File No. 839.51/1488.

The Secretary of State to the Dominican Minister.

No. 126.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note No. 9, dated January 20, 1915, regarding appointments in the service of the receivership of the Dominican Republic.

In this connection your attention is invited to section 1 of the American-Dominican Convention of 1907, as follows:

That the President of the United States shall appoint a General Receiver of Dominican customs, who, with such Assistant Receivers and other employees of the Receivership as shall be appointed by the President of the United States in his discretion, shall collect all the customs duties accruing at the several customhouses of the Dominican Republic * * *.

This clearly gives to the President of the United States authority to appoint the persons who shall collect all the customs accruing at the several customhouses of the Dominican Republic. It is understood that this construction of sectional has been uniformly adhered to, though in practice, as will appear, the full authority has not been exercised.

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The first difference in construing this article of the convention arose in 1907 and, taking advantage of the presence in the United States of the general receiver and of the Secretary of Finance of the Dominican Republic, Señor Velasquez, a conference was held in Secretary Root’s office. A provisional agreement was reached relative to the appointment of subordinate officials under the receivership at the several customhouses in the Republic. The then Secretary of State agreed that the Dominican Government might name the collectors of customs, provided such appointments were agreeable to the general receiver, with the further proviso that no one of them should continue in the service if the general receiver notified the Government that such a person was not acceptable to the receivership.

This agreement was, from the point of view of the receivership, not satisfactory nor was it indeed ever carried out. The general receiver in April, 1909, complained of failure to carry out this agreement; again, in January, 1910, attention was called to the difficulty of having removed an exceedingly incompetent collector at the port of Santo Domingo. Again, in September, 1910, the general receiver recommended certain administrative reforms affecting the customs personnel, which, as a whole, was reported to be incompetent, the bulk of the appointees being reported to be political favorites, and many of them undesirable.

A similar condition was reported in May of 1911, with reference particularly to the port of Puerto Plata. The change of the Dominican administration at the close of the year 1911 was followed by a controversy with the general receiver over personnel, which continued throughout that administration, and in July, 1912, it was reported that there had been 67 separations from the customs service for various causes, representing 44% of the entire personnel and that competent employees had been dismissed in order to make room for political appointees without experience or training. It is fair to state that many of the removals were made on the ground that the employee was disloyal to the Government, and the fact that such disloyalty existed cannot be questioned.

The difficulty has been, therefore, that the Dominican Government has not been sufficiently interested in the efficiency of the personnel and has desired and has made changes without reference to the efficiency of the service. On the other hand the Dominican personnel has not at all times been loyal to the Government.

In the administration or the customs service it has been the desire of the President to obtain:

First, efficiency in collecting the revenues;

Second, economy in the administration;

Third, the use of the maximum of Dominican employees with a minimum of American employees compatible with the first two objects.

In order to meet the wishes of the Dominican Government, and without waiving the obvious construction of section 1 of the convention, or the power to put it in full effect, if necessary, the Secretary of State in 1907 held that the Dominican Government might name the Dominican customs employees, provided said appointments were agreeable to the general receiver and that no such employee should continue in the service if the general receiver notified the Government that such a person was not acceptable to the receivership.

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This was acceptable to the Dominican Minister to the United States and to Señor Velasquez, at that time Minister of Finance of the Dominican Government. This agreement was frequently ignored by the Dominican Government.

Desiring, however, to treat the Government of President Jiménes with every confidence it is believed that the following should be agreed upon:

  • First: Persons in the receivership employ should be removed only for disloyalty to the administration or for causes affecting their efficiency. The Government may allege either cause, the general receiver only a cause affecting efficiency. If, after hearing, the Government is satisfied of the disloyalty of the employee, it may remove him. If, after hearing, the general receiver is satisfied that an employee is not competent or is unfitted, the Government will, on recommendation of the general receiver, remove him at once.
  • Second: The Government will make no appointment to fill a vacancy until the general receiver certifies to the competency and fitness of the candidate.
  • Third: After July 1, 1915, no new appointment will be made in the service to higher positions when the general receiver certifies that there are fully qualified persons occupying positions in a lower grade, and the vacancy will be filled by the appointment of one of the persons in the lower grades certified by the general receiver to be qualified for promotion.
  • Fourth: The location, assignment and transfers of persons in the customs service will be exclusively controlled by the general receiver.

It is desired to impress on the Dominican Government that the cost of collecting the revenue has been and will be materially increased by incompetent personnel; that the number of American and supervisory employees could be materially decreased if the Dominican Government would permit a continuity of service so that the Dominican employees could become competent to perform their duties; that, in fact, if by appointing an incompetent person it becomes necessary for the general receiver to employ a competent person to overlook his work, it would really be an economy for the Dominican Government to pay the incompetent person and keep him away from the customs service altogether.

It should be made clear that while the President of the United States has a right under the convention to appoint the entire personnel engaged in collecting customs duties at the several customs houses of the Republic, it was not his desire so to do. It was the desire of this Government simply that the general receiver should, with reference to the appointment of the Dominican personnel, be given the same authority and confidence which would be given an official of the Dominican Government performing this duty; and this authority and confidence required that no appointment be made without the certification of the general receiver of their competency, and that removals of incompetent or dishonest persons be promptly made, on the recommendation of the general receiver. On the other hand, the general receiver not being so thoroughly acquainted with local conditions, the question of loyalty to the Government of employees should be passed on by the Dominican Government.

The foregoing is submitted with the belief that if observed in good faith by the general receiver and the Dominican Government, most [Page 305]of the friction which has arisen heretofore will be avoided; that in a very short time the personnel of the service will be such that there will be no temptation on the part of one or the other party to the agreement to make any change therein not in the interest of efficiency of the service.

The general receiver has shown his desire to avoid any question of favoritism by providing a system of examinations which would determine the competency of persons to be appointed. The Government, then, might nominate persons whose competency would be subsequently passed on or might make appointments from a list to be furnished by the general receiver, of persons whose competency had previously been passed on.

If the foregoing recommendation of an agreement is carried out, it should be understood that it in no way cancels section 1 of the convention, which might be put in full force if at any time in the future it should become necessary to protect the customs service; that the agreement is intended to show that it is the desire of the United States to give to the Dominican Government as full control over the Dominican personnel in the customs service as it would have in an efficient customs service in which this Government had no intervention and to retain to the general receiver only that power which is customary in a well organized service and without which efficiency is impossible.

Accept [etc.]

W. J. Bryan.