Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1921, Volume II
The Haitian Minister ( Blanchet ) to the Secretary of State
Mr. Secretary of State: In compliance with instructions received from my Government, I have the honor to deliver to your Excellency under this cover; first, an envelope containing a message addressed by the President of the Republic of Haiti to his Excellency the President of the United States, and, second, a copy of that message.
Begging your Excellency kindly to forward the envelope from the President of Haiti to its high destination, I gladly take [etc.]
President Dartiguenave to President Harding
Mr. President: In the name of the Haitian Government and people, I take great pleasure in greeting your accession to the Presidency of the United States of America.
Some degree of reserve, as required by the rules of international courtesy, no doubt prevented us from making any show of taking [Page 192] sides in the contest which in November last culminated in your striking victory. But it is surely no breach of those rules to declare here that all Haitian sympathies were yours from the day when in one of your most ringing speeches of the Presidential campaign you so nobly demanded justice and kindness for the people of Haiti.
The Haitian people need justice because serious injuries have been done them which call for equitable reparation. They need kindness because the great American Nation assumed towards them the part of a protector, by which it is in honor pledged to help in bringing happiness and prosperity to its little sister of the Antilles.
The Haitians have placed their hope in you. They are firmly convinced that the administration now inaugurating under your eminent direction will open the era of cordial collaboration and effective cooperation which they have so earnestly but so fruitlessly yearned for until now.
And so I feel the utmost confidence in taking the liberty, Mr. President, of availing myself of so favorable an opportunity to draw your high attention to the Haitian problem and the urgent solutions it demands.
The act of September 16, 1915,9a signed by the United States and Haiti was, as claimed by the Americans themselves, practically for the sole interests of Haiti. But through the fault of the officials nominated by the American Government to carry it out, the Haitian people arrived at the painful conviction that the convention was forced upon them not as a beneficent necessity, but as an act of violence by which others than themselves might profit. Your administration, Mr. President, will find it a very elevating mission to destroy that conviction by acts which, proving the good faith and absolute disinterestedness of the American Government, will revive the Haitians’ confidence and heal the wounds sustained by their souls.
The first satisfaction which the Government and people of Haiti therefore expect from your high sense of justice is the loyal and thorough execution of the convention of 1915, so that Haiti may draw therefrom all the advantages that were solemnly promised by the United States.
These advantages may be summed up in two words: Peace and Prosperity.
The United States promised us the maintenance of internal peace, which is indispensable to the moral and economic evolution of the country. Among a people where the sentiment of national conservation is unfortunately not yet strong enough to prevent internal dissensions, the maintenance of peace demands above all that an armed force be organized.[Page 193]
That armed force is at present represented in Haiti (1) by troops of the United States Marine Corps constituting what was misnamed the military occupation, and (2) by a native corps named “Gendarmerie d’Haїti” and commanded by American officers.
The Haitians unanimously desire the withdrawal of the occupation and of the exceptional rule put upon the Nation by its presence; but all those who earn their living and know that without peace there can be no possible prosperity, demand the termination of the occupation only when the Gendarmerie shall have been so organized as to be able to secure public order. They ask—and in this the Government joins them—that that organization be actively commenced and speedily carried to a successful end, and that in the meanwhile the occupation shall assume and maintain the character of a mere military mission, without intervening either in administrative questions or in judicial cases, and remembering under all circumstances that it is not in a conquered country, but among a friendly people, to whom it owes regard and protection.
The Government understands that two bodies charged with the duty of promoting the same end, namely, the maintenance of peace, cannot be wholly separated. But it wishes it to be remembered that the Gendarmerie of Haiti is a national force placed first under the orders of the President of Haiti and that it cannot be withdrawn from the necessary supervision of the Haitian Government in matters concerning its organization or the fulfillment of its duties.
I lay stress on the urgent need of a rational and speedy organization of the Gendarmerie in such a manner as to make it able (1) to insure public peace, and (2) to discharge effectively and efficaciously its police duties in the cities and in the country. The Government is ready to make known its ideas for the practical realization of that reform, which it deems to be of paramount importance for the future of Haiti.
