The Secretary of State to the Appointed Minister in Haiti ( Munro )

Sir: Upon your arrival at Port au Prince you will assume the functions hitherto exercised by the American High Commissioner,43 both with respect to the conduct of diplomatic relations between this Government and the Government of Haiti, and also with respect to the supervision of the activities of other American officials in Haiti. You will represent the President of the United States in Haiti in the same manner as did the High Commissioner, for the purpose of directing, coordinating, and reporting upon the work of the Financial Adviser-General Receiver, the officers commanding the Garde d’Haiti, and all other officers nominated by the President of the United States in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of September 16, 1915.44 [Page 256] You will therefore consult with the Treaty Officials above referred to, study the problems with which they are dealing, and formulate the general policy which they are to follow in their relations with the Haitian Ministries to which they are attached, with a view to the accomplishment of the purposes of the Treaty and the execution of the recommendations of the President’s Commission for the study and review of conditions in the Republic of Haiti.

You will be expected from time to time to report to the Department upon the efficiency of the various treaty services, and to recommend any changes in personnel which you consider advisable. When there is a vacancy among the heads of the treaty services the nomination of the new official will be communicated to you by the Department after consultation with the President, and will be presented by you to the Haitian Government. Nominations of subordinate officials in the treaty services will be presented by you to the President of Haiti in the name of the President of the United States without prior consultation with the Department, following the procedure outlined in the Department’s instruction No. 136 of November 22, 1923 to the High Commissioner.45 In presenting such nominations you will of course be guided by the advice of the heads of the respective services, except where you consider that there are compelling reasons for not accepting such advice. You are authorized to make any changes in subordinate personnel which you consider necessary, acting after consultation with the head of the treaty service concerned.

Acting as the representative of the President of the United States you will also direct those activities of the Marine Brigade which affect its relations with the Haitian Government or the Haitian people. The Brigade Commander will be instructed to take no action under authority of the existing technical state of martial law without first consulting you and obtaining your approval. This applies to the issue of proclamations, the trial of Haitian citizens by provost courts, and in general to any steps which it may appear necessary for the Marine Brigade to take in assisting the Haitian authorities to maintain order. The Brigade Commander will likewise consult with you in every case before taking action in incidents involving relations between individual members of the Brigade and civilians in Haiti.

The President desires to reduce or withdraw the Marine Brigade when such action can be taken without jeopardizing the peace of Haiti or the safety of Americans or other foreigners, and you will, therefore, report to the Department, after consultation with the Brigade Commander and the Chief of the Garde, when you consider that the situation in Haiti makes such withdrawal or reduction feasible. In the meantime it is contemplated that the Marine Brigade should take [Page 257] no part in the maintenance of order or the conduct of affairs in Haiti except in emergencies where you consider its participation necessary to the fulfillment of the obligations assumed by the United States under the Treaty of 1915. As stated in previous instructions to the High Commissioner, Haitians should not be tried by provost courts except in cases where the safety of members of the Brigade is involved.

In accordance with the arrangement which has existed since 1922 neither the Chief of the Garde d’Haiti nor marine and naval officers serving as treaty officials will report to or in any respect function under the Brigade Commander.

In the exercise of your duties you will bear constantly in mind the fact that the primary purpose of the Government of the United States in its relations with Haiti is to assist the people of that country through friendly advice and through cooperation in administrative matters to eliminate political and financial instability, in order that they may enjoy a real independence secure from the complications to which disorder and inability to fulfill international obligations have in the past exposed them. It was this purpose which inspired the Treaty of 1915, under which the Government of the United States obligated itself by its good offices to aid the Haitian Government in the maintenance of order, the development of its natural resources, the sanitation of the Republic, and the establishment of the finances of Haiti on a firm basis. It is this Government’s desire to withdraw from any participation in the internal affairs of Haiti at the earliest moment when such withdrawal can be effected with a reasonable hope that there will be no return to the conditions which compelled its intervention in 1915. It desires that you should bend every effort to the creation of a situation where such withdrawal will be possible. As soon as possible after your arrival in Haiti, therefore, you will make a careful study of the existing situation with a view to determining to what extent and in what manner the functions now being exercised by American treaty officials may best be turned over to Haitian citizens. You will be guided in this matter by the recommendations of the President’s Commission for the study and review of conditions in the Republic of Haiti, whose report has received the approval of the President of the United States.

