The Military Governor of Santo Domingo (Snowden) to the Secretary of the Navy (Daniels)6

1830–19 S–McG

1. The following report of the activities of the Military Government of Santo Domingo for the quarter ending June 30, 1919, is respectfully submitted:

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3. Quiet and good order have continued to prevail throughout the quarter, broken only by the intermittent and trivial activities of a small number of bandits in the Provinces of Macoris and Seibo. Conditions in this regard have, however, considerably improved, several sub-chiefs and their followers having surrendered with their arms. It is hoped that we are now in sight of the practical end of any organized banditry in this country. A resume of these matters will be found at the end of this report.

4. Business conditions have been satisfactory during the past quarter. Customs collections of the country for the quarter ending June 30, exceeded the collections for the same period of 1918 by $70,343.00 and exceeded the estimate by $143,000. This is very gratifying, as it had been expected that in view of the large stocks of merchandise held, that merchants would be slow in ordering more goods, since they have expected a general reduction in prices, and also in view of the revision of the tariff now under way.

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All preparations have been made for the collection of the Property Tax during the next quarter. Difficulty was experienced in getting the printed forms ready in time for distribution. The printing establishments of the capital are small and they were only able to handle the business with difficulty. Some difficulty has been experienced in obtaining qualified assessors. The Marine Corps has now [Page 122] granted permission for the discharge of not to exceed twenty men to accept positions in the Internal Revenue Department, Quite a number of applications from Marines have been received. Those who read and write Spanish and who have had several years experience in the Island should prove of value to the Internal Revenue Service. Everything indicates that the tax will be collected without any friction of any account. The Department of Internal Revenue has been instructed to exercise the greatest discretion in the matter of the collection of this tax and it is not anticipated that it will be necessary to seize and sell any property whatever. The benefit of the doubt in all cases will be given the taxpayer.

The membership of the Dominican Claims Commission changed during the quarter in the substitution of Lieut, Comdr. Ralph Whitman, C.E.S., U.S. Navy, for Colonel James T. Bootes, U.S. Marine Corps, the latter having received orders detaching him and recalling him to the United States. Lieutenant Commander Whitman is particularly well fitted for this duty by his two years experience with the Military Government in Santo Domingo and by his knowledge of the Spanish language. The Commission settled 1019 claims during the quarter and rejected 150 claims. The following statement shows the work up to June 30:

Total number of claims filed—8900
Total amount of claims filed $14,289,895.42
Claims definitely disposed of:
Awards, 2279 1,152,618.51
Rejected, 348 884,668.76
Total. 2,037,287.27
The total amount of the awards has been liquidated as follows:
Bonds issued 1,054,300.00
Cash paid in lieu of bonds of Series “L “$50.00 denomination 49,250.00
Cash paid in settlement of fractional amounts of less than $50.00 49,068.51
Total $1,152,618.51

This does not represent all the work done by the Commission, as there are a great number of claims upon which much work has been accomplished, but which have been laid aside for the purpose of obtaining additional information, or because of their relation to other claims. These will require comparatively little additional time when they come up for final settlement.

The President of the Commission holds to his estimate that the work of the Commission will be completed by the end of the year. [Page 123] So far no claimant has refused acceptance of the amount awarded by the Claims Commission.

Up to date, the following bonds have been issued in payment of claims:

  • Series L—985
  • Series C—2393
  • Series D—260
  • Series M—685

By the drawing held May 7, 1919, in accordance with Executive Order No. 193,7 the bonds of Series C, numbers 1 to 1875, were declared drawn for redemption. This was the total number of $100 bonds which had been issued up to the date of the drawing. A purchase of bonds of Series C, $100 denomination, was made by this Department at an average price 96.5. Further purchases were discontinued for the quarter, owing to the fact that all Series C bonds outstanding had been drawn for redemption, as stated above.

Offers to purchase bonds of Series C, D, and M, will be advertised for, with an opening of bids each month, July, August, and September. The effects of purchasing bonds from time to time by this department has resulted in keeping before the people the value of the bonds and will undoubtedly serve to force the banks to advance the prices they offer to a point more in accordance with the intrinsic value of the bonds. With the Victory Loan just completed and with Japanese, English and French bonds bearing a higher rate of interest than those of the Dominican Republic, 1918 Issue, it has been an unsuitable time to place the said bonds on the market. In view of all the circumstances, the prices that the holders of the bonds are receiving cannot be regarded as very much too low.

Booklets describing the loan, reprinting Executive Orders 193, 225 and 272, giving a statement of the financial condition of the Government, trade figures, and offering free service of the Department of Hacienda y Comercio for the purchase of the bonds are now on the press and will be distributed to the principal bond houses, insurance companies and banks in the United States early in July.

