THE CANAL UNDER GOETHALS
President Roosevelt had at last found public sentiment educated to the point where the canal could be put exclusively in the hands of government engineers, following the untimely resignation of Mr. Wallace, the belief that private interests were seeking to grab the project, and the loss of Mr. Stevens. It had taken three years to reach this attitude. The personnel of the third Commission he appointed, on April 1, 1907, was as follows:
|LIEUT.-COL. GEORGE W. GOETHALS, Chairman and Chief Engineer,
MAJ. D.D. GAILLARD, U.S.A.,
MR. H.H. ROUSSEAU, U.S.N.,
COL. W.C. GORGAS, U.S.A., Medical Corps,
MR. J.C.S. BLACKBURN,
MR. JACKSON SMITH,
MR. JOSEPH BUCKLIN BISHOP, Secretary
The President also took advantage of the reorganization of the Commission to further consolidate power in the Chairman. Not only was Col. Goethals made Chairman of the Isthmian Canal Commission, and Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal, but the executive power in the Canal Zone, formerly exercised by the Governor, was vested in him, as well as the Presidency of the Panama Railroad Company, thus making every official and employee, and the members of the Commission, subordinate to him.
In former years the Governor had exercised extensive and supreme powers within his sphere, ranking higher than the Chief Engineer. Where the Chairman, Chief Engineer, and Governor had rival powers, friction was sure to develop, and did so develop. Under the new order the governor was reduced to the title of Head of the Department of Civil Administration, reporting to the Chairman, as did the Chief Sanitary Officer and Division Engineers. Thus the former concentration of the power of a Commission of seven members into an Executive Committee of three, was still further concentrated into one man and so gave Col. Goethals the absolute authority he ever since has exercised in the Canal Zone, acknowledging only the Secretary of War and the president as his superiors.
Mr. Jackson Smith's appointment to the Commission is the only instance of a civilian
coming to the Canal Zone as an employee and attaining to the position of Commissioner.
He had shown such remarkable ability as the head of the bureau of Labor, Quarters,
and Subsistence, in recruiting workers, housing them and supplying them with food, that
his services were recognized by elevation to the commission. Mr. Blackburn, of
Kentucky, was the head of the Department of Civil Administration, and Mr. Bishop was to
edit a weekly Canal Record, the official Commission publication, the first issue of which
appeared on September 4, 1907, and every Wednesday since. Five of the new
Commissioners and the Secretary have been on the job continuously from that day to this,
the changes coming in the other two members on September 14, 1908, when Mr. Smith resigned
and was succeeded by Lieut.-Col. H.F. Hodges, and Mr. Blackburn being succeeded by Mr.
Maurice H. Thatcher, on April 12, 1910.
|Col. Goethals appreciated the feeling the employees had over
the prospect of army engineers for directors of the enterprise, and in his first speech in
the Canal dispelled the idea of militarism in the canal management. He promised a
fair hearing to every man with a grievance, the manner in which he carried out this
promise being one of the distinctively great qualities he later revealed as an
administrator. Few persons in the Canal Zone had heard of Col. Goethals before his
appointment as Chief Engineer. He had visited the Isthmus in 1905 to study with a
view of recommending plans for fortifications, but the employees who had been with the job
then scarcely were impressed by his presence. Yet, his previous experience had
qualified him ideally for the important work now in hand. He had been building locks
and dams, had been Chief of Engineers in the Spanish-American War, now a graduate of and
had taught in West Point, and had seen other construction experience that made him at home
in any kind of work the canal should require. Messrs. Stevens and Wallace lacked his
knowledge of lock building, and they lacked the military point of view which was to become
essential in directing the fortification work, and the general policy of treating the
Canal Zone as a military reservation, even though the project is neutral and open to the
nations of the world.
Looking back from this perspective of years it seems fortuitous that the canal has had the impress of both civilian and army engineers. When Mr. Stevens left, the enterprise was ready for just the treatment it has received under Col. Goethals, which is, that we are not investing $375,000,000 as a mere adjunct to commerce, but as a means of national defense vitally necessary. The military coloring Col. Goethals has given the canal will not impair its utility in the world's trade, yet it will keep it ready for the emergencies of war in a manner that the civilian view point hardly could have been expected to produce.
