Before the Spanish-American War even started, the United States predicted conflict with Spain. Because of this prediction, the USS Oregon (captured above) was sent from California towards Cuba. The journey was very long and the crew had to make many stops. It was more than 14,000 miles and took around 60 days. By the time the ship reached Cuba, the Spanish-American War had already begun. This incident sparked the idea in many Americans that something had to change. There had to be a better way to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
When deciding where to put this transoceanic canal, there were two choices. One could be built through Nicaragua, or one could be built through Panama, which at the time was at part of Columbia. The decision was made easy because the government had already been building the Panama Railway. So it was decided, this money-saving, ingenious canal would be built through Panama.
The first to attempt to build a canal through Panama was a French company, led by Ferdinand de Lesseps (captured above). To his dismay, the project wasn’t working out. The crew was not prepared for the physical challenges that they faced in Panama. The foreigners working on the canal demanded more money, which eventually led to the project’s bankruptcy.
Theodore Roosevelt believed strongly in the building of the Panama Canal, and he had strong public support. In 1900, President McKinley elected Roosevelt as vice president for his second term. The next year, McKinley was assassinated, so Roosevelt promptly took his roll as President of the United States. He strongly believed that the U.S. needed a firm grasp in Latin America. He tried to gain control of the failed French project in Panama.
Colombia refused to agree with America, however. In light of hearing about Panama wanting to rebel against Colombia, the United States offered its help and support. Finally, Panama became an independent country. The U.S. asked them to sign the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty, which gave the United States the right to construct and control the Panama canal forever. In return, the United States promised to pay for said canal, and protect the new nation from attack and other things. Then the construction process began!