The Secretary General of the Commission to Negotiate Peace ( Grew ) to the Acting Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith for the information of the Department, a copy of a translation of a letter written to Mr. Stabler by Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal, unrecognized Provisional President of Santo Domingo, together with a copy of a translation of a memorandum submitted by Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal, in regard to conditions in Santo Domingo.

Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal has been in Paris for the last two weeks and has called twice on Mr. Stabler, who acting under instructions from the Secretary of State, received him informally, telling him that no questions in regard to Santo Domingo could be taken up in Paris, and if he desired to bring any matters to the attention of the Government of the United States it would be best for him to do this through the Department of State. However, Mr. Stabler discussed in an informal way the present situation in Santo Domingo and asked Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal to give him for transmission to the Department a memorandum regarding his views of the future of Santo Domingo. The second memorandum referred to in his letter will be transmitted to the Department as soon as received.5

Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal has approached many of the Latin American diplomats and delegates to the Peace Conference in connection with his claim to be restored to power in Santo Domingo. From what the Commission has been able to gather, nothing more than a simple hearing has been accorded to him and many of the Latin American delegates have come immediately to Mr. Stabler to make inquiries as to Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal.

It would appear that Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal is not rabidly anti-American and that he recognizes the necessity of the step which the [Page 107] United States has taken in Santo Domingo but desires that some of the functions of the Government be turned over to the Dominicans. It is not believed that any difficulties will arise for the United States from his visit to Paris. The Department will be kept closely informed of all of his activities.

I have [etc.]

J. C. Grew

Doctor Henriquez y Carvajal to the Chief of the Division of Latin American Affairs of the Department of State ( Stabler )

I have the honor to send you the memorandum on the republic of San Domingo, which I promised you at our last interview.

I will now prepare the other memorandum, relative to the points which you suggested for my consideration, and I will send it to you in the course of next week.

Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal



At the very moment when the press of the civilized world published the admonition which went out by radio to all the nations from the Peace Conference recently assembled in Paris, a spontaneous popular sentiment in favor of the Dominican people, a sentiment of sympathy which received the adherence of elements foreign to the native population, culminated in Cuba in the foundation of pro-Santo Domingo committees. The number of these committees has spread from place to place and it is possible to foresee that they will soon extend over all Latin America.

The plan of these committees, not yet definitely shaped, is to lend all the moral aid possible to the Dominican people to bring about an improvement in the present conditions, from the political point of view, as well as in intellectual, commercial and industrial development. The first step in this plan to be taken at once is to obtain for the Dominican Republic its reinstatement in the exercise of its own national free government. The invitation issued by the Peace Congress to all the nations of the earth has made it easy for each one of them to present all the claims that they had to make concerning their legitimate rights and aspirations. No one of them is in a better position than the Dominican Republic to claim the restitution of her sovereignty as a state and nation, which she has lost neither by war nor by any international agreement, voluntary or [Page 108] otherwise; and she would be able, under normal conditions of international life, to solicit the place that she desires to have assigned to her in the League of Nations. Nations which appeared dead, supplanted for centuries by powerful neighboring states, have been recalled to life by the Peace Commission; why should the Dominican Republic, situated in a new continent, free and continually progressing, near the mightiest dominion of liberty and industry, bound to this very dominion by geographical, commercial and political ties which nothing can break, a link, however small, in the chain of free states which constitute the society of nations called Pan-America, why should she have to remain, as at present she is, with her sovereignty sequestered and crippled?

But before being submitted to the Peace Conference, the Dominican question, in our opinion, should be laid before the Government at Washington. By its nature, its origin and its antecedents it is a question essentially American; and it can pass beyond the limits of America only when the latter has lost all sense of justice and cordiality. And this would be a mistake; because the United States has shown on more than one occasion its good will towards the Dominican Republic and its people and has lent its valuable moral support in the ominous hours of anxiety and trouble. Even today, the intervention which has taken place in this country on the part of the Government of the United States and which keeps the said country submitted to military government and military law, seems to have no other object than to “give assistance to the end that it may return to such a condition of domestic peace as will allow it to fulfil the terms of the financial convention of 1907 and its obligations as a member of the Society of Nations “. And this proposal rests on this solemn declaration:

“This military occupation is undertaken with no intention or ulterior object of destroying the sovereignty of the Republic of Santo Domingo”. (Proclamation of Captain H. S. Knapp on November 29, 19167).

Such declarations justify laying all claims made in favor of the Dominican Republic before the American Government, confident that the latter will not refuse to hear the voice of those who speak sincerely and calmly for their country. And if this voice demands a hearing today in Paris, it is because all rights and claims are being submitted in this atmosphere of justice, liberty and regeneration in which the principal breath blows from the powerful North American democracy.

