838.00 Commission of Investigation/132, 146: Telegram

The Chairman of the President’s Commission (Forbes) to President Hoover and the Acting Secretary of State


7. Department’s 2, March 13. The Commission is under the impression that the Department of State has misunderstood the question raised in Commission’s No. 5, March 12. The Commission is not asking the Government of the United States to give a secret promise to any group in Haiti.

For ten years the people of Haiti have been deprived of their constitutional, representative assemblies. They complain that during that time they have been ruled entirely by appointive officers, executive and legislative, removable by the President and held in power by fear of the machine guns of the marines, against the popular will and in violation of what they say is the guarantee of representative democratic institutions contained in the Constitution of Haiti. The responsible leaders of the articulate elements of the Haitian public have convinced the Commission of their sincerity when they say that if they are compelled to wait for two years more for their legislative assemblies, the Government of the United States will be held responsible for a period of riots and disorders, to quell which it may be compelled to use the marines.

The Department accepted President Borno’s contention that he had discretion to call or not to call elections last October. The solution which the Commission recommends is that the Department allow the Haitians themselves to settle this matter. They claim that [Page 205] President Borno has violated the Constitution of Haiti by not calling elections and they wish to redress this injury to their institutions as quickly as possible.

In the belief that it will be possible to hold the legislative elections without waiting until 1932, the Opposition leaders are preparing to carry out the compromise plan. They say that they cannot hold their people in line if the elections are postponed to that date. It would indeed be bad faith on our part to allow them to act on this assumption if, after the President shall be elected, he will be met with the Department’s veto of any legislative elections before 1932. The call for the primaries to endorse the neutral candidate has already been issued. It is understood that the delegates will meet in Port-au-Prince on March 20. No time, therefore, must be lost. If the Commission cannot feel safe on the point raised, it must so inform the leaders with whom it has been negotiating.

For our own protection we wish to know, before we go any further whether or not the Government of the United States will insist that the new President of Haiti must wait until next year to call legislative elections to be held in 1932. If the Department intends to insist on this interpretation, it is the unanimous opinion of the Commission that the compromise plan will be jeopardized and that measures which the President would be reluctant to order may become necessary.

We most earnestly submit that the Constitution of Haiti was written and adopted to secure representative government and that the people of Haiti should not be deprived of their fundamental constitutional rights by a technicality affecting merely the time set for elections.

Further progress awaits your reply.

  • Forbes
  • Fletcher
  • White
  • Kerney
  • Vezina