File No. 319.1123L25/61

Minister Price to the Secretary of State.

No. 1615

Sir: I have the honor to submit for the further instruction of the Department herein a translation of a response from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Panama to my note presenting claims for damages against the Government of Panama growing out of the Colon riot of April 2, 1915. The length of this response is such that it has required considerable time, in connection with the other work of the Legation, to complete a translation of it. It is my intention to send a copy of the Spanish text of same but there has not been the opportunity yet to have it completed.

I shall send duly a copy of the translation of said response to Colonel George F. Landers, the military commander of the Canal Zone.

I have [etc.]

Wm. Jennings Price

The Minister for Foreign Affairs to Minister Price

S. P. No. 2950

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to refer to your excellency’s kind note F. O. No. 447, of August 20 last, received in this office on the 29th of that month, the receipt of which I acknowledged the following day by my note S. P. No. 2724.

I have delayed answering this note of your excellency because the matter to which it refers is extremely complex and because the dossiers, judicial, administrative and diplomatic, on this subject, which repose, in the archives of this Department, are so voluminous that the reading and study of them have demanded of me considerable time. This matter was fully discussed by your excellency and my predecessor during the past administration, and I venture to hope that in now reviving this discussion, which is new to me, your excellency will excuse the delay which lack of preparation has compelled me to make.

Your excellency’s note is divided into three principal parts. The first consists of a statement of events which took place in Colon on April 2, 1915, the results of which were: a corporal of the American Army dead, several American soldiers wounded or bruised, and also—although your excellency is silent as to this—several Panamans and foreigners wounded and bruised, as well as some members of the Colon police. The second part of your excellency’s note undertakes to throw the responsibility for those doings of blood on the authorities of the Panaman Government, and the third part fixes the amount of the pecuniary claim which in the opinion of your excellency the Republic of Panama should pay to the heirs of the deceased Corporal Langdon, to Day who was stoned and to Richeson who was wounded.

To be methodical, I shall follow as closely as possible the relation of the events as your excellency formulates them, analyzing them in the light of the data collected from the dossiers which I have just consulted.

Without stopping to transcribe textually the prolix narrative of your excellency, I will observe that in it no mention is made therein of an essential fact, the importance of which admits of no discussion. That is this: The ball game which was played in Colon on April 2, 1915, had been profusely advertised in the newspapers of the Isthmus, and so far ahead that the most elemental foresight and prudence required of the American authorities the adoption of certain necessary steps. In transporting to Colon from Camp Otis and Empire 1,200 soldiers, those authorities should have reinforced proportionately and adequately the preventive guard or patrol which, in accordance with the de facto agreement which has existed between the Panaman and American authorities since 1908, accompanies the American sea and land forces when they disembark in or travel [Page 1169] through our territory, and which is charged with the arresting and punishing of soldiers and sailors in case of necessity in order thus to prevent any conflict with our public forces or with the civilian population. Notwithstanding this, the contrary took place. Not only did the patrol not appear in Colon that day, but the American military authorities notoriously failed to give heed to the requests concerning this made to them by the Governor of the Province, Mr. Ruben Arcia S., as stated by this official in his sworn declaration of July 18, 1916, made before the First Judge of the Circuit of Colon, which says:

“On April 2, 1915, I started at about 2.15 p.m. for the place where they play ball and, in passing through Boca Grande (in the red light district), I saw a crowd of American soldiers and sailors taking considerable spirits and noticed that neither soldiers nor sailors were watched by the usual patrol; I tried at once to get on the telephone Capt. Kennedy, Chief of Police of Cristobal, who was not there but at the ball game. I went on to the place where the game was being held and there met Capt. Kennedy and Sergt. Callaway, whom I asked to present me to one of the chiefs of the soldiers who had come from the Zone and were in the Boca Grande section, in a state of drunkenness, since I thought it necessary to send at once a patrol to avoid disorders. These police chiefs granted my request and presented me to Capt. Walker, one of the chiefs of the soldiers present that day. I asked this gentlemen to send a patrol and I told him my reasons for asking this and this chief told me with considerable haughtiness that he would look after the matter.”

This version of Governor Arcia is corroborated by the testimony of Sergeant Callaway, of the Canal Zone police, who declares the following before the administrative authorities of Colon:

“Governor Arcia arrived and said to me: ‘I wish you would go with me and find some officer who has authority over the soldiers who are in the city.’ Then he told me that there were numerous soldiers in the red light district and that some of them were drinking, and that to avoid disorders he was going to ask that a patrol be sent to look after the soldiers; ‘Very well, come with me,’ I said, ‘And I will find some officer who has authority to do what you wish.’ Near the grand-stand I saw Capt. Davis of the 5th Company and presented him to Governor Arcia. The Governor then told Capt. Davis that a number of soldiers were in the red light district and that they were drinking; that as yet they were quiet but that he feared that some disorder might arise and that in order to avoid this he asked that a patrol of American soldiers be sent to the red light district to look after the sailors who were in that section and that he, Governer Arcia, would look after his people. Capt. Davis asked me if I had been in the red light district and if I had seen soldiers there. I answered that I had not been there. Together with the Governer, we returned to the place where we had left Capt. Kennedy, who asked me what had been done. I answered that I had presented the Governor to Capt. Davis and that the Governor had asked for a patrol to look after the sailors. Capt. Kennedy asked me if the patrol had been sent and I answered that I could not say, that I did not know. The Governor said that Capt. Davis did not seem to have attached much importance to his request. Governor Arcia remarked that Capt. Davis had not paid as much attention to the matter as he had hoped, that he had been very cold to him. When the Governor and I had returned to the place where we had left Capt. Kennedy, it was exactly 3 p.m. by my watch.”

