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in the matter of valueI mean, for convenience. Foreign manufacturers do not come in here for contracts unless the profit is considerable; and the advertising is not so general in Europe as it is in this country. But we are constantly confronted with complaints, every time that a foreign manufacturer puts his goods in competition, that we ought to favor American dealers. It should be one way or the other.
Either we ought to limit our bids received to American manufacturers and American merchants who can furnish supplies, or else we ought to make the competition general. My understanding is that it is our duty in conducting affairs here to build this canal as cheaply as we can; and therefore that if Congress says nothing on the subject, that we ought to invite as broad and wide competition as possible. That is the policy that, so far as I have control of the matter, I expect to follow, unless Congress shall relieve the persons who are responsible from that responsibility by laying down a different rule. I omitted to put this in, but it is a very important part of the policy to be pursued, and I suggest to the committee that the question be considered, and if it is thought wise to do nothing, then we understand that the decision is that we are to pursue the course which we have already laid down.
Senator TALIAFERRO. That is, to buy the goods where they can be bought the cheapest ?
Secretary Taft. Of course other considerations may enter into the matter. For instance, in the case of the purchase of the steamships there was the question whether we could sail them under the American flag; and it was thought that, in addition to the other advantages of those steamers, the fact that they were under the American flag was a consideration which justified us in buying them.
Senator TALIAFERRO. I would put it this way: Other things being equal, the policy would be to buy where you could buy the cheapest. Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir. That is all I desire to add.
Senator MORGAN. It would be practicable, I suppose, to authorize the purchase of American material and manufactures in preference to foreign productions, materials, and manufactures at a rate of discount equal to the percentage of the tariff?
Secretary TAFT. Well, I am not a tariff expert. I do not know how that would work.
Senator Morgan. I am not either, and that is the reason I think I understand it. [Laughter.]
Senator DRYDEN. I suppose the simplest way would be to regulate it by the question of price and cost to the Government, and of course it would be necessary to take into consideration the facility and rapidity of delivery of the goods. That is a very important matter.
Secretary Tart. Yes, sir; it is, and the convenience of getting them.
Senator DRYDEN. Yes. Secretary Tart. The natural tendency would be, even if you adopted no rule, to take American goods.
Senator DRYDEN. Naturally.
Secretary TAFT. That has been the result, although we have followed generally the rule which I stated. I think about 95 per cent of all that is bought has been bought in the United States. But there are some particular contracts that will invite the attention of
foreign governments. I know that, because I am in receipt of communications through the State Department from the ambassadors of the various countries, inquiring as to the form of the advertisement and the bids and when the bids are to be opened.
There is an important letting of bids to be made in the course of a few days—the bids for dredges. I know that the Dutch are making an effort to compete, and I have been advised that the English are. Of course the question of delivery, the question of the probability of prompt delivery, and other matters of that sort might lean the person selecting the bid toward the American bidder, even though he might not be the lowest bidder; but if there was a large difference I am quite sure that the policy would be to accept the foreign bidder, and that is sure to bring to the War Department a great number of communications on the subject in which the statement is made that if we are spending millions of dollars down there we ought to spend it for the benefit of our own citizens.
The CHAIRMAN. We have had some such communications here in regard to this matter. [Laughter.]
Senator DRYDEN. Well, I suppose that within reasonable limits you would favor that policy, naturally?
Secretary Taft. Of course I would rather have the American get the contract than somebody else, if the American would furnish the goods for the same price.
Senator DRYDEN. Yes.
Secretary Taft. But the question here is of the duty of an Executive upon whose conduct in that respect there is no limitation.
Senator DRYDEN. Would you prefer to have the matter stand as it is without any action of Congress, or have Congress legislate distinctly upon that point?
Secretary Taft. I would much prefer to have Congress legislate distinctly.
Senator Hopkins. What class of goods, or what class of machinery, do you find that the foreigners can furnish cheaper than the Americans?
Secretary Tarr. I am not familiar, Senator, with the prices; but I should think that in the case of dredges, probably, the foreigners could furnish them at a less rate; though it is by no means certain that the dredges which they furnish would be the best dredges. Of course the American facility for getting good machinery, and machinery that will work“ up-to-date,” so to speak, is so great that it is quite possible that with respect to that class of goods they would be entitled to the award, at any rate.