Contrast, for a moment, the situation as faced by Col. Goethals with that faced by Mr. Stevens in 1905. In 1907, fire was under the boiler and steam was up. When Mr. Stevens relinquished the throttle, the army of workers had begun to come close to the million mark in monthly excavations in the Culebra cut. There were 63 steam shovels at work on the canal; 100 French and 184 American locomotives, and 2,700 cars of all kinds were in use; the Panama Railroad had been double-tracked throughout, and the mileage in the Culebra cut and elsewhere brought up to 106.78 miles; 18 Lidgerwood unloaders, 13 bank spreaders, 33 unloading plows, 3 track shifters and 7 pie drivers were in service; the machine shops at Gorgona and Empire were equipped for any kind of repair work or original construction.
There were approximately 30,000 employees, and the recruiting agencies in Europe, the West Indies, and the United States constantly were sending additions. Quarters for employees, office buildings, and all other structures consisted of 2,009 buildings of American design, and 1,536 remodeled French buildings. The commissary for supplying food, clothing, and general merchandise to employees was organized and had branches in seven Canal Zone towns. There were fifteen hotels in operation for bachelor employees and four recreation clubhouses had been constructed, beside church and lodge buildings. Twenty-four public schools afforded educational facilities to the Canal Zone children. The police system, the courts, post offices, and fire departments were thoroughly organized. In short, the preparatory stage of the canal had passed and the constructive stage had begun.
As compared with the total excavation required for the completed canal, in round numbers 221,000,000 yards, the record made by Mr. Stevens, in removing from the Culebra cut during the twenty-one months he was Chief Engineer, 5,073,098 yards, is not significant. The construction of the canal distinctly is the work of the Goethals administration; still, the preparatory work had to be done because, as Col. Goethals himself states:
"It was only after these various yet necessary adjuncts had been provided and the forces for their operation were organized that the principal work in handthe building of the canalcould be pushed forward with any hope of success, and too much praise cannot be given those who conceived and established them in a working condition."
Necessarily, all the basic work accomplished under Wallace and Stevens is lost sight of in view of the magnificent superstructure erected under Col. Goethals. The modern sightseer has nothing to remind him of the wretched conditions of the first two years, the battle with disease, the arduous labor of creating in the jungle a duplicate American civilization, the tantalizing struggle with government red tape before a stick of timber, a pound of iron, a shipment of food, or an efficient workman could be secured.
The first vivid impression today upon the tourist viewing the colossal locks and the artificial canyon called the Culebra cut, the beautiful towns, and the whole paraphernalia of a well-ordered civil government is similar to that experienced upon the first sight of Niagara Falls, with this exception: the Panama Canal is the work of man, and the responsibility for it may be fixed. An outburst of praise is the spontaneous result, and Col. Goethals, being the visible head of the project, naturally bears the brunt of this admiration. yet, excluding the construction work, all the collective activities, such as feeding and housing and providing for the needs of the army of employees, as well as the whole civil government, was the work of the Stevens and Wallace administrations. Col. Goethals simply has enlarged the organizations they left.
Perhaps the chief reason that Col. Goethals so generally is accepted as the sole genius of the canal is found in the fact that he stuck to the job which two others had abandoned. Justice, however, is not wholly served by this consideration. A simile may be found in the task of breaking a bronco. The canal job threw both Wallace and Stevens and then Goethals stuck in the saddle. But the energy that the bronco spent to dismount the first two riders so weakened him that by the time the third was in the saddle he was conquerable. The third rider may have been no better than the two who were thrown, and their efforts undoubtedly paved the way for his success.
Col. Goethals deserves the admiration that his service on the canal has evoked, but the generality of writers, looking at what exists today and the heedless of the beginnings of the task, lose their perspective and commonly fall into the error of ignoring the very remarkable and wholly vital preparatory work under John F. Stevens. This writer believes that if Col. Goethals had been selected in 1904, there only would have been one chief Engineer of the canal, barring his death, so eminent are the abilities of the army engineer, but candor requires the statement that he assumed control at a time when conditions were soft as compared with the early stages of the project.
President Roosevelt had selected in Messrs. Gaillard, Sibert, Rousseau, and later, Hodges, engineers of exceptional ability, who, with S. B. Williamson, picked by Col. Goethals, demonstrated capacities which in a large measure account for the splendid progress of the Goethals administration. Any one of them would have been available for the highest position in the organization.
It would be erroneous to assume that Col. Goethals had nothing to do but sit back and watch the signals on the main line of canal construction, as indicated by his predecessors. The decks, indeed, had been cleared for action and the blue-prints nicely finished and tied with ribbon, but the real struggle was just beginning. He had the tools for the job placed in his hands, but their skillful use devolved entirely upon him. Besides changes were made in the original plans and unanticipated problems arose, which made Col. Goethals' direction of the enterprise in the highest degree complex and exceptional.
