Panama Canal

A schematic of the Panama Canal, illustrating ...
A schematic of the Panama Canal, illustrating the sequence of locks and passages (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was on April 19, 1850, that Britain and the United States signed the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty to build the Panama Canal as a joint venture.  Later the States decided to go it alone.  Great Britain withdrew, accepting the promise that the canal would be open to the ships of all nations, at equal rates.

You might ask what the building of the Panama Canal had to do with Canada, but there are some interesting sidelights.

In the first place, Panama might easily have been called Nova Scotia.  After Scotland and England united in 1707 (after this date it is correct to use the term Britain rather than England), the people of Scotland had better opportunities to migrate.  One group decided to go to Panama and develop a colony called New Scotland (Nova Scotia).  It was a failure for the same reasons that caused Napoleon to abandon his plan to recapture Canada for France years later.  The natives and the mosquitoes were too fierce, even for Scotsmen! Samuel Vetch, a Scotsman who went to live in Boston, interested the British government in a plan to capture Acadia from France. Eventually he became Governor of Nova Scotia as we know it, with its capital at Annapolis Royal, formerly Port Royal.

Britain’s agreeing to withdraw from ownership of the Panama Canal also had a bearing on the unfortunate agreement made in 1905, establishing the Alaska boundary.  The British government thought that as it had given way to the United States on the Panama Canal question, the Americans would be willing to compromise on the boundary between Canada and Alaska, then in dispute. This was not the case (See my March 25 post –Boundary Established), and the Panama Canal Museum.

In fairness, it must be said that the building of the Panama Canal was a great help to the development of British Columbia. Ships sailing to and from British Columbian ports carrying the trade of western Canada have never been prevented from using the Panama Canal, thus saving themselves the long journey around South America.

So, as you can see, there are many aspects of the Panama Canal. One site that has info about this is US History (but just a warning: there are annoying ads there, but worth visiting nonetheless); there’s also the Encyclopedia Britannica ; if you are interested in trivia, I suggest Panama Canal and the Panama Canal Museum.


  1. I never even thought that Canada was kind of involved. I saw the documentary how Panama Canal was made, plenty of Egyptians died in the process. Thank you for the history of the day.


  2. The canal was, also, in its time, the equivalent (or may something that surpassed) of the Manhattan Project or the Saturn voyages to the moon. Nice to see the Canadian tie-ins. I was completely unaware of them.
    …and unaware that ANYTHING could turn away the Scots :>) Och!
    According to one of the references you posted, though, some good did come of that Caledonia colony. Apparently that venture helped stimulate Scotland to expand and diversify their economy to the point that, for a time, it was something of a world leader.


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