« PreviousContinue »
Nov. 2, 1903, Mr. Darling, Acting Secretary of the Navy, refer
ring to an apprehended uprising on the Isthmus of Revolution at Panama, cabled to the commander of the U. S. S. Panama, 1903.
Nashville, at Colon, and of the Dixie, at Kingston, Jamaica, to “maintain free and uninterrupted transit," and, if an interruption was threatened by an armed force, to occupy the line of the railroad and prevent the “landing of any armed force with hostile intent, either Government or insurgent, either at Colon, Porto Bello, or other point”; also, to prevent the landing of a Government force which was reported to be approaching the Isthmus in vessels, if in their judgment such landing would precipitate a conflict. Similar instructions were cabled to the commander of the Marblehead, at Acapulco, and of the Boston, at San Juan del Sur, which were to proceed immediately to Panama, and prevent the "landing of any armed force, either Government or insurgent, with hostile intent at any point within 50 miles of Panama.” Nov. 3 Mr. Darling telegraphed to the commander of the Nashville: “In the interest of peace make every effort to prevent Government troops at Colon from proceeding to Panama. The transit of the Isthmus must be kept open and order maintained.” On Nov. 5 Mr. Moody, Secretary of the Navy, cabled to the Boston to prevent the recurrence of a reported bombardment of Panama by a Colombian gunboat, and to "prevent any armed force of either side from landing at Colon, Porto Bello, or vicinity.”
For. Rel. 1903, 247, 248.
"By the act of June 28, 1902, the Congress authorized the Presi
dent to enter into treaty with Colombia for the buildThe Republic of ing of the canal across the Isthmus of Panama; it Panama; President Roose- being provided that in the event of failure to secure velt's Annual such treaty after the lapse of a reasonable time, Message, Dec. 7,
recourse should be had to building a canal through
Nicaragua. It has not been necessary to consider this alternative, as I am enabled to lay before the Senate a treaty providing for the building of the canal across the Isthmus of Panama. This was the route which commended itself to the deliberate judgment of the Congress, and we can now acquire by treaty the right to construct the canal over this route. The question now, therefore, is not by which route the isthmian canal shall be built, for that question has been definitely and irrevocably decided. The question is simply whether or not we shall have an isthmian canal.
“When the Congress directed that we should take the Panama route under treaty with Colombia, the essence of the condition, of course, referred not to the Government which controlled that route, but to the route itself; to the territory across which the route lay, not to the name which for the moment the territory bore on the map. The purpose of the law was to authorize the President to make a treaty with the power in actual control of the Isthmus of Panama. This purpose has been fulfilled.
“In the year 1846 this Government entered into a treaty with New Granada, the predecessor upon the Isthmus of the Republic of Colombia and of the present Republic of Panama, by which treaty it was provided that the Government and citizens of the United States should always have free and open right of way or transit across the Isthmus of Panama by any modes of communication that might be constructed, while in return our Government guaranteed the perfect neutrality of the above-mentioned Isthmus with the view that the free transit from the one to the other sea might not be interrupted or embarrassed. The treaty vested in the United States a substantial property right carved out of the rights of sovereignty and property which New Granada then had and possessed over the said territory. The name of New Granada has passed away and its territory has been divided. Its successor, the Government of Colombia, has ceased to own any property in the Isthmus. A new Republic, that of Panama, which was at one time a sovereign state, and at another time a mere department of the successive confederations known as New Granada and Colombia, has now succeeded to the rights which first one and then the other formerly exercised over the Isthmus. But as long as the Isthmus endures, the mere geographical fact of its existence, and the peculiar interest therein which is required by our position, perpetuate the solemn contract which binds the holders of the territory to respect our right to freedom of transit across it, and binds us in return to safeguard for the Isthmus and the world the exercise of that inestimable privilege. The true interpretation of the obligations upon which the United States entered in this treaty of 1846 has been given repeatedly in the utterances of Presidents and Secretaries of State. Secretary Cass in 1858 officially stated the position of this Government as follows:
The progress of events has rendered the interoceanic route across the narrow portion of Central America vastly important to the commercial world, and especially to the United States, whose possessions extend along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and demand the speediest and easiest modes of communication. While the rights of sovereignty of the states occupying this region should always be respected, we shall expect that these rights be exercised in a spirit befitting the occasion and the wants and circumstances that have arisen. Sovereignty has its duties as well as its rights, and none of these local governments, even if administered with more regard to the just demands of other nations than they have been, would be permitted, in a spirit of Eastern isolation, to close the gates of intercourse on the great highways of the world, and justify the act by the pretension that these avenues of trade and travel belong to them and that they choose to shut them, or, what is almost equivalent, to encumber them with such unjust regulations as would prevent their general use.'
"Seven years later, in 1865, Mr. Seward in different communications took the following position:
« « The United States have taken and will take no interest in any question of internal revolution in the State of Panama, or any State of the United States of Colombia, but will maintain a perfect neutrality in connection with such domestic altercations. The United States will, nevertheless, hold themselves ready to protect the transit trade across the Isthmus against invasion of either domestic or foreign disturbers of the peace of the State of Panama. Neither the text nor the spirit of the stipulation in that article by which the United States engages to preserve the neutrality of the Isthmus of Panama, imposes an obligation on this Government to comply with the requisition [of the President of the United States of Colombia for a force to protect the Isthmus of Panama from a body of insurgents of that country). The purpose of the stipulation was to guarantee the Isthmus against seizure or invasion by a foreign power only.'
