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The US Acquires rights to build Canal 

The United States acquired possession of the Panama Canal territory in 1903. Actual work on the Canal was begun by Americans in 1905 with the prediction that the Canal would be finished in ten years, 1915. The engineers have been better than their word. The difficulties with Mexico rendered the Canal suddenly useful to the United States, and Colonel Goethals reported that he would have the "big ditch" ready for the passage of any war-ship by May 15, 1914. That promise he carried out. The Canal is still in danger of being blocked by slides of mud in the deep Culebra Cut, and probably will continue exposed to this difficulty for some years to come. But the work is practically complete; ships passed through the Canal under government orders in 1914. The greatest engineering work man ever attempted, the profoundest change he has ever made in the geographical face of the globe, has been successfully accomplished. 

The United States, not unmindful of the advantages of an isthmian canal, had from time to time made investigations and surveys of the various routes. With a view to government ownership and control, Congress directed an investigation of the Nicaraguan Canal, for which a concession had been granted to a private company. The resulting report brought about such a discussion of the advantages of the Panama route to the Nicaraguan route that by an act of Congress, approved March 3, 1889, a commission was appointed to "make full and complete investigation of the Isthmus of Panama, with a view to the construction of a canal." The commission reported on November 16, 1901, in favor of Panama, and recommended the lock type of canal. 

By act of Congress, approved June 28, 1902, the President of the United States was authorized to acquire, at a cost not exceeding $40,000,000, the property rights of the New Panama Canal Company on the Isthmus of Panama, and also to secure from the Republic of Colombia perpetual

control of a strip of land not less than 6 miles wide, extending from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and "the right ... to excavate, construct, and to perpetually maintain, operate, and protect thereon a canal of such depth and capacity as will afford convenient passage of ships of the greatest tonnage and draft now in use."  

Pursuant to the legislation, negotiations were entered into with Colombia and with the New Panama Canal Company, with the end that a treaty was made with the Republic of Panama granting to the United States control of a 10-mile strip, constituting the Canal Zone, with the right to construct, maintain, and operate a canal. This treaty was ratified by the Republic of Panama on December 2, 1903, and by the United States on February 23, 1904. 

The formal transfer of the property of the New Panama Canal Company on the Isthmus was made on May 4, 1904, after which the United States began the organization of a force for the construction of the lock type of canal, in the mean time continuing the excavation by utilizing the French material and equipment and such labor as was procurable on the Isthmus. 

President Roosevelt, in a message to Congress, dated February 19, 1906, stated: "The law now on our statute-books seems to contemplate a lock canal. In my judgment a lock canal, as herein recommended, is advisable. If the Congress directs that a sea-level canal be constructed its direction will, of course, be carried out; otherwise the Canal will be built on substantially the plan for a lock canal outlined in the accompanying papers, such changes being made, of course, as may be found actually necessary, including possibly the change recommended by the Secretary of War as to the site of the dam on the Pacific side." 

On June 29, 1906, Congress provided that a lock type of canal be constructed across the Isthmus of Panama, of the general type proposed by the minority of the Board of Consulting Engineers, and work was begun.  



  Panama City, Panama   US Gains right to build Canal
  French start Panama Canal   How the Panama Canal Works

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