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discuss them. They have no standing or authority in an international dispute of this character.
When the party platforms were adopted in 1912, this question was not an international, or national, issue. Only those people who took official part in formulating, negotiating and ratifying the treaties, and passing this act of Congress, were familiar with the terms of the treaties, and the intent of the high contracting parties as shown by contemporaneous acts and previous representations.
This is the first time the matter has ever confronted the American people as a live issue. The protest of a great and friendly nation made it impossible, in any degree of reasonableness or honor, to await the outcome of any
kind of available national referendum.
Besides, it is not a national or domestic matter, but a diplomatic and international question of law and honor, based upon a record made up-a completed record. The unanimous vote of the American electorate, in favor of the act, and against the position of the President, would not change the facts, and the plain rights of the parties in connection with the international agreement under which the Panama Canal Zone was leased by the United States, the canal was built and must be operated, unless the agreement between the contracting powers is changed. The Constitution of the United States is
and not a party platform if there is a conflict.
Article VI, Section 2 of the United States Constitution:
“This Constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the
United States, shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in any State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."
Members of Congress take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States on entering upon the duties of the office. That is more binding on them than a party platform. There ought to be no conflict between party platform and Constitution. If there is, the party platform should be revised at the earliest opportunity. Action should be in harmony with the Constitution.
We cannot understand the reasoning and the sense of proportion by which men with apparently the best and most honorable intentions, have placed adherence to party planks higher than a nation's solemn international obligations.
As stated in the preface to this work many entirely sincere persons have been led astray on the subject of Panama Canal tolls-exemption by the popular assumption of an entirely false promise as to the record title to the strip of land called the Canal Zone. Article XIV of the treaty with Panama states:
“As the price or compensation for the rights, powers and privileges granted in this convention by the Republic of Panama to the United States (notice, sovereignty is not mentioned] the Government of the United States agrees to pay $10,000,000 in gold coin of the United States on the exchange of the ratification of this convention and also an annual payment during the life of this convention, of $250,000 in like gold coin, beginning nine years after the date aforesaid.”
It expressly states that only rights are granted and that during the life of the convention. These rights are granted for a price. The main reason for the attitude of most people, other than those interested in getting a discrimination in favor of coastwise shipping, is an impression, created by newspaper editorials, that the United States owns the Canal Zone, and that like the Erie and other canals it runs through our territory.
That phase of the matter is well covered in an editorial of a New York afternoon paper dated March 27, headed the “Panama Lease.” It expresses the situation on that subject as shown by the record.
“When the canal strip was acquired it was not contended that this country had acquired sovereignty. The matter is discussed in President Roosevelt's message of January 4, 1904, written after the Panama revolution and the negotiation of the treaty with the new republic. The act of Congress of June 28, 1902, covering the preliminaries for the building of the canal, authorized the President to acquire from Colombia 'perpetual control of a strip of land six miles wide over which this country, under the lease, was to have governmental jurisdiction. The HayHerran treaty negotiated with Colombia, whose rejection by Colombia precipitated the Panama revolution, so provided in practically the same language as that contained in the later treaty with Panama. In the message of January 4, 1901, Mr. Roosevelt discussed whether the HayHerran treaty conferred on us sovereign rights and whether Colombia was warranted in rejecting the treaty on this account. Says the message:
“ 'The treaty, instead of requiring a cession of
Colombia's sovereignty over the canal strip, expressed, acknowledged, confirmed and preserved her sovereignty
“It was never asserted until lately that the canal is exclusively our property. It was proclaimed over and over again that it was to be a neutral waterway for the benefit of the commerce of the world, with only so much control over it by us as was necessary to enable us to guarantee its neutrality and to provide properly for its guardianship and operation."
Senator McCumber says:
“When we build a canal in the United States we do not make a contract with any other nation. The fact that we did make a contract with another nation concerning the Panama Canal presupposes that we did not have a free hand to do just as we pleased, but that we were compelled to secure certain rights, and that to secure those rights we naturally were compelled to bind ourselves to certain conditions to do something on our part. And what we want to arrive at is what we agreed to do.
“The remission of tolls to our coastwise vessels, or to any other vessels belonging to the citizens of the United States or of any other country, is a clear violation of our international agreement. When the Senate of the United States voted in favor of the Hay-Pauncefote treaty it did so on the clear and unequivocal understanding that this treaty on which it was voting, irrespective of any and all previous utterances and declarations of the Government, and irrespective of whether the old Clayton-Bulwer treaty was alive or dead, did bind this country to treat all vessels
of the world on an equality with our own vessels. I will not say that there might not have been some individual Senator who might have carried in the secret chambers of his mind a conviction that he could at some future time, if called upon, give the treaty a different construction. What I do say is that if he had any such conviction he did not publicly disclose it in the debates, and he knew that the Senate as a body and the Committee on Foreign Relations which reported the treaty, as clearly shown in its reports, did understand that the treaty did bind us to this equality of treatment. And while there was a vigorous minority report by Senator Morgan, that minority report took no issue, but confirmed the construction placed upon the treaty by the majority.
“With these two reports before the Senate it would be a slander upon both its judgment and its sense of integrity to say that while without a word of protest it voted for this treaty that it nevertheless so voted with a secret conviction that these committee reports, which gave a certain construction to the Hay-Pauncefote treaty-a construction in harmony with the views of Secretary Hay and Lord Pauncefote-could at some future time be repudiated.
"I put this question squarely up to Senators on both sides of this Chamber: Admitting that the treaty by its terms does not preclude a construction authorizing us to discriminate in favor of our own vessels, but that both countries understood that it did so, that both Mr. Hay and Lord Pauncefote understood that it did preclude us from discriminating in favor of our vessels, and that the Senate when it confirmed the treaty knew that the parties under