Panama Canal Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2668 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature - Latin-American

Foreign Policy

Panama Canal

Treaty process history. What are 2-3 most important factors of the Panama Canal?

The history of the Panama Canal goes back to 16th century. After comprehending the riches of Peru, Ecuador, and Asia, and taking into account the time it took the gold to reach the ports of Spain, it was recommended that by cutting out a piece of land somewhere in Panama. Trips would become shorter and the risk of taking the treasures through the isthmus would validate such a venture. In 1529, a study of the isthmus was ordered and afterward a working plan for a canal was developed. The wars in Europe and the thirsts for the control of kingdoms in the Mediterranean Sea simply put the project on permanent hold (the Panama Canal, n.d.).

In the early 19th century the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt revitalized interest in the project, and in 1819 the Spanish government formally certified the construction of a canal and the formation of a company to build it. Various surveys were conducted between 1850 and 1875 that showed that there were only two routes that were realistic, the one across Panama and another across Nicaragua. In 1876 an international company was put together. In 1878 it obtained permission from the Colombian government to dig a canal across the isthmus. Unfortunately, the international company was unsuccessful, and in 1880 a French company was put together by Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, who had built the Suez Canal. It was in 1879, that de Lesseps planned a sea level canal through Panama (the Panama Canal, n.d.).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Panama Canal Assignment

The discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the charge of would-be miners is what stirred America's interest in digging the canal. It was thought that both mileage and time would be drastically reduced when going from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean or vice versa. It was thought that it would save a total of 18,000 miles on a trip from New York to San Francisco. Even though de Lesseps was not an engineer, he was chosen to head the building of the Panama Canal. Upon taking charge, he planned an International Congress to discuss several plans for constructing a ship canal. He decided that a sea-level canal similar to that of the Suez Canal would be the best option. He believed that if a sea-level canal worked when building the Suez Canal, it would certainly work for in this case (the Panama Canal, n.d.).

In 1899 the United States Congress created an Isthmian Canal Commission in order to look at the potential for a Central American canal and to come up with a route. The commission had first chosen a route through Nicaragua, but later overturned that decision. The Lesseps Company presented its resources to the United States for a price of $40 million. The United States and the new state of Panama signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty, in which the United States promised the independence of Panama and protected a perpetual lease on a 10-mile strip for the canal. Panama was to be compensated by an initial payment of $10 million and an annuity of $250,000 that was to start in 1913 (the Panama Canal, n.d.).

2. Why did the U.S. want the canal?

The United States had been attracted to the idea of a canal since the middle of the 19th century. It was well-known that it was only a matter of time until the United States or some other power built a canal across the isthmus in Central America. The big problem was deciding whether it would go across Panama or across Nicaragua. President Roosevelt thought that the United States had to build and defend this canal. When Roosevelt was vice president there was a treaty signed with Great Britain that gave the United States the right to build the canal but not to protect it. From the beginning Roosevelt was against this treaty. Along with others, he forced the United States to renegotiate that treaty so the United States would have the authority to deal with the building of a canal in Central America (LaFeber, n.d.).

Roosevelt believed the canal was of vital importance because travel at that time from New York to San Francisco had to be taken around the tip of South America, which was close to 13,600 miles. It would take an extraordinary amount of time to move the American fleet from the Atlantic to the Pacific in case of a war. Having the canal, would be reduced this distance to about 5,000 miles. Roosevelt saw this as not only a tremendous benefit for American commerce, but it would be a way of moving the American fleet and keeping the fleet together from the Atlantic to the Pacific, or vice versa, depending upon where the fleet was needed. According to Roosevelt, the building of a great navy and the building of a canal were all part of the same foreign policy. He felt that without the canal, the rest of the foreign policy would not fall into place (LaFeber, n.d.).

3. Who has controlled the Panama Canal?

Starting in 1819, Panama was considered part of the federation and country of Colombia. But when Colombia abandoned the United States plans to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, the U.S. supported a revolution that led to the independence of Panama in 1903. The new Panamanian government sanctioned French businessman Philippe Bunau-Varilla, to discuss a treaty with the United States. The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty allowed the U.S. To build the Panama Canal and provided for perpetual control of zone five-miles wide on either side of the canal. Even though the French had tried construction of a canal in the 1880s and failed, the Panama Canal was successfully built from 1904 to 1914. Once the canal was complete the U.S. held a piece of land that ran approximately 50 miles across the Isthmus of Panama. The division of the country of Panama into two parts by the U.S. territory of the Canal Zone caused tension throughout the twentieth century. Additionally, the self-contained Canal Zone the official name for the U.S. territory in Panama contributed little to the Panamanian economy. The people of the Canal Zone were primarily U.S. citizens and West Indians who were employed in the Zone and on the canal (Rosenberg, 2007).

Anger flared up in the 1960s which led to anti-American riots. The U.S. And Panamanian governments started working together in order to solve the territorial issue. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty which agreed to return 60% of the Canal Zone to Panama in 1979. The canal and residual territory, known as the Canal Area, was given back to Panama in 1999. From 1979 to 1999, a bi-national transitional Panama Canal Commission oversaw the canal, with an American leader during the first decade and a Panamanian administrator during the second. The changeover at the end of 1999 went smoothly, because by 1996 over 90% of the canal employees were Panamanian. The 1977 treaty recognized the canal as a neutral international waterway and provided that even in times of war any vessel would be allowed to pass safely (Rosenberg, 2007).

4. What Panama obtained (in exchange for what / benefits) for giving the canal to the U.S.

The Panamanians launched their rebellion on 3 November 1903. By the end of that day the rebels had created a provisional government and revealed a constitution, one that was written in New York. The fact that the U.S.S. Nashville was present and the use of bribes permitted a successful revolution. In one day and with only one death, the new Republic of Panama was born. Washington without delay extended diplomatic recognition. Inside several days, Bunau-Varilla who had permission from the provisional government to represent Panama began negotiations. The Hay -- Bunau-Varilla Treaty was signed in November. This gave the United States a ten-mile strip of land. They had all the rights to build and administer a canal along with the right to protect it. As payment, the Panamanians initially received $10 million and then an annual rent of $250,000. Washington also pledged to uphold Panama's independence. In spite of some disapprovals of the agreement, Roosevelt pushed the Senate for ratification, urging it to follow the Panamanian Congress. Following vigorous debate, in February of 1904 the Senate voted 66 -- 14 to accept it. Right away Washington bought the resources of the New Panama Canal Company for $40 million (Panama Canal, 2010).

5. Why did the United States give the canal back to Panama?

The United States had had a close and often troubled relationship with Panama going back to the dawn of the twentieth century. At that time, American and European businessmen looked enthusiastically toward rising commercial markets in East Asia, which would need a shortcut between the North Atlantic and the Pacific. The pace of shipping was frustratingly slow, as Asia-bound vessels traveled all the way around the tip of South America (Why Did We Give… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Panama Canal" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Panama Canal.  (2010, April 28).  Retrieved September 23, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Panama Canal."  28 April 2010.  Web.  23 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Panama Canal."  April 28, 2010.  Accessed September 23, 2020.