« PreviousContinue »
Senator HOPKINS. It is plain, at any rate, that he was the man in charge when the Commission got swamped in failing to comply with the requisitions from the Isthmus.
Senator MORGAN. Who is your informant in that regard?
Senator HOPKINS. The Secretary has just stated that, as I understand it, this
morning. Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir.
Senator HOPKINS. The Secretary, right here, just stated that this morning
Senator MORGAN. That it was Redfern's fault that these bids were not opened?
Senator HOPKINS. Yes.
Secretary Taft. I do not say that it was his fault, in the sense that he could have done more than he did, but that that is where the defect occurred. It arose from his lack of experience and from the fact that there was not a sufficient organization under him to do the work.
Senator Morgan. I have understood that after those biddings were opened and sent out and were responded to that the difficulty occurred from the sudden congestion of freight arising at the Isthmus!
Secretary Taft. No, sir; not at all. That was a difficulty which was due to an entirely different cause. The great difficulty that Mr. Wallace complained of, and properly complained of, was the failure to supply him with material. That was due to the fault of the lack of organization of the purchasing department of the old Commission, and Mr. Redfern was at the head of that organization. Now, whether he was to blame or not is a question I have not gone into myself. I do not know.
Senator MORGAN. Were you the Secretary of War while this defective organization was in existence!
Secretary Taft. I was.
Senator MORGAN. How did it happen that you did not make a better organization? Secretary Tart. Because I did not know about it.
I can not organize a purchasing department for a commission that is charged under the law with the duty of carrying on work of that sort.
I had some other things to do, which I can specify if the committee desires it.
Senator DRYDEN. Mr. Secretary, did the Commission have power to discharge Mr. Redfern if they found him inefficient and to appoint another in his place!
Secretary Taft. Yes, sir; they had full power.
Senator DRYDEN. Then the Commission is primarily responsible for any lack of business methods and for the failure to supply these goods?
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir.
Senator SIMMONS. Mr. Secretary, Mr. Redfern was engaged as purchasing agent, as I understand?
Secretary Taft. Well, Senator, he acted in that capacity. Whether his title was that of purchasing agent, or whether he was on the rolls as a clerk or assistant secretary, I do not know.
Senator SIMMONS. Was the purchasing agent responsible for seeing that the things purchased were forwarded, and was not the trouble chiefly that you did not have two departments, one looking especially after the purchasing and another looking after the forwarding of the things purchased?
Secretary Taft. It is quite true that one of the defects in the organization was that there were not people charged with the duty of going out and forwarding the goods; but I do not think that the persons who were engaged in the actual purchasing can be said to have fulfilled the duty of a proper purchasing department, for the reason that when Major Gallagher came in, as he has already testified before you, and as the exhibits that I have put in show, he found requisitions in Mr. Redfern's custody which had been there for four months, and were unopened-thirty-two of them. So that, while there was a great defect in not having a special bureau, as you have suggested, or a special division of the bureau, as you suggest, for sending people to the places of manufacture and to the main points of shipping to push the shipping, as most constructive enterprises do have, there was also a failure in the bureau here to attend to requisitions that came, so that they were delayed four and five months.
Senator MORGAN. Who had charge of the bureau here? Secretary Taft. Mr. Redfern. It was immediately under Admiral Walker, as I understand it, bu tMr. Redfern had charge of that bureau. Major Gallagher succeeded him, and found on his desk this accumulation of requisitions. I am not at all blaming Mr. Redfern; I do not want to be so construed. Mr. Redfern was working just as hard as be could, and working nights, I am so advised; but the defect in the organization was such, and bis lack of experience was such, that the condition was as I have stated.
Senator MORGAN. Mr. Secretary, when Mr. Wallace began to see these difficulties he made complaint to you?
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir; be made complaint to me when I was on the Isthmus.
Senator Morgan. How long was that before the appointment of the new Commission?
Secretary Taft. It was about four months.
Secretary Taft. I did, as far as I could, and recommended to Congress that the old Commission be substituted by a new Commission, because, at that time, I was afraid that we could not reorganize the Commission, as we subsequently did.
