Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1919, Volume II
The Haitian Chargé (Blanchet) to the Acting Secretary of State
The Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Republic of Haiti presents his compliments to His Excellency the Secretary of State and has the honor to transmit to him, by virtue of instructions received from his Government, firstly a Memorandum under date of January 25, 1919, which the Haitian Government has prepared to meet a desire expressed by the United States Government, in the note of His Excellency under date of November 30, 1918,17 to have a more precise and detailed declaration of the grievances set forth in the note of November 20, 1918,18 transmitted on the 27th of the same month to His Excellency by the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of Haiti, and secondly the documents19 appended to the Memorandum, which are enumerated as follows: [Page 317]
- A letter from the Financial Adviser to the Secretary of Finance of October 11, 1918, and the reply of October 12.
- A letter from the Financial Adviser to the Secretary of Finance of October 12, 1918.
- A letter from the Financial Adviser to the Secretary of Finance of October 15, 1918.
- A letter from the Secretary of Finance to the Financial Adviser of October 30, 1918.
- A letter to [from] the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to Mr. A. Bailly-Blanchard, E.E. and M.P. of the United States, of October 31, 1918.
- A letter from the Secretary of Finance to the Financial Adviser of November 13, 1918.
- A letter from the Secretary of Finance to the Financial Adviser of November 13, 1918.
- A letter from the Secretary of Finance to the Financial Adviser of November 13, 1918.
- A letter from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to Mr. A. Bailly-Blanchard of November 15, 1918.
- A letter from the Secretary of Finance to the Financial Adviser of November 19, 1918.
Memorandum in reply to the request for a specification of the various grievances of which the Government complained to the State Department in its note of November 15 , 1918, delivered on the 27th of the said month in person to the Secretary of State
On November 15, 1918, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Haiti telegraphed to the Haitian Legation at Washington the following note, to be delivered personally to the Secretary of State:
“Haitian Legation, Washington, 037. In the name of the Government go in person without delay and transmit personally and in writing to the Secretary of State the following note:
This note was delivered to the Secretary of State at the interview which he granted to the Chargé d’Affaires of Haiti, November 27, 1918.[Page 318]
On November 30 the Secretary of State sent, in reply, to the Haitian Legation at Washington a note in which he asked the Haitian Government, in view of the very serious scope of the general charge against the American officials in Haiti, to make a more precise and detailed declaration in regard to the questions set forth in the note of November 20, 1918. This note was worded as follows:
“The Secretary of State presents his compliments to the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Republic of Haiti, and has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of his Note dated November 20, 1918, in which, by the express direction of his Government, the Chargé d’Affaires set forth certain complaints against the actions of American officials in contravention of the Treaty of 1915 between the Government of the United States and the Government of Haiti, and in which the Haitian Government expressed its conviction that the Department of State will see fit to take steps toward meeting the legitimate desires of the Haitian Nation.
In addition to the general accusations of the Haitian Government in respect to the “vexatious and unjust tyranny of American officials” in Haiti, the Department of State notes that the Haitian Government is of opinion that United States Government is not completely informed regarding the true situation in Haiti. Pursuant to these affirmations and in view of the very serious import of general indictment of American officials in Haiti which the note afore mentioned contains, the Government of the United States desires the Government of Haiti to make a more precise and detailed statement in regard to the matters set forth in the note of November 20, 1918.
(Signed) Robert Lansing
Department of State,
Washington, November 30, 1918.”
It is in response to this request of the State Department at Washington that the Department of Foreign Affairs of Haiti is sending it the present Memorandum, in which will be embodied only the incidents between the American officials in Haiti and the representatives of the Haitian Government which necessitated the sending of the note of November 15 , 1918.
The first solicitude of the Haitian Government after the promulgation of the Constitution on June 19, 1918,21 was to restore the Council of State and to convoke it in legislative session, which was done on the first of July following.
The chief object of a legislative session is to examine and vote on the budget. Consequently article 116 of the Constitution imposes upon the Secretary of Finance the obligation of submitting to the Legislative Bodies the general accounts and the various departmental budgets, at the latest within a week after the beginning of the Legislative Session.[Page 319]
The Secretary of Finance found it impossible to obey this constitutional provision because Mr. Ruan, for reasons which he did not deem it necessary to explain to the Haitian Government, was absent from his post.
