In the course of a very active and very extended professional career . . . the firm of Sullivan & Cromwell had found itself placed in intimate relations, susceptible of being used to advantage with men possessing influence and power.
—WILLIAM NELSON CROMWELL
The first bugle-note had been heard. I hastened to settle up my business affairs and left France on the Champagne . . . for this crusade which was to result in the resurrection of Panama.
As Chairman John Tyler Morgan gathered his committee for the first hearings on the Hepburn Bill, the idea of building the American canal at Panama, of buying out the French and finishing what they had begun, was altogether devoid of popular appeal and without a single spokesman of national reputation. What open support there was for the Panama proposition was just barely discernible—a few newspapers (the New York Evening Post being the most persistent), a few Midwestern business groups, perhaps a half-dozen prominent civil engineers. Political support appeared to be nonexistent. Extraordinary as it may seem in light of what was to transpire, by the start of 1902 not a single politician of importance had ever declared himself in favor of a Panama canal. The idea had no constituency, whereas the enthusiasm for Nicaragua, within Congress and without, appeared to be overwhelming.
Any ordinary citizen who dared even to suggest that perhaps the French had picked the best place after all, or that a Panama canal ought not be dismissed out of hand because it was a French idea or because it would be a Panama canal, spoke virtually alone. Old John Bigelow, for example, had become something of a curiosity for espousing such views, as well as something of a nuisance to such influential former colleagues as John Hay, who responded with due courtesy, but nothing more, to Bigelow’s lengthy, reflective letters on the matter.
As things stood, there was every reason to assume that the commerce of the world, not to mention the white ships of the United States Navy, would one day be plying the waters of beautiful Lake Nicaragua. And this is doubtless what would have occurred had it not been for certain unexpected events and a mere handful of extremely determined individuals, two of whom comprised the main thrust of what the newspapers darkly referred to as the “Panama Lobby.” They were William Nelson Cromwell and Philippe Bunau-Varilla. Their activities to date require some explaining.
Both Cromwell and his French counterpart were small, aggressive, fatherless men who would each be compared to Napoleon. Only Cromwell, however, had made “influence” a profession. Cromwell was something new in the legal world, a corporation lawyer, a kind of mutation sprung forth in the Wall Street jungle during the rise of the railroads. An almost pretty little man, with thick, curly, prematurely white hair and white mustache, he had large, glittering blue eyes—“as clear as a baby’s,” according to one account—and a smooth, pink complexion that “would not shame a maiden.” In striped trousers and morning coat he looked like a clever drama student dressed for the part of elder statesman. But the look he fancied, the role he cultivated, were those of the man with all the cards, and possibly several more up his sleeve. As one young protégé would recall, Cromwell delighted in being known as a mystery man, a puller of strings. An incensed congressman was to call him “the most dangerous man the country has produced since the days of Aaron Burr,” which was extravagant, but exactly the sort of remark from which Cromwell took extreme satisfaction.
He had no interest in sensational trial work, never courted publicity. He was a talker man to man. “No life insurance agent could beat him,” a reporter for the World wrote after a long interview. “He talks fast, and when he wishes to, never to the point.” His great genius was for “arranging” things, for planning every move in advance. “Accidents don’t happen,” he would admonish young associates, “they are permitted to happen by fools who take no thought of misadventure.”
William Nelson Cromwell—he preferred the use of all three names—was the good, eager, poor diminutive boy from Brooklyn, the son of a Civil War widow, “a lad of delicate health,” who had once played the organ in the Church of the Pilgrims and went to work first as an accountant in a railroad office. He was the model of Ambition Rewarded who began each day at first light and advised others: “A successful man never forgets his work. He gets up in the morning with it, he works all day with it, he takes it home with him, he lives with it.” He had worked his way through Columbia Law School in his offhours, was graduated in 1876, and three years later, with an older, well-established trial lawyer named Algernon Sullivan, founded the Wall Street firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. When Sullivan died in 1887, Cromwell became the senior partner at age thirty-three.
He hired equally promising young men (one of whom was John Foster Dulles) and busily cultivated his own legend. To his more staid peers he seemed a touch vulgar. His “training in finance and accounts,” an associate would explain, had “developed in him valuable skills unusual to lawyers of that day who were generally trained in literature, logic, rhetoric, philosophy, and the classics.”
Cromwell’s fees for straightening out the affairs of troubled corporations or arranging giant mergers were the largest of their kind up until that time. Still in his early forties, he was already a millionaire many times over. When the New York firm of Decker, Howell & Company failed in 1891, with debts of $10,000,000, Cromwell, who had been named assignee, had the company’s affairs straightened out in six weeks—creditors paid, operations resumed—and his fee was an unheard-of $250,000. By 1901 he had reorganized the Northern Pacific Railroad and assisted J. P. Morgan in founding the United States Steel Corporation. (He was also among those privileged to participate in the stock syndicate that made the giant steel combine possible, along with such “Lords of Creation” as H. H. Rogers, W. K. Vanderbilt, and John “Bet-a-Million” Gates. Cromwell’s share was for $2,000,000, for which he had been required to put up a bare 121/2 percent.) He was adviser to and confidant of several of the most powerful men in America, whom he admired and flattered to the skies. Once, speaking before a Wells, Fargo stockholders’ meeting, he declared, “Mr. Harriman is the one man to be thanked for what this company has gained through the favor of the railroads. He cannot be replaced, for hemoves in a higher world which we cannot hope to enter.” Nor had he the slightest compunction about trading openly on such friendships.
In 1894, the year the New Panama Canal Company was organized, Cromwell had become general counsel for the Panama Railroad, a stockholder, and a director. This had come about because he was at the time involved with C. P. Huntington and the Southern Pacific, which by then virtually controlled the Panama Railroad as the result of a traffic agreement. Presently he had started looking after the “interests” of the New Panama Canal Company, promising its officers an “open, audacious, aggressive” campaign of “publicity, enlightenment, and opposition” all planned with “Napoleonic strategy.” He was to profess most earnestly later on that his underlying purpose at all times had been to give the United States the best possible canal. But from other things he said and did it is clear that his fundamental objective was to sell the French company to the United States government, or, that failing, to some other government or combination of foreign capital. And for such efforts he expected to be well paid. His fee for services rendered when finally submitted to the Compagnie Nouvelle would be for $800,000.
