Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The Minister of Haiti called to see me this morning at his request. He brought with him for me to read a letter he had received from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and a letter from President Vincent. The latter was written in response to a personal letter from the Haitian Minister in which he had protested strongly against the attitude of the Léger brothers52 in the negotiations with the French Government concerning the 1910 French bondholders. President Vincent stated that his whole policy was directed towards ever-increasingly close relations with the United States and somewhat naively added that Mr. Lescot need not fear that he was in any way under the influence of the Léger brothers. President Vincent reiterated his tremendous satisfaction with the contract with the J. G. White Company53 and evidenced his pleasure that the engineers of the company were now in Port-au-Prince consulting with regard to the formulation of the three-year program. In a postscript the President [Page 623] referred to the new incident with the Dominican Republic and stated that the body of the Dominican found across the Haitian border was that of Captain Anival Vallejo, a former Dominican army aviator who had been imprisoned by Trujillo in Nigua jail for three years because of alleged complicity in the Franco plot against Trujillo. President Vincent said that when the body was found by a Haitian official it was a “surprising coincidence” that right on the other side of the boundary there should have been a group of armed members of the Dominican army. President Vincent gave it clearly to be understood that Vallejo had been murdered by these members of the Dominican army and that the body had been taken across the Haitian frontier in order deliberately to create complications with Haiti.

The letter from Minister for Foreign Affairs Léger instructed Mr. Lescot to state that the Haitian Government would “probably” have no difficulty in complying with points Nos. 2 and 3 in the memorandum which I had given Mr. Lescot last week with regard to the 1910 bond protocol. Mr. Léger requested Mr. Lescot, however, to say that he would first have to consult the Haitian Minister in Paris with regard to these two points and finally said that with regard to point No. 1 it would be difficult for the Haitian Government to make any such commitment as that requested inasmuch as the secret protocol had been published in the official press in Paris and might consequently, without the desire of the Haitian Government, be reprinted in the Haitian press. I stated to the Haitian Minister that the request of this Department had been that the Haitian Government agree not to submit the protocol for ratification and for the Haitian Government not to publish the protocol. I said that it was quite clear that publication implied “official publication” and that naturally I hadn’t asked the Haitian Government to censor the Haitian press but to refrain from giving the protocol official sanction by publishing it in the Haitian Moniteur. I also called the Minister’s attention to the fact that Mr. Léger made no reference to a commitment to refrain from submitting the protocol for ratification and that Mr. Léger had merely said that the Haitian Government had no present intention of submitting it for ratification.

I expressed to Mr. Lescot the opinion that the matter was one of the utmost importance and that as he knew this Government had assured the purchasers of the 1922 bond issue that the Haitian Government, as a result of assurances given by the latter, would not pay the holders of the 1910 bonds more than the amount agreed upon at that time and that if the Haitian Government now once more opened that question the legitimate rights of the bondholders of the [Page 624] 1922 loan would be jeopardized and the Haitian Government would let itself in for claims which might reach astronomical proportions. The Minister expressed very vehemently his agreement with that point of view and said that unless his Government agreed to the request made by this Government he himself would see that the issue was fairly placed before the Haitian people so that they could see what prejudice had been done to their own rights and to the national credit of their Government.

I requested the Minister to inform his Government that in view of the seriousness of the questions raised, I would have to request that the reply of the Haitian Government to the memorandum handed him last week be sent to us in writing and that I trusted the assurances contained therein would comply fully with the requests made by the Government of the United States.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Abel Léger, a former Minister for Foreign Affairs, had recently been appointed Minister in France to succeed Chatelain. The other brother, Georges Léger, was the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  2. A contract of July 6, 1938, between the Haitian Government and the J. G. White Engineering Corporation of New York provided for the execution of a program of public works. The contract was published in Le Moniteur, Journal Officiel de la République d’Haiti, July 7, 1938. (838.51/3651, 3673.)