In various interviews which the Secretary of Foreign Affairs had occasion to hold with Mr. A. Bailly-Blanchard, E.E. and M.P. of the United States at Port au Prince, he took pains to call his attention to the evils of such a situation. The President of the Republic himself also personally so observed to the Receiver General A. J. Maumus during a conversation at the National Palace. The President pointed out to the Receiver General the embarrassment caused the Government by the prolonged and in our eyes unjustified absence of the Financial Adviser, whose recommendations were necessary in order to enable the Department of Finance to present the Budget of the Republic to the Council of State.
Mr. A. T. Ruan, Financial Adviser, consented to return to Haiti only at the urgent request of our Minister at Washington, to whom the Haitian Government had telegraphed on August 6 and September 2, 1918, to hasten the return of the Financial Adviser. But when Mr. A. T. Ruan, Financial Adviser, arrived at Port au Prince, on September 11, 1918, the Legislative Session, whose constitutional duration is three months, was about to terminate and the Haitian Government was obliged, pending the receipt of communications from the Financial Adviser, to prolong the session one month. A few days after his arrival the Financial Adviser received copies of the various budget drafts and financial bills accompanying them.
In his letter of October 12 (the new fiscal year having begun on the 1st), the Financial Adviser transmitted to the Secretary of Finance, for enactment into law as they were, without any modification whatever; 1 A memorandum embodying a lump estimate of the customs and miscellaneous receipts, and a statement of the amounts which the Financial Adviser, without any previous examination in company with the Secretary of Finance, assigned on his own sovereign authority to each Ministerial Department for the expenses of the new fiscal year; 2 Two financial bills fixing the receipts and expenditures of the Government and in which the Financial Adviser attributed authority to himself far exceeding that granted in the Convention of September 16, 1915.
For numerous reasons the Government could not accept this suggestion of the Financial Adviser to present the bills as transmitted by him. The principal reasons were as follows:
A. The determination of the amounts allowed to each Ministerial Department, as it had been made by the Financial Adviser, revealed [Page 320]an absolute disregard of the needs and necessities of our various public services.
In order to remain within the limits of the appropriations granted by the Financial Adviser it would have been necessary to disorganize services established by the law and to abolish obligatory expenditures imposed by contract, as, for instance, in the case of the Department of Public Worship, the salaries of certain members of the clergy as provided in the Concordat signed between His Holiness the Pope and the Haitian Government.
In order that this fact might be plainly demonstrated to the Financial Adviser, the Secretary of Finance invited him to a conference with the Departmental Secretaries concerned, but the Financial Adviser eluded this.
It is important to remember furthermore that the Financial Adviser had not submitted any budget draft, having been content to indicate the figures which he claimed were based on the expenditures of the last fiscal year and which a careful examination made at the Office of the Receiver General of Customs had shown to be incorrect.
In spite of this duly acknowledged inaccuracy, the Financial Adviser still adhered to his figures.
As the Financial Adviser avoided any conversation which would have enabled an understanding to be reached, the Departmental Secretaries were obliged to set to work alone in order to try and come as near as possible to the lump sums fixed by Mr. A. T. Ruan, whence there necessarily arose a new delay in the presentation of the budget to the Council of State.
Could this delay be justly imputed against the Haitian Government?
B. The General Budget of the Republic must embrace, in its aggregate and in its details, all the receipts and expenditures occurring on behalf and on account of the Haitian Nation. This is an essential prerequisite for the veracity of the budget and without which it would be impossible to realize the true financial situation of the country, that is, whether there were an even balance, a surplus, or a deficit. Now, in the table of expenditures the Financial Adviser had failed to include the expenses of the Receiver General of Customs.
