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seventy years ago a treaty was signed by our government with New Granada, afterward Colombia, as a preliminary step to the great undertaking. In 1850 the Clayton-Bulwer treaty between United States and Great Britain was signed. In 1866 the first canal commission was appointed by the United States government. Ten years later the committee reported in favor of the Nicaraguan Canal. Five years after this Ferdinand de Lesseps, having earned world-fame as the promoter of the Suez Canal, organized a French company to build a sea-level canal at the Isthmus of Panama. After eight years, the expenditure of three hundred million dollars, and the sacrifice of many precious lives the project was given up as a failure. There was bad engineering and business recklessness, if not dishonesty, in the administration, and the dream of four centuries went up in smoke. The SpanishAmerican War called fresh attention to the necessity of America's building and owning a canal at the Isthmus of Panama. In 1901 the Hay-Pauncefoote treaty between the United States and Great Britain revoked the Clayton-Bulwer treaty and gave our government full sovereignty rights on any canal across the isthmus. In the same year a new Panama committee was created, which made a report favoring the Nicaraguan route, and in 1902 Congress passed a bill authorizing the purchase of the old French rights of the canal for forty million dollars and recommending the construction of the canal at Panama.
Theodore Roosevelt had just gotten settled in the saddle as President of the United States when things began to move with reference to this gigantic enterprise. The Panama Canal, requiring the greatest piece of engineering since the world began, appealed to him-it was his size. The failures of the centuries
meant nothing to an intellect like his, and a will that knew no obstacles. He determined it should be built, and he built it. Obstacles as great as those that made the dream of the centuries a failure confronted him, but one after another he met and conquered them, and the canal stands perhaps as his greatest monument, if not the greatest monument to any character in the world. The early canal commissions being led by civilians was so tied up with governmental red tape that they made unsatisfactory progress. President Roosevelt picked out a West Point graduate, a professional engineer, secured authority from Congress to give him a free hand in the Canal Zone, which it had acquired, and Lieut.-Col. George W. Goethals, magnificently equipped for his work in every way, stood as a mighty giant by the side of Roosevelt and was his strong right arm in cutting through the Panama Canal. The canal extends from deep water at Colon on the Atlantic to deep water at Panama on the Pacific, a distance of fifty miles, or forty miles from shore to shore. It has great lakes and locks, and it is a practical business proposition with ships, even the largest of them going both ways from ocean to ocean. In time of war our ownership of it is of unspeakable advantage.
One of the most mighty triumphs of the Panama administration was the sanitary revolution affected in the Canal Zone. The mosquitoes were killed, yellow and other deadly fevers that formerly made success impossible were banished, and one of the worst plague spots on the earth was made as healthy as the average American city. This work was done under the direction of Colonel Gorgas of the medical corps of the United States army.
These two magnificent giants stand side by side in
this titanic undertaking. If Roosevelt had no other monument, the Panama Canal would make him immortal. Major-Gen. George W. Goethals shares that immortality, by the superb manner in which he put into active operation President Roosevelt's plans. The undertaking has glory enough to go all around, and any one who had anything to do with the building of that canal, from the Secretary of War down through the leading engineers, through the gold men, down through the silver men to the humblest laborer, deserves the gratitude of his countrymen. Those thirty-five thousand persons that did the work, and those who may have sacrificed their lives in the undertaking, are as much patriots as any soldier in the army and as much heroes as the soldiers on the battlefield. They will never know how valuable their lives were to their country and what a monumental service they rendered to their fellow-citizens and the people of the world. And the dear women who went with their families to care for the men at their tasks were just as loyal patriots as the men themselves and deserve the lasting gratitude of mankind.
Major-General Goethals not only finished the Panama Canal, but when, his work done and his plans all formed for a return home, the great slides closed the waterway, he went back on the job and stayed there until dredges and shovels had restored the canal. He restored it so completely that, since its second opening on April 15, 1916, it has been ready, every day, to serve the nation and the commerce of the world. In recognition of his pertinacity of purpose and his engineering record the general was awarded the John Fritz Medal, one of the hightest attainable for an engineer.
I called on General Goethals and asked him for a