Title: Trip to Haiti and Santo Domingo, 1917
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00082927/00001
 Material Information
Title: Trip to Haiti and Santo Domingo, 1917
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) 1882-1945
Publisher: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Publication Date: 1917
Subject: Caribbean   ( lcsh )
Haiti   ( lcsh )
Dominican Republic   ( lcsh )
Temporal Coverage: American Occupation ( 1917 - 1917 )
Spatial Coverage: North America -- Haiti
North America -- Dominican Republic
Abstract: Trip report by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1917, then Secretary of the Navy, on visit to Haiti and the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola (formerly, Saint Domingue or Santo Domingo, not to be confused with the capital of the Dominican Republic).
General Note: Archival document from the holdings of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00082927
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

1 9 1 7

Toward the end of January, 1917, I decided that it was

time to inspect the occupation of Haiti and Santo Domingo by

the United States Marine Corps.

The day before leaving for the South, I presided, as

President, at the Dutchess County Society Dinner in New York.

I was to leave on the 1:00 A.M. train and nearly missed the

whole trip because the speakers at the dinner spoke so lengthily,

that it was exactly midnight before I could call on Senator

James Hamilton Lewis, the piece de resistance. At 12:30, he

was just warming up; at 12:40 he said for the third time or

fourth "and now, finally". At 12:50 I pulled his coattails

and whispered loudly that I had to go. Four minutes later,
he ended in a burst of glory. I shook him by the hand, got

o Tom Lynch to telephone to the Pennsylvania Station to hold the

z train for three minutes and was on my way in a taxicab, exhausted

Sby my narrow escape.
- The next morning in Washington, I picked up the other
z members of the Party and we all proceeded to Key West, where
O we proceeded to Havana in one of the old destroyers.
SA few hours in Havana saw us on our way by rail to
-g Santiago and we had not been going long before we were all

Invited into the private car of Benny Van Horn, the President

of the Cuba Railroads. He is a son of my father's great friend,

.- / sI
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- 2 -

Sir William Van Horn, President of the Canadian Pacific, who

lives on a delightful island close to St. Andrews, N.B. and

14 miles from Campobello. Benny provided all the liquid

nourishment necessary -- and more.

The next morning we arrived in Santiago, boarded

another destroyer and went out to sea past the amazing entrance

to this large harbor, which I had visited before in 1904. I

thought again of the gallant dash to sea of Cevera's Fleet

in 1898 and I felt again, in view of the hopeless right turn

which he made along the Coast, he would have been far better

off if his four cruisers and two torpedo boats had headed

directly out to sea and into the middle of the American Fleet.

He might easily have caused such confusion among ships which
had held the same position for many weeks that he might have-

g seriously wounded several of our ships before he lost his own.

z A few hours later, we were steaming into the magnifi-

Scent Port au Prince -- past the lovely Island of Gonaves and
up to the town. I have never been in Naples, but this Bay
0 with its wonderful setting must be the equal of anything in Italy.
o The whole Atlantic Fleet was anchored in the Bay.
o The next morning I went ashore with my party consist-
ing of Major General Barnett, Commandant of the Marine Corps,

c and his aide, Honorable John L. McIlhenny,. President of the

Civil Service Commission, Mr. Livingston Davis, my assistant,

and Mr. George Marvin, of Washington, an old friend who

formerly was a Master at Groton, and who, at this time, was

Washington Editor of World's Work. He had a commission to

write half a dozen articles about the West Indies and was to

leave us in Santo Domingo.

When we landed at the end of the long pier, we were

met by a number of gentlemen in frock coats and silk hats.

I assumed, erroneously, that they were the Mayor of Port au

Prince and representatives of President D'Artignave. As

they stepped forward, with a scroll, I bowed and delivered

the speech I had intended as my official address as Assistant

Secretary of the Navy. The speech, which is in the appendix

of this, I had translated, with a good deal of difficulty,

= into French and delivered it thus.
We all entered automobiles and to the shore end of
o the wharf we drove, where we were met by another delegation.
This time it was the Mayor and as I had but one speech, I
redelivered it again, explaining, to the amusement of all,
Sthat I had prepared only one speech in French and was there-
o fore repeating it.

0 Then to the Palace of the President, where we were
U ushered upstairs into a red plush and gold drawing room
U where we met the President and his Cabinet, and I made the

same speech for the third time.

