Excerpt from Chapter Fourteen – “As long as it is with you”

Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox

Excerpt from Chapter Fourteen – “As long as it is with you”:

For thirty minutes, Winston raced through microfilmed documents to
or emanating from Theodore Roosevelt, written sometime during the
month of March, 1903. Many involved the ongoing negotiations over a proposed
isthmian canal. President Roosevelt had determined that one would be
built, in Mexico, Nicaragua, or in Panama. He cared not about the location,
only that it be built and that it be built by the United States. The project, for
Roosevelt, would become a cornerstone in making the 20th century “the
American Century.” Although his March 14 letter to John Burroughs didn’t
say it directly, Winston knew the reference to an “unforeseen disaster in the
Senate,” probably had to do with the canal negotiations.

He also knew, from his perfect 20-20 historical hindsight, that disaster
was not far off. It was a negotiation that would first place the proposed American-
built canal in Nicaragua, then in the Colombian state of Panama. But
negotiations with Colombia would eventually break down over Colombia’s
desire for more U.S. dollars. It would produce the tirade from Roosevelt,
calling the Colombian Senators “a bunch of bandits” and the classic Roosevelt
line: “Trying to get the Colombian government to come to an agreement is
like trying to nail currant jelly to a wall.” Roosevelt’s anger, coupled with
Colombia’s recalcitrance resulted in an August, 1903, revolution in Panama,
followed by immediate American recognition of the new Republic of Panama
and a treaty allowing the United States to built Roosevelt’s canal. And
Theodore Roosevelt’s role in all of this? Winston remembered the simple line
from Roosevelt’s autobiography: “I took Panama!” And so he had.

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