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Army Engineers Dig Canal. lf7fHl1.)e
Latest Chapter In Uncle Sam's Long and Lively
Serial Story, "Panama.
THE ARGUS SATURDAY, MARCH 1G, 1907.
, Carpets, Ru!
Colonel Goetbals Now Undertakes to Complete the Task of Finding
Waterway to the Orient Which Christopher Columbus Started Four
Hundred Years Ago Hard to Keep Bosses "on the Job."
Ratification, Glorification, Indignation, Resigna
tion Probably Down to a Working and
Sticking Basis at Last.
i By ROBERTUS LOVE.
UNLESS the chief typewriter
should resign lief ore this goes
to press, thus necessitating a
readjustment, the probability is
that United States army engineers will
superintend the eonstniction of the
Panama canal, with Lieutenant Colo
nel George Washington Uoethuls as
chief engineer. Isthmian cuual his
tory for the past three centuries has
shown that resignations ami readjust
ments am always in order, and the re
cent history of the specific Panama
jiroject indicates that the natural
course of government appointees to
high place in the canal work is rati
fication, glorification, indignation, res
ignation. The senate ratilics, the press
glorifies, the appointee finds himself
disgusted with his local habitation and
indignant at official supervision, and
then comes his resignation.
Uncle Sam has a capacious month
nnd strong grinding molars. He is
not inclined to admit that he ever
bites oft more than he can chew. He
lin9 undertaken to liite a ditch across
the backhotie and spare ribs of the
isthmus of Panama. He is going to
bite it. too. if it takes n century, and
chew up all the gristle. That's the
American bulldog grip.
It seems reasonable to assume that
at last the canal project has been
brought down to a practical working
basis. In the past few weeks events
have trodden on each other's heels.
The whole Panama situation has
changed. Here and there crops out a
hint as tt" why the change has come
about, but for the most part the story
Is a sealed book. It may be opened
later, and if so it will make "mighty
him a larger salary than he was re
ceiving for the canal job. He accept
ed the New York Job. Secretary Taft's
interview with Mr. Wallace in regard
to his resignation is historic. The big
secretary, figuratively, jumped en the
engineer with both feet. Mr. Wal
lace was told that he had violated a
trust, that lie had deserted his coun
try's work at a critical moment, and
that for mere lucre he had given up
his opportunity to go down to posteri
ty as the digger of the big ditch. The
president's indiguatioii was of a
w armth akin to that of Secretary Taft,
though he let the war secretary do
most of the frothing.
Mr. Wallace is said to have given
as his real reason for quitting the la
conic three word explanation:
"Too much interference."
Then John I Stevens, another emi
nent railroad engineer, was induced tj
tackle the Panama proposition, lie
was to receive a salary somewhat in
excess of that paid to Mr. Wallace.
Mr. Stevens went down to the canal
zone amid the fanfare of public ap
proval as the right man in the risrht
place at last. lie it was who would
pass along to posterity as the man who
bit the backbone out of Panama. Once
more ihe president and the people
breathed with relief. The dirt which
Mr. Wallace had marked out began to
fly under Mr. Stevens' shovels.
A now chairman for the canal com
mission, a safely strenuous person,
who had leen in the business of build
ing railroads in the middle west, was
proposed to the president by Paul Mor
ton, then secretary of the navy.
'"What are his qualifications';" Presi
dent Koosevelt is said to have inquired.
r " vv'w it
I t ' " ":" A , ; - 3 1
LIEUTENANT COLONEL GEORGE W. GOETHALS.
Interestin' read in'." That there is an
African In the woodpile is strongly in
dicated by the remarkable succession
of events. In some quarters the be
lief is strong that certain powerful per
sonsgrown powerful through the ex
ercise of special privileges heretofore
have been seeking systematically to
manipulate the Panama business so
that they can carve it up as a luscious
melon and divide it among themselves.
Irrespective of political affiliations
the American people in general have
confidence in the ability of President
Roosevelt, upon whom the final re
sponsibility devolves, to prevent this
large job of melon slicing if such a
thing Is contemplated. To return to
plain language, the direct insinuation
has been made that a colerle of New
York capitalists have cherished fond
hopes )t proiiting to the extent of
many millions by furnishing the sup
plies necessary, or presumably ueces
sary, for the building of the canal.
Now that the administration has re
jected all bids for the contract and
lias desigtiated Colonel Goethals and
other army engineers to do the work.
' It Is not unreasonable to assume that
any such deal has been rendered ex
About two years ago John P. Wal
lace, a distinguished railroad engineer,
was appointed to the post of chief en
gineer for the Tanama canal. The
president and the people believed that
the right man had been put In the
right place. But after n few months
Mr. .Wallace turned in his resignation.
Resignation No. I.
The Interborough railway combina
tion, which controls the surface, ele
vated and underground street car
lines In New York city, had offered
"Well, for one thlner," replied Mr.
Morton, "his name is Theodore."
Theodore Perry Shouts was investi
gated and found to be a man of parts.
Everybody, with the president, believ
ed him to be Just the man for the
place. With Shonts as chairman and
Stevens as chief engineer that ditch
was sure to be dug. They would make
the dirt fly like chaff from the tail end
of a thrasher, and Uncle Sam was al
most ready to begin taking toll for the
passage of ships from Colon to Pana
ma and vice versa. We could almost
hear the mingled brines of the Pacific
and the Atlantic swishing through the
Last fall President Itoosevelt mnde
his trip to the canal zone. Secretary
Taft also visited the zone. Both report
ed things moving smoothly, and "All's
well" was the cry of the watchmen on
the tower. The public had not finished
reading the president's special mes
sage to congress, illustrated, on the
Panama canal when a gun which no
body kew was loaded took sudden
occasion to explode.
