838.00/2343: Telegram

The Chargé in Haiti (Gross) to the Secretary of State

62. Department’s 37, June 30, 1 p.m. President Borno has handed me the following unsigned penciled memorandum:

“The amendments presented to the Council of State were examined and arrived at in accord with the High Commissioner. There can be no question of withdrawing them now. The Government could only withdraw them if it replaced them by a single amendment designed to restore to the National Assembly its former existing right to amend the Constitution.”

[Page 55]

In this regard please refer to General Russell’s despatches numbers 1006 and 1013, dated respectively May 17 and 25,5 especially the last paragraph thereof, as well as previous correspondence.

President Borno asked whether, in view of Department’s unexpected disapproval of the amendments, the Department would accept a single amendment suppressing article 128 and supplementing article 42, giving the National Assembly power to amend. He mentioned wide-spread illiteracy existing in Haiti and expressed the hope that Department, since it does not appear to disapprove of suppression of bi-chambral legislature, will not insist on a referendum to a far less intelligent set of voters, namely, the masses who are not interested in anything but peace and comfort.

The President shows evident uneasiness as a result of disapproval of amendments at this date and repeated his belief that all had been arranged with the knowledge and sanction of the Department who, he thought, had surely studied early proposals made and considered same carefully in order to be sure that no last minute objections would be raised by anyone in the United States.

The President has just informed me that the Council of State has decided to end this session on or before August 6th and reminded me that any amendment to be voted in January should be approved before this Council adjourns for the summer. He is anxious to have definite expression of Department’s views on which he can depend. Although he states he cannot withdraw any amendments, I believe he would do so and I believe that a way can be found to save face. Indeed, withdrawal of objectionable amendments in answer to considerable disapproval which exists here should prove a popular mitigating circumstance and one which might remove apprehensions and even assist the remaining amendments to succeed.

The President fears that a delayed “volte-face” has been made by the Department or that Department neglected to take interest in the whole question during the preliminary discussions of the past several months. This unfortunate situation has embarrassed the Legation in its relations with him and it may shake his future confidence in General Russell and in Department. I believe that it would preserve the President’s confidence in the High Commissioner and in the Department if a way could be found to place the responsibility for the belated opinion of the Department elsewhere than on General Russell or the Department. In this regard, the Department may count on my readiness to assume any responsibility which it considers will be accepted and believed by President Borno. It appears of importance to expel from his mind the doubt which has entered and to reestablish that confidence and cooperation which has existed in the past.

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To summarize: The matter of the amendments remains at a standstill, nobody knows of the apparent contradiction although there are rumors; the incarceration of the journalists spares the President further embarrassment at this time; the President is at present vexed and frightened, perhaps more frightened; he daily asks whether the Department has transmitted any new opinions; he requests an early and definite indication on which he can act. In the cities there is considerable academic criticism of the amendments; in the country people are indifferent as to technicalities so long as they see peace continuing and security and work uninterrupted by civil war, commandeering, and conscription is [in] passing armies. They are pleased with the prospect of eliminating present cruelty and corruption of judges of Court of First Instance.

Please instruct as soon as convenient.

  1. Neither printed.