigorously insisted on fair treatment of American citizens of Syrian origin who were being deliberately persecuted by Haitian officials of various ranks; these persons were John Milhim, Elbert Dow, Daniel John and John Stambouly—all except Daniel John coming within the provisions of the Haitian agreement as to licenses for American citizens of Syrian origin. The Minister in each case obtained reluctant compliance with his demands, but was left with a sense of insecurity as to future treatment of such persons.]
I have gone into the details of the above cases that the Department might see the great amount of time consumed in protecting the Americans of Syrian origin. As has been stated in various prior despatches, our citizens of Syrian origin, if let alone, would give no trouble to anyone. They are peaceful and law-abiding. The Haitian Government having agreed to allow them to remain in Haiti, it would appear to me that they should be fully protected by this Legation, which should be empowered to tell the Haitian Government in plain terms that the frequent and unnecessary annoyances to which these citizens are put will not be countenanced by our Government. Perhaps it would be better to tell this to the Haitian Minister at Washington with the request that he communicate it to his Government.
The present Haitian administration has great respect for the opinion of our State Department and would not care to unnecessarily endanger its amical relations with it. While I am always treated with respect and usually succeed in accomplishing what I desire in specific cases, yet it keeps me always on the watch in order to be able to [Page 579] resist the oft-repeated attacks on the United States citizens of Syrian origin in Haiti who, through these attacks, are caused not only unnecessary annoyances but loss of money, etc.
I have with firmness told the President, in informal conversation, that this Legation intended to protect them the same as native born citizens of the United States, and the promptness with which I have gone to him with each abuse and requested its correction has shown this. The Haitian Government, once having acknowledged that under the Syrian Exclusion Act such of our citizens of Syrian origin as are now in Haiti have the same right to be here and do business as those of other origin or nationality, it should be forced to cease annoying them.
I have [etc.]