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The collections of Internal Revenue for the months of April, May and June are the highest in the history of the Republic. These collections are due in part to the gradually increasing prosperity of the Republic and very largely to the efficient administration of the Internal Revenue Department by Mr. Walter M. St. Elmo. The following comparative statement shows the collections for the past [Page 124] six months of the year, as compared with the collections for the corresponding periods of 1917 and 1918:

1917 1918 1919
January 86,976.12 154,708.11 133,572.65
February 79,714.51 111,415.45 136,699.58
March 81,500.01 119,785.72 182,959.40
Total Qtr 248,190.64 385,909.28 453,231.63
April 94,068.83 114,138.80 153,656.80
May 117,193.08 132,705.79 206,458.63
June 130,325.27 127,644.35 181,175.02
Total Qtr 341,587.18 374,488.94 541,290.45
1st Qtr 248,190.64 385,909.28 453,231.63
Total 6 Mos 589,777.82 760,398.22 994,522.08

The expenditures from the Presupuesto 1919 continue to run considerably behind the appropriations and at this time it is estimated that the appropriations will show an unexpended balance of about $500,000 at the end of the fiscal year.

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The Department of Finance in accordance with the instructions of the Military Governor has issued instructions for the investigation of all pensions by the agents of the Internal Revenue Department. Their reports will be compared with the records on file in this department by the Board of Officers appointed by the Military Governor. The investigation will be made in connection with the other duties of the Internal Revenue officers, hence it will be some months before it can be completed.

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5. The principal difficulty experienced in the attempt to solve the land title problem is to obtain a record of the land titles in existence. The system of recording land titles is somewhat as follows: A certain number of notaries are commissioned for each com[m]une, the maximum number for any com[m]une being seven, most com[m]unes having only one. Upon any transaction in real estate, the parties appear before a notary who draws an act of the transaction the original of which is deposited in the notary’s archives. A first copy is drawn and delivered to the owner, and in case of transfer of ownership, this first copy constitutes a title. The only official records are those of the notaries, and due to carelessness, destruction by elements, destruction by violence, thefts, etc., it has resulted that there was no record of existent land titles worthy of the name. Beginning in 1912, attempts were made to have rural land titles inscribed, but because of the general attitude of indifference to requirements of law, ignorance, and disorder, the law was not completely successful. The periods for inscription [Page 125] were extended from time to time, and finally expired in December, 1917, with a fine of 50% of the value of all titles not then inscribed. In order to relieve those under such penalty, a further period of six months was provided by Executive Order No. 195, upon the expiration of which titles to shares in undivided lands would lapse if not inscribed. Every means known were adopted to give this provision the widest publicity, but nevertheless the appeals received since the expiration of the six months extension have been so insistent as to inspire Executive Order No. 304, of June 11, 1919, by the terms of which the Secretary of Justice was empowered to authorize the inscription of titles for which reasonable cause could be shown for non-inscription in the period provided, thus avoiding the loss of the title. This order has thrown a great amount of additional work on the office of the Secretary of Justice, and has raised many delicate points for decision. It is hoped that one day the problem of titles will be on the way to solution, in the meantime that office cannot evade a vast amount of labor and confusion.

There was no process by which chattel property could be made security for a loan, without depositing it with the lender as a pledge. This deprived farmers and artizans of borrowing money on tools, implements, livestock, crops, unfinished work, etc. Executive Order No. 291, of May 6, 1919, supplies the deficiency, and is expected to be of assistance to farmers especially, in financing their operations.

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6. The various items of Public Works have been continued successfully, although much interfered with by the scarcity of labor, especially trained labor. The main carretera from Santo Domingo City across the island to Monte Cristi is progressing favorably, but has now reached difficult conditions, slowing the work. This road and the roads from Macoris to Hato Mayor, and from Azua to San Juan are being pushed as rapidly as possible. Besides the above, the government has assisted several of the Provinces in building local carreteras. The City Councils in several cases have inaugurated road building and have shown a most commendable spirit in helping themselves; notably the roads Azua–Barahona, Hato Mayor–Sabana de la Mar, Santiago–Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo-Santa Cruz–Villa Mella and La Vega–Jarabacoa. Work has been, and is being continued at the ports of Santo Domingo, San Pedro de Macoris and Puerto Plata. Work is being pursued on government buildings, old and new; the Leprosarium at the mouth of the Nigua River, fourteen miles west of the Capital is progressing satisfactorily and it is hoped that it will be occupied at the end of the year. The ground for the National Penitentiary near the same place has been cleared and the [Page 126] foundation prepared for beginning building. Increases and improvements at the Jaina Agricultural Station are being made and the Animal Industry section is being begun. The College of Agriculture and adjacent structures are being built, the corner stone being laid with appropriate ceremony on June 28, 1919. Repairs to several lighthouses have been made. The work of the Agricultural Department has been extended along the lines heretofore designed. Progress is being made in the instruction of farmers in cacao, tobacco and corn cultivation. Strenuous attempt is being made to favor the growing of rice in this country and wheat as well. The several Agricultural sub-stations at Constanza, Monte Cristi and elsewhere are doing good work.

