838.61/210: Telegram

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

46. The Minister for Foreign Affairs informed me yesterday that the Colvin question had been discussed by the President and his Cabinet and that they had unanimously decided that they could not ratify the appointment. They asked me to make it clear that they had no wish to show any disrespect to the President of the United States and that they appreciated Colvin’s ability and qualifications but that the events of the past 18 months had created a situation where no government could accept the appointment without creating the gravest political difficulties.

The Minister said, however, that if Colvin would resign of his own accord without any appearance of pressure from either Government the Haitian Government would be willing upon his departure to pay him as an indemnity the difference between his present salary and that of the Director General since July 1, 1930. He felt, however, that the resignation should take effect in the very near future.

[Paraphrase.] I informed him that I would submit this proposal to the Department.

If we should accept such an arrangement, we would in effect surrender our position that an officer nominated by the President of the United States under the treaty must be commissioned by the Government of Haiti. Thus a precedent would be established which might cause us grave embarrassment if a similar case arose in the future. If the Government of the United States intended to continue to exercise an effective control over the treaty services, we could not afford to consider such a proposal. However, since the Department desires to withdraw from our responsibilities in the treaty services as rapidly as possible, I feel that the arguments against the acceptance of such an arrangement are probably outweighed by the following considerations:

If Mr. Colvin resigned, it would not be necessary, so far as the records disclose, for either Government to give in on the question whether the Government of Haiti is obligated to accept nominations made by the President of the United States.
The personal interests of Mr. Colvin would be protected.
We could proceed immediately with the Haitianization of the treaty services. I regard this as extremely important because the delay in the Haitianization negotiations has given rise to a very tense situation and there is always the possibility that the opponents of the President and the radical native element will inaugurate a series of strikes and riots like that which, as they believe, led to the [Page 472] sending of the President’s Commission in an endeavor to bring about another complete change in our policy.
In all fairness we cannot hold the Government of Haiti entirely responsible for Mr. Colvin’s appointment. The failure of the Department to insist at the beginning on his appointment and the statement made at the time by Dr. Moton and others whom the people of Haiti might reasonably regard as in a position to express the views of the Government of the United States aided in creating a situation where it would be extremely difficult from the political standpoint for any administration to ratify the appointment and where too much pressure by us might easily cause the present administration to be replaced by one whose policy toward us would be far more obnoxious and obstructive.
It would be extremely unfortunate if there were a complete breakdown in the Haitianization negotiations. Presumably we should find ourselves compelled to Haitianize the treaty services anyway by our own action and there would then be slight opportunity to secure an even partially satisfactory solution of the Colvin matter. If we permit the negotiations to reach an impasse from which neither side could retire with credit, I can see only unfortunate consequences.

If the Department should accept this arrangement, I think we might stipulate that the resignation of Mr. Colvin should not take effect until January 1, 1932, and also that Mr. Colvin should receive some statement from the Government of Haiti in appreciation of his technical services.

I strongly recommend that the proposal be definitely accepted or rejected at once. If we permit ourselves to become engaged in a further argument about the principle involved, we shall only lose ground and create new difficulties.

If the Department is not [now?] disposed to accept this proposed arrangement, I should like to have a strong and explicit statement of its views in such form that I could show it to the Government of Haiti and state that it represented our Government’s last word on the subject. I believe that such a statement would very possibly lead the Government of Haiti to accept Mr. Colvin’s appointment because I consider it possible that the present attitude of the Government of Haiti is largely bluff. It is, of course, quite impossible to ascertain whether our definite insistence upon the Colvin appointment would or would not settle the matter, because the attitude which the Government of Haiti would assume would depend to a very large extent on the domestic political situation at the moment. At the present time this situation is both uncertain and difficult and it is most probable that if the difficulties between the President and Congress should grow more [Page 473] acute, the new Cabinet would seize the opportunity to resign upon a popular issue. [End paraphrase.]