SUCCINCT VIEW OF THE
|The expenses of cutting the Canal, and of the direction and management of a Company constituted for that purpose, up to the period of the opening of the Canal have been estimated at||£1,713,177|
|But if it be deemed expedient to raise two millions, in order to provide for any unforseen casualties, the difference will be||286,823|
From information derived from official sources in England, France, and the United States of America, it is estimated that the tonnage of vessels[Pg 17] belonging to those countries and to Holland, trading in countries to which the Canal through the Isthmus will be the shortest voyage, amount to 799,427 tons per annum; and there can be no doubt that the opening of the Canal would create a great extension of trade to the South Seas, as well as induce the owners of many of the vessels now using the navigation by the Cape of Good Hope to prefer the shorter voyage through the Isthmus; and when we add to this consideration, the fact that the above calculations do not include the vessels belonging to Spain, Sardinia, the Hanse Towns, and other nations of minor importance as maritime powers, but possessing in the aggregate a trade not altogether inconsiderable, nor the traffic that may be expected to flow to the Pacific from the West Indies, the British Colonies in North America, and the countries on the north east coast of South America, the tonnage of vessels that will be attracted to the Canal may be fairly estimated at 800,000 tons.
|A tonnage duty of $2 per ton, on 800,000 tons will produce $1,600,000, equal, at 4s. 2d., to||£333,333|
|Allowing a deduction for the annual expenses of a sum much larger than will probably be required, say||40,000|
|There will remain a Balance of annual profit of||£293,333|
This in turn will give upwards of 14½ per cent. profit on the above outlay of £2,000,000.[Pg 18]
The Isthmus has recently been surveyed by M. Garella, an eminent French Engineer, whose opinions will be found in the extract from the Moniteur, contained in the Appendix. He was employed to make the survey by the French Government, and his official Report has not yet been made public. He differs in several material points from M. Morel, another French gentleman, who is stated to have lately surveyed the Isthmus; but if the formation of a canal should be undertaken by an English company, the parties engaged in the enterprize would doubtless be guided by the English engineer whom they would employ, in the selection of the most eligible line, while the labours of his predecessors would greatly aid him in his survey.
As subservient to the grand project of a Ship Canal, an improved road across the Isthmus has been projected. The abundance of hard wood to be found on the spot, would furnish a cheap material for converting it into a tram-road. The expense has been estimated by French engineers at £40,000 sterling, and the returns, even according to the present transit of goods and passengers across the Isthmus by the miserable road now existing from Cruces to Panama, would, at a very moderate toll, be enormous on that outlay.
The following Extracts from Authors who have treated of the Isthmus of Panama will tend to illustrate the subject of the foregoing pages.
"Panama enjoys a good air, lying open to the sea-wind. There are no woods nor marshes near Panama, but a brave dry champaign land, not subject to fogs nor mists."
"It appears that we find a prolongation of the Andes towards the South Sea, between Cruces and Panama. However, Lionel Wafer assures us that the hills which form the central chain, are separated from one another by valleys, which allow free course for passage of the rivers; if this last assertion be founded, we might believe in the possibility of a canal from Cruces to Panama, of which the navigation would only be interrupted by a very few locks."[Pg 20]
The Edinburgh Review, for Jan. 1809, Art. II. page 282.
