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

No. 312

Sir: Confirming my telegram No. 44 of May 12, 1 p.m., I have the honor to inform the Department that the contract for the sale of the Banque Nationale de la République d’Haiti to the Haitian Government was signed on May 12. The contract, together with the law of sanction, is being presented to the Chamber of Deputies by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Laleau, today.

M. Laleau informed me that he intended to present the contract in a vigorous speech calling the attention of the Deputies to the fact that the plan proposed was one which they had all on many occasions insisted was the one they wanted and that now to reject it would be to subject themselves to the accusation of hypocrisy and bad faith.

I have called M. Laleau’s attention to the correction in letter “A” mentioned in paragraph 1 of the Department’s telegram No. 28 of May 15, 4 p.m., regarding the substitution of the phrase, “Board of Directors of the Bank,” for, “The Director of the Bank.” I have also handed him the text of the proposed treaty set forth in the same telegram. [Page 359] He will, I understand, use these documents in informal discussions with the Deputies in order that they may have the whole plan before them when they come to consider and vote on the bank contract and the law of sanction.

In the meantime, the resignation of two members of the Cabinet, MM. Lescot and Hibbert, has been announced. As I have reported to the Department, M. Hibbert is to be replaced by M. Christian Laporte while Titus, the former Minister of Commerce and Justice, is replacing M. Lescot as Minister of Interior and M. Brutus, former Chief of the President’s private Cabinet, is to take over the portfolios of Commerce and Public Works. (M. Hibbert held the combined portfolios of Finance and Public Works.)

While it is hoped that this concession by the President to the opposition forces will perhaps have the effect of winning them over, a strong subterranean attack against the purchase of the bank, and in fact the whole plan as explained to the public through the press, has developed. Curiously enough, the Chamber of Deputies, which has hitherto supported the President, seems to be even stronger in its opposition to the bank purchase than the Senate. The Deputies, in particular, have been open in charges of venality against the Government and the usual group of sordid rumors that seem always ready to be launched at a time like this are once more circulating. …

There is little doubt in my mind that the early opposition to the bank sale was based upon a very real fear among the more seriously inclined that the bank, once purchased, would become a prey to local politics but the publication of the contract and the restrictions imposed therein, as well as the announcement that the present personnel of the bank is to continue, with the possible exception of the Director, has reassured those who were honestly apprehensive.

I shall not fail to keep you fully informed of developments. In the meantime, however, I fear that I must warn the Department that the situation, as it appears today, is by no means settled and that there is a possibility that the plan which has been evolved with so much care and effort and that represents all that the most exigent Haitian could ever have desired may, after all, be rejected through the selfish attitude of a small group who really do not wish to see a solution to the present problem. I hope that my fears may not prove justified but I feel it my duty to mention this possibility in order that the Department may not be taken by surprise should such an unfortunate eventuality occur.

Respectfully yours,

Norman Armour