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Vol. XLI.

APRIL, 1907.


Panama Canal.

Nicaragua. In 1620 Diego de Mercado submitted to King Philip of Spain an elaborate report in favor of constructing a ship canal over the route known as the Nicaragua route, but the King proved an implacable enemy to all such schemes. The proposition to connect the two oceans seemed to fascinate men of science and create intense interest for men of com


The Panama Canal as an American enterprise being of more than ordinary interest, a brief history will doubtless find favor with many of our readers.

The idea of uniting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by a great ship canal by way of the Central American Isthmus is by no means new. That for uniting them by way of the Isthmus of Panama is almost coincident with Balboa's discovery of the Pacific in 1513. Gomera, the historian, 1520-60, was the first one to advocate a union of the oceans by means of a canal. In 1581 Captain Antonio Pereira, Governor of Costa Rica, organized an expedition and explored a route by way of the San Juan River, the lake and river emptying into Galf Nicoya, crossing on the dividing line between Costa Rica and

One of the boldest conceptions was that of James B. Eads, the American engineer who constructed the Mississippi jetties, the Eads bridge at St. Louis, etc. He proposed to construct at Tehuantepec a railroad which would be able to carry the largest ships from ocean to ocean. A number of surveys were made of the Panama and Nicaragua routes, but no positive movement was made until 1879 towards the realization of this great pro


PANAMA CANAL EMPLOYEES' QUARTERS. Group of employees. Behind them, oil pipe lines acro s the Isthmus.-Courtesy Bro. J. Foose, Div. 6o9. first detachment of the canal employees arrived at Colon. Surveys were made, and the building of the camps, hospitals, and other necessary buildings followed. In 1882 the Panama Company purchased the Panama Railway, but things did not move as De Lesseps had anticipated. The debt and interest charges increased, and in the autumn of 1888 further borrowing became necessary, but impossible, for confidence had waned. Then came the great financial crash which shook the financial world, and on January 1, 1889, the company was forced into liquidation, which

created a ferment LA BOCA WHARF, PANAMA.

throughout France, as ject in which commerce was so vitally in- some 800,000 French shareholders had been terested.

induced to invest in the stock of the comIn May of that year an International pany. In 1890 the receiver sent a comCongress was convened in Paris by Ferdi- mission of French and other engineers to nand de Lesseps (who won great fame as Panama to report on the actual condition projector of the Suez Canal), to discuss of the work. They reported that not more the plan of cutting a canal through the than one-fifth of the proposed work had been Isthmus of Panama. The congress finally done; and that a valuable plant estimated adopted a plan which had been prepared at $30,000,000 was rusting away and usepreviously by M de Lesseps, and immedi- less. In 1891 the government of Colomately following that action the Panama bia granted the Panama Canal Company Canal Company was formed. The com- an extension of ten years from 1893 in pany secured from Lieut. Lucien Napo- which to finish the contract, providing leon Bonaparte Wyse of the French navy operations were resumed before February the concessions which he had obtained 1893, but the investors in France had not from the United States of Colombia. After the con. cessions had been secured by the company a commission, known as the De Lesseps Engineering Commission, was sent to Panama to make surveys and prepare estimates of cost. The Commission estimated that the canal could be built for 813,000,000 francs, $168,600,000. De Lesseps reduced these figures to 600,000,000 francs, or $120,000,000, and announced that a tide level canal could be completed for that sum. He was 60 confident that he invited men of prominence to attend the opening of the canal, which he set for 1888. In February, 1881, the



Bitter was the feeling toward those who were responsible for their loss of money, but much sympathy was mani. fested toward M. de Lesseps, who had been the presiding genius of the great enterprise, and the sympathy for him took such form that he was not imprisoned. But the great engineer who had reaped so much glory through the construction of the Suez Canal, now in his 80th year, was unable to withstand the blow the Panama exposure had given and he died in November of the fol


In 1894 on a probeen idle and looked for causes for the . position that the canal could be comgreat failure in results, and in November pleted for $110,000,000, new com1892 a member of the French Chamber of pany was formed and 300,000 shares Deputies, M. Delayhaye, created a pro- issued and work on the canal was found sensation in Paris by declaring on resumed under French auspices, but early the floor of the Chamber that the Panama in 1895 a strike occurred among the Canal Company had obtained exceptional laborers on the canal, and the methods privileges which it had used for the pur- of the company were criticised severely pose of defrauding investors, by bribery by the stockholders. Another scandal of no fewer than 100 deputies. The de. was feared, but developments showed that mand for an investigation of the charges the suspicions were unwarranted. The was of such force and insistence as to be confidence of the French public, however, irresistible, and the Ministry decided to had been shaken to such an extent as to submit the whole question to a commit- make it manifest that the completion of tee. Following this decision, a banker the canal under French auspices was no accused of being the instrument or agent of longer a possibility, and those who were much of the corruption of the company died suddenly, and it was alleged he had poisoned himself. The disclosures before the investigating committee indicated that the operations of the canal company had teemed with fraud. It was shown that the Panama Company had bribed depaties and journalists on an extensive scale in order to cover up its shortcomings and leave the way open for further impositions.

