Memorandum by the Acting Chief of the Division of Latin American Affairs (Morgan)
The Chargé d’Affaires of Panama3 called at my request in connection with the Panaman Treaty. Since a letter was received this morning from the War Department4 saying that it had no objection to an exchange of notes for the purpose of clarifying Article II of the Treaty with Panama in accordance with the last proposal of the Panaman Legation, I told Mr. Chevalier that the Department agreed in principle to this proposal and would be willing to effect an exchange of notes in the premises, the substance of the notes to read as follows:
“In order to clarify Article II: Within ninety days following the exchange of ratifications of the treaty the Government of the United States will deposit to the order of the Government of Panama the sum of $1,250,000. mentioned in the said Article, the latter undertaking on its own account the construction of the said roads with the maximum breadth of fifteen feet and it remains with the National Government to choose the type of roads most suitable for each section of the work.”
Mr. Chevalier inquired whether he might inform his Government to that effect and I told him that if he thought it advisable he might telegraph his Government that the State Department agreed in principle to the suggestion of the Panaman Government and that the notes would be exchanged without delay.
Mr. Chevalier then went on to say that, as was reported in the local press this morning, the Panaman Assembly had returned the Treaty to the Executive with a resolution to the effect that it did not fully satisfy the aspirations of the nation and requesting that further negotiations be carried out with a view to having it modified. Mr. Chevalier had received a telegram from his Government giving the text of this resolution of the Assembly but it did not state exactly what provisions of the Treaty were unsatisfactory to the Assembly or what changes they desired made. I asked Mr. Chevalier whether he thought the exchange of notes which we had in mind would clarify the situation and be sufficient to obtain the ratification of the Treaty. He said he thought not, that the main objection in Panama was directed against the Treaty as a whole and especially the clause providing for an alliance between Panama and the United States in time of war, and that it had been fomented by the vigorous anti-American campaign in Latin America which had been so active during the last [Page 488]few weeks. Mr. Chevalier was inclined to believe that his Government intended to delay returning the Treaty to the Assembly for the present in order to let popular opinion cool off and to let the people learn the actual advantages of the present Treaty over the Treaty of 1903.5 In a few months the Assembly could be called in special session again, the Treaty could be resubmitted and would, he thought, be ratified without great difficulty.
I pointed out to Mr. Chevalier that our own Congress adjourned on March 4, and therefore if the Treaty had not been ratified by Panama before that date it could not be ratified by the United States until next December. Mr. Chevalier said that he thought this was of comparative little importance since he understood that once the Treaty had been ratified by Panama no serious objection was to be expected in the United States Senate and he did not think that a delay of nine or ten months in the exchange of ratifications would be harmful to the interests of either country.
I told Señor Chevalier that if the Treaty was to be held in abeyance for a few months and if, as it seemed possible, the Panaman Government was going to make some further suggestions it would be better not to effect any exchange of notes until we knew all the views of the Panaman Government. To this Mr. Chevalier agreed.