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Self-Determining Haiti by James Weldon Johnson

And the Haitian Government on the other


Roger L. Farnham, vice-president of the National City Bank, was effectively instrumental in bringing about American intervention in Haiti. With the administration at Washington, the word of Mr. Farnham supersedes that of anybody else on the island. While Mr. Bailly-Blanchard, with the title of minister, is its representative in name, Mr. Farnham is its representative in fact. His goings and comings are aboard vessels of the United States Navy. His bank, the National City, has been in charge of the Banque Nationale d'Haiti throughout the Occupation.[1] Only a few weeks ago he was appointed receiver of the National Railroad of Haiti, controlling practically the entire railway system in the island with valuable territorial concessions in all parts.[2] The $5,000,000 sugar plant at Port-au-Prince, it is commonly reported, is about to fall into his hands.

[Footnote 1: The National City Bank originally (about 1911) purchased 2,000 shares of the stock of the Banque Nationale d'Haiti. After the Occupation it purchased 6,000 additional shares in the hands of three New York banking firms. Since then it has been negotiating for the complete control of the stock, the balance of which is held in France. The contract for this transfer of the Bank and the granting of a new charter under the laws of Haiti were agreed upon and signed at Washington last February. But the delay in completing these arrangements is caused by the impasse between the State Department

and the National City Bank, on the one hand, and the Haitian Government on the other, due to the fact that the State Department and the National City Bank insisted upon including in the contract a clause prohibiting the importation and exportation of foreign money into Haiti subject only to the control of the financial adviser. To this new power the Haitian Government refuses to consent.]

[Footnote 2: Originally, Mr. James P. McDonald secured from the Haitian Government the concession to build the railroads under the charter of the National Railways of Haiti. He arranged with W. R. Grace & Company to finance the concession. Grace and Company formed a syndicate under the aegis of the National City Bank which issued $2,500,000 bonds, sold in France. These bonds were guaranteed by the Haitian Government at an interest of 6 per cent on $32,500 for each mile. A short while after the floating of these bonds, Mr. Farnham became President of the company. The syndicate advanced another $2,000,000 for the completion of the railroad in accordance with the concession granted by the Haitian Government. This money was used, but the work was not completed in accordance with the contract made by the Haitian Government in the concession. The Haitian Government then refused any longer to pay the interest on the mileage. These happenings were prior to 1915.]

Now, of all the various responsibilities, expressed, implied, or assumed by the United States in Haiti, it would naturally be supposed that the financial obligation would be foremost. Indeed, the sister republic of Santo Domingo was taken over by the United States Navy for no other reason than failure to pay its internal debt. But Haiti for over one hundred years scrupulously paid its external and internal debt--a fact worth remembering when one hears of "anarchy and disorder" in that land--until five years ago when under the financial guardianship of the United States interest on both the internal and, with one exception, external debt was defaulted; and this in spite of the fact that specified revenues were pledged for the payment of this interest. Apart from the distinct injury to the honor and reputation of the country, the hardship on individuals has been great. For while the foreign debt is held particularly in France which, being under great financial obligations to the United States since the beginning of the war, has not been able to protest effectively, the interior debt is held almost entirely by Haitian citizens. Haitian Government bonds have long been the recognized substantial investment for the well-to-do and middle class people, considered as are in this country, United States, state, and municipal bonds. Non-payment on these securities has placed many families in absolute want.

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