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20, 1882) near the summit of the continental divide, at Empire, in the section now known as Culebra Cut. That was thirty years ago, and, barring three years, from 1888 to 1891, work has been carried on at that point ever since
Their occupation was of much the same nature as the Americans, except that the French employed West Indian negroes in many positions where white men are now employed, and the proportion of French to the total force was therefore less. The work was done by contract, as the barge canal in New York State is now being constructed, and scores of Americans were employed in that way.
Right from the start they were handicapped. Yellow fever found the non-immune French easy victims, and ma
laria attacked both negro and white man. Failure of The administration was hampered by interFirst French ference of the Colombian officials, the plans Company. were incomplete, and it was found at an early
date that the estimate of cost ($127,600,000) was ridiculously low, and that more money must be raised. Meanwhile, the reports of death and sickness, the real magnitude of the enterprise, and the extravagant use of money in France, were making a bad impression on the French people; and the bonds of the company sold at a continuously lower price. In 1887 the sea-level project was abandoned for the time, as too costly, and a lock-level canal, to be deepened gradually to sea level, was decided upon.
On February 4, 1889, the company went into the hands of a receiver, and in the investigation that ensued great frauds in the administration of the company's affairs in France were disclosed. Ferdinand de Lesseps and others were convicted of fraud, although there is little evidence that Lesseps the elder was more than a figurehead, and it is likely that he knew nothing of the dishonesty. At the time of the disclosures, he was 86 years old, and he died soon after having been found guilty.
Little work was done on the isthmus until 1894, when The New Panama Canal Company, a receiver organization, began in earnest to complete the cut through the continental divide. It made extensive studies, and proceeded on the plan of a lock canal at two levels above the sea, to be reached by four locks on either side of the summit level. This canal was to have a ruling depth of 29 feet 6 inches, and a least width of 98 feet, as compared with 413-foot depth and 300foot least width of the present canal. The French continued
to work in Culebra Cut until the Americans took possession on May 4, 1904. In all they had spent $255,000,000 procured from securities of a face value of $435,000,000. The loss was distributed among 200,000 bondholders, chiefly members of the French middle-class.
The value of the work done by the French was estimated in 1901 by the Isthmian Canal Commission of that time at
$40,000,000, and on this basis the rights of Work Done by the French company were acquired. An the French. estimate made by the present Commission
in 1911, based upon the known value of the French excavation and equipment is $42,799,826, divided as follows:
Dry—23,138,000 cubic yards at $1.03. $23,832,140
$42,799,826 At the Pacific entrance the French had dredged a narrow channel from deep water three miles inland and this was used by ships going to Balboa (La Boca) docks. At the Atlantic entrance they had dredged a channel to Bohio, a distance inland of 15 miles, but it was navigable only by small boats of about seven feet draft. As far as Gatun, seven miles inland, it was fifteen feet deep, and the channel is used today in hauling materials between Cristobal and Gatun. All along the line of the Canal, work had been done, and one of the reminders of the failure up to a year ago were the old dredges and excavators which the tourist saw along the banks of the Chagres River as his train passed through the bottomland of the lake region.
The French canal line was practically the same as the American, utilizing the valleys of the Chagres and Rio Grande, in order to avoid excavation. The failure to build a canal was due mainly to the failure of the Paris management to retain the confidence of the French people.
In four other ways the Americans have an advantage which the
French did not possess-political control of the canal region, modern methods of maintaining health, more effective methods of excavating, unlimited money. In view of these differences Americans should be the first to join with the present Canal engineers in admiration of Lesseps' bold dream, and praise of the results accomplished by the men in the field.
The American Canal.
The story of the birth of Panama as a nation is told in another section of this book. The result of it was that the United States Government took possession of the effects of the French on the Isthmus on May 4, 1904, and the construction of the Canal under American auspices began on that day.
For several years the French had maintained a working force of a few hundred men in Culebra Cut, for the sole purpose of holding the franchise until a purchaser could be found, or until a new organization with greater capital could be effected. Their machinery was stored all along the Canal line in sheds and shops, the larger pieces such as dredges and excavators not housed. All was well cared for, however, and much of it was immediately useful to the new builders. Yet there was much to be done before the work could proceed economically, and at first the Americans showed great lack of good sense in meeting their problem. The Commission in Washington was too cautious for success; and requisitions for material of all kinds were badly handled, because the men on the work were unable to persuade the officials in Washington that large quantities of materials were badly needed, and at once. Out of the conflict that thus ensued there came three definite policies: (1) Effective sanitation of the Canal Zone and the cities of Colon and Panama; (2) Recruiting a force and proper housing and feeding of employes in order to maintain it; (3) Concentration of power on the Isthmus.
