The Haitian Minister ( Moravia ) to the Acting Secretary of State 31


Mr. Secretary of State: Confirming the conversation which I had the honor to have with you yesterday morning, and keeping the promise then made to you, and also acting under the instructions received from my Government, I have the honor to bring the following facts to your knowledge:

Since September of last year, outlaw bands, defying the established authority and order of things in Haiti, are overrunning the fields of Hinche, Mirebalais and Lascahobas. Finding encouragement in the Gendarmerie’s inability or negligence to suppress their activities, those bands have grown so large as to constitute a serious threat to public order. They have moved forward as far as Grand-Bois and Savanette, have tried to cut off Port-au-Prince from the Plain of the Cul de Sac, where they have already started several fires. Many Haitians have been the victims of those outlaws who rob the peasants, spread terror, plunder and [hold for] ransom all whom they meet and kill those who will not join in the movement.

My Government finds the situation all the more alarming as the Haitian politicians who oppose their Government and the American Occupation do not fail to give moral encouragement to the folly of those illiterate countrymen and to fan those disturbances by launching throughout the territory a propaganda which creates a feeling of unsafety and unrest which, if it spreads, will in the end paralyze national life and work a fatal effect on the business of a country that is so sorely tried.

The worst feature of this outlaw movement is that it assumes, in growing, a character of a struggle for freedom, of an active claim for ignored and trampled rights.

[Page 332]

Confronting such a situation, my Government deems it a duty to draw the Department of State’s earnest attention to those regrettable events, and to ask it to direct such measures as will restore order and above all prevent a recurrence of those outlaw acts.

But my Government also deems it proper to point to what, in its opinion, and from the experience it has of the manners and mentality of the Haitian people, has caused, if not the movement itself, at least its easy and speedy propagation.

The movement may be traced to some [former] military chiefs dissatisfied with the present regime who have assumed a position of rebellion; but they would not have dared take that position if there had not been among the country people a dissatisfaction and resentment, in which they found the assurance of the neutrality and passiveness of those people. It would not be out of place to recall the fact that when General Codio, after the coup which he attempted at Port-au-Prince in 1916, repaired to the Plain, he was ferretted out by the Haitian country people themselves and was arrested and delivered to the authorities by a Haitian who did not belong to the Gendarmerie. The reason is that the rural masses, glad of being rid of the tyranny of Haitian military chiefs who robbed and ill-treated them, were inclined to cooperate with the American element in maintaining order and preventing the return of a regime which had brought so much suffering upon them. Today, the sentiment of those masses has unfortunately changed and that accounts for the daring and success of the outlaws.

The cause of that disaffection in the country lies in the brutality and injustice of the Haitian gendarmes whose morality is far below the expected standard. They improperly used personal property of the countrymen who do not know where to lodge a complaint, and when they do [complain,] rarely obtain justice, if ever, because they are illiterate, do not speak or understand English, and that the American officers give more credence to the reports of the gendarmes under them. This often recurring injustice, the system of the “corvée” (compulsory work in the building of public roads) have had the effect of estranging almost altogether the good will of the country people upon which peace in the fields could rest more securely than on the vigilance of the police.

If the movement is receiving moral encouragement from selfish politicians who make it their business to stir up an insurrectionary spirit, who are the sworn enemies of both the Haitian Government and the American Occupation, it is because those politicians themselves find support in the discontent of the people of the towns and of the bourgeois. Among those more enlightened people the complaints are not aimed at the Gendarmerie but at the Occupation proper. As for the many causes of discontent, we must name:

[Page 333]

1–The maintenance of martial law without grounds, since 1916, after the full pacification of the country, and as a consequence of the system, the jurisdiction of the Gendarmerie Courts over cases which should be referred to the ordinary courts.

2–The excessive severity of those Gendarmerie Courts, imposing sentences entirely out of proportion with the offense charged. To cite but one instance, the Henri Chauvet case, mentioned in my Government’s memorial dated January 25,32 and filed in the Department of State on February 14 last, will be quite sufficient, and there are many others.

3–The violation of the Haitian Constitution and of the Convention of 1915 by the American officials.

4–The non-payment of the interest on the public debt of Haiti for years past, which cannot be understood as it is known that in the worst days of the history of Haiti, the service of interest on the public debt, both foreign and domestic, was carried on rather regularly.

The non-payment of the interest bears largely upon the trade, and a certain part of the Haitian bourgeoisie who own securities, and drew their only livelihood from the income which those securities brought them. Many foreigners also own Haitian securities, and their dissatisfaction cannot fail to work a regrettable influence on the Haitians, for those foreigners, if not hurt in their patriotism, are hurt in their purse, and contribute to increase the peoples resentment against the new regime.

5–The low salaries paid to Haitian officials, considering the high cost of living since the European war, and the high salaries allowed to American officials.

6–The total disregard for public opinion on the part of the American Occupation, and the utmost neglect of any means of propaganda (through the press, moving pictures, or otherwise) which might give birth to, or maintain the confidence of the Haitian people in the American undertaking.

7–The systematic refusal on the part of the American Occupation, to take into account the opinions of the Haitian Government, which has a better knowledge of the needs of the people, of their mentality, and knows how to make acceptable to them such reforms as might be tried for their welfare.

