History Of The Panama Canal Essay

925 words - 4 pages

History of the Panama CanalIn 1825, a group of American businesspeople announced theformation of a canal building company, with interests in constructinga canal system across the Isthmus. This project was to take place inan area now called Panama. The endeavor was filled with controversy.Though the canal itself was not built until the early 1900's everystep toward the building and ownership, was saturated with difficulty.Walter LaFeber illustrates the dilemmas in a historical analysis. Inhis work he states five questions that address the significance of thePanama Canal to United States. This paper will discuss the historicalperspective of the book's author, address pertinent three questionsand give a critique of LaFeber's work, The Panama Canal.For proper historical analysis one must understand theimportance of the Canal. The Panama Canal and the Canal Zone (theimmediate area surrounding the Canal) are important areas used fortrade. Even before the canal was built there were to large ports onboth sides of the Isthmus. Large amounts of cargo passed through theIsthmus by a railroad that connected the two ports. The most importantcargo was the gold mined in California before the transcontinentalrailroad was completed in the United States. It has strategicsignificance because of its location, acting as a gateway connectingthe Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This allows for rapid navaldeployment between fleets in either ocean. These two facets make thePanama Canal very important in the region.LaFeber notes that Panamanian nationalism played a large rolein the creation of the canal and, consequently, the cause for thearea's constant instability. The first expression occurred in the late1800's with Panamanian struggle for independence from Columbia. TheUnited States eager to build the canal, and control its operation,used and backed Panamanian nationalist. During the Rooseveltadministration, not only did the United States manipulate factorsisolating Panama from other world powers through the Monroe Doctrine;but it committed troops aiding the revolutionaries against anothersovereign state. The reason this is a surprise is because theRoosevelt administration normally held a position favoring stability.The United States had no legal right to use force against Columbia.Nationalism came back to haunt the United States. With thetreaty signed and a 99-year lease given to the United States, theCanal was built. Since then, the United States has varied on itsstance of ownership and the principles of sovereignty concerning theCanal. The ever persistent debate of who owns the Canal and who shouldhave sovereign control over it, has not been solved. The United Stateshas occasionally attempted to "claim" the Canal zone through variousmethods such as military occupation, exclusion of Panamanians forimportant jobs in Canal operations and even through the customaryaspect of international law. However, each time the Panamanians havemanaged to maintain claim to the Canal...

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