Politics And Panama Canal During the Spanish-American War the warship Oregon was summoned from the West Coast. The trip took two months to travel 14,000 miles around Cape Horn to the Atlantic. (The American Journey 741) How was the United States supposed to defend it shores if it took ships that long to get between them? The United State had to build a canal through Central America; national security depended on it. The Politics of the Panama Canal are confusing. This confusion includes the building, the economics and the operation of this facility.
The canal, began in 1881 and finished in 1914(Dolan 55), has caused one country to fail, another to triumph, and another to gain its independence. There was a need for a canal through the isthmus of Central America. The big question was who would step up and build it. France had just lost the Franco-Prussian War against Germany. The country felt that it had lost some prestige in eyes of other nations.
There seemed only one certain way to restore its glory, undertake and complete the most challenging engineering feat in history. Build a canal through Central America and link the worlds two greatest oceans. (Dolan 53) The French chose Panama to build its canal because it was far narrower than Nicaragua, its closet competitor. They obtained permission from Columbia to lay the waterway. (Dolan 53) A private company was founded in 1879 to raise the needed capital to undertake the construction. Appointed president of the company was Ferdind de Lesseps, who had guided the construction of the Suez Canal. (Panama) The French abandoned the project in 1889, due to a lack of funding.
(Dolan 59) Now it was time for the Americans to get involved. But there was one problem; they had signed a treaty with Great Britain that said, if one or the other decided to build a canal then the two countries would work together. This treaty was called the Clayton Bulwer Treaty. In 1901 the treaty was replaced with the Hay-Pauncefote treaty. It called for Great Britain to give the United States the right to act independently in the development of an Atlantic Pacific waterway.
Why did the British agree to the treaty? They were tied up in the Boer War in South Africa and didnt want to split the bill on a canal? (Dolan 63) Now congress had to decide on where to dig the canal. The two main choices were Panama and Nicaragua. Just days before the vote on the canal site, Philipee Benau-Varilla obtained ninety Nicaragua stamps that pictured a railroad dock with an active volcano in the background, and sent them to all of the senators with a message: “An official witness of the volcanic activity in Nicaragua. (Mcneese 78) Did it work? Panama got the go ahead. The United States now to get permission from Columbia to dig in Panama.
In 1902, John Hay, the U.S. Secretary of State began negotiate with the Colombian government. An agreement was finally reached in January 1903 in the signing of the Hay-Banau-Varilla Treaty, which granted the United States a strip of land 6 miles wide along the general route laid out by de Lesspes. The U.S. had the right to administer and police this zone. In return they would pay the Colombian government $10 million, and after nine years of operation Columbia would get an annual fee of $250,000. (Dolan 63) The treaty had to be ratified in both the U.S.
and Columbia before it could take affect. The U.S. gave its approval in March 1903, but the Colombian Congress said there was not enough money for the right to dig in Panama. They wanted an additional $5 million from the Americans. They also objected to many of the points on the administration of what was now known as the Canal Zone. (Dolan 64) When the Columbian Government refused to ratify the treaty, Panama revolted because they feared the United States would build through Nicaragua.
After they declared their independence from Columbia, President Theodore Roosevelt ensured the success of the revolt when he ordered a U.S. warship to prevent Colombian troops from entering the isthmus. (Panama) Now Panama had its independence and the U.S. had the right to build the canal. The Canal Zone was ten miles wide and 50 miles long; it embraced an area of 553 square miles- an area that, totaling 5 percent of the nation’s landmass speared its way directly through the heart of Panama.
The Panamanians complained that it chopped their already small country into smaller pieces. The split made it difficult, if not impossible for Panama to grow as a single united nation and with the Canal lying in their path, the people would have trouble moving from one side of the country to the other. Families and friends would be separated. Business would be difficult to conduct across the waterway. Political views might grow too different on each side.
In the end, Panama could end up being two countries. (Dolan 101) But these concerns would have to wait the treaty had already been signed, in fact the Canal was already nearing completion. When the canal was finished in 1914(McCullogh 609) it was approximately 51 miles long. Passage through it by a ship sailing from New York to San Francisco saved 7, 872 miles and it the same plans of operation that the canal has today. It was also very costly.
The canal had cost the Americans $352 million. When added you that to the French expenditures the total peaks out approximately at $639 million. In 1914 this made the Panama Canal the greatest single construction project in American History. In, lives the canal cost the Americans 5,609; workers, added to the French, the total swells to nearly 25,000. (McNeese 85) Another cost to the United States was an indemnity to Columbia of $25 million during the Wilson administration. Apparently this was to smooth out tensions between the two countries.
As can be expected Columbia was infuriated by the aid Panama received from the United States. Now Columbia was evolving into one of the most important countries in South America, really only second to Brazil. It was a neighbor to the United State’s canal and it had power. The payment was to insure Americas investment. However this still angered former President Theodore Rooseve …