"In enumerating, however, the advantages of a commercial nature which would assuredly spring from the emancipation of South America, we have not yet noticed the greatest, perhaps, of all,—the mightiest event probably in favor of the peaceful intercourse of nations which the physical circumstances of the globe present to the enterprise of man,—we mean the formation of a navigable passage across the Isthmus of Panama, the junction of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It is remarkable that this magnificent undertaking, pregnant with consequences so important to mankind, and about which so little is known in this country, is so far from being a romantic or chimerical project, that, it is not only practicable but easy. The River Chagres, which falls into the Atlantic at the town of the same name, about 18 leagues to the westward of Porto Bello is navigable as far as Cruces, within five leagues of Panama; but though the formation of a Canal from this place to Panama, facilitated by the valleys through which the present road passes, appears to present no very formidable obstacles, there is still a better expedient. At the distance of about five leagues from the mouth of the Chagres it receives the river Trinidad, which is navigable to Embarcadero; and from that place to Panama is a distance of about 30 miles, through a level country, with a fine river, to supply water for the Canal, and no difficulty whatever to counteract the noble undertaking. The ground has been surveyed, and not the practicability only, but the facility of the work completely ascertained. In the next place, the important requisite of safe harbours, at the two extremities of a Canal, is here supplied to the extent of our utmost wishes. At the mouth of the Chagres is a fine Bay, which received the British 74 gun-ships in 1740, and at the other extremity is the famous harbour of Panama."[Pg 21]
J. A. Lloyd, F. R. S.
"It is generally supposed in Europe that the great chain of mountains, which in South America forms the Andes, and in North America the Mexican and Rocky Mountains, continues nearly unbroken through the Isthmus. This, however, is not the case: the Northern Cordillera breaks into detached mountains on the eastern side of the province of Veragua. These are of considerable height, extremely abrupt and rugged, and frequently exhibit an almost perpendicular face of bare rock. To these succeed numerous conical mountains rising out of Savannahs and plains, and seldom exceeding from 300 to 500 feet in height. Finally between Chagres on the Atlantic side, and Chorrera on the Pacific side, the conical mountains are not so numerous, having plains of great extent interspersed, with occasional insulated ranges of hills of inconsiderable height and extent. From this description it will be seen that the spot where the continent of America is reduced to nearly its narrowest limits, is also distinguished by a break for a few miles of the Great chain of Mountains, which otherwise extends, with but few exceptions, to its extreme northern and southern limits. This combination of circumstances points out the peculiar fitness of the Isthmus of Panama for the establishment of a communication across."
Philosophical Transactions, 1830, Part I., p. 65.
"Should a time arrive when a project of a water communication across the Isthmus may be entertained, the river Trinidad will probably appear the most favourable route. The river is for some distance both broad and deep. Its banks are also well suited for wharfs."
Philosophical Transactions, ibid, p. 66. [Pg 22]
"The river, its channel, and the banks, which, in the dry season, embarrass its navigation, are laid down in the manuscript plan with great care and minuteness. It is subject to one great inconvenience, that vessels drawing more than 12 feet water, cannot enter the river, even in perfectly calm weather, on account of a stratum of slaty limestone, which runs at a depth at high water of fifteen feet, from a point on the main land to some rocks in the middle of the entrance of the harbour, and which are just even with the water's edge; which, together with the lee current that sets on the southern shore, particularly in the rainy season, renders the entrance extremely difficult and dangerous....
"The value of the Chagres, considered as the port of entrance for all communications, whether by the river Chagres, Trinidad, or by railroads across the plains, is greatly limited from the above mentioned cause. It would prove in all cases a serious disqualification, were it not one which admits of a simple and effectual remedy, arising from the proximity of the Bay of Limon, otherwise called Navy Bay, with which the river might easily be connected. The coves of this bay afford excellent and secure anchorage in its present state, and the whole harbour is capable of being rendered, by obvious and not very expensive means, one of the most commodious and safe harbours in the world.
"By the good offices of H. M. Consul in Panama, and the kindness of the Commander of H. M. Ship Victor, I obtained the use of that ship and her boats in making the accompanying plan of this bay.... The soundings were taken by myself, with the assistance of the master. It will be seen from this plan, that the distance from one of the best coves (in respect to anchorage),[Pg 23] across the separating country from the Chagres, and in the most convenient track, is something less than three miles to a point in the river about three miles from its mouth. I have traversed the intervening land which is particularly level, and in all respects suitable for a canal, which, being required for so short a distance, might well be of sufficient depth to admit vessels of any reasonable draft of water, and would obviate the inconvenience of the shallow water at the entrance of the Chagres."
