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they could, the old hope of finding a new route to the Indies and Asia still lingered in their hearts as the greater thing to be achieved.
When that hope finally died; when the search for gold was rewarded; when the treasure-ships from Peru were making their voyages around the Horn, the idea of a canal across the Isthmus took form. Between 1535 and 1540 Charles V., at the instigation of Galvao had the Panama route examined by Cortez, but the Governor of Panama pronounced it impracticable.
Philip II. had both the Nicaragua and the Panama routes surveyed by Gomara about 1550, but nothing was done; the wealth of his empire was a-spending in establishing his despotic authority in Italy and the Low Countries, and his time was too much taken up with the fruitless contest for the crown of the Holy Roman Empire to really attempt what was in those days rather a matter of convenience than a necessity. Still, through his long reign, the question arose again and again, but there was neither wealth nor spirit for such an undertaking.
In 1600 Champlain, then in the service of Spain, appreciated the value of such a canal, and wrote in his journal of the voyage (which still exists in the archives of Dieppe), “it would save fifteen hundred leagues in the journey to the East."
In the closing years of the seventeenth century William Paterson, Scotchman, known to-day chiefly as the projector of the Bank of England, set out to found a colony and to build a canal at Darien, with the aid of the East India Companies of England and Holland. Unfortunately, he was imbued with certain ideas of a populistic tendency which turned these two immense companies against him, and his colony of Scotch Presbyterians split hairs so fiercely over theological points that they forgot to strengthen their position and were turned out neck and crop by the Spaniards. Other attempts at colonization were afterwards made, all destined to end alike, crushed out by famine and pestilence.
The idea of a canal through all these varying times was never lost sight of, and indeed grew upon the imagination, until in 1804 Humboldt aroused the public mind to the practicability of the whole scheme. From this time on the canal may be said to have entered into the arena of politics as a living issue. Its importance to this country was realized before the end of the war of 1812, and immediately on the recognition
of their independence as separate states, the South American states. through which a possible route might lie, began to safeguard their interests in a right of way in all their treaties.
A company was actually formed in the United States as early as 1826, but the times were not favorable for such an immense undertaking and the country had need for all its wealth in developing its own resources. Nevertheless, the mere formation of a company in itself stimulated exploring parties, who set out in the hope of finding a route shorter and less difficult than either the Nicaragua or Panama routes. One of these was Strain's party, which surveyed the Atrato River route in northern Colombia under great hardships and suffering, only to find that the mountain ridges forbade any canal being built there. Then the old Tehuantepec route across southern Mexico, which had been examined years before, was again surveyed and found practicable only at a very large expenditure of time and money.
Survey after survey followed, until finally it was found that only the Nicaragua and Panama routes were feasible, and Congressional committees which reported in 1876, 1887, and 1898 declared in favor of the former, which they declare could be built at an expense of from $125,000,000 to $150,000,000.
In the meantime, DeLesseps, encouraged by his success in building the Suez Canal, had organized a company in France and had obtained. a concession from Colombia for the Panama Canal. Millions were subscribed and work immediately begun, in order to forestall any attempt of the United States or any private company to build. The history of the Panama Company does not need to be repeated at length. It is enough to say that it resulted in one of the worst national scandals of modern times. Blackmail, rascality high in office, official corruption immense and widespread, flourished. It drained the purses of the French people, destroyed the prestige of men of position, and almost destroyed the Republic itself.
In the United States the question of the Nicaragua route was still under discussion. A Congressional committee had reported on that route as presenting the greatest advantages and the least difficulties, and the Maritime Canal Company of Nicaragua had, after many difficulties and delays, obtained its charter and was ready to commence work in earnest as soon as the government would guarantee interest on its bonds or vote financial aid.
