838.00/2359: Telegram

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

49. The Department has received the following telegram from General Russell:

“Through the Haitian Minister at Paris I have received a telegram from President Borno reading as follows: ‘Inform General Russell that Department of State has raised objections to the constitutional amendments. Make known to him that it is urgent to obtain a solution of question.’

Early in May I discussed proposed amendments with Mr. Wilson and Mr. Baker14 and it was my understanding that the Department was in accord except on article covering the election of president. … [Page 63]If the Department does not agree to article 6 as now proposed I recommend that it be suggested to President Borno that he publicly announce that he has no intention of again being a candidate for the presidency and that consequently it is immaterial to him whether or not the last paragraph of article 6 be retained excepting the first three words.

Concerning the other proposed amendments, I am of the opinion that those relating to the judiciary and communes are absolutely essential for the development of Haiti and the carrying out of the provisions of the treaty and I therefore cannot too strongly urge the Department’s prompt accord.”

The Department has today sent the following reply to General Russell:

“The Department never expressed its approval of the proposed amendments which you brought to its attention in May. They were not at that time in their final form and the Department expected that before submission to the Council of State or any expression of approval by you they would be submitted to the Department for careful study and consideration and an expression of opinion. In a despatch discussing the proposed amendments, dated May 17,15 received May 25, you informed the Department that you would forward a revised draft to the Department for its information. Nothing further was heard on the subject until your arrival in Washington on June 7, when the Department learned to its great surprise that the amendments had been submitted to the Council of State and given to the press on June 6, and that you had apparently expressed your full approval of them.

The Department immediately gave careful study to the amendments and telegraphed Mr. Gross that it could not see its way to recommend the adoption of amendments five, six and nine, or the suppression of articles 94 to 99 of the Constitution. Mr. Gross was instructed to advise President Borno of the Department’s views, expressing the hope that the amendments which the Department found itself unable to recommend would not be enacted.

The Department could not approve of the concentration of too much power in the legislative branch since this would leave no check upon the legislature, whose acts would not be reviewable.

The Department could not approve the extension of the term of President Borno to 14 years when his term is expressly limited to 8 years by the present Constitution. It was felt that both of these provisions tended to set up a dictatorship which would be subject to just criticism and the responsibility for which would be laid on the Department.

The Department further considered it preferable that the date of the convocation of the primary assemblies should be fixed by the Constitution and should not be subject to arbitrary postponement by the legislative body.”

  1. Warden McK. Wilson of the Division of Latin American Affairs, and J. R. Baker of the Office of the Solicitor.
  2. Not printed.