A rapid sketch of the facts will bring us up to the conclusions and suggestions which we wish to make.

[Page 109]

Convention of 1907

The convention signed in 1907 between the Dominican Republic and the United States is essentially financial. Its only object is to guarantee the payment of the interest and amortization of the foreign debt, to the extent of 20,000,000 pesos gold, contracted by said Republic. In guarantee of this payment the Republic put in the hands of the American Government all the customs, to be administered from that time by collectors and assistants appointed by the President of the United States. From the funds gathered by the collectors the latter put aside ipso facto and month by month 5% destined to pay all expenses and salaries of the personnel of the customs service, and 100,000 pesos to be applied to the fund of the interest and amortization of the debt, plus half the excess above 3,000,000 pesos when the customs receipts pass this figure. This sum shall serve to increase the amortization fund.

After the aforesaid sums are reserved, the remainder of the customs receipts, in addition to the other taxes, shall serve the Dominican Government to meet the estimate of its public expenses.

The interest on the public debt has always been paid with absolute regularity. From 1907 until 1912 the public expenses were met without difficulty. From 1912 on political disturbances arose which gave rise to extraordinary expenses which at length engendered a domestic debt for deficits on estimates in various successive years.

clause iii

The third clause of the convention imposes two obligations on the Republic:

Until the total amount of the bonds of the loan shall have been paid, its public debt shall not be increased without previous agreement between the Dominican Government and the Government of the United States.
The same agreement is necessary to modify the import duties.

The second of these obligations has never given occasion for dispute, since the Dominican Government has at no moment contemplated modifying its import duties.

The first obligation, on the contrary, has given occasion to a difference of opinion between the two Governments. The Dominican Government has always understood that the obligation imposed on it was that of contracting no new public debt of the same kind as that guaranteed by the convention, without previous agreement with the American Government; that a debt arising from a deficit in estimates, by reason of necessary and unusual expenses of war, as well as those due to unforeseen public calamities or to a diminution of income [Page 110] occasioned by bad crops or by fluctuations in merchandise, a debt irregular in its origin, involuntary and impossible to foresee and upon which it is impossible to count, is surely not the debt provided for in the third clause.

The American Government, on the other hand, asserts that in contracting this new debt, originated by expenses of war and by deficits in estimates, the Dominican Government has violated the convention. And this criterion, according to the proclamation of Captain H. S. Knapp, is the legal foundation for the armed intervention in the Dominican Republic.

political ineffectiveness of the convention

When the convention of 1907 was signed it was the current opinion in Santo Domingo that by it the era of revolutions had ended. Perhaps the same opinion was held by many people in the United States. In reality, the convention was only a financial instrument whose essential object has been fulfilled. The revolutions were more frequent and bloody than ever between 1912 and 1916. The convention has not been able to forestall nor avoid nor remedy political disturbances, since that is neither its primary nor secondary object.

Debts of the Republic

The public foreign debt of 20,000,000 dollars has been considerably reduced by the payment of amortization, which was to commence in 1917. Apart from the 200,000 dollars annual reserves for this purpose for ten years, which makes a total of 2,000,000 dollars, this sum has been increased; by the sums resulting from the 50% of the excess over the income of 3,000,000 dollars from customs duties during this same period of ten years, on one hand; on the other, by the accumulated interest which has not been paid on the bonds deposited to the account of the Republic. The amortization of the debt, therefore, will be made more and more rapidly. In the present year the estimate of the Republic sets aside for this purpose; 200,000 dollars, the annual fixed quota; 440,000 representing 50% of the excess over 3,000,000 of the customs duties; plus the sums accruing from the interest corresponding to bonds already paid. We may count on an annual amortization of more than 700,000 dollars, which will shortly reach and go beyond 1,000,000. It is no exaggeration to state that within fifteen years at the latest the debt will be paid off.

The domestic debt originating during these four years of disturbances and now in process of liquidation, is estimated at some 7,000,000. The estimate for the present year sets aside 700,000 dollars [Page 111] for its amortization. Its payment also will be rapid, although this rapidity will be retarded by the attribution of an annual 5% interest. This debt could have been and should have been paid without interest.

In any case, it is certain that the total amount of both debts will be paid rapidly, in view of the size of the sums destined to their amortization, which within a few years will exceed 2,000,000 pesos a year, so that in this way and without creating new financial obligations, the Republic will see itself in the rare position of a state without debts. This is all the more probable, since the public income is increasing from year to year, and it will increase much more as soon as new and legitimate taxes are levied, which the country can pay without loss.