The Nicaragua Canal route lies within the zone of the trade winds, and is therefore comparatively free from pestilential fevers. In addition, it is in itself a rich and productive region, nearly as large as England. The center is rich in hard woods, dyewoods, and flavors. The strip from the Lake to the Pacific is not only the santiarium but the garden of Central America, studded with superb plantations of sugar, cotton, and rice, while the highlands east and northeast of the Lake are grazing grounds for great herds of cattle. Further east are rich mines of gold and silver, now being worked, and it only needs better government and better means of communication to revive the great indigo business and develop the resources of the country a hundred fold. Already three prosperous cities are on the line of the canal,-Leon, with 30,000 inhabitants, just north of the lake; Granada, with 12,000; and Rivas 8,000, on the lake itself. Within easy distances are other important towns of from 4,000 to 8,000 people, while at the Atlantic and Pacific termini of the canal are Greytown and Brito, both prosperous
The features of the Canal as projected by the Maritime Canal Company can be easily seen from map No. 2.* First, a great breakwater and dredging will convert Greytown harbor into a splendid anchorage, with 25 feet of water on the bar; thence a sea-level canal is to be dug westward 94 miles (crossing the San Juanillo), at the end of which a lock of 30 feet lift unites it to 14 miles on a higher grade, closed by a 31-foot lock, a half mile more of canal, a 45-foot lock,-and we are done with locks for nearly 150 miles, till close to the Pacific. At the last-named lock is a dam which raises the little Deseado River so as to give some 41⁄2 miles of free navigation; then comes a rock cut of 234 miles across the "divide" between the Lake and the Atlantic; then a dozen miles of free navigation in the small but sufficient San Francisco and Malchado Rivers, with a mile and a half of canal cutting in two spots between; and beyond the second cut a dam which raises the waters to a level with the San Juan, at the point (Ochoa) where a great dam raises that river to navigability for the largest ships 642 miles to Lake Nicaragua. Thence they will float 561⁄2 miles across the lake, and into a cut of nine miles opening into the "Tola Basin," through which they pass 51⁄2 miles on the waters of the little Rio Grande, dammed at the western exit; here two locks lower the level 85 feet, and a cut two miles
*Of course we do not reproduce the map.
long down the Rio Grande Valley brings us to the last lock, into Brito harbor, a mile and a half from the open Pacific, where a breakwater will be built as at Greytown.
To sum up: Of the total distance of 1691⁄2 miles from ocean to ocean, there are 26 miles of canal to be dug or cut, aside from dredging; 642 miles free navigation in the San Juan, 562 in the Lake, 211⁄2 in other streams and basins, and about 3/4 of a mile of locks. The Canal is to be 30 feet deep at the shallowest, and wide enough except in the rock cuts for two ships to pass each other. Two vessels can be passed through at each lockage, the time for which is estimated at 45 minutes, so that 64 vessels could if necessary pass through in a day, or 23,360 in a year. The water supply at lowest is ten times the quantity needed to operate the locks, and the time of passing through the Canal is estimated at 45 hours, including possible "side-tracking" for other vessels to come through narrow cuts.
This route, however, may be changed so as to avoid the necessity of a number of locks and reduce the height of the Ochoa dam, which is held to be too high for safety. This can be done by taking the Lull route, which would run the Canal, beginning at the Ochoa dam, away from the river but along its left bank to the San Juanillo, and from there running north and west in a diagonal line across the marshes south of Greytown, to the harbor, This route would be 12 miles longer, but would give certain advantages over the Canal Company's route.
In estimating the business on which the profits of the Canal are to be based, three main elements must be considered:-First, comparative length of usual freight routes. Second, canal tolls as a set-off to longer water routes. Third, the increase in volume of commerce which the very existence of the Canal will cause, as such always have caused. On the first head, map No. 3 shows at a glance the six great lines of commerce which the Canal will revolutionize:
1. The east and west coasts of North America.
The east coast of North and the west coast of South America. 3. The east coast of North America and Japan, China, the Spice
The east coast of South and the west coast of North America. 5. Europe and the west coast of America.
6. Europe and the Sandwich Islands and Japan.
A brief survey of the following table will make plain the great saving of distance which the Canal will make, the first column showing the length of the shortest route now used by freight vessels, the second that by the Canal, the third the saving of distance:—
It is not, however, in the saving of distance alone or the rich country through which it goes that the Canal will be beneficial; but, as we have shown before, lying as it does well within the zone of the trade winds, it will receive hundreds of sailing vessels, which will often traverse the longest routes rather than risk unfavorable conditions of winds and currents; for, in the case of the Suez Canal, hundreds of sailing vessels still sail around the Cape of Good Hope. thousands of miles further, because of the calms and heats of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean which attend the passage by way of the Suez Canal. In this respect the Nicaragua has the advantage over the Panama Canal, which lies in the zone of calms. It is rational to conclude, therefore, that even with distance equal or greater and tolls to add, no small part of the traffic between Europe and the East will pass through the Nicaragua Canal.
Secondly and on the other hand, the tolls have weight against the canal route, but most of the effect from this cause will fall upon the