Few lobbyists had ever gone about their task with such intensity or imagination. He made lobbying one of the lively arts, as someone said. No opportunity was missed. Editors and congressmen were supplied with reams of material on Panama, the French company, the drawbacks of the Nicaragua route. He was in Washington again and again, often for weeks at a time, seeing people on the Hill, negotiating with the Colombians. He had some help from a lawyer named William Curtis and a newspaperman, Roger Farnham, whom he had hired away from the World. But he was the spearhead. It was he who counted Hanna and Spooner among his “intimate” friends. It was he who called at the White House.
He made liberal use of his own and his client’s money. He brought people together. Once he had even arranged a meeting between his client’s representative and William McKinley. On the Hill his strategy was to do everything possible to dampen the Nicaragua ardor and he was as “ubiquitous and ever present” as John Tyler Morgan said he was. Indeed, the hatred he engendered in the old Senator is probably the clearest proof of his effectiveness.
His most demonstrable achievement was the establishment of the Isthmian Canal Commission, at least such was to be his lifelong claim. To bring this off he had concentrated on House Speaker Thomas B. Reed and Congressman Joseph (“Uncle Joe”) Cannon, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, both Republicans who quickly saw, he later said, “the wisdom, the justice, and the advantages” of one conclusive, grandiose scientific study and gave it their backing, which was all that was needed. It was an inspired delaying tactic—and a critical one, as things turned out—but it was also an enormous gamble, since a verdict by the commission in favor of Nicaragua would utterly demolish his client’s already slim prospects.
Once the idea was in motion he had moved quickly to influence the selection of the nine men who were to serve on the commission. He urged McKinley not to reappoint Admiral Walker. A Corps of Engineers officer, Colonel Peter Hains, and a professor of civil engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, Lewis Haupt, were also unacceptable in his view, since, like Walker, they had served on the earlier Nicaragua Canal Commission and were therefore not without Nicaragua bias. (Professor Haupt was actually on record as saying that nothing could change his mind about the superiority of the Nicaragua route.) A fourth man, Alfred Noble, a noted Chicago engineer, had also been compromised, Cromwell argued, by service on a still-earlier, short-lived Nicaragua canal board. Among the Army engineers, nearly all of whom were strongly, if privately, behind the Nicaragua plan, Cromwell’s influence with McKinley was described as “too powerful for ordinary mortals to counteract.”
Cromwell failed to block the appointments of Hains, Haupt, Noble, and Walker, but the three other civil engineers chosen were from Cromwell’s acceptable list, and among them was the Olympian George S. Morison, whose reputation among Cromwell’s railroad friends was second to none.
Once the new commission was set up for business in the Corcoran Building, it was the “silver-tongued” Cromwell who convinced Admiral Walker that the place to commence his studies was in Paris, not Central America. And so it was to France that the nine commissioners and several of their wives had sailed in August 1899, Cromwell, meantime, having hastily departed on an earlier ship.
The final report issued by the commission contains no mention of Cromwell. It is stated only that in Paris the officers of the Compagnie Nouvelle “received the commissioners with great courtesy and were ready at all times to assist them in making a study of this [Panama] route in all its aspects.” The most important and attentive of those officers, however, had been the American lawyer. It was Cromwell who turned up at the Continental Hotel to greet the commissioners the morning after their arrival. It was Cromwell who served as master of ceremonies throughout their five-week stay, and who came to bid them each farewell the day they left.
A staggering quantity of material had been gotten up for display, its value far exceeding any Panama data then available in Washington or anything the commission could possibly have assembled on its own in the time available, as Cromwell appreciated perfectly well and as his guests quickly saw for themselves.
They gathered at the company’s offices at Number 7 Rue Louis-le-Grand. There were maps, engineers’ reports, hydrographic studies of the Chagres River, geologic profiles, reports on test borings along projected dam and lock sites, plans for dams, plans for locks, records of tidal observations on the Pacific, reports on excavation expenses at Culebra, a detailed inventory of the company’s equipment and property. Everything was beautifully arranged. Printed copies of the most important documents, a total of 340 different items, had been prepared for each member of the commission, the documents contained in fifteen neatly labeled cream-colored folders and these secured with dark-green ribbons.
At the end of August, Cromwell had arranged a special convocation of the Comité Technique International, a board of engineers established earlier by the Compagnie Nouvelle to evaluate the work accomplished on the Isthmus. It was a genuinely impressive body. The chairman was a retired inspector of the department of Ponts et Chaussées; General Henry Abbot had recently retired from the United States Army Corps of Engineers; there were a chief of the Manchester Canal, a noted Russian engineer, and a former technical director of the Kiel Canal. The year before, this same group had declared its unanimous confidence in the feasibility of completing the Panama canal.
To introduce the gentlemen of the Comité to the gentlemen from the United States, a luncheon was arranged at the sumptuous Pavillon Paillard, a restaurant in the park on the Champs Élysées directly across from the gardens of the Élysée Palace. Everything was done just so-personalized menus with an engraved view of the Pavillon, four wines, six courses—“a very fine lunch & pleasant occasion,” noted George S. Morison in his diary, which for George S. Morison was a positively rhapsodic accolade.
General Abbot, who was well known to the commissioners and unquestionably able, told them he was so convinced of the soundness of the French company’s overall scheme for a lock canal that he was sure some other country or some combination of foreign capital would jump at the chance to carry on, should the United States be foolish enough to proceed at Nicaragua. For six years after the de Lesseps company failed, the canal had been idle, no digging, no work at all to speak of; but for the past four years, since 1895, things had begun to stir again on the Isthmus, since progress of a kind had to be shown by the new company in order to maintain the Colombian franchise. This was no mere token effort, Abbot assured them, however modest in scale. A long-needed railroad wharf had been built at Panama City; some excavation had been resumed at Culebra. The place was being tidied up, the jungle chopped back again, equipment looked after. This was phase one, he explained; phase two would be to go to “the great moneyed people of the world and show them it would be a good investment.”
The technical discussions that followed during the next several weeks were conducted as if “before a court of highest jurisdiction,” according to the dapper little attorney from New York, who by his own subsequent declaration was “in attendance” every moment. And afterward, back in Washington, before the commission left for its own firsthand inspection tours at Panama and Nicaragua, he had “kept in constant and personal communication with various members of this body, adding to their information, furnishing documents . . . overcoming their hesitations . . . etc.”
Yet his single most valuable service, Cromwell later avowed, was the personal conversion of one man, Mark Hanna. Just when Hanna saw the light is not clear in Cromwell’s account, but it was he, and no one else, Cromwell insisted, who had led the famous Senator to the truth; it was he who had made Hanna his specialty, from the time McKinley asked Hanna to post himself on the business and technical aspects of the canal project and Hanna had dutifully taken his place on Old Morgan’s committee.
