File No. 819.1052/51.

Minister Price to the Secretary of State.

No. 648.]

Sir: In compliance with the Department’s instruction of August 25 last directing me to urge upon the Government of Panama the disarmament of the National Police of Panama of large arms, such as rifles, and the strict enforcement of the law against carrying concealed deadly weapons, I have the honor to report that I held several conferences with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Panama, in which he indicated that the request of the Department would be fulfilled. I transmitted a Foreign Office note in connection therewith, a copy of which accompanies this despatch. * * *

The practical carrying out of the disarmament of the police of Panama will require not only dispossessing them of the rifles, but, also, the disposal of said arms in a manner to preclude as near as possible their access to them, particularly in cases of outbreaks or riots such as have taken place. This would entail either the sale of them or their storage in a proper place and for us to be assured of good faith in the matter it would seem requisite that we have a representative to check up what was done with them. * * *

I have [etc.]

Wm. Jennings Price.
[Page 1229]

Minister Price to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

No. 247.]

Excellency: I have the honor to refer to our conferences upon the matter and in confirming same to present to your excellency’s attention more formally, in justice not only to our military authorities most directly affected but also in justice to the subject both in the abstract and in the concrete, the following situation.

Within a period of a little over three years last past, three riots have taken place in the cities of Panama and Colon in which the National Police of Panama and American soldiers were most largely involved. As a result thereof one Spaniard and three Americans have been killed and a great many Americans wounded, some very seriously. The injuries on the other hand suffered by Panamans have been comparatively slight, and the only other person coming to his death was an alien bystander, who seems to have been shot accidentally. The two cities named are thickly populated in a closely built up area with nearly all of their streets and avenues very narrow.

In each of these riots American soldiers almost to a man have been unarmed. The National Police of Panama contrariwise have very largely been armed with high-power rifles in addition to small arms, and have not failed to use them recklessly in the narrow streets of these closely built cities.

It is believed not only by our military authorities but by others, also, who have had experience and observation entitling their opinions to much weight, that the equipment by the National Police of Panama with anything larger than small fire-arms, constitutes a continued menace and serves no good purpose whatever; that even in cases of large disturbances such equipment has been, and will continue to be, a factor bringing about increased tumult and resulting in extremes of violence and in no way aiding to restore peace and order.

As your excellency well knows, there has been no settlement of the matters and issues growing out of any one of the three riots referred to; not a single person has been prosecuted or even a prosecution begun against any individual in the courts of your excellency’s Republic for the murders and wounds inflicted on my countrymen; and not a cent of indemnity has been paid as a result thereof, though credit is awarded to Panama to the extent that within recent weeks she has agreed to pay money indemnities on account of the riot of July 4, 1912, upon condition that the amount thereof should be named by an arbitrator.

I shall not rehearse here the vexations that my Government feels that it has been subjected to in its patient demands to obtain a fair and just settlement of these troubles and a promptness and energy of action on the part of your excellency’s Government in the visitation of punishment upon those guilty in a manner sufficiently decisive and admonishing to have a restraining and beneficial effect throughout future years. I beg leave to refer, however, to the various notes to your excellency’s Government by this Legation through, the Foreign Office over which your excellency so worthily presides, having relation to the matters now adverted to.

The rights possessed by my Government under Article VII of the Canal Treaty of 1903, with reference to the maintenance of public order in said cities of your excellency’s Republic, have not yet been exercised by my Government because it has preferred to show the utmost consideration at all times to your excellency’s Republic and to afford it the fullest opportunity to exhibit good faith with reference to the matters spoken of. I may say to your excellency that in the opinion of many people my Government has already displayed a patience and forbearance far beyond what the amenities even of such a situation might seem to suggest.

While the settlement of matters growing out of said riots are still pending and in view of the fact that no one knows from past experience what day or night serious trouble may break forth again in these cities, I am instructed by my Government, pursuant to the recommendation of our military authorities, to request at the hands of your excellency’s Government the disarmament, without further delay than necessary for the prompt accomplishment of such a purpose, of the National Police in said cities of all except small fire-arms in the shape of [Page 1230] pistols, and that any access by the said police to other than such small fire-arms be made as impossible as practicable. I am instructed further to make the additional request that energy and persistent watchful measures be carried out resulting in the strict enforcement of the law against carrying concealed deadly weapons by any one not authorized by law to carry them.

It may be well to say that this request on the part of my Government must not be construed in any sense to be any compromise of its right and authority possessed under the article of said treaty above named, nor as the slightest indication that my Government will not fully exercise its right and authority granted thereby and in accordance with its own judgment with reference thereto, if at any time, no matter how soon, it may appear to the judgment of my Government that the exercise of said right and authority should not longer be withheld.

While awaiting the response of your excellency with all interest

I avail [etc.]

Wm. Jennings Price.