This occurred therefore an hour and a half before the deplorable events which we all know of took place.

Another circumstance concerning which your excellency is silent, and which likewise cannot be passed over completely if it is desired to penetrate the determining motive of the principal dispute and to establish in justice the responsibilities arising therefrom, is this. The ball game which attracted so many to Colon was played by a team of soldiers from the Canal Zone (5th Infantry) and another composed almost entirely of civilian employees of the same Zone (Cristobal). This fact caused, as is natural in every game, the formation of two bands or rival parties and therefore the sympathies of the spectators were divided. The British subjects born in the Antilles, who form the greater part of the Colon population, early made clear their preference for the Cristobal team, composed chiefly of civilian employees of the Canal and of the Panama Railroad. This sympathy is easily explained: the West Indians are also laborers and civilian employees of the Canal and of the Railroad and felt themselves bound to the [Page 1170] Cristobal team by more or less remote ties of solidarity. That sentiment was given free expression due to the victory obtained by the Cristobal club over the 5th Infantry, composed exclusively of soldiers, and some sarcastic expression voiced by the subjects of His Britannic Majesty had the result of exasperating the conquered soldiers’ pride and were the determining motive of the disturbances. Your excellency in referring to the first incident which took place at about 4.30 between American soldiers and Panaman police near the corner of 11th and Ricaurte (Cash) Streets, declares—to my great surprise—that on that occasion “two American soldiers were wounded by firearms by the police”. As your excellency well knows, it has not been possible during years of incessant efforts and investigations to obtain the proof necessary to make this affirmation certain, although these efforts and investigations have been conducted by both the American military authorities and the Panaman authorities, seconded by the joint diplomatic action of your Legation and of this Chancellery.

Your excellency describes the cause of this incident thus:

“A few minutes later a soldier, Fritz, in playing with his walking-stick, or while he and two or three others were carelessly playing with a stick, struck a Panaman policeman. That this was an accident the policeman himself apparently admits.”

Nevertheless, the declaration made by the policeman who was struck, Roman Herrera, before the investigating Judge in the presence of Lieut. Fechet d’Alary, disagrees essentially with the version of your excellency. Here is what Roman Herrera says, on p. 18 of the judicial dossier:

* * * “Yesterday at a quarter after four I was on post in Colunge Street and as I was walking my beat I saw or met two American soldiers who were striking two negroes; in accordance with the instructions I had received, I paid no attention to this and continued my walking; on returning, I saw another soldier standing in the middle of Santander Street calling to other soldiers to pick up, as I understood it, a stick which he held at his feet; I passed near this soldier, from in front, and he on seeing me, said to me: ‘Ah, spiquiti! (spiggotty?),’ and another who had picked up the stick struck me hard over the kidneys while others rained4 blows on me; what I then did was defend myself; at this point policemen 134 and 111 approached and told the soldier who had struck me that he was under arrest; this had hardly been said when, as if by enchantment some two hundred soldiers rushed at us and committed against us all kinds of outrages and insults. At this point the captain and policeman 13 arrived and put an end to the incident. I came out of this with a wound in the right cheek, from a (barillazo) which a soldier gave me.”

Pedro Pablo Gaitán, policeman No. 134, declares on p. 2 of the judical dossier that he found in 10th street many American soldiers drunk and that one of them seized a stick and attacked policeman No. 50, on post in that street, cutting open his eye. That he tried to arrest the soldier but in vain, because all the soldiers came on top of them.

“At once, in the performance of our duty, we tried to defend ourselves; at this moment policeman 59 came to our assistance and as we tried again to defend ourselves a soldier lifted him up and threw him on the ground, taking away his stick and hat; seeing this, I took the stick and tried to protect my comrade; the same soldier now seized me strongly and struck (dió de trompadas) me and threw away my hat; this soldier was armed with a stick. I tried to get my hat from him, but he struck me with his stick; at this point I heard two or three revolver shots from I do not know where; the soldier threw the hat on the ground and ran away. This ended the matter as far as we were concerned and I withdrew.”

Policeman 59, José A. Martinez, declares on p. 5, that—

“Policeman 50, stationed in the Louvre, was passing and the gringos, when they saw him, made for him and struck him; I approached again and the gringos disarmed me, taking my stick, my hat and other things, and several lifted me up and let me drop to the ground, repeating this several times—three times trampled on the ground, I drew my revolver and fired three shots in the air and then Sub-Lieut. Agustín Arias disarmed me and I withdrew again to my post. A (chomo) brought me my hat after a while.”

[Page 1171]

As your excellency might observe that the foregoing declarations, since they emanate from the very police who were attacked by the soldiers, might perhaps breathe passion or vengeance, I am going to cite testimony from an American source to show your excellency that the soldier Fritz was not joking with the police, but acting aggressively, under the influence of alcohol.