Senator MORGAN. Mr. Wallace complained at that time that the difficulty was mainly due, as I understand you, to the want of a proper organization?
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir.
Senator MORGAN. You had the power to direct a proper organization?
Secretary Taft. I suppose I had; and I spoke to Admiral Walker about it, and Admiral Walker said that a change must be made, and that it must be put in the hands of one man. And so I asked Congress to give the President that authority; and between the two Houses, there was no authority given.
Senator MORGAN. But you had power, under the existing régime, as you exercised it subsequently, to reorganize the entire department?
Secretary TAFT. Yes; we did; and it was with very grave concern and doubt about my power that I entered on that thing. Indeed, I expressed the opinion, in the message to Congress, that such a power could not be exercised. I expressed the opinion that under the application of the Spooner Act there was probably no power in the Executive
to distinguish between the members of the Commission, to pay some more and some less, or to put the executive authority except in the seven members. Subsequently, when Congress refused to act, I examined the law again and conferred with a number of people, and concluded that we would attempt the exercise of the power, which we did.
Senator Morgan. But you never were satisfied that you were exactly right about it?
Secretary Taft. I thought it was a case of exigency, that Congress had not seen fit to act, and that perhaps the reason why Congress did not see fit to act was that it thought we could exercise the
power which we did exercise.
Senator MORGAN. But you had the power all this time to reorganize what I call the work on the canal-I do not mean to reorganize the Commission, or apportion its duties differently from the Spooner Act, but to reorganize the work on the canal?
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir.
Senator MORGAN. Very good. And you had four months' notice of it before you commenced
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir.
Senator MORGAN. It looks to me, Mr. Secretary, as if the head of the Department there is probably as culpable as Mr. Redfern.
Secretary Taft. Very well, Senator, if that is your opinion.
Secretary Taft. If you ask me, as a question, I will state this: I thought I had already explained, but I will explain further, that the President put the matter in my control, under an Executive order, which has been somewhat embarrassing to me, in view of the fact that Admiral Walker took the assignment as a reference—that was his explanation as a reference by him to me merely as an advisory person, in my personal capacity and not as Secretary of War, and therefore there was more or less objection to personal interference on my part in the organization of the Commission; not that I could not hate interfered, and not that I did not at times, when I thought the circumstances called for it; but it produced a condition that was not exactly regular.
However, that would not exculpate me from issuing orders with reference to the organization of a purchasing department and with reference to the selection of the proper man to make the purchase, if I had gone down into the Commission and examined the personnel and had seen what was the difficulty. It seemed to me sufficient to discuss with Admiral Walker, when I came up, the difficulties of which Mr. Wallace complained, with the hope that when they got together again in the Commission those troubles would be remedied. As a matter of fact, I do not remember to have received any complaints at all from Mr. Wallace (his correspondence is all here) except what he said to me in December, 1904; and at that time the failure to supply material was by no means as extensive as it was in April.
The complaints with respect to the supply of medicines I received from the special agent whom I sent down there on the 23d of February, and the change was made as soon as Congress adjourned, on the 3d of April. It is quite possible, as I look back now, that I might have bettered matters, if I had gone down into the Commission and organized a purchasing bureau myself, although I can not say that at that time I had any technical information that would have justified me in knowing how a purchasing bureau ought to be organized.
Senator HOPKINS. And at that time it would have been a little. unseemly for you to have done it, would it not Mr. Secretary?
Secretary TAFT. It seems to me so.
Senator MORGAN. Mr. Chairman, I shall have to ask the committee to excuse me at this point.
The CHAIRMÁN. Do you expect to return in a little while, Senator? Senator MORGAN. Yes; I hope to.
Secretary TAFT. If I had known as much about the situation then as I do now I think I might have accomplished something more, and I am not at all attempting to exculpate myself from any delays that may have occurred by reason of my not going down into the Commission and not reorganizing the bureau.
Senator HOPKINS. It was not to be supposed that you would do that, or that you bad time to do it, or that you were called upon to do it.
Secretary TAFT. I do not know what the Senator from Alabama would think about that. I am content to abide the judgment of the committee about it.
