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through the Culebra hill sufficient to cause the water to stand between the dams at all points deep enough to float the desired ships. This plan was not even thought worthy of discussion by the Congress.
The French wanted a sea-level canal and even gave some thought of tunnelling the mountain. This was inconceivable to many people and justly so. On October 20, 1879 the Universal Inter-oceanic Canal Company was organized at Paris by de Lesseps. Bunau-Varilla says that de Lesseps was not an engineer and did not like engineers. He had no trouble in getting the amount of stock subscribed, mostly in small lots and many subscribers being women. The original subscriptions amounted to $120,000,000, with 102,000 stockholders. Work was begun February 1, 1880, and within two years an army of workmen were engaged from ocean to ocean. Glowing reports were circulated in France and de Lesseps who remained in France was worshipped as a hero.
The question is often asked, how could the French people build the canal in the face of the Monroe Doctrine and against the wish of the United States? They had a private grant from Colombia, the sovereign; and France, the nation, had no jurisdiction over the enterprise; hence it was not colonizing or controlling territory in America against the Monroe Doctrine. If the French people had succeeded in completing the canal it would, to a limited extent, come under the control of the United States by virtue of the grants to us under the New Granada treaty of 1846. The de Lesseps grant being subsequent to 1846 was taken subject to our right and control, under our treaty unless we expressly waived our control in favor of the French grant. It never got to this critical stage for the reason that the French Company did not complete the canal; and we, purchasing their rights for $40,000,000 merged their claim into ours and all questions were thus happily eliminated.
The French had performed an enormous amount of excavation which fell to us by the purchase, so we were a long way on the road with the task when we began our part of the work. New plans however had to be made, new machinery secured and greatest of all, sanitation had to be installed and, generally, order to be brought forth out of chaos. Government engineering has now practically completed a canal, but who can say that it has been economically done? Or vice versa? $400,000,000 is a tremendous sum; but the American people wanted the canal; they wanted to own and control it. It is no time now to regret the outlay; but the nation should take all proper economic steps to regain it.
The Clayton-Bulwer treaty required England and America to protect any canal across the Isthmus, built by any persons. This made it lawful for de Lesseps to take rights from Colombia and build the canal, and so long as England was in harmony with de Lesseps, she had the right to call upon us to help protect the canal. Our hands were tied; but de Lesseps would have had to operate the canal under the protection of England and America. The Clayton-Bulwer treaty and our treaty of 1846 would have governed, otherwise war might have resulted.
The French Company got into financial difficulty in 1888. A receiver was appointed in 1889. He had new plans drawn to complete the work. These called definitely for a permanent lock canal without provision for deepening to sea level. The report was submitted in 1890. These plans seem to have been criticised by Bunau-Varilla as impossible under the financial situation.
The populous in France became divided and many savagely attacked de Lesseps and the whole undertaking. Bunau-Varilla says that “there was then but one crime, and that was to have served the Panama enterprise. There was but one virtue; and that was to have helped to destroy it." The canal trouble was then taken up by parliament, and for seven years it was a seething political caldron. In 1894 the affairs came into the hands of the New Panama Canal Company, which attempted to complete the work, but in 1898 they made an offer to sell the rights and interests to the United States. Matters were in such a precarious state that it was impossible to rehabilitate the enterprise. There was now only one hope; sell to the United States and destroy the Nicaragua scheme. At last this was the consummation.
The plan of the French was to build a much smaller canal than has been constructed by the Americans. While one was a makeshift, the other is a full sized operating machine. The French idea was to make the locks 65 feet wide and 590 feet long; and the Culebra cut was to be 72 feet wide. The American plan is : locks 110 feet wide and 1,000 feet long; with the Culebra cut 300 feet wide while the sea-level ends are 500 feet wide. This is stated in Bunau-Varilla's work on Panama, page 112. In the early stages of the French undertaking Bunau-Varilla at the age of 26 years had charge of all the canal work from Colon to Panama.
SECURING THE ROUTE.
After securing the treaty in 1901, the crucial struggle then began. We now had the right to build a canal anywhere across the isthmus so far as England was concerned. Nicaragua was in the ascendency, yet to many engineers this seemed almost an impossibility. There were the San Juan river and the Nicaragua lake to be traversed and deepened; and, then there was the very high ridge between the lake and the Pacific. It would be a difficult and expensive undertaking. The route through the lake was more than 70 miles long; twenty-eight miles of this would need to be dredged and this would only be a narrow canal in a vast inland sea, which in time of storm would be as boisterous as the ocean. How would a ship be kept in a narrow channel in such a state of weather. The heavy seas would also cause the channel to fill from the sides and constant dredging would be required. But the greatest of all difficulties according to Bunau-Varilla would have been the ridges both east and west. The greatest cut at Nicaragua would be the depth of 297 feet; and by this route eight locks would be required. Another great detriment at Nicaragua was the sharpness of the curves which would have made it dangerous navigation for ships of extreme length.
The French Company having virtually reached the end of its courage and finances, America was offered the opportunity to buy the incomplete Panama canal, rights and works. Before this could be done a treaty must be made with and a charter secured from Colombia. This passed to the stage where the Hay-Herran treaty was signed by which America was to pay $10,000,000 to Colombia. But this unfortunately failed of ratification by the Colombian Congress.
The whole matter now came to a standstill; for Colombia held the key to the situation. Bunau-Varilla representing the French Company was compelled to act promptly and with decision. Panama as a state must not lose the canal; it seceded, established a temporary government and Colombia sent troops to coerce her rebels. If Panama and Colombia had engaged in war, America would have been compelled to protect the railroad. Peace had to be maintained and this meant liberty to the new Republic. This was the legal theory, at least of a most important and critical situation. Bunau-Varilla in his late book on Panama discloses the whole story with all of its thrilling episodes and diplomatic adventures.
On Nov. 4, 1903, Bunau-Varilla was appointed minister from Panama, (a nation de facto), and on Nov. 13 was received as such minister by President Roosevelt. In his address Varilla spoke in part as follows: In consecrating its (Panama's) right to exist, Mr. President, you put an end to what appears to be interminable controversy as to the rival waterways, and you definitely inaugurate the era of the achievement of the Panama Canal.
The highway from Europe to Asia, following the pathway of the sun is now to be realized.
The pathway sought has hitherto remained in the land of dreams. Today, Mr. President, in response to your summons, it becomes a reality. (House documents 58 Cong. 1 session, page 17.)
On Nov. 18 a treaty with Panama was duly signed. Panama pledged ratification on Dec. 2, 1903; America