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an examination of a lot of these boxes and packages where they belonged, and we persuaded our southern connections, the two steamship lines running down to South America on the west coast, to take that freight and try and find out who it belonged to.
In the case of some of it we never could find out who it belonged to. We had to pay the claims as they came in, and we have reduced those down until there are very few packages the ownership of which we do not know. In the case of some of them the records are gone, and we are simply selling them by auction, and taking our chances on paying the claims. We are cleaning them up.
I found in the Colon dock alone I suppose twenty carloads of freight, some of which had been held in storage for the middlemen, the so-called wholesalers, in Colon. Some of it had been on our docks four and five and six months. In other words, everybody was using our dock as a warehouse. We found that instead of being common carriers we were in the warehouse business.
Now, of course, a railroad dock is not a warehouse. It is simply a platform to facilitate the exchange of freight between the railroad and the steamer, and vice versa, and the moment you commence to use it for a warehouse for your own freight or anyone else's you might as well throw up your hands. You can not do it; you simply can not do it.
Senator TALIAFERRO. That condition which you described as existing on the docks was, then, due to the mismanagement of the railroad?
Mr. STEVENS. I did not put it that way. I said that I did not think that the methods they were using, Senator, were modern and such as I would approve of. As soon as I could do so—it took me about thirty days to get the man I wanted—I made a change in the active superintendent of the railway. The gentleman who was there is a very fine man, a gentleman. He came to me and acknowledged that the job was too big for him, and that he ought to be relieved; and he was, promptly.
We went to work on that question. I devoted a great deal of my time to it, with the superintendent, and, as I say, we have succeeded in getting that situation cleaned up, and until within the last ten or twelve days it has been absolutely normal. In fact, some of the Panamaian merchants have come to me—and they are not people who joke very much-and have complained that they used to order their freight about three or four months ahead, and then forget all about it, until finally they found it was in Colon (if it came from New York), and then they would go over and get it themselves and see it shipped over. Now," they say, “we gave an order here only three weeks ago, and the first thing we know the freight is here in Panama, and we are told to come and get it out of the way;" and they said, “ We don't like that, because we don't want that freight vet." However, that has nothing to do with the subject here.
You spoke about the congestion arising from the quarantine. About the time that we had gotten nearly back to normal, I think in September, without a minute's warning the Guatamalan, the Costa Rican, and, I think, the southwestern Mexican ports put an absolute embargo and quarantine on any freight from Panama; and while we were receiving almost daily cargoes at the northern end of Colon. we were prevented from getting rid of a ton of freight at the other end. You can imagine the situation that ensued. It was only a few days before our docks were full and our cars were full, and we could not move a wheel.
That situation lasted, as I remember, for twenty or thirty days. And finally-I do not know how it was done; Governor Magoon took it up in some way-we succeeded in getting the quarantine raised. When that was raised we got some ships in there and relieved the congestion at the south end, and everything resumed the normal course until since I have been here, within the last ten or twelve days. In that time we have had an accumulation of freight there, which is altogether northbound freight, which goes by the Pacific Mail. The only steamship connections we have for points north of Panama, as far as San Francisco, are by the Pacific Mail; and I get reports by cable every three or four days of the freight situation, and know every ton of freight and where it is destined for, while I am gone from there. I found that our freight was piling up, and upon asking for an explanation from the superintendent I got this cable—that on December 16 (I left there on the 12th) the Pacific Mail steamer left La Boca light, leaving about 800 tons of freight on the dock consigned to Pacific Mail. On the 16th she left 1,900 tons and went away light. On the 26th, which was another day of regular sailing, the agent says he never even saw the smoke of the ship, leaving them with their freight on their hands.
Senator HOPKINS. Why was that? Do you know?
Mr. STEVENS. Of course I took that up at once with Mr. Shonts and Mr. Schwearin, the general manager; and Secretary Taft has the full correspondence, or a copy of it. I have not it with me, but here are a couple of letters that I got this morning from the superintendent. I do not know where they have been so long; they are dated January 4. If any of you care to read them they will give you an explanation of the matter from his point of view.
