What events led to the US involvement in building the Panama Canal?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Between 1880 and 1889, the French attempted to build a canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.  The trouble was, mosquitos loved the climate and moisture in the Caribbean and mosquitos carried Malaria.  The French were decimated by the disease and decided to abandon the project.  Ten years later, the United States was victorious in Cuba and acquired Caribbean colonies that needed protection.  Teddy Roosevelt, the assistant secretary of the navy felt a canal in Panama to connect the two oceans was necessary to protect both coasts of the United States and the Caribbean colonies. Roosevelt made it his personal mission to see the canal built.  

Roosevelt became president in 1901 after the assassination of William McKinley.  He immediately revisited the idea of a canal in Panama, an area that Colombia had territorial rights to.  Colombia was not interested in selling the rights to the Panama Canal Zone by 1903.  

President Roosevelt was not to be deterred.  He orchestrated a revolution in Panama, by which the Panamanians would have sovereignty to the Panama Canal Zone.  Roosevelt, again in 1903, felt the need to send an American battleship to supervise the revolt.  

After Panama successfully seceded from Colombia, it leased the rights to the Panama Canal zone to the United States for $10 million.  The United States negotiated a settlement with France for $40 million and construction began on the canal in 1904.  Construction of the canal was completed in 1914.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial