The Ambassador in Panamá (Dawson) to the Secretary of State

No. 711

Sir: As reported in my telegram No. 182 of October 17,62 Governor Edgerton and I had yesterday a very satisfactory interview with President Arias, and in view of this conversation the Governor and I agree that the plan for recruitment of labor set forth in the Department’s telegram No. 148 of October 10 can be put into effect at once.

There is enclosed a full memorandum62 of the interview which, as will be observed, was most cordial throughout.

[Page 1113]

It is, of course, apparent (and was already known) that the further importation of Jamaican labor is distasteful to the President, as it is to Panamanians in general. However, when informed of the situation and of the necessity of importing labor from Jamaica, he interposed no objection. He did, however, request that the Jamaican laborers imported (including those recently brought to the Zone) be kept out of Panamá, a request which is in accordance with the statement contained in the Embassy’s note No. 256 of April 25, 1940 (addressed to the Foreign Office by direction of the Department63) to the effect that no objection would be raised by our Government, should the Government of Panamá deny permission for the workers in question to enter territory under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Panamá.

The President did not of course specifically approve or authorize the proposed importation of Jamaican labor; nor did we ask him to do so. It has not, I believe, ever been contemplated that we would place ourselves in the position of requesting the approval or authorization of the Panamanian Government for such action. Furthermore, I do not believe that President Arias or any other official would wish to place himself in the position of having approved or authorized the action in question. In my opinion, the most that we could expect—and what we require—is that, having been advised of the action contemplated, the President interpose no objection.

I desire to call particular attention to the fact that, when asked by the President how many Jamaican laborers would be needed, Governor Edgerton replied that he would probably need two or three thousand. The Department’s telegram No. 148 of October 10 refers to the importation of approximately one thousand additional laborers from Jamaica as an emergency measure. While I believe that every effort should be made to keep to a minimum the number of Jamaicans brought into the Zone, I think that the Governor did well to mention two or three thousand in view of the strong probability that the figure of one thousand will have to be exceeded.

In conclusion, I wish to state that in my opinion, in order to show our good faith and in the interest of friendly relations with Panamá, no effort should be spared to expedite the arrival of a substantial contingent of Puerto Rican laborers. This should have an excellent effect on Panamanian opinion.

Respectfully yours,

William Dawson
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See telegram No. 51, April 24, 3 p.m., to the Ambassador in Panamá, p. 1110.