838.00/2360: Telegram

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

82. Department’s 46, July 18, 11 a.m. The President is disposed to accept the Department’s conclusions.

Regarding amendment 5 and article 99, the President feels that the Department should at least consent that the legislature should interpret the meaning of its own laws, otherwise intended meaning is lost. Furthermore he states that in federated countries like the United States decisions as to constitutionality of State laws naturally rests with a constitutional Supreme Court but in unitary countries like France and Haiti the legislature not only interprets meaning of its laws but also decides as to their being constitutional in order that political war between judiciary and legislature may not checkmate or interfere with legislation for the good of the people, as in the case of the now defunct Wharfage Law of January 12, 1927. General Russell and Judge Strong both share the President’s views on this point.

Regarding amendment 6, the President consents to make a public declaration of his noncandidacy for the next election in 1930. He therefore plans to propose a single 7–years term which he states is agreed by all factions to be the most satisfactory. Since the Department has accepted 6 years I have told the President I was of the opinion that 7 years would also be acceptable and would mention the same to the Department provided of course that he be not a candidate in 1930. Please confirm or refute. If the Department confirms I recommend the Department instruct me to suggest to the President text similar to the following:

“The President of the Republic is elected for 7 years. His term begins and ends on May 15. No one who has been elected President or who is designated to complete a deceased President’s term of office, and who has served or been serving 4 or more years, shall be eligible for reelection until after an interval of 7 years.”

Regarding article 95, the Department asks what aims are in view and what judicial changes will result from the suppression of this article. The President states that suppression of the article aims [Page 62] at more latitude in formulating reforms admittedly desired, such as reforms in court of first instance which the Department will recall was recommended in the summary of the report of the Senate committee under Senator McCormick.

Regarding changes to be effected through suppression of article 95, President states that, with courts of first instance remaining in the Constitution and the code of commerce named as a method of procedure, no rectification can ever be made in courts of appeal because these courts must always remain in order to review wrongs which will always result from trials by courts of first instance if same continue to exist by authority of the Constitution rather than by laws alterable to meet changing needs of the country. Article 95 confines commercial procedure to a cumbersome, ineffective and expensive procedure which is specified in the code of commerce; this necessitates the existence of and recourse to courts of appeal.

Regarding article 99, an understanding sanctioned by the Department would seem to have been reached between General Russell and President Borno.

Request an early decision as to the 7-year term with the President not a candidate at the next election. Request also a reply regarding article 95. Before replying as to article 99 please refer to my despatch number 1041, dated July 14,12 and to memorandum of Judge Strong, dated July 12,13 and transmitted therewith, especially the last page and paragraph thereof.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed; Richard U. Strong was legal adviser to the High Commissioner in Haiti.