The CHAIRMAN. Will you not please read them, Mr. Stevens? (Mr. Stevens thereupon read aloud the following letter:)
OFFICE OF GENERAL SUPERINTENDENT,
PANAMA RAILROAD COMPANY,
Colon, January 4, 1906. Mr. J. F. STEVENS, General Janager. Panama Railroad Company,
Care of W. L. Pepperman, Washington, D. C. DEAR SIR : Referring to your cablegram and my reply on the condition of cargo now on the Isthmus, I wired you fully and a litle longer than I desired to to apprise you of our exact condition.
This subject has also been under investigation from the New York office. and I attach hereto a copy of my letter to Mr. Walker, that will give you full details of our present condition and the causes for the same, and I can only add that unless the Pacific Mail gives us more ships or change their manner of taking their cargo this accumulation will soon have us blocked again, and the condition is one that is entirely beyond my control.
I have gone over this situation carefully with their agent, have wired their San Francisco office, and you are now familiar with what has been said both to you and the New York office.
The true facts in the matter are that the sailing that was suppressed by them was done to divert the ships to the coffee trade, and the small ships that did come left over a large amount of cargo, and to-day they have 6,000 tons of cargo on the Isthmus after their ship the City of Peking sails. Therefore, it they offer us a large run of coffee at this time it reaches us with one-half of our equipment tied up with their freight. We have everything at Colon very full. I have got one-half of the new wharf at La Boca inclosed and we began yesterday to store this wharf full of their cargo to release our cars, whereas the same was rushed through to enable us to handle the coffee in the proper way. Yours, truly,
W. G. BIERD, Superintendent.
Mr. STEVENS. In other words, we get the frieght over there and they do not take it. The situation is analagous to one like this: Here are two railways, end to end, you may say. Here is a place here where goods are sold and here is where they are to be delivered. There are different stations along this line. Now, the fellow here, who takes the freight first, carries it over his railroad. When he gets here he is supposed to turn these cars of freight over to the next man to take to these points.
This railroad man says, “No, I won't take them, because I am only running through freight trains. I don't stop at these stationsSmithtown and Jonestown and all those. I don't stop there, and I can't take them. I will take the through freight that goes,” we will say, “ to San Francisco at this end.". Do you see the point. He does not run any trains for ten days or three weeks or a month; then he runs a little local freight. In the meantime you have got to "hold the sack.” And that is what we are doing to-day.
Senator HOPKINS. That situation comes from the fact that it is more profitable to take the through freight than to take the local freight !
Mr. STEVENS. Yes, sir.
Senator GORMAN. Have you not got a perfect remedy for that by refusing to allow the ships to unload at Colon unless they take the freight from the other end-from Panama?
Mr. STEVENS. Well, Senator, I have put the matter up to our people and told them that one of two things must be done: The Pacific Mail either must furnish the ships to take that mail as it comes, or we must make arrangements with somebody else or put on ships of our
Senator TALIA FERRO. Or you can decline to handle the freight that is desirable ?
Mr. STEVENS. Of course.
Senator TALIAFERRO. Until they handle the other freight in some suitable way? Mr. STEVENS. Certainly.
Senator TALIAFERRO. Mr. Stevens, have you a large map of that Isthmus, of the canal line and of the railroad line, here in Washington?
Mr. STEVENS. Why, yes; they have them in the office. I do not know very much about what they have in the office of the Commission here, though, for I have no connection with it.
Senator MORGAN. Mr. Stevens, right in this connection, it seems to me proper to ask you a question that I feel a very great interest in, because I am the chairman of the Committee on Public Health of the Senate, and the first point that strikes me as being of supreme importance is the Isthmus. If we do not control quarantine in respect of the Isthmus we are gone up on the canal building, if any chance comes along in the way of cholera, bubonic plague, yellow fever, or any other of those diseases.
I wanted to ask you for about what length of time business was suspended on the Isthmus-I mean absolutely suspended—during the last epidemic season in regard to the case of bubonic plague that occurred down there. I understand there was only one case.
Was there a suspension of business there from quarantine in consequence of that?
Mr. STEVENS. There was a suspension of through shipping business—anything through Panama or La Boca.
Senator MORGAN. Yes. Now, how long did that last!
Mr. STEVENS. My recollection is that it lasted about thirty or forty days. Senator MORGAN. That was in regard to shipping? Mr. STEVENS. Yes.
