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Panama Canal Essay

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Panama Canal Essay

The canal was the best thing that ever happened to Panama. The Panama Canal was started under President Roosevelt and completed by his successor, William Howard Taft. The canal was built across an isthmus, a narrow body of land that connects two larger land areas, which connects North and South America. In some places in Panama the isthmus is only 50 miles across. The French started the canal in the late 1800's. They had just built the then famous Suez Canal with relative ease. The Suez Canal, unlike the Panama Canal, was a straight canal on level ground, in a relatively dry climate. The French had failed in building the Panama Canal because of the tropical climate, in which deadly tropical diseases consumed their workers, and because of the mountain range in which they could not cut through. He had planned to build the canal in the way of the Suez Canal, straight and sea level. You can see the trouble with trying to cut out that much land, through the mountain range, making it at sea level. The Americans tried their hand in the early 1900's. Three main people helped made the canal a success. Teddy Roosevelt was one of those people; he saw the military importance of a canal. He called for the cruiser, Oregon, to sail around South America from San Francisco to Cuba so it could be present in the battle at Santiago Bay. The entire journey took ten weeks. He was the driving force in getting the permission to build the canal because he realized the importance of having a "shortcut" through the isthmus, bypassing sailing around South America. A trip from San Francisco to New York via Cape Horn is 15,200 miles, but going through the isthmus is only 6,100 miles. The second person was Colonel William Gorgas, who was chosen to stamp out the deadly tropical diseases. The third was the great engineer, Colonel George Goethals, who was charged with cutting through the treacherous mountain range. Instead of cutting straight though the land, he devised building lochs, in which the boats would be raised gradually.

Back then the land in which the canal was to be built was owned by Columbia. Theodore Roosevelt asked the Columbians for permission to build the canal, but they refused. People living on the isthmus were dissenting from the Columbian government and eventually revolted and set up the independent Republic of Panama. "It was Roosevelt who "took the isthmus," regardless of the niceties of international law and Congressional debate." - The Good Neighbor: Teddy's Big Ditch, Building the Canal. When the Panamanians revolted Teddy saw this as the perfect investment to get the canal underway. He supported the Panamanians and sent warships to stop any help from the Columbian government to put down the rebellion. The Panamanians declared their independence and were very grateful towards the Americans. The Americans leased a strip of land, called the Panama Canal Zone, for $10,000,000. The land was forty-five miles long and ten miles wide and the American's paid a $430,000 rent every year. In 1904, they agreed to let the United States build the canal, which was continued on the old French canal.

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