The Panama Canal
Theodore Roosevelt (1858 1919)
to Matthew Hale
Typescript letter with emendations,
January 6, 1908
Gift of the Roosevelt family,
The Panama Canal traverses the Isthmus of Panama, shortening the
route between U.S. Atlantic and Pacific seaports by 7,000 miles.
Colombia controlled the Isthmus, but a Panamanian revolt in 1903
enabled the Theodore Roosevelt administration to begin the canal's
construction in earnest. The story behind the revolt is clouded,
but Roosevelt asserts in this letter that his original message justified
American intervention on the basis of international law. After the
revolt and Panama's declaration of independence, Roosevelt claimed
he amended the message to comport with the new political reality.