Senator Morgan. Did that apply to the Government ships or vessels?
Mr. STEVENS. It applied to the Pacific Mail only to northern ports.
Mr. STEVENS. Oh, no; we have no transports that belong to the canal company.
Senator MORGAN. Or the railroad?
Senator MORGAN. Oh, no; not on the Pacific. I am talking about the Atlantic.
Mr. STEVENS. Oh, no; oh, no. The case of bubonic plague which was reported was at La Boca, on the Panama Railroad; and the Central American and Mexican ports were the ones that placed the embargo against any freight coming from La Boca.
Senator MORGAN. Could you give me--I do not suppose you could remember precisely—a memorandum of the places that quarantined against La Boca on account of that?
Mr. STEVENS. Yes, sir; I think they are matters of record here in the office. If they are not, I can get them from the Isthmus.
Senator MORGAN. Can you give me a similar statement or record in regard to the places that quarantined against Panama and Colon, or one or both of them, on account of yellow fever?
Mr. STEVENS. Yes, sir; I can get those.
Senator MORGAN. About what length of time did that yellow-fever quarantine operate?
Mr. STEVENS. Really, I can not tell you. The ports were a long ways off, and we were not doing any particular business with them, and we paid no particular attention to the matter-at least, I did not. Of course the quarantine health officers have all those records. It is a matter of record.
Senator MORGAN. What I want to know is what embarrassment has been or is likely to be inflicted upon the operations of the work on the canal in getting in laborers and in sending out laborers, and in getting in materials, etc., by the exposure that we are now under to have quarantine declared against the Isthmus by any powers in the world.
Mr. STEVENS. Oh, it can have an effect, undoubtedly.
Mr. STEVENS. It had a serious effect on the business of the Panama Railroad; that is all, though. It had no particular effect on the canal business.
Senator MORGAN. On the labor ? Mr. STEVENS. No, sir. Senator MORGAN. The coming and going of laborers? Mr. STEVENS. No, sir. You see, as far as yellow fever is concerned, the laborers are supposed to be immune. They are all tropical people, and are in no danger from it. They do not care anything about the yellow fever. That is one thing that makes the sanitary work of Governor Magoon and Colonel Gorgas so hard-because the natives down there, the Panamanians and the blacks, feel perfectly secure. But you whisper" bubonic plague," and there is a different atmosphere in a minute.
Senator MORGAN. How about citizens of the United States who have gone down there?
Mr. STEVENS. Oh, I presume it has had more or less influence; but that fear died away. *As far as the yellow-fever situation on the Isthmus now is concerned, we have had no case that I recall since the 15th of November; it is merely one of quarantine now. We make a strict quarantine, and keep it in from the outside. I do not look for any trouble with that. I know I went down there in July, in what was supposed to be the height of the yellow-fever season, and I had no more fear of it than of going out on the street here.
Senator MORGAN. I know that as to Habana there are some stories that are more or less true—I think they are more true than otherwise—to the effect that the Cubans have been hiding their yellowfever people out in the center of the island, to keep us from going down there and cleaning them up:
Mr. STEVENS. There is probably a relaxation of quarantineSenator DRYDEN. Is that fact that you have so largely gotten rid of yellow fever due to getting rid of the germs in the cleaning up, or because of the effect of the colder weather?
Mr. STEVENS. The doctors tell me that most of the natives have it when they are children, in a very mild form. I do not know; it is a question on which scientific men differ. I would not attempt to pass judgment on it.
Senator TALIAFERRO. Is there as much insect life as you had there at first, Mr. Stevens-as many mosquitoes?
Mr. STEVENS. Well, I was there five months, Senator, and if I was bitten by a mosquito I do not know it. I was out at least three days · out of the week in the jungles over at Culebra cut and Colon and running a little boat up and down those old canals and rivers and examining the situation, and I never was bitten by a mosquito to my knowledge.
Senator Kyox. Mr. Stevens, when did you go there? Mr. STEVENS. I sailed the 20th of July, and arrived there the 26th. Senator Kyox. And when did you leave? Mr. STEVENS. I sailed the night of December 12th. Senator Knox. You were there continuously? Mr. STEVENS. Yes, sir; and I am free to say I wish I was there now. You know I live there; that is my home. I have no connection at all with the Washington office.