« ÎnapoiContinuați »
with the Government, and that there is no difficulty and no glut at all with respect to the goods going from Panama to Valparaiso and along down that coast.
Senator KNOx. What direct interest has the Government in the facilities for transportation between Colon and San Francisco?
Secretary TAFT. It is a three weeks' trip, as compared with a week's trip. Perhaps I exaggerate by saying three weeks; it is a little more than two weeks by an ordinary steamer from Panama to San Francisco, and of course that makes the trade of the Canal Commission from New York to Colon a great deal larger than that from San Francisco to Panama. And I can not say that for the reason alone of furnishing facilities for the construction of the canal the establishment of that line would be a proper move.
Senator GORMAN. You can not say that?
Secretary TAFT. I should like to look further into that matter, but I am inclined to think that it would hardly be justified; that the outlay for that alone would hardly be justified. I think we could do business and not lose money by it; but, while I do not mean to say that you could not make an argument and shape the matter so as to give that as a nominal reason, my impression is that if there were no other consideration in the matter it would not be justified. I say that with reservation, because I have not given the question as full investigation as I ought to; but that is my impression.
Senator HOPKINS. Mr. Secretary, if the Government could transact business there in the way of transportation at a profit, why does not that call in private enterprise to do that business, outside of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company?
Senator MORGAN. The coastwise laws cut it off.
Senator HOPKINS. Oh, no; American capital could invest in vessels or transports.
Secretary TAFT. Well, I do not know; it probably depends upon the question of how much profit there would be. The profit, if any, would be comparatively small, because, of course, the vessels would have to run under the coastwise laws and the statutes with reference to the character of men that are employed, their being American seamen, and all that sort of thing; wages would have to be paid according to the American standard, and I doubt if we would make a very great profit.
Senator KNOX. Am I correct in this understanding that waiving, now, the question of the desirability of the people having a better means of transportation from Panama north (for, of course, that ought to be facilitated as far as the Government can properly concern itself in the matter), the only immediate interest the Government would have would be in the increase to some extent of the business upon the Panama Railroad?
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir; and it would thus get rid in its own way of the freight that accumulates.
Senator KNOx. The congestion there?
Secretary TAFT. The congestion there.
Senator KNOX. But it is only because of the Government's ownership of the railroad that it would have a direct interest?
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir; that is all. I reserve the right to change my statement with reference to this, however, should investigation give me a different view. But that is my impression.
Senator KNOX. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Secretary, during the month of October the congestion at Colon, and, in fact, all the way over the road, I think, was very different from what it is now, was it not?
Secretary TAFT. Oh, yes. The congestion, so far as the railroad is concerned, has been relieved, because they have put in two docks at Cristobal, which is a part of Colon-it is only five minutes' walk from Colon and steamers are taken in there, and under Mr. Stevens's very efficient pushing the whole situation has been changed. The glut last summer was really due to some thirty or forty days' quarantine against Panama during the yellow-fever season, which kept the steamers from coming in to take what was there for them to take. It was an exag gerated case of what now exists with reference to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, because then no steamers were permitted to come in.
Senator MORGAN. That is a question in which I feel a great deal of interest, because I happen to be the Chairman of the Committee on Public Health of the Senate.
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir.
Senator MORGAN. And I would like to ask you whether that quarantine was declared at San Francisco?
Secretary TAFT. I am not sure whether it was from the Mexican ports; I think it was from San Francisco, too, but certainly from the Mexican ports-certainly from those ports that these steamers had to call at in coming down, Mexican and Central American ports.
Senator MORGAN. I wish to call your attention to the fact that we have pending in the Senate now a convention to which Mexico and seven or eight of the South American States are parties for the purpose of controlling the quarantine, particularly in respect of yellow fever; and it may be that the Government will find it to its interest to examine into that question to see whether or not we had not better put in this convention (if it is not already there) some protection against this very condition which has obstructed the business of the Government in the construction of the Panama Canal very seriously for two or three months. One case of bubonic plague there kept the whole concern under quarantine for two or three months.
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir.
Senator MORGAN. That is an impossible condition so far as we are concerned. We can not build that canal if we are to be obstructed with quarantines from foreign countries in that way, you know, particularly from American States.
Secretary TAFT. On the other hand, Senator, we are engaged in the work of making the Isthmus healthful.
Senator MORGAN. I know it.
Secretary TAFT. And it is a center about which, I suppose, there are as many unhealthy ports as there are in the world, on both sides. As you come down from Mexico and through Central America, and then down to Cartagena and the Venezuelan ports on the Atlantic side, and as you go down the South American coast and up the Mexican coast on the other side, there are places where they are continually having epidemics of smallpox, bubonic plague, yellow fever, and cholera. The attitude of the inhabitants in the Isthmus is quite according to human nature. They regard themselves as immune from yellow fever, and immune, many of them, from other diseases that are
quarantined against; but when bubonic plague comes in they take to the hills, because they fear that. As a matter of fact, I think bubonic plague is rather the most easily controlled of the lot.