Soldier George W. Edman, on the back of p. 145, declares that—

“A man of the 5th Infantry had one of their sticks and was over there and two others were trying to get him along towards the train. This man was somewhat under the influence of liquor and they put the stick under his arm and insisted on taking it away with them. A Panaman policemen arrived and stopped them and when a soldier tried to get the stick from his friends he struck the policeman below the eye.”

I continue to cite to your excellency:”

“It appears nevertheless that the policemen showed resentment; that there arose a dispute and that two Panaman policemen came up and tried to arrest Fritz. It appears that, in the tumult that ensued, they knocked the soldier Fritz down with a stick and one or more Panaman policeman began to use their revolvers.”

Did not your excellency declare in another passage of your note that the Government of the United States was far from absolving from all blame all the soldiers of the American Army who took part in this fray, there might be presumed in the foregoing transcriptions a certain tendency to establish a contrast between the polite and respectful attitude there assigned to the American soldiers and the very aggressive one imputed to the Panaman police.

It is a proved fact that soldiers and sailors, not only those of the United States of America but of all the nations of the world, when they breathe freely outside of the military iron discipline, are given to expansiveness of a violent and dangerous character. To throw a numerous army on the city of Colon without providing the patrols necessary to preserve order in the town is a lack of prevision such that, if it were not a matter in this case of the Government which guarantees the independence of the Republic of Panama, on the one hand, and of that which has given its soil for the opening of the Interoceanic Canal, on the other, that fault would have provoked an international conflict of the gravest consequences.

Your excellency, after referring to the soldiers Klimp and Richeson being wounded in the arm and the soldier McMillan clubbed by the police, adds:

“There is also proof of other acts of violence, apparently less cruel, on the part of the Panaman police towards the American soldiers, at more or less the same hour of which it is not necessary to make special mention here.”

Setting aside all prejudice, prevention and passion, I venture to ask your excellency whether it is conceivable within the bounds of logic and reason, that such a small contingent of police as that which kept order in the streets of Colon and at the ball game, on the afternoon of Good Friday of 1915, would assume the more than rash attitude which your excellency attributes to it before 1,200 soldiers of Camp Otis and Corozal, to which should be added those of the Coast Artillery and the American civilian employees of the Panama Railroad and Canal? However much such prodigies of valor might flatter the self-conceit of Isthmians, the numerical disproportion in this case between the military element and civil element of the Americans on the one side and of the Panaman police on the other was so enormous that without stopping to study the affidavits of the inquiry common sense rejects the possibility of the provocative acts attributed to the police of Panama.

Your excellency in referring to the incident which took place later at the entrance to the ball grounds states that this disagreement arose “between American soldiers and persons from Colon”. This statement likewise disagrees with the testimony collected in the course of the investigation, from which it appears on the contrary, that the incident to which your excellency alludes occurred chiefly between American soldiers and West Indians, who constitute—as is well known to all—the majority of the population of Colon and are for the most part employees of the Canal and of the Railroad.

Your excellency adds that in this tumult “the Panaman police took no small part”, as if for this reason some blame attached to them. As a matter of fact, the police were sent to the ball game for the very purpose of ensuring order and [Page 1172] of intervening in any tumult that might take place. These are the proper functions of police corps in all countries of the world, and this duty was all the more imperative for the police of Colon on the day I refer to owing to the very perceptible lack of military patrols for watching and restraining the soldiers.

Concerning the origin of this incident, your excellency says that the soldiers were jeered by “negro and Panaman” small boys. As to the color of the small boys, this Department has no remark to make; as to the nationality of same, it has. Mr. Luis F. Muñoz, at that time captain of the port of Colon, declares on the night of the very day of these happenings (p. 11 of the dossier) that on leaving the ball game which took place between the 5th Infantry and Cristobal, in 14th Street, there were some nineteen railroad cars and as he was trying to cross the cars to take the other street, in Broadway Avenue, two soldiers were throwing stones which they picked up in the street at a young Jamaican, some fourteen years old.

And the witness William Williams, American citizen, declares on p. 23:

“As I left the ball game I saw a group of negroes”—he does not mention Panamanians”—who were leaving by 11th Street jeering at the soldiers because they had lost the game.”

Likewise your excellency opines—with extravagant optimism—that the soldiers fled good-naturedly from the mocking children, notwithstanding that the captain of the port of Colon, as well as other eyewitnesses of the events, declare the exact opposites and your excellency professes the opinion which is no less charitable as to the reception and treatment which the American soldiers reserved for the Panaman police when the latter, in the performance of their duty, intervened in the tumult; and in the next line your excellency mentions that when the tumult was at its apogee “certain Panaman policemen took refuge in the alleys which run between the buildings on the east side of Hudson Lane, to the north and south of Falmouth Street”, although without saying why. Acknowledge then, that our warrior Cids and our grappling Horatios of a few minutes ago left on the run. The reason for such taking refuge is given us on p. 124 by the soldier Cyrus L. Rhone:

“We were on our way to the train and the Panaman police began to gather about there and the American soldiers began to chase them with stones.”