The first annual report of the Commission, to be written as of June 30th, the end of the government's fiscal year, was issued by Col. Goethals in 1907, three months after Mr. Stevens resigned. The President had asked Col. Goethals to report on the contract plan after an inspection of the canal, and this masterly argument against turning it over to private contractors is the report's most notable feature, aside from its unusual comprehensiveness. Incidentally, the argument is a high tribute to the work of Mr. Stevens.
Col. Goethals pointed out that the canal required special equipment which would be useless to a contractor after its completion, and therefore could be bought just as cheaply by the government; that the government had had more experience in lock building than any contractor, and had had sufficient experience in dredging and excavating to insure economy. When the profits a contractor would make were deducted, the government could equal his efficiency. He pointed to the Congressional Library at Washington as an example of work done satisfactorily by the government. No contractor had an organization that could cover all phases of the canal, and the government already had as good an organization as any contractor could get. The French had tried the contract system, antagonizing labor thereby, and Italy already had served notice that its citizens could not work in the Canal Zone if the government abandoned the job. Finally, endless friction between government inspectors and the contractor would result, and on the side of civil government and sanitation the contractor could not possibly equal the efficiency of the government.
Taking a survey of the conditions when he took charge, Col. Goethals found that 80 per cent of the plant for finishing the canal was on the ground or ordered. The preliminary work for relocating the Panama Railroad had been done, and actual construction of the new line was begun in June, 1907, shortly after his arrival. Excavations in the lock sites were uncompleted, and it was two years later, in 1909, before any concrete was laid. In April, the month he arrived, nearly 900,000 yards were removed from the Culebra cut, the best month's work to that date. By December, 1907, the million mark for the cut was passed and never has been lowered except for one month, Jay, 1908. Dredging in the Atlantic and Pacific entrances of the canal had gone ahead steadily, though not extensively, the amount removed in the Atlantic entrance being 1,732,712 yards, and in the Pacific entrance, 1,956,895 yards from 1904 to April 1, 1907. Less than 6,000,000 yards had been removed from the Culebra cut by both Wallace and Stevens.
In August, four months after Col. Goethals arrived, the organization in the department of construction and engineering had developed such a momentum that it was necessary to ask authority from the President to exceed the regular appropriation by $8,000,000 for the fiscal year to end in June, 1908. This is additional evidence of the efficiency of the preparatory work under Mr. Stevens.
The fall of 1907 and the month of October presented a new problem in the canal construction which ever since has been one of the most formidable and uncertain factors in the project. A slide began at Cucaracha on the east side of the Cut near the town of Culebra and suddenly filled the Cut, closing it for transportation. In 1884, the French had noted this earth movement, and during Col. Goethals' first years on the canal it involved an area of forty-seven acres. Before dirt trains could move through the Cut, steam shovels had to work night and day for several weeks, and from that time onward the slides have been the bugbear of the organization, not because they were insuperable, but from the extra work they involved and the possibility that they might delay the completion of the project. In the closing days the slides are still the unknown factor.
Right then it was realized that the canal involved more excavation than the minority of the Board Advisory Engineers had estimated. Several important changes in the plans for the canal came within the first eighteen months of the Goethals administration to make the job far more stupendous than contemplated in the plans of 1906. Col. Goethals recommended, and President Roosevelt approved on December 20, 1907, a change in the location of two of the Pacific locks. The revised plans changed two locks from La Boca, on the Pacific coast, to Miraflores, about seven miles inland, which not only would make them safe from bombardment, but was a more practicable engineering plan. A mile and a half farther inland were the Pedro Miguel locks, which would raise ships the final height to the great Gatun Lake, at its Pacific terminal, and between the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks was a small artificial lake. From Miraflores to the Pacific, a sea-level channel 500 feet wide was to be dug.
Another change in the plans was approved by the President on recommendations by the Navy Board, on January 15, 1908. the locks were ordered enlarged from 95 by 900 feet to 110 by 1,000 feet, usable dimensions, to meet the anticipated increase in the size of commercial and war vessels. Col. Goethals did not think a width of 110 feet necessary, favoring 100 feet width, but his judgment in this instance has proved to be wrong, as the latest Argentine battleship is 98 feet wide, leaving only 12 feet surplus in the width of the locks, at 110 feet. The Pennsylvania of our Navy will be 97 feet wide, leaving 13 feet, or 6 1/2 feet on each side of the ship in the locks. The Imperator, the latest giant of the Hamburg-American fleet, is 96 feet wide and 900 feet long, so it appears that the locks may become too narrow before they become too short. The cost of the locks was increased $5,000,000 by the change in plans.
