The Secretary of State to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: I enclose for your consideration a telegram to our Legation at Port au Prince,4 which directs our Chargé to negotiate and sign a treaty with the Haytien Government along the lines of the treaty which was sought to be negotiated a year ago last July. It, of course, makes several alterations and additions covering the ground far more thoroughly and granting to this Government a much more extensive control than the original treaty proposed. I enclose also the file copy of the instructions sent to our Minister July 2, 1914, and also a draft of convention, with the alterations and additions included.5

I believe that I informed you yesterday in our interview that the Haytien Congress adjourns next Tuesday and, therefore, if we intend to sign a treaty and have it ratified by that congress, which is so friendly to our Government, before our own Congress assembles in December, there is no time for delay. If it is to be done at all, it will have to be done immediately.

I confess that this method of negotiation, with our marines policing the Haytien Capital, is high handed. It does not meet my sense of a nation’s sovereign rights and is more or less an exercise of force and an invasion of Haytien independence. From a practical standpoint, however, I cannot but feel that it is the only thing to do if we intend to cure the anarchy and disorder which prevails in that Republic. I believe it will be welcomed by the better element of the Haytien people, who now do not dare to take part in public affairs on account of the danger of assassination and massacre. It does not seem to me that the so-called Haytien revolutions are revolutions in fact, but, in reality, represent the struggle of bandits for control of the machinery of government which they utilize solely for the purpose of plunder. None of these so-called “generals” represent a principle or represent in any way the people of Haiti. The only possible way, it seems to me, of restoring to the Haytiens their political and personal rights and protecting them from the terrorism of unscrupulous military leaders is to obtain control, for a time at least, of the prize which these chieftains seek, namely, the public revenues of the Republic.

I have not been unmindful of the possible criticism which may be aroused in the Senate in case this treaty should be signed and submitted to them for action. As I said, it seems a high handed procedure, but I do not see how else we can obtain the desirable end of [Page 527] establishing a stable government in Haiti and maintaining domestic peace there.

I have seen the French Ambassador this morning in regard to the contractual obligations of the Haytien Government to the Bank of Haiti, which is a French corporation. In that connection I enclose, for your information, a memorandum of the provisions of the contract, which was submitted to the Department yesterday by Mr. Casenave, the President of the Bank.6 In case this treaty should become operative there would have to be an exchange of notes between the French Ambassador and this Department, in which we would state that the bank would continue to be the depository of the public funds of Haiti. While I did not disclose to the French Ambassador the text of the treaty, I suggested to him that we might feel compelled, in the interest of the Haytien people, to take charge of their finances and support the established government. With this he was heartily in accord, provided that we would protect the Bank of Haiti in its rights. The Ambassador evidenced a sentimental interest in the Republic and expressed the hope that we would not endeavor to change its language from French to English. As to that I gave him assurance that we had no such purpose.

This newly proposed treaty I prepared as soon as possible. I regret that I have not been able to send it to you sooner or to talk over the details of the plan, because I realize it is establishing a policy considerably in advance of our Dominican policy. The necessity of speedy action is my excuse for, if anything is to be done, a decision must be reached without delay in order that action may be taken before the adjournment of the Haytien Congress.7

Faithfully yours,

Robert Lansing
  1. Foreign Relation, 1915, p. 431.
  2. Ibid., p. 347.
  3. Memorandum not enclosed with file copy of this letter.
  4. The President replied in an undated memorandum: “This is, I think, necessary and has my approval. Do you think it will affect Latin American opinion unfavorably? W. W.” (File No. 711.38/24½.)