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Chapter Sixteen. Theodore Roosevelt, the Panama Canal, and the Roosevelt Corollary: Sphere of Influence Diplomacy

Stephen G. Rabe


Theodore Roosevelt once proclaimed that “by far the most important action I took in foreign affairs during the time I was president related to the Panama Canal” ( Sánchez 2007 , 50). President Roosevelt had concluded in 1903–1904 a treaty with the new nation of Panama that gave the United States the right to build and fortify a canal that connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Panama Canal opened in August 1914, the very month that World War I broke out in Europe. Over 1,000 merchant ships passed through the Canal during its first year of operation. The canal cut 7,873 miles of travel from the sea voyage from New York to San Francisco ( Liss 1967 , 24–27). TR took pleasure and pride in being the leader who had realized the 400-year-old dream of cutting through the landmass of North and South America. Christopher Columbus had wanted to reach the Orient by sailing westward. TR's canal fulfilled the vision of the legendary mariner and explorer from Genoa. Beyond enhancing international commerce and the march of progress, TR further believed he had served the cause of international justice. His “most important action” included detaching the province of Panama from the South American nation of Colombia. As TR put it, “we gave to the people of Panama self-government, and freed them from subjection to alien oppressors” ( Sánchez 2007 , 50). Contemporary critics and modern historians ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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