File No. 838.516/80.
Minister Blanchard to the Secretary of State.
Port au Prince, February 6, 1915.
Sir: Referring to the Department’s cable of January 26, 6 p.m., and my February 1, with reference to the removal of the funds from the Bank, I have the honor to report that on the 23rd of January the Foreign Office addressed a note to the Legation, a copy and translation of which is herewith enclosed, stating that on the 15th of January Mr. Williams, director ad interim of the Bank, had forwarded a letter to the juge d’instruction stating that contrary to what Mr. Desrue had declared there was no longer any portion of the retrait fund at the Bank, and further that the funds under seal there belonged to the Bank. In presence of this attitude of the Bank the Haitian Government had determined that justice should follow its course.
I acknowledged receipt of this note and contented myself with saying that the matter would be brought to the attention of the Department, as I did not consider that the Legation should intervene in a difference between the Haitian Government and its Treasury.
Upon investigation it was ascertained that the director of the Bank, Mr. Williams, had, as stated on the 15th of January, addressed a letter to the juge d’instruction which, up to my enquiry, I had neither seen nor been apprized of. In the letter Mr. Williams states that Mr. Desrue, the former director of the Bank, could only make suppositions as to the identity of the funds at the Bank but that subsequent to the time of Mr. Desrue’s declaration to the juge d’instruction a telegram had been received from, the New York office of the Bank,” stating that the funds of the retrait were fully and well conserved by the council of administration. In this letter he requests that the seals be lifted from the funds in the Bank’s vaults since they were the private property of the Bank and of private individuals.
Whereupon the Haitian judicial authorities called at the Bank to execute a judicial order which provided for the lifting of the seals of the funds in question but which also contemplated the removal of these funds to another banking house to be placed there under seal. This latter part of the order Mr. Williams reported was not read to him, and it was only on his demand to see the order that he became acquainted with its full contents.
Meanwhile, Mr. Williams had locked his safe and after reading the order refused to allow it to be executed in any particular, and upon advice of the counsel of the Bank declined to sign the procès verbal of the proceedings.
Mr. Williams at once reported to the Legation the above and stated that in his opinion based on all that he had heard with regard to the matter, the Haitian Government would attempt to remove the funds by means of force. He said that in such case it would take at the shortest five or six days to break open the vault. I advised him to let the Government use force effectively inasmuch as the time which would necessarily be required to force open the safe would enable the Legation to take necessary steps to prevent any actual removal of the Bank funds by force.[Page 508]
This attempted removal was reported by Mr. Williams in a telegram which passed through this Legation and the Department.
On receipt of the Department’s January 26, 6 p.m., I reported, complied verbally with the instructions therein contained and at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, corroborated the same in a note.
On February 3 the Minister of Foreign Affairs replied and stated that the Haitian Government had never had the intention of using forcible means to remove the amounts under seal at the Bank. Copy of this note is enclosed.
As you will observe in the note from the Foreign Office above referred to, the Minister states that his Department does not intend to renounce its contractual right already affirmed to reject diplomatic intervention, and is ready to submit to arbitration as provided for by the contract of the Bank all differences raised between the parties.
He further states that the Haitian Government in the presence of a profound and general emotion produced by the open hostility, by the unheard-of conduct of the Bank, sees itself constrained to submit to the country, without delay, all the documents, diplomatic or otherwise, which bear on the subject.
This announcement was rendered immediately effective by the publication in Le Moniteur of this note and also of the note dated January 12, 1915, which was enclosed in my No. 29 of January 15, 1915, an unheard-of proceeding and contrary to all diplomatic usage but one which the Haitian Government has of late made constant use of. A communication addressed to the French Minister with reference to the Bank was also published in the same issue.
I have [etc.,]
- Not printed.↩