The American Ambassador in Panama ( Dawson ) to the Panamanian Minister for Foreign Affairs ( De Roux )11
Excellency: I have the honor to refer to my note No. 426 of today regarding the defense problem and negotiations for the leasing from the Republic of Panamá of certain tracts required for defense purposes.
As Your Excellency will have observed, it is suggested in my note that the term of occupancy shall be for ninety-nine years.
In this connection, I desire to be permitted to explain that General Van Voorhis and I are not unmindful of the circumstance that His Excellency the President proposed in the course of our recent interview that leases be concluded for the term of office of the Panamanian Administration negotiating them. This proposal was communicated to my Government and has received its careful consideration.
In directing that a term of 99 years (instead of 999 years as contemplated in the original draft) be suggested, the Department of State points out that the proposal to renew the leases with each succeeding Administration would mean in practice that every four or every six years it would be necessary to reopen the whole matter with new officials who could not be expected to be familiar with what had transpired previouslv. In addition, with short term leases, our authorities would naturally be reluctant to undertake the important work required on certain tracts, such as Río Hato, inasmuch as there would be no definite assurances that the leases would be renewed.
I trust that His Excellency the President will appreciate the reasons making longer term leases essential; and I may add that the Department of State calls attention to the fact that, as indicated in my note No. 426, it will be expressly stipulated in the leases that the United States will continue to use only such lands as are actually [Page 1083] needed for defense purposes and that, irrespective of the term of occupancy, the lands will revert to the Republic of Panamá, whenever they are no longer needed.
I avail myself [etc.]
- Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in Panamá in his despatch No. 804, December 7; received December 11. The substance of paragraphs 4 and 5 was in accordance with instructions sent to the Ambassador by the Acting Secretary of State in telegram No. 172, November 23, 3 p.m. (not printed). The instruction was read and approved by Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, United States Army. (711F.1914/157a)↩