Cromwell’s counterpart in the crusade, the former acting director general of the Compagnie Universelle, was no less passionately committed than in earlier years to The Great Adventure of Panama. Now in his mid-forties, he looked a little stouter than before, the hairline had receded considerably, and what hair there was he kept cut extremely close. He had also acquired a certain fixed look of fierce pride. In photographs from the time, he focuses directly on the camera; he is flawless, stiff-necked, and unflinching, the eyes steady and grave. As in earlier days the face is dominated by a large mustache, only now it has been waxed to fine spikes and looks ornamental, overdone. It might be something pasted on in jest were it not for the eyes, which are plainly those of a man who never did anything in jest. Roosevelt called it the look of a duelist.
Philippe Bunau-Varilla was to be greatly misunderstood in another generation. The tendency among historians would be to see him as an almost comic figure, a sort of road-show French schemer who, though colorful enough in his fashion, should not be taken altogether seriously. Possibly the mustache had a bearing on that judgment. But primarily it was Bunau-Varilla’s own account of all that happened, his obsession with the first person singular in everything he wrote, which to even the most tolerant modern reader seems so absurdly one-sided, so inflated by self-interest, as to be ludicrous. In his books, the most important of which is Panama: The Creation, Destruction, and Resurrection, his ideas are invariably brilliant, his actions invariably bold, inspired, pivotal.Anyone who opposed him or dared to disagree with his point of view is portrayed as stupid or villainous or mentally deranged. Those who see things as he does are gentlemen of the first magnitude, uncommonly intelligent and marked by a high sense of moral purpose.
He saw himself as the gallant crusader—“a soldier of the ‘Idea of the Canal’ ”—going forth to battle Prejudice in the cause of Scientific Truth. He was still the central figure in a spacious romance. He would, he had resolved, restore the honor of France, an honor tarnished by Panama and by the Dreyfus case. Single-handedly, if necessary, he would salvage “The Great Idea of Panama.”
Things happened to him, he writes, as if they were occurring in a work of fiction. Fortune “smiled” on him as it did on very few. “At every turn of my steps it seemed as if I were accompanied by a protecting divinity.”
Yet in view of what in fact did happen, considering the romantic tradition he was a product of, there is little wonder he felt as he did. The shame is that he also felt compelled to unfold it all in such high-blown fashion. He never seems to have understood how much more readily his story would have been accepted—especially in a less posturing, more skeptical age—how much more impressive it would have been, had he only told it straight. Moreover, there is ample evidence that the man himself bore little resemblance to the character he becomes in his books. In truth he was a hardheaded, practical, personable, exceptionally intelligent, almost unbelievably energetic individual who made an impression on people that they would remember all their days.
If anyone failed to take him seriously at the time, there is no evidence of it. Edward P. Mitchell, of the New York Sun, among the ablest newspapermen of the day, later wrote: “When I came to know him well I found him to be in mind and will one of the most surprising dualities it was ever my privilege to encounter; Napoleonic, indeed, in his practical energy and resourcefulness, yet an idealist of the first grade in disinterested devotion to a patriotic sentiment.” John Hay, who was to have more direct dealings with him than anyone in Washington, was astounded by the man’s diversity and by the uncommon speed with which he could accomplish things. George Morison, appraising him purely on professional grounds, declared him “brilliant,” a tribute George Morison seldom conferred on any man.
Even those who were instinctively suspicious of his motives never seem to have discounted his ability. It would be a grave mistake to underrate this man, the Chicago engineer Alfred Noble warned Senator Morgan in confidence at the time Bunau-Varilla arrived in the United States to begin his campaign.
His English was excellent and spoken with marked precision. There were bows for the ladies; his table manners were impeccable. He was the cultivated, upper-class European par excellence and he knew exactly how to gain attention wherever he went. “He didn’t just come into a room, he made an entrance” recalled Alice Roosevelt Longworth admiringly. It was he, rather than the theatrical-looking Cromwell, who had the actor’s timing, the intuitive feel for the dramatic gesture. The engineer was the evangelist of the pair, oddly enough, and it was he who became “the peripatetic spellbinder” (as John Tyler Morgan would say), carrying his campaign cross-country much as de Lesseps had done twenty years before.
The impact of his whirlwind tour was unmistakable. He was a novelty. American audiences had simply not encountered an authority on Panama before, let alone an engineer who had had the experience of actually attempting to dig a canal there. And the engineering argument for building at Panama rather than at Nicaragua had never been set forth publicly and with conviction.
“Every phase of the canal question was at tongue’s end with this envoy of the Panama idea,” wrote Mitchell. But most appealing, one gathers, was the capacity to invigorate others with his vision, to light the imagination with the possibilities of a Panama canal. It was a capacity many of his listeners thought quite remarkable in a Frenchman. He had, the newspapers said, “a sort of resourceful energy which some people are accustomed to regard as peculiarly American.” He was “the Frenchman who is like an American.”
When the original canal company went bankrupt in 1889, Bunau-Varilla’s first impulse, he afterward explained, was to rally his countrymen to carry on with the work. To this end he had plunged into politics and campaigned for election to the Chamber of Deputies—“to lash slander with the whip of truth.” Discouraged after a narrow defeat, he had come to New York to look up John Bigelow and get his advice. This friendship between the older man and the brilliant youth “ripened into almost a father-son relationship,” as Bigelow’s biographer would write. Bigelow told him to go home and put his case in writing, with the result that in 1892 he produced a book, Panama: Past, Present, and Future, in which the Panama and Nicaragua routes were compared on purely technical grounds, something that had not been done before other than in government reports of the kind produced in the 1870’s.
But the idea of getting the United States to take over at Panama had either not dawned on him as yet or was still too much at odds with his vision of French destiny. So he had gone first to see the Russians.
There had been a chance meeting with a Russian prince on a train in 1894, after which Bunau-Varilla rushed to St. Petersburg to try to convince Tsar Alexander III that Russia should provide the capital to finish the canal. He never saw the Tsar, only the Tsar’s powerful Minister of Finance, Count Sergei Witte. He told Witte that a Panama canal and the Trans-Siberian Railroad, then under construction, could be the perfect Franco-Russian counterpart to the Anglo-American combination of the Suez Canal and the transcontinental railroads. A lock canal at Panama, Bunau-Varilla said, could be finished in four more years if the Russian sovereign would give a guarantee of 3 percent to the necessary capital, which he put at $140,000,000. Witte promised to present the plan to the Tsar and Bunau-Varilla returned to Paris bursting with expectations. The French government was astonished by what he had to report, and highly interested, according to Bunau-Varilla, whose word is all we have to go by. The government fell shortly afterward, however, and Alexander II was assassinated. Moreover, the liquidator of the defunct Panama company, furious over Bunau-Varilla’s meddling, saw to it that he would have no more say in company matters. What the consequences might have been had the Russian scheme gone any further is interesting to speculate on.
