File No. 819.154/21

The Secretary of War to the Secretary of State

Receipt is acknowledged of letter of April 21, 1917,2 from the Counselor, State Department, informing this Department that the Government of the Republic of Panama had enacted a bill authorizing the President of Panama to construct railroads and wagon roads throughout the Republic, by means of a special understanding with the United States, and that a commission consisting of Mr. Eusebio Morales and Mr. Julio Arjona had sailed for the United States for the purpose of conferring with officials of this Government regarding road building in Panama pursuant to the law that has been enacted by their Government.

This matter, having received careful consideration, the War Department takes the view that such road building as our Government may decide upon in Panama, should be undertaken solely as the question affects the defenses of the Canal, and that this Government should bear the entire expense of such work.

The War Department’s plans contemplate considerable road construction beyond the limits of the Canal Zone, and into the Republic of Panama as protective measures in the defense of the Canal. Undoubtedly these roads, when constructed, will lend themselves to the development of the industries of the Republic of Panama, and it is hoped that arrangements may be made, in the future, with the Panaman Government whereby the citizens of the Republic may enjoy the free use of the roads constructed under an agreement that will provide for the upkeep of such roads, in part, at the expense of the Panaman Government.

It is requested that the commissioners from Panama, who are, it is understood, now in Washington, be informed that the War Department desires to defer consideration of the cooperation they offer now, until such time, in the future, after road construction has commenced when the drawing of an agreement, such as is proposed above, may be a proper subject for consideration.

Newton D. Baker
  1. Not printed.