Politics And Panama Canal

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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 world’s two greatest oceans. (Dolan 53) The French chose

Panama to build its canal because it was far narrower than Nicaragua, it’s
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 American’s 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 didn’t 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

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