Chairman Shonts resigned.
Resignation No. 2.
Explanation? Why, he had put
things in fine working order, and En
gineer Stevens could do the rest. Be
sides, he had an offer from the Inter
borough folks in New York city, the
same who had annexed Engineer Wal
lace. He was to go to New Y'ork and
be president of the company at a big
ger salary than he was receiving for
the Panama job. His resignation was
accepted promptly, Mr. Stevens being
named for chairman.
Secretary Taft did not jump on Mr.
Shonts with cither foot, so far as the
public Is aware. No doubt the view
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point of the administration with re
gard to the inherent desirability of a
Panama job had changed with obser
vation on the spot. The general pub
lic, however, thought it curious a curi
ous coincidence, so to speak that the
same concern had annexed both chief
engineer and chairman. It reminded
one of a celebrated couplet In the Kan
sas bard Thomas P.rower I'eacock's
rhyme of the border war:
On hor he- then took pity
And took her up to Kansns City.
The Interborough seems to have tak
en pitv on these two gentlemen lan
guishing in the lonesome and malari
ous canal zone and took them up to
New York city, where things were go
The next move on the board was to
let the canal job out to some experi
enced contractor, Mr. Stevens still ex
orcising supervision. William J. Oli
ver of Knoxville, Tenn.. made the low
est bid. and it was announced that
this was to be accepted. Mr. Oliver
organized his company, secured the
requisite capital and was almost ready
to embark for Panama when some
Resignation No. 3.
Mr. Stevens resigned. As yet no
body seems to know just why. There
are those who say that it was because
Mr. Stevens is passionately fond of
golf, and Panama lias no golf links.
Others aver that he is passionately
fond of reading, and the mucky at
mosphere of the canal strip causes a
green moss to grow on the pages of
his favorite tomes. Roth these expla
nations of course are jocular, and yet
they are to be estimated with some
degree of seriousness, for it is unde
niable that Panama is a long way
from the golf links, the Carnegie li
braries and all the other adjuncts of
civilization that make life worth liv
ing after a man has lived in Chicago,
where Mr. Stevens hails from.
There is also a hint of red tape in
explanation of Mr. Stevens' throwing
Miss Loretta M. Ilayde, cashier, re
siding at 20t2 Washington avenue.
New York city, has found Father
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this medicine excellent. I have been
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up the sponge. It is saiil furthermore
that he did n t receive with hideliouud
equanimity the constant criticism of
his work, though it is understood that
the administration was satislied with
his conduct of thu big jub.
At any rate Mr. Stevens resigned,
his resignation was accepted, ami upon
the heel;; of it came the announcement
that all bids for the contract were re
jected and that the canal would be
constructed by army engineers.
Naturally Mr. ((liver, who says he
has spent SbUHU in perfecting his
company and his plans, felt like u man
who had liouirht a swe.-t orange and
had a sour lemon delivered t him. lie
"I have been whangdoodle 1 in a good
game. 1 ktrnw and have kuwn all
along who was sitting in the game."
Mr. Oliver did not divulire the nature
of (fie game nor the names of those
who sat in.
The New Canal Engineers.
Colonel d'oethals. who is to be the
head of the new isthmian canal com
mission, has been serving on the gen
eral staff of the army at Washington,
lie is forty-nine years old and was
graduated from West Point in lsst).
As assistant engineers the president
has named two majors of the engineer
corps. I. J Mi P.. Cai'dard and William
I.. Sibert. forty-seven and forty-six
years old respectively anil both of tic;
West Point class of 1SS1. These three
gentlemen have had long service as
army engineers. For the canal work
their salaries are to be largely in
creased. An army officer, however, is
subject to resignation if he doesn't like
his job. The theory of the president
seems to be that Colonel tJoethals is
young enough to see the job through,
and if he should not stay until the end
one of the two majors mentioned will
be qualified to succeed him.
Meantime the work is going on, the
steam shovels are cutting out the ditch
and progress is reported. There ap
pears to be a reasonable expectation
that the canal will be completed by
about 1!U7 and at a cost of not more
than 93dO.(kn)kh. perhaps not nearly
so much. As to time and cost, howev
er, nothing definite should be ventured.
The isthmian canal is and always has
been an unknown quantity. We are
coming to know more about it, but we
must learn mostly by experience.
The Panama canal idea is just 357
years old. Antonio Galvao, a Portu
guese navigator, in 1550 proposed to
the king of Spain a plan for cutting a
canal through the isthmus. Christopher
Columbus discovered the Isthmus in
1502. Eleven years later, from the
summit of the mountains in that pnrt
of the isthmus which used to be called
Darien, Miguel Cabello de Balboa dis
covered the Pacific ocean.
Balboa climbed that "peak in Da
rien" with the specific purpose of dis
covering a water passage to the orient.
Columbus made his vovaires with the
same purpose in view. Though he
never knew it himself, believing he had
reached Asia, the great navigator ran
against an obstruction in the shape of
two vast bodies of land connected by
a narrow neck.. This land has turned
out to be quite valuable in many ways,
but it still obstructs the westward
passage from Europe to Asia.
The government uf the I'nited States
of America is trying to bisect the new
continent at its narrowest point, and
In cutting the canal across Panama we
are simply finishing the job undertaken
by Columbus more than four centuries
ago. Such a passage is needed now
vastly more than it was needed then.
It will be needed next century no doubt
vastly more than it is needed now.
And 1'ncle Sam is going to do the
job, though men die and men resign.
Though we all -rant to see the ships
sailing through the cannl just as soon
as may be. we can afford to wait a few
years longer, since the world has wait
ed -1" years after discovering that the
earth is round like an apple instead of
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1623 Second Avenue, R.ock Island