C. By virtue of the compromise signed at Washington on July 10, 1916,22 the treasury commissions of the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti are included within the 5% allowed to the Receiver General under Art. VI of the Convention. In the draft of the Financial Adviser these commissions were, contrary to said compromise, calculated outside the 5%. It is evident that if the 5% provided in [Page 321]Art. VI of the Convention were not sufficient to pay the allowances of the Office of Financial Adviser and of the Receiver General, as well as the treasury commission of the Bank, the Haitian Government would reach an understanding with the United States Government in order to meet the deficiency. But it would first be necessary for the Haitian Government to be enabled to know the annual amount of this 5% and the use made thereof. In other words it would have to be able to keep check upon the applications of the moneys coming from this 5% to the salaries of the Financial Adviser and the Receiver General and to those of their assistants and employees.
D. In regard to receipts the Financial Adviser had confined himself to indicating the figures, without giving the details necessary for the preparation of the budget on ways and means. He committed the error of representing in gourdes, in the miscellaneous receipts, the duties fixed in American gold by the law.
In Article VI of his draft for the financial law the Financial Adviser spoke of export duties in gourdes, besides the pilotage and harbor dues which are to be paid in gold. There are no export duties in gourdes in the Haitian tariff.
Could the Haitian Government be compelled to assume the responsibility for such errors by approving them with its signature?
Moreover, the Financial Adviser included, among the Ways and Means to serve to cover the expenses of the fiscal year 1918–1919, some probable receipts to be derived from new taxes which had not yet been examined.
It was not till October 24, 1918, that the Financial Adviser transmitted to the Secretary of Finance a long draft creating so-called internal revenue taxes. This draft, written entirely in English, required much time for translation and still more time for serious study. It was a question of direct taxes to be imposed upon the Haitian people, who are already so destitute and who ought to be taxed only with the greatest considerateness, taking into account their customs. No Government conscious of its responsibilities could accept such taxes with eyes closed.
Under these circumstances what was the value of the estimates of receipts of the Financial Adviser based on conjectural and perhaps inapplicable taxes? Nevertheless he demanded that the Government adopt them without examination or modification!
Although the Financial Adviser had refused to enter upon any discussion for the purpose of arriving at an understanding in regard to the estimate of the receipts and the fixing of the expenditures of the fiscal year 1918–1919, the Haitian Government on its part sought to reconcile as far as possible, at the expense of great sacrifices, its proposed budget with the estimates of receipts and allowances which Mr. A. T. Ruan proposed to fix arbitrarily.[Page 322]
The Heads of the several Ministerial Departments were engaged on this work when, in his letter of October 30, 1918, to the Secretary of Finance, the Financial Adviser asked that the Government have the Budget passed by the Council of State before the termination of the Legislative Session which was to take place on October 31.
In order to have it thus passed it would have been necessary to dispense with any examination by the Council of State and to ask it to adopt the Budget as a whole. Such a demand would have been unconstitutional, for Art. 114 of the Constitution provides that the Budget of each Departmental Secretary shall be divided into chapters and voted on article by article.
It was therefore materially impossible to pass the budget before the adjournment, on October 31, of the Legislative Session of the Council of State.
The Haitian Government was consequently laboring with the greatest activity in order to draw up a budget brought as far as possible within the limits of the figures fixed by the Financial Adviser, who persisted in refusing to permit any discussion on the matter. As soon as the work should be completed, the Council of State was to be convoked anew for the legislative sanction. And the Financial Adviser was kept posted on everything that the Government did in order to solve the grave question of the budget.
The difficult situation created for the Haitian Government by Mr. A. T. Ruan was at this stage when, on November 13, the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti informed the Secretary of Finance that it had received from Col. John H. Russell, commander of the United States forces in Haiti, the following notice: “By virtue of the powers with which I am invested under martial law, I require that you immediately give the necessary instructions to the end that no fund deposited to the credit of the Haitian Government or subject to its control in your Bank or its branches in Haiti be withdrawn without my written order.”
On the other hand the President of the Republic likewise received from Colonel Russell the following letter, which explained the military order served upon the Bank: “It has been brought to my knowledge that the action of the Haitian Government in failing to promptly pass the national budget has created a deplorable state of affairs in the finances of Haiti and has resulted in the fact that there do not exist any available funds, otherwise than as ordered by me by virtue of the martial law in order to meet the necessary national expenditures. I have furthermore been informed that the Haitian Government has funds arising from internal taxes on deposit at the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti.
