|Teddy Roosevelt and a Canal
US History/Napp Name: __________________
“One of the most impressive feats of engineering in the world, the Panama Canal was built under a 1903 U.S. treaty with Panama. It took 10 years to build, required more than 40,000 laborers, and cost almost $390 million. The canal stretches 50 miles across the mountainous regions of Panama. In 1977 a new treaty took effect that gave Panama control of the canal as of December 31, 1999. Many people criticized Teddy Roosevelt’s role in building the Panama Canal. They believed that he was trying to dominate Latin America. The canal was also costly in terms of human life. Accidents and disease claimed the lives of 5,609 people, including about 4,500 Caribbean laborers.
Theodore Roosevelt, however, believed in a strong global military presence. He insisted that displaying American power to the world would make nations think twice about fighting, thus promoting global peace. He often expressed this belief with a West African saying, ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.’ Roosevelt’s ‘big stick’ policy was perhaps most evident in the Caribbean. Roosevelt and others viewed the construction of a canal through Central America as vital to American power in the world.
In 1903 Panama was still part of Colombia. Secretary of State Hay offered Colombia $10 million and a yearly rent of $250,000 for the right to construct the canal and to control a narrow strip of land on either side of it. Considering the price too low and afraid of losing control of Panama, the Colombian government refused the offer. Some Panamanians feared losing the commercial benefits of the canal. Panama had opposed Colombian rule since the mid-1800s, and the canal issue added to the tensions. A French company had begun digging a canal through Panama in 1881. By 1889, however, it abandoned its efforts because of bankruptcy and terrible losses from disease among the workers. The French company’s agent, Philippe Bunau-Varilla, and Panamanian officials decided that the only way to ensure the canal would be built was to declare independence and make their own deal with the United States. Bunau-Varilla arranged for a small army to stage an uprising in Panama. On November 3, 1903, Bunau-Varilla’s forces revolted. Meanwhile, President Roosevelt sent ships to Panama to prevent Colombian interference. Within a few days, the United States recognized Panama’s independence. Less than two weeks later, the two nations signed a treaty allowing the canal to be built.” ~ The American Vision
1. Which statement best describes President Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy position toward Latin America in the early 1900’s?
(1) The United States should reduce its involvement in Latin American affairs.
(2) The Monroe Doctrine permits the USA to intervene actively in Latin America.
(3) Latin American nations should form an organization to help them achieve political and economic stability.
(4) The USA should give financial aid to help the poor of Latin America.
2. All of the following refer to the construction of the Panama Canal except:
(1) Colombia refused to permit canal construction across its territory.
(2) The United States recognized the independence of Panama after a revolution broke out on the isthmus against Colombia.
(3) American warships were sent to Panama to assist the revolutionists.
(4) Canal construction cost a billion dollars and the loss of ten thousand lives.
This cartoon displays Roosevelt’s belief that the
United States should “speak softly and carry a big stick” in foreign affairs.
In what part of the world did Roosevelt’s quote originate? __________________________________
Analyzing a Political Cartoon:
This political cartoon provides the student with clues about how the United States acquired the right to build and control a canal through Panama in 1903.
Try to answer the following questions solely through your analysis of the political cartoon:
Who is the large fellow with a cowboy hat on the right side of the cartoon? ________________________________________________________________________
Why is the fellow with a cowboy hat leaning on a shovel? ________________________________________________________________________
What country is represented by the egg in the cartoon? ________________________________________________________________________
Could you locate the country represented by the egg on a map? ________________________________________________________________________
What hatched from the egg? ________________________________________________________________________
What caused the egg to hatch? ________________________________________________________________________
Who is the villain with the black hat and pointed mustache at the left of the cartoon? ________________________________________________________________________
After studying the political cartoon, what hunches or guesses do you have about how the United States acquired the right to build and control the Panama Canal? ________________________________________________________________________
What is the meaning of the political cartoon? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
“The growing American involvement in foreign affairs caused Roosevelt to expand his ‘big stick’ diplomacy. In an address to Congress in 1904, the president defined what came to be known as the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. In it, he said that the United States would intervene in Latin American affairs when necessary to maintain economic and political stability in the Western Hemisphere.
The United States first applied the Roosevelt Corollary in the Dominican Republic, which had fallen behind on its debt payments to European nations. In 1905 the United States assumed the responsibility of collecting customs tariffs in the Dominican Republic, using the United States Marine Corps as its agent.
Latin American nations resented the growing American influence in the region, but Roosevelt’s successor, William Howard Taft, continued Roosevelt’s policies. Taft placed much less emphasis on military force and more on helping Latin American industry. He believed that if American business leaders supported Latin American and Asian development, everyone would benefit. The United States would increase its trade, American businesses would increase their profits, and countries in Latin America and Asia would rise out of poverty and social disorder.
Taft’s policy came to be called dollar diplomacy. Although Taft described his brand of diplomacy as ‘substituting dollars for bullets,’ in Nicaragua he used both.
In 1911 American bankers began making loans to Nicaragua to support its shaky government. The following year, civil unrest forced the Nicaraguan president to appeal for greater assistance. American marines entered the country, replaced the collector of customs with an American agent, and formed a committee of two Americans and one Nicaraguan to control the customs commissions. American troops stayed to support both the government and customs until 1925.” ~ The American Vision
Create Flashcards for the Following Terms:
Critical Thinking Question:
Did the Roosevelt Corollary and Dollar Diplomacy benefit Latin Americans or did it lead to a kind of U.S. neo-imperialism in Latin America? Explain your answer.