Panama Canal, Acts of Concession


In 1878 the government of Colombia granted to the French businessman and adventurer Lucien Napoléon Bonaparte Wyse a concession to build an interoceanic canal across Panama, which at that time was a province of Colombia. Wyse sold the concession to a French company, La Société internationale du Canal interocéanique, headed by Ferdinand Marie De Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal. Digging began in 1881, but the firm soon ran into difficulties, which included tropical diseases and a far more challenging terrain than De Lesseps had faced in Egypt. In 1887 De Lesseps abandoned his original plan to build a sea-level canal not requiring locks. Work began in January 1888 on a canal that would use a system of locks to lift and lower ships as they made their way across the hills of central Panama from ocean to ocean. Faced with much higher costs than originally expected, the company went bankrupt in May 1889, having completed about 40 percent of the work of building the canal. Canal de Panama: Actes de Concession (The Panama Canal: Acts of Concession) is a compilation of documents relating to the French effort in Panama. It contains the texts of the 1878 contract between the government of Colombia and Wyse and the legislation and agreements of 1890 relating to the suspension of the concession following the bankruptcy of the firm. The texts are in French. In 1894 a second French company, the Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de Panama, took over the concession and resumed digging. It later sold its assets to the United States, which eventually completed the project, building on the work that the French had accomplished.

Last updated: July 12, 2017