The Military Governor of Santo Domingo ( Snowden ) to the Secretary of the Navy ( Daniels )3

590–19 S–McG

1. The following report of the activities of the Military Government of Santo Domingo for the quarter ending March 31, 1919, is respectfully submitted:

2. The undersigned arrived at Santo Domingo on February 25, 1919, and was received with the usual honors, relieving the Acting Military Governor the same day.

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4. Quiet and good order have continued to prevail generally throughout the quarter. The banditry which has been referred to in previous reports as existing in Seibo and Macoris provinces is [Page 100] still the occasion of military activities. It is a question simply of time, when these lawless and work-avoiding criminals are run down. Active operations are being continued to discourage these activities against the general law and order of the Republic. Constant patrolling fails to discover groups of bandits, showing that the bands have broken up. The surrender of individual bandits with arms is an almost daily occurrence. No depredations are now being committed. Banditry is practically confined to a comparatively small district of the Eastern province of the Republic, that of Seibo; the other eleven provinces are peaceful and the inhabitants are pursuing their various vocations without annoyances. Considerable criticism has been made of the Guardia Nacional Dominicana. Irresponsible people and those inimical to the present government are making ill-judged and malicious remarks against the Guardia. These people are visionaries or socialists; at any rate, they are irresponsible and the carrying out of their views would lead to the return of the old system of graft and constant revolution. Some national police force is required, and will be required to be left behind when the Military Government is withdrawn. This is an absolute necessity. The Guardia is a military police, organized under Executive Order No. 47 of 7 April, 1917, and as such, it is not an army or a militia. It is organized on similar lines to the Haitian Gendarmerie, although with much less, but sufficient pay. It is stationed in small detachments throughout the country and in larger bodies operating with the Marines against the bandits in Seibo. At present there are about eleven hundred men in the Guardia with thirty American and twenty-seven Dominican officers. The Dominican officers are one Captain and twenty-six Lieutenants. It is my opinion that we should maintain Dominicans of good officer material in the lower ranks to be trained to take over command of the Guardia when the Military Government is withdrawn. Where Dominicans cannot be found to fill such positions, Americans will be given these posts. Close supervision is exercised by the Department of Interior and Police over the Municipal Councils of the Republic. In some cases graft has been discovered, the Dominican officials removed and prosecuted. An endeavor is being made to give responsibility to the Civil Governors of the Provinces and to obtain some results from their offices.

5. Business conditions continue to improve. The customs collections of the country for the quarter ending March 31, 1919, exceeded the estimate by $16,067.71, but fell behind the collections of the corresponding period of 1918 by the sum of $106,786.55. This decrease was not unexpected and is accounted for by the fact that merchants are disposing of existing stocks, as in many cases when [Page 101] they could obtain export licenses they overbought, not knowing whether they would be able to continue getting goods from the United States because of the War Trade Board restrictions and the scarcity of shipping. Then, also, the merchants look for lower prices in the near future, and are only buying for immediate needs. The matter of tariff revision3 has had attention with the result that the Military Government has decided to appoint a tariff commission to study the subject with a view to making recommendations for proper adjustment of inequitable rates or inconsistencies in the present tariff and a substantial reduction in the duty on the necessities of life. Letters have been received by the Department of Hacienda and Comercio from many of the Chambers of Commerce of the country heartily endorsing tariff revision and agreeing to submit the views of their members to the Commission to be appointed. It can be said that the revision will be a very popular measure with the country at large and will remove to a great extent the heavy burden of indirect taxation at present resting upon the poorer classes. In order to protect the business interests of the country and give them ample time to dispose of present stocks, announcement has been made in the public press of the proposed revision with statement that it is the Administration’s intention to complete the tariff not later than September 1, and to place the new tariff in effect January 1, 1920. All the conditions of the American–Dominican Convention of 19074 will be carefully observed, so it is assumed that the new tariff, when submitted, will receive the approval of the United States Government without question. The Executive Order to accomplish this purpose has already been drafted and will be issued in the course of a very few days. The commission will be composed of the following gentlemen:

  • Chairman—J. H. Edwards, Special Deputy General Receiver.
  • Member—Alfredo Ricart y O., President Camara de Comercio, Santo Domingo City.
  • Member—Julio Senior, Special Inspector, Customs Receivership.
  • Member—R. A. Alburquerque, Interventor de Aduana, Santo Domingo City.
  • Member—L. H. Vorfeld, from Washington, D. C.
  • Secretary—L. E. Lavandier, Official Translator, Customs Receivership.