- 3-

- 4 -

I sat on the sofa with the President and we were handed

warm champagne.

The next day I went on board the American Flagship and

soon the Admiral's barge brought President D'Artignave and

his Cabinet on board. He received full honors and we pro-

ceeded to the quarterdeck, where a long table had been laid

out with the Admiral at one end and I at the other. The

President of Haiti sat on my right and the Secretary of State

on my left.

I noticed during the luncheon that John McIlhenny, who

came from New Orleans, was not eating much. After the Haitian

officials had been piped over the side, I asked him what the

trouble was. He said: "Did you see the Secretary of Agriculture

who sat opposite me? He was 6'6" and must have weighed 250 lbs.
SHe ate with both hands -- everything in sight -- two helpings
of every dish. I was fascinated -- too fascinated to eat.
I couldn't help saying to myself that that man would have

brought $1,500 at auction in New Orleans in 1860 for stud


That afternoon the Fleet put to sea.
The following day, January 26th, General Smedley Butler
gave me a dinner and later all of us went to a dance given
by the President and his Government. Most of the young Marine

officers were there and the Haitian ladies were beautifully

dressed in Paris clothes, most of them wearing yellow powder

instead of flesh-colored powder on their countenances.


We spent three or four days in Haiti lunching with

Harry Roosevelt, the Quartermaster in charge of the Marines;

with our Minister Bailly Blanchard -- and, too, with Herr

Tippenhauer, the German representative who came here 18 or

20 years ago under The German Government has

acquired a sugar mill and several plantations,, all the rail-

roads and port facilities, together with the lighthouse and

other concessions. Because under the Haitian law only a

citizen can hold real estate, and because citizenship is

confined to people of color, Herr Tippenhauer married the

daughter of one of the members of the Cabinet. Through her

> and her relatives the corporations were formed, Tippenhauer

becoming the agent or trustee. He lives in a really charming
villa on the side of a mountain. We were introduced to
Madame Tippenhauer, who presided beautifully dressed over
the tea table. While we were sitting there the door opened
L from the garden and in came one of the loveliest girls I
Shad ever seen -- a blond with blue eyes -- not a trace of

I color. A moment later the same door opened and in came a

0 fine looking boy of about sixteen, who was introduced as the

eldest son. He was completely black. But both the children
had excellent manners and spoke both German and French.

On one of the days, General Cole, General Smedley

Butler and my party went over in a tug to the Island of

Gonaves, populated at that time almost exclusively by convicts


or runaways who live in primitive fashion without giving

much trouble. The Haitian GoVernment sent a detachment of

gendarmes with us, together with a supply of horses for our

ride. We climbed to the higher parts of the Island and saw

numbers of the cattle which are said to be in direct descent

from the cattle which Diego Columbus brought from Spain.

They are fine, clean-looking animals, being apparently

tick proof. Whenever fresh meat is desired for a Presidential

banquet in Port au Prince, they send men with rifles to shoot

a steer for the evening meal.

Meanwhile, plans were made for the four or five

Sday ride through the center of Haiti to Cape Haitien on the

_ North Coast.

SOn Sunday, the 28th of January, we went to a

z to President D'Artignave and his Cabinet.
The next day, we motored out a few miles where we
found the horses ready and I was glad to find my Whitman

I saddle, which I had brought from Hyde Park. I rode a fine

Looking, small stallion -- about fourteen hands -- and the

whole party,accompanied by General Cole and General Butler
started up the long incline over the mountain chain north

of Port au Prince. We followed what was left of the old

French road, hewn in part out of the solid rock and guarded

on the outside by a heavily built wall. The road is, on the

whole, in good shape, in spite of its century or more without


7 -

It is a bit too steep and the curves are rather too sharp

for modern motor traffic, but I told Butler to proceed with

its repair before undertaking a new highway with better


We lunched at Trianon, unsaddled the horses and

proceeded down hill, arriving at Las Cahobas where we spent

the night. Here we were in the Plaine D'Artibonite. On

looking down at it from the top of the mountain, somebody

said that it contained half a million people. There was no

sign of habitations or highways or cultivated land -- only

an occasional curl of smoke rising from the jungle. Our

road had become a trail and the 200 men in the party had

to proceed single file -- about 150 Marines, 50 gendarmes

and 50 pack mules. The night was comfortable, though we
g heard rifle shots from the hills and an occasional bullet
z going by overhead.

