838.51/3378: Telegram

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

44. Department’s 28, July 13, 7 p.m. I had a long interview with Foreign Minister this morning and communicated to him the views contained in the Department’s telegram under reference. I not only reread to him the contents of the Department’s 24, October 28, 7 p.m. 193681 but also recalled to him that on March 16 last (see my despatch No. 447 of that date82) I had reminded him of his inquiry concerning the Department’s disposition to assist Haiti and the Department’s above-mentioned reply thereto.

I informed Leger that in response to the renewed request recently made by the Haitian Government the Department of State had been glad again to exercise its good offices vis-à-vis the French Government both as regards a coffee quota and the 1910 loan.

I suggested to the Foreign Minister that if he would show a disposition to refrain from making a compromise payment to the French it would in my opinion help the situation with respect to our representations to the French Government. In particular I suggested that as the French on the very eve of signing the commercial treaty had [Page 580]refused to do so on the sole ground of this 1910 claim, if Leger could even assure me that in consequence thereof he now no longer felt even morally bound to pay the French the 10 million francs which he had once proposed (see Legation’s despatches numbers 498 of June 1 and 511 of June 26) it would help.

Leger replied that he could not give me an assurance of this importance without first consulting the President but that he would consult the latter (who is at Kenscoff) tomorrow morning and would give me a reply.

Leger professes to be unable to get away from the dilemma that if our representations to the French have no effect the Haitian Government will have to pay some amount of “blackmail” (Leger’s word) in order to avoid a heavier loss through the closing of the French coffee market.

I told Leger that I noted with regret that he was disposed to discard the reasoning contained in the Memorandum84 handed to Lescot (the Legation’s copy is dated June 22) concerning potential claims on the part of 1910 bondholders who accepted payment in paper francs and of 1922 bondholders on the ground of discrimination. Leger replied that he did not think these possibilities were seriously dangerous whereas the eventuality of not being able to dispose of this year’s coffee crop on account of losing the French Market was.

Leger repeatedly stated that he greatly regretted having misunderstood the Department’s position as set forth in its 24, October 28, 7 p.m., and that when I reread it to him this morning he could see plainly that far from expressing any unreadiness to continue extending our good offices in behalf of Haiti it made clear our inclination to do so upon due cause therefor being shown; he only hoped that his misunderstanding had done no harm.

I shall cable further tomorrow.