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THE STORY OF PANAMA.
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, Washington, D. C., February 19, 1913.
STATEMENT OF MR. FRANK D. PAVEY.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Pavey, you may proceed.
Mr. Pavey. Mr. Chairman, in the way of slightly qualifying myself as a witness, I wish to say I held the official position of counsel of the legation of Panama from the 10th of November, 1903, to the 14th of February, 1905, when I tendered my resignation. My active work during that period was only during the period of four months, when Philippe Bunau-Varilla was minister of Panama accredited to the Government at Washington, and after his resignation and the appointment of his successor, although I had some relations with him, there was no very active work for me to do, and yet I continued officially to be the counsel of the legation until February 14, 1905, when I resigned, and soon afterwards Mr. William Nelson Cromwell was appointed as my successor to that position.
Prior to November 10, 1903, I had been an intimate personal friend of Philippe Bunau-Varilla for a period of more than four years, and had been one of his advisers and counsel in the United States in connection with the campaign in favor of Panama which he conducted in the United States. In the examination of the testimony which has been taken already before the committee under the Rainey resolution in regard to the revolution in Panama, I find that only one witness, I think, has been examined, and that was Mr. Hall
, and his testimony to a very large extent is a résumé in his own language of naterial which was obtained by the World in an investigation which it made to defend itself against a libel suit brought by the Government, and the other document upon which he particularly relies for his facts is what he has designated as a plea for fees filed by Mr. Cromwell before the Board of Arbitration in Paris, which was examining into the question of the payment of his fees as counsel of the New Panama Canal Co. I draw attention to that fact to show that his sources of information were for all practical purposes from such sources as the plea for fees filed by Mr. Cromwell with the board of arbitration in regard to his fees in Paris.
Now, it is not surprising in the presentation of an account, a long, detailed account of his services extending over six or seven years, that Mr. Cromwell should have at least put the best foot foremost and attributed the result as much as possible to his own efforts. It was also perfectly natural that he should not give any notice or any credit to any other influences that were at work in the United States in
favor of Panama at that time. It is also natural that even if he had been actuated by no motives other than to arrive at the exact truth, it is natural that a inan who began his investigation with that as a basis would be very likely to acquire the idea that Mr. Cromwell was the sole source of activity in favor of Panama in this country during the four or five years prior to the revolution of Panama and the .recognition of the Republic of Panama; and that once he had come to.believe that, then he might in the very best of faith attribute to that fact results which were not at all due to that fact.
Now, that has been the case with Mr. Hall. I am not discussing the question whether he was acting in good faith or in bad faith in his conclusions, or whether he was trying to make out a case for the World when he made the investigation or not, but that fact appears so conspicuously in numerous places that I will cite only one to show to what extent it leads him in his statements.
On page 317 he states:
Dr. Amador's cables "disappointed" and "hope" were written the first after Mr. Cromwell had told him he would have nothing to do with the revolution, the second after information had been conveyed to him that if he would remain quiet in New York he would receive help from another quarter. Help did come from another quarter. Summoned in haste from Paris, Philippe Bunau-Varilla, one of the New Panama Canal Co., who had been instrumental in getting Mr. Cromwell reappointed as counsel, arrived in New York on September 23, 1903, some two weeks after Dr. Amador had sent his cable "disappointed" to the Isthmus, or just in time for Mr. Cromwell, who was anxious to get under cover after Dr. Herran's warning, to cable to Paris and have Bunau-Varilla take the first steamer across.
Unfortunately I do not have the cable that I believe Mr. Cromwell sent to the New Panama Canal Co. to have Mr. Bunau-Varilla sent over here, but that cable is also among the archives of the New Panama Canal Co., which are the property of the United States, and which are still in France, kept in the vaults there.
I cite that to show that, whether in good faith or bad faith, his belief in Mr. Cromwell as the sole influence and sole force that produced any activity in the United States in regard to Panama carries him to the point of stating, as he does there, that "unfortunately, I do not have the cable that I believe Mr. Cromwell sent," but it is in the archives. That was the state of mind of this man. I cite that as a precise illustration of the point I want to make, that there were two distinct and independent forces working in this country in favor of Panama for some years before the revolution of Panama. One was the New Panama Canal Co., with Mr. Cromwell as its representative, and the other was Philippe Bunau-Varilla, as an individual. Philippe Bunau-Varilla had been formerly chief engineer, along about 1885 or 1886, of the old Panama Canal Co., but he had become inimical to the management of the New Panama Canal Co., for what reasons in detail I do not know; but I do know of my own knowledge that that lack of cordiality and sympathy existed to a very great extent, and that it was in existence as early as 1898 or 1899, when I first met Mr. Bunau-Varilla.
Mr. SHARP. May I interrupt you there?
Mr. PAVEY. Certainly.
Mr. SHARP. I have heard you refer to the New Panama Canal Co. What organization was that?
Mr. PAVEY. What in English we commonly designate as the old company was I think merely called the Panama Canal Co., and that was the De Lesseps company, organized to take over the concession
granted in 1878, and it continued in active existence until about 1894, when it fell into financial embarrassment, and then a different company was organized, called the New Panama Canal Co., as we translate it in English, and in French “La Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de Panama
Mr. SHARP. What connection, if any, as a stockholder or adviser or counsel of that company did Mr. Cromwell have?
