to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Bogota , November 30, 1883. (Received January 3, 1884.)
Sir: Although the work of cutting the Panama Canal was commenced nearly three years ago, and has been extended throughout almost its entire length, yet the most important practical question connected with the enterprise has during all this time been left undecided. I allude, of course, to the question of locks.
At the International Canal Congress held in Paris in May, 1879, it was shown by American and English engineers who had made the matter a subject of special and careful study that the opening of a maritime water-way across the Isthmus of Panama without locks and parallel sluices would be an impossibility. Nevertheless, Messrs. Wyse and de Lesseps, who had never surveyed the route, but who held an exclusive “concession” from the Colombian Government, reiterated their purpose to open a canal from Colon to Panama à niveau, “without locks or hindrances of any kind.” And since the “congress “had been called merely to ratify what these distinguished gentlemen and their associates had already agreed upon, their “plan” was finally adopted, amid much confusion, by a vote of 72 against 61.
It now turns out, however, despite the confident and oft-repeated assertions of M. de Lesseps to the contrary, that at least two locks will be necessary; and that, in addition, there will have to be parallel canals for the reception of the waters of the Chagres and other rivers, which range all the way from 42 to 78 feet above the sea-level, thus augmenting the original cost of the canal by nearly one-third.
These facts are reluctantly set forth in the recent report of Mr. Dingier, the chief engineer of the Panama Canal Company. I regret my inability to send you a copy of this important report. It is destined to have a marked influence upon the fortunes of the shareholders. I, however, transmit herewith a full synopsis of it, which I find in the London Standard of the 9th of October last.
I have, &c.,