Origin of the Political Disturbances

It is certain that the political outbreaks on the part of the populace arise from many various, distinct and complex causes; but the principal and perennial cause in the Dominican Republic is its present political organization. The history of the Dominican nation is a history of war. First of the American colonies, with a monastic capital city, possessing a university from which doctors and scholars went out to distant points of the continent and the neighboring islands, it little by little lost its population and its prestige by the constant emigration to other privileged regions in the process of colonization. Its insufficient population led to invasions by filibusters, who, installed in the entire western part of the island, became strong enough first to resist the violent attacks made upon them by the Spanish authorities, and later to attack the Spanish colonists themselves. These struggles lasted for more than a century; they ended when Spain ceded the island to France. But new contests soon arose. Aided by the English, the Spanish colonists fought with the French, who for a time occupied the whole island, and succeeded in reestablishing the power of Spain. The latter gave little assistance to its colony, hence the Dominicans decided to unite with Gran Colombia, This first declaration of independence came to nothing and the Dominican nation then came under the domination of the Government of Haiti, at that time strong and well-organized, a powerful neighbor in the same island constituted with all the elements of political, military and agricultural organization bequeathed to it by the French Colony.

This Haitian domination lasted twenty-two years. The germ of liberty and independence of 1821, small in appearance, day by day grew stronger in the souls of the Dominicans. The latter decided [Page 112] on February 27, 1844, to shake off the yoke of foreign domination and definitely proclaimed the constitution of its free and independent republic. This act was followed by a bloody war which lasted seventeen years and which exacted of the Dominicans unheard-of efforts, in view of the smallness of their population and the scarcity of their resources and elements of war.

President Santana, the valiant champion of those heroic struggles, fearing that the Dominican nation, weakened by the continued strife, could not in the long run resist the power of the enemy, sought the support of Spain, who annexed the territory of the Republic without consulting the will of the people. The latter wished no foreign domination and rushed to arms again to wrest the land from the new tyrant. A bloody and unequal struggle in which the Dominican people might have been annihilated ensued, but fortunately it lasted only two years. Once more the unfortunate Dominican people emerged as a republic, free and independent, but weakened by so many long and enormous sacrifices.

What was the result of so many costly and painful efforts? A political organization based on a military organization. All the authorities assumed a military character and adopted military proceedings. The most insignificant rural police authority was military. The head of a village, the mayor of a city, the governor of a province, the minister, the President, all were ordinarily soldiers or assumed in their functions the character of soldiers. In a country which lacked and which still lacks sufficient resources to support properly such a military organization, the degeneration of militarism was a foregone conclusion. Its elements entered into all political contests and militarism engendered caudillos. The caudillos in turn degenerated and, their authority diminished and influence weakened by vain pretentiousness, were at last unable to engender any stable state of authority, except when by rare qualities of personal character a strong caudillo, rising from the midst of public disturbances, succeeded in assuming a real authority over the rest or over a majority of them, subjecting them to obedience. And nevertheless, even so, unless he was favored by special and transitory conditions of the national life, he was in reality in a precarious position; because he had to compromise with each of the agents of the Government holding office in the provinces, cities and villages, and in the intemperance of the exercise of his duties each agent of the Government grew in ambition and prepared for the exercise of a higher authority, if not the highest in the hierarchy.

Under such lamentable conditions political parties were formed around a caudillo, taking their names from him. The sole object of such parties was to predominate; their strongest bond, the necessity [Page 113] for self defense, and the result was the constitution of governments ordinarily tyrannical, which were ignorant of the efficacy of the laws and the advantages of a good administration, and were hence incapable of improving them. Sometimes the good sense and advanced opinions of certain elements representing the reaction against the deplorable tendencies of the parties, succeeded in imprinting on the latter a wise direction and in placing in the President’s chair certain eminent and honored citizens, whose presence in power was a hope for gubernatorial regeneration. But such situations were precarious and transitory.

Nevertheless, the country has progressed. Many of its sons have attained the highest culture. Public instruction is widespread and opinion hostile to demagogy and its system of government has become general; and today it is the wish of many Dominicans to transform the political condition of the Republic by completely annulling the tradition and the influence of the caudillos, burying forever the old degenerate militarism, the constant disturber of the peace of the Republic and the cause of its bankruptcy.

