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How Wall Street Created a Nation: J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Panama Canal

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This book tells a previously untold story of decades of financial speculation, fraud, and international conspiracy that led to the creation of the Panama Canal. The author meticulously details the dark alliance — among a French company; Teddy Roosevelt with his gunboat diplomacy; and a secretive syndicate of Wall Street financiers — that masterminded a coup in Colombia and This book tells a previously untold story of decades of financial speculation, fraud, and international conspiracy that led to the creation of the Panama Canal. The author meticulously details the dark alliance — among a French company; Teddy Roosevelt with his gunboat diplomacy; and a secretive syndicate of Wall Street financiers — that masterminded a coup in Colombia and the secession of Panama in 1903. Panama then welcomed the canal building, and the U.S. foreign policy precedent was set for the 20th century. How Wall Street Created a Nation includes historical photographs and is a fascinating telling of this scandalous true story.


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This book tells a previously untold story of decades of financial speculation, fraud, and international conspiracy that led to the creation of the Panama Canal. The author meticulously details the dark alliance — among a French company; Teddy Roosevelt with his gunboat diplomacy; and a secretive syndicate of Wall Street financiers — that masterminded a coup in Colombia and This book tells a previously untold story of decades of financial speculation, fraud, and international conspiracy that led to the creation of the Panama Canal. The author meticulously details the dark alliance — among a French company; Teddy Roosevelt with his gunboat diplomacy; and a secretive syndicate of Wall Street financiers — that masterminded a coup in Colombia and the secession of Panama in 1903. Panama then welcomed the canal building, and the U.S. foreign policy precedent was set for the 20th century. How Wall Street Created a Nation includes historical photographs and is a fascinating telling of this scandalous true story.

30 review for How Wall Street Created a Nation: J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Panama Canal

  1. 4 out of 5

    Simon Wood

    "WE STOLE IT FAIR AND SQUARE" Ovidio Diaz Espino book on the secession of Panama from Colombia in 1903 is a fascinating look at the machinations of Wall Street and the US government aided and abetted by the insanely arrogant Phillipe Bunau-Varilla as they created the State of Panama in the interests of Wall Street, the US investors who bought the shares in the failed French attempt at digging a canal across the isthmus of Panama, the French investors who still owned shares in that effort, and th "WE STOLE IT FAIR AND SQUARE" Ovidio Diaz Espino book on the secession of Panama from Colombia in 1903 is a fascinating look at the machinations of Wall Street and the US government aided and abetted by the insanely arrogant Phillipe Bunau-Varilla as they created the State of Panama in the interests of Wall Street, the US investors who bought the shares in the failed French attempt at digging a canal across the isthmus of Panama, the French investors who still owned shares in that effort, and the strategic interests of the United States. In short, everyone benefits except the population of Panama - with the unsurprising exception of the Panamanian elites who done quite nicely out of it. The book could be better written, but the ins and outs of the conspiracy are sufficiently complicated so it is hardly surprising that a few passages need read over twice or thrice to work out exactly what happened. There is no excuse for the cliches which occasionally pepper the text. Otherwise it documents extensively the miserable nature of US imperialism and how a variety of interests benefited substantially in the formation of the state of Panama. The one sided Canal treaty and how it was negotiated practically beggers belief - Bunau-Varilla hoodwinks the newly born Panamanian State into making him special representative in the US on the basis that there will be no US support for their "revolution" without his influence and re-writes the Canal Treaty to make it more favourable to the US than the original treaty that the US government submitted to him to sign! All this is done in a week so that the representatives of the Panamanian State are presented with a fait-acompli when they arrive in Washington. An interesting book, that is well worth reading.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    This is a very timely book in this age of cynicism and conspiracy theory, even as it describes events from more than 100 years ago. It's a welcome reminder that war for profit did not begin with Halliburton and the Bush/Cheney administration; monied interests have had a voice in foreign policy as long as there have been nations. This book manages to convey the realpolitik without excessive finger wagging. The Panama Canal was the largest and costliest engineering project attempted by man, so it's This is a very timely book in this age of cynicism and conspiracy theory, even as it describes events from more than 100 years ago. It's a welcome reminder that war for profit did not begin with Halliburton and the Bush/Cheney administration; monied interests have had a voice in foreign policy as long as there have been nations. This book manages to convey the realpolitik without excessive finger wagging. The Panama Canal was the largest and costliest engineering project attempted by man, so it's no surprise people were lined up to get a finger in the pie. Originally Congress was set to approve the Nicaragua Canal; then a syndicate of French and American businessmen figured they could make a killing by buying up the rights to dig a Panamanian canal, and lobbying congress to build there instead. Which they did, successfully, for an obscene profit. At this time Panama was a province of Columbia, mostly due to U.S. meddling over the previous half-century. When Columbia demanded a cut of the windfall, the syndicate calculated it would be cheaper to reverse U.S. policy and instigate a Panamanian revolution. After buying off or deceiving all the key players, the syndicate forced an extremely disadvantageous canal treaty on Panama, which grated on them through the rest of the 20th Century. Almost all of this was achieved through totally legal means: "lobbying" and Wall Street business as usual. Although Teddy Roosevelt's secret support of the revolution was illegal, all the incriminating papers mysteriously vanished over time and everybody got off scott-free. As it's always good to get a second opinion on historical matters, I'm now looking for a copy of "The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914" by David McCullough.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Wall Street's "Inside Job" of the Early 1900s The material is incredibly compelling but the book did not come together for me. It was really tough to get through the first third. With its short length, I had hoped it would be more of a nonfiction novel with a streamlined plot, but it read more like the summarized notes collected to write such a novel. The author wanted to keep it brief but couldn't resist inserting excessively long, direct quotes from primary sources, such as the communication co Wall Street's "Inside Job" of the Early 1900s The material is incredibly compelling but the book did not come together for me. It was really tough to get through the first third. With its short length, I had hoped it would be more of a nonfiction novel with a streamlined plot, but it read more like the summarized notes collected to write such a novel. The author wanted to keep it brief but couldn't resist inserting excessively long, direct quotes from primary sources, such as the communication code used by American and Panamanian conspirators (One hundred = Rabbit). Chapters would just come to an end without much build or release of suspense. Despite being very brief, important characters like T.R. only received ~1 page of backstory. However, underneath the ineffective writing is a truly fascinating story. I am now very interested in reading a better account of the same subject matter.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jay Phillippi