Senator HOPKINS. The dredges that you use down there are the character of dredges that we find in use in the United States ?
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir.
Senator HOPKINS. There is no special type that you are having manufactured ?
Secretary Tart. I think not. I think there are some general specifications. I have not examined them with care.
Cement is a very important item. We shall have to use millions of barrels of cement, especially if the lock canal is adopted as the type. We have already, if I recall, purchased some foreign cement, on the ground that we could save $7,000 in the particular contract which we were making
Senator MORGAN. About 300,000 barrels have been purchased, as I remember the figures.
The CHAIRMAN. We have letters here to that effect, that there has been a very great difference in the cost of foreign cement and the cost of domestic cement.
Secretary Tart. Yes, sir; but there are very great cement interests in Kansas
The CHAIRMAN. And in different parts of this country.
The CHAIRMAN. And the cement people are to come here on Thursday next and state their case to the committee. They have been invited to appear here at 10.30 next Thursday.
Secretary Taft. Yes.
Senator HOPKINS. Is it not important in purchasing the cement that you shall use on the Isthmus that, if possible, you get it from the same manufacturers, so as to have uniformity in the cement?
Secretary Tart. I have no doubt uniformity is very important, but I understand—though doubtless members of the committee know more about that than I do—that Portland cement is made on a particular formula, and while of course it varies as it is furnished by different manufacturers, that if it is good Portland cement it will all unite with other good Portland cement. But I do not know about that.
Senator MORGAN. Portland cement is made on a chemical formula, from which no variation is permitted by builders and architects, men who use it for permanent works, beyond 5 per cent from that formula. It makes no difference where you get the materials; if you can assemble them together, you get Portland cement; and the variation is only between the maximum of perfection and 5 per cent below that. That is all that is allowed.
While we are on that subject, I would like to mention this, and I do not do it for the purpose of advertising my State at all: There are two bands of chalk, like the Dover chalk, the same stuff exactly, formed in the same way and under the same circumstances, on the margin of the sea from the framework of a little insect called globigerina, I believe it is, that has perished in untold and countless myriads along the coasts of ancient seas, and has taken up certain qualities of aluminum and silex from the inwash of the fresh waters when these seas were removed.
These two belts in Alabama range from southwest Georgia through to Columbus, Miss., the first one, the innermost one. It is about, probably, 200 miles long, or maybe more. It is an average of 10 miles wide. Its depth nobody knows, but it is thousands of feet deep. Parallel to that another bed of the same sort, which was located on the margin of the sea, has been thrown off, the black belt, as we call it, the cretaceous formation, and runs through St. Stephens, the ancient capital of the State, within 80 miles or 75 miles of Mobile.
That belt is about 75 or 80 miles long, and about of equal depth and equal width and probably of equal chemical properties. Those two belts are cut through by the Warrior River, the Tombigbee, and the Alabama River, and over in Georgia by the Chattahoochee, fur nishing navigation out to the coast. Lying across all of them are the great coal fields of Alabama. Coal is a necessary element in the pro
duction of this cement. So that that will be necessarily the field from which cement will be derived, because it is the nearest and the most perfectly pure, I will call it-adjusted in its chemical elements to the production of this stone, without any intervening material.
I look forward to that, as Mr. Hanna looked forward to it when he was living, as being the great source of cement supply for this work. But on looking at a piece of this material that is bored out of what is called the “indurated clay” at Gatun, that Mr. Bates showed us here, I suspected—I might say I came to the conclusionthat that material is identical with the chalk bluffs of Dover and those belts that I have described in Alabama. I have asked General Hains to have that material sent here for chemical analysis, and also a similar material, but evidently different in some of its chemical components, that has been taken out of the Culebra Heights, upon which water has a very different effect from what it has upon the material taken out at Gatun.
