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

No. 406

Sir: The Department feels that it would be useful at this time, when a change is being made in the Financial Adviser-General Receiver of Customs, to review again the situation with respect to the work of the Treaty Officials in Haiti.29

The Department wishes in the first place to observe that the provisions of the Treaty between the United States and Haiti, signed at Port au Prince on September 16, 1915,30 places the United States in a relation to Haiti of the very highest fiduciary character. Every consideration and requirement of good neighborhood, good faith, and national interest and honor demand that this Government shall spare [Page 209]no effort, be lacking in no measure, and exert every influence necessary for the due and proper performance of its responsibilities and obligations under the Treaty. The Government of the United States and the Treaty Officials are under the most urgent duty of seeing that the interests and the welfare of Haiti and its people are at all hazards promoted and protected. Indeed the Department is of the opinion that, in the unfortunate contingency that the interests of citizens of the United States should conflict with the true interests of Haiti and her people, the interests of the former must yield to those of the latter. The United States, having voluntarily assumed a conventional relationship which, by virtue of its superiority in prestige and power, would enable it to impose its will to the advantage of its own interests and the interests of its nationals, must, for the vindication of its own prestige and honor, see to it that its every act and the every act of the Treaty Officials are put beyond the possibility of challenge on any such ground. Yourself, as High Commissioner, and every Treaty Official must be constantly guided by these principles.

As set forth in the Department’s instruction to you of February 11, 1922,31 the Department was not entirely satisfied with the conduct of our relations to Haitian affairs up to that date, and for that reason the President of the United States commissioned you to represent him in Haiti for the purpose of investigating, reporting upon, and supervising the performance of their duties by the officers nominated by the President of the United States and appointed by the President of Haiti, pursuant to the provisions of the Treaty, in order that the purposes of said Treaty might be fully accomplished. In the instruction above mentioned, you were informed that it was the intention of the Department that the High Commissioner should have general supervision over the General Receiver of Haitian Customs, the Financial Adviser of Haiti, the officers commanding the Haitian gendarmerie, and all other officials nominated by the President of the United States and appointed by the President of Haiti, in accordance with the provisions of the said Treaty, or any other officials who might thereafter be so appointed by virtue of said Treaty or by virtue of any amendment thereto. The Government of Haiti was cognizant, in a general way, of the character of these instructions and acquiesced therein.

The Department feels that the seven years that this new regime has been in effect has clearly demonstrated the advantage thereof over the system existing between 1915 and 1922. The Department therefore desires to reiterate its instruction of February 11, 1922, and in doing so it feels that the following amplification thereof will be conducive to cooperation and efficient administration:

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It is necessary to have one guiding authority over the Treaty Officials in Haiti and the High Commissioner has been commissioned by the President for that purpose and, in setting out on his mission, he was, as stated above, instructed that he should have general supervision over the work of the General Receiver and the Financial Adviser of Haiti. Very great responsibility is therefore placed upon the High Commissioner in conducting relations between the United States and Haiti and for the effective working out of our Treaty obligations. In discharging this responsibility wherein a number of important technical and weighty questions are involved, the Department feels sure that the High Commissioner will naturally rely upon the advice and guidance of the technical experts provided for in the Treaty. The Department feels that the best results can be obtained in the matter of finances, for instance, if the High Commissioner will make no commitments or promises to the President of Haiti or other Haitian officials without first consulting and reaching an accord with the Financial Adviser-General Receiver. This official has a very definite status under the Treaty and very important and exacting duties and responsibilities are placed upon him, and the Department feels that he will be very materially assisted in the discharge thereof if the Haitian Government is shown that he, being the responsible adviser of the High Commissioner in financial matters, is supported by the High Commissioner.

It is thought that a great deal can be done to increase his prestige with the Haitian authorities and hence to facilitate his work if generally, after the High Commissioner and the Financial Adviser have themselves agreed upon a course of action to pursue, the High Commissioner will have the Financial Adviser accompany him to the President or any other Haitian officials concerned to explain the technical matters in person.

If the High Commissioner and the Financial Adviser are unable to agree upon the course of action to be recommended to the Haitian Government, the Department desires the same procedure to be followed as is set forth in its instruction of February 11, 1922, regarding the approval of the yearly budget, namely, that the matter in dispute be referred to the Department for final adjustment. In order that the Department may come to a decision in the matter, it would want to have a full presentation of both sides of the case submitted to it by the officials concerned through the High Commissioner.

An extra copy of this instruction is enclosed herewith for the information of the Financial Adviser-General Receiver and other Treaty Officials, to whom you will please transmit it. You will also please show them a copy of the Department’s instruction of February 11, 1922, calling their attention especially to the last paragraph thereof, [Page 211]which very clearly sets forth the desires of this Government in the dealings of the Treaty Officials with the Haitian Government.

I am [etc.]

Frank B. Kellogg
  1. Sidney de la Rue succeeded Arthur C. Millspaugh as Financial Adviser-General Receiver. For summaries of reports of the Treaty Services, see Eighth Annual Report of the American High Commissioner at Port au Prince, appendices i–v, pp. 47 ff.
  2. For text of treaty, see Foreign Relations, 1916, p. 328; for text of additional act extending the duration of the treaty, see ibid., 1917, p. 807.
  3. Ibid., 1922, vol. ii, p. 461.