“I am firmly convinced that the objects which the United States Government wishes to have the Haitian Government attain include [Page 323]the expenditure of its funds under the supervision of the Financial Adviser, and the failure to pass the national budget has unduly prolonged the time when such supervision should have passed into his hands.
“I furthermore believe that it is of vital importance to the Haitian Government that the financial laws, as submitted by the Financial Adviser, should be put at once into force, and I can not too strongly urge you to do this.
“Until the proper measures have been taken I deem it my duty to prevent the disbursement of the funds coming from the internal revenues and hereby inform you that I have on this date ordered the Director of the National Bank of Haiti not to spend any funds of the Haitian Government in his possession except on my written order.”
Before all else, before any examination or that23 of the notice given the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti by Colonel Russell, or that23 of his letter to the President of the Republic, the Haitian Government wishes to protest against this interference on [of] the American military authority in Haiti in a purely administrative question. It protests all the more strongly because Colonel Russell was acting in the case in point solely on the biased say-so of the Financial Adviser, and because, before giving his notice to the Bank and writing his letter to the President of the Republic, he had not at any time sought to procure any information from the Haitian Government on the situation.
This invocation of martial law, the maintenance of which is no longer justified in Haiti, on the part of the Head of the American Occupational Forces in order to support the arbitrary procedure of the Financial Adviser with respect to the Haitian Government, constituted one of those unjust and vexatious acts of which the Secretary of Foreign Affairs complained to the State Department at Washington on November 15 , 1918.
As regards the contents of the letter of Colonel Russell to the President of the Republic, it is proper to make the following observations:
1. In the third paragraph of this letter,24 mention is made of the supervision which the United States Government desires to have the Financial Adviser exercise over the expenditures of the Haitian Government. The desire of the United States Government on this point is clearly expressed in Art. II of the Convention of September 16, 1915, defining the powers of the Financial Adviser and the limits within which he is to exercise his functions.[Page 324]
The Haitian Government has always respected this clause of the Convention by consulting the Financial Adviser on all questions coming under his jurisdiction. However, it will always consider as a violation of the Convention of September 16, 1915, which it honestly signed with the American Government, any attempt on the part of the Financial Adviser to attribute to himself prerogatives and powers which it was not the intention of the High Contracting Parties to grant this official, since the terms which embodied these prerogatives and powers in the original text of the Treaty were omitted from the final text as signed by the High Parties. As a matter of fact the original text proposed in the convention draft by the American Government said: “The President of the United States shall designate a Financial Adviser for the Government of Haiti who … in general shall exercise the functions of a supervisor.” The Haitian Government did not wish to accept for the Republic of Haiti a Financial Adviser who should be a supervisor and it induced the United States Government to consent, firstly that the Financial Adviser should be an official attached not to the Republic of Haiti but to the Ministry of Finance, and secondly that his functions as a supervisor should be abolished.
Hence it follows that we can not grant in our laws any powers to the Financial Adviser which were expressly eliminated from the Convention of September 16, 1915, by the High Contracting Parties.
In matters of public expenditure the role of the Financial Adviser consists in establishing the budget together with the Haitian Government and in fixing the expenditures in concert with the Secretary of Finance. Once this has been done the Minister of Finance executes the budget without the need of submitting his orders of payment to the Financial Adviser.
Therefore, when Mr. A. T. Ruan, Financial Adviser, wishes to assume the functions of general supervisor of finances of Haiti he violates the Convention of September 16, 1915. By requiring that his visa be obtained for the orders of payment to be issued by the Secretary of Finance in execution of the budget, the Financial Adviser was trying to subordinate the Minister of Finance of Haiti. This would be contrary to the text and spirit of the Convention of September 16, 1915, and also to article 114, 3d par., of the Constitution,25 which makes the Secretary of Finance, under his personal responsibility, the officer to carry out the budget.
