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

No. 1263
(High Commissioner’s Series)

Sir: I have the honor to refer to previous correspondence regarding the desire of the British Government to reach a settlement of claims of British subjects arising from revolutions in Haiti. Under date of August 1, 1928, the Financial Adviser has prepared for this office a review of the present situation regarding these claims and in his report he makes the following observations:—

  • “1.—In your letter of February 9, you stated that the Department would be glad to have me consult with the British Chargé d’Affaires with a view to finding some formula by which the British claims can be settled without reopening the general question of claims already passed upon by the Claims Commission and without prejudice to the financial stability of Haiti. In the conversation of April 27, Mr. Morgan said that if a formula can be found by which the United States can use its influence to assist in the settlement of these claims without at the same time running the risk of reopening the general question of claims already settled by the Claims Commission or bringing [Page 58]about the presentation of a flood of claims of a similar nature, the Department of State will be glad to do so. Mr. Morgan added that no such formula had yet been found, but possibly one could be found in the future.
  • 2.—Mr. Edwards (The British Chargé d’Affaires) called on me on July 31 and stated that he had received a communication from the British Foreign Office to the effect that it had approached the French and other governments on this subject and had received assurances that these latter governments would not reopen any claims settled by the Claims Commission.
  • 3.—It should be noted that the French government accepted for the settlement of its claims a procedure by which appeal was had to a Commission of Appeal, a procedure which was not applied to the British claims, and which, in view of the reservation which had been made, would not have been accepted by the British government.
  • 4.—I told Mr. Edwards that, in view of the information that he had given me, I would ask the High Commissioner to refer the matter again to the Department of State, that I was reluctant to do this in the absence of General Russell, but, in order to save time would report the matter immediately to the High Commissioner in the belief that General Russell would visit the Department on his return from Europe and could be consulted by the Department at that time. I added that it would seem difficult for this office to reject, with regard to these claims, a principle that had been applied to all other claims. This office has refused in a few instances to recognize claims arising since 1916, which involve principles similar to those accepted by the Claims Commission in the recognition of the claims arising before 1916. Nevertheless, in all such cases this office has taken a stricter position than the Claims Commission. It has never, so far as I know, adopted a principle relative to the claims arising since 1916, more liberal than that adopted by the Commission, relative to claims arising before 1916. Furthermore, I added that it did not seem to me that this office could take the initiative in recommending to the Haitian government the payment of the British claims.
  • 5.—You may wish to bring the following suggestions to the attention of the Department of State. The reservation of the British government relative to the settlement of British claims by the Claims Commission was officially communicated to the United States government but not to the Haitian government.5 The technical position of the Haitian government seems correct, and the Haitian Foreign Office has officially rejected the British claims as diplomatically presented. The office of the Financial Adviser does not as a rule propose expenditures to the Haitian government. It expresses its opinion on proposals made by the Haitian government. It does not seem appropriate with regard to the British claims for this office to urge on the Haitian government their recognition and payment. This office, however, is now disposed to believe that the recognition of the British claims would not reopen the question of other claims settled by the Claims Commission. The chief objection to the recognition of the British claims lies in the abandonment of a principle which, in the future, should revolutions occur, would protect the Treasury against claims [Page 59]based on the acts of successful revolutionists. It is understood, however, that the Department of State does not accept the principle adopted by the Claims Commission, that a government is not responsible for the acts of successful revolutionists. The Department of State may, therefore, desire to obtain from the British Embassy at Washington copies of the assurances which, it is understood, the British government has obtained from the French and other governments, and, with this information in hand, may wish to reconsider the question whether the United States government can use its influence in this matter with the Haitian government.”

In this regard I have the honor to refer to the last paragraph of Despatch #1038 (High Commissioner’s Series), dated July 7, 1927,6 in which was set forth certain opinions expressed in London, last year, by Mr. Stoker, formerly a British member of the Claims Commission.

I have [etc.]

C. Gross
  1. Presumably reference is made to note No. 923 of Dec. 8, 1922, from the British Ambassador, Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. ii, p. 553.
  2. Not printed; the pertinent portion of the paragraph in question reads as follows: “Judge J. S. Stanley, now Director of Internal Revenue of the Republic of Haiti, and formerly the American member of the Claims Commission, has informed me that Mr. Leger, the Haitian member, while in London last year, saw Mr. Stoker of the British Foreign Office, who was a member of the Claims Commission when the British claims were discussed, and that Mr. Stoker gave him the impression that the British Government is less interested in establishing the claims under reference than to commit the United States Government to the principle of payment of claims for damages by certain revolutionary troops.”