File No. 838.77/157

The Minister of Haiti to the Division of Latin American Affairs


Dear Mr. Stabler: I take great pleasure in delivering herewith to you two copies of a supplemental note on the controversy pending between the Haitian Government and the National Railroad Company of Haiti. One is intended for the Department of State and I beg you to forward the other to the company’s representative in New York.

As I told you yesterday I received instructions, dated December 28, 1916, from my Government last week which enable me to carry on negotiations with the company without again referring to Port au Prince.

Be pleased [etc.]

Solon Ménos
[Page 826]

supplemental remarks concerning the national railroad company of haiti

It appears from the discussion carried on in October 1916 over the controversy between the Haitian Government and the National Railroad Company of Haiti that the parties in the case are agreed in principle on: 1st, reducing the length of the Port au Prince-Cape Haitien, Gonaives-Hinche-Gros Morne lines; 2d, staying the foreclosure proceedings instituted against the company; 3d, paying the company its claims for transportation, requisitions, and loan of implements.

As to its claim for damages it seems to have attached importance solely to facts and circumstances pleaded from time to time with the one object of obtaining numerous extensions of time and of standing off forfeiture. At any rate a compromise implies reciprocal concessions.

There remains in truth but one difference: the interpretation of Article 12 of the specifications annexed to the Concession Contract of September 12, 1906.

I. The company admits that the exemption from customs duties stipulated by that article must be confined to the case for which it is made, but agrees that its claim in this respect is conformable to the meaning of the stipulation of the concession. It is easily seen that the company is merely begging the question, for the point is to know whether food, drugs, fodder, horseshoes, etc., are indispensable for the construction, operation and maintenance of the railway. That there is no direct necessary connection between those commodities and a railway is not open to question. If the company sees fit to undertake to feed, clothe and shelter its employees and to purchase what it needs therefor abroad and not in Haiti, it makes it its affair and cannot believe in earnest that this special arrangement with its employees possesses the virtue of making the above-mentioned articles requisites of the railway.

The truth is that the word approvisionnements has, in connection with public works, a technical meaning different from its acceptation in ordinary parlance. It applies to material, or fuel, or oils and lubricants. Article 10 of the specifications attached to the contract made with R. Deetjen on July 10, 1891, for the construction and operation of a railway from Port au Prince to Gonaives so declares in positive terms: “The approvisionnements intended for the operation, understood to be coal, machine oil and tallow, may be imported free of duty.” Article 13 of the Léogane aux Cayes Railway Contract and Article 9 of the annexed specifications dated March 29, 1911, are just as explicit. (See the Traité des Travaux Publics of Albert Christophle and the specifications adopted in France. See also Art. 35 of the specifications of September 11, 1893, for the Cape Haitien-Gonaives Railway, Art. 8 of the Deetjen Contract; Art. 11 of the illumination contracts made November 9, 1891, June 12 July 26 and September 14, 1894; Art. 10 of the specifications with the National Railroad Company of Haiti; Art. 9 of the Port au Prince-Aux Cayes Railway Contract and Art. 12 of the annexed specifications dated August 27, 1906; Art. 17 of the Illumination Contract of St. Mare dated September 7, 1906.)

Furthermore the very content of Art. 12 under consideration shows that it contemplates not articles of food but all appliances and supplies such as material, machinery, tools, cars, fuel, oils, lubricants, that is, all that is directly and necessarily connected with the construction, operation and maintenance of the railway.

And again even though the language of the article may be obscure or equivocal, the doubt cannot be dispelled in favor of the company since it bears on an exceptional clause which it stipulated in its own interest.

II. In regard to the tonnage dues, they are classed by the law of September 4, 1905 in the category of dues bearing on the hull of the vessels. It cannot in any way imply that vessels, instead of continuing to pay the dues according to their gross tonnage, will pay in proportion to the imported merchandise. This modification in favor of the vessel does not alter the nature of the dues; it only affects the mode of appraisement, for the same persons are subject to it under the law as they were before. The dues are to be paid by the vessels which also pay the semaphore, pilot, health, water and entry dues. And it goes without saying that in collecting freight, they also bring those various dues into the account and that whether these dues be rated according to their gross tonnage or to the bulk of the merchandise imported by them, the freight is always determined by weight or measurement. And for that reason bills of dues payable by the vessels are not made out in the name of the importers but in none other [Page 827] than that of the steamship agents or consignee of the vessels who are responsible under Article 117 of the said customs law because they represent the vessel. The consequence is that the company is not exempted from the tonnage dues any more than from the semaphore and other dues reckoned according to the gross tonnage of the vessels.

It is further proper to add that whenever the Haitian Government was willing to grant exemption from tonnage dues, it did so in express terms as shown in Article 10 of the specifications of the Cape Haitien-Grande Rivière Railway, dated September 1, 1898, which reads as follows: The material, machinery, tools, all implements required for the construction, operation and maintenance of the railway as well as the ships bringing the same are exempted from all customs duties and dues, except those which already come under a special concession.

The same preciseness is found in the instruments hereinbelow named: Contract of 1890 for the laying of the system of telegraphic land lines, Art. 14;—Lanoue Sterlin Contract of September 25, 1891, Art. 4;—d’Aubigny and Co. Contract of December 18, 1891, Art. 16.—Osson Contract of September 28, 1892, Art. 4;—T. Auguste Contract of July 18, 1891, Art. 4;—L. Laroche Contract of June 8, 1893, Art 9;—Rinchère Contract of July 26, 1894, Art. 3;—H. Blanchet & Co. Contract of August 1, 1894, Art. 4;—Aduche Contracts of August 2, 1894, Articles 4 and 6;—Contract of August 21, 1890, for the exploitation of Gonave, Art. 5;—Contract of July 12, 1900, with the Northern Railway Company, Art. 6;—specifications of the Port au Prince-L’Etang Railway dated May 23, 1899, Art. 10;—Contract of September 5, 1906, of the G. C. S. Railway Company, Art. 6;—Contract of August 29, 1906, of the Cape Haitien-Ouanaminthe Railway, Art. 10, amended specifications, Art. 12;—Durosier Contract, August 14, 1909, Art. 3;—Boucard Contract of July 16, 1910, Art. 5;—M. Sylvain Contract of August 14, 1909, Art. 3.