What was an important us military reason for building the panama canal?

One of the driving forces behind the construction of the Panama Canal was the need to quickly transfer U.S. military power from one side of the world to the other. In addition, the economic impact was enormous. Now trade between the two oceans can be united.

From the 1890s until World War I, world trade was as important as it is now, so it was important to have a transport route that crossed the continent. That's why Wall Street was very supportive and helped finance it. The BRI's primary source on civic and government education The BRI character education narrative resource Learn more about the different ways you can partner with the Bill of Rights Institute. The Bill of Rights Institute teaches civic education.

We prepare students and teachers to live the ideals of a free and just society. Use this narrative before the discussion of the Spanish-American War to allow students to understand the arguments for and against imperialism in the late 19th century. In 1900, Great Britain participated in the Boer War and was leaving the Caribbean to concentrate its naval resources closer to home, in preparation for a European war against the German navy. As a result, during the treaty negotiations that lasted between 1900 and 1901, London withdrew its objections to an American-built canal (which were based on a fear of increasing the United States' naval and strategic strength) and noted which was acceptable.

But where to build it? Nicaragua or Panama? The two bankrupt private companies started a bidding war over the oxidation and abandonment of their equipment and access routes. The Panama Canal crosses central Panama, located between Costa Rica and Colombia and links the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. Panamanians had old grievances against Bogotá and a history of rebellion. Private interests linked to the former French channel company now turned to both the Americans and the Roosevelt administration to support the secession of Panama from Colombia, which would soon be followed by the signing of a treaty canalero.

Both Roosevelt and Hay were aware of these plans for rebellion; Hay said privately that the United States must intercede to protect the transit area should a rebellion or civil war break out. Six times before 1903, with permission from Colombia, the United States had landed troops in Panama to protect the transit area from the rebels. Now Roosevelt and Hay were willing to do so without Colombia's permission and against Colombian interests. Construction of the 51-mile canal began immediately in March 1904, beginning with the recovery of old French equipment and the construction of new homes, kitchens, warehouses, repair shops, health clinics and drinking water systems needed by the thousands of canal and railroad workers that flooded the area.

Yellow fever and malaria had stopped the French and remained serious problems affecting the workforce. Efforts were made to combat mosquitoes, which, as had just been discovered, were carriers of both deadly diseases. The USS Ancon in 1914, crossing a lock in the recently completed Panama Canal. In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt renounced his rights as a protectorate to intervene in Panama's internal affairs, but he retained tenancy rights and control of the channel.

In 1941, the canal was closed to Japanese shipping on the eve of World War II, and the canal became a vital military asset during that war and in the early years of the Cold War. A new crisis over income and control dominated relations with Panama in the early 1960s. In 1973, more negotiations began, and the Canal Zone increasingly represented U.S. interference in Latin America.

On the grounds that the Panama Canal had become militarily obsolete due to the size of the main modern warships, President Jimmy Carter signed a new Panama Canal Treaty in 1977, which committed the United States to gradually withdraw before the year 2000 in exchange for the permanent neutrality of the Panama Canal. The Congress approved the treaty by a margin of one vote after a bitter political debate. The Panama Canal was an integral part of the expansion of U.S. global power at the dawn of the 20th century.

It served as a transit for American commercial and strategic interests, allowing the establishment of a marina with two oceans in the Atlantic and the Pacific. The impact of advances in modern engineering, technology and medicine was evident, from the construction of the canal to the attack against yellow fever in the canal area. The United States also influenced the outcome of events in Latin America to serve its own interests. This table from 1912 compares the distance between the ports of New York, New Orleans, and the Pacific Ocean along different ocean routes, including the Panama Canal.

In our resources, the story is presented through a series of narratives, primary sources, and point-and-counterpoint debates that invite students to participate in the ongoing conversation about the American experiment. In the Thomson-Urrutia Treaty of 1914, ships owned by the Colombian government were exempted from paying tolls in exchange for Colombian recognition of Panama's autonomy. The most onerous part of the treaty, from the Panamanian point of view, was the right granted to the United States to act throughout the Channel Zone from ocean to ocean 10 miles (16 km) wide as “if it were the sovereign.” On November 2, their captains were ordered to disembark marines, seize the Panama Railroad, and block any Colombian reinforcements that might be sent to put down a Panamanian rebellion. The Congress, which authorized the purchase of the assets of the French company and the construction of a canal, provided that a satisfactory treaty could be negotiated with Colombia (of which Panama was then an integral part).

Until 1990, the administrator was American and the deputy administrator was Panamanian; after 1990, the functions were reversed and Panamanians assumed the leadership position. For decades before the construction of the Panama Canal, the British, the French and the Americans were interested in building an interoceanic canal. Many Panamanians condemned Secretary of State John Hay and French engineer Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla for considering them a violation of their country's new national sovereignty. Apparently, the Americans had not learned the lessons of the French effort and devised plans to build a canal at sea level along the approximately 50-mile stretch from Colón to Panama City.

The Panama Canal was officially inaugurated on August 15, 1914, although the planned grand ceremony was curtailed due to the outbreak of the First War Worldwide. The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty irritated Panamanian sensibilities from the moment it was signed, in 1903. The Americans continued to manage it and the military bases were still here, so security was still in the hands of the Americans, but now it was Panamanian land. There were many conflicts that led to massacres: soldiers killed students when they tried to raise a Panamanian flag on the Canal. Despite all these challenges, the canal opened to traffic on August 15, 1914, more than three decades after the start of the first attempt to build the canal.

Abigail Angelotti
Abigail Angelotti

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