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MSS 83-1

The Papers of James B. McClellan on the Panama Canal Treaty Debates


Collection of briefs, memoranda, pamphlets, manuscript and published materials, pamphlets that document McClellan's tenure as minority counsel to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, 1977 - 1978.

1977-1978 [Inclusive]
11 Cubic Feet

Scope & Contents

Collection Description

    Biographical / Historical

    In 1902, the U.S. attempted to purchase the rights to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama from the Columbian government. When the offer was turned down, Panama (with the encouragement and assistance of the U.S.) revolted against Colombia and signed the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty (1903), which gave the U.S. exclusive control of a ten-mile wide canal zone. The United States completed the canal in 1914 and the first vessel, the S.S. Ancon, made the transit from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

    Panama came to resent America’s control of the Canal Zone and called the 1903 treaty unfair. Riots along the Canal Zone border erupted in 1964, claiming twenty lives. Panama broke diplomatic relations with the U.S., prompting President Lyndon Johnson to begin negotiations for a new treaty.

    A 1975 Senate resolution reflected continued congressional opposition to the canal negotiations being conducted by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger under the administrations of Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. The challenge President Carter faced was to protect basic U.S. interests in an open and secure canal, while also honoring Panama’s sovereignty over its own land.

    Within days of his inauguration, President Carter ordered a “Policy Review” of the canal treaty negotiations that had been proceeding for thirteen years. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Secretary of Defense Harold Brown led the review.

    President Carter appointed a U.S. team, led by Ellsworth Bunker and Sol Linowitz, to negotiate general terms of the new treaties. In May 1977, the talks stalled when Panama demanded excessive payments of the United States. In July, President Carter broke the stalemate by writing directly to General Torrijos with the final U.S. offer.

    After consulting with other Latin American leaders, Torrijos agreed to the United States’ proposals in mid-August.

    Amid low public support for the treaties, the Carter Administration began a public relations campaign to secure their ratification in the U.S. Senate. Carter and his officials reached out to U.S. Senators, held many public forums in which they explained the Administration’s rationale, and welcomed the support of famed actor John Wayne, who issued his own pro-treaty statement in October 1977.

    President Carter joined General Torrijos in Panama on June 16, 1978, to sign the documents concluding the treaty exchange. The ceremony symbolized the beginning of a new era of partnership with Latin America.

    As the implementation of the treaties progressed, it became apparent that the transfer of the control of the canal and the U.S. military assets to the government of Panama was to be a successful enterprise. The concerns raised by the opponents of the treaties quickly faded. The use of the canal by aggressors became a less and less plausible scenario as the size of naval vessels outgrew the size of the locks. Also, the transfer of the assets was handled on time and in a safe environment, which had been questioned by many. The U.S. legacy in Panama started with the completion of the canal and ended with the improvements to the Panamanian infrastructure through the treaties. The ratification of the treaties demonstrated the good will of the American people for their neighbors in Latin America. The U.S. efforts in shifting control to Panama, from the ratification of the Panama Canal Treaty in 1977 to the final transfer of December 31, 1999, established effective procedures for treaty implementation.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Collection donated by James B. McClellan in May of 1983.

    Separated Materials

    These papers document James B. McClellan's 1977-1978 tenure as minority counsel to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Separation of Powers. In this capacity, McClellan prepared briefs and memoranda for several senators --Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; James Allen, D-Alabama; and Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina-- taking the minority position throughout the Panama Canal treaty debates. The collection contains manuscript and published materials that document Congressional opposition to the treaties. In addition, there are published political action pamphlets and newsletters designed to coordinate and orchestrate public opposition to the Carter administration's proposed revised Panama Canal treaties.

