838.00/1596

The Secretary of State to the Haitian Minister (Moravia)

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of April 5, 1919, in which, under instruction of your Government, you present a statement of various matters alleged as complaints against the existing situation in Haiti and apparently charged to be due to the American officials in that Republic.

Your note has been carefully considered by the proper authorities, and I have now the honor to take up the complaints and charges in the order made.

[Page 337]

You state that outlaw bands are overrunning portions of the Republic, and that they find encouragement in the negligence or inability of the Gendarmerie to suppress their activities.

This Government has been unable to find any evidence showing that banditry is encouraged by the negligence or inability of the Gendarmerie; on the contrary, the suppression of this offense is being pursued with determined energy and it is believed that it will be accomplished in the near future. It may be remarked that banditry has existed in Haiti for many years past.

You add that the situation is rendered worse by the fact that Haitian politicians who oppose their Government and the American officials morally encourage the folly of their illiterate fellow countrymen and extend the disturbances by launching a propaganda creating a feeling of unrest which tends to paralyze national life.

This fact is regrettable, but it is not seen that it can be charged against the American officials.

You charge as a reason for the success of the above propaganda that the population is dissatisfied with and resents “the brutality and injustice of the Haitian Gendarme[s] whose morale is far below the expected standard”.

The Gendarmes have been recruited from the best element of the Haitian population and while their experience is below what would be desired, it is hoped that with years of training it may be found possible to obtain an intelligent and well disciplined force.

In reply to your assertion that the illiterate country people are unable to obtain justice, it may be pointed out that the Gendarmerie is not responsible for this, it being a matter for the courts of justice. The corvée to which you refer as another source of dissatisfaction has been suppressed.

You say that the maintenance of martial law, without grounds, since 1916, after the full pacification of the country, also causes discontent; but, as you have before observed, banditry still exists, although the troops have been used in support of the Gendarmerie in the attempts made to suppress it. It remains therefore as yet impossible to discontinue martial law. The Gendarmerie have never had any jurisdiction over the Haitian courts.

You refer to the “excessive severity” of the Gendarmerie or Provost Courts and cite as an instance thereof the case of Chauvet. In regard to this case it may be stated that the sentence is considered as in all ways a proper punishment of the offense committed.

You allege that the American officials have violated the Haitian Constitution and the Convention of 1915 between the United States and Haiti. No instances of these alleged violations are specified, and this Government has no knowledge of such alleged violations.

[Page 338]

You complain of the non-payment of the interest on the public debt of Haiti.

This Government is advised that the income of the Republic has not been sufficient to pay the running expenses of the Government and the interest on the debt, and while the Government’s expenses have been cut down to the lowest possible figure, it has been found so far impossible to meet the necessary expenses and pay the interest on the debt.

You refer to the low salaries paid to Haitian officials which course of action you say causes much complaint in view of the high cost of living since the war.

At no time in recent years has the income of the Haitian Government been such as to warrant any increase, but nevertheless in view of the increased cost of living, the Financial Adviser in the 1920 Budget authorized an increase of 19% in the salaries of the officials of the various ministerial departments.

In addition the following increases have been made in the Budget:

Judiciary. Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal, an increase in salaries of 55%. Justices of the Peace, an increase in salaries of 35%. Public Instruction. New Industrial Schools an increase of $598 monthly and Primary Schools, increase in salaries of teachers, 25%.

You allege that the American officials show a total disregard for public opinion and that they neglect entirely any means of propaganda (through the press, moving pictures, or otherwise) which might develop and maintain the confidence of the people of Haiti in the American undertaking.

The Treaty officials maintain that this allegation is unfounded, as they have constantly endeavored to explain to the public through the press the principles underlying the various improvements which have been initiated.

You allege further that the American officials systematically decline to pay any attention to the advice of the Haitian Government which has a better knowledge of the needs of the people, of their mentality, and knows how to make acceptable such reforms as might be tried for their welfare.

The Treaty officials regret that they are compelled to regard this allegation as lacking foundation.

You state that it is a fact that work on reconstruction and restoration, undertaken by the Government of the United States, is barely outlined, and that, after three years and a half, Haiti still awaits the most important reforms, such as the consolidation of the Public debt, the building of public schools, professional and agricultural schools, and the revision of the customs tariff.

[Page 339]

The Government of the United States regrets to be compelled to say in reply that the Treaty officials report that officials of the Government of Haiti are largely responsible for this situation, as though their attitude, which is constantly obstructive, they have rendered impossible speedy amelioration of the conditions above mentioned.

You say:

“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 deprivation of certain liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, nor the ill-treatment 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.”

The Treaty officials report to the Department that they have no knowledge of any facts, on which the charges immediately above quoted can be based, except the fact that Haitian officials have, as previously stated, often failed to cooperate with the Treaty officials, and have thus made themselves largely responsible for the delay in the amelioration of the conditions of which you complain.

You say that your Government regrets the necessity of using force to suppress banditry, not because it is moved by compassion for those who create the disturbances, but by the fact that many innocent persons will pay with their lives the penalty of being taken with arms in their hands.

The Government of the United States also regrets that banditry exists in Haiti and that its suppression must entail the loss of human lives, but your Government in the first portion of your note has energetically demanded its suppression and the Government of the United States is equally determined to break up the outlaw bands.

You appeal to this Government to see that justice shall reign in Haiti.

The Government of the United States desires to point out in reply that the courts of Haiti are open and are solely under the control of the Government of Haiti.

You add,

“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 into better paths without uncalled for violation [violence]; in other words, good heartedness, psychology, active sympathy and productive interest are needed more than military power. Rapid progress would [Page 340]be made for the great good of the Haitian people when that truth is acknowledged.”

It is pointed out by the Treaty officials in reply that they are well aware of the needs of the Haitian people and of their mentality, but that, without the constant cooperation of the officials of the Government of Haiti, they cannot expect to improve conditions in the Republic as rapidly as they had hoped or desired.

Permit me to express the hope that your Government will see the advisability of appointing officials who will lend efficient assistance in this respect.

Accept [etc.]

Robert Lansing