A third vital change in the original plans came on October 23, 1908, when the President authorized the widening of the Culebra cut for five miles from 200 feet to 300 feet at the bottom. This would enable ships to pass going in opposite directions anywhere in the Cut, and increased the cost of this part of the canal by $14,000,000. Since these three important changes there have been no substantial changes in the canal plans, except the decrease in the proposed height of the huge Gatun dam. Additional excavation to the extent of 70,871,594 cubic yards was necessitated by the new plans over the estimate of 103,795,000 yards made in 1906, or a total of 174,666,594 yards for the completed canal. But slides that later developed, and further changes in the plans since 1908 have added 47,000,000 yards to that total, bringing it up to 221,000,000 yards. thus Col. Goethals had had to dig more than twice as much dirt as Mr. Stevens expected to take out, and is doing it in less time than was estimated for the original yardage! The original canal of 103,795,000 yards was dug by the Americans by April 6, 1910, six years after work began, and two years and a half of that time had been spent in preparatory work.
Basing his figures on the revised plans, Col. Goethals in 1908 issued the following estimate of the cost of the Panama Canal:
ATLANTIC DIVISION7 MILES
|Breakwater in Limon Bay||
|From Caribbean Sea, channel to Gatun Locks||
|Gatun Locks, three twin locks||
CENTRAL DIVISION32 MILES
|Channel from Gatun Locks to Bas Obispo||
|Culebra Cut, Nine Miles, Bas Obispo to Pedro Miguel Locks||
PACIFIC DIVISION8 MILES
|Pedro Miguel Dam||
|Channel, Pedro Miguel to Pacific||
|New Panama Railroad||
|General Expenses, Salaries, Subsistence, etc.||
|Loans to P.R.R.||
|Lighthouses, Ships, Wharves||
|Double-tracking, Land and Stock Purchases||
|Grand Total Cost of Construction||
ALL OTHER ITEMS
|Paid for French Property||
|Paid for Canal Zone||
|Total Cost for Completed Canal||
Beginning July 1, 1908, Col. Goethals initiated changes in the organization, which was to be the final one for the canal. The Department of Engineering and Construction was divided into three grand divisions, to be known as the Atlantic, Central,and Pacific. The Atlantic division comprised that part of the canal which extended from deep water in the Caribbean Sea to, and including, the Gatun locks and dam, about seven miles of the canal. The Central division comprised the channel through the Chagres River valley from the Gatun Locks to Bas Obispo, where the Culebra cut began, and for nine miles through the continental divide to the Pedro Miguel Lock, about thirty-two miles of the canal. The Pacific division comprised the Pedro Miguel Lock and Dam, the short channel to the Miraflores Locks and Dam, and including those features, and the channel to deep water in the Pacific, about eight miles of the canal.
Of the forty-seven miles of the canal proper, the Central division had the greatest mileage, its construction was to be the costliest and the material handled to be far in excess of either of the other two divisions. It is in the Central division that the main excavation of the canal has been made, as the mountain chain had to be pierced with a cut, the bottom of which would be only forty feet above sea-level, necessitating digging down from the highest point on the surface, a depth of 272 feet, between gold and Contractor's hills. The French dug down 161 feet at this point, but not so wide as the American plans required so that considerably more than 111 feet depth remained for the Americans to dig. From this highest point the mountains slope toward the Atlantic and Pacific with a consequent lessening of the depth of the excavations to reach the proposed bottom of the canal. Practically all the material had to be blasted before removal.
