Mr. Barrett to Mr. Hay.
Panama, November 22, 1904.
Sir: I have the honor to report as follows on the events which have transpired since my arrival (Wednesday, November 16), and which have been the subject, in part, of telegrams I have sent to the Department, confirmed in accompanying dispatches.
After Mr. Lee, secretary of legation, had fully described to me the incidents of the few days preceding my arrival, including the attitude of General Huertas toward President Amador, I went to Government house to present my compliments to the President upon my return and to hear his description of the situation. He told me that a crisis was at hand, which must end either in General Huertas’s resignation, retirement, or leave of absence. He also suggested that Panama would benefit by the disbandment of the army. He concluded his statement with the request that I should arrange with Admiral Goodrich for the detention of one of the ships of his squadron until the difficulties of the hour were adjusted, and intimated that he would like to have the marines ready to act if necessary. * * *
On Thursday I accompanied Admiral Goodrich and two of his staff officers to call on the President, and again took up the discussion of the situation. Admiral Goodrich, who had previously informed me that he had received instructions from the Navy Department to cooperate with the legation and to use all the forces at his command, [Page 649]including the marines, at Empire, to maintain order if requested by the President, then repeated these instructions to the latter and said that one at least of his ships would remain near Panama as long as was desired by the President. It was then decided that the President should notify Huertas that his resignation would be expected that day or early the next morning, and, if he attempted any resistance with the soldiers under him, the admiral and I would cooperate to support the President and to prevent any disturbances or mutinous acts of the soldiers. In the meantime the admiral ordered Major Lejeune at Empire to bring to Ancon, near the border of Panama City, one company of marines. Their presence there at a point where, within fifteen minutes, they could reach any part of the city, and the proximity of the American squadron in the bay had a most excellent moral effect on the city and practically precluded any efforts at revolution.
Thursday afternoon General Huertas came to see President Amador and told him that he would send in his resignation if the President desired it.
Although Thursday night many of Huertas’s friends and followers, including several prominent men in the liberal party, advised him not to resign, he evidently saw the folly of holding out and prepared a long letter tendering his resignation. This he sent to President Amador early Friday morning, and in the presence of Mr. Lee, secretary of legation, the President signed a decree accepting the resignation and placing Huertas practically on the retired list at $500 per month. That same morning, in response to the invitation of Admiral Goodrich, the President made a call upon the flagship New York, and was further strengthened in his purpose to be firm in this difficulty by his conference with the admiral. Friday afternoon, accompanied by Mr. Lee, I again conferred with President Amador and Minister Guardia in regard to the disbandment of the army. As the President had already assured them that he would give them sixty days’ pay upon their dismissal, I suggested, as a safeguard against the soldiers taking all of this money and so feeling that they were under no obligations to the Government, that they should be given thirty days’ pay upon disbandment and the other thirty days’ pay a week later on condition that they behaved themselves. The President approved of this suggestion, and also decided to close all the saloons and drinking places for three days, so that the soldiers, tempted by so much ready money, would not have the opportunity of getting drunk and excited, as they would if everything were left open. In the meantime General Huertas had written a second letter to the President, stating that practically all the soldiers, approximately 200, wished to be disbanded at once, on account of their love and regard for Huertas and their desire not to remain in the army after he, their commander in chief, had resigned. This was deemed a good opportunity to disband the force without further delay, and I advised President Amador to permit them to go at once, especially while we had the naval force at hand in the bay and the company of marines at Ancon.
It was finally arranged that the soldiers were to report at the Government house at 1 o’clock Saturday to be paid off upon the terms of the Government. By 2 o’clock they had not put in an appearance, and President Amador sent for me to know what was the best thing [Page 650]to do. He was afraid that the army might have decided to resist his terms, especially as the friends of Huertas and of the army were doing all they could to make them show some resistance. Upon my arrival at Government house I advised the President to wait half an hour more. * * *
Just before the half hour expired the first detachment of some fifty soldiers came marching, unarmed, to the Government house, followed by a great crowd. When they halted they sent up word to the President, evidently not knowing that I was there, to the effect that they would not accept the Government’s terms of two payments, but they demanded the whole pay at that moment. The President was naturally much disturbed at this ultimatum, and asked me what he should do. I immediately told him to be absolutely firm and yield in no way to their demands, emphasizing that they had already been guilty of gross insubordination. This word was sent to them, but they still persisted in their position and muttered threats against the President.
When this word came up from the street I saw that there must be no further delay in bringing matters to an end, and taking General Guardia, the minister of foreign affairs and war, with me, I went downstairs and out upon the sidewalk in front of the soldiers who were there assembled. In brief words I told General Guardia to say to them that the United States, with its forces, stood back of the Government in this crisis, and that they must accept the terms of the Government or accept the consequences. They were warned that if they did not accept these terms and engaged in any acts of insurrection, riot, or mutiny, they would be dealt with in a most summary way, and that if necessary the naval forces in the bay and the marines at Ancon and Empire would be used to maintain order, with the severest punishment for those who were responsible for disorder. This warning had the desired effect, and the soldiers immediately declared that they would accept the terms of the Government. Within two hours afterwards the entire army, with the exception of about three men and twenty officers, who were faithful to the Government and who would meet the statutory requirements for a standing army, had been paid off and disbanded. From that moment there has been absolute quiet, and the feeling is general that the crisis has been successfully passed. The disbanded soldiers have so far committed no acts worthy of notice, and by the time they are paid the rest of the money due them public interest in their doings will have so diminished that they will not find excited sympathy for them among the people, as there was Saturday night. General Huertas left yesterday for his country home, or ranch, at Agua Dulce, about 100 miles east of Panama on the Pacific side of the Isthmus.
As stated in my cable of yesterday, the business community and the Government are most grateful for the attitude and action of the legation during this crisis.
I would supplement that statement with the further information that I have taken no part in these events that was not entirely warranted by the conditions or inspired by the request of the President himself. There has been no actual interference by the forces of the United States, and no step whatever has been taken by the United States officials which has not reflected full credit upon our Government [Page 651]and which can ever be the cause of regret on the part of the Government at Washington.
Through it all I have been in the closest conference with Admiral Goodrich and General Davis, and they have supported me heartily in everything I have done. I wish, moreover, to commend the way Mr. Lee conducted matters before my arrival and his assistance during the last few days. While all these events may seem very small at Washington, they have completely absorbed the attention of this community, and have been the most stirring that have occurred in its small limits since the revolution of one year ago.
I have, etc.,