It is necessary to make here a very characteristic observation: At the same time that he wished to impose upon the Haitian Government a supervision which amounted even to mistrust, the Financial Adviser intended to free all the expenditures to be made by the [Page 325]Receiver General of Customs from the rules of Public Account-Keeping, which rules he nevertheless deemed advisable for the expenditures of the Haitian Government; so that two systems of account-keeping would be introduced, one for the use of the Government and the other for the use of the Receiver General, this latter system remaining unknown to the Government and to the Haitian people. The Financial Adviser went even further: He even intended to remove from the supervision of the responsible Departmental Heads the expenditures to be made by the American officials who are in charge of the services of Hygiene and Public Works; these officials were to have a right, without any visa, of drawing checks on the Public Treasury, with the sole obligation of furnishing vouchers at the end of the month to the Secretary of the Interior and of Public Works and nothing more!
And all this the Financial Adviser asked the Haitian Government to enact without examination or modification.
In the fourth paragraph of his letter26 Colonel Russell urged the President of the Republic to put into effect at once financial laws as presented by the Financial adviser.
The Convention of September 16, 1915, does not empower the Financial Adviser to make laws, nor does the Constitution entitle the Executive to impose upon the Haitian people laws which have not been duly enacted by the Legislature.
The Haitian Government could not agree to obey the imperious injunction, incompatible with its dignity, contained in the letter of Colonel Russell.
Moreover by accepting it it would have violated the Convention of September 16, 1915, as well as the Constitution which governs the Republic of Haiti at the present time.
The Haitian Government must add that the American Legation in Haiti was kept informed of all these incidents, both through conversations with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and through communication, for the information of the State Department, of all the correspondence exchanged with the Financial Adviser by the Secretaries of Finance and of Foreign Affairs.
However, in the midst of all these difficulties caused and kept up through the sole will of Mr. A. T. Ruan, the incident which was most painful to the Haitian Government was the refusal of the Financial Adviser to pay the funeral expenses of our Minister at Washington and the funds necessary for the sending home of the family of Mr. Solon Menos.
As soon as the painful news of the death of Minister Solon Menos reached Port au Prince, on October 15, 1918, and as soon as our [Page 326]Legation at Washington, after announcing it to us, had demanded of the Haitian Government the funds in question, the Secretaries of Finance and Foreign Affairs made representations to the Financial Adviser, asking him, in view of the urgency of the case, to pay the necessary funds, which were to be cabled to the Haitian Legation at Washington. Mr. Ruan refused, under the pretext that the budget was not yet passed.
As our Charge d’Affaires at Washington rightly insisted that the money asked be cabled, the Secretary of Finance wrote to the Financial Adviser to inform him of this new request and to remind him again of the urgent necessity of this expenditure. Mr. Ruan again positively refused to pay anything. In order to settle this painful question our Legation at Washington had to go before the State Department and have a formal order sent to Mr. Ruan from Washington, whereupon he consented to pay the funeral expenses of our Minister at Washington and for the sending home of his family.
This attitude of Mr. Ruan, an official under the Haitian-American treaty of September, 1915, contrasted strangely with the touching attitude of the American Government, which, at the same time, was giving a splendid funeral to our regretted Minister and paying the most brilliant homage to Mr. Solon Menos both as a diplomat and a worthy man.
This fact alone ought to suffice to show the spirit in which Mr. Ruan proposed to exercise and did exercise the functions of Financial Adviser.
The Haitian [Government] wishes to mention another regrettable event which occurred at Port au Prince and which emphatically demonstrates the arbitrary manner in which the American officials in Haiti are acting.
A Haitian news journal entitled Le Nouvelliste having announced on November 22, 1918, in the most moderate terms and in a dubitative form the recall of the Financial Adviser and having even concluded its notice with praise to President Wilson, the owner of the publication was arrested by the Agents of the Occupation, placed in prison, tried by the court martial, and sentenced to a fine of $300 and the suppression of the paper for three months.
