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Senate resolution ratifying the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, February 23, 1904

In 1904 the Senate approved for ratification a treaty with the new Republic of Panama giving the United States control of the Canal Zone in perpetuity. Secretary of State John Hay negotiated the treaty with Philippe Bunau-Varilla, a French engineer representing Panama. In 1978 the Senate approved for ratification two treaties transferring the canal to Panama in 1999.

General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives and Records Administration

Senate resolution ratifying the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, February 23, 1904

The Panama Canal

By the 1880s Congress considered a canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans essential for commerce and defense, but disagreements about its location became a “Battle of the Routes.” Senator John Tyler Morgan of Alabama, head of the Committee on Inter-Oceanic Canals, wanted it in Nicaragua, near southern U.S. ports. Senator Mark Hanna of Ohio wanted to complete a canal in Panama begun by a French company. In 1904, after the U.S. militarily supported Panama’s independence from Colombia, the Senate approved a canal treaty with Panama.