Ibid, p. 68.
Extract from the Moniteur Parisien of Monday, October 14, 1844.
"Some of the public papers in announcing the return of M. Garella to Paris, have asserted that the surveys made by that Engineer on the Isthmus of Panama have led him to conclude that the formation of a canal in that Country which should unite the two oceans is impossible. This assertion is completely erroneous. The Report that this Engineer intends to lay before the Ministers is not yet completed; but the principal results of his voyage are already known, and which far from having established the impossibility of the execution of the projected work, prove on the contrary that the soil of this portion of the Isthmus is not such as to threaten any serious obstruction to the performance of a work of the kind.
"The line which has been explored by M. Garella, seems to be about 76 kilometres (46½ miles) in length. Its point of termination upon the side of the Atlantic is in the Bay of Limon (Puerto de Naos) situated a little east of the mouth of the Rio Chagres, and already indicated five years ago by Mr. Lloyd, where there is a depth of water of 10 metres (35 ft. 5 in.), and where it will be easy to form an excellent port at a small expense. By this means may be avoided the village of Chagres, situated[Pg 24] at the month of the river of that name, but of which the real unhealthiness has been so much exaggerated, as to create an unfounded alarm among too many travellers. On the Pacific Ocean the Canal should terminate at a little bay named Ensenada de Voca de Monte, situated between Panama and the mouth of the Caimito, where there is four metres (13 ft. 1 in.) depth of water at low tide, which, with 3 metres 20 centimetres (10½ ft.), which represent the difference at high tide, gives a sufficient depth of water for the largest merchant ships.
"The rigidly exact levellings which have been taken by M. Garella, establish that the mean level of the Pacific Ocean is two metres 80 centimetres (9 ft. 2 in.) higher than that of the Atlantic, and that the minimum point of the chain to overcome, which will be the most elevated point of the line of the work, is 120 metres (131 yards) above the height of the sea at Panama. The surveys which have been made, prove at the same time that the height may be reduced to 90 metres (90 yards and a half) by a trench from four to five kilometres (between two and three miles) in length, which, although considerable, has nothing discouraging, considering the powers which science puts at the disposal of the engineer. This height will render it necessary to form 30 locks at each of the declivities.
"M. Garella is convinced, as much by his own observations, as by the information that he has been able to obtain upon the spot, that all that has been said of the unhealthiness of the Isthmus has been exaggerated. Panama is, of all the towns upon the coast of America which are situated between the Tropics, the most healthy, and perhaps the only town where the yellow fever has never appeared. The interior of the Isthmus, through[Pg 25] which water courses find a rapid passage, is equally healthy, and is inhabited by a robust and hospitable population, which, although thinly spread over a large tract of country, as in almost all the countries of Central and South America, together with that of the neighbouring countries, may amply supply the labourers necessary for the work, in case of its execution. Chagres is the only point where the climate has any degree of unhealthiness, owing to pure local circumstances; but this point will be avoided by the line contemplated by M. Garella. Then in the unhealthiness of the climate there is nothing to be dreaded for such artizans as masons and carpenters, whom it would be necessary to send out from Europe.
"On the other hand the soil is of wonderful fertility. The cattle, far from being scarce in that part are, on the contrary, abundant, especially in the Canton of Chiriqui, on the Pacific Ocean, a little to the west of Panama. There will, therefore, be easily found within the country the means of provisioning a large number of workmen.
"The exact estimate of the expense attending the formation of a Canal at Panama cannot be known until the report of M. Garella shall be completed. But the foregoing explanations are of sufficient weight, as a decided result of his surveys, to enable us to see that, against the undeniable utility of a Canal that should be of sufficient dimensions to allow the passage of the largest merchants' ships, we can hardly place in the balance the consideration of any expenses whatsoever, nor question the long series and increasing importance of the advantages which must arise from it."
