338.1121 Zrike Bros. and Johnson/80

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

No. 172

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Legation’s despatch No. 115 of October [August] 31,8 reporting the departure of Mr. D. P. Johnson from Haiti.

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As stated in that despatch, the general opinion prevailed that Mr. Johnson had left Haiti with the tacit consent if not the definite approval of the Haitian Government. This opinion, which was shared by the Legation at the time, was subsequently supported by statements which were made in private conversations by members of the Government to Mr. Pixley9 and also to the Legation.

I am informed that M. Blanchet, formerly Minister for Foreign Affairs, in a conversation with Mr. Donald R. Heath on about September 2nd, mentioned that he had noticed from the press that Mr. Johnson had left Haiti. M. Blanchet, however, did not indicate in this conversation that the Haitian Government was interested in the fact of his departure.

When I first saw President Vincent after his return from Cape Haitien on October 26th he raised this question and expressed his displeasure that Mr. Johnson had left before Haitian justice had been satisfied. I replied to the President, as I also had occasion later to state to M. Laleau, Minister for Foreign Affairs, that once Johnson had been delivered to the Haitian authorities the American Government and the Legation had no further connection with the matter.

On October 28 I received a note from the Haitian Government on this subject, copies and translation of which are enclosed herewith.10 Although there has been no comment on the Johnson case in the press since his departure and so far as I was aware the question had apparently been forgotten, the impression conveyed by the Haitian Government’s note is that it desires to go on record concerning his departure in such a manner as to rid itself of any responsibility therefor. In doing so, however, they have attempted to throw the onus on, the American Government. I have discussed this note with M. Laleau and asked him whether the Haitian Government intended thereby to request Johnson’s extradition but received no satisfactory explanation for the note.

It is my opinion that particularly in view of the action of the Department in waiving the immunity of this treaty official, the first time that such action had been taken in the history of the American intervention in Haiti, it is inadvisable that we should permit this note, with its implication that we are in any way responsible for Johnson’s departure, to remain unanswered. I have therefore drafted a reply to the Haitian Government which is submitted for the Department’s approval.10

One other method of dealing with the question which occurs to me is to request the Haitian Government to withdraw its note, although of the two courses of action perhaps the former would be preferable.

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In connection with Mr. Johnson’s release from prison I am enclosing a copy and translation of the text of the court order ordering his release.11 It will be noted that no qualification is attached to his release. The Commandant of the Garde reports that he was not instructed to maintain any surveillance over Johnson to prevent his departure, which could readily have been requested by the Haitian Government. Its failure to do so strongly supports the belief which I continue to hold that Johnson left Haiti with the tacit approval of the Haitian Government.

Respectfully yours,

Norman Armour
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  2. Rex A. Pixley, Deputy Financial Adviser-General Receiver of the Haitian Government.
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