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

No. 243

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 241 of June 4, 1936,59 I have the honor to report further as follows.

The President asked me to call on him this morning and we had a conversation of upwards of an hour, at which the Foreign Minister was present. After a few preliminary remarks concerning the news which had just been received over the weekend that the Chicago group of Duveen, Ulen, et al, with which Mr. de la Rue had been negotiating for a loan, had indicated that they were no longer interested, [Page 678] the President pulled from his pocket and read to me the letter from Blanchet referred to in my despatch No. 241.

The President showed the same perturbation which I mentioned in my said despatch, and said that there was a definite misunderstanding if the Department thought that he had decided to submit the 1910 loan question to arbitration or to the Permanent Court, or that he had lost interest in securing an American market for Haitian coffee. As regards the question of a moratorium declaration, the President dismissed it summarily as an impossibility.

With regard to the first point he remarked somewhat nervously that the whole question of his country’s relations with France was constantly being brought back to this basis, and while I feel that, largely due to Mayard’s constant playing upon him, he has been a prey to great indecision in the premises (see my despatch under reference and e. g. my telegram No. 25 of May 25), I do not think that, as yet at any rate, he has decided to submit this question to arbitration or to the Permanent Court.

It was with regard to the second point that the President showed much more concern, and most of the conversation dealt with this subject. The President was more pessimistic in this connection than I had yet seen him. He emphasized several times that it was imperative for him, in shaping Haitian policy, to know whether or not Haiti would have the certainty of disposing of a satisfactory proportion of her crop in the United States next year. I asked the President if he did not accept the Fiscal Representative’s statements that the large New York buyers definitely desired to purchase as much as two or three hundred thousand sacks from Haiti’s next year’s coffee crop if it were prepared according to the standard now being worked out and prescribed for the American market. The President said that he did believe that this was the desire of the New York buyers, but that to get the Haitian exporters to prepare the coffee as indicated was an entirely different matter.

I then asked the President if there were no way of persuading or prodding the leading exporters into taking the necessary steps to qualify the coffee for the American market. In reply the President claimed that he had made personal efforts to induce the exporters to take such steps; he said however that the preparation along the lines described and required by Mackey was so “revolutionary” and such a complete change from the way the Haitians had always gone about the exportation of their coffee that it was encountering great difficulties—it aroused all those traits in the Haitian character which constituted obstacles to a successful carrying out of Mackey’s recommendations.…

The President then reverted to his point that the way things were going he did not see how within a period of weeks, or even months, [Page 679] results would be obtained which would assure Haiti of an American market for her coffee—certainly not before the time for disposing of next year’s crop. And then, continued the President, without this certainty of the American market where would he be if his present relations with France were not improved? In this connection he also referred gloomily to the recent news of a French commercial accord with Venezuela60 giving the latter a coffee quota.

I again observed that it seemed to me that some way could be found of making the local exporters see where their clearest self interest lay. To this the President replied that as efforts of persuasion had gotten nowhere, he saw no alternative except the forcible measure of creating by law a monopoly, or a compulsory syndicate directed by the Government, which would amount to about the same thing. He recalled that he had been prepared to form a syndicate (though not necessarily one of the type just referred to) but that the matter had been dropped upon the suggestion of the Fiscal Representative (see my telegrams Nos. 15 of March 19 and 17 of March 25, and the Department’s 8 of March 2661). I then observed that as the President was now so much more skeptical of success in this field than he was at the time Mr. Mackey was here and for some time after his departure, it might be a good idea if he (the President) would communicate with Mr. de la Rue and ask him whether or not under the circumstances outlined above he would now feel inclined to agree to the formation of a syndicate. In any event, I added, it seemed incredible that all the good results of Mr. Mackey’s visit should be allowed to evaporate for the purely invalid intangible reasons that the President had earlier referred to, and action of some kind was imperative.

The Foreign Minister asked me to see him a moment before we went up to the President, and he told me that a communication had just been received from Mayard stating that the new French Government proposed that if the Haitian Government would agree to submit the 1910 question to the Permanent Court, a modus vivendi restoring the complete status quo as regards commercial relations should be entered into pending the conclusion of a new treaty, and the French Government would drop its request for a repeal of the Haitian law on retail trade. While the President did not refer to this directly during our conversation—being, as I have said before, mainly preoccupied with the coffee question—it was evidently on his mind. The new check in the loan negotiations, coupled with the continued suggestions and recommendations from Paris concerning the submission of the 1910 question to arbitration or to the Permanent Court, plus the fact that developments [Page 680] in the coffee situation are not going as smoothly as might have been expected, have, as the Department will doubtless have gathered from the foregoing report, all contributed to make the President impatient, irritated and—as it seemed today—a little bit “rattled”. As long as nothing concretely cheerful looms in sight in connection either with the loan negotiations or with coffee developments, I fear that he will continue in this frame of mind—with the concomitant chance of his taking some unwise step.

Respectfully yours,

George A. Gordon
  1. Not printed.
  2. Supplementary agreement by exchange of notes to agreement of February 26, 1935, signed May 30, 1936; for texts of notes, see Venezuela, Gaceta Oficial, June 1, 1936, pp. 108.189–108.190.
  3. Department’s No. 8 of March 26 not printed.