The Chargé des Affaires in the Dominican Republic (Brewer) to the Secretary of State

No. 590

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 350 of June 3, 1920, directing me to take up with the Military Governor the matter of the advisability of appointing a commission composed of Dominican citizens to formulate for future enactment certain basic laws, especially those relating to elections, education and sanitation, and to secure a decision on this question with the least possible delay.

Immediately upon receipt of the instruction I handed to the Military Governor a memorandum in writing relative to the subject, which was discussed in detail by us. The Military Governor at once expressed the opinion that the appointment of this commission would serve no useful purpose, principally in view of the present state of unrest and agitation existing throughout the country, …

In order to have some expression of Dominican opinion in regard to the advisability of this Commission, the Military Governor called into consultation Messrs. Troncoso de la Concha and Joubert, Members of the Claims Commission, and in whose advice the Governor has great confidence. These gentlemen stated that they considered that the formation of the commission would only serve to increase [Page 116]the actual agitation prevalent, and that its object would probably never be accomplished, if, indeed, men of suitable qualifications could be induced to form a part of its personnel. It was furthermore pointed out that laws formulated by a small number of Dominicans would undoubtedly serve as the first attack of Congress upon the re-establishment of a national government.

In connection with this question, the appointment of the late Advisory Council, and the immediate demand for results, as made upon it through the press, the inability of its members to unselfishly serve their country as advisors of the Military Government, without thought of their own political aspirations, were mentioned in our conferences as indications of what might also be expected of any similar group of Dominicans at the present time.

The Military Governor prepared a memorandum on this subject, which I herewith enclose.

The Department’s telegram of July 7—4 p.m., No. 21—was received after the departure for Haiti of the Military Governor. Its contents will be made known to him on his return.

I have [etc]

John Brewer

The Military Governor of Santo Domingo (Snowden) to the Chargé des Affaires in the Dominican Republic (Brewer)


enactment of basic laws

1. Replying to your verbal request for information regarding the enactment of certain basic laws, etc., I beg to state as follows:

Regarding the enactment of certain basic laws, viz: as to elections, education and sanitation, as herein recommended, the first has been under careful study for some months and will not be needed for some years as the people are not yet educated to the value of the vote. The mass of the people have been brought up to what is called “personalismo” or to vote for a certain man no matter what were his principles and not for an ideal or principle itself. It is a relic of the old feudal system. Education is teaching the people the value and power of the vote and to separate the principle from the man.

As to education and sanitation, both these subjects have been exhaustively treated and laws covering completely these activities have been promulgated and have been in use for some time. Of course, improvements will be made from time to time in both our educational and sanitary programs, but these matters are now efficiently operating as never before.

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The Military Government was requested by the now defunct Advisory Council to the Military Governor and also by Dr. Francisco Henriquez y Carvajal to enact the following laws which they deemed essential to the future good of the republic:

  • An electoral law upon modern lines.
  • A law of Communal Organization.
  • A law of Conscription.
  • A law modifying the law covering Rules and Organization of the Provinces.
  • A law of Rules and Regulations governing the Treasury, Public Accounting and the budget.
  • Reform of the Constitution, especially regarding the replacement of the President in case of death, resignation or incapacity.
  • A law governing the formation of political parties.
  • Organic law of the Executive Power, organization of the several departments and the succession to the presidential office.
  • Law of organization of the Judicial Power.
  • Law of Civil Service.
  • Law of Sanitation.
  • Law of Communications.
  • Law of Public Instruction.
  • Law of Police.

Amongst other requests the petitioners requested the abolition of the Censorship and the Provost Courts. The former has been done, the latter cannot be done while any military forces are in the republic, because the Dominican Courts will not give justice in cases where the Military are concerned but will always favor their own however glaring the facts of the case.

Upon receipt of the requests from the Advisory Council and from Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal, the undersigned directed the Department of Justice and the other departments concerned to make a comprehensive study of the suggested laws and formulate efficient laws for the several purposes in view. This is being done as rapidly as possible.

The Electoral Law is now under study by the Department of Justice and will be ready long before it can be put into operation. The people are not yet prepared for voting and will not be so for some years. I believe that it will not be practicable to inaugurate elections until the United States shall be ready to withdraw from the republic, because, in the present state of political agitation, the people under the lash of the old vicious politicians would elect members of the City Councils and Governors of Provinces with whom the Military Government could not work because of their obstructive policy.

