The Secretary of State to Minister Magoon.

No. 19.]

Sir: The Department has given further consideration to the subject presented in your dispatch No. 21 of the 10th ultimo, heretofore acknowledged, communicating the text of a memorial as published in the Panama Journal of November 8, presented to the Secretary of War by the national directorate of the Liberal party of Panama on the occasion of the recent visit of the Secretary of War. Mr. Taft has also handed to me a copy in translation of the memorial.

In this memorial the political relations and ties between the Republic of Panama and the United States are discussed with especial reference to the attitude of the United States in respect to the forthcoming elections in the Republic.

After expressing the apprehensions of the Liberal party that fair and free election may be prevented by the actual Government of Panama, four concrete questions are submitted for answer, to which you particularly refer, as follows:

  • First. Does the American Government guarantee public order of this nation and assure the constitutional succession of its public powers?
  • Second. Can a government be within the limits of that protection when it violates the constitution and the laws and when it tramples underfoot the essential right of citizens—the right of suffrage?
  • Given the possibility—which to us is an absolute certainty—that in the next elections all imaginable assaults against citizens will be committed, will the Government of the United States look upon this situation with indifference, a situation which delivers an unarmed people into the hands of those who trample upon their rights?
  • Fourth. Would it not be preferable for the United States to express beforehand the line of conduct which it will adopt to prevent itself appearing before the world like a knight of abuse and oppression?

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The first of these four questions is to be answered in the negative. This practically disposes of the remaining three questions and of much of the arguments of the statement presented.

The Liberal party should be informed that the Government of the United States, while guaranteeing the independence of the Republic of Panama, does not purpose to interfere with that independence. It is the earnest wish of the United States that there shall be a fair, free, and honest election in Panama, because it considers such an election necessary to the peace and prosperity of the country and the stability of its government. As between the two parties, the United States stands in an attitude of perfect impartiality and will do nothing to help either the party in power or the party of opposition. The United States will exercise its rights under the treaty for the maintenance of order in Panama, Colon, and upon the canal strip, and will not permit any interference with the peace and order of either of those cities or of that territory which can be prevented by the exercise of its treaty rights, and it will not go beyond its treaty rights.

You will communicate a copy of this instruction to the Government of Panama, with the statement that the Government of the United States thus answers the Liberal party in such a way as it is hoped will correct any misapprehension which they may have regarding the conduct of the United States and without tor a moment entertaining the thought that the Government of Panama will fail in any respect to secure to the people a perfectly fair, free, and honest election. You will at the same time suggest to the Government of Panama that, in view of the charges made in advance by the Liberal party, which are liable to be reiterated after the election, it is desirable to secure the most unimpeachable and satisfactory evidence of the fairness of the election by means of observation of competent witnesses during the conduct of the election.

I am, etc.,

Elihu Root.