The Birth of the Panama Canal, 1869—1914

Panama, and its American-controlled Canal Zone, have lately been the scene of a revolutionary flutter. W.H. Chaloner asks, what is the history of the building of the Canal, and of the United States connexion with it?

What might be called the pre-natal history of the Panama Canal is an extremely long one.

There have been numerous plans for cutting through the Central American Isthmus almost from the day in 1513 on which the Spaniard Balboa became the first European to see the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean.

The modern history of the project, however, began in 1846, when the United States of America and the Republic of New Granada (now Colombia) concluded a treaty, ratified in 1848, by which New Granada guaranteed to the government and citizens of the United States the right of passage across the roads of the isthmus of Panama “and over any canal or railroad which may be constructed to unite the two seas.”

The Californian gold rush of 1848-49 gave the isthmus added economic and political importance.

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