But where your excellency can find a more vivid and complete picture of the incident referred to is in the declaration of the soldier Ivan F. Bourn, on the back of p. 127 of the dossier. This says:

“When I arrived there, there were in the place some three hundred soldiers and also some twenty-five or thirty negroes and Panaman. I found a soldier of the 5th Infantry and a negro quarreling. The soldier was saying “If I can’t play ball, at least I can beat you” and struck the negro. A group of soldiers then gathered there and began to hit the negro. The negro did not reply to the blows but cowered with his hands in front of his face. Then a civilian (a white American) and some sergeants and corporals (some from the 5th Infan try, some from the 10th Infantry and the Coast Artillery) arrived for the purpose of making the soldiers who were beating the negro withdraw. One of the soldiers said to the white American civilian, who was very yellow and appeared dark: “You negro bastard, what are you mixing in for?” The sergeants and corporals got the civilian out of the crowd. Then the soldiers went to the opposite side of the train and filled their hats with stones and approached the houses and threw stones at the Panamans and negroes who lived in them, who had been jeering at the soldiers because Cristobal had come put victor in the ball game. Those who lived in the houses replied to the stones with empty beer bottles and pieces of china, etc. As three Panaman policemen coming from the alley appeared at this moment, the soldiers when they saw them began against them. One of the soldiers picked up a folding chair and rushed at a policeman and hit him with it several times until he threw him to the ground and left him insensible. It appears that this soldier then threw this policeman into the alley and left him there stunned (tonto). The group of soldiers then threw stones at the other policemen and drove them towards an alley.”

Both affidavits are of American origin.

Your excellency adds that the police began to shoot indiscriminately at the group of soldiers and at the special train, without taking into account at all that private persons also fired and that those private persons were almost all British [Page 1173] West Indians. Regarding this Capt. Fred. M. Bugbee of the American Army declares, on the back of p. 138, of the dossier, as follows:

“To the best of my knowledge and belief, as well as I can remember, I think that one or two shots were fired from the houses, since two bullets passed close to me, but I cannot say whence they came; I also believe, although I am not very sure, that bottles and stones were thrown from the houses.”

And the soldier Andrew McManus, on p. 139, declares:

“I was in 11th Street near the corner of Hudson Alley, and I saw a Panaman come out of an alley. He was a private person. He was firing towards the opposite corner.

Question. Can you say what he was firing at?

Answer. No sir, I did not see. There was a Panaman policeman about three paces from him who did not seem to try to stop him.

Q. The policeman saw him?

A. He must have seen him.

Q. Did the policeman fire at all?

A. No sir.

Q. What time was it then?

A. After the ball game.

Q. Will the witness say how he knows that the person that he saw come out of an alley and who, he says, was firing towards the corner in front of him was a native of this country?

A. I can say that he was a native because he was very dark.

Q. Will the witness say that he could not just as well have been a West Indian or Jamaican as a Panaman?

A. I cannot say where he came from as I was not near enough to him; the most I can say is that he was a resident of Colon and of the usual type.”

With this declaration corresponds that of the soldier L. B. Burgess given on p. 104 of the dossier. Describing the entrance into action of the armed patrol, your excellency says that

“A member of the patrol, soldier Wells, seeing a Panaman policeman firing at the train, went hurriedly to a yard and urged him to stop shooting, after which the policeman aimed at Wells and fired one or two shots at him. Although these bullets missed their target, one of them entered the chest of James Deloughery, of Co. I, 5th Infantry, who was standing on the back platform of the last car of the train.”

Very well, this soldier Wells (the same who later induced Lieut. Goetz to ask for the arrest of Policeman No. 3, Carlos Nuñez, indicating him as responsible for the death of Corporal Langdon), in his declaration made before the military authorities of the Zone, ratified under oath before the Governor of Panama on January 11, 1916, confesses that he cannot identify the policeman who killed Corporal Langdon, but that he can identify the one who was firing at the cars, i. e. who wounded the soldier Deloughery. Unfortunately, when the Panaman authorities shortly afterwards asked that Wells identify the man who wounded Deloughery, the military authorities of the Zone reported that he had already ceased to belong to the Army and that they did not know his whereabouts. But the soldier Deloughery was called to identify his alleged assailant and, on April 16, 1916, in the presence of 30 uniformed police, among whom was Carlos Nuñez, did not indicate him as his assailant, but indicated Lucas Garcés. The Superior Judge, Dr. D. Cervera, therefore, by an order dated June 17, 1917 ordered a confrontation of Deloughery and Garcés, which took place July 27 following, the former there declaring—under oath and over his signature—that although it seemed to him that the person who was present was the man who had fired at him he could not say so positively.

Almost at the same moment as this took place, Corporal Langdon was wounded by firearms and instantly killed “by a Panaman policeman”, says your excellency. Such a categorical declaration, although it is fathered by the distinguished representative of the Government of the United States of America here, has the insuperable defect that it is not accompanied by the proof or proofs which the judge of the case, the prosecuting attorney and the jury rejected for arresting, accusing and condemning Nuñez at his trial. This is a matter moreover of hearsay testimony and, consequently, of no juridical value as to establishing thereby alone the culpability of an alleged homicide. The same reason that exists for saying that Corporal Langdon was killed by the Colon police [Page 1174] exists for saying that he was killed by the members of the armed patrols who were at that time considerably excited and making fire wildly and crazily. I reproduce below the declaration of Mr. Frederick Brid, p. 42 of the dossier:

“Question. Was there any firing?

