File No. 819.74/58.

Minister Price to the Secretary of State.

No. 253.]

Sir: Supplementing my telegram of July 25, 1914, * * * I have the honor to report that Sr. Lefevre a few days ago stated that Panama would agree to whatever we might demand in this matter * * * and promised to give me a formal note to this effect. This note came this afternoon and a copy of it and its translation are herewith enclosed. The note, however, is quite different from what I was led to expect. * * *

I have [etc.]

Wm. Jennings Price

The Minister for Foreign Affairs to Minister Price.

Mr. Minister: In order to comply with the wishes of your excellency, I now have the honor to confirm the matters brought to your excellency’s attention during the cordial interview which took place yesterday in my office.

When I had the honor to discuss with his excellency the Secretary of War, Mr. Garrison, the installation of wireless stations in the territory of the Republic, I suggested the propriety of coming to an agreement respecting the exchange of service between the stations of the Canal Zone and those later to be established by Panama.

My Government, in view of the military necessities of the defense of the Canal and the wishes expressed by your excellency and his distinguished predecessor, has resolved not only to forbid the erection of private wireless stations but also to abstain from establishing the indispensable Government stations until such a time as an arrangement may be made satisfying the needs of both Governments.

As your excellency is aware, the Atlantic coast of the Isthmus is uninhabited for nearly its entire extent, and it is only between Portobello and Colon and in the neighborhood of Bocas del Toro that small settlements are to be found. These extraordinarily fertile regions, rich in mineral resources, are shunned by the white race on account of their fear of the semi-civilized Indians who are today the proprietors in control of this country.

The present administration, anxious to civilize the Indians and to open these fine lands to civilization, has obtained from the Indian chieftains consent to the presence of a few missionaries and even the introduction of elementary education. Certain chiefs have offered their support to the reclaiming efforts the Government proposes to inaugurate at the entrance of the Gulf of San Bias in the form of an agricultural colony under the protection of a military police, which will serve as a nucleus for others that will doubtless be established later.

But in order that the support and protection of the Government may be effective and in order to protect from an Indian massacre the troops and colonists [Page 1048] who are to bring life to this region, it is indispensable that the means of communication with Golon should be rapid; and this can be brought about only by means of radiotelegraphy. The same conditions exist at Puerto Obaldia on the Colombian frontier, in which place the colony already established is facing failure on account of difficulties of communication with the capital.

These vast regions, unprotected by the Government, are also infested by foreign smugglers who defraud the nation of its customs dues, and often offer a serious menace to the public health on account of their violation of the quarantine laws, because of the fact that it is difficult for the Panaman authorities to exercise control. For this purpose it would be necessary to employ armed forces of considerable strength, which in the present conditions would be a great burden on the Treasury.

On the Pacific side, or Darien, there exists a very rich section, also isolated from the rest of the Republic. Here are prosperous settlements and the celebrated gold mines of Darien. At present this country has no telegraphic communication with the capital, and between it and this city lies a great expanse of almost impenetrable forest. The only economical way of establishing communication is by means of wireless.

It will be seen that the needs of the Republic for a wireless system are not for maritime communication, but rather for land communication; and as the distances separating the projected stations are relatively short, the cost of installation will be small.

The plan recommended by the commission which studied the project is that of installing as many as six stations, those of San Bias, Puerto Obaldia and Darien being urgently needed.

The cost of these should not exceed $20,000 each, and my Government sees no objection to the work being carried out by the United States at the expense of (“por cuenta de”) Panama, whose Government is disposed to administer and maintain them at its cost, adopting for this administration the same rules as those governing the stations of the Zone.

I would ask your excellency to present to the consideration of the Secretary of State the urgent necessity which confronts my Government of establishing radiotelegraphic offices in certain points of the Republic in order to introduce into one of the richest sections the benefits of justice, education, religion and progress.

I thank you [etc.]

E. T. Lefevre