8–The fact that work on reconstruction and restoration undertaken by the American Government is barely outlined, and that after three years and a half have gone by, we are still waiting for the most important reforms, such as the consolidation of the public debt, the building of public schools, professional and agricultural schools, the revision of the customs tariff, all of which are needed [Page 334] for the upbuilding of Haitian finance and the making of new generations that must be prepared to have a part in the evolution of the country.

It need hardly be said that my Government, witnessing the delay suffered in this urgent work of reconstruction, which forms the basis of the Treaty of 1915, does not fail to allow for circumstances. It is fully aware that since the Americans undertook to assist in restoring Haiti, its attention was averted by the European war, which forced a concentration of its activity and energy on very complicated problems, and that at this very moment, the most important questions, upon which hangs the fate of all mankind, are engrossing its attention; but while my Government realizes this, and finds therein a reason for adhering to its confidence in the greatest of the republics, the Haitian people, less conversant with the world events, and goaded by need and suffering, wonder at the slow progress made, lose patience and begin to doubt.

There is a sane, unbiased part of the Haitian people (and it forms the majority) which seeks nothing but to cooperate with the American Government and the Occupation in uplifting the country. That element does not fail to appreciate the happy results achieved under the new regime, such as the maintenance of peace, the construction and repair of roads, the improving and sanitation of cities, the regular payment of their salaries to government officials; but, on the other hand, the satisfaction given by that progress is not enough to offset, for those Haitians, the deprivations of certain liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, nor the ill-treatments which they undergo, or to which they are all the time exposed, and they do not find therein consolation for their Government’s failure to obtain for them a fuller measure of justice, safety and liberty.

Those are the reasons why my Government has decided to make a last appeal to the American Government. It instructs me to declare that it has nothing more at heart than to cooperate with the Government of the United States, whose good faith and noble intentions it does not doubt. But we are confronted by facts which justify the complaints repeatedly made by my Government to the Department of State, when it begged it to pay attention to these grievances, and remedy the evils which unjustly weigh upon the Haitian people.

The facts complained of time and again are now bearing the fruits which might have been logically expected, and my Government deems it its duty once more to raise its voice, and hopes that the Department of State will kindly bestow its high attention on the question that is growing worse.

My Government already regrets the necessity of using force to suppress the above mentioned outlawry, moved not by any compassion for those who create the disturbances, but by the fact that many [Page 335] innocent men will pay with their lives the penalty of being taken with arms in hand, although compelled to take up arms so as to save themselves from slaughter by the outlaws, against whom the police could not protect them. The movement will be suppressed, but is it not a matter of the highest regret that the cost will be many Haitian, many American lives, and heavy losses in money and property? Again, at this time when American capital is beginning to be drawn to Haiti, where it is so much needed for the development of its commerce, industry, and agriculture, what will be the disastrous effect of reports of disturbances and movements, which can only be over come by the force of arms! How much preferable would true peace have been, that which rests on the satisfaction of the governed, on the spirit of justice by those who wield authority and use force to protect freedom!

That is the reign of justice to all Haitians, from the highest to the lowest rung of the social ladder, that is yearned for by my Government, which is still convinced that the American Government will omit nothing that may be required to insure to the people of Haiti the well-being upon which they have a right to depend when placed under the protection of the American people, the honored champions of civilization, defenders of the rights of humanity, who, after securing in their Constitution the right to the pursuit of happiness, cannot but favor, wherever their influence is exercised, the enjoyment of that right.

What the American element in Haiti needs, more than force with which to maintain order and guarantee peace, is a knowledge of the true needs of the people, their mentality, the means apt to lead it in to better paths without uncalled for violence; in other words, good heartedness, psychology, active sympathy and productive interest are needed more than military power. Rapid progress would be made for the great good of the Haitian people when that truth is acknowledged. My Government believes it cannot repeat it too often, desirous as it is above all to enlighten the Government of the United States on that point, as is its natural role and most arduous duty, and so contribute to secure to the American people the gratitude, friendship and devotion of the Haitian people, which will be the greatest title of glory to the eye[s] of the whole world, as is the sentiment of the people of Cuba and of the Philippines.

My Government, relying on the good faith of the Government of the United States, cannot [but] ascribe the present condition of things in Haiti, and the continuance thereof, not to say its aggravation, to a lack of information as to the true character of the Haitian people and of the conditions in which they find themselves, [Page 336] disappointment following disappointment and continually driving them to discouragement, not to say despair.

In making this supreme appeal, my Government hopes that its voice will be heard, and that the Haitian people will not regret having waited so long for the beginning of the new era that has been promised to them. My Government will then gladly and proudly carry out the part which consists in assisting in every way at its command in the undertaking of uplifting Haiti, materially, intellectually, and morally.

The foregoing are the views of my Government, which it has instructed me to make known to the Department of State, and should there be any point upon which the Department of State should wish fuller information, I shall be very glad to supply it.

I gladly take [etc.]

[Ch. Moravia]
  1. Copy of translation transmitted to the American Minister in Haiti (Bailly-Blanchard), April 23, 1919, for consideration and comment of himself and treaty officials.
  2. Memorial printed on p. 317.