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schemes—for such they really are-should ultimately be carried out, either it or the Panama Canal must suffer, since they would be striving to secure the same traffic. At present, the Panama Canal
appears to hold the field. It is actually a long way towards completion, and, if its further progress should be anything like reasonable, it may easily be finished before either of the other schemes is begun, in which case it may very well happen that it will be left without a rival for many years to come.
Among the many interesting problems connected with the undertaking at Panama that were more or less involved in doubt and obscurity when the works were commenced was that of the probable velocity of the tides of the Pacific and of the Caribbean Sea, and of its effects on navigation. This question was necessarily dependent on, and associated with, that of the height of the tides at Panama and Colon, respectively. A report made to the French Academy of Sciences during the past year appears to furnish an adequate assurance that there is no trouble or danger to be apprehended on
It is calculated by the author of the report that, assuming the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans to be of the same level, the velocity of the tides in the canal cannot exceed 27 knots, and that this rate can only last for a few hours. It is therefore concluded that the navigation of steamers is not likely to be affected by tidal influence. This is a point of vast importance. The range of tides in the Atlantic is calculated at from 7 to 19 inches, whereas at Panama it varies from 8 to 21 feet, whence a considerable and troublesome tidal current in the latter direction has been anticipated.
The proposed canal, commencing in the Bay of Limon, or Navy Bay, on the Atlantic, is to proceed by the river Chagres, as far as Matachin on that river, and afterwards, traversing the valleys of Obispo and Rio Grande, will enter the Pacific at the Bay of Panama.
The Nicaraguan Canal, a rivalscheme, which appears to be approved in the United States, and has received the sanction of the New York Chamber of Commerce and other important bodies, is intended to 'connect the port of San Juan, or Greytown, on the Atlantic, with that of Brito, on the Pacific Ocean. Its total length is estimated at about 170 miles, of which, however, only about forty miles are canal proper, the remaining 130 miles being formed by channels in the Nicaragua Lake, the rivers San Juan and San Francisco, and their several tributaries. It has been calculated that the time of passage through the canal and locks will occupy about thirty hours, giving an average speed of 5.7 miles per hour, and that the canal will admit of a traffic of twenty millions of tons per annum, assuming the average tonnage of the vessels passing through to be the same as that of the vessels passing through the Suez Canal. The scheme does not appear to present or involve any remarkable engineering features. The mean water-level of Lake Nicaragua is taken as the
summit level of the canal, whence there is a considerable fall to the Pacific Ocean, which is to be got over by four locks, each with lifts of twenty-five to thirty feet. The proposed works involve two dams of large dimensions—one 420 yards long and 52 feet high, just below the point where the canal takes off from the San Juan; and the other 2,000 yards long and 51 feet bigh, across the San Francisco valley. The surveys already made indicate an ample water supply. The locks proposed are to be wide enough to admit the largest size of vessels, being 650 feet by 65 feet by 29 feet over the sills. There will be seven locks in all, each provided with iron sliding gates, retreating into a lateral recess when open. The cost has been variously estimated at from $50,000,000 to $64,000,000 or 10,000,0001. to 12,000,0001. sterling ; but last year the cost was put at nearly double this amount by Commander Taylor, of the U.S. Navy, in a lecture before the New York Geographical Society.
It appears that there is some diplomatic difficulty in the way of this undertaking. The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, concluded in 1850, provided certain mutual guarantees between the United States and the United Kingdom for the protection and control of this canal, and the Cabinets of London and Washington have had some correspondence relative thereto. For this and other reasons, President Cleveland, in his message to Congress in 1885, stated that an attentive consideration of the Nicaraguan Canal Treaty led him to withhold it from submission to the Senate. This treaty was signed in 1884, the contracting parties being the United States on the one hand, and the Republic of Nicaragua on the other. It stipulated that the new water-way should be the property of the two Governments; but the United States claimed to select the land route, to make a railway as part of the canal, and to have free use of the land and water required for purposes of construction. A joint management of three was proposed, and it was suggested that Nicaragua should take one-third, and the United States two-thirds of the proceeds. The enterprise has repeatedly been mentioned since, both in the Senate and in Congress, but its practical realisation does not appear to be much nearer than it was when the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty was concluded thirty-seven years ago. Of the proposed ship railway little need be said, since it is not being pressed forward by any party at present.
It may be useful to recall the fact that the schemes which have been put forward from time to time with a view to establishing communication between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans include
1. A canal across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec viâ the rivers Chicapa and Coatzacoalcos.
2. A canal through Lake Nicaragua, terminating either in Brito or San Juan del Sur.
3. A canal across the Isthmus of Chiriqui. 4. A canal across the Isthmus of Panama,
5. A canal from San Miguel to Caledonia Bay.
6. A canal from San Miguel to the Gulf of Darien, crossing the valley of the Atrato.
7. A canal across the Isthmus of Darien, viâ the rivers Tuyra, G. Urabá, or the Atrato.
These, however, are very far from exhausting the list, which embraces no less than twenty-six different routes, including canals and roads. The Panama route has always attracted most attention, chiefly, no doubt, because it is much shorter than any other, its estimated length of about fifty miles being little more than onefourth of that of the Nicaraguan route. As to the ship railway scheme projected by the late Mr. Eads, we have never seen any very reliable estimate of its probable cost put forward, and it is perhaps hardly one that the public would take kindly to, however ingenious and feasible from an engineering point of view.