Since 1908 the organization has remained unchanged as to the heads of the divisions in the department of engineering and construction. As finally designed by Col. Goethals, the organization of the canal forces is as follows, with the incumbents as of July 1, 1912:
ENGINEERING AND CONSTRUCTION
|COL. GEO. W. GOETHALS, Chairman and Chief Engineer, Culebra,|
|COL. H.F. HODGES, Assistant Chief Engineer, in charge of Lock and Dam construction, Culebra,|
|CIVIL ENGINEER H.H. ROUSSEAU, Assistant to the Chief Engineer, in charge of mechanical equipment and supervision of expenditures and estimates, Culebra,|
|LIEUT.-COL. D.D. GAILLARD, Engineer, Central Division, Empire|
|LIEUT.-COL. WILLIAM L. SIBERT, Engineer, Atlantic Division, Gatun,|
|S.B. WILLIAMSON, Engineer, Pacific Division, Corozal,|
|A.L. ROBINSON, Superintendent, Mechanical Division, Gorgona.|
ALL OTHER DEPARTMENTS
|LIEUT.-COL. EUGENE T. WILSON, Subsistence Officer, Cristobal,|
|COL. C.A. DEVOL, Chief Quartermaster, Culebra,|
|MR. MAURICE H. THATCHER, Head of Civil Administration, Ancon,|
|H.A. GUDGER, Chief Justice, Ancon,|
|FRANK FEUILLE, Counsel and Chief Attorney, Ancon,|
|COL. W.C. GORGAS, Chief Sanitary Officer, Ancon,|
|EDWARD J. WILLIAMS, Disbursing Officer, Empire,|
|H.A.A. SMITH, Examiner of Accounts, Empire,|
|MAJ. F.C. BOGGS, General Purchasing Officer, Washington, D.C.,|
|J. A. SMITH, Superintendent, Panama Railroad, Colon.|
How largely the Army and Navy have dominated the canal, since 1907, is shown by the foregoing organization, in which nine out of seventeen heads of departments are from the government forces. But this does not show the extent of this domination, because the full organization of subordinate officials shows twenty-two additional Army and Navy men in important positions.
The Pacific Division is the only one of the three grand divisions with a civilian
engineer in charge, and there are no Army or Navy men in this division from top to bottom.
The idea seems to have to pit a civilian engineer against the Army men, who are in
charge of the Atlantic Central Divisions. The Pacific Division, under Mr.
Williamson, substantially demands the same engineering ability as the Atlantic Division
under Lieut.-Col. Sibert, because each includes lock and dam construction and channel
dredging. The cost-keeping accountant has shown where the civilian engineer has done
his work more cheaply than the Army engineer, but the difference is accounted for in the
physical obstacles that must be surmounted in the Atlantic Division, in obtaining sand and
rock for the locks.
|and supplies, so that much of the vexation of the early years was avoided. Every head of a department must hand in an estimate of what will be needed to run him for the ensuring year and this plan keeps the canal ahead of its demands in all lines.|
The equanimity with which Col. Goethals has met every unexpected development in the construction work is a distinguishing feature of the man's mental processes. If he ever has for one moment entertained the shadow of a doubt of the success of the lock-type canal, he has not allowed his fears to be manifested. The slides, the slip in the Gatun dam, the volcanic evidences in the Culebra cut, the cracks in the lock walls, earthquake disturbances, and a host of lesser troubles have not shaken his faith. One can hear employees and subordinate officials voicing all kinds of dark forebodings, but never the Chief Engineer.
The mammoth Gatun dam had been begun in 1906, and by 1908 was taking form under the constant dumping of rock and earth from the Culebra cut. On November 20, 1908, a toe of the great dam slipped, where the dam intersected the old French canal channel, carrying about 200 feet of the structure away. The hostile press, and those who had consistently opposed a dam at Gatun, immediately raised a storm of criticism against the stability of the proposed artificial mountain. The old wound, caused from the battle of the levels, was reopened and so violent was the outburst that President Roosevelt took a characteristic step to quiet the issue.
He asked President-elect Taft to go to the Isthmus, accompanied by Frederic P. Stearns, Arthur P. Davis, Henry A. Allen, James D. Schuyler, Isham Randolph, John R. Freeman and Allen Hazen, all eminent engineers, to make an investigation. The report made on February 16, 1909, completely vindicated the plan for a dam at Gatun with the statement that if any error had been made, it was on the side of precaution. They found the dam started along lines so excessively stable that they recommended that the height be cut from 135 feet above sea-level to 115 feet, which would still leave the top of the dam thirty feet above the level of Gatun Lake.
An absolutely free hand always has been given to critics of the canal. Having nothing to conceal, and with firm faith in the technical soundness of the plans adopted, the government has had nothing it wished to keep from the light. Whenever criticism of any feature became especially severe, President Roosevelt promptly answered it by a full and scientific investigation with the inevitable result that the critics slunk into silence. Since President Taft has been in office the canal has been advanced to the point where the skeptical are cautious in criticism, and only some catastrophe of nature, in reasonable probability, can undo the achievement.
