Tangent Publishers observes the 100th Anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal with the release of the paperback edition of The Cowboy and the Canal: How Theodore Roosevelt Cheated Colombia, Stole Panama, and Bamboozled America by J.M. Carlisle, Ph.D. The tale traces a powerful lineage of greed, corruption, fraud, and hubris underlying the quest to find an interoceanic passage through the Isthmus of Panama. The story begins with the evils of Balboa in 1513; details the horrors of the Panama Railroad construction in 1849; explores the aborted French effort in 1881; and finally explores the dubious behavior of America’s favorite Cowboy-hero, Theodore Roosevelt, as he bullied his way into the purchase of the bankrupt French Panama Canal Company by the United States in 1904.Traveling full-circle, the story concludes with Roosevelt’s attempt to revive his faltering Presidential fortunes as he begins his Progressive Party campaign tour the day of the official Opening of the Panama Canal, August 15, 1914.
There are many scoundrels and few heroes in this progressive era drama. Individuals who facilitated the behind-the-scenes takeover of the bankrupt French Panama Canal Company by an American syndicate and the hijacking of Panama from Colombia range all the way from TR’s brother-in-law, Douglas Robinson—husband of his youngest sister Corrine; the scheming would-be French aristocrat, Philippe Bunau-Varilla; a slick New York corporate lawyer, William Cromwell; the venerable John Hay, Roosevelt’s Secretary of State; and Theodore Roosevelt himself.
Some of the most prominent industrialists and capitalists of the day, including financier J.P. Morgan; former president of the New York Stock Exchange, J. Edward Simmons; railroad magnate C.P. Huntington; and Charles Taft, multimillionaire older brother of soon to become United States President William Howard Taft, played major roles in this political theater. All of these men abetted the scheme, but the three men without whom the Panama purchase would never have happened are Theodore Roosevelt, William Nelson Cromwell, and Philippe Bunau-Varilla.
Among the few heroes of this fascinating Progressive Era saga are Democratic Senator John Tyler Morgan—a scrappy former Confederate general determined to bring prosperity back to his beloved South, and the legendary newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer whose quest to uncover the truth behind the Panama Canal purchase ended in the United States Supreme Court in 1911.
Drawing directly from over 300 primary sources—newspaper accounts, political cartoons, Congressional records, books, photographs, and letters—the narrative ripens into a fully developed history of how Roosevelt’s intolerance for opposition, his insatiable political ambitions, and his hyper-masculine and racist imperialist perspective made him the perfect ally for the powerful industrialists and capitalist investors of the American syndicate who seemed to possess an unappeasable gluttony for riches. Using original material, Carlisle restores the voices to those many Roosevelt critics who—through time and social consensus—have been removed from what was a heated national conversation.
Dr. Carlisle blogs about viewing current events through an historical lens at The More Things Change and is available for interviews and appearances. For booking presentations, media appearances, interviews, or book signings, she can be reached through the contact link at The Cowboy and the Canal website.
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