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Through accidental fire in the printing office and the distractions of the world-wide war, this work has been delayed; yet this has not been wholly disadvantageous for it has been possible to make corrections and a deeper research into that storehouse of history and international law known as “Congressional Documents". The war alone sheds new light on some problems discussed in earlier pages.
In House Miscellaneous Document, 46 Congress, third session, 1880-81, important testimony is preserved on several canal questions, which was given before the House committee, by these prominent men: Admiral Ammen, Lieut. Collins, F. W. Kelley, Commander Lull, A. G. Menocal, J. Lawrence Smith, Capt. Jas. B. Eads, Ferdinand de Lesseps, and ex-Secy. Richard W. Thompson.
Another important record is Senate Document, 57 Cong. first session, Vol. 19, 1901-02, containing 1,200 pages. This hearing was to determine whether the Spooner Law, providing for the purchase of the French rights and the completion of the Panama Canal should be enacted.
But the most comprehensive and prolific history of the Canal, and the rights connected therewith, will be found in Sen. Doc. 59 Cong. 2nd Session, 4 Vols. containing 3,207 pages. This hearing decided that the Canal should be a lock canal, and that the dam should be at Gatun instead of at Bohio.
This was a most remarkable hearing, on account of the feeling at times, shown between some of the interrogators and certain witnesses. At such times it was a combat of intellect against intellect, with the thrust and counter-thrust; yet as a whole it is a wonderful revelation of important canal data.
The witnesses were men of very noted ability. They were: Secretary Taft, Chief Engineer John F. Stevens, Ex-Chief Engineer John F. Wallace, Poultney Bigelow, Maj. Hugh J. Gallagher, E. S. Benson, R. V. Schwerin, Gov. Chas. E. Magoon, Theodore P. Shonts, David W. Ross, Wm. Nelson Cromwell, Jacob E. Markel, Linden W. Bates, Wm. Barcley Parsons, Alfred Noble, Frederic P. Stearns, Col. E. H. Ernst, Gen. Peter C. Hains, Gen. Henry L. Abbott, Gen. Geo. W. Davis, Wm. H. Burr, Edward A. Drake, Alfred Anderson, Robert Lesley and Richard L. Walker.
The testimony of some witnesses covers from 200 to 300 printed pages each. Extended testimony was given by Mr. Cromwell, attorney for the French Company and by Sec'y Taft.
The most notable thing in the whole hearing was the contest between Senator Morgan, the questioner, and Mr. Cromwell the lawyer-witness. After days of strenuous examination, the witness came out at the conclusion apparently vigorous and unconquered. His testimony was replete with valuable information; and to the end he declined to disclose private matters between himself and his client, the French company. He was exceedingly clear and accurate in his legal views, and knew when and how to speak, and when to decline.
Mr. Wallace under a careful examination disclosed his reasons for resigning, in 1905, his position as chief Engineer of the canal.
Mr. Taft's evidence, as Secretary of War, covered
a vast field, was highly instructive and of incalculable benefit to the committee.
A witness whose testimony was convincing and forceful was Mr. Stevens, Chief Engineer. Among the other witnesses were some of the most noted Engineers of the nation.
The Committee had the benefit of the findings of the Consulting Board and of the Canal Commission of 1906, yet the formal reports had not been filed. The Consulting Board (majority) favored the sea-level plan; but the minority and the Canal Commission both favored a lock canal with the "Great Dam” at Gatun.
On June 27, 1906 the House, finally, passed the Senate bill in form as follows:
"Be it enacted, etc., That a lock canal be constructed across the Isthmus of Panama connecting the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, of the general type proposed by the minority of the Board of Consulting Engineers, created by order of the President, dated January 24, 1905, in pursuance of an act entitled 'An act to provide for the construction of a canal connecting the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Approved June 28, 1902.'”
This bill was engrossed June 28, and approved by the President, June 29, and under it the Great Dam was built at Gatun; though the French Company and many American Engineers had at a prior date, selected Bohio as the dam site. The final choice was the wise one, both on account of the water supply and the vast area of free navigation afforded from Gatun to the mountains; both sites required locks to the height of 85 feet.
The safety of the canal, now hangs on this phenomenal Gatun dam and its locks; the slides at Culebra can be controlled by dredging, expensive though it be.
WYSE AND DE LESSEPS.
Lieut. Wyse, whose mother was a Boneparte, secured his concession in 1878, and with de Lesseps at once took steps to build a canal at Panama, selecting this route, as de Lesseps says, relying wholly on prior surveys made by American Engineers. The Wyse concession reserved full sovereignty to Colombia. The charter grant required that there should be equality among all users of the canal, and forbade the transfer of the rights to a foreign power. De Lesseps and his associates became incorporated under the general law of France. This definite purpose of a foreign people to build a canal at Panama brought the question in 1880, vividly, before the United States.
Our nation had spent millions of dollars in surveys with the view of building a Canal under American control. President Hayes, Secretary Evarts and Congress began a search to ascertain our rights in the emergency. The whole civil government became aroused. If checkmated at Panama the only place for us was at Nicaragua. Two canals across the American barrier would be a surfeit; commercially, one would destroy the other. The practical question today is : will the traffic make one canal profitable?
Our interest in the canal project received a stimulus at three different epochs. The Civil War brought General Grant to the presidency and with him an inspiration for a canal.
Wyse and De Lesseps about 1880 began active work at Panama, this again aroused the American inspiration for the canal. It was evident that foreign influence might outstrip us and gain a monopoly of this enterprise.
Then came the war with Spain and at its close we again became inspired, even enthused, and must have a canal, because the Oregon sailed around the Horn and helped to save the flag at Santiago.
On Page 45 ante, it is said that on May 4, 1904, the canal was conveyed to the United States and the French stockholders received their money. It now appears that our nation did not deem it wise to send in one shipment, $40,000,000 in gold from this country; so it was on May 4, deposited in Morgan's bank, New York, the money to be transmitted to Paris in installments. It did not all reach Paris until 60 days after May 4, 1904.
In 1880 our nation was face to face with a delicate situation: was the grant to Wyse in violation of our treaty of 1846 with New Granada, and if the French operated a canal under this grant, would we control it under that treaty? Would a canal operated by citizens of France under a French charter, violate the Monroe Doctrine? Would not any canal built at Panama by Europeans be liable to bring our nation into trouble and conflict? These serious problems were viewed by Statesmen from different angles.
They also had divergent views on the location for the Canal; some through interest or prejudice seemed to be glued to Nicaragua; others from conviction favored Panama; others favored Panama, not because it was the better way, but for the very purpose of eliminating the French competition. The Panama advocates found the French failure a direct American benefit. It made the opportunity for an exclusive canal in our hands, and fortunately this is now a demonstrated fact. So long as we do justice to all and charge a uniform rate, no one will care to build a competing canal at Nicaragua.
But did the French project violate the Monroe Doctrine? This doctrine meant that no foreign nation