By way of summary: the opinion of this engineer on the possibility of the formation of the Canal in question, is contained in the following lines of a letter addressed by him to the Governor of Panama, dated the 7th July,[Pg 26] 1844, and a few days before his departure from that country, translated from the "Cartilla Popular," a public paper published at Panama, and written in Spanish.
"I am nevertheless partly able to satisfy your just and natural impatience, in announcing to you that a Canal across the Isthmus between the river Chagres, and a point of the coast of the Pacific Ocean, in the environs of Panama, is a work of very possible execution, and even easier than that of many Canals which have been formed in Europe."
The author has been furnished with the following summary of the opinions of M. Morel, who has been a resident for some years at Panama. M. Morel is stated to have surveyed the whole line of country destined to be appropriated to a road, as well as the ground through which a Canal might be opened, and as the result of his surveys and observations, he is reported to state—
1. That the width of the Isthmus of Panama, in a direct line, does not exceed 33 miles.
2. That the chain of mountains which incloses the country terminates precisely between Chagres and Panama, and forms a valley, which is crossed in all directions by numerous streams.
3. That besides those streams, four rivers of more importance, the Chagres and Trinidad, which flow into the Atlantic, and the Farfan and Rio Grande, which discharge themselves into the Pacific, in the immediate vicinity of Panama, can be made available.
4. That the soundings of the River Chagres show its depth to be from 16½ to 22 feet, to its junction with the river Trinidad, the tide being felt for four miles up the last named river. The breadth of the Chagres is 220 feet from its mouth to the Trinidad.[Pg 27]
5. That it becomes only necessary to unite these rivers by a Canal, the length of which would not exceed 25 miles, and which would be abundantly supplied by the numerous streams already mentioned.
6. That the land through which this Canal is to pass, is almost on a level with the sea, the highest point being 36 feet, thus presenting none of those serious difficulties which generally attend a work of this description.
7. That the country abounds with the necessary materials for building, such as free-stone, clay, lime, and wood.
8. That there can exist no fear of a scarcity of labourers and workmen, from the number who have already been enrolled by the government of New Granada, which amounts to 4000 and upwards.
9. That the objection which has often been started against the possibility of forming a water communication across the Isthmus of Panama, founded on the difference supposed to exist between the levels of the two seas, is totally at variance with the natural state of things, the tides rising to different heights at Chagres and at Panama, thus placing the Pacific sometimes above, and sometimes below the Atlantic.
Lastly, M. Morel remarks, that Baron de Humboldt, the celebrated Geographer, M. Arago, the eminent Astronomer, F.R.S., and Commander Garnier, of the French Brig of War, "Le Laurier," have proved that if there be any inequality of height, the average difference of level cannot exceed one metre (about one yard English).
Since the foregoing pamphlet was in print, an Article has appeared in the Morning Chronicle of the 16th May, 1845, in which it is alleged, upon the authority of an Article in the Journal des Debats, that M. Garella has given in his Report to the French Government, and that he reports in favour of the practicability of the scheme, but that he found the lowest elevation between the two oceans to amount to, from 120 to 160 metres, and that this being, as he says, too great an elevation for a Ship Canal, he proposes an enormous Tunnel capable of allowing Frigates to pass through—that he thinks from examination of the soil, that a Tunnel of 100 feet in height above the surface of the Canal will be practicable, and might be made with a reasonable outlay of money; and that the length of the Tunnel would be 5,350 metres, and the expense of it about 44 millions of francs (£1,760,000).
It is impossible to read this statement without feeling a strong suspicion that, for some object which does not appear, it is the wish of the French Government, or those who have put the statement forth, to deter others from embarking in the formation of a Canal across the Isthmus of Panama; for the recommendation of a Tunnel of 5,350 metres (about three miles) in length, and 100 feet in height, is not only preposterous in itself, as applied to a Ship Canal, but is wholly at variance with M. Garella's own letter to the Governor of Panama (ante p. 26), and with the statement of his opinions in the Article in the Moniteur Parisien (ante p. 23), which Article is believed to have been written by himself. It is true that M. Garella,[Pg 29] being a Mining Engineer (Ingénieur des Mines) may have a partiality for subterraneous works; and this refection provokes the observation, that it is singular that the French Government should have selected, for this very important survey, an Engineer of Mines (however eminent in his department), rather than one experienced in the formation of Canals, when it had so many of the latter at command.