Not for five more years was his American crusade launched, in Paris, the summer of 1899, when the Isthmian Canal Commission arrived.
“Everybody, the world over, then supposed that the Nicaragua Canal—the old American solution of the problem—would be carried out. I determined thenceforth to center my efforts toward the adoption of Panama by the United States. The task seemed impossible of achievement!”
There had been a letter from John Bigelow, an amazingly welltimed, plot-turning letter just like those in novels. What was urgently needed was “someone competent to persuade our engineers,” wrote the dignified old New Yorker. “I shall be eighty-one years old the 25th of this month,” Bigelow wrote, “and of course am not of much use in a fight except perhaps to beat the drum.” He had sent one of the engineers on the commission, Colonel Oswald Ernst, to see Bunau-Varilla first thing on arriving in Paris, and a neat, scrubbed-looking Yale man and lawyer named Frank D. Pavey, who was in Bunau-Varilla’s pay later, if not then, was also instrumental in arranging the first meetings.
The little Frenchman applied himself in the tradition of his former leader and idol, Ferdinand de Lesseps. But while Cromwell was devoting his energies to the entire commission, Bunau-Varilla, who at this stage had still to meet Cromwell, concentrated on just three of the group—Colonel Ernst, Professor William Burr, of Columbia University, and George S. Morison, the three who, with the concurrence of Admiral Walker, had agreed to make Panama their particular concern. And of the three, Morison was the primary target, Morison having the greatest professional eminence and a reputation for being a highly independent and persuasive individual in his own right.
“Our conferences were long and frequent,” wrote Bunau-Varilla, among the few understatements he ever permitted himself. They met at one of his favorite restaurants or at his palatial gray stone hôtel particulier, on the Avenue d’Iéna, near the Arc de Triomphe, then, as later, the most fashionable of Paris addresses. “Dinner with him meant half past eight,” Frank Pavey would recount, “and after dinner we settled down in his library, and he never let go of an American victim when he got one in that library until he thought he had converted him . . . the first time I dined in his house I stayed until two o’clock the next morning, listening to his picturesque and fascinating argument.”
The wives of the visiting Americans were often included in such evenings and their host could not have been more charming. He had a fund of fascinating conversation on all manner of subjects, but the great dominating topic that summer was the Dreyfus trial and to their amazement they learned that he personally had played a critical part in the drama. Among his interests since returning from Panama had been the newspaper Le Matin, which he had purchased and put under the charge of his brother, Maurice. It was Maurice who had obtained a photograph of the incriminating letter that Captain Dreyfus had allegedly written to the German attaché. Philippe had known Dreyfus years before at the École Polytechnique, where they had been friends and classmates, and upon seeing the photograph he had hunted up an old letter from Dreyfus. The difference in the handwriting was not merely obvious, but astounding. So, convinced of Dreyfus’ innocence, the brothers had published pictures of both letters in Le Matin, a sensational bit of journalism that led to the reopening of the case and a story that held the American guests spellbound.
Before their departure that September, the three engineers had been given a copy of Panama: Past, Present, and Future and instructed by the author to throw it away if a single mistake in fact or logic could be found. “When my three eminent new friends left Paris a large hole had been made in the dam of prejudice then existing against Panama in their minds—as in everybody’s.”
It was not quite large enough, however. The following year, in the autumn of 1900, the commission issued a preliminary report recommending Nicaragua. “The fight to a finish was now to begin,” wrote Bunau-Varilla and from this point on, by his own account, he was accompanied by deep mystical feelings of Fate taking charge. It was as though everything that happened had been prearranged.
An unexpected cable arrived, an invitation from some Cincinnati business people who wanted him to come to their city as soon as possible to lecture on the comparative values of the Panama and Nicaragua routes. They too had met him during a summer sojourn in Paris. “We have not forgotten the presentation with which you favored us,” they wrote in a follow-up letter, “—so vivid, so comprehensive, and so convincing—and we are anxious to have it reach our American public in the most effective manner we can devise.”
The “bugle-note had been heard.” He sailed on a ship called Champagne. There was little chance of his influencing public opinion in America, he had decided, but he was bound to “conquer for the Panama side” those who could.
Strolling the deck he struck up a friendship with a French priest who after hearing him expound on his favorite subject suggested that he look up an American whom he, the priest, had met in Rome. The man’s name was Myron T. Herrick. He was a Cleveland banker, a friend of President McKinley’s, explained the priest, who, as Bunau-Varilla tells the story, had now become part of the great puzzle Fate was piecing together. “Every time I was in need of a man he appeared, of an event it took place.”
But a letter written by Lieutenant Commander Asher Baker, an American naval officer and another of those Americans Bunau-Varilla had managed to cultivate in recent years, suggests that Bunau-Varilla had more than Fate working for him. “Everything has been done for Philippe,” Baker informed the lawyer Pavey. Baker, who met the Frenchman at the ship, was being reimbursed for his expenses and services by Pavey, who himself was serving as Bunau-Varilla’s “man” in New York.
The historic whirlwind crusade began with an after-dinner speech before the Cincinnati Commercial Club in a large room bedecked with French and American flags the evening of January 16, 1901. The speech, the first Bunau-Varilla had ever attempted in English, was an unqualified success. He said approximately what he would say wherever he went thereafter and with such winsome conviction that he held everyone’s attention. Included in the large collection of his papers on file in the Library of Congress is an affectionate little note from his young daughter back in Paris, who had enclosed a tiny map of Central America that she had drawn most carefully with pen and crayons. Hovering over Nicaragua is a black devil brandishing a pitchfork, while above Panama sails a winged angel. The conception was the very same as that of her Papa adoré and it was precisely that kind of partiality, as much as the barrage of facts he had at his command, that so held his audience. It was “the intensity of conviction which inspired all your utterances” that had the most telling effect, wrote one of his hosts, adding, “I love a man who loves a great cause.”
The standard speech began with a profession of independence: he represented no private interests, which was to be taken as a guarantee that he had not come as a salesman for the new Panama company. His mission was purely to defend “a grand and noble conception which gave me many happy years of struggle and danger . . . during which I do not remember one hour of despair.”
That said, he would get to particulars. He stressed basically what was to be stressed by the revised report of the Walker Commission: a Panama canal would be a third the length of a canal at Nicaragua; it would have fewer curves; it would require less excavation in total, fewer locks; it would cost less.