All except Mr. Vorfeld serve without salary thereby showing their public-spiritedness and desire to serve the people of the Dominican Republic. Mr. J. H. Edwards, Mr. Julio Senior and Mr. Alburquerque through their long experience in connection with the Receivership [Page 102] of Dominican Customs are all particularly fitted for the work; Mr. Ricart, the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Santo Domingo City, is in a position to know the needs and views of the merchants of the country and will represent them on the Commission. Mr. Vorfeld, who is a tariff expert qualified through work done in the preparation of the Philippine tariff and the existing tariff of Santo Domingo, was secured through the Bureau of Insular Affairs and has been specially brought down from the United States for the period of about six months for special service on the Commission. The collections of Internal Revenue continue to be very gratifying. The collections for the three months just completed exceeded the amount collected for the same period of 1918 by $61,251.48, and 1917 by $206,131.89. A new land tax law has been in preparation which it is estimated will bring in annually the sum of $1,250,000. Such an estimate cannot be more than a guess, however, since there is nothing definite to base the estimate upon. The revenue realized from this tax will replace such revenue as will be lost by the proposed reduction in the tariff and will enable the Military Government to remove certain other vexatious taxes. The rates proposed are low, and, coming at the same time as the announcement of the tariff revision, it is expected that it will be well received by the country. The administration of the law will be somewhat difficult for some years to come, but it is felt that it should not be longer postponed and that it will assist in forcing the division of the so-called Comunero lands. Its administration will be placed under the Internal Revenue Department which will necessitate a considerable increase in the personnel of that Department. The expenditures from the 1919 budget for the quarter amounted to $754,652.89, which is $176,236.61 below the proportional part of the budget for 1919.

6. Much diplomatic controversy was anticipated upon the announcement of the findings of the Claims Commission, in so far as they affected foreigners. Fortunately this anticipation has not materialized as yet, probably because of the fact that the justice of the findings has exhausted the complaints. The Dominican Claims Commission of 1917 settled 1055 claims amounting to $379,817.87, during the past quarter. The total claims passed to date is 1282 amounting to $486,105.46. The total number of claims wholly rejected to date is 198. All claims settled have been promptly paid by the Contaduría General de Hacienda by means of the bonds of the 1918 issue, which have been well received by the people. At the present time it is impossible to estimate when the Commission will finish its labors. Every effort is being made to expedite the passing of claims and they are being handled with as much celerity as a thorough [Page 103] investigation will permit. It is hoped that the Commission will be able to complete their work by the end of the present calendar year. To date the following bonds have been issued in payment of the claims:

  • Series L 585
  • Series C 1493
  • Series D 152
  • Series M 204

The failure of the State Department to confirm the interpretation of the Military Government that the action of the Military Governor in assigning the necessary amounts for interest and amortization of the 1918 bond issue from the customs revenues with the consent of the United States, as stated in the bond, was in effect an agreement for the continuation of the terms of the American-Dominican Convention of 1907,4 caused considerable embarrassment to the Military Government. The wording of the face of the bond which had been presented for the approval of the State Department, is so clear on the point that the Military Government felt that it had been placed in the unenviable position of having published an untrue statement on the face of bonds of the Dominican Republic. To let the matter stand was unthinkable and much consideration was given to the subject by this Department. As a solution of the matter Executive Order No. 272 was issued.5 Under the terms of this Order additional amortization is pledged for the retirement of the bonds; i.e., sixty percent of the one-half of the surplus above $3,000,000 of the customs revenues from imports and exports collected by the General Receiver of Dominican Customs, which would otherwise accrue to the Dominican Government. Tests made show that this will insure the complete payment of the 1918 loan before the final payment on the bonds of the 1908 loan, under any or all conditions of customs receipts, and thus within the life of the Receivership. This removes the objection raised by the bankers and has resulted in restoring confidence in the bond issue. Monthly purchases of bonds of the $100 denomination (Series C) were continued during the quarter in order to allow the many holders of small claims to realize on their bonds. The average price paid was 95.7. These purchases have had an excellent effect in maintaining the price of these bonds.