Senator KITTREDGE. What about the existing Commission? Is it too large?
Secretary Taft. Yes, sir. It is not a commission organized as it ought to be. I think a commission of three, or, indeed, giving the President the power to do this work by the agents that he himself selects, would be better. The Commission as now organized is working well, but we have organized it by straining, I think, the present Spooner Act, by making four members of the Commission a merely contirming and' revisory body and putting the real power in the hands of the chairman and the governor of the Zone and the chief engineer.
Senator KITTREDGE. You think that if Congress should pass an act reducing the membership of the Commission to three, and relieving the President from all restrictions regarding the character of the men appointed, that that would be satisfactory!
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir; I think that would be better.
Secretary TAFT. I think, Senator, that ultimately the whole power in regard to the work, except the main questions of policy, ought to be settled on the Isthmus. I think the plan to be adopted ought to be one in which we shall have only a bureau here, with the head of a department to be consulted by cable from the Isthmus when questions of large policy are to be settled, the bureau to act for purchasing, for forwarding, for doing the errands of the real power on the Isthmus. That is the system that prevails with respect to the Philippine government, and it has worked admirably. Of course, what is to be done in the Philippines is not the same kind of thing that is to be done on the Isthmus, but it does involve the furnishing of supplies, and it does involve doing a great many things that are similar in character to the things which have to be done by the local bureau here.
Senator TALIAFERRO. Mr. Secretary, if the Commission is reduced in number to three, is it your idea that the three members should reside on the Isthmus?
Secretary Taft. Yes, sir. I would have, possibly, one member, whether the chairman or otherwise, with liberty to come and go, with the idea that at times he would wish to come up and consult with the head of the Department who is in charge. I feel, Senator-if I may continue?
Senator TALIAFERRO. Certainly. Go on.
Secretary TAFT. With reference to the head of a department: The head of a departnient between the President and the Commissionwith deference to a different opinion, apparently, by the Senator from Alabama, and with deference also to the opinion of Mr. Wallace-seems to me to be an absolute necessity, for the reason that it is entirely impossible to expect the President to give direct personal supervision to the matters that go on before the Commission, and he ought to have some one about his Cabinet table that, twice a week, would make a report to him of the questions of policy and the details such as come to him with reference to the operations that are going on in the Isthmus and which he is able to gather from the bureau, which is not only a bureau of forwarding, but also a bureau of information.
I think it is wise that that power, which he has exercised without specific authority, should be given to him expressly by legislation, to designate some member of his Cabinet to take that up. And I say some member because it is quite possible that in the changes that occur in a Cabinet from time to time, and the press of duties, that it might be well to assign such duty first to one member of the Cabinet and then to another.
I am very certain that for the purpose of procuring appropriations, for the purpose of being the go-between between the Commission and the committees of Congress, the Appropriations Committee, the Canal Committees, the Interstate Commerce Committee, there should be an active head of the Department to first steer, if I may say so, the Commission in legal methods, governmental methods, and acquaint them with what is necessary; because, ordinarily, the men you take for a great constructive enterprise like that are men who are not used to governmental methods and who have to be instructed and taught how to make the presentation, how to get their evidence, how to file it and record it; so that when questions arise, as they ought to arise and do arise. by investigating committees or appropriation committees, who are entitled to know, that there should be a man to whom that Commission can go and on whose advice they can rely in respect to that matter; and it is utterly impossible for the President to discharge that kind of duty.
Senator TALIAFERRO. Undoubtedly.
Senator KITTREDGE. Under existing law, or under the Spooner Act, to be more definite, has not the President complete power to designate one of his Cabinet as his right hand, so to speak?
Secretary Tatt. I think he has, yes, sir; but I think that it would give that Secretary more prestige with the gentlemen whom he is to control if that authority were given by legislation. That is all. General Davis will recollect the questions as to what capacity I was discharging, whether as a mere friend of the President's, called in to advise him and his employees, or as the head of a Department, with authority to make orders and supervise works.
Senator KITTREDGE. And so far as the Commission itself is concerned, you advise a reduction in number to three