He talked about the railroad at Panama, the harbors at Colón and Panama City. He referred to the Chagres as “this monster of the imagination.” He did not talk about the rains or the slides at Culebra. He did not talk about yellow fever or malaria. He did not mention the uprising of 1885 or how he had felt on seeing Colón burned to the ground. He did not describe the Chagres in flood. Nor did he bring in the fact that he was a stockholder in the Compagnie Nouvelle or the circumstances by which that had been brought about.
There was, however, a further element to the set speech that seemed almost incidental at first, but that quickly became its most important element.
Panama had no volcanoes. There was not a single volcano, active or inactive, within 180 miles of the Panama line, he assured his listeners. In Nicaragua this was by no means the case. In Nicaragua in 1835 the eruption of the volcano known as Coseguina had lasted nearly two days. The noise, he said, had been heard a thousand miles away and enough stone and ashes had been ejected every six minutes to fill a Nicaragua canal.
He was not the first to have raised the issue. Humboldt had cautioned that there was “no spot on the globe so full of volcanoes” as Nicaragua. John Lloyd Stephens, as will be recalled, had made much of Mount Masaya and its potential as a tourist attraction. At the Paris congress, Commander Selfridge had cautioned against Nicaragua for this very reason. But those who heard Bunau-Varilla lecture regarded it as a fascinating revelation.
Always “the force of things” had driven men to build at Panama, he would conclude; it had been the Spanish gold trail to begin with, then the American railroad, then the de Lesseps canal. At times men had thought otherwise and intended to build elsewhere, “but the force of things drives them to Panama and it will again.”
It was the volcano part of the speech, however, that had the greatest impact.
Among his Cincinnati hosts were several who were personally acquainted with Myron T. Herrick. Herrick was not just a friend of McKinley’s, Bunau-Varilla now learned, but of “a man far more important for my purpose,” Mark Hanna. A phone call was put through, letters of introduction were prepared, and Bunau-Varilla took the night train for Cleveland.
At a private lunch at a Cleveland business club, seated with the tall, inordinately handsome Herrick and some twenty other pillars of Cleveland enterprise, he held sway for three and a half hours, popping up every so often to illustrate a point on a blackboard that had been wheeled in. “Never did a more propitious occasion offer itself, nor a completer success crown my efforts. All who listened to me, and whom I had made sincere and deeply convinced believers in Panama, formed the circle of Senator Hanna’s intimate friends.”
From Cleveland he went to Boston where he spoke at a banquet at the New Algonquin Club the evening of January 25, 1901. “This French engineer,” observed the Boston Herald in a long, glowing editorial, “treated the matter [of a canal at Panama] from a distinctly professional point of view,” something quite novel in Boston. He was in Chicago a week later, accompanied by Asher Baker, who handled the advance arrangements. His host was James Deering, of the Deering Harvester Company, and the lecture this time was at the Central Music Hall, where he was introduced by the illustrious civil engineer William Sooy Smith.
“He lectured before 250 representative people,” Baker reported excitedly to Frank Pavey. “ . . . Western Society Civil Engineers, members of the Nicaragua Canal Commission, most of the solid and very well known Chicago Clubmen were there. I introduced him to Marshall Field, Robert Lincoln and a lunch was given him at the Club . . . there was a dinner and theater every night. Coquelin and Bernhardt were in town, the whole trip was simply perfect.” Best of all, Baker went on, “I have arranged through most important people TO HAVE HIM MEET SENATOR MORGAN in Washington (!!!!) . . . in an intimate and friendly way. It would take pages to explain how this was brought about.”
Back in New York briefly, Bunau-Varilla dined with George S. Morison, who advised him to make less of the volcano issue. They made quite a pair. The stiff, tiny Frenchman with his waxed mustache and bullet head was often taken for a military attaché; Morison, a figure of vast bulk, ponderous double chins, and walrus mustache, looked like a German sausage maker. While Nicaragua was undoubtedly an area of volcanic activity, Morison did not believe that would have any serious effect on canal structures. From the engineering point of view, the issue was a phony.
Through Cyrus McCormick, of Chicago, a speech was arranged at Princeton University, and it was followed by a half-hour appearance before the New York Chamber of Commerce, this being, in Bunau-Varilla’s private estimate the most important of all possible public platforms. The Chamber of Commerce audience was polite and unenthusiastic; still, the resulting publicity had great value. At Philadelphia, Bunau-Varilla told an especially large and attentive audience that to prefer Nicaragua over Panama was equivalent to preferring the stability of a pyramid resting on its point to one resting on its base; “ . . . and to that stability is attached the prosperity and welfare of a whole continent.”
He stopped always at the best hotels. He was extended guest privileges at the best clubs. In return he was generous with theater tickets and fine cigars ($28 worth of “Segars” are included on one hotel bill). For the wives of his hosts there were enormous bouquets of roses and, invariably, a prompt, gracious thank-you note (for “one of the most grateful remembrances of this agreeable sojourn in America”). For the dutiful Asher Baker, there was a $100 clock from Tiffany.
Busy as a day might be, there was always time for a dozen or more letters—to people he had just met, or, more often, to friends of people he had just met—asking for doors to be opened, introductions arranged, contacts. He prepared a pamphlet entitled Panama or Nicaragua? and had thirteen thousand copies printed and mailed. Again, disregarding what Morison had said, he hammered away at his volcano story. Let those inclined to dismiss his warnings take note:
Open any dictionary of geography, any encyclopedia, and read the article entitled “Nicaragua.” I will say also: Look at the coat of arms of the Republic of Nicaragua; look at the Nicaraguan postage stamps. Young nations like to put on their coats of arms what best symbolizes their moral domain or characterizes their native soil. What have the Nicaraguans chosen to characterize their country on their coat of arms, on their postage stamps? Volcanoes!
The mailing list for the pamphlet included every congressman, the governor of every state, a thousand bank presidents, some six hundred shipowners, two hundred merchants reputedly worth more than $100,000, the editors of four thousand newspapers and magazines, hundreds of boards of trade and chambers of commerce, plus all those names on the list he himself had compiled during his travels, a list that by now came to nearly a thousand names.
He had John Bigelow send copies to Secretary Hay and Admiral Walker, with covering letters explaining how he had first met the distinguished French engineer in Panama. Hay, who had once served as Bigelow’s aide in the Paris embassy, confided in response that of course there was “a good deal of searching of hearts” over the proper path for the canal, but reminded his old friend that the decision did not “lie in the discretion of the Executive.” Walker’s reply was that the Frenchman was making too much of the volcano matter.