Answer. I heard firing by the gringos, some three shots in succession at the police of this place.

Q. Was anybody wounded by these shots?

A. One American was wounded and died from this wound afterwards. I believe that this wound was inflicted by the bullets of his own American comrades.

Q. You then presume that the wounded man, who later died, was the victim of his own comrades?

A. Yes, sir, that is my opinion.

Q. You saw this American fall wounded?

A. I did not see him fall, I only saw him wounded.

Q. You saw him where he was before he was hit?

A. Yes, sir, I saw him and he was exactly towards the point whence his comrades were firing.”

Another equally legitimate hypothesis is that Langdon was killed by shots fired by West Indians hidden in some neighboring house, as can be seen from the declarations already transcribed of the soldiers Cyrus L. Rhone and Leonard Burgess and of Capt. Bugbee. Since it cannot be affirmed with certainty who fired the shots which caused the death and the wounds inflicted that day on Americans and Panamans, they may be attributed equally well to policemen, to private individuals or to soldiers. As exercise for the imagination, these three hypotheses are equally reasonable.

Your excellency alleges that seventy-five yards away from the special train “Sergeant Day was knocked down by a stone thrown by a Panaman.” This assertion suffers from the same defect as the preceding one. If the proof that the aggressor of Sergeant Day was a Panaman had been produced during the trial, the judge would have taken note of the fact and would have taken steps for the trial of the responsible party. Nevertheless, the name of Sergeant Day is not mentioned a single time in the dossier, although fifty-eight officers and soldiers of the American Army made declarations before the Governor of this Province; and if nobody speaks of Sergeant Day, and nobody knew his assailant, how can it be known positively that the latter was a Panaman? But even supposing that it had been proved to satiety that Sergeant Day had been maimed in reality by a Panaman citizen, your excellency is not ignorant of the fact that in as bad or worse condition than the sergeant were many policemen, many Panaman private parties and West Indians, some of whom were wounded and bruised and incapacitated for work: Climaco Murillo, Miguel Navas, Miguel Panán, Luis Burat, José A. Martinez, Román Herrera, Carlos Nuñez, Rodolfo Beiberach, Siebert Evans, etc., not to mention the damage done to private property by the American soldiers, especially to the house of Mr. Benigno Palma, as stated in the official note of the Department to your Legation dated April 30, 1915, No. S—6496.

Your excellency calculates that the Panaman police fired thirty shots and the American soldiers five. A shot more or less, the quantity makes little difference to the case; what is important is the origin of the shots which caused personal damages and this is exactly what the judicial process and collateral administrative examinations have failed to reveal. Notwithstanding this, your excellency affirms, without the slightest reservation, that all the shots were fired by the Panaman police, all that killed an American soldier and wounded three others; and your excellency says it in a dogmatic tone which appears to show profound conviction. Nevertheless, it is not as your excellency thinks; and if it were, it is clear that there would be more than enough reason to censure the Panaman judicial authorities for manifest injustice. I will prove this.

The American soldier James Harrington, on p. 131, reverse side, of the dossier says:

“We heard some shots; we went where those sentinels were. There were three of them there. I went some five steps past the sentinel and somebody began to fire. I could see a part of the man who was firing. During this shooting the sentinel and I heard him say to somebody that this man was wounded; I returned and we took him again to the alley. The corporal was killed at the corner of 11th Street and Hudson Alley.

[Page 1175]

Question. Where was the private person whom you saw firing?

Answer. That man I saw firing at that moment was a private person standing in an alley, to the northeast of Hudson Alley, just north of 11th Street.

Q. Let the witness state what persons were throwing the stones that he saw?

A. I could not swear exactly to the persons who were throwing stones as I was some distance away, but I think that they were American soldiers, Panaman private persons, and also Jamaicans.

Q. Did the witness see any firing at the soldiers?

A. Yes, sir, I saw a private person shooting, I do not know whether it was a Panamanian, a West Indian or a Jamaican.

Q. Was it at this time that the sentinel fell wounded by a gun-shot?

A. I am not sure, but it might have been from the shots which I saw this man fire, for he fired three times; I cannot say with certainty.”

This declaration coincides with that of the soldier McManus already transcribed elsewhere, which says that, being near the corner of 11th Street and Hudson Alley, he saw a private person come out of an alley and fire.

And the soldier, L. B. Burgess, in his declaration, on p. 104, says: “There was someone firing from the upper part of one of the buildings near the train, he was on the north side of 11th Street. I could not say who he was because I did not see him.” Asked by the investigating official “He who is asking questions knows that some shots were fired from balconies of houses near the place of the incident?” he answered: “A little below Hudson Alley I saw some firing from a balcony of a house.”

This office does not wish to maintain that the American soldiers went to Colon with the premeditated intention of provoking conflicts and attacking private persons and police of the city, no; but it is undeniable that they provoked those conflicts, sometimes under the influence of liquor, as in the case of the soldier Fritz, and sometimes impelled thereto by wounded pride, as in the case of the blows, taunts and stone-throwing given to the small boys and Jamaican negroes leaving the ball game. And it appears to be demonstrated by the unanimous opinion of all the witnesses that the disturbances ceased as a result of the energetic action of the military officers and not owing to the spontaneous will of the soldiers, as your excellency insinuates. The officers compelled them against their will to withdraw from the field of operations and empty their pockets which were full of stones.

