« ÎnapoiContinuați »
In these and in other ways foreign shipping would be seriously handicapped, and any adverse result would fall more severely on British shipping than on that of any other nationality.
The volume of British shipping which will use the Canal will in all probability be very large. Its opening will shorten by many thousands of miles the waterways between England and other portions of the British Empire, and if on the one hand it is important to the United States to encourage its mercantile marine and establish competition between coastwise traffic and transcontinental railways, it is equally important to Great Britain to secure to its shipping that just and impartial treatment to which it is entitled by treaty, and in return for a promise of which it surrendered the rights which it held under the earlier convention.
There are other provisions of the Panama Canal Act to which the attention of His Majesty's Government has been directed. These are contained in section 11, part of which enacts that a railway company, subject to the Inter-State Commerce Act 1887, is prohibited from having any interest in vessels operated through the Canal with which such railways may compete, and another part provides that a vessel permitted to engage in the coastwise or foreign trade of the United States is not allowed to use the Canal if its owner is guilty of violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
His Majesty's Government do not read this section of the Act as applying to, or affecting, British ships, and they therefore do not feel justified in making any observations upon it. They assume that it applies only to vessels flying the flag of the United States, and that it is aimed at practices which concern only the internal trade of the United States. If this view is mistaken and the provisions are intended to apply under any circumstances to British ships, they must reserve their right to examine the matter further and to raise such contentions as may seem justified.
His Majesty's Government feel no doubt as to the correct
ness of their interpretation of the treaties of 1850 and 1901, and as to the validity of the rights they claim under them for British shipping; nor does there seem to them to be any room for doubt that the provisions of the Panama Canal Act as to tolls conflict with the rights secured to their shipping by the treaty. But they recognize that many persons of note in the United States, whose opinions are entitled to great weight, hold that the provisions of the Act do not infringe the conventional obligations by which the United States is bound, and under these circumstances they desire to state their perfect readiness to submit the question to arbitration if the Government of the United States would prefer to take this course. A reference to arbitration would be rendered unnecessary if the Government of the United States should be prepared to take such steps as would remove the objections to the Act which His Majesty's Government have stated.
Knowing as I do full well the interest which this great undertaking has aroused in the New World and the emotion with which its opening is looked forward to by United States citizens, I wish to add before closing this dispatch that it is only with great reluctance that His Majesty's Government have felt bound to raise objection on the ground of treaty rights to the provisions of the Act. Animated by an earnest desire to avoid points which might in any way prove embarrassing to the United States, His Majesty's Government have confined their objections within the narrowest possible limits, and have recognized in the fullest manner the right of the United States to control the Canal. They feel convinced that they may look with confidence to the Government of the United States to ensure that in promoting the interests of United States shipping, nothing will be done to impair the safeguards guaranteed to British shipping by treaty.
Your Excellency will read this dispatch to the Secretary of State and will leave with him a copy. I am, &c.,
REPLY OF SECRETARY OF STATE KNOX TO
THE BRITISH PROTEST It appears that three objections are made to the provisions of the Act; first, that no tolls are to be levied upon ships engaged in the coastwise trade of the United States; second, that a discretion appears to be given to the President to discriminate in fixing tolls in favor of ships belonging to the United States and its citizens as against foreign ships; and third, that an exemption has been given to the vessels of the Republic of Panama under Article 19 of the Convention with Panama of 1903.
Considered in the reverse order of their statement, the third objection, coming at this time, is a great and complete surprise to this Government. The exemption under that article applies only to the government vessels of Panama, and was part of the agreement with Panama under which the canal was built. The Convention containing the exemption was ratified in 1904, and since then to the present time no claim has been made by Great Britain that it conflicted with British rights. The United States has always asserted the principle that the status of the countries immediately concerned by reason of their political relation to the territory in which the canal was to be constructed was different from that of all other countries. The Hay-Herran Treaty with Colombia of 1903 also provided that the war vessels of that country were to be given free passage. It has always been supposed by this Government that Great Britain recognized the propriety of the exemptions made in both of those treaties. It is not believed, therefore, that the British Government intend to be understood as proposing arbitration upon the question of whether or not this provision of the Act, which in accordance with our treaty with Panama exempts from tolls the government vessels of Panama, is in conflict with the provisions of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty.
Considering the second objection based upon the dis
cretion thought to be conferred upon the President to discriminate in favor of ships belonging to the United States and its citizens, it is sufficient, in view of the fact that the President's proclamation fixing the tolls was silent on the subject, to quote the language used by the President in the memorandum attached to the Act at the time of signature, in which he says
It is not, therefore, necessary to discuss the policy of such discrimination until the question may arise in the exercise of the President's discretion.
On this point no question has as yet arisen which, in the words of the existing arbitration treaty between the United States and Great Britain, "it may not have been possible to settle by diplomacy,” and until then any suggestion of arbitration may well be regarded as premature.
It is not believed, however, that in the objection now under consideration Great Britain intends to question the right of the United States to exempt from the payment of tolls its vessels of war and other vessels engaged in the service of this Government. Great Britain does not challenge the right of the United States to protect the canal. United States vessels of war and those employed in government service are a part of our protective system. By the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty we assume the sole responsibility for its neutralization. It is inconceivable that this Government should be required to pay canal tolls for the vessels used for protecting the canal, which we alone must protect. The movement of United States vessels in executing governmental policies of protection are not susceptible of explanation or differentiation. The United States could not be called upon to explain what relation the movement of a particular vessel through the canal has to its protection. The British objection, therefore, is understood as having no relation to the use of the canal by vessels in the service of the United States Government.
Regarding the first objection, the question presented by Sir
Edward Grey arises solely upon the exemption in the Canal Act of vessels engaged in our coastwise trade.
On this point Sir Edward Grey says that "His Majesty's Government do not question the right of the United States to grant subsidies to United States shipping generally, or to any particular branches of that shipping," and it is admitted in his note that the exemption of certain classes of ships would be "a form of subsidy” to those vessels; but it appears from the note that His Majesty's Government would regard that form of subsidy as objectionable under the treaty if the effect of such subsidy would be "to impose upon British or other foreign shipping an unfair share of the burden of the upkeep of the Canal, or to create a discrimination in respect of the conditions or charges of traffic, or otherwise to prejudice rights secured to British shipping by this Treaty."
It is not contended by Great Britain that equality of treatment has any reference to British participation in the coastwise trade of the United States, which, in accordance with general usage, is reserved to American ships. The objection is only to such exemption of that trade from toll payments as may adversely affect British rights to equal treatment in the payment of tolls, or to just and equitable tolls. It will be helpful here to recall that we are now only engaged in considering (quoting from Sir Edward Grey's note) “whether the Panama Canal Act in its present form conflicts with the treaty rights to which His Majesty's Government maintain they are entitled,” concerning which he concludes:
These provisions (1) clearly conflict with the rule embodied in the principle established in article 8 of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of equal treatment for British and United States ships, and (2) would enable tolls to be fixed which would not be just and equitable, and would therefore not comply with rule 1 of article 3 of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty.
On the first of these points the objection of the British Government to the exemption of vessels engaged in the coastwise trade of the United States is stated as follows: