File No. 819.77/268

The Secretary of War to the Secretary of State

I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of January 18, 1917,2 enclosing a copy of a despatch from the American Minister at Panama, referring to Mr. B. B. Duncan’s desire to present to the National Assembly of Panama his application for a concession to construct a railroad along the Atlantic coast of Panama between the mouth of the Chagres River and the Chiriqui Lagoon. As shown by the letter to Mr. Duncan, quoted in the American Minister’s despatch, this subject has heretofore been considered by the War Department, having been brought to its attention by the Governor of the Panama Canal. The concession which Mr. Duncan then desired included the construction of a main line of railroad from near the mouth of the Chagres River to the Chiriqui Lagoon and of a branch line to Penonomé. It is believed that such a branch line might prove detrimental to the defense of the Canal, and for that reason a concession for its construction was not favorably considered by the War Department. If the construction of this branch line, or any other branch line, in the same vicinity, is eliminated from the application for a concession, there is no objection, from a military point of view, to the concession being granted.

Newton D. Baker
  1. Not printed.