Yielding to the imperative voice of your conscience, your excellency recognizes that your Government is far from considering that all its soldiers were free from blame in those unfortunate events, but your excellency attempts in the next line to detract from the high moral value of this confession by adding that, in spite of everything, the use of firearms by the Panaman police was absolutely unjustifiable. Although the shots of the policeman beaten in the incident in 10th Street, José A. Martínez, were fired in the air, as the American citizen Walter L. Smith declares on p. 163, and although the four shots of the police who were in the vacant lot at Broadway and 11th Street were likewise fired in the air, or at least “wounded nobody” as the American citizen Henry Sears of Cristobal declares on p. 24, still, if the matter is considered with serene mind, setting aside all national and racial prejudice, in the light of sane reason and of law, it is from all points of view impossible to condemn an agent of the public safety for firing in the air to put to flight the rioting crowds, or even for firing directly on them should the first remedy prove inefficacious and the life of the agent be in peril. This act has double justification: that of the individual who fights in his own defense and that of the representative of public authority who does not permit this to be mocked or attacked in his person.

The first part, as it might be called, of your excellency’s note, devoted entirely to the story of the events according to reports collected by your Legation, being finished, there commences that which I venture to call the second part, dedicated to accusations against the judicial and administrative authorities of the Republic for the manner, conceived by your excellency to be imperfect, in which the investigation was carried out and the further steps of the trial taken up to the acquittal by the jury of the only man accused of the crime of homicide. And this second part, excuse me, your excellency, for saying it without circumlocution, is even more unjust than the first, for if any charge can be made against the Government of the Republic in this connection it can be only that of having carried to the last extreme condescension for the wishes, suggestions and intimations of your Legation and of the military authorities of the Canal Zone. It is correct to say that the Executive Power placed itself unconditionally at the service of your excellency’s Government for the purposes of this investigation, and [Page 1176] this is the profound conviction which one acquires from reading the record of the proceedings. This direct intervention dates from the very day of the events, when Lieut. Goetz, aide to General Edwards, asked the police captain in Colon to arrest Policeman No. 3, Carlos Nuñez, simply because the soldier Wells had told him that this was the man who had killed Corporal Langdon.

Your excellency will remember that the soldier Wells could not be had when he was called to identify from a number the man who fired the shot which killed Langdon, and that of the fifty-eight military witnesses called to testify under oath before the Governor of Panama, only the pretended eyewitness, C. L. Wells, failed to answer the call of our authorities to make a personal identification. Moreover, the testimony of Wells on this point is particularly open to suspicion because he was the same soldier your excellency referred to previously who, on seeing a Panaman policeman firing at the train, hurriedly went to a yard and implored him to stop shooting, at which the policeman aimed at the soldier Wells and fired one or two shots, and although these missed their mark, one of them wounded the soldier James Deloughery of Company I, 5th Infantry, in the chest as he was standing on the rear platform of the last car of the train. It is very difficult to prove that one and the same man was at one and the same time the cause of the shots against the soldier Wells, of the wounds to soldier Deloughery and of the death of Corporal Langdon. Policeman No. 3 seems to have been chosen by the soldier Wells as the propitiatory victim for the unfortunate events of that day, and the judicial officials who took part in the cognizance of this matter could not follow blindly his passionate inspirations without verifying them minutely by submitting them to a severe analysis. They do not wish to dispose of the liberty and the honor of a man with the same lightness and carelessness with which, if we are to credit the American version, the Colon police disposed of the lives of others.

Lack of proof prevented the judicial authorities for ordering the legal detention of Policeman C. Nuñez, as requested by Lieut. F. C. Goetz, until owing to the vehement steps of your excellency my predecessor ordered his detention as an administrative measure, as a sign of deference and good-will toward the American Government. That detention was an act of pure gratification which under other circumstances would have caused the gravest consequences to the responsible official, since it was a step which should have been ordered only by the judge of the case if he found cause to act.

On April 5, 1915, three days after the events, your excellency proposed to our Government that the American and Panaman authorities take separately the declarations of the witnesses and communicate to each other the results of their proceedings; that a Panaman representative be present at the taking of testimony by the American military and an American representative be present at that by the Panaman Government. All this was agreed to and fulfilled. Mr. Inocencio Galindo, Jr., acted as the representative of our authorities and Capt. Fulton as representative of the American Government. But this was merely an administrative investigation which in nothing obligated the Panaman Judicial Power, which, according to our Constitution, acts independently of the Executive Power. The judicial officials had timely knowledge both of the investigation which the Subsecretary of Government and Justice, by order of the Executive Power, carried out in Colon, and of that which the military authorities of the Zone conducted, and took advantage of all the details thereof which could throw light on the investigation made by the 1st Judge of Colon. At the end of June 1915, it was already known that the investigations did not disclose sufficient proof for proceeding against any one and a suspension was momentarily expected when the first protests of your excellency against the deficiencies of the judicial investigations and against the mere possibility that Policeman Nuñez would be set at liberty, led the Government to use its influence with the judges to get them to broaden their investigations and give to those interested an opportunity to introduce the testimony they had missed. For this purpose my predecessor assembled in the yellow room of the Government Palace the most prominent members of the Judicial Power of the Republic, and steps were studied for reconciling the provisions of our laws with the desires which animated our Executive to conform to those of your excellency. According to our judicial code every dossier is secret and only the judge in the case and the prosecutor can examine it. Notwithstanding this, the Superior Judge of the Republic, as a matter of courtesy and in order to satisfy the written request of your excellency, offered to furnish to the American Legation the greatest possible quantity of information, and even invited it, through this office, to name a representative as a private prosecutor in the judicial proceedings which were being held. (See the note of this Secretaryship to your excellency of September 30, 1915.)