The six years from January 1, 1907, to January 1, 1913, constitute the main construction period of the Panama Canal. Col. Goethals has been Chief engineer all but three months of that time. Steadily, foot by foot, the walls of the locks crept up and the bottom of the Culebra cut went down. By October, 1908, the preparatory work, substantially accomplished by Mr. Stevens, passed its highest point, and all energies were centered on the work of construction. Quarters, municipal work, road-making, subsistence and commissary were solved problems and the "No Help Wanted" sign was displayed, the labor problem, too, being substantially worked out. The chief business was to make the organization more efficient by anticipating needs of equipment and supplies, and keeping the morale of the workers to a keen edge through absolute justice. Col. Gorgas had the health problem in hand.
Sixty-three steam shovels, in 1907, were increased to 100; the 284 locomotives were augmented to 315; cars of all kinds from 2,700 to 4,356; the mileage in the Canal Zone was increased from 185 to about 500 miles for the Panama Railroad and Commission tracks; the number of unloaders, bank spreaders, track shifters and pile drivers was increased from a third to three times the number left by Mr. Stevens; twenty dredges were put in service, 560 drills for blasting, fifty-seven cranes, twelve tow boats, eleven clapets, seventy barges and lighters, fourteen launches, beside much other machinery and equipment not so noteworthy. The foregoing figures do not include the Panama Railroad equipment, which consists of seventy locomotives, 1,534 cars and coaches, and various other rolling stock common to a railroad. Practically all repairs and creative mechanical work was concentrated in the Gorgona and Empire shops, with capacities commensurate with the equipment. The empire shop specialized on steam shovel repairs, but in July, 1912, the bulk of its work was consolidated with Gorgona. The date when the equipment reached a maximum is fixed by Col. Goethals as July 1, 1910. About 350,000 tons of coal and 500,000 barrels of oil have been used annually.
Dredging had progressed in the Pacific entrance to a point where five miles of the canal could be opened to navigation, on February 1, 1909. The Newport and San Hose, of the Pacific Mail Fleet, of American register, were the first ships to go through. Considerable excavating was done in both entrances by steam shovels, the water being held out by dikes.
A striking instance of miscalculating the cost of one phase of canal construction is found in the estimate made by Prof. Burr, of the first Commission, which placed the cost of private lands that would be used in the Gatun Lake and elsewhere at $18,656,000. As a matter of fact something more than $300,000 has been spent in this way and $500,000 is the maximum as estimated by Col. Goethals, in 1908. The area of the Gatun Lake crosses into the Republic of Panama on the West side of the canal, the private property so condemned as well as in the Canal Zone is valued by a joint commission of Panamanians and Americans.
Columbus has been honored by naming Colon and Cristobal for him at the Atlantic entrance of the canal, and an Executive order on April 30,1909, honored the discoverer of the Pacific by changing the name of the Pacific terminal from La Boca to Balboa. It is at Balboa that the permanent machine shops, dry docks, yards, wharves, warehouses, and general equipment to cost $20,000,000 will be located. Col. Goethals' conception of making the canal adequate for all the needs of shipping has a military utility that is not sufficiently recognized. By making it possible for vessels to coal at the canal, secure fresh provisions, get repairs made and expeditiously handle cargoes, the United States makes it unnecessary for any foreign power to establish a coaling station and similar facilities in this hemisphere, on the pretext of caring for its merchant marine. With ice plant, cold storage, bakery and other subsistence and commissary facilities already established, it will be easy for the government to institute the practices mentioned at Balboa coincidental with the opening of the canal. Col. Goethals has been working toward that end for years and the bill passed in the 1912 Congress approves his ideas.
In 1909, Col. Goethals seems to have had the idea of making the Canal Zone habitable, for an extensive scheme of road-making was begun, and $75,000 was spent in a survey of the Canal zone. The survey never was finished and since then Col. Goethals changed his views, in favor of making the Canal Zone a military reservation, the part not in use to be left to the jungle and only canal employees allowed, without special permission, in the ten-mile limits. Critics in the United States displayed their ignorance by protesting that the land in the Canal Zone should be opened to settlement, like our western lands. The canal occupies 96 square miles of the 436 in the Canal and 73 square miles are privately owned. There is very little of what is left that Americans would occupy. It is in the main mountainous, and without a system of roads that would be prohibitive in cost, would not be accessible in the rainy season. Col. Goethals disposes of the idea of settlement in his usual terse way when he says: "The inducements offered by farm lands in the Canal Zone are not likely to attract Americans. Other occupants are not desirable."