Having been steadily on the move for close to three months, Bunau-Varilla talked privately in New York to Bigelow and others of sailing for home. The interview with Senator Morgan remained on his schedule still, and he had not met Senator Hanna, but for pressing personal reasons he thought it time to wind things up. Once again, if his story is to be believed, Fate stepped in.
Towards midnight, as I was about to go out for a breath of fresh air before retiring, I met a party of people in evening dress entering the Waldorf Astoria. My surprise was great when I saw at the head of them Colonel Herrick with a lady on his arm, and behind them Mrs. Herrick, accompanied by a short stout gentleman who limped slightly.
His characteristic face, so frequently reproduced in the papers was familiar to me. . . .
It was Hanna, and Herrick happily made the introductions. “Ah!” Hanna said (recounts Bunau-Varilla). “Monsieur Bunau-Varilla, how glad I am to meet you!” More important, the Senator wished to have M. Bunau-Varilla call on him in Washington anytime that was convenient. “The ice was broken, under the best and most cordial conditions,” wrote the author of the scene.
His love of the chance encounter, of famous figures in elegant attire, of fateful exchanges between men of power made in a suitably grand setting, was very great. Perhaps this is the way it happened, perhaps it is not. But he did go directly to Washington “to attack the political fortress.” He saw Hanna at the Arlington Hotel, then the Senator’s Washington residence, and Hanna smoked and listened, his large cigar poised in a surprisingly delicate hand. According to Bunau-Varilla, the interview was decisive, which makes a mockery of Cromwell’s subsequent claims. “Monsieur Bunau-Varilla, you have convinced me,” Hanna is said to have exclaimed when it was over. He naturally wanted to find out what Panama specialists on the commission thought, but: “If, as you assert, they think as you do, I shall go over to your side.”
A few days later Bunau-Varilla was at the White House, chatting pleasantly with William McKinley. The introduction this time had been made by Charles G. Dawes, Comptroller of the Currency, whose friendship Bunau-Varilla had acquired in New York and again as a result of another chance encounter in the Waldorf lobby. He did no more than pay his respects at the White House. As he later explained, he did not wish to “inflict” a long lecture on the President, knowing the value of his time and “that the opinion of Senator Hanna would be his [McKinley’s] own.” In other words, he had already spoken to the head man.
There was another, final encounter in Washington and it must have been a memorable one.
A little after dark he rode up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol and turned left at John Marshall Place to a tall brick row house, Number 315, the home of John Tyler Morgan—“the Lion’s cage.” He went convinced that the old man was a dangerous paranoid. “The fanatical and almost demented state of mind of the old Senator, after twenty years’ uninterrupted efforts for Nicaragua, prompted him to see conspirators everywhere.” That Morgan might be a man of keen intelligence, whose motives, by his own lights, were quite as noble and patriotic as his own, apparently never occurred to him. Again Bunau-Varilla’s account is the only one available.
“My visit produced a deep impression on him. In spite of his apparent courtesy I saw he was trembling with passion.” Morgan insisted on doing all the talking and this it seems was more than Bunau-Varilla could endure. “But the volcanoes of Nicaragua—” he blurted in desperation, cutting Morgan off in mid-sentence. Morgan would hear none of it. “Now, between ourselves,” he thundered, “you would not put one dollar of your own money in this absurd project—in this rotten project—of Panama!”
Apparently they were both on their feet by this time and Bunau-Varilla, unable to contain himself, lifted his hand to strike Morgan across the face. But the hand stopped in midair; he had a sudden vision of giant newspaper headlines—FRENCH ADVENTURER ASSAULTS DEFENDER OF NICARAGUA DREAM. Morgan had deliberately provoked him, he now saw in a flash; the whole encounter had been arranged to trap and destroy him. “I lowered my half-raised hand, and extending it solemnly toward the Senator, I said: ‘You have just inflicted upon me, sir, a gratuitous and cruel insult. But I am under your roof, and it is impossible for me to show you my resentment without violating, as you do, the laws of hospitality.’ ”
And having delivered that little speech, the Bonaparte of Engineers turned on his heel and strode out the door.
He sailed for France on April 11, 1901.
What had it all cost? And who had paid for it?
Philippe Bunau-Varilla would say only that he had met all his expenses himself, out of a private source that also remains something of a mystery and that had been the subject of resentful, unpleasant talk in Paris.
The situation was this. Years before, at Panama, when he resigned his position with the canal company and went to work as a private contractor at Culebra, he had been able to take only a government salary because of a rule requiring all French government engineers to remain in service, accepting no pay or fees from private sources, for a minimum of five years. However, he had seen to it that his brother, Maurice, was put into the Paris office of the contracting firm as its financial manager, and he and his brother had made a secret agreement. A salary would simply be put aside for him until the required five years were up. It was a maneuver that evoked no little disdain when revealed later, but Bunau-Varilla maintained that the money was rightfully his and, furthermore, that it enabled him to “consecrate” his life to the Panama canal, “to save the noble conception of French genius through its adoption by America.” How much money was involved, how much of it he may have used, if any, has never been determined.
It is quite certain, nonetheless, that he did have a direct monetary interest in the fortunes of the new canal company, since he and his brother were what were known as “penalty stockholders.”
The founding of the Compagnie Nouvelle had been arranged in a most ingenious fashion, which was the chief reason why Senator Morgan and others viewed that whole organization as no better than an assembly of crooks. The court-appointed liquidator of the old de Lesseps company, in the interests of the stockholders in the old company, had devised a very direct and effective means of capitalizing the risky new company.
Those French contractors who had worked on the canal—and who were still solvent—were simply told that they could either invest in the new company or face prosecution for fraud and breach of contract. The rush to buy stock was pronounced. Two-thirds of the new company’s capital, some $8,000,000, was raised in this fashion. In plain fact there would have been no new company had the liquidator not resorted to this bit of blackmail, a point Morgan had made more than once on the floor of the Senate.
The largest of these “penalty stockholders” was Gustave Eiffel, and so ostensibly he stood to gain the most were the company’s holdings sold to the United States. Threatened with an 18,000,000-franc breach-of-contract suit, Eiffel had put 10,000,000 francs ($2,000,000) into the new company. The investment of the Bunau-Varilla firm was 2,200,000 francs.
So one theory is that Bunau-Varilla had come to the United States representing not only his own and his brother’s interests, but those of Eiffel and the other penalty stockholders, none of whom was permitted to have any say in the management of the company, and few of whom had much respect for the way in which the new company was being managed.