    An interesting look at one of the parts of American history we studiously avoid. I remember the huge arguments that happened when we renegotiated the Panama Canal treaty in the late '70s. It was one of the issues that cost President Carter a second term. The truth is that the original treaty was a travesty. Orchestrated by stock speculators angling to turn a failed French company's stocks into a windfall, negotiated by a Frenchman looking to restore the glory of his home country, and aided by Am An interesting look at one of the parts of American history we studiously avoid. I remember the huge arguments that happened when we renegotiated the Panama Canal treaty in the late '70s. It was one of the issues that cost President Carter a second term. The truth is that the original treaty was a travesty. Orchestrated by stock speculators angling to turn a failed French company's stocks into a windfall, negotiated by a Frenchman looking to restore the glory of his home country, and aided by American desires for empire, everyone got exactly what they wanted. Except for the people of Panama. A ten-mile wide swath of their country was taken in perpetuity, without a single Panamanian involved in the negotiation. Ovidio Diaz Espino does a careful job of walking through the sometimes comic opera plots that led to the creation of a new nation, and how that nation was taken advantage of in its literal first days. He is a Panamanian himself, and his national outrage seeps through only occasionally. Otherwise, the story is told in a very detailed, lawyerly format that remains an interesting read. I see the book billed as an "untold story", which the book itself disproves. The ridiculously one-sided nature of the original treaty was recognized at the time of its signing. There were repeated Congressional investigations of it, newspaper coverage was widespread, and it was a huge issue in Latin America for decades. Rather, the book reveals details that had been carefully hidden for all that time and draws together a rare comprehensive look at one of the lesser moments in our national history. There are times when the author's background in finance and the law results in some dry reading, but overall it held my interest.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jim Netzband

    This is a concise but thorough and detailed accounting of one of the 20th century's most influential and controversial events - the creation of both Panama the nation and Panama the Canal. It was also arguably Theodore Roosevelt's most important contribution to American history as President. The title, while technically accurate, is a bit of a misnomer, however. While Roosevelt and Morgan were the political and financial forces, respectively, behind the events as they occurred, the book is a mor This is a concise but thorough and detailed accounting of one of the 20th century's most influential and controversial events - the creation of both Panama the nation and Panama the Canal. It was also arguably Theodore Roosevelt's most important contribution to American history as President. The title, while technically accurate, is a bit of a misnomer, however. While Roosevelt and Morgan were the political and financial forces, respectively, behind the events as they occurred, the book is a more detailed account of the players more intimately involved. Having just completed one of the most well-known biographies of Roosevelt, I became disappointed in that work's lack of attention given to this episode in Roosevelt's political career. On every level, it's hard to deny the creation of Panama and the Canal, along with tens of millions of "missing" dollars all happened due to dubious motives that received Roosevelt's initial and ongoing approval.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jay Phillippi

    A little slow at times, but a facinating look at what actually was going on in building the canal.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    A basic overview of the political and financial machinations behind the building of the Panama Canal. Not a groundbreaking study or a definitive account, but rather a general survey intended as a starting point. It's not a very clear or memorable one, though, for all its conciseness; characterization is nonexistent and the human element is studiously omitted. Of limited usefulness; boring and unclear.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Simon Jean François

    The book is an incredible work of historical research on the creation of my country (Panama) and the forces behind our independence movement. This should a be requiere reading for all students in Panama as well as for those who are interested in Panamanian history.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sela

    An interesting account of how those with money gain influence and set the course of American military and political policy in foreign countries...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Grant Humphreys

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  12. 5 out of 5

    R. H.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sherley Haratz

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erik Martinez-Westley

  17. 4 out of 5

    J Michael

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rich Herlin

  19. 4 out of 5

    Enrique Restrepo

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  21. 5 out of 5

    Diego De Obaldía

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lorenzo Kebede

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dan Galster

  27. 4 out of 5

    Gail Dottin

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eduardo De la calle

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Duke

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