The Remedy

The remedy does not lie in the convention, as we have already said. The American Government has sought it in an interpretation a fortiori of the third clause of the convention and has exacted:

That, with a view to preventing the increase of the debt, the direction of public affairs be entrusted to a financial adviser, who should receive powers above those of the legislative body. A scrupulous organization of the business, so that the taxes should be collected regularly, honestly and fairly and that the public expenses, adjusted to a well thought-out estimate, should be paid in conformity with the law that had previously fixed them;
And in order that the public force shall not be placed in the hands of disloyal leaders who, far from employing this force to preserve order and peace and to guard the constitution and laws of the state, use it to overthrow the President and to create disturbances, let the sole public force which ought to exist in the country, the republican guard, be vested in a high North American official, who shall be assisted by a number of officials also North American, in the organization, command and discipline of such a body.

Doubtless this reform remedies the evil but does not cure it definitely. It would leave alive all the old institutional mechanism, of Franco-Spanish colonial tradition, in which authority is everything and the people nothing. We should still have governors, chiefs of communes and chiefs of sections abusing their authority and crushing the spirit of the people.

The Republic needs in its institutions a total reform aimed to free the soul of the people from all the oppressive, constrictive and restrictive [Page 114] bonds in which it has lived and enable it to expand in the atmosphere of liberty in which its will may act and aspire to better conditions of life than those which it enjoys at present. A succinct program of this reform was published about three years ago in the press of New York and Santo Domingo. This program includes: (a) the formation of political parties, with written program and elective duties to constitute the directives of its assemblies from the city wards to the national assembly; (b) a free municipal organization and government of the villages and cities by a municipal authority elected by the people; (c) civil governors and provincial councils elected by the people of their respective provinces; (d) chambers in which shall be represented at the same time majority and minority; (e) president and vice-president elected by presidential electors; (f) public force, the national guard, by voluntary enlistment, with police functions, directed under the orders of the president; (g) national reserve army, as in Switzerland; (h) administrative service with the rule of civil service and pecuniary bond obligatory for all those who hold financial office; (i) the development of a great plan of national culture, from elementary instruction, free and obligatory, with a minimum of attainment, to special and professional schools and university instruction; (j) protective laws for immigration and labor, with a compulsory minimum time schedule and an optional maximum schedule.

The general disarmament of the people, the dissolution of the standing army, the withdrawal of all military command from the governors and subaltern authorities; all this would make it immediately possible to undertake the reorganization of the Republic in conformity with the plans above furnished.

Difference of Judgment

In the discussions which the undersigned, while President of Santo Domingo, held with Rear Admiral Pond and Minister Russell, this plan was explained various times, and comparing it with the one submitted by the aforesaid representatives of the American Government to the Dominican Government, the undersigned signified that he had decided to resolve:

Concerning financial affairs, that the collection of all the taxes of the Republic, for a certain time and for so long as may be necessary to perfect and complete the entire service of the aforesaid affairs, should remain in the care of the General Treasury, which should effect the payments ordered by the auditor’s office, whenever (and only at such times) the orders of payment shall be based on the articles of the law of public expenditures or in accordance with other laws which determine special expenditures, and should designate the origin of the funds to meet such distributions. It was also decided to ask for the assistance of a financial adviser, an expert [Page 115] in Spanish-American affairs, a university scholar and a practical man at the same time, whose opinions, suggestions and indications shall serve as guide and norm to the men of the government who have the legal power to present laws before the Chambers. A remuneration suitable to the rank and the high mission of the adviser would be insured to him by the Dominican Government by means of a contract previously signed.
As to the reorganization of the national, rural or republican guard, to entrust it to an American superior officer, who should call to his aid the necessary number of officers, also American, who should all know how to speak Spanish and should be recommended, as to their capacity and morality, by the American Government. The body of officers of the guard should include a certain number of Dominican officers judged apt to occupy the position of lieutenants. For the efficient reorganization of the guard, all changes should be made that might be suggested by the commander, whose suggestions would be transmitted to the Chambers with a request for such reforms. These officers should all be subject to the military laws of the country thus reformed, should hold the effective command of the public force and should draw their salaries in conformity with contracts drawn up and signed between them and the Dominican Government, and in conformity with the laws in which such provisions may figure. The contracts should be good for four years and should be renewable with the common consent of both parties. The Dominican officers, according to the competence and good conduct of which they might give evidence, would have the right to regular promotion every four years.

On what, then, is the difference of opinion between the plan of the Dominican Government and that of the American Government founded? The difference appears to be subtle. The Dominican Government could not logically accept the indications of the American Government, as they were formulated, for neither the Constitutions, nor the laws, nor the will of the people permitted it. And it is certain that the object aimed at by the American Government would be realized perfectly by the plan of the Dominican Government.

