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HEARINGS BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE ON INTEROCEANIC
WASHINGTON, D. C., Thursday, January 11, 1906.
Present: Senators Millard (chairman), Kittredge, Dryden, Hopkins,
Also the Hon. William H. Taft, Secretary of War.
The committee thereupon proceeded with hearings under the following resolution of the Senate, adopted January 9, 1906:
Resolred, That the Committee on Interoceanic Canals, or any subcommittee thereof, be, and are hereby, authorized and directed to investigate all matters relating to the Panama Canal and the government of the Canal Zone and the management of the Panama Railroad Company, to send for persons and papers, and to administer oaths, and employ a stenographer to report such hearings; and that the committee bé authorized to sit during the sessions or recess of the Senate, and that all expenses thereof be paid out of the contingent fund of the Senate.
PRELIMINARY STATEMENT OF HON. WILLIAM H. TAFT, SECRE
TARY OF WAR.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator MILLARD). Gentlemen, we have asked the Secretary to come here this morning to explain to us the situation up to the present time. He is present now, and I presume we are ready
I to have him proceed with his statement. I think that if the Secretary will state the case himself, in his own way, it will be more satisfactory, to start with at least, than anything that we might suggest.
Secretary Taft. Mr. Chairman, I of course do not like to break into the order that the committee selects in this investigation. We are very anxious to have it just as thorough as possible, and to afford to the committee every possible opportunity for investigation. But I am sure the committee would wish to make its investigation square with the needs of the public service on the Isthmus. Mr. Stevens, the chief engineer, is now in the city. He is here primarily for the purpose of advising the Isthmian Canal Commission upon the issues which will be presented to them by the two reports--the majority report and the minority report-of the Consulting Board. I received this morning a cablegram from General Davis, the chairman, who went abroad to complete and have signed the majority report, saying that it will be mailed to-day, and will reach here in due course of mail.
I presume that when that report reaches here the minority report
filed a report in advance of having seen either of these reports, so I have no doubt that what he will have to say subsequently will be more in the nature of comment and much shorter than it would be if he had delayed action until the end. But he is very anxious to return to the Isthmus as soon as he completes that matter, and I was going to suggest to the committee that Mr. Stevens be first called, so that his testimony may be given in full before I am called, for l'am here all the time—that is, I hope to be.
I would also like to state that Major Gallagher, who was the assistant purchasing agent of the Commission, has been detailed to go to Manila. He is a major in the commissary department, and for, I think, nearly all of the time of the existence of the original Commission under Admiral Walker--part of the time, certainly; indeed, down to to-day-he has had more or less to do with the purchasing of materials for the Commission. And in case the committee desires to go into the question of those purchases, as doubtless it does and ought to, he would be an important witness with reference to many of the purchases.
Senator MORGAN. When does he have to go?
Secretary Taft. He sails the 1st of February, so that he would have to leave here probably the latter part of January.
The CHAIRMAN. He is in the city now, is he not? He lives here?
Secretary Tart. He is in the city now. I saw him this morning, and told him that I thought the committee would probably need his services. I presume (though of course I have no means of knowing other than natural inference) that my examination may be with reference to a good deal that these gentlemen who have done the things may testify to, and therefore what I can say would come naturally after they have testified. Therefore, I would ask the committee to excuse me and take up the examination of these gentlemen, whose presence here is only temporary, and whose going will greatly benefit, the one the army service and the other the canal service.
The CHAIRMAN. In conversation with Mr. Stevens yesterday, Mr. Secretary, I understood from him that he was anxious to get away as soon as possible; so that arrangement has been made with him to appear before the committee on Tuesday next, and he is to appear here at that time-at 10.30 on Tuesday next.
Secretary TAFT. Very well, then.
The CHAIRMAN. That is the regular meeting of the committee, and he will be here at that time.
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. As to Major Gallagher we have not fixed any time, because I assumed that the testimony of Mr. Stevens would probably take some little time.
Secretary Taft. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. But we can call on him later. I inferred from what you said yesterday that you would like to appear first and make the preliminary statement that you have now made.
Secretary Taft. Yes; I merely wanted to explain the general situa tion. Of course there are doubtless people now on the Isthmus whom the committee will desire to hear, and any communication sent to me will result in a cablegram direct to the Isthmus to have them come at once. You may ordinarily count on its taking about two weeks to get such persons here; not that it takes two weeks to come, but that that is the average, in connection with catching the steamer. The steamer comes once a week, and you ought to count on from ten days to two weeks in such cases.
