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HEARINGS ON THE RAINEY RESOLUTION
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
JANUARY 26 AND FEBRUARY 9, 1912
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
[Committee room, gallery floor, west corridor. Telephone 230. Meets on call.]
Mr. SULZER (chairman). Gentlemen of the committee, we will take up this morning Mr. Rainey's resolution relating to Panama. The resolution reads as follows:
[H. Res. 32. Sixty-Second Congress, first session.]
Whereas a former President of the United States has declared that he "took" Panama from the Republic of Colombia without consulting Congress; and
Whereas the Republic of Colombia has ever since petitioned this country to submit to The Hague Tribunal the legal and equitable question whether such taking was in accordance with or in violation of the treaty then existing between the two countries, and also whether such taking was in accordance with or in violation of the well-established principles of the law of nations; and
Whereas the Government of the United States professes its desire to submit all international controversies to arbitration and has conducted treaties with many other nations agreeing to submit all legal questions to arbitration, but has steadily refused arbitration to the Republic of Colombia: Therefore be it
Resolved, That the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives be, and the same hereby is, directed to inquire into the same; send for books, papers, and documents; summon witnesses; take testimony; and report the same, with its opinion and conclusions thereon, to this House with all convenient speed.
Mr. Rainey, you can proceed.
Mr. RAINEY. Mr. Chairman, the hearing the committee has so kindly accorded me is on House resolution 32, of the first session of the present Congress, which I introduced on the 16th day of last April.
At the present time before this committee it is my purpose to make out, if I can, a prima facie case, and I think when we get through presenting the evidence to the committee you will agree that we have made out something more than a prima facie case.
Now, in the first place, it might be important for the committee to know just what the propositions of Colombia are in this matter in order to show you the things Colombia could not ask for under her own proposition.
On October 21, 1905, the Colombian minister at Washington presented to our State Department a recapitulation of the events which preceded the alleged revolution on the Isthmus of Panama and asked for arbitration, and in a subsequent note on April 6, 1906, he had this to say in a letter to our State Department:
I note the fact that in your communication (Secretary Root's) it is stated for the first time on behalf of your Government that the United States espoused the cause of Panama, the language being:
"Nor are we willing to permit any arbitrator to determine the political policy of the United States in following its sense of right and justice by espousing the cause of this weak people against the stronger Government of Colombia, which had so long held them in unlawful subjection."
I must say that the question between Colombia and the United States is not whether Panama was justly entitled to assert independence, but whether the United
States was under obligation by treaty or by principles of international law, not to do the things which it is admitted were done by the United States after the declaration of Panama's independence was made.
If the acts of the United States were lawful and right this loss must fall upon Colombia. If, on the other hand, this loss was wrongfully occasioned by acts of the United States done in violation of the provisions of the treaty by which the United States has obligated itself or in violation of principles of international law to which the United States has assented, then the United States is lawfully bound to compensate Colombia for the damage thus done to her.
In order to facilitate a decision by the Government of the United States in case it can not yet see that it is lawfully bound to compensate Colombia, I propose, on behalf of Colombia, that the United States and Colombia forthwith enter into a convention for the purpose of securing an impartial judgment upon the following strictly legal questions:
1. Did the treaty of 1846 obligate the United States to maintain the sovereignty of Colombia over the Isthmus of Panama against menace or attack from any foreign power and against internal disturbances that might jeopardize said sovereignty.
2. Did the treaty of 1846 obligate the United States to refrain from taking steps which would hinder Colombia in maintaining her sovereignty over Panama by suppressing rebellion, revolution, secession, or internal disorder.
3. Did the treaty of 1846 grant to the United States the right to take those steps which it is admitted were taken by the United States to prevent the landing of troops in Panama and the suppression of the rebellion?
4. Did the treaty of 1846 leave the United States free lawfully to take the step which it is admitted by the United States were taken as regards Panama?
5. Did these acts of the United States which it is admitted were taken prevent Colombia from taking the steps necessary to suppress the rebellion and to maintain her sovereignty over the Isthmus?
