838.00/2613: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the High Commissioner in Haiti (Russell)

62. I have personally reviewed the situation shown in your cables numbered 89, 90, and 91.16 I fully appreciate the delicate and heavy responsibility which rests upon you and I have asked the Navy to place, subject to your order, the Galveston which is now at Guantanamo, believing that in case of serious trouble her presence in Haitian waters would have a strong moral and reassuring effect. Although she has on board fifty marines I trust it will be unnecessary to land them.

Having said that you will be supported in your final responsibility of protecting life, I nevertheless think it proper to say that from this distance it does not seem that the situation requires or will be best served by a display of marine forces in the outlying portions of the islands. It seems to me that the nub of your situation rests in the question of the loyalty of the native constabulary and I hope you will be careful not to discourage that loyalty by an appearance of distrust or of supplanting it with white forces. Under white officers such as you have the general loyalty of black troops is usually proven against even local dissatisfaction or mutiny. In whatever manner you ultimately decide upon I trust you will give the loyalty of your constabulary a thorough and fair test. Even if you deem it necessary to use more actively than hitherto the present force of marines, I seriously question the wisdom of the proclamation yesterday as to martial law. To me it seems that the benefit of such a proclamation [Page 193] in an illiterate population like Haiti is outweighed by the unfortunate effect produced in the United States, particularly as you state that martial law was already in force. I therefore sincerely hope that you may soon be able to greatly modify or withdraw that proclamation. In so doing I suggest that you make it clear that the present issue is not between the people of Haiti and the forces of the United States but between agitators against the lawfully constituted authority of Haiti supported by the United States.

In summary I sincerely hope that you may find it possible to protect life by withdrawal of Americans in exposed places rather than by extending the use of the present marine forces or calling for additional marines. The responsibility is, however, upon you and will be respected.

I suggest that for greater speed you report by cable instead of radio.

  1. Ante, pp. 188, 189.