Panama Canal Essay

1198 words - 5 pages

In 1885, due to the tremendous problems encountered in trying to excavate a sea-level canal, the plan was changed to include a single, temporary lock and other adjustments in order to speed up the availability of the canal for traffic. Still, it was of no use : in 1889, Lesseps' company was liquidated in order to pay back investors and banks from which the company had borrowed. The appraisal of the company's belongings - including equipment, maps, and the value of the land already excavated - was very high, and in 1894, a new company, the Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de Panama, was created in France to attempt to finish the canal. All involved thought of this as an impossible feat by the French, and ideas ran strong to sell the canal zone - possibly to the United States. France resented the loss of millions of francs (the estimated cost of the company's pursuit of the canal, including publicity and possibly a little bribery, is almost 1.5 billion francs), and subsequent trials of the heads of Lesseps' company, including Lesseps himself, began in 1893. Lesseps was condemned by the court, but never fined nor jailed. Charles de Lesseps, Ferdinand's son, and others were eventually charged with bribery, only one being sent to prison. Charles was forced to pay the fine of another defendant, but could not raise the money so fled to London until his government accepted a partial payment, nearly 5 years later. France had determined that she could not possibly complete the canal. With a lease on land in Colombia until 1903, the search was on for a buyer. Eventually, France found a friend in the United States of America.

At the time, a canal in the Latin American isthmus was not a new idea to America, either. In 1887, the government sent a regiment under Lieutenant Menocal to survey Nicaragua for a canal site. In 1889, Congress chartered the Maritime Canal Co, headed by the millionaire J.P. Morgan to build a canal in either Nicaragua or Panama. After discussions, the Nicaragua route was chosen, and construction began. In 1893, a stock panic in America caused Maritime to loose all funding, and excavation stopped - the first and last of America's blunders on the canal. In 1897, congress appointed a fact-finding Canal Commission, which promptly recommended the Nicaraguan route. In 1899, the second Canal Commission did the same. President McKinley probably would have signed a bill introduced by Senator J.T. Morgan securing funds for a Nicaraguan canal, had an assassin's bullet not taken his life on September 6, 1901. The subsequent inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt was to become a time of strained relations with Colombia, and new friendship in a brand new nation - the Republic of Panama.

Theodore Roosevelt was the Big Stick president. Might was good, though not necessarily right. Roosevelt was especially proud of America's navy, and its naval power. The incident during the Spanish War involving the battleship Oregon's two-month trip around South America...

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