Theodore Roosevelt and His Time Shown in His Own Letters - Vol. 1

By Joseph Bucklin Bishop | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIV
SECURING THE PANAMA CANAL

THE year 1903 marks what Theodore Roosevelt always considered the most notable and widely beneficent achievement of his Presidential career--the possession of the Isthmus of Panama and the consequent construction of an interoceanic canal across it. His interest in the project began long before he became President. While he was Governor of New York, he entered an emphatic protest against a treaty which Secretary Hay had negotiated with the British Government and which was presented to the United States Senate for ratification on February 5, 1900. This is known as the first Hay-Pauncefote treaty, designed to abrogate the Clayton-Bulwer treaty of 1850 and make possible the construction of an Isthmian Canal. Under the provisions of this first treaty the canal was not to be fortified and its neutrality was to be guaranteed by all nations using it. As soon as the text of the treaty was published, Governor Roosevelt wrote a friendly but most earnest letter to Secretary Hay in opposition to it, pointing out what he regarded as very serious defects in it. This letter is published in full in Chapter XIII of this volume. It outlined with clearness and force the course which Roosevelt as President was to carry to success a few years later when he secured a canal built with American money and operated and fortified by Americans without the cooperation or interference of any foreign nation.

The Senate refused to ratify the first treaty in the form submitted, and added amendments which did away with the neutrality provision and authorized specifically the fortifying of the canal. These amendments the British Government declined to accept, and the treaty failed. Sec-

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