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9. Agricultural activities are constantly advancing, being continued along the same lines as before. Instructors to the total of thirty have been sent to various parts of the Republic to instruct the farmers in the cultivation of their crops. Specialists in cacao, [Page 104] tobacco and corn have been sent out. In cooperation with the Department of Agriculture in Washington much information has been secured on the local way of planting rice, also the first necessary steps have been taken for running a series of experiments with this crop as to the most favorable date of planting. About a ton of wheat seed was secured from the United States and small quantities were sent to different parts of the Island to be planted in the highlands. The Agricultural College is being founded; experiment stations are being added to; a nursery of coffee and cocoa trees has been established, as well as a plantation of grape fruit trees, a vanilla garden, and other nurseries. Due to the fact that labor brought into the country for harvesting the year’s crops was being taken out of the country by foreign agents, an Executive Order was issued to safeguard the local interests.

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11. The only untoward incident connected with the foreign relations of the Republic was the reported suspension of the Legation of Santo Domingo by the Holy See, which has very recently occurred, the basis of which appears to be the reluctance of the Military Government to receive in its turn a diplomatic representative. The Legation at Rome constituted a form only, and seemed to possess no essential functions. It therefore seems best to tacitly accept the suspension, leaving the future government of Santo Domingo to heal the breach.

12. During the quarter the head of the Department of Education began an inspection of the schools of the com[m]unes which will extend to the entire Republic. The schools were found to be operating satisfactorily. Improvements of organization, equipment, and method are being effected from day to day. There are about 200,000 children requiring school accommodation, and there is now accommodation for but half that number. All of this 100,000 live in rural communities, and the system is being extended to them as rapidly as the funds can be allotted. That the industrial, moral and political salvation of this country depends upon reaching this 100,000 of the growing generation seems to be almost axiomatic. No culture, idealism, or even patriotism of enlightened self-interest can be inculcated without a means for the general dissemination of ideas, which is the capacity to read and write. The progress in school matters is very gratifying.

13. Previous to December 31, 1918, the two services, Posts and Telegraphs, were entirely separated. On January 1, 1919, by Executive Order No. 242, these two departments were combined as a Department of Posts and Telegraphs. Since October, 1918, a rapid [Page 105] service for carrying first-class, ordinary and registered mail across the Island has been in daily operation, making the trips each way in twenty-eight hours. This new and rapid service is giving most satisfactory results and many commendatory remarks are being made by business men and others regarding this service. This replaces a coastal service formerly requiring seven to eight days. During the quarter, in accordance with Executive Order No. 275 of March 20, 1919, the general government acquired by purchase the Telephone System of Santo Domingo City in order to insure an efficient service for the Capital City. The system was owned and operated by Sr. H. Lopez Peña who was paid $10,000 therefor, after determination of its present value by a mixed board. The Ferroearril Central, a property of the Dominican Government, is in good condition and prospects.

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16. The Public Health Service of the country continues its excellent work and matters under its cognizance are progressing favorably. Although there are still some instances of the recent epidemic of influenza in the country, it is considered almost extinct. At the request of this Government, the U. S. Geological Survey has sent Lieut, Col. Smith, of the Engineer Corps, U.S.A., and a staff of Geological Surveyors to plan the Topographical and Geological Survey of the Republic. It is hoped that this very vital matter may now be considered in process of solution.

18. [sic]. A Civil Service Commission, composed of Mr. C. L. Lang, as President, Mr. Vienvenido Ravelo, additional member, and Mr. Federico Glass, as Secretary, have conducted examinations for the classification of employes of the Postal, and Telegraph and Telephone Services in the several cities and towns of the Republic under regulations framed by the Department of Communications, etc. Examinations have already been held in Santo Domingo City, San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana, Samana, Sanchez, San Francisco de Macoris, La Vega, and Moca. The total number of applications filed up to March 20, was about 350. Construction of new telephone lines continues.

19. The cordial relations heretofore existing between the Military Government and the representatives of the State Department as well as those of the General Receivership have been fully maintained. It is the desire and policy of the Government to cultivate friendly and cordial relations with all representatives of the Dominican people.

Thomas Snowden
  1. Copy transmitted to the Acting Secretary of State by the Acting Secretary of the Navy, May 2.
  2. See pp. 161 ff.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1907, pt. 1, p. 307.
  4. See letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Feb. 12, p. 147.
  5. Post, p. 148.