[Page 1177]

On October 7, 1915, the prosecutor is of the opinion that no proof whatsoever has been obtained from the investigation made, nor even any strong indication as to the persons who caused the death of Langdon, the wounds of the American soldiers and of the Panaman private persons and police, or the damage done to private property, and that under these circumstances, unless a broadening of the investigation should be ordered and give better results, an order of suspension would be imperative.

As your excellency complained at about the same time—groundlessly, it seems to met—hat the voluminous testimony taken by the Zone authorities for the purpose of throwing light on these bloody events had been disregarded, the judicial authorities ordered that the investigation be broadened as recommended by the prosecutor along the lines suggested by your excellency. On December 6, your excellency informs this office that Capt. Oliver Edwards is appointed to represent the military authorities of the Zone and to attend at the broadened investigation which has been ordered, but without authority to take part in the proceedings; that your Legation names no representative and that the American Government declines to take any responsibility for the results of the proceedings. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that from the very beginning the Legation orientates, causes and inspires all this judicial action.

On December 11, 1915, there was held in this office a conference between my predecessor Mr. Lefevre, the Superior Judge of the Republic, the prosecutor of the case and Capt. Oliver Edwards, at which it was agreed that more than fifty American soldiers, whose testimony, in the opinion of the captain, might be of some value, should testify before the Panaman judicial authorities. The Superior Judge designated the Governor of the Province of Panama to take the testimony, he to act as an investigating official.

In March 1916 the fiscal issues a new opinion. In this he says that in the broadened investigation made no qualified witness had been found, nor any grave indications for accusing Nuñez, and that, the investigation having been exhausted, he asks that an order of suspension be issued.

During this same month your excellency complains to this Secretaryship (F. O. No. 285) that Lieut. Goetz has not been allowed to try a second time to identify from a number of others the presumed author of the death of Langdon and that only four soldiers were called to identify Nuñez. On account of this the Executive Power intervenes again with the prosecutor of the Superior Court and gets the judicial authorities not only to permit Lieut. Goetz to repeat his trial as often as he may choose, but also to extend this permission to as many soldiers as may wish to do so. Lieut. Goetz did not avail himself of the opportunity offered him, though it is not known why, but thirty-eight soldiers came to recognize the presumed assassin of Langdon, with the following result: thirty-three soldiers refused to even try to recognize him; the other five proceeded as follows: L. Burgess indicated Ernesto Bergatino; Harry Stacey indicated Isidoro Blanco; Earl Chaplon and Edward C. Foster indicated Agustín Arias P.; and only one, James Robinson indicated Carlos Nuñez, but stated that he was not sure that the person indicated by him was the same that Lieut. Goetz arrested in the belief that he had killed Corporal Langdon.

At the end of May the prosecutor reports that the broadened investigation has been unfruitful as regards the discovery of those guilty of the criminal acts and suggests that further steps be taken, which was done.

On October 1 following, the undersigned took charge of the Secretaryship for Foreign Affairs, and shortly afterwards received notice of the irregular position in which the ex-policeman Carlos Nuñez was held. This position was not long in taking shape. The Superior Judge, by an order of the 31st of the same month, called C. Nuñez to judgment and formally sent him to prison a year and a half after he had been illegally incarcerated, and on February 16 last the jury announced a verdict of acquittal.

The proceedings have lasted nearly two years, it is true, but not because there has been any desire on the part of our authorities to disturb the administration of justice by any dilatory proceedings, but rather in order to satisfy the repeated desires of your excellency, freely offering you opportunities to introduce new evidence. Each time that the judge or the prosecutor declared that the matter was ripe for decision, the investigation was broadened and everything possible was done to ascertain the truth and to be able to reach the conclusion which your excellency desired. For this reason no decision was rendered in October of 1915, nor in March of 1916, since each time your excellency intervened actively, rebelling against the probability of a suspension and suggesting new steps and confrontations to establish the proofs of guilt which from the very first moment it was impossible to obtain.

[Page 1178]

It is not possible for me to agree with your excellency that “whenever by chance any steps for identification were taken, they were taken in a superficial and uninterested way, as if without any purpose of throwing light on the facts.” Lieut. Goetz, called to identify C. Nuñez in a crowd of prisoners, indicated Luis Vázquez; then, aware of his error, wished to repeat the trial, contrary to the legal provisions concerning the matter, and—naturally—the investigating official did not permit it. Your excellency complained of this prohibition to this Secretaryship by note No. F. O. 285, and I have already said that, out of personal deference to your excellency, the judicial authority then permitted not only that Lieut. Goetz repeat the attempt as often as he might choose, but that this be done also by the 58 soldiers whose testimony your excellency considered conclusive to establish with certainty who were responsible for the bloody happenings in Colon.

