The Chargé in Haiti (Finley) to the Secretary of State

No. 259

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a copy of a memorandum which has been given me by Mr. Sidney de la Rue, the Fiscal Representative, [Page 625] concerning a conversation which he had with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Georges Léger on July 29, 1938.

Respectfully yours,

Harold D. Finley

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Fiscal Representative of Haiti (De la Rue)

I had a long talk with Léger this morning. He told me that a note* had been handed Lescot, presumably by Mr. Welles, which suggested that the Department would be very pleased if assurances could be given that three things had been arranged satisfactorily in connection with the Haitian-French commercial treaty and the various agreements surrounding it or corollary to it.

He mentioned these three things as follows: one, that the Protocol would not be published; two, that no effort would be made to insist upon any transfer of the trust fund held in New York for payment of the 1910 bonds; and three, that the French Government agreed that this arrangement of charging Haitian coffee Frs. 22.00 per 100 kilos and the issuance of a license therefor by the Syndicate of Havre, was recognized by the French Government as a final and full settlement of any possible claim in connection with the 1910 loan, at the same time not admitting that the Haitian Government recognized any claim, but had made this settlement, without recognition, as a means of restoring normal commercial relations, or words to that effect.

None of the above is intended to be very exact. I am repeating the conversation as nearly as I remember it.

Léger has asked me to repeat this conversation for the simple reason that he says he finds it embarrassing to make an explanation as Foreign Minister. Yet, at the same time, for fear of any misunderstanding, he would like to explain, viz:

In connection with the first point, regarding the publication of the Protocol, he told me that he never has received a report from Chatelain as to exactly how this thing got into its present shape, nor why there was a Protocol. As a result of this, while Chatelain was to leave Paris on the last day of August and Abel Léger was to be appointed Minister on that date, Léger and the President have decided to send Abel at once. He is sailing on the direct French boat which leaves here for France tomorrow. De Lens, the French Minister to Haiti, is arriving here tomorrow by airplane from New York. He has been in the States more than a month.

[Page 626]

Léger says he knows of no reason why he has to publish the Protocol or take any further action in connection with it. But the thing that has him alarmed is the absence of, or refusal to give, any report, on the part of Chatelain. Mr. Léger does not care to be in a position of signing a note without having precise information as to what already has been signed by the Haitian Minister in Paris. What definite engagements are in writing and which have been made by the Haitian Minister in Paris and which might, or might not have a bearing on this matter, Léger must know before he feels free to make a statement to the Department of the unqualified character which he feels the Department has every right to expect.

Regarding number two, the transfer of the money in New York to France, Léger tells me he has a telegram from Chatelain stating that this is regarded as purely theoretical and that no insistence is to be expected from French sources on this point. Léger said he has no doubt that this matter has been settled and that it will not cause the Haitian government embarrassment, as otherwise it might, because of course he knows now that he could not get the money released if he wanted to. He has requested Chatelain to obtain the assurance of the French government in this matter, in the form of a letter if, in fact, he had not obtained already such a letter when he telegraphed that the French government would not insist.

With reference to number three, viz: that the French government recognize this as a settlement which would eliminate the possibility of any further claim, he has likewise asked for a letter to this effect from the Minister in Paris. The matter rests in the same shape as the subjects above mentioned.

Léger says, to summarize the whole thing, that he has no precise information as to what took place in Paris, other than the publication of the treaty and the protocol in the French official gazette, and a dozen telegrams from Chatelain telling him that everything is all right. At present there is no French Minister in Port-au-Prince, and consequently, Léger has no one here with whom he can discuss these matters, as representing the French government.

Finally, he does not wish to have it thought that he is sidestepping, evading or unduly delaying, if he is unable to give Lescot immediately categoric answers, or to make them himself to the Legation. He assures me that he is doing everything in his power to answer satisfactorily every one of these matters; that he is embarrassed about it, but that he is taking every possible step to get clear of such embarrassment and to finish with this situation in a way which he hopes will be entirely satisfactory to all concerned.

As I said in the beginning, I am transmitting this message at Mr. Léger’s request and on the understanding that he felt it was a perfectly [Page 627] frank statement which, he wished to have brought, unofficially, to your knowledge, pending his official replies to the Department which will be delayed for a few more days.

De la Rue
  1. Memorandum I think he called it. [Footnote in the original.]