A Region Permanently in Turmoil, the Panama Canal's Controversial History

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The history of the Panama Canal begins in the 1880’s when the Clayton-Bulwer treaty was signed on April 19,1880. This treaty between the United States and Great Britain stated that neither country could excavate in the Colombian area. At the time prospecting for Colombian oil was the key issue. On February 5, 1900 the Hay-Pauncefote treaty was brought forward. This treaty renounced British rights to joint construction and ownership of a canal, and was rejected when the treaty reached the British Parliament.

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In November 1901, the second Hay-Pauncefote treaty was signed by both the United States and Great Britain. By Britain signing the treaty, this allowed the United States to dig and maintain a canal in panama. On January 23,1903, the Hay-Heran treaty was signed between Colombia and the United States. This treaty allowed the United States to start construction on the canal, but the Colombia Senate didn’t immediately ratify the treaty.

The Hay-Bunua-Varilla treaty between the United States and the new government of Panama was signed on November 18,1903. This treaty gave the United States a canal zone with five miles on each side of the canal. The ten million dollars gave the United States the right of the zone, with a 250 thousand dollar yearly payment.

The ratification of the Hay-Bunua-Varilla treaty took longer than the United States expected. The eleven-year wait caused the expense of the canal to go up to twenty five million dollars. Then later Colombia didn’t want to give up the five miles on each side of the canal. Without the five miles on each side of the canal the United States couldn’t put in the proper transportation for the building of the canal. On September 2,1914 the Colombian government gave the Canal Zone for the cost of thirty five thousand dollars. Finally after twenty years of negotiating the United States was allowed construct a canal through Panama.

After fighting Great Britain the United States gained the land from France. After the French’s loss of the treaty between France and Columbia the United States started the excavation of the canal. The United States started from where the not so lucky French let off. France’s excavation of the canal fell short due to shortage of money and the diseases in Panama that were wiping out foreigners left and right.

The United States sent their first Chief Engineer, who was John F. Wallace. Wallace was an American civilian engineer. His plans were to do what the French left off. He was going to make a sea level canal. Before Wallace and his crew could start on the canal, the most deadly of the problems on the isthmus had to be overcome – diseases. Somewhere between ten and twenty thousand people died due to diseases that spread throughout the Panama Canal Zone. Two of the most devastating forms of the diseases were yellow fever and malaria. So before the long journey to the Canal Zone, Wallace and his crew had to be treated and vaccinated for all the deadly forms of diseases the fled through the Panama Canal Zone. As time passed, Wallace was getting fed up with the time and money that they were losing from the misconnections to the United States. It would take months to get simple supplies for the canal. So Wallace came back to the United States for a higher paying job.

The second Panama Canal engineer was John Stevens. While under Stevens’ control, the canal changed from a sea level canal to a locking canal. Stevens also changed the Chagres River to the largest man made lake. Changing the river to a lake was needed for the proper flow for the new locking canal system. After the change from the river to the lake, is when President Roosevelt made his first appearance at the Panama Canal Zone. After his visit, the diseases that fled through Panama seemed to die down. Upon Roosevelt’s return is when Stevens started to dislike the work in the canal. So Roosevelt accepted Steven’s “resignation”, and found a new leader. He was an army lieutenant; his name was George Washington Goethals. Now the Panama Canal Zone was under military control.

George Goethals was definitely the most together of the chief engineers. Used to working within the governments rules, he knew how to get what he wanted, and quickly. Right away he introduced a cost-keeping system to keep track of the costs of the different materials and jobs, and increase or decrease spending accordingly. This cost-keeping process saved America millions of dollars in the long run.

Complications were brought up due to the size of the canal. The width was to be increased from 200 feet to 300 feet, and the canal locks from ninety-five feet to 110 feet. Goethals took care of these problems promptly for the canal was almost complete, except for the small mountains that were in the way.

The Culebra Mountain was the hardest part to dig through; even though the mountain was one of the smaller mountains it still brought many challenges to Goethals and his crew. The cut alone pulled out ninety-six million tons of dirt. Explosives were used to cut through the hard rock, in which the powerful steam shovels could not cut through. Goethals’ crew used over nineteen million pounds of explosives in the Culebra Cut alone. This excavation of the mountain caused eight deaths due to the explosives.

The Panama Canal was completed in August of 1914, under budget of twenty-three million dollars. The cost-keeping system that Goethals introduced helped the United States to keep the low budget of the canal. The Panama Canal is thought to be the most terrain-engineering marvel of the twentieth century. No one else in the world has ever been successful in overcoming mother earth. Mother earth still has her own advantages, mudslides year around send millions of tons of dirt in to the canals bottom. Yet the flow of the water due to the locking system sends the dirt out to the oceans on either side of the canal.

The Panama Canal is under American control. Yet China, a communist country, wants to take over the canal. So as Americans we must take charge of the canal. The Panama Canal makes millions of dollars for the United States every year. The charge for the canal use is $1.09 per ton. All ships are allowed through the canal except for oil tankers, because the canal wasn’t made for the size or shape of the tankers.

The Panama Canal history first started with the French and ended up in the United States. The history should remain in the United States and it should not be given to China’s dynasty. If China’s Dynasty becomes the controller of the canal, trade for America will be shattered. China wants the canal so they can put higher charges on the trade route. The higher charges will go to China’s war and defense technologies, so China can become larger and more of a world power than the United States. We need to keep the canal. The canal is a showing of imperialism of America. If we give up the canal without putting up a fight against China, that means we as American’s are becoming weak. We need to defend our boundaries, and not let China control the Panama Canal. If china does control the Panama Canal, that means they are that much closer to the United States and China, as a communist country, they want to become the world power. Yet they dont have an navy, so by controlling the panama Canal, that leads China one step closer to becoming the world power.

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