Antecedents of Both Opinions

In 1912 the Dominican Government requested the American Government to recommend some field officers who might be disposed to take charge of the reorganization and instruction of the Dominican Army, after a contract duly signed by them for a period of four years. The State Department was good enough to present to the Dominican Legation at Washington a list of the names of officers disposed to assume the functions offered them, designating on the list the salary that each one should receive. This first step was without results.

On January 8, 1915, the State Department presented to the Dominican Legation at Washington a memorandum, according to which: [Page 116] “the United States, desirous of assisting the Dominican Republic to bring about certain reforms necessary to insure the peace and prosperity of the Republic”, suggested to it—

That by a decree it should put the collection of the internal revenues in the hands of the Treasury;
That the office of Controller of Finances should be officially conferred on Mr. Charles M. Johnston, and that he should be vested with exactly the same powers that the financial adviser would receive later;
That the expenses of the Dominican Army be reduced, an army whose lack of discipline constituted a danger to public order, far from guaranteeing it; and it added: “that the United States would be pleased to furnish President Jiminez whatever aid he might desire to reorganize the police forces of the Republic or for the creation of a constabulary to take the place of the army and the rural guard as they are today constituted.”

These preliminaries show that both Governments were seeking a common point to arrive at an agreement in a matter of so great importance. The thought of both is included in the plan, previously explained, of the Dominican Government, a plan which includes a general reform of the political situation of the Republic, insures peace and leaves its sovereignty safe, unnecessarily suppressed by the North American plan.

A Historic Example

When, on the occasion of the second inauguration of President Estrada Palma, grave disturbances took place in Cuba which caused the resignation of the President, the American Government intervened in the conflict. To examine the causes it appointed Secretaries Taft and Bacon to proceed to the spot and to hear the parties in litigation. The consequence of this examination was the reform of certain laws. A provisional North American Government directed the destinies of Cuba, while the consulting commission drew up those laws, and gave time for passions to cool and for moral peace to be reestablished. As soon as this came about, popular elections restored to Cuba her own government. The tact, prudence, generosity, fairness and self-respect which the American Government showed on this occasion, constitute a crown of glory for this Government and engender in the people of Cuba a legitimate sense of gratitude.

Future of the Dominican Republic

No nation of America has suffered greater vicissitudes than the little nation of old Hispaniola, favored by Columbus, the cradle of America and the tomb of the great and immortal explorer. Nothing, [Page 117] however, has been able to destroy its character; neither the three years of French domination, nor the twenty-two years of Haitian domination, nor the five of the last Spanish domination, nor the seventeen years of war with Haiti to establish her independence nor the two years of war with Spain to restore it. In the midst of her hazardous life, lacking in resources and exhausted by struggles, she never abandoned the lofty ideal of liberty and independence which has served her as a standard and a guide. The island in which the Republic is situated is a mine of potential wealth. The population, few in numbers, has been increasing slowly and the victory over the ground, although insufficient, has succeeded in producing the necessary elements of life to insure it a progressive development and to place it in a position to realize the objects of civilization. Its commerce is increasing from day to day; its agricultural production, in proportion to its population, is considerable; and the day is not far distant when the exploitation of its natural wealth will make of this land of revolutions a desirable country toward which the eyes of immigrants will turn.

The agricultural, commercial and industrial development of this nation, as well as its political stability, will bring it nearer day by day to the United States. Its institutions, laws and customs will go on assuming more and more the American spirit. It will make progress by means of this contact. It will aspire to a future ever more ample, in proportion as the democratic spirit of the American people extends its sphere of action over the entire world. To no great people of the earth will it cling more than to the North American people, whose future in history knows no horizon. Its safeguard lies in this. But this luminous vision does not blind its eyes to the standard which has guided it through its hazardous life, the standard of its liberty and its independence.

Aspiration of the Dominican Nation

Above the devastation and the heaped-up ruins which the Great War has left as the trace of its mad career, to the horror of humanity, there now passes a breath of liberty and regeneration which comforts the soul of nations and incites them to a common desire for peace and justice. Nations subjugated for long years are rising on all sides to claim their rights to self-determination. Old and new, all nations are coming together and agreeing on a convention of a League of Nations which will cement on solid foundations international justice and the peace of the civilized world. It is the highest ideal of humanity, which seems already to be converting itself into a fact real, material and tangible.

[Page 118]

In this solemn hour of peace and concord, of justice and liberty, the people of the Dominican Republic, whose sentiments the undersigned interprets, claims the rehabilitation of its own government, its right to self-determination, to accomplish its international obligations and to write itself in the list of the League of Nations.

Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal
  1. Not printed.
  2. File translation revised.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1916, p. 246.