fileMemoranda to Hatch, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 1
fileCorrespondence: Constitutional Issues, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 1
fileMcClellan's Canal Package: Defense and Economic, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 1
fileSenate Foreign Relations Committee, n.d.MSS 83-1, Box 1
fileSenator James Allen, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 1
fileHatch's Panama Visit: Packet of Information, 1977, AugustMSS 83-1, Box 1
fileHatch's Articles, 1977, August-SeptemberMSS 83-1, Box 1
fileHatch's Speech in the Senate, 1978, April 3MSS 83-1, Box 1
fileHatch Statements, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 2
fileHatch Speeches, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 2
fileHatch Amendment, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 2
fileHelms Material, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 2
fileAIM: Reed Irvine, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 2
fileAmerican Conservative Union, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 2
fileAmerican Security Council, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 2
fileBackground Papers CON, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 2
fileBanking Interests, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 3
fileBerger: Correspondence and Testimony, 1978, January - FebruaryMSS 83-1, Box 3
fileBrooke Reservation, 1978, 11 MayMSS 83-1, Box 3
fileCanal Modernization, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 3
fileCanal Zonians, 1978, March - JulyMSS 83-1, Box 3
fileCapt. M. P. DuVal, 1978MSS 83-1, Box 3
fileColombia/Costa Rica Privileges, 1977, NovemberMSS 83-1, Box 3
fileCommunist Initiatives, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 3
fileCongressional Research Service, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 3
fileConservative Digest/American Legion Cassette Tape and Correspondence, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 3
fileConservative Caucus, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 3
fileCouncil for Inter-American Security, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 4
fileDefense Aspects, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 4
fileDOS: Response to Amendments, 1977, 22 DecemberMSS 83-1, Box 4
fileDisposal of Property by Treaty, 1978, MarchMSS 83-1, Box 4
fileDrug Traffic in Panama, 1978MSS 83-1, Box 4
fileEconomic Arrangements with Panama: House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 5
fileEconomic Aspects, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 5
fileEnvironmental Aspects, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 5
fileFact Sheets, n.d.MSS 83-1, Box 5
fileFediay Proposal, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 5
fileForeign Policy, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 5
fileGovernors' Disposition, 1977, OctoberMSS 83-1, Box 6
fileHeritage Foundation, 1977, 31 AugustMSS 83-1, Box 6
fileHouse Resolutions, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileHuman Rights Issues, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileImplementing Legislation, 1978MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileIntelligence Activities, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileInterpretations of Treaty, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileIntersea, 1978, 8 MarchMSS 83-1, Box 6
fileKissinger - Tack Agreement, n.d.MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileLatin American Relations, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileLawsuit to Stop Treaties, 1978MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileLegal Status of Canal Zone Property, 1978, MarchMSS 83-1, Box 6
fileLibrary of Congress: Treaty Issues, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileLinowitz - Chile1977-78; Linowitz - Treaty, 1978MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileLucier, Dr. James P, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileMiscellaneous, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 6
fileNaturalization Amendment, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 7
filePanama - Freedom of the Press, 1978, March-AprilMSS 83-1, Box 7
filePanama - Escobar, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 7
filePanama - Treaty Violations, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 7
filePanama - Constitutions, 1978MSS 83-1, Box 7
filePanama - Interpretations, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 7
filePanamanian Public Reaction, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 7
filePanamanian Plebiscite, 1978MSS 83-1, Box 7
filePanama - Torrijos, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 7
filePollak Exchange, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 7
filePolls, 1978MSS 83-1, Box 7
filePort Reactions, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 7
filePro-Treaty Special Interest Groups, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 7
fileRockefeller, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 7
fileSea Level Canal, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 7
fileSen. Res. 97, 1975MSS 83-1, Box 7
fileSeparation of Powers, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 7
fileSources for Canal Information, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 7
fileSpanish Translation of Treaties, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 7
fileState Department Memoranda, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 7
fileState Legislatures, 1978, 28 MayMSS 83-1, Box 7
fileSuez Parallels, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 8
fileTreaty - Text, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 8
fileTreaty - Hearings, 1977MSS 83-1, Box 8
fileTreaty - Senate Vote, 1978MSS 83-1, Box 8
fileTreaty - International Agreements, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 8
fileTreaty - Post-Ratification, 1978MSS 83-1, Box 8
fileUN Charter, n.d.MSS 83-1, Box 8
fileWhite House, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 8
fileWhitman Analysis, 1978MSS 83-1, Box 8
fileCase Notes: Constitutional Issues, n.d.MSS 83-1, Box 9
fileMagazines/Periodicals, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 9
fileXerox Copies of Relevant Court Cases, n.d.MSS 83-1, Box 9
fileClippings, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 9
fileClippings, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 10
fileXerox of Senate Floor Debate on Constitutional Issues, 1978, MarchMSS 83-1, Box 10
fileIndexed Copies of Xeroxed Pages from the Congressional Record, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 10
fileIndexed Copies of Xeroxed Pages from the Congressional Record, 1977-78MSS 83-1, Box 11