100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

President Taft Proposes Panama Canal Tolls

During the 1849 Gold Rush, travelers to California would cross by foot at the narrow isthmus through the Colombian province of Panama. Ferdinand De Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal, first started a attempt to join the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by building a canal in this area in 1881. The effort went bankrupt in 1890. The US showed interest and in March 1903 ratified a treaty that would have granted the United States a renewable lease in perpetuity from Colombia on the land proposed for the canal. The Senate of Colombia did not ratify it and as a consequence the US started supporting Panamanian rebels who wished to succeed from Columbia. US warships blocked the sea lanes, dense jungle blocked the land routes and Colombian troops in Panama were bribed to lay down their arms. Panama declared independence in November 1903. In 1904 the US bought the French equipment and excavations for US$40 million, paid the new country of Panama US$10 million plus more each year and began work on the Panama Canal. It is expected to be finished 1914-1915. It will cut the length and cost of travelling from the East to West coast in half.

On August 6, 1912 President Taft made a proposal to Congress for toll to be charged for using the Panama Canal.

1. On merchant vessels carrying passengers or cargo $1.20 per net vessel ton–each one hundred (100) cubic feet–of actual earning capacity.
2. On vessels in ballast without passengers or cargo forty 40% less than the rate of tolls for vessels with passengers or cargo.
3. Upon naval vessels, other than transports, colliers, hospital ships and supply ships, 50 cents per displacement ton.
4. Upon Army and Navy transports, colliers, hospital ships and supply ships $1.20 per net ton, the vessels to be measured by the same rules as are employed in determining the net tonage of merchant vessels.

It is projected that over $12 million in revenue will be raised by these tolls.

Panama Canal under construction


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