File No. 819.77/139.

The Secretary of State to the Secretary of War.

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that the American Minister at Panama reports to the Department under date of January 8th that an American citizen, Mr. Basil Barnes [Burns] Duncan, residing on the Isthmus, has signed a contract with the Minister of Public Works of the Republic of Panama for the construction of a railroad starting at the west side of the Chagres river, near its mouth, and that the concessionaire has also by the contract a right to build such branch railroads as the Government of Panama may approve.

Minister Dodge has taken this matter up with the Panaman Government and has been assured that before legislative approval of the contract was had the Government of the United States would be given an opportunity to examine it.

I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of Mr. Dodge’s despatch No. 281, together with a copy of its enclosures, for your information, and I have the honor to request that the War Department examine this contract with a view to ascertaining and informing this Department with regard to its desirability from a strategic viewpoint. As was done in the case of the Santiago-Agua Dulce Railway, it might also be well to submit the contract to a technical board in order that its feasibility and merit as a railroad enterprise may be examined and reported on by the board.

The Minister of Panama has informed the Department that his Government is most anxious, if possible, to have a decision in this matter prior to the adjournment of the present session of the Legislature, which is due to expire about the end of the month, but which will probably be prolonged for some little time thereafter.

I have [etc.]

P. C. Knox.