The Treaty of 1915 will expire by its own terms on May 3, 1936. This Government has no wish to exercise any control in Haiti after that date save for such financial arrangements as will be required under the provisions of the Protocol of 1919.46 It is prepared to relinquish a part of the authority exercised by it under the Treaty before 1936 upon ascertaining that the purposes for which it has been [Page 258] exercising that authority have been substantially fulfilled, and that the Haitian Government desires a change in the existing arrangements.

So long as the Treaty continues in effect, however, and in so far as its provisions have not been changed by mutual agreement this Government must insist upon the full recognition of the rights and authority granted to it thereunder. It cannot otherwise fulfill the responsibilities which it has assumed toward the Haitian Government and toward the Haitian people. This Government will, therefore, expect that the Haitian Government will promptly appoint all officials nominated by the President of the United States under the Treaty; that it will give them full authority with respect to the administration of the services under their control; and that it will cooperate with them, and with you, for the fullest realization of the purposes of the Treaty. It will also expect that laws relating to subjects covered by the Treaty or affecting the treaty services will be submitted to the diplomatic representative of the United States for an expression of his views before promulgation, in accord with the practice established by the agreement of August 24, 1918.47 This applies with special force to any changes affecting the present law of finance and to legislation which in the opinion of the Financial Adviser would impair the Republic’s credit or prevent the maintenance of a balanced budget. In view of the provisions of Article 127 of the Haitian Constitution,48 this Government considers that a law which would tend to prevent the United States from carrying out its obligations under the Treaty would be invalid, and that you would, therefore, be justified, if it became necessary, in directing the treaty officials not to recognize such a law or to give it effect.

The Department does not desire, however, that you should exercise the authority herein given you except in cases where it appears absolutely necessary to do so. It desires you to avoid so far as possible any interference with the freedom of action of the Haitian Government. You should not, therefore, formally object to the enactment of a law simply because you are not in full accord as to its wisdom or propriety. While you should not hesitate to give such friendly advice and suggestions as you may deem appropriate in the matter of new legislation, you should not invoke the authority conferred upon the United States by the Treaty except in cases where a proposed law would clearly operate to prevent the effective work of one of the treaty services, and then only in cases where this interference would be of a sufficiently serious nature to make it improper for the United States Government to acquiesce therein.

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Contracts and concessions relating to subjects affecting the purposes of the Treaty of 1915 will receive more careful consideration by the Legation than other laws, particularly when the establishment of new enterprises financed by American capital is contemplated. While the Department no longer desires to make a detailed examination itself of such contracts in advance of their submission by the American interests concerned to the Haitian Government, it desires that you should keep fully informed of the progress of the negotiations, and that you should consult the Department regarding the attitude which the Legation is to assume when you consider that the questions of policy involved require the Department’s consideration. It will be the duty of the Treaty Officials whose departments are affected to advise the Haitian Government regarding the details of negotiations after receiving instructions from you as to the principles upon which their advice is to be based, and it is assumed that their cooperation will usually eliminate any question as to the acceptability of the contract as a whole after its signature.

While the Department desires that you and the Treaty Officials should give the frankest and fullest advice to the Haitian Government regarding the details of contracts and concessions, it does not desire that you should withhold consent to the conclusion of a contract simply because you and the Treaty Officials are not in accord with all of its provisions. You will withhold consent only in cases where the contract appears to be seriously detrimental to the interests of Haiti, or where it would otherwise affect the performance by the United States of its obligations to Haiti under the Treaty of 1915. In other cases the final responsibility must rest with the Haitian Government.

