Panama Canal Essay

287 WordsSep 13, 20112 Pages
The French were the first to try and build a canal across South America, starting in 1882. Before they could start work, they needed to secure a concession from the Columbian government, which controlled Panama at that time. However, their project failed, thousands of workers died (mainly from disease,) and the company went bankrupt six years later, in 1888. Meanwhile, nationalism was stirring in Panama. An agreement was made with the US government that if the US would help Panama gain their independence, they would allow the canal to be built. In 1903, Panama became its own country, and the United States immediately recognized the new government. Columbia sent troops to reclaim Panama, but US warships prevented them from landing. After the United States helped Panama win its independence, a treaty was immediately negotiated to allow the US to build a canal. The treaty granted considerably more to the US then the failed agreement with Columbia had, including rights to use military within Panama and US control of the Canal Zone in perpetuity. Construction of the current Panama Canal began in 1904. Casualties among the workers were much lower due to extensive projects to control yellow fever and malaria, and the canal was completed in ten years, three years ahead of schedule. However, the cost was a phenomenal $350 million, the most expensive operation the US government had ever undertaken. In addition, Panama was paid ten million dollars, plus another quarter million each year, for use of the territory. This was a very large amount of money at the time, and the fees would be raised in 1936 and again in 1955. During construction, the US also established stores, schools, and military bases around the

More about Panama Canal Essay

Open Document