[Illustration: Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
ROOSEVELT TALKING TO THE ENGINEER OF A RAILROAD TRAIN]
=The Panama Canal.=—The most important foreign question confronting President Roosevelt on the day of his inauguration, that of the Panama Canal, was a heritage from his predecessor. The idea of a water route across the isthmus, long a dream of navigators, had become a living issue after the historic voyage of the battleship Oregon around South America during the Spanish War. But before the United States could act it had to undo the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, made with Great Britain in 1850, providing for the construction of the canal under joint supervision. This was finally effected by the Hay-Pauncefote treaty of 1901 authorizing the United States to proceed alone, on condition that there should be no discriminations against other nations in the matter of rates and charges.
This accomplished, it was necessary to decide just where the canal should be built. One group in Congress favored the route through Nicaragua; in fact, two official commissions had already approved that location. Another group favored cutting the way through Panama after purchasing the rights of the old French company which, under the direction of De Lesseps, the hero of the Suez Canal, had made a costly failure some twenty years before. After a heated argument over the merits of the two plans, preference was given to the Panama route. As the isthmus was then a part of Colombia, President Roosevelt proceeded to negotiate with the government at Bogota a treaty authorizing the United States to cut a canal through its territory. The treaty was easily framed, but it was rejected by the Colombian senate, much to the President’s exasperation. “You could no more make an agreement with the Colombian rulers,” he exclaimed, “than you could nail jelly to a wall.” He was spared the necessity by a timely revolution. On November 3, 1903, Panama renounced its allegiance to Colombia and three days later the United States recognized its independence.