The Panama Canal Essay Research Paper The

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The Panama Canal Essay, Research Paper The shortest distance between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is the tiny Isthmus of Panama which joins Central and South America. The dreams of building a canal through this land dates back to the 1500’s. The Isthmus was a key player in the California gold rush for prospectors. The French originally tried to build a canal but failed and the United States took over. [2 McCullough 24-26] There were many setbacks, the greatest of which was disease and Roosevelt sent William Gorgas to handle the problem. [Jorden 14] “When the canal was finished it truly joined two separate worlds.” [2 McCullough 30] Hundreds of years before the Panama Canal was completed, people of many lands dreamed of building a canal across Central America. “As

early as 1517, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the first European to reach the Pacific, saw the possibility of a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.” [2 McCullough 24] During the period of the 1840’s and 50’s, present -day Panama was a providence of Colombia. Colombia feared that Britain would try to seize Panama for use as a canal site. Colombia signed a treaty with the United States in 1846 in which they agreed to guard all trade routes across Panama and to preserve Panama’s neutrality. [Cameron 37] During the California gold rush, the Isthmus of Panama became an important route between the Eastern United States and California. [2 McCullough 34] “Many prospectors sailed from Atlantic ports to Panama, crossed the isthmus by boat, mule, or on foot, and took another

ship to California.” [Cameron 44] In 1850, a group of business executives pooled together $8 million dollars and built a railroad across the isthmus that was completed in 1855. This was the first solid link in a chain of events that sparked the building of the Panama Canal. [St. George 12] The French first tried to construct a canal across the isthmus in 1878 under the company headed by Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, who had directed the construction of the Suez Canal. [2 McCullough 181] He faced many hardships and once said, “Faithful to my past, when they try to stop me, I go on.” [2 McCullough 182] They 2 planned to dig a canal at sea level, therefore eliminating the use of locks. In 1886, many problems arose with this plan and so the French decided to build a canal similar

to the one that operates today. [Jorden 126-127] Due to problems with disease, specifically yellow fever, and corrupt business running the digging projects, the French sold out to a second French firm, the New Panama Canal Company, took over in 1894. They made very half-hearted attempts at digging, in order to keep the franchise until another buyer could be found. [Cameron 69] The United States originally endeavored in building a canal across Nicaragua in 1899 since it would require less digging than a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. The French saw this and sent Philippe Bunau-Varilla to persuade the Americans to purchase the Panama Canal Zone. He told them that the Nicaraguan volcanoes presented the danger of lava flows and earthquakes, and that Panama was safer. In 1902,

Congress gave President Theodore Roosevelt permission to accept the French offer if Colombia allowed the United States permanent use of the canal zone. [St. George 30-37] Congress acted after the United States and Britain had replaced the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty with the Hay-Paunceforte Treaty which gave the United States the sole right to build and operate a canal across Central America. [Cameron 82] In 1903, U.S. Secretary of State John Hay signed a canal treaty with a Colombian representative, Tomas Herran. The treaty provided that the United States would give Colombia an initial payment of $10 million and pay $250,000 annual rent for the use of the zone. The problem was that the Colombian legislature refused to approve the treaty because it felt this was not enough money.