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Old February 10th, 2011, 04:38 PM   #1

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I have a question about the Panama Canal.


My friend and I, both being history aficionados, are in a heated debate over the Panama Canal. Everyone knows about internal improvements, and that they included railroads, turnpikes, and canals(among other systems of transportation). Internal improvements were advocated for in Kentucky Senator Henry Clay's American System in the 1800's. Well, I told my friend that the Panama Canal was an internal improvement, and he hotly contested it, saying that it wasn't in the United States or connected one body of American land to another. You might agree with my friend, but hear me out first. What I said was that canals are improvements, and that the Panama Canal was built on American soil. In 1903, the United States bought a 10-mile strip of land across the Panamanian isthmus from the newly established ruler of Panama, Bunau-Varilla, who led the revolt for Panama against Colombia(who had owned Panama previously, and refused to sell the land to the U.S.) This was through Secretary of State Hay's treaty with Bunau-Varilla known as to no one's surprise the "Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty." So this land was now American soil, and the Canal was built. An internal improvement, right?

I countered my friend's statement about the Panama Canal not connecting two American areas of land by saying that improvements on Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, and Alaska would also be considered internal improvements. Roads on Hawaii would be an example of this.

Also, I'm aware the Panama Canal is no longer the US's, since 1999. We were talking about it from its creation until '99. Thanks for your responses, in advance.


EDIT: Here's the straightforward question: "Could the Panama Canal have been considered an internal improvement for the U.S. between the years of 1803 and 1999?"

Last edited by Hamilton'sFan; February 10th, 2011 at 04:49 PM. Reason: Forgot to directly state my question.
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Old February 10th, 2011, 04:43 PM   #2

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Can you give us a synopsis of your question?
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Old February 10th, 2011, 04:44 PM   #3
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What exactly is your question?
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Old February 10th, 2011, 04:48 PM   #4

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Haha, sorry guys:

"Could the Panama Canal have been considered an internal improvement for the U.S. between the years of 1803 and 1999?"
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Old February 10th, 2011, 04:51 PM   #5
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I believe so. The fact that the US owned the Panama Canal means that it was an internal improvement because it was on American soil.
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Old February 10th, 2011, 04:53 PM   #6

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That's my opinion on the matter as well! It seems like everyone in my classroom setting just don't want to agree with me. I thought it was pretty straightforward: An improvement on American soil is an American internal improvement.
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Old February 10th, 2011, 05:24 PM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hamilton'sFan View Post
Haha, sorry guys:

"Could the Panama Canal have been considered an internal improvement for the U.S. between the years of 1803 and 1999?"
Sovereignty over the Canal Zone was never held by the USA. Thus the Canal can not be considered an internal improvement.

Edit: It always pays to read the Treaty, I was wrong. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/pan001.asp
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Old February 10th, 2011, 05:57 PM   #8

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The canal shaved at least five thousand miles off a sea trip that definitely benefited the US economic and military interest.
The one hair in the soup for me is how Roosevelt bulled, threatened and intimidated Colombia into snapping off Panama from her bosom. The US quickly recognized the Panamanian government less than a week later and the canal was in our pocket. Bayonet diplomacy at its best.
He wrote:
"The case in a nutshell is this:the government of Colombia was solemnly pledged to give us the right to dig that canal, yet the government refused to ratify this treaty. I do not think that the Bogota lot of jackrabbits should be allowed permanently to bar one of the future highways of civilization...They have received exact justice.." [1]

[1] Daniel Ruddy, Theodore Roosevelt's History of the United States (New York: Harper Collins, 2010), 267.
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Old February 10th, 2011, 06:30 PM   #9
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Regarding international treaties, one can never be entirely sure how long "perpetuity" (article II) will be ...
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Old February 10th, 2011, 07:56 PM   #10
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No. The Panama Canal was not built to improve an American territory. The American territory was bought to build the canal.
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