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

No. 430

Sir: The Department has received your strictly confidential despatch No. 1391 of April 2, 1929, in which you recommend that certain features of the Department’s instruction No. 406 of March 14, 1929, be reconsidered. After careful consideration of your observations regarding the present relations between the High Commissioner and the Financial Adviser it is believed that the intent of the Department’s instruction above referred to should be made somewhat clearer.

The Department has no intention to diminish the responsibility or the supervisory authority which was entrusted to you as High Commissioner in its instruction of February 11, 1922. It still looks to you to coordinate and direct the activities of the American treaty officials in Haiti so far as their activities are properly subject to control by the Government of the United States.

The Financial Adviser-General Receiver, however, is entrusted by the Treaty of 1915 with certain functions such as the collection and application of revenues, the authorization of payments under the appropriation laws, and the maintenance of the service of the public debt, in the discharge of which his primary duty is simply to carry out the provisions of the Treaty and the laws of Haiti. In these matters the Department feels that he should act on his own responsibility as a Haitian official, and that his acts and decisions in this capacity would ordinarily not be reviewed by the United States Government or its diplomatic representatives except where the legality or the reasonableness of his actions appeared clearly open to question. In such cases the Department would desire you to exercise your good offices in an endeavor to correct the actions in question, and in the event of the [Page 216]failure of your efforts, to report the matter to the Department. The items in the Department’s instruction of March 14 which you have summarized in paragraphs (a) and (c) on Page 2 of your despatch of April 2, would then be applicable.

The situation is entirely different where there are involved questions of policy such as the allotment of funds to different departments of the Government and recommendations regarding legislation and concessions. The United States Government has a direct responsibility toward the Haitian Government in such matters, because of the provisions of Articles 1, 13 and 14 of the Treaty of 1915, and you as American High Commissioner are its principal representative in discharging this responsibility. The Department would, however, expect you as a matter of course to avail yourself of the advice of the treaty officials who have been appointed because of their technical qualifications, and would further expect you, when important questions of policy were involved and when there was no necessity for immediate action, to consult the Department before committing yourself to a definite course of action if there was found to be an irreconcilable difference of opinion between yourself and one of the treaty officials regarding a technical matter.

With reference to the statement on page 5 of your despatch that the Financial Adviser can always place his case before the Department through official channels after carrying out your instructions, if he disagrees with them, I desire to point out that the best interests of this Government and all others concerned are best served by referring differences of opinion to the Department before and not after final action has already been taken.

With respect to that portion of the Department’s instruction of March 14 which is referred to by you as paragraph (b), the Department has not desired to embarrass you in your relations with the President of Haiti, or to interfere with the frequent and informal conferences which you hold with him. It entirely approves the manner in which your personal contact with the President has been maintained. It does feel, however, that it would be helpful if the Financial Adviser were present at conferences where decisions regarding financial matters of importance are to be made. The Department did not in the least intend to imply that you should have the Financial Adviser accompany you at all conferences with the President.

With reference to your statement that “the financial control now existing in Haiti … goes far beyond the purpose of the treaty”, it should be clearly understood that it has never been the desire or intention of the Department to establish any control in Haiti except in [Page 217]strict accord with the provisions of the treaty, and it is not desired that the representatives of the United States should exercise any authority which is not properly derivable from those provisions. This does not mean that the Department is not glad to have you and the other treaty officials suggest to the Haitian Government action in line with the purposes of the treaty or cooperate with the Government of Haiti at the latter’s request in any proper project for the welfare of the Republic. In this relation it is to be observed that treaty provisions elsewhere referred to herein contemplate a wide range of duties in the Government of the United States.

The Department does not consider it entirely accurate to state that the American-Haitian Treaty of 1915 was based upon the American-Dominican Treaty of 1907. A perusal of the treaties will show that there is a very great difference in their provisions. In the case of the Haitian treaty Articles 1, 2, 9, 10, 13 and 14 impose very extensive obligations upon the Government of the United States to assist the Haitian Government to remedy the condition of its revenues and finances, to maintain the tranquillity of the Republic, and to carry out plans for the economic development and prosperity of the Republic and its people, which are among the purposes of the treaty as stated in its preamble. It has been the policy of this Government to restrict the action of its representatives in Haiti to matters properly coming within the provisions of the treaty, and it does not authorize any assumption of control or authority which goes beyond them.

You are requested to inform the treaty officials, in such manner as you deem most appropriate, of the substance of the first three pages of the Department’s instruction No. 406 of March 14. The remainder of that instruction as hereby modified and the present instruction are for your own guidance, but it is thought that you may wish to inform the treaty officials of the general tenor of the Department’s views regarding their relations to you.

I take this occasion to inform you that the Department is most gratified at the progress which has been made in recent years toward the accomplishment of the purposes of the treaty of 1915. It recognizes that this progress is due not only to the efficiency and devotion to duty of the treaty officials and their subordinates but also to your own untiring efforts to promote the welfare of Haiti and to the conspicuous ability with which you have discharged the responsibilities which were entrusted to you upon your appointment as High Commissioner.

I am [etc.]

Henry L. Stimson