HC Deb 07 March 1853 vol 124 cc1222-3

said, that, seeing the noble Lord the Member for the City of London in his place, he wished to ask him a question of great importance, not only to this country, but to the whole world. It was as regarded the formation of a ship canal through the Isthmus of Darien, to communicate between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. A publication had appeared of very great interest, communicated to the President of the United States in the form of a letter from the Hon. Mr. Everett, Secretary of State, on that subject, and as anything connected with the commerce of the world must be interesting to this country, especially to the parties who took an interest in the question, he begged to ask whether the Government had received any intimation on the subject of the undertaking, which was so much before the public, of opening a communication between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Isthmus of Darien, and, if so, whether they would be prepared to state their views upon that subject?


Sir, with respect to the question of my hon. Friend, which is on a most important subject, I beg to state, first, that with regard to the canal across the Isthmus of Darien, the recent intelligence which has been received induced the Government to think that the convention entered into with the United States would by no means answer the desired purpose, the projectors of that canal having changed their scheme from a canal which would admit merchant vessels of large size to a canal of a restrictive depth, and, in fact, one which would only be useful to coasting vessels. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, communicated with the Government of the United States upon that subject, declaring that the object originally contemplated by that plan would not be gained by the altered scheme. Lately there has been another plan proposed, which is, to make a ship canal of thirty feet depth through the Isthmus of Darien, having a very sufficient port at each end, so as to join the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The House will at once perceive that this is a subject of very great importance. So far as Her Majesty's Government have had an opportunity of judging, they would be very favourable to a plan of that kind, and they would he very glad if the United States Government would concur with them in favouring the plan, supposing, on examination of the country, it should be found to be practicable. I do not, of course, wish, on the part of the Government, to give any opinion upon the engineering questions involved, and upon other questions which are for others to consider; but, so far as the general outline of the plan is concerned, I hare to say that I think, if that plan could be adopted, it would tend very much to increase and favour the commerce of all nations.