Senator MORGAN. But these various unhealthy localities of which you speak have the right or power to obstruct our commerce and our work on that canal to a degree that is absolutely intolerable. They have the power to do it?
Secretary Taft. Yes, sir ; they have that power. But, on the other hand, we want to exercise a very strict quarantine ourselves.
Senator MORGAN. I know you do.
Secretary Taft. In order to preserve the health that is absolutely essential to the construction of this canal.
Senator MORGAN. Well, it is a great question. I merely call your attention to it that you may reflect upon
Secretary Taft. Yes, sir.
Senator GORMAN. Mr. Secretary, this suggestion as to not putting on proper steamers between Panama and San Francisco and leaving the freight to accumulate is the result of your order breaking up the monopoly, is it not?
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir.
Senator Gorman. It was intended as a punishment for that action of yours?
Secretary Taft. Yes, sir; that is it. Senator GORMAN. Will not the volume of trade soon correct itself? Secretary Tart. I am hopeful that it may. We shåll use every effort that we can to induce some other company to come in there, possibly with a suggestion that the situation might become so intolerable as to require Government action, and see what negotiation will do. I do not despair of the situation at all; I only brought it before the committee to explain a ditficulty that presents itself there.
Senator GORMAN. Do they obstruct you on this side, between New York and Colon?
Secretary Taft. No, sir; we have our own line there.
Senator GORMAN. I know; but with their steamships is there any attempt or any evidence there of obstruction!
Secretary Taft. They have none on our side. The Panama Railroad Company was doing a little monopolistic business of its own on this side. It controlled all the wharves at Colon, and it doubtless made profitable this arrangement with the Pacific Mail Steamship Company by shutting out everybody on the Atlantic side. Wharf charges and facilities for berthing and all that sort of thing were made with a view to having no other company in there at all but the Panama Railroad Company. Under our direction that bas been changed. There is a competing company, the Royal Mail Steamship Company, that runs from London to New York, to Jamaica, to Cristobal, and then back again to Jamaica, and the steamers of that company offer better facilities for passengers, I believe, than our own steamers.
Senator Gorman. That is an English line!
Secretary TAFT. That is an English line; yes, sir. In other words, we have no desire to exercise our powers to shut out any body. We want to make the trade down there as free as possible.
The CHAIRYAN. Mr. Secretary, is there not a German line also at the present time.
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir; there is a German line; but does the German line come from New York?
The CHAIRMAN. I thought it did.
Secretary Tard. Oh, there are both German and French lines that come directly from Europe.
The CHAIRMAN. I thought there was also a German line running to New York?
Secretary Taft. It is possible that there is.
Senator Knox. Mr. Secretary, if the Pacific Mail Steamship Com pany should persevere in that policy to such an extent as to become a nuisance to the Government by reason of the congestion of freight on the Isthmus, and work an injustice on shippers, do you see any reason why, under our coastwise laws, we should not impose some penalty on the company for not giving people proper facilities? We have absolute jurisdiction over that question.
Secretary Tard. Oh, I think you might very well do it. Of course service rendered in that way is not always very good service; but still
Senator Knox. Well, it is akin to the law that is enforced now with respect to railroads, that they must furnish proper facilities and equal facilities, and not by their perverseness hamper commerce instead of carrying it on.
Secretary TAFT. Yes, sir; I would be glad if, in this matter, you examined Mr. Stevens at considerable length, because he is familiar with the details of it.
Senator Knox. That would be a very direct way of getting at the facts.
Secretary TAFT. Yes, it would.
Secretary TAFT. It would; and I may add that we have troubles enough. We have no desire to go into business on the Pacific side, I can assure you.
Senator HOPKINS. I should think that a new line of steamers could be established there, or that these tramp steamers that are owned by Americans could take the trade.
Secretary Taft. There are practically no tramp steamers owned by Americans, however.
Senator GORMAN. You must have a line of steamers, too, must you not?
Secretary Taft. Yes, sir; youmust have regular sailings if you are going to do any business that is worth the doing. Of course there is this consideration: The minute such a thing is suggested in California it will meet the wild acclaim of everybody on that coast; and I rather hope that this matter will not be given publicity, because the people there desire just that thing-that we should establish a governmental line on that side as well as on this.
Senator GORMAN. That is true.
Secretary Taft. And the pressure from there would be very great if it became known that there was any reason for hoping that such a thing might be done.
(The hour of 12 o'clock having arrived, Secretary Taft was excused for the present, with the thanks of the committee, and the committee adjourned until Tuesday, January 16, 1906, at 10.30 o'clock a. m.)