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INCE the discovery of America, much has been said and a great deal has been written concerning the question of isthmus transit; but during all these four centuries, comparatively little has apparently been accomplished toward actually joining the seas. The problem of interoceanic communication has, however, in our day at last entered upon its practical stage, and without being over-sanguine, we may now look forward to its not far distant solution. While the final technical plans for the shipcanal are being perfected, it has, therefore, seemed to me opportune to undertake the history of this project which has been so long before the eyes of the civilized world as an immediate possibility, and which ere long, let us hope, will be a realized fact.
Owing to the geographical position of the United States and their resultant political ambition, the subject is one of peculiar importance to us Americans, and it is under this settled conviction that the present work has been conceived and carried out. If the narrative exhibits a national prejudice, therefore, it may rightly be attributed to the fact that the book is written avowedly from the Monroe doctrine standpoint..
As no complete history of the isthmus-canal pro. ject has thus far been written, the necessary material for the subject was found scattered through a number of old archives, government documents, general histories, and books of travel, and among a host of monographs and pamphlets. Having collected and classified these various data, I have attempted to weave the thread of the historical narrative through the following pages in as even a manner as possible; and in order that the necessary coördination of the raw material might not be entirely lost, I have furthermore taken pains to group the exact bibliographical references under each section, hoping that this arrangement of the notes may prove a useful guide to those who desire more detailed information than this book is able to afford concerning any of the events here outlined. And in conclusion I have taken the liberty of drawing some economic and political deductions from the facts as they have impressed themselves upon my judgment. These, however, are only matters of personal conviction, set purposely apart from the historical narrative, to be taken for what they are worth.
My thanks are due to Mr. J. W. Miller, Secretary of the Nicaragua Canal Construction Company, for his kindness in providing me with recent canal company data, and I am also under obligations to the Maritime Canal Company for permission to reproduce the panorama map of the proposed canal route, in connection with my account of the present technical situation of the project. I owe an especial debt