If all these circumstances are remembered, your excellency will yourself acknowledge the injustice of your remark that “if the action in the investigation and identification had been conducted energetically from the beginning, the apprehension and conviction of those responsible for the death of Corporal Langdon and the wounding of the three American soldiers would have been easily obtainable.” The Panaman Judicial Power used all the elements of investigation at its own disposal, of those placed at its disposal by the Executive Power and of those copiously offered to it by the military authorities of the Canal Zone, whose administrative investigation in the Washington Hotel was in its essentials accepted, ratified and complemented by the Governor of the Province of Panama, acting as an investigating official, and incorporated in the dossier; and if the result of all this has been the acquittal of the only man brought to trial, it is not the fault of the Executive nor of the Judicial Power, any more than it is that of the American Legation in this capital, or of the military authorities of the Zone, whose patriotic zeal merits my greatest respect; all depends on the difficulty of establishing individual responsibilities in cases of rioting, crowds or tumults, and on the fact that the judicial officials and the Panaman citizens who composed the jury could not conscientiously condemn without proof, on merely the vague indications of no juridical value. It is a legal axiom familiar to your excellency that all doubt is in favor of the accused, and the honorable citizens chosen by lot to try Carlos Nuñez were not insensible to their moral duty to absolve the accused rather than condemn an innocent man.

After the favors showered by my Government on your excellency as to everything referring to the judicial investigation of the case in question, which I have related above, the satisfaction is very paltry which can be procured from the following declaration of your excellency:

“I am instructed to say that my Government does not believe that the competent authorities of the Panaman Government have deliberately hindered the administration of justice in this case.”

This office, in its amazement, can do no more than take note of the injustice of the procedure of your excellency’s Government in refusing to recognize the good offices which, with so great good-will, this Government lent it towards giving it complete satisfaction of its desires for justice as expressed through the medium of your Legation.

The “lack of sincerity and of activity” which your excellency twists against this Government as to the judicial performance which we are discussing, is likewise indefensible in the light of the facts, for your excellency must remember that if Americans were wounded in the affray in Colon, Panamans also were, and in greater number; and, nevertheless, the investigations of justice have been impotent to reveal a single one of the authors of those acts of violence. If such were the case, it would result that the Panaman Government had been deliberately indolent to the prejudice of its own citizens, and this hypothesis alone is enough to render any refutation superfluous. If it were an undoubted fact that the police of Colon committed without provocation all kinds of misbehavior and attacks against American citizens on April 2, 1915, and if the Judicial Power of the Republic had shown partiality or predisposition in investigating the case referred to, this Government would have anticipated other action by offering spontaneously to your excellency the reparation due; but neither is it proved that the Panaman police were the authors of the wounds of the American soldiers, nor were they the promoters of the disturbance; on the contrary, it is clear that they were the attacked and the outraged and that when they fired they fired in the air, in their own defense and out of respect for the public authority they represented. As to the action of the judiciary branch, nothing more could be wished for in the way of impartiality and purpose to throw light on the matter; and if it can be stigmatized for anything it is for not having followed from the [Page 1179] beginning its own information and inspirations but yielded to the lesser suggestions of your excellency, to the manifest detriment of its internal jurisdiction, but with the patriotic purpose of saving the country the onerous consequences of a diplomatic claim.

If the Panaman judiciary had acted with complete independence, free from all pressure from your Legation and from the military authorities of the Canal Zone; and if there had been noted in the verdict of the jury or in the proceedings which led up to it sufficient grounds to doubting its validity or correctness, your excellency’s claim would be perfectly explained. But, as diplomatic action was forestalled by making itself felt from the beginning in the judicial action in the form described above, the Government of the Republic considers inexplicable the disagreement which your excellency shows to-day with the results of a procedure whose course was so many times delayed, altered and modified for the sole purpose of satisfying as far as humanly possible the desires of your Legation; and as regards Sergeants Day and Richeson, for whom your excellency in the name of your Government claims indemnization of a thousand dollars each, the high spirit of justice and equity which is traditional in the Government of your, excellency would require that, in claiming indemnization of considerable size from our public treasury for its maimed soldiers, it should likewise manifest its readiness to indemnify in the same way and in like proportion the Panamans who were victims of the American soldiers on that day.

The undersigned does not doubt that a careful and serene analysis of the facts will bring to the mind of your excellency the conviction that in the present case there has been no refusal of justice on the part of the Panaman authorities, that the verdict of the jury was preferred with all regularity and within the rules of law, that there have been incurred no exaggerated delays for which no plausible explanation can be given and that likewise no case has arisen of odious distinction to the prejudice of the American citizens interested in the case. Under these circumstances, and taking into account the repeated acts of friendship and of good-will performed by the Panaman Government towards that of the United States of America in this deplorable matter, it is hoped that your excellency will reconsider the bases of your claim and recognize the correctness with which justice has proceeded in this country in everything regarding the search for the persons responsible for the events of April 2, 1915, giving thus a beautiful example of respect for the rights of a small and weak nation on the part of the largest and the most powerful one of our continent.

I avail myself [etc.]

Narciso Garay
  1. Me tiraban trompadas—fell afoul of us.