For the edification of all we will reproduce the item in the Nouvelliste: “Mr. Ruan recalled.—Mr. A. T. Ruan is said to have been relieved of his duties as Financial Adviser as a result of difficulties with our Government. The recall of Mr. Ruan confirms the sentiments of Right and Justice proclaimed by President Wilson and which, as has often been repeated by the eminent Chief Executive of the United States, ought to constitute the criterion for the relations between all Nations, large and small.”[Page 327]
Here again the bare announcement of this act reveals without need of comment the unjust and vexatious tyranny employed by the American officials in Haiti toward the Haitian people.
During the course of these incidents all public expenditures were in abeyance, the Financial Adviser excusing himself for paying nothing under the pretext that the Haitian Government was under obligation to enact immediately without modification the Budget as proposed by Mr. Ruan, with all its errors and inaccuracies.
The salaries for October, 1918, of the Magistrates of the Court of Cassation and the Courts of Appeal, which ought to have been paid on November 1, had not been paid yet by December 1 and were not paid until the month of December.
From all parts of the country came the complaints of the numerous judges to the Haitian Government, their sole means of subsistence being the monthly salary which they draw from the Public Treasury. The salaries for November of all the public employees were paid only on December 7, the Financial Adviser threatening not to pay at all unless his will were accepted.
In the presence of such a situation, created voluntarily by the Financial Adviser backed by Colonel John H. Russell, Head of the Occupying Forces, who arbitrarily invoked martial law against the Government in order to prevent it from availing itself of the funds deposited to its credit in the National Bank, which funds the Convention of 1915 did not place under the control of the Receiver General or of the Financial Adviser and which the Haitian Government has always had at its free disposal, in the presence of this situation the Haitian Government had to yield for the moment to the violent pressure exerted against it, in order to relieve the distress of the public employees and to induce the Financial Adviser to consent to their being paid their meager salaries. Thus, pending appeal to the justice of the American Government, the President of Haiti and his Cabinet had to consent, without any reservation, to all the unqualifiable demands of the Financial Adviser, to which the Colonel gave the support of his authority and power.
Among the demands made it is proper to cite that made of the Haitian Government to inform the United States Legation by letter under date of December 3 that “It is understood that all payments on account of the Haitian Government shall be made with the advice and consent of the Financial Adviser and that, to this end, every order of payment addressed to the Receiver General or to the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti shall first be communicated to the Financial Adviser and shall not be paid without his visa.”[Page 328]
However, in writing under such pressure this letter which was contrary to the text of the Convention of September 16, 1915, the Government naturally reserved the right to protest before the American Government, as it is now doing, against the vexatious and unjust tyranny of the American officials in Haiti, who have compelled it to write.
The Haitian Government sincerely believes, and has firm hope that the just and powerful United States Government will be of the same sentiment, that all the incidents which have just been recalled show more plainly than ever, along with other measures to be taken, the necessity of abolishing in Haiti the rule of martial law and courts martial.
Since the American Occupying Forces came to Haiti and restored order it may be said that order has never been perturbed since, and while there have been occasional instances during the last four years of acts of brigandage in the interior regions of the Republic (such as no country is exempt from), the Government of Haiti may say without fear that the maintenance of order has been constant in Haiti.
Under these circumstances the Haitian Government believes it is entitled to ask the United States Government once more to abolish martial law and courts martial in Haiti and to restore the normal rule of freedom as existing in countries where order and quiet prevail.
The reception which the United States Government has always accorded to every just and equitable demand, as well as the manner in which the honorable Head of the Department at Washington received our note of November 20, 1918, warrant the Haitian Government in hoping that, in these days of joy when the whole world is celebrating the Victory of Right and Justice of which the Illustrious Head of the American Nation has always been one of the most eloquent defenders, right and justice will be done to the complaints hereby formulated by the Haitian Republic.
- Note quoted in enclosure, infra.↩
- See telegram of Nov. 30, 1918, to the Minister in Haiti, p. 311.↩
- None printed.↩
Foreign Relations, 1918, p. 487.↩
Foreign Relations, 1916, p. 358.↩
- “Or that … or that”, incorrect translation of the correlative “et … et”↩
- “Or that … or that”, incorrect translation of the correlative “et … et”↩
- Paragraph 2 of the letter as quoted.↩
Foreign Relations, 1918, p. 500.↩
- Paragraph 3 of the letter as quoted.↩