The CHAIRMAN. Then, Mr. Secretary, I assume that there is no further reason for detaining you this morning?
Secretary Tart. Of course I am ready to answer any questions that may be asked.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you wish to ask the Secretary something this morning, Senator Morgan?
Senator MORGAN. No; I had no idea for what purpose Secretary Taft was being asked to come before the committee, and I have not yet, except to give us a general exposition or explanation of his views as to what would be and ought to be the policy of the Government, principally as to deciding upon the plan of the canal and its future operations.
Secretary Taft. I have on my desk, Senator Morgan, if the committee would like to have it—though it is not, perhaps, fair to give it publicity because of the absence of revision-the majority report of the Commission, prepared by General Davis after the resolutions of the majority bad been adopted. He says that a few substantive changes and many verbal changes have been made, but if it will assist the committee I will gather up those reports and send them up here. General Davis left nine copies with me, and I will be very glad to send them up, asking the committee, when the main report comes in, to destroy them, or at least to make such notes upon them that it will be understood that they are unrevised copies.
The CHAIRMAN. You would wish those to be kept strictly confidential, I suppose.
Secretary Taft. Yes, sir. I think it would hardly be fair to the majority to publish such a report as their report until they have had a chance to examine it and sign it. I did not know, however, but that an examination of this unrevised copy might afford an opportunity to the committee to do a little advance work, if they desire; because I of course assume that the range of this investigation will not only cover what has been done, but must necessarily cover the question of what ought to be done in the future.
Senator Knox. How soon will that report be revised?
Senator Knox. It will be revised in the light of the copy that is coming-is that the idea ? This draft which you have now will be corrected by the copy that is coming ?
Secretary TAFT. Exactly; exactly; and that will reach here, I should think, about the 20th of this month.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Secretary, do you understand that Mr. Stevens will remain here until after that copy comes?
Secretary Taft. He will not remain here until after it comes, unless the minority report is delayed until that time. But the gentlemen making up the minority report have had the benefit of this report. We have been pushing it as rapidly as we could, and it is quite posşible that the minority report may be filed any day. Mr. Stevens has already made his comments on the majority report; and when the minority report is filed, as soon as he completes his comments on that he
go-unless, of course, detained by the committee
The CHAIRMAN. He seemed, in his conversation with me yesterday, very anxious to get away,
Secretary TAFT. Yes; he is.
The CHAIRMAN. And I assume that Mr. Stevens's testimony here will be quite important and may take a little time.
Secretary TAFT. Yes.
Secretary TAFT. Yes; I should think it very likely. He has only been on the Isthmus since the 1st of July, but he has been exceedingly thorough and has decided views.
Senator GORMAN. Will there be any embarrassment, Mr. Secretary, or any impropriety, in your judgment, in having Mr. Stevens testify here and criticise both the majority and the minority reports prior to his official report to you and to the President?
Secretary Taft. Well, assuming that his statement would not be published, I do not think there would be any impropriety in it. I think it probably ought not to be given to the newspapers until after he has filed his regular report.
Senator GORMAN. It seems to me so.
Senator GORMAN. Not only to him, but I had in mind the question whether it was exactly the treatment that ought to be accorded to the President under the circumstances.
Secretary Taft. I am sure the President would waive any question of that sort and would be glad to have you look as fully as possible into his views.
Senator MORGAN. I would suggest to the committee, as to any paper that Secretary Taft chooses to present to us under the circumstances he has signified, that we keep the matter entirely private in the committee. It is not for our personal information. We will not communicate what he has said even to members of the Senate, because communications of that sort, received in the ordinary course, are not always considered as being entirely secret. I would suggest that whatever Secretary Taft chooses to submit to us in advance of the incoming of these reports should be regarded as matter entirely within the keeping of the committee-the committee secret, I will call it-until such time as he chooses to release us from that obligation; until such time as the report comes in.
Senator GORMAN. I doubt very much whether there ought to be more than one copy of that report here, so that there may be no question as to its being kept here.
Secretary Tart. It would be very much more convenient to me if I could limit what I send to one copy, because I would have to scrape up the others. There were only nine delivered; one went to the President, seven to the members of the Isthmian Canal Commission, and I have my own at home, which I shall be very glad to send to the chairman of the committee.
Senator MORGAN. It would be a great advantage, I should think, to have this opportunity for longer consideration before calling upon Mr. Stevens, because this is an emergent piece of work that we have to do, and we ought not to be required to do it in too great a hurry.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, Senators, is there anything other than what has been mentioned by the Secretary that you wish to talk with him about this morning? I anticipated that we would have a little longer