The Chargé in Haiti (Chapin) to the Secretary of State

No. 640

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my telegram No. 42, of May 29, 1 p.m.,39 and to previous correspondence regarding the demands of the French Government made upon Haiti as a condition for the continuance or replacement of the Franco-Haitian Commercial Accord.

The following is a brief outline of the developments in the situation since those chronicled in my despatch No. 628 of May 21, 1935:39

On May 24, I communicated orally to the Haitian Minister for Foreign Affairs the contents of the Department’s telegram No. 19, of May 23, 6 p.m., to the effect that the Department had conversed with the French Chargé d’Affaires in Washington and had pointed out to him the possibly serious results of the French demands. The Minister for Foreign Affairs appeared relieved and thanked me cordially for the information. He stated that the French Minister to Haiti, M. Morawiecki, had on May 23, in reply to the request of the Haitian Government for a few days’ delay in answering the French note embodying the demands regarding payment in gold of the service of the 1910 French 5 per cent loan, declined to cable his Government recommending the delay, but had stated that he must await developments.

The French Minister had meanwhile complained with regard to the delay of the Haitian Government in replying to his demands, to President Vincent in a personal interview. It is also learned on good authority that the French Minister had been circulating among the principal import and export merchants in Port-au-Prince, many of whom are French or have French connections, in an endeavor to have them protest personally to the President against letting the Franco-Haitian Commercial Accord lapse.

Taking advantage of Mr. Norman Armour’s presence in Paris on leave, Mr. de la Rue, the American Fiscal Representative, sent him a personal telegram on May 23, briefly setting forth the revival of the French claims for payment in gold of the service on the 1910 5 per cent French loan. Mr. Armour, it is understood, had some years ago, while counsellor of the Paris Embassy, handled this matter with the French Foreign Office. The text of Mr. Armour’s telegram in reply to Mr. de la Rue, regarding the desire of the French Government for a settlement of the 1910 loan, was forwarded to the Department in my telegram No. 41, of May 23 [25], 2 p.m.

After consultation between President Vincent and Mr. de la Rue, it was decided that pending formal notification by the French Government [Page 659] of the lapse of the commercial agreement, the special treatment then being accorded French goods would not be modified immediately by the Haitian Government, and that in any case this would not be done for reasons of domestic politics until Monday, June 3, the day following the plebiscite on the new Haitian Constitution and the reelection of the President.

The British Minister Resident, Mr. F. M. Shepherd, informed me yesterday, that in response to instructions from his Government, he had called on the Haitian Minister for Foreign Affairs on May 27. In the course of this interview, he told him that the British Government could not be indifferent to the granting of any specially privileged commercial position to France or any other nation, pointing out from the April 1935 statistics that Great Britain had during that month taken over 40 per cent of the total of Haitian exports as compared to 22 per cent for France.

On May 25, the Haitian Foreign Office received in writing official notification from the French Minister that in view of the fact that Haiti had declined to accept the French demands including that with respect to the gold service of the 1910 loan, the Franco-Haitian Trade Accord had expired as of May 26, and that consequently the special Haitian coffee quota was abolished and that hereafter all goods of Haitian origin would pay import duties according to the rates of the French general tariff.

Mr. de la Rue informs me finally that during the course of a discussion of the situation yesterday morning, the President had agreed for the moment to accept the position without making any further overtures towards France. It was decided further to investigate the possibility of finding other outlets for coffee, including the United States and to proceed actively with negotiations with Great. Britain, Canada, Belgium and Italy for commercial accords. Mr. de la Rue added that the President was furious at the reports he had heard of the French Minister’s “undiplomatic” activity with respect to the local merchants, and mentioned to him that he had been seriously considering requesting his recall;—a course which Mr. de la Rue advised against.

Since writing the above despatch, the Department’s instruction No. 284 of May 28, transmitting a memorandum40 of a conversation between Mr. Edwin Wilson and the French Chargé d’Affaires on May 23, has come to hand. I took occasion to read in translation certain portions of it this morning to the Haitian Minister for Foreign Affairs. He was particularly encouraged and interested in the remarks regarding the Department’s attitude with respect to the payment in gold of the 1910 loan service.

Respectfully yours,

Selden Chapin
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