Sanitation and Health. It was recognized in all comprehensive discussions of the Canal project that the work could not be done by Americans unless measures were first taken for placing the region of the work on a secure health basis. Plans for sanitation of Colon and Panama formed part of the discussion of the Commission of 1899–1901. The discovery and proof that mosquitoes carry yellow fever and malaria came just prior to the determination of the American Government to build the Canal, and this made the work of sanitation more easy. Yellow fever and malaria (in its worst form malaria was known as Chagres fever) were the diseases that had worked most havoc with the French forces, although there had been comparative freedom from the former for seven years prior to the American occupation.
The theory that malaria is carried by mosquitoes of the Anopheles species was demonstrated as true by Sir Ronald Ross of the British Medical service in India, who reached the conclusion after a long series of experiments by himself and others in 1898. The story of the yellow-fever mosquito (Stegomyia) discovery is well told in an address delivered by the Secretary of the Isthmian Canal Commission, Mr. Joseph Bucklin Bishop, in 1910. In this case also the demonstration followed a long series of experiments begun by Dr. Carlos Findlay in Habana in 1881. It was made by Drs. Walter Reed, Jesse W. Lazear, James Carroll, and A. Agramonte of the American Army in Habana in 1901.
In January, 1904, the quarantine of Colon and Panama was turned over to the United States, and in June of that year the permanent sanitation organization was established, with Col. W. C. Gorgas, who had been Health Officer at Habana as head; and Dr. H. R. Carter, a yellow fever expert, as director of hospitals. This work like all the others was hampered by scarcity, of supplies, notably copper wire screening, which could not be purchased in the United States in large quantities. An epidemic of yellow fever, lasting from July, 1904, to December, 1905, accelerated the delivery of supplies, and made it necessary to expedite the sanitation work, lest the force slowly organizing be depleted. There were 246 cases and 84 deaths, of which 134 cases and 34 deaths were among Canal employes, while all the cases were among the nonimmunes who had come to the isthmus on account of the Canal work.
The sanitation has in view the prevention of mosquito breeding and the maintenance of a high standard of clean
liness in all the settlements along the Canal. Mosquito The anti-mosquito campaign is directed work against two species, the Stegom yiu, which
carries yellow fever, and the Anopheles which carries malaria. The Stegomyia lives in and about habitations, breeding in wet places. The measures taken against it
were the fumigation of houses, and the exercise of care that no tins or other vessels in which water might collect be allowed to lie around the yards or houses. It took over a year to stamp out the yellow fever, but it may never again be known in Panama; because, if a rigid quarantine is maintained, there will be no chance for it to get a start here. The method of contagion is for a Stegomyia to bite a person infected with the fever and then to bite one not so infected. If the person first bitten is in a certain stage of the disease, and the mosquito biting him is in a certain stage of its development, the disease may be carried.
The Anopheles is less easy to control, because it breeds anywhere that there is a damp place
on the edge of pools and streams, in the hoof marks left by cattle in the fields, in cans containing water, and even in high grass into which the sun does not penetrate. It carries malaria in much the same way as the Stegomyia carries yellow fever. Measures taken against it are the cutting of all grass and shrubbery around settlements so as to let the sunlight dry the damp places; covering pools, that cannot be drained, with a film of oil, which smothers the larvae before they reach maturity; and pouring into other streams and pools a mixture of carbolic acid, caustic soda, and rosin, known as larvacide, to kill the larvae.
The screening of houses is directed against all mosquitoes, but especially against the Anopheles. The ordinary method of treating malaria is with large doses of quinine, while many people take small doses continually for prophylactic purposes. By systematic treatment the type of malaria has been reduced from one of great violence to a very mild one, and the sick rate from 821 cases per thousand employes in 1906 to 187 cases per thousand employes in 1911.
An important part of the sanitation work was the municipal engineering in the cities of Colon and Panama, and in
the Canal villages. In Colon it consisted of fillMunicipal ing the swampy land upon which the city was Engineering. built, laying sewers, and installing a general
water system, and laying pavements; in Panama the laying of sewers and pavements, and installing water mains; in the Canal villages, sewer and water work, and the laying out and macadamizing of roads. This work was begun in 1905. and finished in 1906. In the cities of Colon and Panama it is being paid for by water rents collected by an American Superintendent of Public Works.