Mr. Pavey. He became counsel of that company, according to his own statement in his brief for his fees, in January, 1896. He had, according to this record, been counsel for the Panama Railroad Co. prior to that time, and the Panama Railroad Co. was owned by the New Panama Canal Co.
Mr. Bunau-Varilla was a stockholder in the New Panama Canal Co., but what amount of stock he had I can not state myself, although it is not at all a secret. It has been made public in some of these investigations of the Panama affair. I mention that fact in order not to appear to claim he had no connection with the company; but he had no connection as an officer or a director or a representative in this country or an agent in this country, because of the entire lack of cordiality and friendly relations which existed between them.
That first came to my attention, and his position in the matter first came to my attention in 1898 or 1899. “At that time I was in Paris and met Mr. Bunau-Varilla for the first time; and he did to me what he was seeking to do to every American whom he could meet. He learned of my presence in Paris through a mutual friend, and insisted that before I left Paris that this man should bring me to his house to dinner. Dinner with him meant half past eight, and after dinner we settled down in his library, and he never let go of an American victim when he got one in that library until he thought he had converted bim; and the first time I dined in his house I stayed until 2 o'clock the next morning, listening to his picturesque and fascinating argument in favor of Panama as against Nicaragua.
He found me in one sense a valuable victim, if I may use that phrase, because I had had very considerable knowledge of Nicaragua, as I had been a clerk in the office of the counsel of that country during its period of most prosperity, and was friendly with Mr. Warner and Mr. Hitchcock, of the Fifth Avenue Hotel; and he, learning that fact, made a special effort to convert me to the cause of Panama, which I am frank to confess he did. He was doing that with every American whom he could meet. I can mention a Mr. Schmidlapp. of Cincinnati; Mr. Herrick, present Ambassador to France; and I can also mention Mr. Loomis, former Assistant Secretary of State, and there were many others. Now, he was doing that in the firm belief that sooner or later the United States would come to adopt the Panama Canal route, and he was contributing his efforts in that direction.
Mr. SHARP. lle was a promoter to that extent, was he not?
Mr. PAVEY. Under 55. I should think he was between 52 and 55 rears of age.
Mr. KENDALL. A man of prestige in France, is he?
Mr. Pavey. Of very great prestige in his profession, and so far as I know his only activity has been in his profession. He has built railroads in Spain and has built railroads in the Kongo, and has been interested in enterprises in South America of different characters, although I do not know about that. He related to me at one time the way he came to go to Panama. His imagination was fired when he was a student at the Ecole de Polytechnique by a lecture which Mr. De Lesseps delivered there, and as a young man he then resolved when he got out of school he would go into the service of the Panama Canal Co. if he could. He did that and became chief engineer at a very early age, and it has become a fetish with him-perhaps I should not use the word “fetish,” as it is not quite respectful-but an ideal, just as the Nicaraguan canal was an ideal that no amount of facts or arguments could move the late Senator Morgan from his opinion in favor of the Nicaraguan Canal, and that has been true of Mr. Bunau-Varilla.
My knowledge in regard to this lack of friendly relations with the New Panama Canal Co. first came to my attention in 1899, when I was in Paris again, and renewed my acquaintance with Mr. BunauVarilla by calls upon him. He came to see me and told me a fact that I was not particularly interested in, that a subcommittee of the Isthmian Canal Commission was then in Paris investigating the affairs of the Panama Canal Co., with a view to including that knowledge in its report, and that he wanted to meet the members of that subcommittee, but that he could not meet them through the New Panama Canal Co.: that there would be no introduction he could ever have to them from that source, and asked me if I could arrange it. I called upon Prof. Burr and Mr. Morrison, who were the two members there at that time, and made arrangements so they took lunch with me, and I brought about the acquaintance in
Mr. Bunau-Varilla then set himself to convert them, as engineers, by going over all the details of the engineering features of the canal, just as he had done with me in less technical language.
I remember in 1899 my telling him that he might talk to all the Americans he met in Paris, but he could not talk to them fast enough to overcome the public opinion which existed in the United States in favor of Nicaragua; that at that time there was only one opinion in the United States, and that was that there was merely a hole in Panama, into which a lot of French money had been sunk, and that no canal would ever be possible there, and that the sentiment in favor of Nicaragua would have to be overcome as a matter of public opinion before there could be any expectation that the Government of the United States would adopt that route.
Mr. SHARP. I would like to ask you in that connection, since you appear to be very familiar with the history that led up to the adoption of the Panama route, as a matter of fact should not the late Senator Hanna have more credit for changing that sentiment and for the decision to go to Panama than any other American citizen?
Mr. Pavey. That is absolutely true. Mr. Bunau-Varilla himself gives Senator Ilanna credit for that result. He takes this credit to himself, which I think he is entitled to take-he was introduced to Senator Ilanna by Mr. Herrick for the express purpose of giving Senator Hanna the benefit of his knowledge on the subject. I was just about to state that I had urged him to come to this country and make public addresses on the subject before chambers of commerce and other organizations, and he spoke English well enough to do that.