Mr. Buchanan to Mr. Hay.

No. 22.]

Sir: Confirming my cable of yesterday, in which I recommended that medical inspectors should be stationed along the coast line ports [Page 553] south of here, I have the honor to inclose herewith copies of letters that have passed between Rear-Admiral Glass and myself touching the subject, together with a copy of a note I am addressing to this Government with reference to the same matter. If I receive a reply to the latter previous to the closing of the mail by which this dispatch will go I shall include that as well.

I am greatly impressed by the insanitary condition, in appearance at least, of this place and of the ramshackle villages between here and Colon, as well as with that of the latter.

It seems to me that one need not wonder at the high death rate that has scourged these places in the past, but that any appearance of good health is found here.

The latter is, however, clearly a fact at this time, and it hence appears reasonable to believe that vigorous, intelligent measures applied hereabouts in the direction of cleanliness and sanitary common sense would result in making the Isthmus a normally healthful livable place.

I feel that our interests in every direction warrant us in urging here and in assisting, or, if nothing is done, in initiating, movements that will bring about a good cleaning up here and the enforcement of regulations that will result in maintaining that condition so far as possible.

I think that the first thing that should be done here by us after the passage of the treaty should be the creation of a joint sanitary board that would tear existing conditions into pieces and result in the building up of a new part of this place back on Ancon Hill or across the bay on the savannas.

A large portion of the present Panama is not possible of being made livable, nor worth the effort or cost, but it will have to be attempted and at least made accessible to water and sewerage facilities.

With electric traction there is no reason why a new part can not be created that will be pleasant, healthful, and comfortable. To do this, however, I believe it will be necessary for the engineers who plan the sanitary improvements here to so make them as to force people out of the present town into a newer and more sanitary section, wherein, with proper building restrictions enforced, a first rate pleasant place, or section, can be built up.

I hope my cable instructions may enable me to arrange for Doctor Pierce’s presence in the sanitary visits made to ships here and his advice to be taken in the matter of sanitary regulation, and that my recommendation as to sending medical inspectors to the different ports about here and those above as to our course after the passage of the treaty may merit the Department’s approval.

I have, etc.,

Wm. I. Buchanan.
[Inclosure 1.]

Mr. Buchanan to Rear-Admiral Glass.

Sir: In view of the current belief here that yellow fever is imported from other points and that it is not a product of the Isthmus, and that Ecuadoran [Page 554] ports are responsible to a great degree for the appearance of the disease here, what would you think of the advisability of my recommending to our Government that to make sure that we omit nothing that we can do to keep the disease from reappearing here and getting among our men, and as a precautionary measure to that end our Government send to each Ecuadoran port from which passengers embark for this point or for others in this direction a thoroughly skilled medical officer to watch all outgoing passengers, with instructions to telegraph the consul-general here with regard to any suspected cases of any kind on board ships bound for here.

I shall be glad to be guided by your judgment in this matter.

I have, etc.,

W. I. Buchanan.
[Inclosure 2.]

Rear-Admiral Glass to Mr. Buchanan.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of this date, suggesting certain precautionary measures to prevent the introduction of yellow fever, or other contagious diseases, on the Isthmus of Panama from ports in the Pacific.

2. I am of the opinion that it is of the utmost importance to prevent, by all means practicable, the introduction of such diseases into Panama and Colon, especially during the presence of the large naval force, both in the ports and on shore, which will probably be maintained here for some time, and that efficient quarantine measures should be strictly enforced, as among these measures the presence in all suspected ports of a competent officer of the United States hospital service, to give notice to the United States consular authorities on the Isthmus of the presence of contagious disease or the embarkation at those ports of infected passengers or merchandise, would be of great value.

I am, etc.,

Henry Glass,
Rear-Admiral United States Navy.
[Inclosure 3.]

Mr. Buchanan to Señor de la Espinella.

Sir: Your excellency is so well aware of the strong desire felt by the Government of the United States that if possible no contagious diseases shall make their appearance again upon the Isthmus, both on account of the large number of troops now encamped thereon and because of the bad effect such fact would exert upon the fortunes of the Isthmian Canal, I am sure your excellency will permit me to bring to your excellency’s attention some suggestions with regard to that subject.

I am happy to be able to say that from all I can now learn there exist at this moment no cases of the contagious diseases so much dreaded here and elsewhere—yellow fever, smallpox, or bubonic plague.

Let us hope that such may continue to be a fact, and to secure that end I believe that nothing should be left undone which might appear likely to aid in maintaining the existing conditions in that regard.

In considering this subject it has appeared to me wise to now take steps to guard against every possible contingency through which contagious diseases may find their way here from other points.

To that end I have cabled to my Government suggesting that skilled medical inspectors shall be stationed at all Ecuadoran, Peruvian, Venezuelan, Colombian, and West Indian ports, with instructions to keep a careful watch over the health conditions existing at such ports and to note the health conditions found among passengers on steamships bound for the Isthmus, and to report immediately to United States Consul-General Gudger here every information accessible to them.

I have also requested that a special medical inspector shall be stationed at Colon, and am glad to advise your excellency, in this connection, that Assistant [Page 555] Surgeon Dr. Claude O. Pierce, of the United States Public Health and Marine-Hospital Service, has been assigned to duty at this port, in connection with our consulate-general, and that he is now here. His duties are limited to the observance and reporting upon the health conditions here and to guard against any cases of contagious disease leaving here for the United States. This would equally apply to any one who might be sent to Colon, in response to my suggestions, above referred to. I am fully aware of the deep interest taken by your excellency’s Government in all that refers to the subject herein treated and of your strong desire to leave nothing undone toward protecting the health of your excellency’s people and that of the United States forces now at or on the Isthmus. I do not, therefore, hesitate to express the confidence felt by my Government that extra vigor and care and caution will at this time be insisted upon by your excellency’s Government in everything that relates to sanitary restrictions and precautions that can be made use of or taken to protect the general health of Panama, Colon, and the intervening territory by your health authorities.

In this connection I am glad to say to your excellency that I am certain, if your excellency’s Government so desires, instructions will be given to Assistant Surgeon Pierce here, and, should a surgeon be sent to Colon, to that officer as well, to place his services entirely at the disposition of your health authorities as an adviser or helper in any way.

Doctor Pierce is a skilled and thoroughly competent surgeon, with a wide quarantine practice under the United States service, and is immune to yellow fever. It appears to me that a hearty cooperation in the matter of the general health here is now to be looked for among all having an interest in the Isthmus, and, as I have pointed out, the United States being deeply concerned in the subject, I hope your excellency will appreciate that in making the suggestions herein contained I am guided solely by my desire to see your excellency’s authorities aided in every way possible.

If your excellency’s health authorities at this port and at Colon and the health officer attached to our consulate at said ports can have the benefit that will without doubt be gained by both from close and interested cooperation and counsel, the best results may be anticipated, I am sure, for the health of all concerned here on the Isthmus.

May I venture further to say that I assume that the subject of a quarantine station at which passengers and baggage can be properly and easily cared for is one that has already had the attention of your excellency’s Government, since I am aware of the great necessity that has always been felt here for such a thing and the great inconvenience and expense that has attended passengers and ships at many times in the past through the absence of any such provision.

Awaiting your excellency’s wishes in the matters herein referred to, I avail, etc.,

Wm. I. Buchanan.