[Illustration: Courtesy of Panama Canal, Washington, D.C.
DEEPEST EXCAVATED PORTION OF PANAMA CANAL, SHOWING GOLD HILL ON RIGHT AND CONTRACTOR’S HILL ON LEFT. JUNE, 1913]
This amazing incident was followed shortly by the signature of a treaty between Panama and the United States in which the latter secured the right to construct the long-discussed canal, in return for a guarantee of independence and certain cash payments. The rights and property of the French concern were then bought, and the final details settled. A lock rather than a sea-level canal was agreed upon. Construction by the government directly instead of by private contractors was adopted. Scientific medicine was summoned to stamp out the tropical diseases that had made Panama a plague spot. Finally, in 1904, as the President said, “the dirt began to fly.” After surmounting formidable difficulties—engineering, labor, and sanitary—the American forces in 1913 joined the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific. Nearly eight thousand miles were cut off the sea voyage from New York to San Francisco. If any were inclined to criticize President Roosevelt for the way in which he snapped off negotiations with Colombia and recognized the Panama revolutionists, their attention was drawn to the magnificent outcome of the affair. Notwithstanding the treaty with Great Britain, Congress passed a tolls bill discriminating in rates in favor of American ships. It was only on the urgent insistence of President Wilson that the measure was later repealed.
=The Conclusion of the Russo-Japanese War.=—The applause which greeted the President’s next diplomatic stroke was unmarred by censure of any kind. In the winter of 1904 there broke out between Japan and Russia a terrible conflict over the division of spoils in Manchuria. The fortunes of war were with the agile forces of Nippon. In this struggle, it seems, President Roosevelt’s sympathies were mainly with the Japanese, although he observed the proprieties of neutrality. At all events, Secretary Hay wrote in his diary on New Year’s Day, 1905, that the President was “quite firm in his view that we cannot permit Japan to be robbed a second time of her victory,” referring to the fact that Japan, ten years before, after defeating China on the field of battle, had been forced by Russia, Germany, and France to forego the fruits of conquest.
Whatever the President’s personal feelings may have been, he was aware that Japan, despite her triumphs over Russia, was staggering under a heavy burden of debt. At a suggestion from Tokyo, he invited both belligerents in the summer of 1905 to join in a peace conference. The celerity of their reply was aided by the pressure of European bankers, who had already come to a substantial agreement that the war must stop. After some delay, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was chosen as the meeting place for the spokesmen of the two warring powers. Roosevelt presided over the opening ceremonies with fine urbanity, thoroughly enjoying the justly earned honor of being for the moment at the center of the world’s interest. He had the satisfaction of seeing the conference end in a treaty of peace and amity.