Another intriguing theory is that Bunau-Varilla had been “discovered” and subsidized by the Seligmans, the great Jewish financiers of New York, whose reputation for the strictest integrity had been badly stained by their prior role in Ferdinand de Lesseps’ Comité Américain. The late Jesse Seligman had been vigorously interrogated before a congressional committee at the time of the Panama Affair. Nothing very serious had been turned up by the committee, other than the obvious fact that the Seligman firm had been paid an exorbitant amount to do no more than lend its name to the de Lesseps scheme. Nonetheless, the Seligmans were eager to see the legitimacy of the Panama idea restored and thereby justify their prior involvement. And so, the theory goes, it was they who invented “The Man Who Invented Panama,” Philippe Bunau-Varilla, who had initially caught their attention through his role in the Dreyfus case.
That Bunau-Varilla knew the Seligmans quite well, and Isaac Seligman in particular, that the family took a keen interest in his lobbying activities in Washington, are matters of record. Isaac Seligman, for example, wrote letters of introduction in his behalf, including one to Mark Hanna, and went out of his way to speak to Hanna privately about Bunau-Varilla’s engineering credentials. But if Bunau-Varilla was actually the creature of the Seligmans, or in their pay, there is no solid evidence of it, and to his dying day he would angrily denounce any suggestion that he had ever been anyone’s agent or taken money for anything he ever said or did about Panama.1
But the puzzle the man presents is made still more complex by the very existence of the private, personal sources from which, by his own account, he drew his expenses, as well as still larger outlays to come. Where, how had he acquired all the money? How could he afford the enormous house on the Avenue d’Iéna, a house in which there were “servants to wait on the servants,” as one member of the family would recall. No one knew, or at least no one said. The son of an unwed mother of no apparent wealth, a scholarship student at the École Polytechnique, he had gone to Panama, where theoretically he had earned only a modest government salary, then returned to Paris to dabble unsuccessfully in politics, buy a newspaper, and write books about the inherent Genius of the Idea of Panama. Yet somewhere along the line he had become an extremely wealthy man. His wife, a semi-recluse who took her meals alone in her room for fear of catching some disease, was not a wealthy woman. To his own descendants the origins of the family fortune would remain a mystery.
The only hireling, the only mercenary in the crusade, according to his version of the story, was Cromwell, whom he had come to detest and whom he customarily referred to as “the lawyer Cromwell,” the word “lawyer” to be taken as an epithet. The most Bunau-Varilla could ever bring himself to say for Cromwell was to call him “an active and useful messenger between important men,” but then added on another occasion: “An active go-between will easily think he is the author of the messages he has to carry.”
It was not until the following year, 1902, that these two remarkable figures actually met for the first time. During Bunau-Varilla’s initial campaign they had kept as clear as possible of each other despite the obvious benefits some degree of cooperation might have produced. The Frenchman never asked the attorney for favors; the attorney made no use of the Frenchman’s technical expertise or his skill at persuasion. Most likely Cromwell had been so instructed by his client in Paris, who, with Bunau-Varilla’s Russian episode in mind, probably regarded him as unreliable and a possible embarrassment. And Bunau-Varilla doubtless felt that any overt connection with someone known to be in the employ of the Compagnie Nouvelle, and especially someone whose allegiances were so plainly for hire, could only jeopardize his own stance as the Champion of Truth.
Whatever the explanation, each man would cast himself in the hero’s role when it came time to account for what happened and would pointedly belittle or ignore any constructive part claimed by the other.
Cromwell’s claim that he had inspired the creation of the Walker Commission was, for example, utterly absurd, according to Bunau-Varilla. He was the one who had done that; he had convinced Asher Baker that Panama was the place for the canal and Asher Baker, during the winter of 1898–1899, had “enlightened” Speaker Reed and Congressman Cannon.
As for Cromwell’s boasted influence on Hanna, that, said Bunau-Varilla, was strictly a question of business as usual for “the lawyer Cromwell.” During the Presidential campaign of 1900, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Mark Hanna, had received a donation from Cromwell of $60,000, a donation that Cromwell had charged off to the Compagnie Nouvelle. In return for the donation, said Bunau-Varilla, Hanna had seen to it that the Republican platform called for the construction of an “isthmian” canal, rather than specifying one at Nicaragua, as the Democrats had done. And to that extent only would Bunau-Varilla acknowledge a Cromwell role in Hanna’s conversion.
How he learned of the donation Bunau-Varilla never said. But the idea that $60,000 would have caused Hanna to make any such change seems highly remote and suggests that Bunau-Varilla may never really have understood Mark Hanna, who was accustomed, as he himself said, to frying bigger fat and never with strings attached. Neither Hanna’s vote nor his public expressions were ever for sale, whatever his faults and irrespective of his notoriety as “Dollar Mark,” the brutal moneybags of the party.
Later, for the public record, Cromwell would tally up the most amazing list of accomplishments in behalf of his client, but that was mainly to justify his staggering $800,000 fee. He was the professional putting the best shine possible on services rendered. To Bunau-Varilla the client was posterity, the judgment of history, before which he wished only to appear as the unrivaled knight-errant. Neither one ever fully appreciated the contributions made by the other. Neither one was ever quite capable of telling the whole truth.
On April 10, 1900, Admiral Walker had addressed a letter to the president of the Compagnie Nouvelle. Did the company have a clear title to its franchises and property on the Isthmus, the admiral wished to know, and for what sum, in dollars and in cash, would the company be willing to sell these franchises and property?
On June 25, 1901, still having received no definite answers from Paris, the admiral made a special trip to New York to call on William Nelson Cromwell at his offices at 49 Wall Street. The commission was nearly finished with its studies, the admiral told Cromwell. There was, therefore, an urgent need for a firm price from the French company. Did Mr. Cromwell have an idea what figure his client had in mind?
Cromwell promised to look into the matter. His cable to Paris, sent later in the day, was so blunt about the state of things that the officers of the company not only refused to make a definite offer of sale, but they informed Cromwell by return cable that his services as attorney were no longer desired. Apparently they had had enough of his highpressure methods and his liberal use of their money.
So that fall, following the death of McKinley, when the report of the Walker Commission was about to be released in Washington and the second Hay-Pauncefote Treaty was about to be signed, the Panama Lobby had been reduced to a party of one, Bunau-Varilla, who now came hurrying back to New York.
The assassination at Buffalo had been a terrible blow to Cromwell and Bunau-Varilla alike, both having spent so much of their time and energies cultivating Mark Hanna, whose relations with the new President were known to be far from smooth. When Roosevelt had been merely Vice President, neither Cromwell nor Bunau-Varilla had bothered to pay him any attention.
