First, I have a database article from Texas Digital Library, and secondly I used an IB Diploma Programme Book called History of the Americans published by the Oxford University and written by Y. Berliner, T. Leppard, A. Mamaux, M. D. Rogers and D. Smith. Also, I based my essay on a book from a historian called Kenneth C. Davis. The books name is Dont know much about History, and it was a New York Times bestseller. Furthermore, I used another article by an historian called Sarah Jane Gilbert. The article has the title Panama Canal: Troubled History, Astounding Turnaround.
The primary source I found was a letter from President Roosevelt to the Senate and House of Representatives that is called Message to Congress after Returning from the Canal Zone in Panama. The idea for the Panama Canal was very old, almost since Balboa stood on the cliffs of Darien in modern Panama. In fact, in 1880 a French group led by Ferdinand de Lesseps put together a company with the capital of thousands of investors to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, back then still part of Colombia.
But corruption, miserable engineering plans and the harsh realities of the Central American jungle with its rainy season floods, earthquakes, yellow fever and malaria doomed de Lesseps effort. After thousands of deaths and a little excavating, the French company had to abandon the jungle and left all the equipment behind. However, since there was some trouble with Cuba, the navy had to be sent from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. The ship took 2 month to finally arrive and fight against Cuba. But that was taking way too long.
In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt then decided to give the canal a second chance. After taking the decision of continuing the French canal and not building a new one in Nicaragua, the United States had purchased the rights to build the canal. Nevertheless, the territory also needed to be bought. Since Panama had been under the control of Colombia, the US Secretary of State John Hay negotiated that the US would lease the land for 100 years, pay $10 million for the lease and $250,000 a year for the duration of the lease. But the Colombian government rejected this offer.
Since Roosevelt was known for his big stick policy, he helped the Panamanians revolutionize and also sent weapons and the US Navy to Panama. Shortly after the establishment of a new country, the initial offer had been accepted, and after the purchasing of the French equipment for $40 million, the digging could begin. Roosevelt himself wrote to the Senate and House of Representatives, that the Canal was making a good process. He let them know that people there were happy, and that there was a lot of advancement going on.
Furthermore, the people in panama would be really nice, and that he was welcomed warmly. The historian Sarah Jane Gilbert wrote in an e-mail interview that the United States used military force and the threat of military force against Colombia (to detach Panama from Colombia) and against the new Panamanian government (to get a better deal for the Panama Canal). American warships prevented Colombia from responding to Panamas declaration of independence. The new government then appointed the head counsel of the French company as their foreign minister (he was not Panamanian and in fact lived in New York).
The lawyer drafted a treaty that gave Panama a far lower share of the canal revenues than the United States could have received in a fair negotiation. When the new government balked at the treaty, Secretary of State J. Hay warned of grave consequences and threatened to send the Navy. The Panamanians soon capitulated. When writing an essay based on sources instead of doing an actual research, it is highly important to be critical about the sources one uses. One also has think about their accuracy, because one cannot always trust them a 100%. The first source I will analyze is the letter from Roosevelt.
The origin is Roosevelt himself. He sent it to the Senate and House of Representatives. From there it had been taken and finally also typed up, so that an electronic version was available for everyone who wants to use or take a look at it. The purpose of the letter was to show them how great everything in Panama was going, and that people were fairly happy. The value is high, because it is from the President himself. But of course, he also wanted to show the Senate and House of Representatives how great everything was, and we can be sure that there are limits in terms of the accuracy.
Earlier the day it was much easier for politicians to lie about a situation that took place far away from their homes, since nothing could be verified. Since Panama is located in the Tropics, the Climate with its rainy season, diseases, mosquitos and wild animals are very unpleasant. From a logic point of view we could say, that Roosevelts letter cannot be completely true at all. The second source I will analyze is the e-mail interview between the historian Sarah Jane Gilbert and the Harvard Business School. The origin is the website of the Harvard Business School.
They sent e-mails with questions to the historian, and on that way they could interview her and published her responses. The purpose is to get some information from a historian, who wrote a book about this topic and knows a lot about it. That also means that the value is high, because she is an expert. But as far as limitations are concerned, we cannot be sure that everything she really said had been published. Eventually, some of the information had been rewritten. Also, S. J. Gilbert was not present during the construction process of the Panama Canal.
She had to base her answers and her knowledge on other sources. Those might also be biased. Furthermore, we tend to give some part of an event more attention than we would give others. Thats why we cannot get a completely objective answer from any historian. The Panama Canal helped us very much as Imperialists. On one side, we increased the security because our Navy needs less time to get from one Ocean to the other one, but on the other side their reach is larger since they save fuel. Also, the Panama Canal increased our national income by 4%, since other ships also use it.
Furthermore, our commercial ships can ship their goods at higher rates because they do not have to pass around the Cape Horn. However, we can be sure that all the history and consequences are aspects related to imperialism. The reason of that is because we used military and economic force to make an independent nation out of Panama and then used it for our own purposes. If we think about it, that is exactly what Imperialism is about. The seizure of a country or territory by a stronger country is the definition, and it applies to what happened.
However, the canal did not directly make us imperialists, but helped us a lot, because we could control the Atlantic Ocean and take control of Caribbean islands. Our Navy controlled a big part of American continent. However, after some time, the canal became so expensive that is was not worth it keeping it under our command, so we gave it to the Panamanians, who control this piece of history at the moment. Due to the analysis of several sources, and the interpretation of them, I have found out that the Panama Canal did help us being imperialists.
But it also helped us to continue being imperialists and also guard America. The liberation of the Panama and the creation of the Panama Canal were both acts of economic and military imperialism. Without the Panama Canal we would have been in quite some trouble, and also still would be in it today, since even right now it is actively being used by ships standing in rows to pass through it. Even if the most captains of those ships do not know much about the canal, they will always be grateful for the creation of it.