“Attorney-General Speed, under date of November 7, 1865, advised Secretary Seward as follows:
“From this treaty it can not be supposed that New Granada invited the United States to become a party to the intestine troubles of that Government, nor did the United States become bound to take sides in the domestic broils of New Granada. The United States did guarantee New Granada in the sovereignty and property over the territory. This was as against other and foreign governments.'
“For four hundred years, ever since shortly after the discovery of this hemisphere, the canal across the Isthmus has been planned. For two score years it has been worked at. When made it is to last
It is to alter the geography of a continent and the trade routes of the world. We have shown by every treaty we have negotiated or attempted to negotiate with the peoples in control of the Isthmus and with foreign nations in reference thereto our consistent good faith in observing our obligations; on the one hand to the peoples of the Isthmus, and on the other hand to the civilized world whose commercial rights we are safeguarding and guaranteeing by our action. We have done our duty to others in letter and in spirit, and we have shown the utmost forbearance in exacting our own rights.
“Last spring, under the act above referred to, a treaty concluded between the representatives of the Republic of Colombia and of our
for the ages.
Government was ratified by the Senate. This treaty was entered into at the urgent solicitation of the people of Colombia and after a body of experts appointed by our Government especially to go into the matter of the routes across the Isthmus had pronounced unanimously in favor of the Panama route. In drawing up this treaty every concession was made to the people and to the Government of Colombia. We were more than just in dealing with them. Our generosity was such as to make it a serious question whether we had not gone too far in their interest at the expense of our own; for in our scrupulous desire to pay all possible heed, not merely to the real but even to the fancied rights of our weaker neighbor, who already owed so much to our protection and forbearance, we yielded in all possible ways to her desires in drawing up the treaty. Nevertheless the Government of Colombia not merely repudiated the treaty, but. repudiated it in such manner as to make it evident by the time the Colombian Congress adjourned that not the scantiest hope remained of ever getting a satisfactory treaty from them. The Government of Colombia made the treaty, and yet when the Colombian Congress was called to ratify it the vote against ratification was unanimous. It does not appear that the Government made any real effort to secure ratification.
"Immediately after the adjournment of the Congress a revolution broke out in Panama. The people of Panama had long been discontented with the Republic of Colombia, and they had been kept quiet only by the prospect of the conclusion of the treaty, which was to them a matter of vital concern. When it became evident that the treaty was hopelessly lost, the people of Panama rose literally as one man. Not a shot was fired by a single man on the Isthmus in the interest of the Colombian Government. Not a life was lost in the accomplishment of the revolution. The Colombian troops stationed on the Isthmus, who had long been unpaid, made common cause with the people of Panama, and with astonishing unanimity the new Republic was started. The duty of the United States in the premises was clear. In strict accordance with the principles laid down by Secretaries Cass and Seward in the official documents above quoted, the United States gave notice that it would permit the landing of no expeditionary force, the arrival of which would mean chaos and destruction along the line of the railroad and of the proposed canal, and an interruption of transit as an inevitable consequence. The de facto Government of Panama was recognized in the following telegram to Mr. Ehrman:
“The people of Panama have, by apparently unanimous movement, dissolved their political connection with the Republic of Colombia and resumed their independence. When you are satisfied that
H. Doc. 551-vol 3-4
a de facto government, republican in form and without substantial opposition from its own people, has been established in the State of Panama, you will enter into relations with it as the responsible government of the territory and look to it for all due action to protect the persons and property of citizens af the United States and to keep open the isthmian transit, in accordance with the obligations of existing treaties governing the relations of the United States to that territory.
“The Government of Colombia was notified of our action by the following telegram to Mr. Beaupré:
“The people of Panama having, by an apparently unanimous movement, dissolved their political connection with the Republic of Colombia and resumed their independence, and having adopted a government of their own, republican in form, with which the Government of the United States of America has entered into relations, the President of the United States, in accordance with the ties of friendship which have so long and so happily existed between the
respective nations, most earnestly commends to the Governments of Colombia and of Panama the peaceful and equitable settlement of all questions at issue between them. He holds that he is bound not merely by treaty obligations, but by the interests of civilization, to see that the peaceful traffic of the world across the Isthmus of Panama shall not longer be disturbed by a constant succession of unnecessary and wasteful civil wars.'
“When these events happened, fifty-seven years had elapsed since the United States had entered into its treaty with New Granada. During that time the Governments of New Granada and of its successor, Colombia, have been in a constant state of flux. The following is a partial list of the disturbances on the Isthmus of Panama during the period in question as reported to us by our consuls. It is not possible to give a complete list, and some of the reports that speak of 'revolutions' must mean unsuccessful revolutions.
“May 22, 1850.--Outbreak; two Americans killed. War vessel demanded to quell outbreak.
“October, 1850.-Revolutionary plot to bring about independence of the Isthmus. "July 22, 1851.-Revolution in four southern provinces. "November 14, 1851.—Outbreak at Chagres. Man-of-war requested for Chagres.
“June 27, 1853.-Insurrection at Bogotá, and consequent disturbance on Isthmus. War vessel demanded.
"May 23, 1854.–Political disturbances; war vessel requested. “June 28, 1854.–Attempted revolution. “October 24, 1854.- Independence of Isthmus demanded by provincial legislature. " April, 1856.---Riot, and massacre of Americans. “May 4, 1856.-Riot. “May 18, 1856.-Riot. “June 3, 1856.-Riot. “October 2, 1836. -Conflict between two native parties. United States forces landed.