How Theodore Roosevelt Cheated Colombia, Stole Panama, and Bamboolzed America
The Cowboy and the Canal is untypical in that it is predominantly informed by a collection writings by commentators, historians, editors, politicians, public figures, and newspaper reporters that were contemporaries of events—actually living through, alongside, and with the events—rather than a reliance upon reinterpretation of modern historians and thinkers comfortably removed from events by time. The intent of this philosophical hermeneutic approach is to allow the collective comment of the people and events that the culture was immersed within, to speak. In essence the voices of the critics of Roosevelt—and there were many—have been filtered out through the traditional process of analysis of and agreement with historians viewing the work of other historians. We are left then, with versions of Roosevelt that echo each other. Although the voices of opposition were viable and vital at the time, traditional approaches have rendered them subalterns—disappeared—from the conversation.
Publisher: Tangent Publishers
Jeannie Carlisle announces her thesis right up front, in the subtitle of this book and in the opening sections, and her intent is very clear: to demonstrate that Theodore Roosevelt was a self-interested—and more than a little mad—adventurer whose chief interests as President did not lie in the will of the people of the United States. She then goes on to prove her case with regard to the amazing chain of events leading up to the American-controlled interoceanic canal being built in Panama rather than Nicaragua, a route that had been shown to be superior in every way for decades previous. This is a tale of obsession, ego, political chicanery and fraud involving several characters whose motives and actions could be said to be stranger than fiction, if it were not for the fact that, as Carlisle reminds us, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose—we have seen these patterns repeat time after time in scandalous adventures in fraud and warmongering that leads to the financial enrichment and ideological aggrandizement of those in power. Carlisle tells an amazing tale, with characters who are compelling in their sheer audacity, notably William Nelson Cromwell, a lawyer diminutive in stature and Halliburton-sized in manipulation, mendacity and profit-seeking, who almost single-handedly turned the tide, bringing the ill-conceived, mismanaged, predatory and bankrupt French Panama canal company into the unlikely position of being purchased by the U.S., relieving its dishonest owners of their burden and enriching its American receivers, notably Cromwell himself and Roosevelt’s brother in law and family financial controller, Douglas Robinson. Roosevelt’s gunboat diplomacy in fomenting and then supporting a Panamanian ‘revolution’ against Colombia sealed the deal in reckless haste. Carlisle delves deeply into historical sources including reams of newspaper accounts of contemporary events and opinions, to show clearly and repeatedly how unthinkable a canal through Panama rather than Nicaragua was to Americans at the time, and that Roosevelt’s hero status was not a view universally held. All this and far more make The Cowboy and the Canal a whopping, eye-opening read, definitely worth the price of admission.