838.011/11–1146: Airgram

The Ambassador in Haiti ( Tittmann ) to the Secretary of State

A–390. Reference my telegram No. 429 of October 8,52 dealing with appointment of a seven-man Committee to review proposed constitution before final discussion and voting by Assembly.

[Page 927]

On November 6, Committee completed its report to the General Assembly and proposed numerous modifications in the articles of the new projected 1946 constitution. The recommendations have not yet been made public, but Embassy has today succeeded in obtaining a copy of the complete text. There follows a brief review of the Committee’s recommendations dealing with those articles which are of specific interest to the Department:

Article 1:

Pointing out that “democratic principles are as readily to be found in a representative system (of Government) as in a socialistic one”, the Committee proposes the elimination of the word “social” as it now appears in the project, and suggests that the article read as follows:

“(translated) The Republic of Haiti is one, indivisible, free, sovereign, independent and democratic. Port-au-Prince is its Capital and the seat of its Government. All of the islands which lie within the limits consecrated by the jus gentium (Droit des gens), of which the principal are: La Tortue, La Gonave, l’Ile à Vache, les Cayemittes, la Navassa, and la Grande Caille, form an integral part of the territory of the Republic, which is inviolable and cannot be alienated by any treaty or convention.” (Note: Reference Embassy’s despatch No. 29 of October 9, 1946, regarding transmission of note to Foreign Office dealing with the rights of the United States in the matter of the Island of Navassa.53).

Article 4:

Committee suggests elimination of the words “of the black race”, pointing out that to retain this prerequisite would be a violation of the United Nations Charter, inasmuch as no distinction as to race should be incorporated into the Constitution.

Article 7:

Committee proposes that henceforth this article be numbered 10, and that the first paragraph of the French text be left as it now appears in the project. In the second paragraph, the words “residing in Haiti” are to be added immediately after the word “foreigner” in the first line, so that the second paragraph of this article shall read: “However, a foreigner residing in Haiti can in no case become proprietor of more than one residential building, nor more than one commercial building in the same locality. In no case may he engage in the rental of property (location d’immeubles)”.

The third (and concluding parts) of this article have been redrafted as follows:

“The right to own landed property is equally accorded a foreigner residing in Haiti and to foreign companies for the needs of their agricultural, commercial, industrial or educational enterprises. This right will cease at the end of a period of 2 years after the foreigner will have ceased to reside in the country or the operations of these companies will have ceased, and the State will become the rightful owner in conformity with the law which determines the extent of [Page 928] ownership rights and the regulations to be observed in transmitting and liquidating holdings. Every citizen has the rights under the benefits of certain advantages determined by law to denounce violations of this present disposition.”

(The Department will note that stringent limitations regarding the extent of property that may be owned by foreigners in Haiti have been eliminated from the original text.)

Article 8:

The Committee recommends that the constitution make no atempt to define the nationality of business enterprises in Haiti, and that such a question be left to the laws of the Republic for decision. No proposed wording of this article is offered in the report.

Article 15:

The Committee suggests that, from now on, this article be numbered 17. It proposes but one modification: that the verb “diriger” (direct) be eliminated from the text and that the verb “entreprendre” (undertake) be substituted. The Committee explains that this modification is proposed solely in an effort to facilitate economic relationships between foreigners and Haitians. (Note: according to the oral statement of the President of the Senate, in reply to informal interrogations on the part of the Embassy, this change in wording would permit Americans to make investments in Haiti and to carry on businesses here on an equal footing with Haitians themselves.)

Article 35:

Committee proposes that this article henceforth be known as No. 21, and that it be drafted to read simply as follows: “All cults and religions are equally free and recognized. Each person has the right to profess his religion and to exercise his cult, so long as to do so does not disturb public order.”

Article 42:

The Committee proposes that this article be redrafted, that it be numbered 28, and that it read as follows:

“French is the official language. Its use is obligatory in public services.”

The Committee expresses the opinion that Créole should not be recognized or permitted as a medium of expression in political assemblies.

Articles 128 through 131:

The Committee, with reference to these several articles, suggests that “those articles of the 1932 Constitution which better meet the situation be incorporated in the place of the articles under reference.” It recalls that “a certain Accord signed between the State (of Haiti) and the representative of the 1922 Loan provides that the National Bank of Haiti and the Department of the Interior enjoy the privilege of establishing the Communal Budgets, and that similar subjects had best be left to the care of legislators.”

It is expected that this report will shortly be debated in public by the General Assembly, and that considerable opposition will be voiced [Page 929] by the leftist parties, which have already voiced their disapproval through their press organs.54

  1. Not printed.
  2. See airgram 240, October 4, to Port-au-Prince, p. 924.
  3. The General Assembly met on November 15 and heard the first reading of the Committee’s report on modifications in proposed new 1946 Constitution, according to telegram 494, November 15, 2 p.m., from Port-au-Prince. The only open criticism was made by a Senator who expressed disappointment and added that the Committee was endeavoring to emasculate the entire 1946 project and that evidently some “foreign mission in Haiti” had brought pressure to bear. (838.011/11–1546)

    In telegram 497, November 18, 2 p.m., the Ambassador reported that at the opening of the Constituent Assembly on November 18, another Senator bitterly accused the Committee of having been unduly influenced by the United States and called for rejection of the Committee’s report. In voting on the Committee’s report, only three were opposed to its acceptance. The Assembly then proceeded to vote definitively the first four articles of report without modification except that in article 1 the words “and social” were added to last sentence. (838.011/11–1846)