Panama Canal Act [1902]

An Act To provide for the construction of a canal connecting the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Be it enacted, . . . That the President of the United States is hereby authorized to acquire, for and on behalf of the United States, at a cost not exceeding forty millions of dollars, the rights, privileges, franchises, concessions, grants of land, right of way, unfinished work, plants, and other property, real, personal, and mixed, of every name and nature, owned by the New Panama Canal Company, of France, on the Isthmus of Panama, and all its maps, plans, drawings, records on the Isthmus of Panama and in Paris, including all the capital stock, not less, however, than sixty-eight thousand eight hundred and sixty-three shares of the Panama Railroad Company, owned by or held for the use of said canal company, provided a satisfactory title to all of said property can be obtained.

SEC. 2. That the President is hereby authorized to acquire from the Republic of Colombia, for and on behalf of the United States, upon such terms as he may deem reasonable, perpetual control of a strip of land, the territory of the Republic of Colombia, not less than six miles in width, extending from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and the right to use and dispose of the waters thereon, and to excavate, construct, and to perpetually maintain, operate, and protect thereon a canal, of such depth and capacity as will afford convenient passage of ships of the greatest tonnage and draft now in use, from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, which control shall include the right to perpetually maintain and operate the Panama Railroad, if the ownership thereof, or a controlling interest therein, shall have been acquired by the United States, and also jurisdiction over said strip and the ports at the ends thereof to make such police and sanitary rules and regulations as shall be necessary to preserve order and preserve the public health thereon, and to establish such judicial tribunals as may be agreed upon thereon as may be necessary to enforce such rules and regulations.
The President may acquire such additional territory and rights from Colombia as in his judgment will facilitate the general purpose hereof.

SEC. 3. That when the President shall have arranged to secure a satisfactory title to the property of the New Panama Canal Company, as provided in section one hereof, and shall have obtained by treaty control of the necessary territory from the Republic of Colombian as provided in section two hereof, he is authorized to pay for the property of the New Panama Canal Company forty millions of dollars and to the Republic of Colombia such sum as shall have been agreed upon . . .
The President shall then through the Isthmian Canal Commission hereinafter authorized cause to be excavated, constructed, and completed, utilizing to that end as far as practicable the work heretofore done by the New Panama Canal Company, of France, and its predecessor company, a ship canal from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Such canal shall be of sufficient capacity and depth as shall afford convenient passage for vessels of the largest tonnage and greatest draft now in use, and such as may be reasonably anticipated, and shall be supplied with all necessary locks and other appliances to meet the necessities of vessels passing through the same from ocean to ocean; and he shall also cause to be constructed such safe and commodious harbors at the termini of said canal, and make such provisions for defense as may be necessary for the safety and protection of said canal and harbors....

SEC. 4. That should the President be unable to obtain for the United States a satisfactory title to the property of the
New Panama Canal Company and the control of the necessary territory of the Republic of Colombia and the rights mentioned in sections one and two of this Act,.within a reasonable time and upon reasonable terms, then the President, having first obtained for the United States perpetual control by treaty of the necessary territory from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, upon terms which he may consider reasonable, for the construction, perpetual maintenance, operation, and protection of a canal connecting the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean by what is commonly known as the Nicaragua route, shall through the said Isthmian Canal Commission cause to be excavated and constructed a ship canal and waterway from a point on the shore of the Caribbean Sea near Greytown, by way of Lake Nicaragua, to a point near Brito on the Pacific Ocean . . .

In the excavation and construction of said canal the San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua, or such parts of each as may be made available, shall be used.

SEC. 5. That the sum of ten million dollars is hereby appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, toward the project herein contemplated by either route so selected.
And the President is hereby authorized to cause to be entered into such contract or contracts as may be deemed necessary for the proper excavation, construction, completion, and defense of said canal, harbors, and defenses, by the route finally determined upon under the provisions of this Act. Appropriations therefor shall from time to time be hereafter made, not to exceed in the aggregate the additional sum of one hundred and thirty five millions of dollars should the Panama route be adopted, or one hundred and eighty millions of dollars should the Nicaragua route be adopted.

SEC. 6. That in any agreement with the Republic of Colombia, or with the States of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, the President is authorized to guarantee to said Republic or to said States the use of said canal and harbors, upon such terms as may be agreed upon, for all vessels owned by said States or by citizens thereof.

SEC. 7. That to enable the President to construct the canal
and works appurtenant thereto as provided in this Act, there is hereby created the Isthmian Canal Commission, the same to be composed of seven members, who shall be nominated and appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and who shall serve until the completion of said canal unless sooner removed by the President.... Of the seven members of said Commission at least four of them shall be persons learned and skilled in the science of engineering, and of the four at least one shall be an officer of the United States Army, and at least one other shall be an officer of the United States Navy, the said officers respectively being either upon the active or the retired list of the Army or of the Navy. . . . In addition to the members of said Isthmian Canal Commission, the President is hereby authorized through said Commission to employ in said service any of the engineers of the United States Army at his discretion, and likewise to employ any engineers in civil life, at his discretion, and any other persons necessary for the proper and expeditious prosecution of said work.... Said Commission shall in all matters be subject to the direction and control of the President, and shall make to the President annually and at such other periods as may be required, either by law or by the order of the President, full and complete reports of all their actings and doings and of all moneys received and expended in the construction of said work and in the performance of their duties in connection therewith, which said reports shall be by the President transmitted to Congress. And the said Commission shall furthermore give to Congress, or either House of Congress, such information as may at any time be required either by Act of Congress or by the order of either House of Congress....

[Sec. 8 authorizes a bond issue of $I30,000,000 to defray expenses.]
Approved, June 28, I902.