The next day was a long one, forty miles or more.

I tried an experiment by getting the outfit under way at

_6 A.M., riding until 8, then half an hour out, then 2 hours
more. This gave man and beast a chance to get something
to eat and to take a siesta. We started again at about 2,
road until 4, took half an hour out, and got in to Hinche
about half past 6.
-it about half past 6.


On this trip, good old Livy Davis became the butt of

the party. On the first days ride he complained bitterly

about his horse, whose gait was very jiggly and tiring.

He asked his orderly to bring him a different horse the

next day. The orderly changed saddles but brought back

the same horse and on the second day, Davis was full of

praise for the new steed.

I think it was at Hinche that we all went in for a

swim in the creek, just outside the town. We were having

a wonderful swim in a state of nature when, on looking up,

we found that the entire female population was lining the

banks. They had never seen a white man in this condition

before and seemed to take it quite calmly. We came out,

dried off, and dressed -- all except Davis, who insisted
Q on sending for his bathing suit before coming out.
The next day was another long ride, from Hinche to

St. Raphael. We were all quartered on cots in a big single

room on the ground floor. The stone walls, rising only
five or six feet, the rest being wood. On turning in,

we were told not to show any light other than the lantern
Snear the corner of the wall. McIlhenny and the rest of
us had got into bed -- except Davis, who, coming in last,

upset the lantern and all the kerosene over John McIlhenny,

who was on the next cot. The language from McIlhenny ought

to have taken the skin off Davis who, however, was asleep

by the time that John had finished.

- 9 -

The final day of the ride was the most strenuous. Before

daylight, John McIlhenny and Smedley Butler and Harry Roosevelt

climbed the hill on the top of which is the famous Fort Riviere.

This was the famous fortification captured by Smedley Butler and

twenty-four Marines in the Caco Rebellion of a few months before.

The top is a hog's back ridge a quarter of a mile long. Butler

and his Marines left a machine gun at one end of the ridge while

he and about eighteen Marines crawled through the grass into

the Fort itself.

It is a square structure, with very thick walls enclosing

Sa courtyard about 250 feet each way. All that was left of the

Cacos in northern Haiti had collected within this Fort. Butler
w and his men got to the wall, but could find no entrance except
B the main gate which could be reduced only by artillery. Crawling
z down to a corner they,found a tunnel into the courtyard and

U serving as a drain when it rained. Butler started to crawl
through this drain, which was about 2- feet high and 2 feet wide.
The old Sergeant said to him: "Sorry, Sir, I was in the Marines
before you were and this is my privilege." Butler recognized

his right and the Sergeant crawled through first.

o On coming to the end within the courtyard, he saw the

shadows of the legs of two Cacos armed with machettes guarding

the hole. He took off his hat, put it on the end of his revolver,

pushed it through, felt the two machettes descend on it, and

jumped forward into daylight. With a right and a left he got

10 -

both Cacos, stood up and dropped two or three others while his

companions,headed by Smedley Butler, got through and onto their

feet. Then ensued a killing, the news of which put down all

insurrections we hope for all time to come. There were about

300 Cacos within the wall and Butler and his 18 companions killed

over 200 of them, others jumping over the wall and falling

prisoners to the rest of the force of Marines which encircled

the mountain.

I was so much impressed by personal inspection of the

scene of the exploit that I awarded the Medal of Honor to the

Marine Sergeant and to Butler. Incidentally, Butler had received

the Medal of Honor at Tientsin at the time of the Boxer Rebellion.
j He had been awarded a second at the capture of Vera Cruz in 1914

0 but declined to accept it. The third at Fort Riviere, he did

Z accept.

On coming down the mountain, McIlhenny and I, who
had.shotguns, got two Haitian doves and on rejoining the party
Z had our photographs taken with one of the doves and with a non-
1 descript dog which we had picked up.
On my return to Washington several weeks later, a

g young reporter for the New York Evening Post was so insistent
r on getting a human interest story that I spun a yarn for him

which he printed with all seriousness in the Post. It was to

this effect and is worth recording, because so many people who

did not know birds believed this one.