Arriving in New York on November 13, Bunau-Varilla found the situation “as bad as it could possibly be.” He rushed about trying to determine which way the wind was blowing. He must meet Roosevelt face to face he told Frank Pavey and others, but nobody seemed to know how to arrange that. Within a week Hay and Pauncefote had signed their treaty and cartoons in the papers showed John Bull swinging wide the gate to Nicaragua as a jaunty Uncle Sam marched through with pick and shovel.
But then Hearst broke the Walker Commission report, and if Hearst and others missed its importance—that the French company’s price tag was all that had kept the commission from naming Panama as the most advantageous route—Bunau-Varilla did not. With little delay he was on his way back to France again.
Exactly what happened in Paris in the next few weeks can only be roughly pieced together. On December 17, he received a telegram from Washington from a man named Walter Wellman, a reporter for the Chicago Times-Herald and another of the contacts he had established. Perhaps he was paying Wellman, perhaps Wellman was doing favors for some of the Chicago industrialists who had been caught up in the Panama campaign.
53 AVENUE D’IÉNA, PARIS
CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION. COMMISSION SENATE PROBABLY ACCEPT OFFER FORTY MILLIONS. IMPERATIVE NOT HIGHER. MOVE QUICKLY.
Bunau-Varilla’s answer read as follows:
1413 G., WASHINGTON
THANKFUL TELEGRAM AM MAKING MOST ENERGETIC EFFORTS TO MAKE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND SITUATION
He was present at the riotous stockholders’ meeting of December 21, and he held forth immediately afterward in a private session with the new president, Marius Bo, and Henri Germain, of the Crédit Lyonnais, who, like Eiffel and Bunau-Varilla, had also been steamrollered into investing in the new company.
A price must be set at once Bunau-Varilla told them. Time had run out. Yesterday they might have done it; yesterday they might have gotten $60,000,000, perhaps $70,000,000. But yesterday was past. The price now must be $40,000,000 and they must accept that figure. Congress would convene again in two weeks. If by then the price had not been settled, all would be lost and they would have to accept the responsibility.
On New Year’s Day, in a large advertisement in Le Matin that cost him nearly $6,000, he took the company to task for neglecting its own interests as well as the honor of France. On January 3, he sent identical cables to Senators Hanna and Lodge, to Wellman, John Bigelow, Myron T. Herrick, Professor William Burr, and George Morison:
CONSIDER ALMOST CERTAIN DEFINITIVE OFFER SALE PANAMA FORTY MILLIONS WILL BE CABLED TOMORROW AND OFFICIALLY PRESENTED MONDAY.
On January 4, the cable to Admiral Walker offering the sale of the entire Panama property for $40,000,000 was put on the wire at Paris.
And so, wrote Bunau-Varilla, the year 1902 “began with the wind blowing in the sails of Panama.” When the Walker Commission reversed its decision on January 18, he sent off dozens of cables to Cincinnati and Chicago expressing his “heartfelt thanks” to all those who had enabled him to speak out “in the name of the Great Idea.”
On January 27, Cromwell was reinstated as attorney for the company. The officials were in such despair, Cromwell later explained, that they asked him to resume his former connection, and so “leaving aside all our other business we acceded to this request.” But Bunau-Varilla told a different story. It was he who fixed things for Cromwell as a favor to Senator Hanna. Cromwell meant nothing to Hanna, but Hanna’s banker, Edward Simmons, who was also president of the Panama Railroad, had asked Hanna to ask Bunau-Varilla to have Cromwell reinstated, or at least so Bunau-Varilla would declare in a written statement prepared some years later for a House committee that was looking into the extent of Cromwell’s influence. On January 27, he informed Cromwell that his case had been settled in Paris, but that it had not been easy.
According to the formal written directive from Paris, the company would rely on Cromwell’s cooperation in concluding the sale of the Panama property; however, “ . . . it must be clearly understood . . . that the result must be sought only by the most legitimate means; that is to say, that in no case could we recourse to methods as dangerous as they are unlawful which consist principally in gifts or promises . . .”
To Philippe Bunau-Varilla, Cromwell’s return was “but a slight incident in the great struggle . . .” To Cromwell, the Frenchman was someone who served a useful purpose, but whose “pretense of influence is grossly exaggerated.”
CULVER PICTURES, INC.
Theodore Roosevelt and Senator Mark Hanna at Buffalo at the time of McKinley’s death
FROM PANAMA: THE CREATION, DESTRUCTION, AND RESURRECTION, PHILIPPE BUNAU-VARILLA, ROBERT M. MCBRIDE, 1920
George Shattuck Morison
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Captain (later Admiral) Alfred Thayer Mahan
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Senator John Tyler Morgan
CULVER PICTURES, INC.
“The Deliberations of Congress” (from Harper’s Weekly)
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
COURTESY OF SULLIVAN & CROMWELL
William Nelson Cromwell
FROM PANAMA: THE CREATION, DESTRUCTION, AND RESURRECTION, PHILIPPE BUNAU-VARILLA, ROBERT M. MCBRIDE, 1920
The stamp used as “proof” of active volcanoes in Nicaragua
FROM THE MAKERS OF THE PANAMA CANAL, 1911
Founding fathers of the Republic of Panama. Seated (left to right): José Agustín Arango, Dr. Manuel Amador, Federico Boyd. Standing (left to right): Nicanor de Obarrio, Carlos C. Arosemena, Manuel Espinosa, Tomás Arias, Ricardo Arias
UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY
General Esteban Huertas among admirers
THEODORE ROOSEVELT COLLECTION, HARVARD
Roosevelt at work in his study at Sagamore Hill
NEW YORK GLOBE
“Now Watch the Dirt Fly”
© 1903 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY. REPRINTED BY PERMISSION
“The Man Behind the Egg”
FROM PANAMA: THE CREATION, DESTRUCTION, AND RESURRECTION, PHILIPPE BUNAU-VARILLA, ROBERT M. MCBRIDE, 1920
Philippe Bunau-Varilla (left) and John Hay in Hay’s office at the State Department, November 13, 1903, just prior to the formal recognition of the Republic of Panama
NEW YORK EVENING MAIL
“He’s Good Enough for Me!” Homer Davenport’s famous 1904 cartoon (from the New York Evening Mail) was more representative than any others of the country’s support for Roosevelt’s actions in office, including the steps taken at Panama.
1 As late as 1939, when Life magazine ran an article in which he was referred to as a lobbyist and an adventurer, Bunau-Varilla, at age eighty, responded that he had been no such thing: “Unless you call adventurer a man who sacrifices his time, his money and his scientific capacities to the glory of his nation and to the service of her great friend the United States . . . .”