19 April

Panama Treaty Signed

It was on April 19, 1850, that Britain and the United States signed the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty to build the Panama Canal as a joint venture. Later the States decided to go it alone. Great Britain withdrew, accepting the promise that the canal would be open to the ships of all nations, at equal rates.

It might be asked what the building of the Panama Canal had to do with Canada, but there are some interesting sidelights.

In the first place, Panama might easily have been called Nova Scotia. After Scotland and England united in 1707 (after this date it is correct to use the term Britain rather than England), the people of Scotland had better opportunities to migrate. One group decided to go to Panama and develop a colony called New Scotland (Nova Scotia). It was a failure for the same reasons that caused Napoleon to abandon his plan to recapture Canada for France years later. The natives and the mosquitoes were too fierce, even for Scotsmen! Samuel Vetch, a Scotsman who went to live in Boston, interested the British government in a plan to capture Acadia from France. Eventually he became Governor of Nova Scotia as we know it, with its capital at Annapolis Royal, formerly Port Royal.

Britain's agreeing to withdraw from ownership of the Panama Canal also had a bearing on the unfortunate agreement made in 1905, establishing the Alaska boundary. The British government thought that as it had given way to the United States on the Panama Canal question, the Americans would be willing to compromise on the boundary between Canada and Alaska, then in dispute. This was not the case (see March 25).

In fairness, it must be said that the building of the Panama Canal was a great help to the development of British Columbia. Ships sailing to and from British Columbian ports carrying the trade of western Canada have never been prevented from using the Panama Canal, thus saving themselves the long journey around South America.


19 April

-1627    Cardinal Richelieu signed the charter of the Company of One Hundred Associates which was supposed to develop Canada.

-1750    Representatives of the Acadians asked the Governor of Nova Scotia for permission to leave the country. Permission was denied.

-1775    A skirmish at Lexington led to the out break of the American Revolutionary War and the withdrawal of British troops from Boston to Halifax.

-1883    The Parliament buildings were burned at Quebec.

-1904    A fire at Toronto caused $12 million damage.

-1927    New Brunswick put liquor under government control.