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nished a large portion of the bed of the Panama canal. The finding of the Chagres river in 1503 was almost as important as the opening of the famous canal in 1914. Both were momentous, each according to its day and time. While lauding our American enterprise and prowess for the wonderful accomplishment let us not forget the incomparable navigator who sailed this river four hundred years before.
Some of the men of history and contemporaries of Columbus were Bastidas, Balboa, Cortez and the cruel Pizzaro. In a few years Spain was in control of nearly all the territory now known as Latin-America. But it was not until 1513 that the white man crossed the isthmus and discovered the Pacific, then called the South Sea. Balboa, taking 190 Europeans and many natives began his march from the North to the South Sea, and it took him from September 6 to September 29 to make the trip. When he reached the top of the mountains he first received a full view of the eastern shore of the greatest ocean. He made a second trip to the Pacific in 1516 and constructed the necessary ships and sailed up and down the shore of the Pacific in pursuit of gold, silver and pearls but he was induced to return to the north side of the isthmus by Pedrarius (or Devila) and was treacherously tried, condemned and beheaded. It was Magellan, not Balboa, that named the Pacific Ocean. It is to be remarked that Balboa traversed the isthmus from coast to coast nearly one hundred years before the settlement at Jamestown.
It seems that the natives had told and often repeated the story of the "secret strait," and since no search could locate it, many supposed that it formerly existed and perhaps was obliterated by some convulsion of nature.
Cortez, in 1523, not being able to find the lost strait
considered the idea of making such a waterway. Spain many times had visions of a canal across the isthmus, but never succeeded in getting beyond the investigation stage. Some went so far as to look upon the enterprise with superstitious awe, and considered that as the Creator had separated the two oceans disaster would result from making an artificial connection. Spain with her Cortez and Pizzaro did not have pluck for such a Herculean task.
Nations in colonizing America have kept mostly to their home lines of latitude. Columbus left Palos on the 37° of Latitude, and as he supposed, sailed due west, and which should have landed him in the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. But fate or accident veered him towards the south and he first saw land on the 25° of latitude. And in his immediate discoveries thereafter he moved farther south and centered at last on the isthmus of Panama on the 9° of latitude. He was seeking a farther ocean and perhaps the stories of the natives directed him to the isthmus as the only way of reaching the South Sea. Looking back from the present, it seems as if destiny rather than design steered the first permanent settlers on this continent almost directly to Panama. Here ships met the barrier and it has taken four centuries to overcome it and still the barrier is only partially removed since mechanical devices are yet necessary to complete the transit. It is upstairs at one end and down stairs at the other. It is a wonderful achievement and French initiative followed by American force, energy and finance, has wrought it.
Those who desire to go deeply into ancient Spanish theorizing on building a canal across the isthmus can find satisfaction in consulting Willis F. Johnson's comprehensive work on the Panama canal.
During the 16th century Spain enjoyed almost a complete monopoly of American colonization. There were at that time only four important naval and maritime powers-Spain, England, France and Holland. At the close of this century these nations were all struggling for conquest-on this side of the Atlantic. England secured islands in the Caribbean Sea and on continental America made settlements at Jamestown and at Plymouth. The French secured Canada, and the Dutch settled at New York and on the Delaware. The French, Dutch and English afterward divided Guiana. During this time attention was centered on a canal to the Pacific either at Panama, Nicaragua or Tehauntepec; but no one was, in the early days, able to accomplish the work. The canal was wanted but physical and mechanical ability was lacking; still, negotiating and treaty-making went on respecting a wholly imaginary canal.
But the dawning of the nineteenth century brought definite ideas about the making of a strait connecting the two oceans. Alexander von Humboldt came to America in 1799 and remained in Mexico and the Isthmian district until 1804, and freely speculated about a canal to the Pacific. He believed this would "immortalize a nation occupied with the true interests of humanity." He examined nine different routes and believed a canal entirely feasible, but seems also to have been living in dreamland when he suggested a canal by way of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, connecting
with the Columbia; and when he would build through Mexico by the Rio Grande del Norte into the Gulf of California; and even when he suggested the Tehauntepec route. His idea about the height of the mountain ranges on the isthmus seemed to have been distorted and amusing. Nothing definite came from his canal
work, it was all ideal.
It can serve no useful purpose here to tabulate all proposed canals across the isthmus, from Humboldt down to the making of our treaty with New Granada. By this time the canal enterprises were all centered in three nations-France, England and the United States; all others seem to have withdrawn from the field. Our nation having secured the whole Northwest territory by the Louisiana purchase in 1803, began to take interest in the Pacific coast traffic, and in 1846 made a treaty with New Granada for rights of transit across the isthmus. This treaty was based on the guarantee of the United States to New Granada of the "perfect neutrality" of the isthmus with the view that free transit from one sea to the other might not be interrupted; and there was a like guarantee of "the rights of sovereignty and property which New Granada has and possesses over the said territory."
New Granada guaranteed to the United States that the right of way or transit across the isthmus upon any modes of communication that now exist or that may be hereafter constructed shall be open and free to the government and citizens of the United States and for the transportation of any article of produce, etc.; that no other tolls or charges be levied upon the citizens of our nation, thus passing "over any road or canal that may be made by New Granada or by the authority of the same, than is under like circumstances levied upon the Granadian citizens." This, perhaps, was the first neu
tralization of ways and transit across the isthmus.
It seems that general sovereignty was not only retained by New Granada but that the United States guaranteed to maintain that "sovereignty" and all "property," and also the "neutrality" of the isthmus transitand this meant freedom and perfect equality. We must have received a small share of sovereignty or what right had we to interfere on the lands of another?
Under this treaty we secured the right to use any mode of transit lawfully installed across the isthmus under the authority of New Granada; but we find no authority for America to construct and own any road, railroad or canal, although there was expressly given the right of "protection." This treaty was to continue for twenty years and thereafter until notice by either party was given for its abrogation. It was not abrogated and it passed over to Panama after she became a state.