File No. 319.1123L25/32

Minister Price to the Secretary of State

No. 866

Sir: Referring to my despatch No. 848, with which I transmitted a copy of a late note to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Panama seeking to obtain more energetic and sincere action on the part of their authorities in the investigation of the riot, which took place in the city of Colon on April 2, 1915, I have the honor to report that Foreign Secretary Lefevre after the receipt of my said note requested a conference in his office with the representative of the American military authorities, who had been present at the investigation, and myself. I suggested to Major H. A. White, Judge Advocate, on the staff of the Commanding General, to attend also, and at the conference Señor Lefevre had present Governor Fernandez, the Governor of the Province of Panama, who presided over the investigation. There was no disposition to criticize the courtesy or manner of Governor Fernandez, and it was not done, but same was frankly and appreciatively acknowledged by us. However, the rulings of Governor Fernandez, complained of in my note above mentioned, were criticized with all emphasis, at the same time indulging in the concession that he was acting under the orders of the Superior or Criminal Judge and Prosecuting Attorney. Señor Lefevre gave assurances that these experiences would not occur again, and that every opportunity would be given to our soldier witnesses to make identifications of the policemen and to testify with reference to all of the happenings on the day of the riot. I requested that Señor Lefevre as promptly as possible arrange a conference at which there should be present Governor Fernandez, the Prosecuting Attorney of the Republic of Panama, the Chief of Police of the Panama police on duty in Colon on the day of the riot, and the subordinate police official who had direct charge of the section of the city in which the riot took place, and the Governor of the Province of Colon representing Panama, and Major White, Lieut. Fechet and a representative of the Canal Zone police force familiar with the city of Colon and acquainted with the Panaman police force of said city, for the purpose of selecting from the rather large number of Panaman police serving in Colon at that time, those members of the force who were most likely involved in the events of the riot, to the end that there might be some system followed in presenting before our soldier witnesses the Panaman policemen for identification, and so that they might not be brought before the witnesses indiscriminately and in large numbers resulting in confusion and a hindrance rather than an aid to their identification. This was agreed to and the day before yesterday, the 20th, was set as the day for said conference. Same, however, has not yet taken place on account of Señor Lefevre claiming that he has not been able to get all the parties together, but promises to do so within the next few days. I took occasion at this conference to repeat with all due emphasis the expectations of our Government in this matter and to attempt to impress Señor Lefevre [Page 928] with our earnestness and impatience herein in view of the recent experiences.

I received yesterday a reply from Secretary Lefevre to my late note, a copy and translation of which I enclose. There was attached to this note a list of the numbers which the Panaman policemen bore on the day of the riot, but the names of the policemen did not appear. This list I turned over to our military authorities promptly without waiting to copy it. Today I have sent another note to Secretary Lefevre asking again for the names of these policemen and for information along other lines heretofore requested and which has not yet been given.

I have [etc.]

Wm. Jennings Price

The Secretary of Foreign Affairs to Minister Price

No. S–9319

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s valued note, F. O. No. 285, of the 14th instant, the perusal of which gave me great surprise because when your excellency orally laid before me on the 13th of the same month the complaint of the American military authorities against the manner in which the inquiry into the deplorable events which took place in Colon on April 2, 1915, was conducted I told your excellency that I cherished the most earnest wishes to bring an immediate and efficient remedy to the objections that had been presented, and we agreed to have a conference in my office for that purpose which would be attended by your excellency with the representative of the American military authorities who has witnessed the taking of the depositions, Governor Fernandez, and the undersigned, which conference did take place on the 16th of this month.

As was made apparent at that meeting what has happened up to date is as follows: The Superior Judge of the Republic, Señor J. Demostenes Arosemena, charged the Governor of the Province of Panama, Señor Fernandez with the duty of conducting the present inquiry into the disturbance of April 2 of last year in his capacity as examining magistrate under the law, by taking the depositions of the American witnesses about all the happenings of the said disturbance, and in virtue thereof Governor Fernandez examined in the presence of Lieutenant d’Alary Fechet, representative of the military authorities of the Canal Zone, the soldiers who were summoned as witnesses numbering from 60 to 70, and did not examine any more because the said Lieutenant declared that that number was sufficient. All those depositions were delivered to the Superior Court and the attorney of the said court probably finding that the report did not contain enough data to enable him to arrive at the legally certain decision as to who caused the death of Langdon, directed the Governor to institute an additional inquiry for the purpose of identifying through the American eyewitnesses the person whom they alleged shot at Langdon and caused his death.—That is the reason, according to Governor Fernandez’s statement at the conference above referred to why he believed that he was not authorized to examine those witnesses on points other than that which had to do with the death of Langdon.

But, as the Government’s desire in this matter, and I wish to say it again to your excellency, is to succeed in ascertaining the whole truth so as to be able to punish those who are found guilty, I wrote to the attorney of the Superior Court for him to order an additional investigation in which all the witnesses that may be summoned will declare as to what they have seen and know in connection with the said disturbance, and identify all the persons to whom they refer in their statements.

As for the information which your excellency was pleased to request in several of your notes I must remark that the Governor of the Province of Colon, of whom I asked the list of the police officers on duty in the city of Colon on April 2, 1915, only gave me the names of those who were on duty in the wards where the disturbances occurred, believing that that would be sufficient, [Page 929] but I have now received, and beg to enclose it herewith, the full list of the policemen on duty on that day with a statement of the places where they were on duty.

The information desired by the American military authorities as to which witnesses included in the lists delivered to your excellency in my note No. S–8057 of September 30, 1915, were eye witnesses of the occurrences, may easily be found by their representatives in the depositions of the report that have been put at their disposal by the attorney of the Superior Court, and in the same way the said representative may get as much information as he may desire about the proceedings, since, as I have had the honor to say to your excellency, it is my Government’s wish to keep him advised of the progress of the inquiry, and that all the evidence that he may point to be made to appear in the case which the attorney of the Superior Court has offered to do many times.

I will not close without expressing the profound sorrow given me by the last paragraph of the report of Colonel Cronkhite, of which your excellency gives me a copy, in which he says that “it is clear that the investigation held up to now is more of a farce than anything else,” which gives it to understand that the Panaman authorities are not anxious to find those who are guilty of the offenses committed on that date. This view, Mr. Minister, is entirely wrong and implies an accusation brought against our authorities, both judicial and administrative, which cannot be allowed to go unprotested. The proceedings connected with these events are being carried on as speedily as the large number of witnesses who have to testify about them and the provisions of our law will allow; the difficulties to which Colonel Cronkhite and your excellency refer come exclusively from technically legal causes and not any unwillingness on the part of our officials who are all concerned in bringing the truth to light and bringing punishment upon the delinquents, as was testified by Lieutenant d’Alary Fechet himself in your excellency’s presence when he recognized the readiness displayed by Governor Fernandez to his conducting the present inquiry.

I cherish the hope that the said objectionable feature will not again occur, but I hope that if it should happen the representative of the American military authorities will not fail immediately to report the fact for the purpose of bringing a remedy.

I avail [etc.]

E. T. Lefevre