Posted: June 21st, 2021

Panama Canal’s Legacy in American History

Assuredly the Panama Canal, If you didn’t know already, was one of the most economic and socialized marvels of its time. It was, at first, attempted by the French in the late 1800s, but they were unable to carry out the canal because of financial problems. Not only that, but yellow fever and malaria flooded the campgrounds with the aid of mosquitoes, which made the workforce unbalanced (Avery). Then in 1904, the Americans were to take over under the leadership and guidance of President Theodore Roosevelt. Even then Americans had a difficult time with construction.
Moreover, with the canal built, it’s more sufficient then sailing around the tip of South America. Even today, the canal is used several times a day to bring benefits to the U. S. The French Admittedly, the French owned the Panama Canal before the U. S. Therefore, they were entitled to its construction under the leadership of Ferdinand de Lesseps, who worked on the Suez Canal in earlier years (Avery). Either Nicaragua or Panama would be the location for this engineered creation. Nicaragua was intentionally the first location for the canal (Jones) until one of the French leaders, one day, received a letter in the mail.
As usual, the letter had a postage stamp on it (Avery). From there, Panama was then chosen to become the passageway, for the stamp showed Nicaragua’s terrain with erupting volcanoes, in which they didn’t want that to destroy their plans (Avery). From there, Engineers were sent to survey the area (Avery). Since the area was owned to the Columbian court, they had to persuade them to grant permission to build the canal (Jones). Finally, they were given permission to precede with their construction plans (Avery).

