Lot 61: TLS as president signed "Wm. H. Taft," three pages, 7.75 x 10.5, White House letterhead, August 13, 1912. Letter to John W. Griggs regarding Panama Canal tolls and treaty, headed "Personal" in Taft's hand. In part: "I do not differ with you in the slightest as to the necessity for preserving national honor—I claim to be as careful about that as anybody—but, on the other hand, I don't think it is essential for us to give away national rights and legitimate national advantage, growing out of our expenditure of $400,000,000, and our risk and effort in the construction of the Canal, without having bound ourselves not to do so; and I am very clear in the construction of the treaty that there is no such obligation as that you assume. Under these conditions, believing, as I do, that the United States has complete power to do what it chooses as to the amount to be charged American vessels which use the Canal, I can not be specially aroused by appeals to my wish to preserve national honor. The history of the two treaties, and the history of the construction of the Canal,—the change from a plan by which two nations were to protect a private enterprise in the construction of the Canal, to a situation in which one nation is to build the Canal—makes the construction of the treaty entirely clear to me. There is no right to discriminate as between two customers of the Canal, but the owner of the Canal with reference to its own citizens and its own use of the Canal can do what it chooses, and there is nothing in the treaty, in my judgment, that prevents. To hold otherwise, would be to allow Great Britain and every other country to subsidize its vessels with a special subsidy consisting of the payment of the Canal tolls, and the United States could not do so, because it could not discriminate in favor of its own vessels under the construction given to the treaty. That is absurd. It is a well-known custom in the Suez Canal for countries to pay, as a subsidy to their vessels, the tolls of the canal, and this although the Canal has to be operated without discrimination against any vessel of any nation. Under the restriction there would seem to be no objections to France and Austria and England subsidizing their vessels by paying their tolls. If that be the case, and the construction which you contend for is the construction of the treaty, then, while these other countries may do this, the United States may not do so…The United States built the Canal, and all that can be asked of it is that it shall not discriminate as between other countries against any one…and, believing that the treaty means that, I am not going to interpose my veto to the section of Congress in asserting its meaning, when I concur in that meaning." In fine condition, with light overall haloing to type. Provenance: The Everett Fisher Collection. As secretary of war under President Roosevelt, Taft oversaw the beginning of the Panama Canal's construction in 1903. During Taft's term as president construction continued until it was completed in 1914 under Wilson.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 467
Wednesday, 13th January 2016
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