11 -

"As you know, there are various species of birds believed

to be extinct -- the Dodo and the Great Auk. The same thing was

true of the great Haitian Shrink Bird. The last specimens were

seen seventy or eighty years ago. This rare bird has the curious

quality of shrinking away to nothing when shot. McIlhenny and

I, on coming down the mountain, each shot a huge bird three or

four feet from wing to wing. We rushed to them. I could not

find mine, but we found Mcllhenny's. Our beaters rushed up with

a large pot of boiling water -- for it is well known that if a

Shrink Bird is quickly placed in a boiling pot the shrinking will

cease. Because three or four minutes elapsed before we were

able to get him into the hot water, he had already shrunk to the

size of a dove. However, once the hot water took effect he shrank

no more and the photograph which I have shows him as he appears

S when we got to the foot of the mountain. Thus, the great Haitian

Shrink Bird can no longer be considered extinct."

The members of the party who did not accompany us were

obviously exhausted for they rode at once to the Palace of Sans
Souci at Milot and thence by rail to Cape Haitien. My party,
however, rode a bit to the left and climbed to the famous Citadel
of the Imperial Cristoff -- I think it is the largest masonry

0 structure in the Western Hemisphere with mos of the guns and

galleries intact. It is here that Cristoff is reputed to have

been dissatisfied at the drilling of one of his companies in the

12 -

courtyard, headed them on the double quick to the open side of

the courtyard, which had no railing, and trotted them to their

death 300 feet below. Here it is also said that Cristoff is

reported to have received a British Admiral about 1805, who

had been sent by his Government to report on the strength of

Cristoff's Empire. The Admiral is reputed to have been taken

to the Citadel, where he reviewed 12 separate regiments, 1000

men to each. regiment. Actually, Cristoff had but 2000 men there

but he had uniforms -- all different -- for each of 12 regiments.

One regiment, looking very smart, would come past the British

Admiral in review, pass around to the rear of the Citadel,

redress in another uniform and march past again. Thus, the

S Admiral firmly believed that he had seen 12 different regiments.
I liked, too, the local native legend about Cristoff

S at the time of his death in 1815. He was sitting on a marble

S throne, under a great tree, at Sans Souci, dispensing justice

E to his subjects. A revolt was on in the Island coming closer
and closer to the Citadel. The Emperor knew full well that if

S the garrison of the Citadel remained loyal and held out he and
Sthe Empress were safe. At that moment, a panting servant came
through the crowd and threw himself at Cristoff's feet, bringing

o him the news that the garrison of the Citadel had joined the

revolution. Cristoff and his Empress, both in full regalia,

spoke together in low tones, Cristoff handing a bag of gold to

the bearer of ill tidings. He then told the Empress to kneel

13 -

at his feet, pulled out a silver-moun'ed pistol from the left

of his sash, put into it a silver ball, and shot her through

the head. Then, reaching to his right side, he brought out a

golden-mounted pistol, loaded it with a golden bullet and shot

himself through the head.

This differs from the usual account of his attempt to

mount his horse and falling dead with a stroke of paralysis.

I prefer the version which was told to me by several old colored

people when I was there in 1917.

On our descent, we stopped at Sans Souci and I made

up my mind that here was the spot for a lovely resort, gardens,

trails and a beach not far away. Most of the old Palace could

0 easily be put back and the guests would use Fort Riviere with
o its cool nights for living purposes.
i We took supper with the old French priest, who was in
charge of the rebuilt church and then took the little train
with our horses into Cape Haitien.

Our last morning in Haiti was spent reviewing the
Marines and gendarmes in the Place at Cape Haitien and after
the reviewing was over, I looked down and saw a disreputable
looking man at my stirrup. His former white clothes were ragged.

He was wearing broken sneakers and on his head was a dilapidated

straw hat and a two weeks growth of beard. Frankly, I did not

- 14 -

recognize him until a pleading voice said, "Franklin, don't you

recognize me? I am your old friend and classmate, Preston Davie."

Sure enough, he had been in Haiti for many months trying

to grow cotton on plaine dunord, but his crop had been ruined

by a rising water table and was a complete failure. He looked it

too. He was much worried by the expectation that we would soon

be at war with Germany and pleaded with me to take him back to

the United States.

I was delighted to do this and we went on board the

USS HANCOCK which was waiting for me in the harbor. There I

found Davie coming out of a 15 hour sleep and beginning to feel
like a human being once more.
Like a human being once more.






