+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

Canton. The wool of New South Wales was
but coming into notice, and found its way to
England alone round the Cape of Good Hope.
An American fleet of whalers scoured the
Pacific, and adventurers of the same nation
carried on a desultory and inconsiderable
traffic in hides with California, in tortoiseshell
and mother of pearl with the Polynesian

What then would have been the use of
cutting a canal, through which there would
not have passed five ships in a twelvemonth?
But twenty years have worked a wondrous
revolution in the state and prospects of these

The traffic of Chili has received a large
development, and the stability of its institutions
has been fairly tried. The resources of
Costa Rica, the population of which is mainly
of European race, is steadily advancing.
American citizens have founded a state in
Oregon. The Sandwich Islands have become
for all practical purposes an American colony.
The trade with Chinato which the proposed
canal would open a convenient avenue by a
western instead of the present eastern route
is no longer restricted to the Canton river, but
is open to all nations as far north as the Yangtse-
Kiang. The navigation of the Amur has
been opened to the Russians by a treaty, and
cannot long remain closed against the English
and American settlers between Mexico and
the Russian settlements in America. Tahiti
has become a kind of commercial emporium.
The English settlements in Australia and New
Zealand have opened a direct trade with the
Indian Archipelago and China. The
permanent settlements of intelligent and
enterprising Anglo-Americans and English in
Polynesia, and on the eastern and western
shores of the Pacific, have proved so many
depôts for the adventurous traders with its
innumerable islands, and for the spermaceti
whalers. Then the last, but greatest addition
of all, is California: a name in the world of
commerce and enterprise to conjure with.
There gold is to be had for fetching. Gold,
the main-spring of commercial activity, the
reward of toilfor which men are ready to
risk life, to endure every sort of privation;
sometimes, alas! to sacrifice every virtue; one
most especially, and that is Patience. They
will away with her now.

Till the discovery of the new Gold country
how contentedly they dawdled round Cape
Horn; creeping down one coast and up
another; but now such delay is not to be
thought of. Already, indeed, Panama has
become the seat of a great increasing and
perennial transit trade. This cannot fail to
augment the settled population of the region,
its wealth and intelligence. Upon these facts
we rest the conviction that the time has
arrived for realising the project of a ship
canal there or in the near neighbourhood.

That a ship canal, and not a railway, is
what is first wanted (for very soon there will
be both), must be obvious to all acquainted
with the practical details of commerce. The
delay and expense to which merchants are
subjected, when obliged to ' break bulk '
repeatedly between the port whence they sail
and that of their destination, is extreme. The
waste and spoiling of goods, the cost of the
operation, are also heavy drawbacks, and to
these they are subject by the stormy passage
round Cape Horn.

Two points present themselves offering
great facilities for the execution of a ship
canal. The one is in the immediate vicinity
of Panama; where the many imperfect
observations which have hitherto been made, are
yet sufficient to leave no doubt that, as the
distance is comparatively short, the summit
levels are inconsiderable, and the supply of
water ample. The other is some distance to
the northward. The isthmus is there broader,
but is in part occupied by the large and deep
fresh-water lakes of Nicaragua and Naragua.
The lake of Nicaragua communicates with the
Atlantic by a copious river, which may either
be rendered navigable, or be made the source
of supply for a side canal. The space between
the two lakes is of inconsiderable extent, and
presents no great engineering difficulties. The
elevation of the lake of Naragua above the
Pacific is inconsiderable; there is no hill range
between it and the gulph of Canchagua; and
Captain Sir Edward Belcher carried his
surveying ship Sulphur sixty miles up the Estero
Real, which rises near the lake, and falls into
the gulf. The line of the Panama canal
presents, as Humboldt remarks, facilities equal to
those of the line of the Caledonian canal. The
Nicaragua line is not more difficult than that
of the canal of Languedoc, a work executed
between 1660 and 1682, at a time when the
commerce to be expedited by it did not
exceedif it equalledthat which will find its
way across the Isthmus; when great part of
the maritime country was as thinly inhabited
by as poor a population as the Isthmus now
is; and when the last subsiding storms of
civil war, and the dragonnades of Louis XIV.,
unsettled men's minds and made person and
property insecure.

The cosmopolitan effects of such an
undertaking, if prosecuted to a successful close, it is
impossible even approximatively to estimate.
The acceleration it will communicate to the
already rapid progress of civilisation in the
Pacific is obvious. And no less obvious are
the beneficial effects it will have upon the
mutual relations of civilised states, seeing that
the recognition of the independence and
neutrality in times of general war of the canal
and the region through which it passes, is
indispensable to its establishment.

We have dwelt principally on the commercial,
the economical considerations of the
enterprise, for they are what must render it
possible. But the friends of Christian
missions, and the advocates of Universal Peace
among nations, have yet a deeper interest in