File No. 838.77/140

The National Railroad Company of Haiti to the Chief of Division of Latin-American Affairs

Dear Sir: In accordance with the understanding had during my interview with you on the 6th instant, I enclose herewith to you copies of certain documents relating to the proceedings begun by the Haitian Government on September 9, 1914, and continued during the remaining months of said year, with the intention of foreclosing the concession issued by the Haitian Government for the construction of the National Railroad Company [sic] of Haiti. You probably will find in the files of your Department correspondence and cables exchanged at the time above mentioned between the State Department and various Haitian officials in respect of this subject. The dates on the enclosed copies of such correspondence and cables as I have, will perhaps enable you to more easily locate in your own files such papers as will complete the record.

In connection with the steps taken by the Haitian Government to foreclose the concession for the railroad, which action, however, as you will see upon examination of the records, never was consummated, I would like to call to your attention the following:

The construction of the railroad was begun on April 15, 1911. In the entire time between this date and that of the American intervention in Haiti (July 1915) namely, four years and three months, the periods during which there was no revolutionary movement prevailing aggregate one year and eleven months. Always while a revolution was on, the work of construction of the railroad was more or less interfered with and oftentimes entire suspension was necessary. These conditions ultimately became so continuous and severe that all construction work was finally stopped in September, 1913. [Page 377] This record is important in view of the contention of the Haitian Government in its proceedings to foreclose, that the railroad failed to complete and deliver an average of five sections of railroad per annum.

When the proceedings to foreclose were begun in September, 1914, a serious revolution existed in Haiti against President Oreste Zamor, which resulted in his overthrow on October 29, 1914, and the succession to the Presidency of Davilmar Theodore November 6, 1914. I think I am correct in saying that Theodore never was recognized by this Government as the President of Haiti as his succession was due directly to the revolutionary overthrow of President Zamor. Moreover, acute revolutionary conditions continued to prevail in Haiti during Theodore’s control of Government affairs, which only lasted three months and sixteen days, when he was forced out by Vilbrun Guillaume who also failed to receive recognition from this Government. The directors and officials of the railroad company did not consider that anything useful or final could result from any negotiations with the officials of an unrecognized Government, and so confined their responses to the foreclosure proceedings to those they made through the good offices of the State Department.

At all times from the commencement of the work of construction of the National Railroad of Haiti, in April 1911, the management of the railroad company made every possible effort in the face of most discouraging labor and acute revolutionary conditions, to pursue as rapidly as possible the construction work, and ceased only when conditions became such that it was practically impossible to longer retain on the work the American engineers and other necessary skilled supervisors.

Permit me to direct your special attention to a cablegram sent by Secretary Bryan under date of September 23, 1914,4 to the American Legation at Port au Prince, and particularly to the last half of said cablegram. This cablegram I presume you have in your files. You will also note in the copy I enclose of a telegram under date of October 16, 1914, to me from the Acting Secretary of State, that the Haitian Government speaks of “proposal for readjustment of contract and shortening of route.”5 You will recall that I informed you that we had advices that these two things constitute the chief desire of the Haitian Government in respect to the railroad affair.

Referring to the memorandum enclosed herewith of a telephone message to me from Mr. Bingham, under date of January 16, 1915, the cablegrams referred to therein I presume are in your files.6

From these telegrams and cablegrams you will see that, while the Haitian Government initiated on September 9, 1914, the foreclosure proceedings, the said foreclosure never was consummated, but on the contrary several extensions of time were granted and before the expiration of the last extension noted (January 20, 1915) revolutionary conditions became so bad and Cabinet members and other high officials were changing so rapidly, it would appear that the matter of the railroad foreclosure was entirely lost sight of. Certain it is that no further communication of any sort has been received [Page 378] by the railroad company from any official of the Haitian Government in respect of this matter.

I trust that the enclosed data will be sufficient for your purpose for the time being.

Yours very truly,

R. L. Farnham
  1. For. Rel. 1915, p. 538
  2. Not printed. See despatch No. 12 from Haiti, dated Oct. 16, 1914. For. Rel. 1915, p. 543.
  3. Not printed. See For. Rel. 1915, under this subject, pp. 538549.