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

No. 371

Sir: With reference to my telegram No. 68 of this date,37 I have the honor to report further as follows.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs told me over the telephone this morning that he was not yet prepared to submit any further proposals or draft legislation concerning the projected new protocol with accompanying note, for the termination of American financial control, but that if I cared to call upon him and discuss the matter unofficially he would be glad to do so.

Upon my arrival, M. Léger opened the conversation by saying that if I would allow him to speak off the record, he would say that after [Page 668] a careful examination of the documents I had left with him last Wednesday he feared that we were very little closer to an agreement than theretofore, and that in effect the American Government was standing upon its original position. In reply I said that it seemed to me that our latest proposals had not only embodied some concessions but had developed various considerations which should facilitate reaching agreement.

M. Léger then said that he had taken due note of the observations in our latest note concerning our view of the intention or oral understanding, with respect to the transfer to the Bank of the services of the office of the Fiscal Representative, over and above what was set down in black and white in the draft documents of 1934. He said that it was most unfortunate that there should be a difference of opinion in this regard; speaking very frankly, he would tell me that, as he had already foreshadowed, President Vincent had said to him flatly that he knew of no understandings over and above what was contained in the draft documents above mentioned, and that he had entered into no commitments whatsoever other than as set forth in the said documents.

I replied that, speaking equally frankly, with respect to the substantiation of our version of the understanding reached it wasn’t a question of the memory of one person alone, but of several; that it was my understanding that during the 1934 negotiations M. Hibbert had felt that it would be preferable, from the Haitian point of view, not to specify certain matters in the written documents, although he had realized and agreed that it was clearly understood that the essential services of the Fiscal Representative’s office should be transferred to the Bank. I added that, speaking entirely personally, subsequent developments concerning M. Hibbert were unfortunate in this connection.

To this M. Léger expressed no dissent; he said that it was too bad that there was this difference of view as to the existence of understandings over and above the written documents: he quite appreciated that if we felt that there were such understandings we expected the Haitian Government to live up to them, whereas on the other hand the Haitian Government did not feel that there were such understandings. However, he of course did not wish to see this controversy develop, or to have individual names—especially that of the President—brought in question, and he felt that everything possible should be done to avoid this. With this particularly in view he had wished to have all the documents which I had submitted to him last week translated, and to go over them carefully with the President before submitting any further official proposals to us.

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M. Léger said further that naturally he did not expect the plan which he had submitted to me on November 27 to constitute a last word on the subject, that he was entirely ready to try and work something out on the basis of that plan which would be mutually satisfactory to our two Governments, and thought that that could be accomplished. However, as we had not wished to negotiate on the basis of his plan but had preferred to submit a new plan of our own, which did specifically—especially in the question of a minimum sum over and above the 2 per cent of gross revenues for the Bank’s services—request the Haitian Government to go beyond what was set forth in the written documents of 1934, it made the matter harder from the Haitian point of view.

I replied that in the note which I delivered to him last week, the reasons for our procedure were set forth, and that over and above that I might point out that several of the matters which were most unacceptable from our point of view were so interwoven throughout all the three pieces of draft legislation which he had submitted, that it seemed both difficult and impracticable to deal with these matters satisfactorily by discussing a particular article in a particular one of the three pieces of legislation.

I then recalled to Léger that he had told me that he did not desire to get rid of all the Americans now in the Fiscal Representative’s office (see e. g. my despatch No. 361 of December 1138), but that on the contrary he hoped that some of them would remain and would help train the Haitian fiscal organization that he desired to create, and asked him why then he objected to a plan which would provide for the retention of certain experienced American officials. He replied that he did not object to this, but that he wanted to retain them within a framework such as had been outlined in his plan; if these officials went to the Bank with the same powers as they now possessed the Haitian Government would not feel that it had progressed very far along the road of financial liberation. I rejoined that if and when the Protocol of October 3, 1919, and the Agreement of August 7, 1933, were abrogated, I did not see how he could contend that the powers of the Fiscal Representative and Deputy Fiscal Representative would not be definitely curtailed. M. Léger surrejoined that while this might be so technically, he did not think that under our plan there would be much difference in practice.

As regards the letter from M. Châtelain to Mr. de la Rue (enclosed in my despatch No. 365 of December 1938) concerning the salaries of himself and of Mr. Pixley, M. Léger said that President Vincent had again told him that his (the President’s) understanding of the purpose of that letter was as he (Léger) had explained it to me at our last [Page 670] interview (see my despatch No. 367 of December 23,39 page 2). I replied to the same effect as I had on that occasion, observing that the Haitian contention was scarcely sustained by the basic fact in the situation—i. e., that the salaries of de la Rue and Pixley were the subject of accord between the two Governments and could not be reduced by unilateral action on the part of the Haitian Government—whereas our interpretation of the letter seemed to be the logical consequence of the application of this fact.

However, said M. Léger in conclusion, as he had already said to me, he felt that our two Governments had the same aims and objectives and he hoped that this matter could be worked out; “the worst that can happen,” said he, “is that we remain as we are,” but he trusted that it would not have to come to that.

As I was leaving, M. Léger repeated that he would go over this matter most carefully with the President, and that as this week was rather full of holidays he would take it up with me again probably at the beginning of next week.

Respectfully yours,

George A. Gordon
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