The Minister in the Dominican Republic (Russell) to the Secretary of State

No. 530

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 318 of September 27, 1919,17 enclosing translations of two memoranda furnished the Department of State by Doctor Henriquez y Carvajal concerning the situation in the Dominican Republic, and a copy of a confidential memorandum of a conversation between Mr. Hallett Johnson, of the Latin American Division, and Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal on the same subject.

I am enclosing herewith a memorandum from the Military Governor in regard to the suggestions of Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal, and I fully concur in the position taken therein.

The Advisory Council is working in harmony with the Military Governor, and, although influenced somewhat by political aspirations, apparent in the attitude of the most patriotic of the Dominicans, yet, on the whole, the wisdom of the appointment of the Advisory Council is being daily demonstrated.

. . . . . . .

I have [etc.]

William W. Russell

The Military Governor of Santo Domingo (Snowden) to the Minister in the Dominican Republic (Russell)

2639–19 Sn–FF

My Dear Mr. Russell: Replying to your recent request, I have the honor to state as follows, regarding the suggestions of Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal to Mr. Hallett Johnson and Mr. Rowe of the Department of State:

It is not practicable at the present time to suspend entirely,

(a) Military law and provost courts.

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Civil order and individual rights are as ample and fully provided for as they can be under any strong government; full liberty is given, but not license. The local police and the territorial police or Guardia have full power in their work and are only aided when necessary by the military forces in reserve.

(b) It does not seem to the Military Government that a particular nomenclature is important or why Spain and Cuba should be criterions for this government. The judicial system in Santo Domingo consists of one supreme court, three courts of appeals, twelve courts of first instance, and sixty-eight justices of the peace. These tribunals seem to be sufficient, and generally speaking they correspond to those of Spain and Cuba. When the French codes were translated some seventy years ago, the name “juge de paix “was somewhat inappropriately rendered in Spanish as “alcalde”, but this term has acquired sufficient authority by the lapse of time and there seems to be now no good reason to change it. The procedure of the Cuban courts is somewhat different and may be better than that of the Dominican courts. If so, a project for reform should be submitted for study. When the Occupation took place the Military Government was cautioned by the State Department that the Judiciary must be respected and given free and full exercise of their coordinate governmental function. This the government has faithfully adhered to, in spite of much abuse by that branch of their independent function in failing to punish certain miscreants of the legal profession.

The question of the election by the people of officers of the Municipal Councils is not a practical matter at the present moment when the old political parties, a mercenary, grafting, vicious, office-seeking clan are still awaiting preferment. It is not considered practical just now for the Military Government to effect its objects with the aid of municipal officers elected by a people who do not yet understand the proper use of the vote. This must be a gradual growth under new laws, and the time for it is not ripe.

(c) A general census has been contemplated, but it requires an expenditure better used for necessary public works and education. A census by the communal authorities is being taken, much of which has been done.

(d) A consulting commission of experts has been appointed and has been functioning for the past month. It consists of four of the most distinguished and eminent Dominicans. They meet weekly by themselves and again with the Military Governor. Its president is the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, a revered gentleman of the highest ability, learning and experience. The commission is now studying improvement in laws, general administration and the suggestions of Dr. Carvajal.

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(e) The laws enumerated for inauguration are being studied: the civil service law and the sanitary law are already in use. The remaining laws will be promulgated long before they can be used.

The Civil Service system has been in use for a year or more in the Departments of Posts and Telegraphs and is now being extended to all other departments of the government.

The law of communications by air, by sea and by land, does not seem to be vital for the present.

The Military Government is rapidly gaining the confidence of the best people of the republic.

1. It is not deemed advisable or practicable to abolish the Provost Court, as that was established under the Proclamation of Occupation of November 26, 1916, for the trial of offenses committed against the Military Forces and is the only court of practical use for the purpose. It is not feasible to depend upon any Dominican courts for settlement of such cases. However, the Military Government is reducing as much as possible the scope of action of these courts and giving broad powers to the Dominican Courts. Provost courts have no jurisdiction over civil cases.

The Advisory Council to the Military Governor is now working with the undersigned to prepare a law which will equitably cover the matter.

2. Dr. Carvajal was invited to come to Santo Domingo and was offered a post as member of the Governor’s Advisory Council, with pay, but declined. He was told that any suggestions he would offer would be gladly received and, if of value, would be carried out.

3. The present Censorship mentioned by Dr. Carvajal meets with the approval of the Advisory Council and consists only of the suppression of attacks on the existing government, personal controversies tending to disturb the public peace, and political and labor agitation. These cannot be permitted, otherwise the public and the press are unrestricted.

The circulars and articles by Dr. Carvajal are being permitted publication in the Dominican press, although most undesirable with respect to my need for political peace.

4. With respect to protection for Dr. Carvajal, if coming here, this country is absolutely at peace and no person needs any guarantees or protection except in a small section of the Eastern Province of Seibo where a moderate condition of banditry still exists, and this is being pacified by a process of conciliation and measures for bringing these people back to farming.

5. It is a fact that business is somewhat unsettled, due to the lack of announcement of policy by the American Government. If the people of Santo Domingo knew that the Military Government was [Page 144] to remain here for ten or twenty years or until the public debt had been paid and finances placed upon a secure foundation, they would be very content and business would receive a great impetus and encouragement.

6. Dr. Carvajal’s remark about the politicians trying to keep themselves before the people is true and applies most of all to himself and his constant flood of circulars emanating from Washington or Santiago de Cuba. He is not persona grata to the mass of the Dominican people, but is still someone to be reckoned with in default of a definite statement regarding the stay of the Military Government. The best people in all parts of the republic have repeatedly assured me that they did not want any other government, either their own or a civil government of foreign personnel until the objects for which the occupation was instituted should be completely effected.

Mr. Francisco J. Peynado, the most distinguished lawyer of the republic told me a few days ago that Dr. Carvajal told him that he did not want the immediate restoration of sovereignty, but after the objects for which the Military Government was installed had been carried out. There still exist the personal followings of certain chiefs of the old political parties, a relic of the feudal régime when men in all sections of the republic gave allegiance to a certain strong man, generally unscrupulous, and not to any national question or party.

Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal is discredited with the majority of Dominicans now and the evidence of such a man as the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Monsenor Adolfo Alejandro Nouel, is of vastly more value. I beg to refer the Department to him for any information desired. He is a patriot, an ex-president of the republic, and a man of great prestige and influence. Not the founding of political parties, as Dr. Carvajal says, but the effacement of them, is necessary for the good of the country.

7. The undersigned now has a copy of Dr. Carvajal’s suggestions to the Department of State (Mr. Rowe)18 and is studying them, as is also, the Advisory Council, with a view to complying with them, if of merit. All of them, which are practical, had been previously begun or completed by the Military Government. Mr. F. J. Peynado presented the Military Governor a few days ago with a copy of the above paper sent him for me by Dr. Carvajal.

Very truly,

Thomas Snowden
  1. Ante, p. 135.
  2. No communication addressed to Mr. Rowe by Dr. Carvajal has been found in the Department files.