Owing to the lack of cooperation with the Government, and as a consequence of the set purpose of certain commanding officers of the occupation to spurn my advice, ill-advised intervention in the internal politics of the country led to measures of violence, for which the Government itself was held responsible in the mind of the people. Those officers did not understand that there was danger in not leaving with the National Government the legitimate direction of the political affairs of the country; on the contrary, they tried to divest it of all authority and prestige, thus playing the game of some Haitian politicians. Such a mistake should not be repeated at a time when a period of great agitation is about to begin in the country in connection with the forthcoming legislative and Presidential elections. It is important for the future of Haiti that [Page 194] these be held in the most straightforward manner and with complete dignity on the part of the Government and people of Haiti and on the part of the American military mission.
While from the political standpoint the lack of cooperation was attended by so many untoward consequences, from the standpoint of civil administration it led to even more unfortunate results. The Haitian people had indulged the great hope that the assistance of the United States was about to enable them to place their finances on a lasting basis and to develop their material and moral wealth through a rational development of agriculture, industries, and public instruction. I am sorry to say that nothing of consequence has been done to make a reality of that hope. Some of the high civil officials of the convention displayed in the discharge of their mission in Haiti a total disregard of the true needs of the country and a systematic contempt of the rights and duties of the Government.
They made no honest effort at trying to understand the Haitian atmosphere, so new to them because of the difference of language and manners; they did not try to understand the true needs of the people; they constantly made light of any cooperation with the Haitian officials, their purpose being at every opportunity to force their views, no matter how obviously mistaken they were. This shows a lack of tact and an absence of regard which constitute the main causes of the frequent conflicts noted in the last 5 years and account for the negative or harmful results of American intervention; and so the hopes of the Haitian people by degrees turned to discouragement, and later, among the great majority, to open animosity.
The ill effects of such a state of mind among the people are first felt by the Government. A loyal friend of the United States, convinced that close cooperation between Washington and Port au Prince, on account of the strong economic bonds that unite the two countries, is necessary, it would like to have the Haitian and convention officials work together in a frank and effective way, and thus make clear to the Haitian people the good intentions of the great American people towards them. If the convention of 1915 is not applied in its spirit, its usefulness and consequently its very existence will be questioned by Haiti, where all the objections to it but none of its advantages have been known.
In order to prevent such a failure of American action in Haiti, I do not doubt, Mr. President, that you will, with the firm will to solve it, give your most benevolent attention to the Haitian question, which, in the view of the Government, may be summed up in the following points:
- Organization, in the shortest possible time and in accordance with the convention of 1915 and the Constitution of 1918, of a [Page 195] national force able to maintain public order and to insure full protection to the citizens and full tranquillity to city and country laborers.
- As soon as the organization is completed, withdrawal of the occupation troops which in the meanwhile will constitute a mere military mission charged with the duty of insuring peace, if necessary, in concert with the Gendarmerie of Haiti, but without any administrative or judicial power; hence immediate suppression of military courts and all exceptional jurisdiction for the trial of Haitian citizens.
- Respect of the powers of the Government in what relates to the direction of the political affairs of the country; respect for the rights granted to the citizens by the Constitution and the law, under no other sanctions than those provided by the law of the land.
- Efficacious aid given by the United States to the Haitian people towards building up their finances, developing their agriculture and industrial resources, and promoting public instruction. This assistance may be made effective through a series of measures which a careful study of the Haitian conditions and needs shall have shown to be the best.
- In administrative affairs, constant and honest cooperation between the Haitian and convention officials, which is the only means of averting further conflicts springing necessarily from the present parallel dual action of the Government and the convention officials. A precise definition of the office and powers of the Financial Adviser, based on the letter and spirit of the convention, in order that that “Haitian officer attached to the Ministry of Finance”10 shall not continue to consider himself as the absolute master of the administration.
- Execution of article 5 of the convention. It cannot be admitted that the Government must for its slightest disbursement continue to depend on the whim and fancy of the Financial Adviser and of the Receiver General. It must at last know how much it may have for its expenditures and have the free disposal thereof. In the 5-year life of the convention, it is hard to explain why the Financial Adviser could not carry out the obligations placed upon him by paragraph 2 of article 2 and article 4 of the convention.
- Lastly, considering the scanty resources of the country, vest one official only with the powers and duties of Financial Adviser and Receiver General of Customs with the present salary of $10,000 a year and one staff.
I am aware of the gravity of the international or economic problems that engross your mind, Mr. President. But the Haitian question was put before the American conscience and before the whole world by your memorable Marion speech. I am confident that it will be solved in accordance with right and justice.
With these sentiments [etc.]