The Ambassador in Haiti (White) to Mr. Willard F. Barber of the Division of the American Republics

Dear Mr. Barber: When I went to see President Lescot yesterday after his week’s holiday at Furcy, which has been of benefit to him, he produced quite a repertory of Dominicana for my edification.

In my letter to you of August 11th,1 third paragraph on the first page and first paragraph on the second page, I mentioned the postage stamp episode.2 This has been made the subject of a Dominican official note. As Chevalier3 is on leave here, my colleague, Rodriguez,4 is now used as the transmitter of these messages,—I do not for a moment believe he originates them.

Another note referred to poaching by Haitian fishermen (see paragraph 2 of my letter to you of August 11th, first page). The Haitian Government was invited to stop Haitian poachers, which the President said was difficult, as they start off in little cockle shell boats to catch, as he expressed it, “a few sardines”.

Rather more serious potentially was a third note informing the Haitian Government that a certain sum had been appropriated by the Dominican Government for repairing the frontier posts (on the Haitian-Dominican frontier); which, it is stated, were becoming dirty or overgrown. The Haitian Government was requested not to interfere with the work of the laborers employed for rehabilitating these posts. Now the objectionable features about this are that a revamping of frontier posts should be presumably done, if not with the collaboration, at least certainly with the consent of the two governments [Page 360] and the note was not couched in such a way as to ask the Haitian Government’s consent. In the second place, it was thought that the reference to not interfering with the labor which the Dominican Government might employ may represent an attempt to get round the Haitian decree forbidding labor going out of the country without a special inter-governmental agreement, as the President anticipates that the Dominicans would use Haitian labor for the purpose. The idea that this cleaning is a pretext, is heightened in my mind, by the recollection of the very clean posts, which I saw along the “international highway” section of the frontier.

I asked for copies of all these notes and the replies thereto, which I have no doubt will be forthcoming in due course and with which I will supply you.5

The President said that he was considering denouncing the Haitian-Dominican Trade Convention6 adopted in the early part of his administration to meet with the wishes of the Dominicans. Mr. Pearson7 has apparently been called upon for a study of the situation in this respect. Pearson tells me that his own view is that the policy of Dominicanization of the frontier is directly opposed to the idea at the back of the Commercial Agreement, so that it might be as well to denounce the latter. I urged the President not to denounce the Agreement off-hand, but to write a note explaining the situation to the Dominican Government and asking it if there were any good reasons why the Agreement should be continued in force; my idea being to avoid putting Haiti in a position of being the provoker, which is what the Dominicans are trying to do.

The President said that he thought probably the best way to put a stop to this whole policy of pinpricks would be to withdraw his diplomatic and consular representation in the Dominican Republic and turn over Haitian interests to the U.S.A. He authorized me to get a reaction from Washington on this possibility. Personally, I think the idea has merit, because, if Trujillo8 were to start raising postage stamp episodes through Warren9 and myself, one way or another the idea could be politely conveyed to him that his complaints [Page 361] were ridiculous, or, at any rate, inappropriate to the present world crisis. Trujillo, however, might reduce the value of the plan (a) by continuing his diplomatic representation here, even if the Haitians withdrew theirs, or more likely (b) by getting some other American country,—let us say Mexico,—to take care of Dominican interests here instead of ourselves.

If the Department has any definite opinions as to the desirability or not of such a step, I would be obliged if you would discreetly let me know.

Whether the Haitian Government will get rid of the Dominican Consuls in Cayes and Jérémie, I do not know. The President seems a little chary of taking action. Personally, I think that if he were to do this, it would have a salutary effect upon the Dominicans.

Sincerely yours,

J. C. White
  1. Not printed.
  2. The Dominican Government had been endeavoring, since 1937, to induce the Haitian Government to retire from circulation an issue of postal stamps which showed a map of Hispaniola with Haiti alone named and no indication of the frontier or any allusion to Dominican territory. The episode referred to here was a recent indication that despite repeated Haitian promises, the stamp was evidently still in circulation.
  3. Plinio B. Pina Chevalier, Commercial Counselor in the Dominican Legation, Washington.
  4. José Ramén Rodríguez, Dominican Minister to Haiti.
  5. Copies transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in Haiti in his despatch No. 2165, August 24, 1943; none printed.
  6. Signed at Port-au-Prince August 26, 1941; for text, see British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxliv, p. 754. For correspondence concerning this Convention, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. vii, pp. 350 ff.
  7. Thomas Pearson, vice president of the Banque de la République d’Haiti.
  8. Rafael L. Trujillo Molina, President of the Dominican Republic.
  9. Avra M. Warren, American Ambassador in the Dominican Republic.