On the other hand, there are those who hold that the Nicaraguan scheme, which does not involve very heavy cuttings, and which has the advantage of making use for some 130 miles of the Nicaragua Lake and the San Juan River, is likely to be much less costly, and in the long run more easy to maintain, than the Panama Canal. The latter is an important consideration, as the shareholders of the Suez Canal have found to their cost. But, however this may be, the Nicaraguan Canal Association is now a veritable entity, and the promoters of the scheme evidently mean business.
It is not a little remarkable that the Nicaraguan route, which is now apparently being hailed with great approval by the people of America, was emphatically condemned by a Commission which investigated the question, under instructions from the Senate, in 1866. Their report, however, was founded on the project put forward in 1850-51 by Messrs. Childs and Fay, who proposed that the descent from the lake to the Pacific should be made by fourteen locks, and that fourteen more should accomplish the descent to the Caribbean Sea. The total length of the line was estimated at 194 miles, and it was proposed that the seaports of Greytown and Brito, at the two ends of the canal, should be provided with extensive, and necessarily costly, piers, barbours, jetties, breakwaters, &c. On this scheme the Commission referred to reported that no enterprise presenting such formidable difficulties will ever be undertaken with even our present knowledge of the American isthmuses.' This prophecy appears likely to be falsified by the lapse of events.
To Europe, the construction of a water-way across the Isthmus of Darien or Panama is of much less importance than it was before the Suez Canal was opened. But it is still of very great consequence, and that for several manifest reasons. To begin with, the Suez Canal is a monopolist route, with monopolist charges and monopolist arbitrariness of control. The heavy imposts which are levied for the
passage of ships through that water-way largely limit its use, and especially by sailing vessels, which still, in many cases, prefer to take the far longer passage round the Cape, and so escape the petty difficulties and annoyances of the canal. What the extent of the trade carried round the Cape may now be we cannot accurately say, but it must be very considerable. India alone has now 7,250,000 tons of shipping entering and clearing from her ports annually. Australasia has about 16,000,000, Hong Kong 7,000,000, and the Straits Settlements about 7,000,000 tons. Altogether, then, our Indian and Colonial possessions in the East have 37,000,000 to 40,000,000 tons of shipping every year entering and clearing, almost wholly from and to the United Kingdom. The value of this trade is colossal and portentous. Taking the year 1884 as a fairly average one, it was For Australasia.
157,313,000 Straits Settlements
7.900,000 Ilong Kong
30,000,000 Here, then, we have a total value of about 350 millions, represented by the trade of the British possessions in the East, chiefly with our own country. The rate of the growth of this trade has been its most marked characteristic. Since 1872 the imports and exports of our Australian colonies have about doubled. Those of the Straits Settlements and India have increased by over sixty per cent. Cheapen the cost, and increase the facilities of transport, and it is impossible to forecast the possible limits, or the rate of development of the trade that may be opened up.
It is, however, to the United States that the opening of a water-way across the Isthmus of Panama is likely to be of the greatest advantage and importance. The greater part of the trade between the ports of that country and the Orient has now to pass over from 1,000 to 12,000 miles of ocean that would be entirely obviated by the operation of piercing the isthmus. This necessity has no doubt acted in restraint of American trade with Australasia, India, China, and, indeed, Asiatic countries generally. In spite, however, of the serious embargo thereby imposed, the trade between those countries and America has advanced with remarkable strides. The countries on both sides of the isthmus are the countries of the future-possessed of unlimited resources, virgin soil of rare fertility, dominated by the energy, enterprise, and high capacity of the Anglo-Saxon race, and easily able to support twenty times their present population without any danger of pressing on the means of subsistence. With these countries the trade of the United States during the last financial year appears to have been as follows:
The values are taken from the Colonial Year-book, issued by the Board of Trade.
Statement showing the number and tonnage of ships that entered and cleared from
the Ports of the United States during the year ending June 30, 1887.
According to this showing, the foreign trade of the United States, at the present time, could provide the canal with a traffic of 2,464 vessels, of rather over 2,000,000 tons, which, assuming an average of 108. per ton, would, of course, give a gross revenue of about 1,000,0001. sterling. This, of course, comes very far short of the revenue that accrues from the Suez Canal, which now amounts to about 3,000,000l. sterling per annum. But the trade is not likely to be limited to the United States alone. On the contrary, it is believed that a very considerable English tonnage may probably make use of the canal, and then there is the enormous local, or internal, commerce of the United States that passes to California round Cape Horn. Finally, there is the rapid expansion of the American trade with the whole of the Pacific to be taken into account. That this will continue to expand as hitherto, and perhaps even in an accelerated ratio, there is little reason to doubt. A few typical examples will best show what has happened in the past, and the consequent promise for the future. The imports of merchandise into the United States from Mexico advanced from $1,500,000 in 1868 to $10,500,000 in 1886, while within the same interval the exports from the United States to Mexico rose from under $5,000,000 to over $16,000,000. Taking the Central American States, the imports from the United States rose from $725,000 to over $6,000,000, and the exports from $500,000 to over $3,000,000. The fact is that there does not appear to be any measurable limit to the possible growth of trade in these regions.
If either England or America were told that they were losing largely every year by their neglect of opportunities that were perfectly open to them, they would perhaps hardly understand what was meant. And yet this is unquestionably the fact. Both countries appear to have failed to appreciate the importance, from an economic point of