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

No. 1654

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s confidential telegram no. 245 of August 22,30 instructing the Embassy formally to bring to the attention of the Haitian Government the fact that the Department considers Article 127 of the proposed new constitution would be a violation of the Executive Agreement of September 13, 1941 as applicable to the control of Haitian finances.

Upon the receipt of this instruction, I prepared a formal note and on August 24 personally presented it to the Minister for Foreign Relations, Dr. Jean Price-Mars, who very recently has assumed office. In delivering this note, I took the occasion to point out that the Government of the United States was concerned with the implications of this Article, and that I had felt called upon to hand the note to him in person and respectfully to solicit his fullest assistance in giving the matter immediate attention. A copy of the Embassy’s note will be found attached.30

Dr. Price-Mars read the note attentively and then stated that, unfortunately, he was unable to reach any immediate conclusion in view of the short time that he had been in office. He added, however, that he would study both the Executive Agreement of 1941 and the Article [Page 917] itself at an early date and effect a reply, after taking the matter up with other branches of the Government. I then advised him that I had brought with me copies of both the Executive Agreement and the Projet de Constitution, and that I would appreciate it if he would glance over the relevant passages to be found in each of these documents. He agreed to do so, and after reading both carefully stated without hesitation that the purpose of Article 127 was indeed a violation of the Agreement now in effect, adding that he realized the seriousness of the situation and that he would confer at once with other officials and make a reply to the Embassy within the coming week. He inquired if this would be sufficiently prompt, and I told him that it would.

I then asked permission to advise him that I had been instructed by my Government to make strong informal representations with regard to Articles VI and XIII of the proposed new constitution, and proceeded to do so, following literally the Department’s comment contained in its telegram no. 240 of August 21, beginning with the paragraph following immediately after Item 5 and terminating with the conclusion of the penultimate paragraph of that message. In doing this, I took the occasion to recall tactfully that the Government of the United States for some time had been earnestly endeavoring in many ways to contribute extensively to the welfare of Haiti, including current active participation in programs dealing with public sanitation, national health, food production, education, et cetera, and that the Embassy was at a loss to understand why legislation apparently at once highly detrimental to legitimate American financial investments in Haiti should be contemplated. I added that I was aware that Ambassador Wilson had already brought this informally to his attention (see Embassy’s despatch no. 1643 of August 2031), but pointed out that I had now been directed by my Government to do so.

Dr. Price-Mars, whose attitude was formal but entirely friendly, repeated that in consequence of the short time he had been in office he was not yet familiar with many of its problems, but added that he was confident that the Haitian Government would work in closest cooperation with the United States and that “the rather uncertain conditions” which “appeared” to exist within some of the articles of the proposed new constitution would eventually be ‘ironed out’ once they were to be given appropriate attention. He did not venture to say when this would be. He recalled that any article, even though voted, could again be brought up for debate and modification before promulgation and was confident that legitimate American business [Page 918] interests in Haiti certainly were not seriously envisaged at the time the articles in question were prepared. Although he realized very well that now was the time to effect enduring definitions, he was satisfied that no serious difficulties between Haiti and the United States would arise. In terminating this second conversation, I asked him whether, with regard to Article 6 which had been voted by the Assembly, the definition of its limitations appearing in Le Soir (August 8) was substantially correct. After reading the clipping attentively, he said that it was. He was not able, however, to define the exact meaning of the statement, “… une superficie ne depassant pas trente pour cent de celle à exploiter”, appearing at the close of the penultimate paragraph of the article, admitted that it was “vague”, and promised to secure a clarification for the Embassy’s assistance within a few days. A copy of this article, dealing with Article 6, is appended, together with a translation.32

It was not possible at the time of this appointment to secure from Dr. Price-Mars an expression of whatever opinion he might have with regard to the several inquiries contained in the Department’s telegram no. 240 of August 21. It is recalled, however, that Ambassador Wilson, now at the Department, is well prepared to supply answers to the majority of these questions, although some obviously were not to be denned at the time of his departure, and do not appear fully to be so now. The Embassy will endeavor to ascertain the information desired at the earliest possible date and transmit it to the Department.

The reply now awaited from the Foreign Office in consequence of the Embassy’s note no. 776,32 under reference, will also be made known to the Department as soon as possible.

Respectfully yours,

Horatio Mooers
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