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STORY OF THE YOUNGEST REPUBLIC
With Some Side Lights on the Historic Drama of 1903, in which the Interests of three Countries Were Involved.
Although four years have elapsed since the Republic of Panama took its place in the ranks of the world's free and independent nations, the dramatic events that led up to and surrounded the secessionary movement have never been clearly understood. Links have been missing, and some perhaps are still missing, in the chain of circumstances, the forging of which began with the negotiations for a canal treaty between the United States and Colombia; reached the white-heat stage in the revolutionary incidents of 1903, culminating in the tempered and finished period of the
ing a cosmopolitan population peculiar to itself is not strictly speaking a sea-faring community. The linguistic accomplishments of its people has often been remarked. It is rare to find among the educated classes a person whose means of expression is confined to one tongue or language. It is not unusual to hear half a dozen languages used at once in any chance crowd. Gibraltar with its "rock scorpions has a world-wide reputation for a Babel of tongues, while large cities like London, New York and Paris brace widely different races, but we venture to say for its size there is no successful rival in this small world of ours equal to the polyglot city of Panama.-From the Panama "Star and Herald", January 26, 1877, at that time edited in three languages.
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present, as represented by the impending treaty with Colombia, in which amicable relations between Panama and the mother country bid fair to be restored. Mr. F. L. Rockwood who has furnished The Pilot and Guide with much information in connection with this article, was a resident of the Colombian Capital while these events were taking place, and speaks of the situation there from personal knowledge. The plot and the cast have been at hand. The dramatization only has been lacking. -Editor.
Why the Colombian Treaty Failed.
It is necessary to take a dispassionate view from both sides to understand the events that put in action the separation from Colombia, and made the Republic of Panama a reality. When the United States undertook to negotiate a canal treaty with Colombia in the earlier part of 1903, one of the important and leading figures of the latter country, of whom there is very little known outside, was Dr. Josè M. Marroquin, a man then about 67 years of age, of excellent character and reputation, and by profession a doctor of laws. The sudden retirement of President Sanclamente brought Marroquin into the presidency as a representative of the Conservative party, otherwise known as
the Clerical party from its deference to the Church in affairs of state and administration of laws. The government at the capital at the time of Marroquin's ascendancy was dominated by an unprincipled political faction whose policy was rule or ruin, and paved the way for the long and wasteful three years' war. With the return of peace and the assembling of Congress, the government found itself still dominated by this faction in both branches, which was worse than the open revolutions of the Liberal party.
It is but just to state that the Colombian Congress contained many patriotic and high-minded men who endeavored to act for their country's good, but the factional element was for getting the government into their hands at any cost and incidentally the control of the $20,000,000 national annual income, compared to which the Isthmus and the canal cut but a secondary figure. They had as their leader Gen. Velez, who was slated for the presidency if a change could be effected.
At the time when the war of the revolution was in full swing on the Isthmus, President Marroquin appealed for help from the United States Government to preserve order there in favor of his government, especially along the line of railroad, promising in return that when the revolution was over, he would sign a canal treaty, thereby pledging the word of his country as its president. The United States landed troops and thereafter until the cessation of hostilities kept the transit clear.
Then came the assembling of the Colombian Congress for the discussion of the proposed canal treaty, and President Marroquin was informed that he would not be allowed to comply with his word unless authorized by it, despite the special powers that had previously been conferred upon him for this purpose, in which the honor of his country was compromised.
The Colombian Congress was duly put on notice concerning action on the treaty as evidenced by the following
memorandum presented by the United States Minister at Bogota to the Colombian Government, June 13th, 1903:
Sir:----I have received instructions from my government by cable to the effect that the Government of Colombia, by all appearances, does not fully appreciate the gravity of the situation. The negotiations for the sale of the canal at Panama were initiated by Colombia, and were urgently solicited from my government for many years. The propositions presented by Colombia, with a few modifications, were finally adopted by the United States. In virtue of this agreement our Congress revoked its previous decision, and decided for the Panama route. If Colombia now rejects the treaty, or unduly delays its ratificati n, the amicable relations existing between the two countries will be so seriously compromised that our Congress in its next session may adopt measures that may be regretted by all friends of Colombia.
This evidently had no impression on the dominant faction in the Colombian Congress, as indicated in the following cables to the Panama Star & Herald:
Bogota, July 7, 1903.
Gen. Velez, leader of the opposition said, "My countrymen are opposed to the treaty as it now stands, as they do not think that the United States has been generous enough in the terms offered.
Bogota, July 8, 1903.
About President Marroquin signing the canal treaty, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in a much applauded speech answered all of Caro's arguments, finally convincing the Senate tha THEY must approve the canal treaty before the President's signature.
It was apparent to President Marroquin that the factional element was using the canal question to place him out of power and bring their following into control of the government, and that to attain this object they were ready and perfectly willing to sacrifice the canal treaty.
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After two months or more of debate in both houses
the treaty came to a vote in the lower branch of Congress and was endorsed by that body. It then went to the Senate. where Velez and his following had made all preparations to fight it to the last ditch. The result appears in the cable herewith:
Bogota, August 12, 1903.
The Hay-Herran canal treaty was defeated in the Colombian Senate to-day.
Immediately the result became known, President Marroquin adopted a course which had for its object the placing of the dominant political faction in the Colombian Senate in a corner at any cost. He made up his that as president of the country his word would be Complied with indirectly, if it could not be directly, and accordingly appointed Don Domingo de Obaldia, who was pronounced and outspoken in the interests