The Minister in Panama (South) to the Secretary of State

No. 352

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith, for the information of the Department, a copy of a note, with a translation thereof, concerning the abrogation of the Taft Agreement, which was sent by the Foreign Office to this Legation.

From this note it appears that Panama will contest the right of our Government to abrogate the Taft Agreement, unless a new treaty is accepted by both countries prior to May 1, next, which looks like an attempt upon the part of Panamá to place the burden of rushing through a new treaty upon our Government.

As it is more to the advantage of Panama than it is to our Government that a new treaty be in force, it is presumed that they will propose that the negotiations be commenced as soon as possible and that such a proposition will be made in Washington.

As it will be to the advantage of our Government to have Panama make the first proposals in the matter and to state their own position before we are called upon to state ours, no reply will be made to the attached note until instructions have been received from the Department.

I have [etc.]

J. G. South

The Panaman Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Garay) to the American Minister (South)

S. P. No. 2527

Mr. Minister: I have received Your Excellency’s note no. 176, in which you inform me that “the Government of the United States will, in virtue of the Congressional authorization granted by the Senate Joint Resolution No. 259, passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, February 6, 1923, abrogate on May 1, 1924, the international agreement, commonly called the Taft agreement, embodied in the Executive orders mentioned in the Senate Joint Resolution.”

Your Excellency understands that the Taft agreement, although it was not entered into between the Department of State of the United States and the Department of Foreign Relations of Panama, but by the Secretary of War of the United States and the President of the Republic of Panama and his Cabinet, has been, nevertheless, a [Page 679] true public treaty that has committed the faith of the two contracting countries.

It is the custom that international contracts of this class may not be modified or abrogated without the previous consent and agreement of both parties; and although our two Governments are actually engaged in studying the bases of a new arrangement between them, better suited to conditions of life on the Isthmus now that the Canal is constructed, the questions which we must resolve are so many and of such importance that one can only conjecture as to the time that will elapse before our two Governments come to a satisfactory agreement.

In view of this fact, and since the Joint Resolution of the Congress of the United States, a copy of which Your Excellency has furnished me, does not fix an exact time limit for the Executive of the United States to proceed to the abrogation of the so-called Taft agreement, the Government of Panama is obliged to make the most express reservations as to the sufficiency of the period that the Executive Power of the United States on its part has thought necessary to fix in order to proceed to the definite abrogation of the agreement.

If this period proves to be sufficient—which is improbable—for the purpose of replacing the present agreement by one which would better serve the interests and aspirations of both parties, this Government would not raise the least objection; but it cannot admit, if such should not be the case, and if the 1st of May, next, finds us without having yet settled the difficulties inherent in the weighty negotiations which are to be initiated, that the Government of the United States may unilaterally declare that agreement abrogated without awaiting the discussion, acceptance, and approval of the new pact under consideration, by means of all the constitutional and legal formalities of our respective countries.

I avail myself [etc.]

Narciso Garay
  1. File translation revised.