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Sailing through water does not always create a correct analogy. Some waters are private, others are public. Some are national, others international. Some channels are gated while others are thrown open and dedicated to the world's commerce. It is general for Congress to dredge only public streams although it was once charged that large sums were politically spent in dredging navigable streams in mountain districts.
The greater part of the expenditure for present dredging is in opening great tidal channels from 35 to 40 feet deep. This is not required for coastwise trade but for foreign ships; and these do not compete with the railroads. These river highways are dedicated freely to the use of all without favor or distinction and in entire harmony with the practice of other nations over their national rivers. What would the world think if we permitted our ships to sail our rivers free, and at the same time charged tolls to foreign ships? There would surely be retaliation and perhaps a “boycott."
But our rivers are wholly under the jurisdiction of the United States and have been since the Revolution. They are owned by the States but navigation is controlled by the nation. If we dig a new canal within our States we are not compelled to go into interminable international negotiations and treaty-making to secure the right. It is domestic entirely until we openly and irrevocably dedicate it to the world's use.
Should our nation purchase and own the Delaware Canal, and bar it against all ships except domestic vessels, the world could have no complaint, even if we freed our ships from toll. As to foreigners this would be a private canal. We could dredge or not dredge; charge or not charge. But the Welland, the Sault, the Suez and the Panama Canal are not of this private character; they are dedicated, public and treaty-regulated canals. The first two are free to all by treaty; while the last two are toll canals by treaty and diplomacy.
Similar rules cannot legally, logically or sensibly govern dissimilar institutions. The Panama Canal is in no way similar to the national rivers. They are different in origin and control; hence are in no way similar in legal status.
Mr. C. E. Dobson of Pensacola, Fla., giving testimony before the Senate Committee, April, 1914, made a clear and entirely original distinction between the rivers and the Panama Canal. It was this: The rivers lead from the ocean to some domestic port or terminus; while the Panama Canal is not a terminus but a link connecting the countries of the world with one another. The canal was not built to give traffic from New York or London to Panama city; nor yet for traffic from San Francisco to Colon; but its whole purpose was to connect the two great oceans, and thus, was to be not a river but in principle a part of the oceans; and was built with the definite purpose of being a toll canal.
The objections were mostly what may be termed obstructive arguments; arguments thrown across the pathway to prevent the moving forward of the forces of science, logic, justice and correct legal interpretation. The stronger arguments prevailed and the exemption was repealed.
The Philadelphia Ledger of June 14, 1914, in its editorial, speaking of the “repeal act,” most graphically and correctly says, "the objectors were argued out of court."
The passage of the repeal cannot be claimed a victory either for the Democrats, the Republicans or the Progressives; nor yet even by England. But it was the victory of the whole body of our people for the credit, and benefit of the American Nation.
THE SENATE COMMITTEE.
The Interoceanic Canal Committee of the Senate comprised the following:
James A. O'Gorman, N. Y.
Crawford, S. Dak.
The Committee began the tolls repeal hearing April 7, 1914 and continued the taking of testimony until April 27. The report of the testimony and the documents introduced constitute a volume of 1022 closely printed pages. Witnesses appeared both by suhpoena and voluntarily. Every one having any plea to make, on either side, was given an opportunity of being heard, and was treated with respect and courtesy.
It was a remarkable hearing; men from every part of the nation appeared and gave earnest testimony in support of their side of the controversy. These witnesses consisted of, senators, ex-senators, lawyers, college professors, doctors, ship-owners, merchants, chamber of commerce men, economists, statisticians and diplomats.
Some of these made extended oral statements and were cross-examined fully by the committee; others sent long printed arguments; all phases of the canal question were critically examined and no interests were neglected. The committee sought all possible light on questions of law, of treaty interpretation, of international practice and custom and of the history of the proposed canals across the isthmus; evidence was heard respecting proceedings in the Senate when the two Hay-Pauncefote treaties were before it for ratification; there were also produced all letters and documents relating to the negotiations between England and America leading up to the signing of the treaties.
Witnesses naturally differed according to their personal and financial interests; and sometimes political considerations influenced their opinions. Still the committee acted most judicially and intently listened to all. When they came to weigh the testimony they were as far apart as the witnesses had been. Not being able to agree they submitted the evidence to the Senate without any recommendation.
The case may have been hastened through the House, but the Senate—both in the committee and before the full body, acted with the utmost care and deliberation. The arguments in the open Senate were comprehensive and upon the highest plane. All argued to their complete satisfaction. Every one felt the responsibility resting upon him and voted as duty dictated. The exemption law was repealed with a reservation that the nation waived no right, that it held under the treaties which it had entered into with England and Panama.
The case was so thoroughly considered from all view points that there is no reason why the conclusion reached should not be lasting and a final adjustment of the tolls question, unless other and new complications should arise. It should be considered by all parties as a final and irreversible judgment.
THE TOLL REPEAL BILL AS SENATE
Be it enacted, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, that the second sentence in Section 5 of the act entitled "An act to provide for the opening, maintenance, protection and operation of the Panama Canal, and the sanitation and government of the canal zone, approved August 24, 1912, which reads as follows:
"No tolls shall be levied upon vessels engaged in the coastwise trade of the United States," be and the same is hereby repealed.
Sec. 2. That the third sentence of the third paragraph of said section of said Act be so amended as to read as follows: "When based upon net registered tonnage for ships of commerce the tolls shall not exceed $1.25 per net registered ton, nor be less than 75 cents per net registered ton, subject, however, to the provisions of article nineteen of the convention between the United States and the Republic of Panama, entered into November eighteenth, nineteen hundred and
· three:" Provided, That the passage of this act shall not be construed or held as a waiver or relinquishment of any right the United States may have under the treaty with Great Britain ratified the 21st of February, 1902, or the treaty with the Republic of Panama, ratified February 26, 1904, or otherwise to discriminate in favor of its vessels by exempting the vessels of the United States or its citizens from the payment of tolls for passage through said canal, or as in any way waiving, impairing or affecting any right of the United States under said treaties, or otherwise, with respect to the sovereignty over or the ownership, control and