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

No. 194

Sir: In amplification of my telegram No. 18 of this day, I have the honor to report further as follows: The Minister for Foreign Affairs asked me to call on him this morning, and said that the President had directed him to discuss with me the question of signing the new treaty which would terminate the present financial control as well as all existing treaties.

He explained that the reason for bringing the matter up now was that as the date of the President’s second inauguration on May 15 approached, the political opposition to him was becoming sharper, and that one of the points raised by his opponents was that he had not yet achieved the total liberation that he had promised to bring about. Moreover, if he were not able to make an announcement at the time of his re-inauguration that he had succeeded in terminating foreign control of every nature, the impression in the country would be strengthened that this financial control was going to be allowed to drag on indefinitely, and his opponents would consequently increasingly emphasize their criticism of his administration on this score; not only would they do this locally, but it was to be expected that they would approach those elements in the United States who had hitherto acted as their “protectors”, who in turn would criticise the policy of our Government in this respect, and it was to be expected that in a presidential election year such criticism would attract considerable attention.

In reply, I told M. Châtelain that my best information was to the effect that there was no serious criticism of the Haitian Government for not having yet terminated our financial control; that although some of President Vincent’s opponents might list it among the points on which they wished to attack him, it was only one of many such points and by no means a major issue, so that if these opponents did not have this to talk about they would still have a substantial amount of grievances, real or alleged, to bring up against the President. As to the suggestion that certain elements in the United States could use this point as powerful political campaign ammunition, I thought he would appreciate that our Government had given so many concrete [Page 602] examples of its liberal policy in according full recognition of the sovereignty of sister nations, that political opponents would hesitate before trying to make any capital out of further charges of imperialism.

Coming to the substance of the matter, I told the Minister that the President had recently spoken to me on this subject in a general way, and that I had tried to make it clear to him that it would be most inadvisable to raise this question at the present time, especially when he was trying to secure a loan on the American market. I desired to repeat this now most emphatically.

Having in mind the substance of the Department’s instruction No. 360 of February 4, I added that in my personal opinion the Haitian Government would be well advised to leave this question in abeyance for the time being: President Vincent had made it clear that if he succeeded in securing the five million dollar loan now under negotiation in the United States he hoped that this would prove to be only the first step in his broad program of eventually securing a further loan in an amount sufficient to refund the 1922 loan.6 As I had repeatedly told both the President and the Minister, the indispensable condition precedent for the realization of this broader program was, at the least, for the Haitian Government to go through the present fiscal year within its present budget and without further deficit; if at the end of the fiscal year, it could show not only that it had done this, but also that it had begun again to build up its reserves, then and then only a situation would be created which would allow a further loan to be looked upon as a possibility. If in the meantime, however, the Haitian Government, actuated by merely ephemeral political expediency, should press for the termination of such mild financial control as still existed, the Minister would have to realize as a fact that potential lenders in the American financial market would take fright and immediately lose all interest in any prospective Haitian financing.

The Minister professed to agree with my reasoning; he said that he himself thought this was a poor time to bring the matter up, but he again wished to explain why the President had felt that he ought to do so. On this somewhat inconclusive note the discussion was ended. The Minister did not state that in view of what I had said the Haitian Government would leave the matter in abeyance for the time being, nor did he state that he would like to discuss the matter with me further on some future occasion. I rather anticipate, however, that what I said today and in my conversation with the President above referred to (reported more fully in my letter of March 25 to [Page 603] Assistant Secretary Welles7), I will have to go all over again, on one if not more occasions, before May 15. For that contingency, I should be glad if the Department would instruct me:

whether the Department wishes me to confine what I may tell the President or the Foreign Minister is the attitude of my Government to merely stating that the present is a most inopportune time to raise this question; or
if what I today gave the Minister as my personal opinion I may state to be the position of my Government; or
whether the Department has any other views which it wishes me to present officially if the Haitian Government again raises the question.

Referring again to the Department’s instruction No. 360 (page 2), I have of course consulted with the Fiscal Representative as directed; while it is apparent from what I have hereinabove reported that the Haitian Government would prefer to abolish the existing financial control before the end of the year, I do not see why we should not be able to stave off cooperating in bringing this about until at least after the close of the fiscal year on September 30.

It is my understanding that the Department has definitely taken the position that the Accord of August 7, 1933, constitutes the provision for control during the life of the 1922 loan after the expiration of the 1915 Treaty8 on May 3, 1936, stipulated in Article 8 of the Protocol of October 3, 1919.9 If, as I presume, the Department has on one or more occasions made its position clear to the Haitian Government so that after May 3, 1936, it can not again raise this question, there disappears a reason which might otherwise be adduced for signing the supplementary treaty now.

Respectfully yours,

George A. Gordon
  1. Loan contract of October 6, 1922, between the Republic of Haiti and the National City Company and the National City Bank, both of New York; text in Le Moniteur, Journal Officiel de la République d’Haiti, October 30, 1922. For correspondence relating to the loan, see Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. ii, pp. 472 ff.
  2. Not found in Department files.
  3. Signed September 16, 1915, Foreign Relations, 1916, p. 328.
  4. Ibid., 1919, vol. ii, p. 347.