In February, 1893, M. de Lesseps, his sou Charles, and some of their colleagues were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment

MAMEI CUT, PANAMA ÇANAL. for fraud and bribery.



canal than the centuries of discussion, and President McKinley appointed a commission in 1899 to determine the most feasible route for a ship canal. This induced the French company to form a new American company in conjunction with the American auxiliary company organized under the laws of the State of New Jersey with a capital fixed at $30,000,000 which was to take over all the French rights, the shareholders to get part cash and part shares in the American company, but so much opposition was

developed in France to DREDGE EMPIRE, PANAMA CANAL.

the surrender of the bound up in the enterprise turned toward enterprise that the directors all resigned. A America for relief. Several surveys had new board of directors was then chosen been made by army and naval officers which continued the negotiations with the under American auspices, and in 1889 the American company and the transfer was Maritime Canal Company was organized eventually made. Congress then immeto construct the Nicaragua Canal. Pana- diately decided upon the Panama Canal nia had received little consideration, but route as the most feasible and passed the an auxiliary American company bill under which President Roosevelt was formed which on investigating the French authorized to acquire the American Panacompany's affairs found that of the ma Canal Company's rights, and the price $156,400,000 expended by the original fixed for these rights was $40,000,000 which French company only $88,600,000 had includes the Panama railroad. A treaty been expended legitimately on excavation was then made which grants the use in and construction, the rest having gone to perpetuity of a zone ten miles wide and its bribery and corruption. The second exclusive coatrol for police, judicial and French company spent about 33,000,000 other purposes; cedes territory for subfrancs, continuing the construction for four years. It abandoned the original tide water plan for one with locks. In the meantime the Maritime company had done more or less work on the Nicaragua route, but ceased operations in 1893 and Congress appointed a commission to examine and report on feasibility and cost; the commission reported the cost at $140,000,000 and there the matter rested until the outbreak of the SpanishAmerican war which required that the battleship “Oregon” make the long trip from San Francisco around Cape Horn. This furnished a more impressive argument for the construction of a



oceans were at this point once connected.

The Isthmus of Panama is of volcanic formation. Within the last 50 years severe earthquakes have been experienced strong enough to have destroyed the proposed dams had they been in existence. The iron railroad bridge at Barbacoas was shifted out of position, Colon was rent with a seam across the town and Panama was damaged to the extent of $300,000.

The seasons of the isthmus are two, wet and dry, the wet extending from about the 15th of April to the 15th of December. The amount of

rain that falls has been CULEBRA CUT, PANAMA CANAL.

given as 128 inches per sidiary canals and coast line in the cities annum. It often seems to fall in solid of Panama and Colon, the canal to be sheets, the streets being flooded from neutral and open to the world. For these curb to curb. Such storms clear away as grants the United States was to pay rapidly as they come. With the deep $10,000,000 on the ratification of the cuts on the canal they play sad havoc, as treaty, and $250,000 yearly beginning an immense amount of earth that has nine years after.

been thrown out naturally washes back Our readers are generally conversant into the cut. with the numerous changes in the Canal In a country like this, where all is perCommission and officials since the United petual summer, the average temperature States government has been in control, about 85 degrees and the average huand these changes may be expected until midity nearly as great, vegetation is of the right men are found to manage so very rapid growth: and, apropos of hugreat an undertaking. We have gleaned midity, there are places on the upper the above historic facts from various levels of the isthmus where nightly it is sources, principally the “Americana." 100 degrees, the point of saturation. But The following is from a folder issued in Panama descriptive of the project and the country in which it is located. -EDITOR.



The width of the Isthmus in a straight line east and west is less than 33 miles, but the course of the canal and railroad is from northwest to southeast. Panama, the terminus on the Pacific side, is about 20 miles further east than Colon, on the Atlantic, caused by the peculiar bend or elbow of the Isthmus at this point. Geologists have found indisputable evidence that the two


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