The Americans have made an investment at Panama which should be guarded from every possible danger. In times of war everybody in the Canal Zone, of course, would be subjected to scrutiny and possibly to ejection. It will, therefore, save trouble and expense to begin, right at the start, to treat it as a military reservation is treated in the United States. The expense of sanitation and civil government would be too great to make settlement profitable.
Work on the fortifications was begun in 1911, on Flamenco Island, three miles out in the bay at the Pacific entrance, and on Toro Point at the Atlantic entrance. The estimate for their cost, as fixed by the officers appointed to design them, is $12,475,328, and Congress, in March, 1911, appropriated $3,000,000 of that amount. The latest and largest disappearing rifles will be installed after the concrete work is finished. The locks at the Pacific end are nearly ten miles from the fortifications, which insures them against bombardment by an enemy's ships, and the Atlantic locks are seven miles from the fortifications. Some form of defense from airships must be worked out.
It would be just as logical to say that New York should remove its traffic policemen from Thirty-fourth Street and Broadway, as to argue that the United States should not fortify the canal. The policemen are there to aid traffic by enforcing the rules which make order possible, and fortifications are necessary at Panama to insure that no nation, whether fighting the United States or some other nation, shall disable a world transit route. Neutrality would be a myth without a strong police power at Panama. It is to the interest of every nation that the canal be so policed and fortified that commerce could not be disrupted through the deliberate, or unintentional, actions of belligerent nations. Warships of all nations may pass through the canal, but if of nations engaged in war, they cannot linger at either end of the canal after or before passage.
Then the canal is completed, the beautiful towns along the route will be abandoned. Gorgona, Bas Obispo, Las Cascadas, Empire, Culebra, and Paraiso will be razed. A permanent camp for the Army will be located on the East side of the canal, across the Cut from the town of Culebra. Marines have been in the Canal Zone since 1904, and in 1911 the Tenth Infantry was added to the permanent garrison, which will be further augmented by several regiments. The soldiers will police the Canal Zone after construction work is finished. Balboa and Cristobal will be the principal cities, though at Gatun and Pedro Miguel forces to operate the locks will be housed.
President Taft signed, on august 24, 1912, a bill for the permanent government and operation of the canal. Col. Goethals' ideas were followed almost to the letter in drawing this bill. The President is authorized, as soon as the canal is sufficiently near completion, to abolish the present Commission and to appoint a Governor, for a term of four years, at a salary of $10,000 per annum. In time of war, the President may substitute an Army officer for this Governor. Salaries and wages are not to be more than twenty-five per cent grater than in the United States, and many of the perquisites now enjoyed by the employees are to be eliminated. The Canal Zone will be open to only such persons as the Governor may admit; American coast-wise ships are exempted from paying tolls for passage; foreign-built ships owned by Americans may register under the American flag; ships owned by railroads cannot pass through the canal; the Interstate Commerce Commission is given power to determine questions of competition;l and the present judiciary system is continued with right of appeal to the Federal courts in the United States. In addition, the government may sell ships supplies and coal and provide facilities for repairing vessels at the canal terminals.
At the close of the fiscal year ended June 30, 1912, Col. Goethals could look forward to one year more of the arduous labor and heavy responsibility he has borne, before the big job would be in the clear. Invoicing conditions at that date, we find that the great Gatun dam was more than 90 per cent completed; the concrete work in the locks and spillway was about 90 per cent completed; the Culebra cut was approximately 90 per cent completed; the relocated Panama Railroad was finished, and the work of establishing permanent shipping facilities at Balboa and Cristobal was under way.
Owing to fresh slides in the Culebra cut, and to changes in plans in the Pacific division, a new estimate of the total excavation for the completed canal and accessory plant became necessary at the beginning of the last complete fiscal year of canal constructionJuly 1, 1912, to June 30, 1913. The revised estimate then placed then placed the excavation at 212,227,000 cubic yards, of which amount 175,901,052 cubic yards had been removed at the end of July, 1912, leaving to be excavated for the completed canal, 36,325,948 cubic yards. The latest estimate, however, raises the total excavation to 221,000,000 yards. The canal organization cannot remove the uncompleted portion before the first ship is scheduled to pass through the canal, in September, 1913, but of the 47,000,000 yards left, more than 8,000,000 yards are to be excavated outside of the canal proper, or in the sites for the coaling station, dry docks and terminal at Balboa, so that the actual canal channel substantially will be finished before the passage of the first ship.