6. Were the admitted acts of the United States in respect to Panama in violation of principles of international law which have been recognized by the United States as binding upon nations in their dealings with each other?
7. What damage, if any, has been occasioned to Colombia by acts of the United States, which are admitted by the United States, and which may be adjudged as having been in violation of obligations imposed upon the United States by the treaty of 1846 or by principles of international law to which the United States has assented.
The CHAIRMAN. The treaty of 1846 was in force at the time of the establishment of the Panama Republic?
Mr. RAINEY. Yes, sir. It was in force at the time, and the treaty of 1846 contained the provision which I will read now to the committee. The committee is familiar, of course, with these things and with much of the evidence which I propose to produce this morning. What I now want to do, in order to assist the committee, is to assemble the available evidence on this question so that it may be presented together. Now, it exists in a great many different places and it is a difficult matter to find it.
The treaty of 1846 contained this provision:
The United States guarantees positively and efficaciously to New Granada, by the present stipulation, the perfect neutrality of the before-mentioned Isthmus, with the view that the free transit from one to the other sea may not be interrupted or embarrassed in any future time while this treaty exists; and in consequence, the United States also guarantees in the same manner the rights of sovereignty and property which New Granada has and possesses over said territory.
That the treaty which was in full force on the 3d day of November, 1903, when the revolution occurred. Two days afterwards our State Department directed our representative on the Isthmus to enter into relations with the Republic of Panama. On the 18th day of November-less than two weeks-about two weeks after the revolution on the Isthmus, we entered into a treaty with Panama, the very first section of which reads as follows:
The United States guarantees and will maintain the independence of the Republic of Panama.
There was in force on the 3d day of November, and on the 18th day of November, between the United States and New Granada, now Colombia, a treaty by which the United States guaranteed to Colombia the rights of sovereignty and of property which Colombia had on the Isthmus of Panama. Without the consent of Colombia and against her protest, and she has been protesting ever since, the United States at the same time with this treaty in full force guaranteed to the new Republic of Panama its independence as against the sovereignty of Colombia, which we guaranteed to protect.
Mr. SHARP. What date did the United States guarantee the independence of the Republic of Panama?
Mr. RAINEY. The treaty was concluded on the 18th day of November, 1903. It was ratified by the Senate on the 23d day of February, 1904. It was ratified by the President on the 25th day of February, 1904; ratifications were exchanged on the same day; and it was proclaimed on the 26th day of February, 1904.
Mr. SHARP. In regard to the protests to which you referred a moment ago, of the United States of Colombia against the United States recognition of the Republic of Panama, how recently have those formal protests been made?
Mr. RAINEY. They have been continued until the present moment. Mr. SHARP. In what form?
Mr. RAINEY. Various letters between the representatives of Colombia and our State Department and, last of all, perhaps, a protest of the representative of Colombia here against the speech made by President Roosevelt out on the Pacific coast in which he admitted that he took Panama": and he said in effect there were two courses for him to pursue, either to do as had been done I am not quoting him exactly or submit a State document to Congress, which Congress would be debating yet. But he said, "I took the Isthmus, and while the debate goes on now the work on the canal goes on also." The letter I have mentioned is a most vigorous protest made by Colombia against the taking of the Isthmus.
Mr. SHARP. What date was that--not to be exact, but within the past year?
Mr. RAINEY. Yes, sir: within the past year. It was, I think, last April.
Mr. SHARP. Now further. What remedy or reparation
Mr. RAINEY. I might also say with reference to the present minister from Colombia, who has been here only a short time, that one of his first acts was to protest again to the State Department, again asking for an arbitration of this question.
Mr. SHARP. The Republic of Panama has now been in existence and for many years recognized by this country, which, of course, doesn't make it at all right; I don't claim that it does, but having been in existence for a number of years, having formed a Government and exercised governmental functions, what remedy or reparation at this time does the United States of Colombia expect to secure, either by the adoption of this resolution or any other form of procedure?
Mr. RAINEY. Certainly not the return of her territory. Certainly not the abandonment of any of our property on the zone. Colombia is still demanding that we submit the matter to arbitration with a view of ascertaining whether there has been a violation of the law of