The Nation: How the Big Ditch Was Dug

A tale of roughriding diplomacy and engineering miracles

One Panamanian diplomat was said to be so upset when he learned of the original U.S. canal treaty that he punched his country's envoy to Washington, Philippe Bunau-Varilla, in the face. Secretary of State John Hay wrote to a U.S. Senator: "You and I know very well how many points there are in this treaty to which a Panamanian patriot could object."

Could—and did. The treaty was pushed along by the big stick of Teddy Roosevelt, whose roughriding diplomacy virtually ensured...

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