7. The three months ending June 30, 1919, mark the end of the fiscal year of the largest movement and better results which the Central Dominican Railroad has had since its inauguration. The interruptions of previous years were avoided with the completion of the new steel bridge across the Bajabonico River, so that the railroad has been continually in operation and the transportation requirements of the regions which it serves have been met.

8. The Postal and Telegraph Services continue to improve. The Civil Service examinations have proved of great benefit to the services. On June 16, 1919, a semirapid mail service was established between the Capital and the Cibao, by way of the same roads utilized for the rapid service between the same points. This is a daily service and has been of great service to business and to the publishers.

9. About the close of the preceding year the several Prosecuting Attorneys (Fiscals) furnished lists to Guardia Headquarters containing the names of some four hundred and fifty criminals who had committed crimes and were fugitives from justice. During the year it came to light that many score of others were wanted by the courts, but that for various reasons their names were not given to the Guardia. Not included in the above-mentioned lists, there was a band of outlaws numbering about twenty, remnants of the forces of Vicentico Evangelista, at large in the Province of Seybo. These were led by Ramón Natera who had operated as a sub-chief under Vicentico. In the Province of Azua, another band, nominally under one Olivero Mateo, alias Papa Livorio, a religious fanatic, but really under the leadership of Nicolas Cuevas, alias Colon, and which contained some thirty members, were in hiding among the hills adjoining the Haitian border. The Province of Santo Domingo, supported two more bands, one of about twelve men and another of about fourteen, which were frequently divided into groups of two or three. These latter groups maintained themselves in the mountainous sections to the North of Bani and to the West of San Cristobal. During the first week in July, 1918, a group of about [Page 127] thirty outlaws crossed the mountains from the northern part of the island and came down into the Province of Seybo and there united with the bandits under Natera. The combined groups were able to secure a number of voluntary recruits from the riff-raff among the unemployed who were hanging around the sugar estates in the Province of Macoris, and from among those who were being forced from their lands, where they had lived for years, by the expansion of the sugar estates. Some twenty men of the groups who had been in Santo Domingo Province moved to Seybo about this time and joined forces with the bands already there. Stimulated by German propaganda, and forced recruiting of inhabitants in the country sections, the outlaws in the Province of Seybo probably reached the number of six hundred in all during September, 1918. In addition to those already mentioned, several small groups of petty thieves sprang up and operated in the Province of Macoris under the shadow of the main bands who were at that time in open insurrection. The last mentioned, composed mostly of Haitien and English speaking negroes, robbed small stores in outlying sections and occasionally held up a traveller at night, but in operating they only met at night in certain places previously agreed upon at a designated time to sally forth and commit some act of banditry and then disperse the same night. In the mountains of Neybo, Province of Barahona, several bad characters under one Andreas Cuevas got together about June and started on the war-path. In November at Yamasa several discontents with local conditions urged on by two or three outsiders of bandit fame, endeavored to start trouble. In addition to the criminals and outlaws mentioned above, there was a general disregard for law in minor things. Cock-pits were maintained in nearly every country section. Gambling was carried on more or less openly everywhere. The Police Law was either ignored or violated in all its parts, through ignorance. To add to this disorder, native officials, almost in their totality, countenanced, connived at, or openly aided in the last mentioned violations. Hundreds of persons still possessed firearms notwithstanding the Proclamation of the Military Government. Last to be mentioned here, but not the least in the trouble line, were the smugglers over the Haitian frontier and the marauders who periodically crossed the border either to escape capture on the Haitian side or to commit robberies on this side. Since the above circumstances, conditions have greatly improved; banditry is practically confined to parts of the Provinces of Seybo, Macoris and Santo Domingo, for the greatest part to the first mentioned. The aeroplanes have done much to break up the bands and a pacific moral suasion treatment has been inaugurated headed by the Dominicans themselves. From this much is hoped. [Page 128] It is not believed that banditry can survive the opening up of the country, which is being done as rapidly as funds and the supply of labor will allow; the building of roads through the heart of the country facilitates the opening of new farms and at the same time facilitates military operations against the bandits and this last fact is being allowed for in the inauguration of new roads.

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In addition to their military operations, the troops have been effectively employed in encouraging the natives to go back to their farms and resume agricultural occupations. Good feeling exists between the population and the Americans, largely through the campaign of education carried on throughout the unsettled district by the speeches of Colonel Breckinridge and Governor Ramirez of Seibo.

There still exists the necessity of a complete military occupation of the District composed of Seibo and Macoris provinces. There are now in the disturbed district some 200 or 300 criminals. These are augmented by certain disaffected persons, always present, and by neer-do-wells and non-workers and constitute the present bandit forces. Where numerous vulnerable places must be defended or a large territory covered, a considerable force is required to maintain peaceful conditions. This represents present conditions, but which are constantly improving.

Thomas Snowden
  1. Copy transmitted to the Secretary of State by the Acting Secretary of the Navy, Sept. 19.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1918, p. 377.