- 15 -

On the afternoon of February second, we boarded the

USS HANCOCK and received news by radio that Germany had pro-

claimed a war zone. We worked it out on the chart and came

to the conclusion that Germany was attempting to exclude

every American ship from all of Europe and the eastern waters

of the Atlantic Ocean.

During the night, we steamed along the coast to Puerto

Plata and went ashore in a bit of a blow accompanied by light

rain squalls.

This was bad for the little train which was to take us

S up the long, steep hill to Santiago to Los Cabelleros. After

Many jerks and stops, the little train of a passenger coach
. and a freight car, pulled by an ancient locomotive had great

difficulty in avoiding sliding backwards into the Atlantic Ocean.
But a number of natives ran ahead and alongside of us, sprinkling
sand on the track and pushing ties under the wheels, which saved

our lives. It was too risky to try the short but steep descent

from the top of the mountain, so carrying our saddles and bags,
S we walked down the hill until we were met by another locomotive
S and a box car, which had three good wheels -- the other wheel
being so flat that we were given a tremendous jolting before we

got in to Santiago. At that place, Colonel Kane was in charge

of a battalion of Marines and was comfortably ensconced in the

lovely old house of one of the early Spanish Governors. After

16 -

we had inspected the Marines we were escorted by a mounted

company to the old house, got out of our riding clothes and

went to a very lovely dinner party in the courtyard which was

filled with flowers.

Toward the end of dinner, my orderly brought me a

code message just received over the field radio set. I went

out to decode it. It was from the Secretary of the Navy and

read: "Because of political situation please return Washington

at once. Am sending ship to meet you and Party at Puerto Plata

tomorrow morning."

When I went back to the table, my face must have been

rather long because Mrs. Kane asked me if I had had bad news.

I told her that we would have to leave immediately after dinner

S and get to the coast by train and horseback and I added that I

did not know what had happened, but that the Secretary had said

the recall was based on political conditions.
Mrs. Kane looked at me in horror and said, "What can
political conditions mean? It must be that Charles E. Hughes

has lead a revolution against President Wilson".

I replied, "My dear lady, you have been in the tropics

o too long!"

Actually, we did not leave until early the next morning

and had time first to look at the great pile of arms and knives

which had been taken from the natives in the process of complete

disarmament of them. I found in this pile a very lovely old

17 -

Spanish sword, which I later took to the Metropolitan Museum in

New York and was advised that it was a Spanish Cavalier's sword

of about 1510. Without much question, therefore, it was brought

to Santo Domingo by one of the earliest Spaniards to have come

to the island -- perhaps one of Diego Columbus' party. It is

now at Hyde Park.

Sunday afternoon we arrived back in Puerto Plata and

to our relief found the USS HANCOCK in the harbor. She had been

caught by radio on her trip to Samana Bay. After dark we met

the USS NEPTUNE, one of our newer colliers and transferred to

her in small boats. No one knew anything for certain except

that the German Ambassador in Washington, Count Von Bernstorff,

had been given his passports and it seemed probable that the
United States and Germany were already at war.
o As we headed north through Caicos Island passage on our
S way to Hampton Roads no lights were showing, the guns were manned
and there was complete air silence.
SStill without any definite knowledge of what had actually

S happened, we landed at Fortress Monroe on the morning of February

c 8th. The Colonel in command seemed utterly surprised, insisted

S that there was no war, that no special preparations were going
on and that he had had no orders from Washington to stand by.

Late that afternoon we were back in Washington. I
dashed to the Navy Department and found the same thing --/diplomatic

relations with Germany broken off, no excitement, no preparations,

no orders to the Fleet at Guantanamo to return to their home yards

on the East Coast.

But that is another story.


It is with very sincere pleasure that I have come

to the Republic of Haiti. Several times before I have

seen your blue mountains from the sea, and I have wished

i to know more of your people and your smiling land. I

consider it a great privilege to visit you now, and I

LU am looking forward with interest to my journey from here
jto Cape Haitien. Please believe that the people of the
ZUnited States evince a lively interest in the welfare
" of your country and hoppeethat the bonds of friendship ..
and peace and true liberty will in the future become even
R closer between the United States and the Republic of

0I Haiti.
I am particularly glad that I can be here when the

i American fleet id paying you a visit of courtesy, and I

want to thank you for the cordial reception you have

given them. They greatly appreciate your expressions, of
goodwill and will carry home many the most delightful
feelings towards the soveriegn people of Haiti.

FI '- / '
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