National Geographic : 1899 Aug
306 THE PROPOSED AMERICAN INTEROCEANIC CANAL their own estimates of tonnage are based, but vigorously oppose any governmental attempt to institute practical inquiries into the subject, at the same time being ardent applicants for enormous subventions from the national treasury in aid of their particular undertakings. The idea that the Nicaragua or Panama Canal route, even at the present rate of tolls charged on the Suez Canal, about $1.80 per net ton of shipping, will secure the traffic in wheat and lumber from the Pacific coast to the countries of Europe or to other countries and islands on the eastern side of the American continent is subject to serious question. Wheat, lumber, and coal transported on long voyages are essentially sailing-vessel cargoes; but, as before shown, it will for all time be impracti cable to navigate sailing vessels through any American inter oceanic canal, for the same reason that no sailing vessel ever passes through the Suez Canal. The records of commerce across the Isthmus of Panama dur ing the last fifty years serve to throw light upon the question as to the practicability of an American interoceanic canal. The construction of the Panama Railroad was begun in the month of May, 1850, and it was opened for traffic January 28, 1855. The length of the road is 47 ' miles. The cost of its construction was $8,000,000. It continued to be the principal avenue for commerce between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States until the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, the Union and Central Pacific, on May 10, 1869. During the year ended June 3D, 1869, the total value of merchandise shipped from New York to San Francisco and from San Francisco to New York via Panama amounted to $70,202,029. As the result of transconti nental railroad competition, it fell in the following year, to $18,594,255. During the year ended June 30,1898, it amounted to only $4,887,289. Upon the completion of the Union and Central Pacific railroad line in 1869, the carriage of passengers, the mails, coin and bullion, express goods, perishable goods, and all the more valuable " fast freights " was at once deflected to the transcontinental railroad, nevermore to be transferred to any possible trans-isthmian rail or water rpute. Since the year 1869 eight other transcontinental lines and parts of lines have been constructed, and direct connections have been formed with lines reaching to every center of trade and of production in this country from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to the Gulf.