File No. 838.516/50.
The Haitian Minister to the Secretary of State.
Washington, January 11, 1915.
Mr. Secretary of State: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of December 31, last,15 about the shipment on the Machias of moneys allotted for the redemption of the paper money of Haiti.
Confirming my letter of December 29 last,16 I beg leave to add the following remarks:
I. Under the contract perfected at Port au Prince on September 5, 1910, the Banque Nationale d’Haiti, constituted as a French corporation with its home office at Paris and main establishment at Port au Prince, is really a State Bank which enjoys all the citizenship rights of Haiti and is charged with the Treasury service of the State both at home and abroad. It is even privileged to issue notes regarded as currency with full and unlimited legal tender force throughout the territory of the Republic. Being responsible custodian of public funds and subjected to the supervision provided by the regulations of the Treasury service, it cannot, so far as its relations with the State of Haiti are concerned, claim to be a mere private bank with full freedom of action. Least of all can it be one of its rights deliberately, to ignore the provision of the public law of the Nation whose revenues it holds by persisting in regarding as revolutionary a Government that has been constitutionally established.
II. As a matter of fact, the Haitian authorities have at no time offered, attempted or threatened in any way to seize and use for current expenses the whole or any part of the ten million francs allotted for the redemption of paper money. The law of August 14, 1914, and the bill introduced in the Legislature on November 25 last on the subject of issue would suffice, if there were no other circumstance, to show their true intention on this point. On the other hand Port au Prince witnessed no riot, either in December last or earlier, directed at the Bank or imperiling the above-specified fund.
It is, moreover, needless to say that even if, as is wholly improbable, the said fund had been forcibly taken out of the Bank by rioters or revolutionists, the said Bank, in such a case of vis major, would have incurred no responsibility and the loss would have been that of the Republic of Haiti, to which the fund belongs.
III. It appears from a search made on December 28 last by one of the examining magistrates of the civil tribunal of Port au Prince that not more than $160,000 were found in the redemption fund where there should have been one million. The consequence is that the amount taken from the deposit is even larger than that stated by the Bank to the Department of State. But no matter what the amount is, the Bank had no right to lay hand upon it except for redemption. Its responsibility cannot be made less by the circumstances [Page 500]that the money was removed to some place where it could bear interest, for its assuming guardianship rights of the Republic of Haiti and attempting to supersede by high-handed methods the Haitian Administration in the husbandry of public funds cannot be admitted. And this misuse of a deposit is all the more serious as it is that same Bank, which, as early as August 27, 1914, suspended payments “because of the impossibility of fetching funds for the budgetary convention,” that would now expose the redemption fund to the risk of a speculation made even more precarious by the present general crisis.
IV. At all events, the Bank knew, when the funds were put on board the Machias, of the presence in Haitian waters of one of the steamers of the Royal Dutch West India Mail, the Prins der Nederlanden which usually carries gold and which after sailing from Port au Prince on December 13, last, returned and taking its final clearance on the 18th arrived at New York on the 25th of that month. But that apparently was not what the Bank wanted. It no doubt considered it important to have officers and seamen land from an American gunboat and do unusual service at the risk of stirring up some regrettable agitation. In other words it sought and procured, in contravention of a weak State’s rights, an act of moral violence from one of the greatest Powers of the world.
I beg leave to be excused from insisting on the interest the Government of the Republic of Haiti has in maintaining its protest.
Be pleased to accept, [etc.]