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Mr. MORGAN, from the Select Committee on the Construction of the
Nicaragua Canal, submitted the following
[To accompany S. 4792.]
The Select Committee on the Construction of the Nicaragua Canal, to whom was referred Senate bills 4539 and 4657, have considered the same and herewith report a bill and recommend the passage of the same:
The bill herewith reported as a substitute for the several bills referred to them is based on the same general plan of governmental action relating to the Nicaragua Canal that has been heretofore reported on three occasions from the Committee on Foreign Relations, one of which bills passed the Senate by a strong majority.
This plan has for its basis the concessions made to the Nicaragua Canal Association (organized in New York) by the Republics of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which are set forth in Senate Document No. 291, which is appended to this report.
The same bill in substance, but differing in its plan, was reported from this committee and from the House Committee on Interstate and Forbign Commerce to the Fifty-fourth Congress. The whole subject has been thoroughly examined by both Houses in every aspect which has been suggested by the facts as they were then ascertained.
The present bill, with certain modifications, adopting a proposition of the Maritime Canal Company—the owner of these concessions—eliminates from the corporation all private ownership of stock, leaving the three Republics as the sole stockholders of the company. In accomplishing this result, which many esteem as being very desirable, compensation is made to the private stockholders for their expenditures and liabilities incurred in exploring, surveying, and charting the line of the canal and the contiguous country, and in costly work they have
done on the canal and in building the necessary plant for a considerable part of the work to be done. They are entitled under the concessions to 6 per cent of the stock of the canal, which they are required to surrender under the proposition for disposing of their entire interests in the canal, as it is modified in the bill herewith reported.
The membership of the committees of the two Houses that have made careful studies of this subject has included a large number of the most experienced men in the House and the Senate.
For many years the construction of a ship canal through Nicaragua has engaged the attention of many of the ablest and most skilled engineers of the world, and has led to large expenditures of money by governments and by enterprising men in explorations and surveys.
It may be safely stated that no public work has ever been so thoroughly examined by the aid of scientific engineers and by commercial aud military men in its various stages, and with equal certainty it can be stated that no recognized authority has pronounced against the practi. cability of the construction of a Nicaraguan Canal, or its permanence, or its usefulness to all the nations of the earth, without harm ttz any.
The only questions that have divided opinion among those who wer competent for their discussion have been as to the preferable lin of location and the cost of making available the advantages of the great lakes of Nicaragua and Managua, which rest in the lowest depression of the Cordilleras, 110 feet above the sea level of both oceans.
Civil engineering will settle these differences of opinion with absolute certainty, and has established in advance the basis of the cost of con. struction with almost equal certainty.
The dimensions and draft of great battle ships and steamships of commerce must largely affect the cost of a ship canal, and the most recent plans for such vessels have caused some variance of estimates, but the canals for ships in various countries, such as the Suez Canal, the Corinth Canal, the Manchester and Kiel canals, have established a practical regulation of the depth and width of the Nicaraguan Canal, unless that is to be constructed on a still larger scale, as can be easily done without an increase of cost disproportioned to the advantages that will be gained.
Adopting, as a basis of actual cost, the dimensions of the great ship canals now in use, the widest divergence of opinion among competent engineers, who have made examinations more or less thorough, as to the cost of the Nicaragua Canal, varies between $70,000,000 as the minimum and $150,000,000 as the maximum cost.
The mean of difference in these estimates is about $110,000,000, with the marked advantage, on the side of the lowest cost thus estimated, that it is based upon actual surveys most carefully made and examined, and upon the further important fact that each new examination of the proposed route of the canal has brought to light very important opportunities for reducing the cost of the canal.
In the bill herewith reported ample latitude is given to the directing engineers as to the location of the axial line of the canal and the location and manner of construction of every feature of the work.
This assures the confident expectation that they will succeed in establishing this great waterway in the most economical, useful, and permanent manner. And the maximum of cost, assumed in the bill to be $115,000,000, is believed to be from $10,000,000 to $20,000,000 above the actual cost of the canal when it is finished and fully equipped for its work.
The committee feel entirely justified in the opinion that the actual cost of the canal will not exceed $100,000,000, aud that sum is, consequently, fixed as the limit of the stock of the company, and also as the limit of the bonds it may issue. The bill also leaves $23,000,000 of stock in the treasury of the company as working capital.
In a work of the magnitude of this ship canal it is not possible to estimate the exact sum it will cost until it is completed, or nearly so. The committee append to this report statements made by Rear-Admiral Walker, Professor L. M. Haupt, and Gen. Peter C. Hains, the commissioners now in charge of the further survey, and examination of previous surveys of the canal route through Nicaragua, on the 15th, 16th, and 17th June, 1898. They establish conclusively the feasibility and practicability of a ship canal from Brito to Greytown, and the opening of ample and safe harbors at those localities, at a reasonable cost as compared with other great ship canals and with the value of this waterway as a paying property. The maximum of the cost of the canal, as stated by Admiral Walker, is $125,000,000; as stated by Professor Haupt, is $90,000,000, and as stated by General Hains is $140,000,000, all of them allowing a great percentage for contingencies and for heavy profits to the contractors. The mean of their computations is $118,333,000, showing that $115,000,000, which is much less than the cost of the Suez Canal, is a really extravagant estimate of the maximum cost of the canal.
The changes in the financial condition of the world from time to time and the questions that disturb the peace of nations are indefinite factors about which no precise calculations can be reasonably made.
Assuming that such conditions will remain as favorable as they are now, and that the necessity for the canal will never be less than it is at present, the question of duty to our country, for our prompt and decisive action, surmounts such obstacles and they disappear from our calculations. It is unworthy of our country to shrink from so plain a duty.
The constant and very rapid improvement in the methods of construction and in the machinery used in these heavy works, and the lessons of experience that bave already established on a firm footing the engineering facts that were doubtful problems even five years ago, furnish the strongest assurance that the Nicaraguan Canal will be constructed within the estimates that have been made upon actual surveys.