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

No. 498

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 482 of April 29, dealing with Franco-Haitian commercial relations, I have the honor to report that during a call on the Foreign Minister this morning I asked him how the treaty negotiations were coming along and he said that whereas the last time he had spoken to me he did not think a treaty could be signed until towards the end of August, things had developed quicker than he had anticipated, and he now expects to sign up sometime in June. In fact he said that he and the French Minister had already drafted a treaty and had sent it to Paris for approval.

I then asked him if he still felt like giving away some money unnecessarily on the 1910 loan claim. Léger said he did not think it was entirely unnecessarily, to which I replied that when I last spoke to him I understood him to say he had made no commitments. Léger said that was true in that he had agreed to nothing on paper and that he had only told the French that if he did settle the claim it would only be on the basis mentioned in my despatch under reference. Leger said that the French were still saying that such a basis was unsatisfactory, but that they had by no means given up the idea of trying to get something out of this claim; only yesterday, he said, in haggling over the price of jute coffee sacks which the Haitians will agree to buy under the new treaty (as they did in the former treaty), [Page 567]the French had advanced as a counter-proposition to one of Leger’s propositions that the Haitians should agree to pay one thousand francs a bond for all bonds still outstanding.

Léger said that while he still would tell me that technically the signing of the treaty and a settlement of the 1910 claim were not linked up, and while, as stated in the preceding paragraph, the French still declared that they would not accept what Leger said would be the only possible basis for settlement, nevertheless he had given the French every reason to think that they could have a settlement on his basis when they wanted it, and he had to admit that he was at least under a moral obligation to make a settlement of that kind. So much so, he added, that if he were now to tell the French that he would not settle on any basis he was sure they would refuse to sign a commercial treaty.

I asked him if he did not really feel that what had compelled the French to negotiate for the renewal of the trade treaty was their own self-interest and the fact that the Haitians had for the first time in history demonstrated their independence of the French coffee market. In other words did he not believe that the Haitians had called the French bluff and only had to sit tight to avoid giving away something for nothing. Léger had no answer to make except to say that perhaps this was so, but he still felt that he would not get the treaty if he announced a refusal to settle, and he thought he would be acting in bad faith if he succeeded in getting the treaty signed and then turned around and refused to make any settlement of the claim.

I said that perhaps I was being more Catholic than the Pope, but that as long as the Haitians had spent the interest fund, whose equivalent Léger was prepared to pay out in 4% bonds, it irked me to see the Haitian Government taking this amount out of its treasury when there is no necessity to do so. I recalled to him that under the Agreement of August 7, 1933,65 we had an interest in such a proposed increase of the public debt. Léger said that he realized that, but that he had not supposed that our Government would object to an issue of bonds of this nature. He said that if there was any chance of our Government objecting he hoped that the question might be examined at its earliest convenience, and that the Legation would inform him of our Government’s attitude so that he would know just where he stood. I told him that I would be glad to take the matter up when I arrived in the Department next week, and he said he would be grateful if I would do so.

Respectfully yours,

George A. Gordon