The Atlantic division in July, 1912, lacked 8,009,778 yards of completion; the Central division, including the Culebra cut, lacked 10,678,953 yards; and the Pacific division, 17,637,217 yardsa grand total for the whole canal of 36,325,948. The ancient trouble, slides, prevented the completion of the Culebra cut in 1912.
During the early part of 1912, the Gatun Lake was stationary at about 17 feet, but with the beginning of the rainy season in May it began to rise, and the plan was to hold the lake, by use of the spillway, at a head of water of 50 feet until the beginning of the rainy season in 1913, when it will be allowed to raise to 80 feet, and this would back the water up, by September, 1913, to a depth through the Culebra cut to permit the passage of some kind of a ship. The ultimate level of the lake will be 85 feet.
There have been many estimates of Col. Goethals in the magazines and newspapers and in books. They all pay tribute to him as an administrator without a superior. Some writers have been so impressed by the man that they rate him a larger fact than the canal itself. Yet it is possible to gauge the man without overshooting the mark in that fashion. Congress gave him a credit of $290,000,000 and allowed his estimates of annual expenditures. He has missed the worries of a private contractor who has to consider the financial ways and means of his operations, and besides, the dissatisfaction of employees have been stifled by an unparalleled standard of pay and by gratuities that make nearly every position in the Canal Zone in the nature of a sinecure. Contentedness has been bought by pouring millions of dollars into creating not merely comfortable, but even luxurious conditions of living for the employees.
No private enterprise could succeed for a moment on such a basis. On its economic side, the canal proves nothing because any competent organization could bring things to pass if only enough money is forthcoming, as has been the case under the government in Panama. An admirable job has been done in Panama, but it has not been economically done, in the usual understanding of that word. Nobody set out to do it economically. Every leak has been plastered with a dollar. At no point does the canal project affect a complete economic operation. Money is being spent but it is not being made. the work is being done without regard to its ever paying.
Socialists, therefore, should be cautious in holding up the canal as an example of their theories in successful practice. Industrial life, under under Socialism, would have to do what the canal project has not done and is not required to do, namely, justify itself as a business proposition. The canal ultimately may do this, but it will not be because it was designed and constructed with that imperative end in view. Even the commissary and subsistence operations that usually evoke strong approval as evidences of governmental efficiency, possess no socialistic and slight communal aspects. The government has made them pay by arbitrarily exacting a profit under noncompetitive conditions. None of the forces of industrial life that tend to make for favorable or unfavorable economic conditions, can operate in a government job which secures its capital, not because of the intrinsic merit of the enterprise, but through the gratuitous function of taxation.
If we turn to the purely technical side of the project, unquestionably the highest praise is due to the Army engineers. On its engineering side, the canal proves that the government does not have to go outside its own forces to find the highest order of ability. The American people never again will clamor for private initiative and execution of any enterprise they may want accomplished.
Col. Goethals is indeed a great administrator. Even if the employees have had soft conditions of employment, it is an achievement to impress 35,000 men with a faith both in your capacity as an engineer and your sense of justice. This writer knows of no higher tribute that can be paid to him that the statement that in five months in the Canal Zone he never heard anyone speak slurringly of the Chief Engineer. Col. Goethals has been no respecter of persons. In 1912, two officials drawing $300 a month salary each, were discharged as summarily as any common laborer would have been, for breaches of the rules. It has been his practice to give his Sunday mornings to hearing grievances from employees, and those without just grounds of complaint are sent about their business peremptorily, while those who have been wronged are given justice, no matter how high the official who is in error. The man's admirable poise is shown in the the just way he has exercised the absolute power of a Czar, for when he sets his pen to paper a new law is made in the Canal Zone. Those who cannot square their conduct with his fiat, go out on the next steamer, whether an individual or a labor union en masse.
As Admiral Schley said of the controversy over the battle of Santiago, "There is honor enough for us all," so with regard to the Panama Canal. Col. Goethals, as the star of the last six years, gets the curtain calls, but even if we assign Messrs. Stevens and Wallace to the roles of villains, they, too, did their parts well. And the whole company of Americans, composing the chorus or supernumeraries, have contributed vitally to the success of the play. After all,, it is no one man, but the Spirit of Americanism, indomitable and triumphant, that we admire in Panama. Future generations will see in Col. Goethals the outward head of this national characteristic, but the final verdict of approval will be much broader and more just than that, even to the admission that all praise belongs to the Americans in Panama.