During the Spanish-American War the warship Oregon was summoned from the WestCoast.
The trip took two months to travel 14,000 miles around Cape Horn to theAtlantic. (The American Journey 741) How was the United States supposed todefend it shores if it took ships that long to get between them? The UnitedState had to build a canal through Central America; national security dependedon it. The Politics of the Panama Canal are confusing. This confusion includesthe building, the economics and the operation of this facility. The canal, beganin 1881 and finished in 1914(Dolan 55), has caused one country to fail, anotherto triumph, and another to gain its independence.Order now
There was a need for a canalthrough the isthmus of Central America. The big question was who would step upand build it. France had just lost the Franco-Prussian War against Germany. Thecountry felt that it had lost some prestige in eyes of other nations. Thereseemed only one certain way to restore its glory, undertake and complete themost challenging engineering feat in history.
Build a canal through CentralAmerica and link the world’s two greatest oceans. (Dolan 53) The French chosePanama to build its canal because it was far narrower than Nicaragua, it’scloset competitor. They obtained permission from Columbia to lay the waterway. (Dolan 53) A private company was founded in 1879 to raise the needed capital toundertake the construction.
Appointed president of the company was Ferdind deLesseps, who had guided the construction of the Suez Canal. (Panama) The Frenchabandoned the project in 1889, due to a lack of funding. (Dolan 59) Now it wastime for the American’s to get involved. But there was one problem; they hadsigned a treaty with Great Britain that said, if one or the other decided tobuild a canal then the two countries would work together.
This treaty was calledthe Clayton Bulwer Treaty. In 1901 the treaty was replaced with the Hay-Pauncefotetreaty. It called for Great Britain to give the United States the right to actindependently in the development of an Atlantic Pacific waterway. Why did theBritish agree to the treaty? They were tied up in the Boer War in South Africaand didn’t want to split the bill on a canal? (Dolan 63) Now congress had todecide on where to dig the canal. The two main choices were Panama andNicaragua.
Just days before the vote on the canal site, Philipee Benau-Varillaobtained ninety Nicaragua stamps that pictured a railroad dock with an activevolcano in the background, and sent them to all of the senators with a message:”An official witness of the volcanic activity in Nicaragua. (Mcneese 78) Didit work? Panama got the go ahead. The United States now to get permission fromColumbia to dig in Panama. In 1902, John Hay, the U.
S. Secretary of State begannegotiate with the Colombian government. An agreement was finally reached inJanuary 1903 in the signing of the Hay-Banau-Varilla Treaty, which granted theUnited States a strip of land 6 miles wide along the general route laid out byde Lesspes. The U. S.
had the right to administer and police this zone. In returnthey would pay the Colombian government $10 million, and after nine years ofoperation Columbia would get an annual fee of $250,000. (Dolan 63) The treatyhad to be ratified in both the U. S.
and Columbia before it could take affect. The U. S. gave its approval in March 1903, but the Colombian Congress said therewas not enough money for the right to dig in Panama. They wanted an additional$5 million from the Americans.
They also objected to many of the points on theadministration of what was now known as the Canal Zone. (Dolan 64) When theColumbian Government refused to ratify the treaty, Panama revolted because theyfeared the United States would build through Nicaragua. After they declaredtheir independence from Columbia, President Theodore Roosevelt ensured thesuccess of the revolt when he ordered a U. S. warship to prevent Colombian troopsfrom entering the isthmus.
(Panama) Now Panama had its independence and the U. S. had the right to build the canal. The Canal Zone was ten miles wide and 50 mileslong; it embraced an area of 553 square miles- an area that, totaling 5 percentof the nation’s landmass speared its way directly through the heart of Panama.
The Panamanians complained that it chopped their already small country intosmaller pieces. The split made it difficult, if not impossible for Panama togrow as a single united nation and with the Canal lying in their path, thepeople would have trouble moving from one side of the country to the other. Families and friends would be separated. Business would be difficult to conductacross the waterway. Political views might grow too different on each side.
Inthe end, Panama could end up being two countries. (Dolan 101) But these concernswould have to wait the treaty had already been signed, in fact the Canal wasalready nearing completion. When the canal was finished in 1914(McCullogh 609)it was approximately 51 miles long. Passage through it by a ship sailing fromNew York to San Francisco saved 7, 872 miles and it the same plans of operationthat the canal has today. It was also very costly.
The canal had cost theAmerican’s $352 million. When added you that to the French expenditures thetotal peaks out approximately at $639 million. In 1914 this made the PanamaCanal the greatest single construction project in American History. In, livesthe canal cost the Americans 5,609; workers, added to the French, the totalswells to nearly 25,000.
(McNeese 85) Another cost to the United States was anindemnity to Columbia of $25 million during the Wilson administration. Apparently this was to smooth out tensions between the two countries. As can beexpected Columbia was infuriated by the aid Panama received from the UnitedStates. Now Columbia was evolving into one of the most important countries inSouth America, really only second to Brazil.
It was a neighbor to the UnitedState’s canal and it had power. The payment was to insure America’sinvestment. However this still angered former President Theodore Roosevelt. In aletter he wrote to Banau-Varilla, he said “Is that they are eager to takeadvantage of the deeds of the man of action when action is necessary and theneager to discredit him when the action is once over. “(McCullough 617) ThePanama Canal had substantial effect on the Panamanian Economy.
