File No. 819.1052/56.
Minister Price to the Secretary of State.
Panama , December 1, 1915 .
Sir: Referring to the Department’s instruction No. 201 of November 5 and my cablegram of November 24, relating to the disarmament of the National Police of Panama of large arms and the strict enforcement against the carrying of concealed deadly weapons, I have the honor to report further upon said subject.
Preceding and since the receipt of the note from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Panama, which was communicated to the Department by my despatch No. 680 of November 17, I held several conferences with Señor Lefevre, by which I attempted to get him into a conciliatory mood regarding this matter and to accomplish the disarmament aforesaid with as little friction as possible. In the first conferences Señor Lefevre repeated largely the arguments indulged in in his note, insisting that the orders given the police would absolutely prevent the use of the rifles in another riot, if one should ever occur, and declaring that he himself was taking a direct interest in the management of the police, which would bring about a discipline and a situation that could not but be satisfactory to us. On the day I sent the cablegram above mentioned, Señor Lefevre went much further than he had ever done in stating Panama’s attitude, declaring that they would refuse either to sell or to deliver up the rifles.
In a conference with Señor Lefevre on Monday of this week he went beyond the line of arguments mentioned. Expressing the desire that I hear from the Department of State before making, at least, another formal demand for the disarmament, and that I not act upon requests of representatives of the War Department or the Army more generally stated, Señor Lefevre stated that he expected to call a meeting of representative Panamans of all political affiliations, if another formal demand were made, and lay before them our demands; that he felt that Panama was being imposed [Page 1236] upon; that little by little their sovereignty was being usurped or appropriated by our Government; that if their dignity and rights would not be respected they would better yield up to superior power their entity as a government and make known their cause to the world; that they had given up their army several years ago and that the bearing of larger arms by their police was the only symbol of the military retained by them; that he did not suppose we would claim the right to forbid them to organize a small military force or army, who could carry rifles, if they should be taken from the police; that the attitude of their political opponents and the capital they might make of it should be taken into consideration by us, if they should yield to our demands; that Panama was willing to submit this matter and other important matters pending between our respective Governments to representatives of the A. B. C. Alliance for arbitration or determination. Perhaps other more incidental and unimportant observations and declarations were also indulged in by him which do not occur to me at present.
He remarked that he expected among other definite reforms to have at an early date an American instructor for their police. I know that he had been conferring with Canal Zone policeman McIntyre to this end, but believe that it is for the purpose of attempting to satisfy us short of carrying through the disarmament.
I did not fail to reply to these expressions of Señor Lefevre as tactfully and pleasantly, as I knew how.
I told him, of course, that, while the army and our military forces next door were primarily interested in the proper solution of the numerous troubles and continuing threatening danger incident to the situation now existing for a long time with their police force, resulting in the killing and wounding of unarmed American soldiers and some civilians, I, of course, acted only upon authority of the Department of State. I said to him among other things that it was my information that their political opponents considered favorably the proposition of their police giving up their arms; that this request on the part of my Government had seemed so considerate and reasonable in view of much larger and farther reaching rights and powers given us by our treaty with Panama that his attitude in this matter could hardly be deemed other than surprising and most unreasonable; that my Government was willing for the world to know in detail at any time of the record made between our respective Governments in their dealings with each other, confident of the judgment formed that the United States had ever been more than considerate, just and fair; that it had been magnanimous; that the suggestion of submission to the A. B. C. Alliance or any other power or powers of the exercise of rights so clearly and definitely granted my Government in a treaty of such recent date and for which such full consideration had been paid was, in my opinion, as unworthy of serious consideration as it was subject to the suspicion of not being made with serious intention.
I herewith transmit copies of letters from Major General Geo. W. Goethals and Brigadier General C. R. Edwards pursuant to my submission to them of copies of Señor Lefevre’s recent note, and a report of his observation indulged in.
I have [etc.]