The Secretary of State to the Acting Secretary of the Navy (Coontz)
Sir: The Department has received information that six or seven young Dominicans, residents, it is understood, of Santiago, Dominican [Page 37]Republic, who have been tried for publishing articles in the Dominican press attacking the application of the land law, have been sentenced during the past ten days by a Provost Court to pay a fine of $3,000 each, or to imprisonment for five years. It appears that none of these Dominicans are in a position to pay the fine imposed and that they are consequently now in jail.
In view of the fact that negotiations have been conducted during the past few months in the Department of State with certain representative Dominican political leaders, as a result of which a provisional agreement has been reached, which, it is hoped, will meet with the support of a majority of the Dominican people, whereby the Government of the United States may be able to withdraw in the near future from the responsibilities which it has assumed in the Dominican Republic, it is believed to be peculiarly unfortunate that a sentence of this character should have been imposed at this time. Any action of this character taken at this juncture by the Military authorities, which will tend to incite public opinion against the American Occupation, will necessarily make the negotiations now in progress more difficult.
If the Navy Department has received advices which confirm the information received by the Department of State, I desire to request that instructions be addressed by cable to the Acting Military Governor of Santo Domingo to suspend at once the sentence imposed upon the Dominicans in question and to refrain, in the future, from taking official cognizance of purely political offenses of this character without the concurrence of the Department of State through its representatives in the Dominican Republic.
I have [etc.]