838.51/3720: Telegram

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

117. President Vincent sent for me this morning and let me read Lescot’s despatch in which he reported that he had been officially informed by the Department that Haiti must decide for itself whether or not the 1910 redemption fund would be transferred to Paris. In case, however, that it was decided to transfer the fund, the United States would have to consider revamping its whole policy with respect to Haiti in the interests of the 1922 holders.

The President began by saying that there was now quite a good indication that the advantages obtained by Haiti in the Franco-Haitian convention were extremely limited. Exporters had reported to him that they were obtaining better coffee prices in New York; they had complained to him about the necessity of buying French sacks and also of shipping in French bottoms which came so infrequently to Haitian ports. In addition he could not understand the French attitude toward the transfer of the redemption fund and he could not help but believe that there was something behind the matter which did not meet the eye.

In any event, the President said that when it came to a question of going with France or with the United States there was simply no question in his mind. He recalled briefly the history of Haiti’s financial and commercial relations with France; said that time after time the opportunity had been offered to France to take an interest in Haiti’s prosperity and welfare; time after time they had failed [Page 636] to use their opportunities. Haiti’s relations with France had been a series of incidents in which France had taken advantage of Haiti’s weakness; with France had been [sic] sought to benefit by taking advantage of Haiti’s well known cultural sentiments for that country. He, the President, had a French culture and sympathy but he declined to let this sympathy influence what he knew were the practical needs of his country.

The United States on innumerable occasions had given practical examples of its fair—and often disinterested—attitude toward Haiti and its problems. He emphasized that he would not permit this French matter to disturb this relationship.

The President stated that Abel Leger had presented his letters of credence in Paris yesterday, and that he had cabled him to do what he possibly could to get the French to change their attitude. He hardly hoped for any success since even with the French they had remained quite intransigent.

Monsieur Vincent added that the only difficulty was the psychological effect which the denunciation of the convention might have here. He did not fear any reaction from the business element; the widely held sentiment for France which was evident on every side here would be hurt. He did not think, however, that the reaction would be very serious.

I asked the President whether his Government would feel obliged to make a public statement here of the reasons for the denunciation in case that came about. He said he supposed that a statement would have to be made explaining the matter but that he still had 9 days in which to think this over. He added that he had informed the French Minister here of the substance of his decision; that the French Minister had invited him to dinner on September 8 and that he was rather afraid this would turn out to be a somewhat dismal function.