It is difficult to conceive that the writer of the letter to the Governor of Panama, and of the Article in the Moniteur Parisien can be sincere in recommending a Tunnel; and the conclusion is irresistible, that if the Article in the Debats has any foundation in the forthcoming Report, it is a stroke of policy on the part of the French Government, to discourage an undertaking which its own subjects have not sufficient enterprize to accomplish, and which it would object to see executed by other nations.
In the present state of the question, it may not be immaterial to remark, that on a comparison lately made by an English Engineer of Mr. Lloyd's levels, with the survey alleged to have been made by M. Morel (the accuracy of which is necessarily impugned by M. Garella, if he asserts that an elevation of 120 metres must be overcome), it appears that the levels ascribed to M. Morel, very nearly agree with those of Mr. Lloyd, and are substantially corroborated by his survey.
 The reader will remember that to discover a more direct passage to India than the voyage round Africa, which the Portuguese were then exploring, was the object of Columbus' voyage which led to the discovery of America, and the present proposal is to realize the project of that great navigator. The name of "Indies" was given to his discoveries, under a belief that he had actually reached India, a name still preserved in our "West Indies."—Robertson's America, book ii., vol. i, pp. 70 and 124-5, (edit. of 1821). It may well excite astonishment that more than three centuries should have been allowed to elapse before the full accomplishment of this great man's undertaking.
 The intelligent observer of passing events will not fail to see in the "signs of the times" indications that the day is not far distant when the important Empire of Japan will follow the example of China, and throw open its harbours to European commerce—a consummation devoutly to be wished—and which the present expedition to those shores, under the command of Sir Edward Belcher, is likely to accelerate.
A more immediate development of commercial enterprise cannot fail to result from the opening of a Ship Canal through the Isthmus of Panama; viz., a direct trade between the West India Islands, English, French, and Spanish, and the countries which have been named. From this consideration, the West India proprietors and merchants, whose property in those colonies has been of late years so much depreciated, are deeply interested in the success of this undertaking.
 The opinions of writers who have visited the locality, will be found in the Appendix. To those of Mr. Lloyd, who was sent by Bolivar to survey the Isthmus in 1827, in particular, great weight is due.
 It was formerly called the Isthmus of Darien, but that name has fallen into disuse among all persons who have any intercourse with that part of the globe, though still preserved in some of the atlases.
 J. A. Lloyd, F. R. S., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1830, Part I. pp. 62, 63.
 J. A. Lloyd, F. R. S., Geographical Society's Transactions, vol. I.
 J. A. Lloyd. See Appendix.
 The writer has conferred with several gentlemen who have visited the Isthmus, and who agree in this opinion.
 It may be here stated that the Caledonian Canal, and the Canal from Amsterdam to Niewdiep, the two most expensive Ship Canals which have been made in Europe (and which approximate in magnitude the Canal now projected), were formed at a much less expense per mile than has been allowed in this estimate.
 Probably the Farfan.
 Malcolm MacGregor, Esq.
 The Canal of Languedoc is at its highest point 600 feet above the level of the sea.—M'Culloch's Commercial Dict., Art. Canals.
 It may be possible to reconcile the apparent contradiction between the fact here stated by M. Morel, and the report of M. Garella, by mentioning that the latter suggests the propriety of carrying the Canal over a hill 120 yards high, and thus shortening its length, rather than to adopt M. Morel's line of survey along the flat and low lands, which is the longest of the two.
W. LEWIS AND SON, PRINTERS, 21, FINCH-LANE, LONDON.