The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1889. THE PANAMA CANAL.
Bo many and so conflicting are the various reports, with reference to the Panama Canal, that it seems almost impossible to arrive at the exact facts, either as regards the work itself, or as regards the position of matters m France m relation thereto.. The only certain information, apparently, is that, owing to the failure to float the last loan, the Panama Canal Company is being wound up, bat whether or not all at tempts to reorganise the old or to form a new Company have been abandoned, "we don't precisely know." Independently of the stupendous engineering difficulties which have been encountered | on the J sthmus, there has, however, been a blundering mismanagement and a reckless extravagance which were m themselves sufficient to ruin any enterprise j backed by however large an amount of capital. For, according to a report which appears m the Stockton " Mail," it seems that palatial residences, at a cost of from £15,000 to £20,000 each, were built for the French officers, and this on mere temporary camps, to be deserted after two or three months of occupancy, and new ones built elsewhere on the like ruinous scale. Then we are told of locomotiyefcr-rno less than thirty-two of them — constructed m Belgium and cosfrr ing nearly £10,000 (pounds not dollars): each, " standing bunched up on an unused track, their woodwork completely rotted away, the bands around the boilers burst off, and the boilers themselves sieved with holes where the rust haß eaten through," while it is added that a system of plundering the Company has been systematically carried on, the phrase used being that 'i Steals are sticking out everywhere." Indeed; it is Btated that " the whole object down there is to get the money out of the shareholders coffers, ep that the officers can get their fists on it," and that wherever you go among the company's employees, from the highest to the lowest, you hear the toast : " Here's to the Panama Canal ; may it always continue, and never be finished !" This is given as being actual fact. In view of such a state of things as this disaster is not surprising, the only wonder is that it did not come sooner. All this is avoidable by theexerciseof proper supervision and business management, which appear to nave bean copspicuous by their absence, but the engineering difficulties, Including the stupendous work of turning the Chagres river, which, m flood -time, is a tremendous torrent, 100 ft deep, ore so erformous that we begin to fear that the great Canal is not likely to be accomplished within the life-time of the present generation. The difficulties, too, are enormously increased by the deadly character of the climate, anent nhich the following grapbjp particulars are furnjshed m the journal above referred to ; — " When the Panama Railway was built one man died for every tie that waß laid, and all were interred at Monkey Hill, (the Company's burial ground about 2 mileß from Colon). The death rate of the Canal Company is even more frightful than that. Every morning at one o'clock the ' dead train ' leaves Panama. If) ptops at all the stations, and adds to its list of corpses. Finally it halts at the foot of Monkey Bill. The bodieß are carried up. Laborers have dug a long trench on the hillside. The corpses are damped into it, Then the laborers stationed at Monkey Hill begin a new trench just below that into which the dead have been tossed. It is so close to the latter that as they dig they throw the dirt into it, and thus economise labor, for, while they are digging a new trench for the morrow's corpses, they are covering the bodies just received." When all these difficulties are taken into account, and it is remembered that over a hundred millions of pounds have already been expended, and that the works are nothing like half finished, it becomes evident that unless either the Government of Franpe or that of the United States steps m and undertakes it as a great national work it no chance of ever being com plated, This the French Government is unable to do, France .being expressly debarred by a formal pledge givett to tjie American Government through the French Minister at Washington, " not to modify the private character of M. de Lesseps' enterprise," and it seems to us therefore that the only hope of the Canal lies it its being taken py.or by Americu. The national treasury of (he United States is full to overflowing, and the problem of American financiers is not how to raise money, but what to do with surpluses, and there is no more useful porpose to jyhiplji they could be devoted than the completion' pf p}}Q great interoceanic water-way which I)e Lesseps has planned, but which it is now only too evident he is unable to carry out.