A law of Communal Organization has been amended as necessary and promulgated.

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A law of Conscription has been settled by a law abolishing conscription and the Army. This has been promulgated. No army is needed in this country other than the Guardia Nacional Dominicana, which is a mounted constabulary. The United States must always keep the peace between the West Indian republics.

A law covering the organization of the Provinces has not yet been promulgated. Affairs are not now in condition to formulate a law as to provinces as this matter is in a state of evolution. We have the Governors at the head of all provinces, but owing to the presence of the United States Military Forces the Governors are shorn of some of their military functions for the sake of coordination and are for the present aids to the Executive Power and leaders for the central government within their provinces. It is not practicable for the moment to smoothly settle this question.

A law of Rules and Regulations governing the Treasury, Public Accounting and the Budget has been completed and is about to be promulgated.

The reform of the Constitution as to the succession to the presidency should be done by a National Assembly, although the Military Governor might issue a temporary law to arrange this matter until regulated by the representative bodies.

A law governing the organization of political parties has not yet been considered; this seems for the moment premature.

An organic law relating to the Executive Power and the organization of the several departments has not been considered, although a study will be made regarding it.

A law of organization of the Judicial Power has not been considered. The Judicial Power was especially exempted from interference by the Military Government under the Proclamation of Occupation. The judicial code is the old Napoleonic Code and should be replaced by modern methods of jurisprudence, but the Military Government has not thought it wise so far to disturb the existing methods.

A Civil Service was instituted in one department of the Government more than two years ago and during the present year a Civil Service Law extending Civil Service to include all employees of the Dominican Government was promulgated. This law has been in successful operation for several months.

A law of sanitation has recently been promulgated and has been in operation for about six months.

A law of communications is not of immediate necessity, but will be studied and promulgated when it is warranted. No necessity exists at present for a special law covering these activities.

A law of public instruction has been promulgated and has been in successful operation for over three years.

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There is no immediate necessity for further police laws. This force is a civil one under the city councils and is working well.

The people who have been theorizing upon these laws do not know that many of them have been in use for some years, as they have been absent from the republic for a long time.

Referring to the suggestion of the appointment of a Dominican Commission to study and formulate certain basic laws, the undersigned called into consultation Mr. M. Troncoso de la Concha and Mr. Emilio C. Joubert, eminent Dominican lawyers and members of the Dominican Claims Commission under the Military Government, in whom he has the utmost confidence, and asked their advice regarding the appointment of a Commission of Dominicans to recommend certain laws as specified in your memorandum and their opinion was, and in this I fully agree, that the appointment of such a commission would serve no good purpose and in any case I could probably get no one to serve on such a commission owing to the political propaganda now rife in the country, but that I could get all the advice I desired from individual Dominicans. The former Advisory Council was so viciously attacked by the politicians and by the newspapers that they do not believe that any body of representative men would be willing to again become the target for political attack. The Military Government will continue its study and periodical issuance of the specified laws and obtain the advice thereon of qualified and loyal Dominicans, but it does not believe it wise to appoint another commission in the present state of public opinion. …

It would appear advisable to calm this excitement by an official statement by the American Government to the effect that that government would restore the government of the republic of Santo Domingo to its own people as soon as the government of the United States felt sure that the Dominican people were competent to manage their own government without return to conditions such as obtained before the occupation, but that nothing would induce the United States to turn over the government before it should be thoroughly satisfied as to such competence. Recent events have shown that the country is not yet able to give peaceable and efficient government to its people and the United States would await such evidence before restoring the government.

The gist of this whole antagonism shown at the present time is due to the expressed fear of the politicians that the United States does never intend to restore the country’s sovereignty, but retain the island. If this country could be assured that their sovereignty would ultimately be returned, most all this agitation would cease, because the mass of the people favor the temporary occupation and only the spoils politicians are stirring up the people. One of the Governors [Page 120]of the Provinces, a strong friend of the Military Government and of the United States, has offered the advice that a treaty should be made between the two countries guaranteeing the independence of this republic in return for certain concessions desired by the United States. The politicians here are using the silence of the United States regarding the restoration of their independence to say in Latin-American countries that the United States does not intend to restore their sovereignty but to retain the island.

Thomas Snowden