« AnteriorContinuar »
cise of authority, when necessity forced it, would be shorn of the irritation it now causes in the states where it is exercised.
That there are serious responsibilities with the danger of abuses in such a policy, it is needless to deny. But strong men and nations do not hold back from duties and opportunities as they present themselves, through fear of responsibilities, or the possibility of abusing power. The strong progressive nations assume responsibilities and take pride in their ability to hold true the balance between themselves and the weak. No finer opportunity comes to any nation than this— to help in bringing even-handed justice to peoples less fortunate. Such a policy does not mean, at least of necessity, annexation nor a permanent relation of inequality. The imperialism of the United States need not follow, the popular opinion is against its following, the standard set by foreign nations. The enthusiasm for colonies shown by countries “seeking for interests to protect” has left the United States unaffected. If it had not done so, there would now be no international Central American problem. This New-World imperialism may have, to a degree, the same economic object as that of European nations--to insure field for national developments, to protect and foster the interests of its citizens the world over—without adopting the policy, traditionally used, of crushing out local sovereignty.
The expansion of the power and the interests of the United States in the Caribbean may be perfectly consistent with the independence of Caribbean communities. That it will be so is argued by our past performIt is quite probable that an increasing supervision of these weaker countries by the United States will be necessary and be requested. It is also not improbable that here may be slight extensions of American possessions, especially the acquisition of naval bases; but such acquisitions may be peaceful and to the advantage of the weaker nations as well as the United States. It is quite unlikely that the United States will adopt an aggressive territorial policy, unless the very policy of “America for Americans,” which lies back of present developments, be overthrown. The increase of the power and influence of the United States is the strongest guaranty of the independence of the nations of the Caribbean. They may come to stand toward us, temporarily at least, in a position of de facto inequality, some may ultimately disappear by union with us, but without us few would be destined long to continue as independent states.
THE PANAMA REVOLUTION AND PANAMA TOLLS
I. THE PANAMA REVOLUTION
THE history of the relation of Panama to Colombia is a turbulent one. The Isthmus won its freedom from Spain independently, but fearing that its own forces would be insufficient to maintain independence, it joined the larger republic, which had already established its de facto independence under Bolivar. The bond between the two was never stable and Colombia was never able to establish order effectually. Insurrections were frequent and often no attempt was made by. the central government to put them down. The right to leave the loose union of states which formed Colombia was, for part of the time, recognized and by several states acted upon.
In 1885, a new constitution was adopted by executive decree which, it was alleged, arbitrarily destroyed this right of secession; "the sovereign rights of the isthmus were terminated without its consent and it was reduced to the status of a crown colony without representation in Congress. But after 1885 Panama continued to be a part of Colombia. The state had no independent foreign relations. Her constitutional rights may have been violated but that was a question which foreign nations could not consider in treating with Colombia concerning the grants to be obtained on the Isthmus.
1 See documents appended to speech by J. Hampton Moore, in Congressional Record, 63rd Cong. 2d Sess. Vol. 51, Part 17, Appendix, p. 748. See also Diplomatic History of the Panama Canal, 63rd Cong. 2d Sess 1918-14, Sen. Doc. Vol. 15.
In a large way, the center of Panamanian politics has never been any local policy but a problem the solution of which necessarily involved aid from outside the Isthmus. The greatest asset of the region is no natural resource as that word is commonly used, but a physical characteristic of the country, the fact that in it is found the narrowest strip of land in the Americas separating the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Here, since at least as early as the middle of the sixteenth century, the governments and engineers of the world had been planning the construction of a great artificial waterway which would revolutionize the course of the world's commerce. The northwest passage, which many of the early voyagers sought in vain, never materialized and the route around South America by Cape Horn or the Straits of Magellan was long and arduous.
If only an opening could be made at the Isthmus, the west coast of North America and all but the extreme southwestern coast of South America would be brought nearer to the best European markets, and these markets would have another way in which trade could pass to the even more distant ports of Australia and the Far East. With the earlier unsuccessful attempts to realize this dream we are only incidentally concerned. Most of them never became serious projects and the later efforts to build a canal made by the French failed because of the then too great engineering difficulties, the insufficient knowledge of medicine and sanitation, the lack of capital, and the corrupt use of the resources at hand.
The country which has been most actively interested in the building of the canal has been the United States. After the acquisition of Oregon and California the republic was possessed of coasts on the Atlantic and Pacific with which communication was important but highly difficult. The long stretch of uninhabited territory separating the East and West made freight transportation between the two by land practically impossible and passenger traffic before the building of the transcontinental railroads slow, trying, and not without danger. It was only natural, therefore, that our people should have an increasing interest in the improvement of all means of communication which would facilitate exchange between the two coasts. Central American and Isthmian projects for transportation facilities received attention. As early as 1846 a treaty was made with Colombia, then known as New Granada, giving us a right of transit over the Isthmus of Panama. Three years later we entered an agreement with Nicaragua concerning a ship canal to pass through that coựntry. Plans for canals by both routes remained active projects up to our own day.
In Panama, politics, except as they involved local contests between leaders of the various factions, turned about canal schemes, and Colombia, of which the province of Panama was a part, realized increasingly that