At Gatun water seems to have the hardening effect that it has upon Portland cement. On the same material in appearance taken out at Culebra, you put it into a bowl of water, and it dissolves, like sugar or salt, showing the chemical difference between the two. I have asked General Hains, and he has already telegraphed to the Isthmus to get specimens sent here for analysis. That ought to have been done as a preliminary start of this whole business. If it turns out that at Gatun this bed is the Dover chalk, then that is worth millions and millions of dollars to the people of the United States, because then you have got nothing to do but to import the coal—dust coal, if you please, that you can get from either coast-burn it on the ground, and use it as you burn it.
I insist that this work has been hurried too much in every respect, and by everybody. We are hurrying it too much to-day. We do not know the facts. I have a strong conviction that when that chemical analysis is made here in the mint and in the public works at Washington and in the Geological Survey and, as I hope, by the great chemist who is the authority on chemistry at the University of Virginia also, Doctor Mallett, that it will turn out that we have got all the resources of cement that we want right at Gatun. That would be a controlling element in the decision of this question between these types of canal. That is evident. And that can be done and will be done within ten or fifteen days. General Hains has already cabled to the Isthmus to Mr. Shonts to have these specimens sent up here for chemical analysis; and how can we afford to pass by a question like that without having a chemical analysis of that stuff?
There is another trouble about this matter. There is not an engineer who has testified before this body-not one—who has pretended to give the topography of that part of the valley of the Chagres River lying between Obispo and Gatun, out in the elevated region in which is found the watersheds of these several rivers--the Gigante and the Trinidad, and those rivers. They do not know anything about it, and they say that they do not know anything about it. Here is a canal to be built, and whether it is built at Gatun or whether it is built on a sea level or whether it is built at Bohio, it makes no difference where you put your dam for the control of the Chagres River, the first thing you have got to do in order to build your canal or your
dams is to divert the entire flow of the Chagres River from its present bed and throw it entirely beyond the works that we propose to construct.
Each of the projects that have been submitted to this committee heretofore contains a diversion channel, and with very little consideration in either case—in the old Bohio dam case, in the French location, pone at all; and in the Gatun location, reported by the majority of the committee, this diversion channel is provided for by running the waters back over the watershed of, I believe it is, the Indio River; I am not quite certain of the name; running it back over the watershed of that river, crarying it out in the swamps and out to sea, so as to get a dry place to work on. Anybody knows-the commonest man in the world knows—that in order to build a dam there you have got to have a dry place to put it down.
You can not put it down in the water. You have got to have a dry place to work on. That diversion channel, which is the most important part of this whole work in a preliminary sense, and may become the most important part of the whole work in the control of the Chagres floods, which are terrible—nearly as bad as this earthquake at San Francisco—upon that country. That channel has not been devised. There is no map of it here; there is no topographical survey. It is through a country filled with chaparral and all kinds of tropical growth, which we have not cut through. That ought to be done before we settle the type of this canal. It is a work that is indispensable, of course, absolutely indispensable, and yet there is nothing here to give us any real information as to whether it is practicable or not.
I beg pardon for having indulged in these remarks, but they have impressed me so much that I wanted to say that much to the committee and to the Senate and to everybody else connected with this business. We had better have an extra session of Congress, if it is necessary, if we can not restrain ourselves with sufficient patience here to do the work of the Government, and come back here after we have had an additional survey of this preliminary route—this drainage route. We had better do that than to rush blindly ahead, as we have been doing since we had to abandon the Bohio project because it turned out that the borings made by the engineers were 40 feet short of the rock that they said they had reached.
I myself do not intend to get into a hurry about this business. I do not want any sudden conclusions about it. I will not risk myI was about to say reputation, but I do not think that amounts to much; but I will not risk my standing with posterity upon the selection of anything that is to stand here for ages without taking the time to get the facts before me upon which I have to form a judgment. I will vote “no” to everything until the facts are known.
Senator HOPKINS. You made one suggestion during the progress of the evidence that impressed me very favorably, on the cement question, and that was that we are to use such quantities of cement there that it might be wise for the Government to establish its own cement factory.
Senator MORGAN. I am willing to introduce a bill now to have the Government of the United States start a cement factory, and let a body of geologists and engineers go and locate it anywhere in the