The Minister in Haiti (Bailly-Blanchard) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 303

Sir: Referring to the Department’s confidential cable instruction of July 3, 5 p.m.,10 I have the honor to report that the Brigade Commander and the Treaty Officials, except the Financial Adviser, met under my presidency at the Legation on Wednesday February 5th at 2:30 p.m.

. . . . . . .

The Brigade Commander presented at the meeting a copy of a document which he had obtained, and stated that it was the instructions issued by the Haitian Government to their Delegate to the Peace Conference, their Minister in Paris. This document was read at the Conference and, at the suggestion of the Brigade Commander, a copy is herewith attached to this report.

The Conference adjourned at 5:50 p.m.

I have [etc.]

A. Bailly-Blanchard

The Haitian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Benoit) to the Haitian Minister in France and Delegate to the Peace Conference (Guilbaud)

Mr. Minister: In answer to your telegraphic despatch received the 18th of this month, announcing the opening of the Peace Conference and the right for our Government to be represented by a Delegate, the President of the Republic replied as follows:

“Inform the Minister of Foreign Affairs that you are the Delegate of the Government of Haiti to the Peace Conference. While awaiting your letters of credence and precise and detailed instructions, [Page 314] adopt an attitude in keeping with the principles of equality of nations and protection of the small states.”

You are therefore, Mr. Minister, our Plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference and we herewith transmit to you our instructions concerning the claims that we desire to have accepted at the Solemn Assizes of the Nations and touching the line of conduct in keeping with the policy of our Government that you are to follow.

. . . . . . .

Apart from the above three claims to be presented to the Peace Conference, we are entrusting you with a special mission to President Wilson and to Secretary of State Lansing. You will see them personally and request in the name of the Haitian Government:

Abolition in Haiti of the regime of martial law and of the provost courts instituted since the arrival of the American Occupation in Haiti and no longer justifiable.
Recognition of the right of the Haitian Government, in conformity with article 2 of the Convention of September 16, 1915, to appoint and discharge the Haitian employees of all the customs houses of the Republic.

The latter question which was brought before the Government at Washington, at the time when the Convention was going into effect,12 has never received any solution, in spite of its great importance to us.

The Haitian Government has always maintained that the General Receiver and the aides and employees who are to be appointed by the President of Haiti upon the nomination of the President of the United States, form a service for the collection of all customs duties, a bureau distinct from the customs service, properly so-called, which consists in checking, verifying and taxing the goods, in conformity with the tariff; that, consequently, the Haitian employees of this customs service are to be dependent upon the exclusive appointment of the President of Haiti; but the latter, nevertheless, responding to the promises of effective help from the President of the United States, will make no appointments to the customs houses except in accord with the Receiver General who, on his side, shall have the right to delegate to the customs houses such of the aides and employees of his office as it shall please him to choose to control the custom house operations. See Report of Louis Borno,13 letter to the American Legation, September 16, 1916 [1915],14 at end page 214.

Tired of discussing, and wishing to hasten the putting into effect of the Convention, the Haitian Government deemed it necessary—[Page 315]while formally reserving the matter—not to insist nevertheless upon their right of appointment and dismissal in the personnel of the customs houses. And in a despatch to our Minister at Washington, the Department of Foreign Relations wrote on October 28, 1916:

“And, only in the case of your insistence being vain, I cannot but authorize you to accept the interpretation of the Department of State for the sole object of avoiding any delay in putting the Convention into effect, but you should not fail to do so under all reservations and stating that the question which has thus arisen will be submitted to arbitration in conformity with article 1 of the Haitian-American Convention of Arbitration of March 22, 1909.15

When making these reservations, it would at the same time serve a useful purpose to make the remark to the Department of State that the Government cannot abandon this interpretation which is also that of the Legislative Body—Report of Louis Borno, page 215.”

As you will observe, we have preferred, apart from the claims that you are to present against Germany, to entrust you with a special mission to President Wilson and Secretary of State Lansing touching our claims relative to the application of the Convention of 1915 in Haiti. We have preferred to adopt this course because it seemed to us more likely to produce practical results.

As a matter of fact, it will be easier for you to arrive at a solution of these difficulties by addressing yourself personally to President Wilson and to his Secretary of State who, we believe, have not always been faithfully informed by their agents in Haiti on what was passing here. In a heart-to-heart conversation, there will be, undoubtedly, more likelihood that by a sincere, faithful presentation of the facts in all their details, you shall obtain justice for us at the hands of President Wilson upon the two questions of the abolition of martial law and of the provost courts, and of the recognition in favor of the Haitian Government of the right of appointment and of dismissal in the personnel of the customs houses of the Republic, in accordance with the Convention of September 16, 1915.

Finally, there is another reason for adopting this course which is not the least important in our eyes and which you will not fail to grasp. We believe that the American Government will be more disposed to admit our claims if we seek for their solution in a personal conference with them, rather than by taking the claims directly to the Conference. Doubtless they could think they would win the case against us in a public discussion, but, just at the moment when their chief, President Wilson, is giving the assurance that one of the principal reasons for his personal presence at the table of the Conference is to bring about the triumph of the principle of respect for the [Page 316] rights of the small nations by the strong, the representatives of the American Government, President Wilson himself, Mr. Lansing who knows how often we have laid our claims before him without obtaining justice, should surely deem it best, at this hour, that the voice of a feeble nation like Haiti should not be raised in the presence of all the nations assembled to complain, with just reason, of the injustice of the powerful Republic of the United States.

. . . . . . .

To sum up, put yourself in communication with President Wilson and Secretary of State Lansing, and shape your course accordingly. Take advantage of every opportunity to inform them of our internal situation. Insist upon the financial question, the unification of our debt at a reasonable rate of interest; an improved budget of expenses, soon, the one which has been imposed upon us being a famine budget, rendering impossible all amelioration in the moral and economic situation of the country, since the best part of the receipts have been absorbed by the police, the public works and health departments, the latter expenses being made independently and beyond the control of the Government.

Keep a close watch over events so as to reap, if need be, all the advantages possible to our country. It is not possible to prescribe, in advance, what your attitude shall be under all circumstances.

For that matter, the Government relies, Mr. Delegate, upon your tact, your clear-sightedness and your skill.

I take [etc.]

C. Benoit
  1. Ante, p. 305.
  2. Substituted for file translation.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1916, pp. 322 ff.
  4. Rapport de M. Louis Borno, Secrétaire d’Etat des Relations Extérieures à S. E. Monsieur le Président de la République d’Haiti … 1916 (Port au Prince, Imprimerie Nationale, 1918).
  5. Foreign Relations, 1915, p. 454.
  6. The treaty was signed on Jan. 7, 1909; Mar. 22 is the date of the Haitian ratification.