With regard to judicial decisions affecting the public acts of treaty officials, this Government has considered that it could not satisfactorily perform its obligations under the Treaty if its representatives were instructed to obey without question all orders emanating from the Haitian courts. The fact that the Treaty imposes upon the Financial Adviser, for example, duties which could not be properly performed if he were subject to the control of any other organ of the Haitian Government has compelled the Government of the United States to assume the position that a decision by the courts which undertakes to control the treaty officials in the discharge of their duties under the Treaty is in itself inconsistent with the Treaty and need not, therefore, be given effect. This Government does not, however, desire to invoke this principle except in extreme cases, and you and the Financial Adviser should, therefore, regard decisions of the Haitian courts as prime facie evidence of a valid claim against the Treasury. In cases where such a decision appears so improper that to give it effect would be incompatible with the proper performance of the Financial Adviser’s [Page 260] duties under the Treaty, you may instruct the Financial Adviser to disregard it. In such a case you should discuss the question in a frank and friendly manner with the Haitian Government in an effort to find a solution of the difficulty.

You should maintain the position hitherto assumed that American treaty officials enjoy complete immunity from the jurisdiction of Haitian courts except when such immunity may be waived by the United States Government. In cases of offenses committed by or claims against treaty officials who are in the military service of the United States the matter will ordinarily be dealt with by their military superiors. In other cases you will make a careful investigation and take such action as you may find practicable to effect an adjustment. If you feel that the United States Government should waive the immunity of the treaty official concerned you should submit your recommendations with a full statement of the facts to the Department for its consideration.

The final recommendation of the President’s Commission for the study and review of conditions in the Republic of Haiti is: “That the new Minister be charged with the duty of negotiating with the Haitian Government further modifications of the existing Treaty and agreements providing for less intervention in Haitian domestic affairs and defining the conditions under which the United States would lend its assistance in the restoration of order or maintenance of credit.” You will give careful consideration to this matter as soon as practicable after your arrival at Port au Prince.49 As indicated above, this Government has no desire to continue to exercise any authority or control in the internal affairs of Haiti. It wishes to withdraw its military forces at the earliest practicable moment and it would not consider any arrangement which provided for an indefinite continuance of the present military occupation. It likewise desires to relinquish the control now exercised by American treaty officials in so far as this can be done under the existing contractual arrangements and without placing this Government in the position of failing to fulfill the responsibilities assumed by it under the Treaty. The Government of the United States, however, will always have a deep interest in the political and financial stability, the economic welfare and the sanitation of Haiti, not only because of its friendship for the people of that country but also for reasons closely affecting the national security of the United States. It will, therefore, be disposed to discuss with a Haitian Government freely elected by the people of Haiti the continuance of cooperation and assistance in such form and manner as may be mutually agreed upon by the two Governments. You are authorized [Page 261] to discuss this subject informally with the appropriate authorities at such time as may seem most suitable, in order to inform the Department of the views of the Haitian Government regarding the negotiation now or at a later date of a new Treaty or other international agreement which on the one hand would materially diminish the participation of the United States in Haiti’s internal affairs, and on the other would establish a permanent basis for cooperation in a form acceptable to both governments. The Department will await your recommendations on this subject.

In conclusion you will be guided throughout your service as Minister to Haiti by the principles set forth in the following paragraph from an instruction addressed to the High Commissioner at Port au Prince on March 14, 1929:50

“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, 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 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.”

Very truly yours,

H. L. Stimson
  1. See “Appointment of a High Commissioner by President Harding,” Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. ii, p. 461.
  2. For text of treaty, see ibid., 1916, p. 328; for text of additional act extending the duration of the treaty, see ibid., 1917, p. 807.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1923, vol. ii, p. 393.
  4. Signed at Port-au-Prince, October 3, 1919, ibid., 1919, vol. ii, p. 347.
  5. See note of August 24, 1918, from the Haitian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Relations, 1919, vol. ii, p. 309.
  6. Constitution of June 12, 1918, ibid., 1918, pp. 487, 501; also amendments to the Constitution of 1918, ibid., 1927, vol. iii, pp. 48 ff.
  7. See “Negotiations between the United States and Haiti for the Haitianization of the Treaty Services,” p. 261.
  8. Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. iii, p. 208.