In addition tothe $10 million payment to Panama, the U. S paid $250,000 after the canal hadbeen in operation for nine years. That annuity has increased since, in 1999 itwas well over $100 million. The canal also prompted many American Companies toinvest in Panama. They bought land from the nation’s rich land owningfamilies. This money seldom filtered down to the ordinary citizens.
However,there were advantages for these citizens. (Dolan 98) The canal and the zone,until recently, were ran by two organization, the zone government (to supervisesuch bodies as the police, postal, and court systems) and the Panama CanalCompany, which held responsibility for operating and maintaining the waterway. These two organizations were the major employer on the isthmus. Between 1914 and1940 they consistently employed between 10,00 and 13,000 civilian workers. Whenthe work force stood at 13,000 in 1977, 3,500 employees were Americans and 9,600were non-U. S.
citizens. The non U. S. citizens were mainly Panamanians. (Dolan99) Many other Panamanians also profited from the waterway. Though not directlyemployed by the canal, they sold goods and services to the zone and its workers,the passing ships, and the 10,000 U.
S. military troops (and their families)stationed in the zone to protect the canal. It has been estimated that the canalaccounted for over 20 percent of Panama’s employment. (Dolan 99) The canaltolls per ton were not raised for 59 years. In 1915 tolls were about $14million. By 1970 they exceeded $100 million.
In 1973 the Panama Canal Companyrecorded its first loss, this was the reason for the change from 90 cents percargo ton to $1. 08. Revenues in 1975 exceeded $ 140 million. (McNeese 215) Wasthe Hay-Banan-Varilla Treaty fair? In the words of former President Jimmy Carter”No Panamanians had ever seen the terms of the treaty of which were highlyfavorable to the U. S. “.
Among the terms that Panama resented was the U. S. control over the zone. The question of sovereignty over the canal aroused deeppassions, which came to boil in 1964 with massive rioting by Panamanians, aresponse to U. S.
troops, bloodshed on both sides. In the aftermath, PresidentLydon Johnson agreed to renegotiate the treaty related to the Panama Canal. (Conaway) In 1977 United States and Panama agreed on a new treaty. The mostsignificant agreement was the transferring of ownership of the canal to Panamato take the place on December 31, 1999. Also they agreed to cooperate in thedefense of the canal. The annual payment was upped to $ 10 million and was to bepaid from the canals revenue, plus a payment of 30 cents for each ton ofshipping.
And when Panama took control of the canal it was free to employAmericans. (Dolan 128) Also included in the treaty was a neutrality clause. Thecanal is to remain open to merchant vessels of all nations indefinitely, withoutdiscriminations as to conditions or tolls. The clause does not allow the U.
S. tointervene in the internal affairs of Panama. It does however give the UnitedStates and Panama the responsibility to insure that the canal remains open. (Crane 81) Though it was rich with symbolic significance the signing ceremony onSeptember 7, 1977, hardly ended the controversy over the treaties.
Theratification battle in the U. S. Senate still lay ahead, and it called for theuse of every political tool available to President Carter’s team. It was abattle won vote by vote, through personal appeals, political accommodations, andoccasionally silly details. Carter recall one senator, a former collegeprofessor, was proud of a book he had written on semantics. Before meeting withhim to try to persuade him to vote for the treaties, Carter read the entire book? “which was really boring” ? and proved that he had by discussing someof it’s point with him.
He eventually got the senator’s vote. (SecondDecade) In 1988 the canal became involved in a struggle for power in Panama. Manuel Noreiga had assumed military power over Panama. In response PresidentRonald Reagan decided to ban the annual payments to Panama and freeze Panama’sassets in U.
S. banks. This cut Noriega revenue by $180 million a year. (Dolan140) Facing a rapidly deteriorating situation, President Bush ordered U. S.
troops into Panama on December 20 1989, to protect U. S. citizens, to meet treatyresponsibilities, to defend the canal, and to assist in restoring democracy andbring Noreiga to Justice. The Panamanian democratic opposition formed a newgovernment led by President Guillermd Endum.
(Second Decade) Finally Panama wasunder democratic control and had something to look forward to. The turning overof the Panama Canal to Panama. No longer would their economic depend on howanother country wanted to run things. They now will decide how they want to runthe canal. And they will run it as the please because as of December 31, 1999,the day the U. S.
turned over the canal, they owned the canal. Finally afterdecades of frustration they were truly free. Politics will undoubtedly have aninfluence in the maintaining, the economics, and the operation of the PanamaCanal in the years to come. They will help the canal expand in the lives of morePanamanians and maybe someday even building of another canal over the Isthmus ofPanama.
BibliographyCrane, Phillip F: Surrender in Panama, the Case Against the Treaties. NewYork: Dale Books, 1978 Conaway, Janell. America’s. Jan 1999, 16. NewsBank,Online 1999 Dolan, Edward F. : Panama and the United States, Their Canal, andTheir Stormy Years.
New York: Moffy Press Inc. , 1990 McCullough, David: The PathBetween the Seas. New York: Simon a Schuster, 1977 McNeese, Tim. The PanamaCanal. San Diego: Lucent Books. Inc, 1997 “Panama”.
The Volume Library. South Western Company, 1994 The Second Decade: Panama at the Canal Treaties. U. S. Department of Dispatch, 1990