Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/102

This page needs to be proofread.




ARBITRATION OF THE PANAMA CANAL DISPUTE THE President's view that the exact issue in the Panama Canal con troversy has not yet been determined evidently springs from a conviction that in the course of diplomatic negotiation the questions will emerge in sharper definition. This attitude is not diffi cult to understand. It may be that there is not in the present status of the case what may be called a definite joinder of issue, in the sense of an agreement between the parties to the exact ques tion to be determined. This does not imply, however, that the complainant nation has not stated a definite ground of action, or that the legal question presented is not clear and readily ascer tainable. The formal protest of the British Government lays stress on the equality of all nations as the funda mental principle underlying the HayPauncefote treaty, and the several alle gations regarding the impropriety of specific sections of the Canal Act all relate to the single subject of the inter pretation of treaties in accordance with the rules of international law. Definite relief is also asked for, in the form of such steps by this Government as will re move the objections expressed to the act, and failing the compliance of this Government Great Britain makes an offer of arbitration. This expression of a willingness to arbitrate will be con strued as tantamount to a request for arbitration if negotiations fail.


Arbitration is a slow and expensive process, but might possibly reach a termination in time to avoid serious business uncertainty and inconvenience before the canal is open. In view of the obvious advantage of advising com mercial interests of the regulations of the canal as far in advance of its actual opening as possible, the repeal of such clauses of the Canal Act as would be unlikely to be upheld by an inter national court would offer the ideal way out of the difficulty. The easiest and best practicable solutionin unfortunately view of the attitude seems im-of Congress, and the recent elections seem not to have materially affected that attitude so as to offer, the incoming Administration any prospect of success should it desire to resort to this remedy, which is doubtful. The most expeditious way of settling the controversy would therefore be for the present Adminis tration to exert itself to bring about an early submission of the matter to arbi tration. The present attitude of the Senate is the most disturbing factor, but as we must consent to arbitration sooner or later, why not do so at once when we can with the better grace in view of the fact that England has not formally de manded it? When the time comes, the Senate simply cannot refuse to arbitrate. A power greater than that of Great Britain determines surely and irresis tibly how our Government shall act, the power, namely, of international public opinion, and an ultimate refusal