Ferdinand De Lesseps. The man in control, Ferdinand de Lesseps, was an older man who was completely vain from his earlier success in the Suez Canal (Avery). To him, the Panama Canal would be no different. Clearly, he believed that the Panama Canal would be done quicker than the Suez, but was mistaken for in Panama consisted of nothing but mountains and rocky soil (Avery). In Egypt, it was only sand. His idea of the canal was that it would become a sea leveled canal, like the Suez and be parallel to the Panama Railroad that was built by the Americans earlier in the 1800s (Avery).
With Him, a man named General Stephen Turr, who was a close Hungarian companion of de Lesseps, decided to help him in the canal (Avery). With Turr, the canal would be two thirds of the way done from the Rio Grande to the city of Colon, but it would be a take time and many lives, for Panama was infested with monstrous diseases that could kill men within forty eight hours. Disease Yellow Fever and Malaria roamed the French and, of course, American construction sites. Stegomya faciata was the species of mosquito that carried these diseases from one person to the next (Easmon).
Thousands of men died from these diseases that, at first, seemed like a case of influenza because your body would be using a vast amount of substance to rid the infection (Easmon). Pursuing this further, it would worsen to a more serious case of the disease. Yellow fever is intellectually known as virus that has been transmitted from primates to humans through mosquitoes (Easmon). When the mosquito bit into the primate, it would then become permanently infected with the disease and ends up developing in the mosquitoes salivary glands to be spread to other organisms, which in this case, humans (Easmon).
When bitten, the virus would travel into the bloodstream to make its way into the liver, kidneys, or blood vessels to incubate through time period of three to sixteen days before symptoms would occur (Easmon). Symptoms included headache, diarrhea, vomiting and anorexia. Soon after the body would recover for a time period of twenty four hours before it became more serious (Easmon). During this time the body would experience anemia (yellowing of the skin), liver inflammation, and jaundice, in other words, yellowing of the eyes (Easmon).
Hence the reason it was given that name yellow fever (Easmon). The kidneys would become infected as well and cause the person to bleed from the nose, mouth and stomach (Easmon). What was interesting, though, was that the West Indian Negroes, which worked on the canal, were somehow immune to yellow fever, but they severely suffered from malaria (Avery). Malaria, on the other hand, was far off more deadly then Yellow fever for it consisted of parasites (Malaria). An engineer once quoted “If we could control malaria, I would be less anxious about other diseases.
If we cannot control malaria, our mortality is going to very heavy” (American Canal Construction). Consequently, these infections developed in mosquito salivary glands as well and reproduce in the liver (Malaria). Above all, this incubation period could last for months to a year at a time (Malaria). When the parasites leave the liver they reenter the bloodstream where they are able to infect red blood cells to reproduce once again until the cell bursts (Malaria). As a result, it caused anemia and jaundice from the lack of blood cells (Malaria).
Other symptoms include seizures, confusion, coma and death (Malaria). Thus, the French were not able to keep up with the rapid growth of infected patients. They had only a few nurses in the infirmary that where nuns and it didn’t benefit them at all since they were untrained, which lost even more lives (Avery). For example, the nurses would leave in the evening without giving any other care to the patients, which could have prevented the deaths of several lives if was brought up (Avery).
Victims of disease were actually contained in screened cases with buckets of water to prevent insects from crawling up the beds (Avery). This created a breeding ground for mosquitoes (Avery). Later on, when the Americans took over they prevented this by oiling cesspools and canisters, fumigating Panama City, and ridding stagnant waters (American Canal Construction). Financial Problems Eight years after the French started the canal; they experienced financial problems with getting the canal finished.
Ferdinand De Lesseps proceeded to travel back to France to attempt to find loans (Jones). He soon found out that France could not afford the vast amount he was asking for, which was around three million francs. The country could only pay eight percent of that amount (Jones). Engineers gathered together to calculate and survey the canal to discuss the completion of it and decided that it could not be done (Avery). Finally, in 1889, the French abandoned the Canal project pay back loans (Avery). In the final analysis, they were only able to finish two fifths of the canal (Avery).
Most of the money that they used went to camp rent and maintenance, supplies, property and medical necessities, but non advised buying and those who stole money for possession greatly affected the outcome(Avery). One anonymous member of the French once quoted that “one part expended on the canal work, one third wasted, and one third stolen”. They left the canal up to America to finish the job and in 1894 the Americans had taken full control over the canal with Theodore Roosevelt’s leadership and power (Avery) President Theodore’s Impact
President Roosevelt was first elected into office in 1901 (This Great Enterprise). For him, the canal could be easily used for military and economic power(This Great Enterprise). To peruse this even farther, he started negotiating Columbia for the possession for the canal. He offered forty million dollars to gain their permission to finish the canal, but Columbia refused (Buschini). Roosevelt became enraged with their decision, but Roosevelt knew that Panama was preparing to revolt against Columbia and decided to join them (Buschini).
He then quoted “I was prepared to at once to occupy the Isthmus anyhow and proceed to dig the canal, but I deemed it likely that there would be a revolution in Panama soon” (Buschini). He then sent marines and gunboats to gain control over the canal and successfully forced Columbia to accept his request and grant Panama’s Independence (This Great Enterprise). In conclusion, the Panamanians and Roosevelt negotiated the Hay Bureau Varilly Treaty (Jones) that would trade U. S. military power for the independence of Panama and entitle the U.
S. construction for the Panama Canal (This Great Enterprise). Many Americans didn’t approve of Roosevelt’s act against Columbia for the reason that they believed it was deemed unconstitutional, but Theodore Roosevelt Resumed his work and announced that “I took the Isthmus, started the canal, and then left congress—not to debate the canal, but to debate me… While the debate goes on, the canal does to; and they are welcome to debate me as long as they wish, provided that we can go on with the canal”(Buschini).
As Americans Built the Canal, they found several warehouses containing Machinery and supplies (Avery). Several Machines were found under water as well and allowed Americans to use them for spare parts (Avery). Also locomotives, cranes and other machinery were used to get the Panama Canal under way (Avery). Steam shovels were used instead of ladder dredges and Dump cars were loaded with soil to be shipped out of the area on the Panama Railroad (Avery). The Plan for America was to make the sea level canal into a lock canal with the depth of twenty nine and a half feet and ninety eight feet wide(Avery).
Finally in 1914, the Panama Canal was able to open under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson (This Great Enterprise). To make sure there was no tension between the Columbian court and America, he negotiated a treaty paying Columbia twenty five million dollars to dissolve any potential conflicts (This Great Enterprise). Later on in 1978, President Jimmy Carter created a treaty to be ratified by the Senate that the Panama Canal would be given back to the people of panama to own and manage by the year 2000(This great Enterprise).
The Canal’s Effect on the U. S. Indeed, the Panama Canal’s legacy brought several economic and social benefits for the U. S. In the U. S. it would create several more jobs to aid the canal’s shipment process and contain inflation for the hassle of transporting goods and by traveling around South America (Panama Canal). Since prices would decrease on imported goods, the American people would gain more money to spend on other necessities. In return, this would boost America’s economy through spending.
The only consequences that resulted from this achievement was that it cost America three hundred and fifty two million dollars to complete the canal in addition to several acres of tropical forests were destroyed, people were driven from their homes and several lives were lost through disease and natural causes (Panama Canal). Socially, this canal would allow military alliances stronger between America and other countries and showed its importance through foreign intervention. To pursue these even farther, treaties were also created through the canal’s construction that brought America and other countries together as well (Panama Canal).
Conclusion All in all, it has taken the Panama Canal about four decades to be completed. Through the French’s financial problems to America’s success in 1920, several hardships were created and overcome. America’s success would never have been accomplished if it wasn’t the determination of President Theodore Roosevelt and his revolt against Columbia. Even though the French were unsuccessful to complete the canal, they still have the right to know that they aided the Americans by leaving assets for repair, spare parts, and aving the U. S. thousands of dollars in medical centers, cabins, tools and supplies. Several lives were lost as well through Panama’s horrific diseases and other factors such as landslides, but it’s social and economic impact on America greatly affected its economy and alliances through military aid and trades. Through the twentieth century, the legacy of the panama was one of the most social and economic investments of its time and will always and forever be a part of America’s success.

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