Treaty Regarding the Sale and Lease of Properties Across the Isthmus of Panama for the Construction of a Ship Canal 1903 United States-Colombia

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HAY-HERRÁN TREATY was signed by Secretary of State John M. Hay and Dr. Tomás Herrán, the Colombian minister, on 22 January 1903. It allowed the French-controlled New Panama Canal Company to sell its option on a canal route through Panama to the United States. In addition, Colombia would give the United States a 100-year lease on a ten-kilometer-wide strip of land across Panama for construction of a canal. The United States agreed to pay Colombia $10 million and an annuity of $250,000 starting nine years after ratification of the treaty. The U.S. Senate approved the treaty in March 1903. In August of that year, however, the Colombian Senate rejected the treaty. The primary arguments against the treaty centered on the question of money and issues of Colombian sovereignty. President Theodore Roosevelt was furious at the Colombian action, and in November 1903 a revolution broke out in Panama that resulted in its independence from Colombia. Shortly thereafter, the United States signed an agreement with Panama giving America the right to construct a canal through that country.


Lael, Richard L. Arrogant Diplomacy: U.S. Policy Toward Colombia, 19031922. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1987.

Miner, Dwight C. The Right for the Panama Route: The Story of the Spooner Act and the Hay-Herrán Treaty. New York: Columbia University Press, 1940.

Michael L. Krenn

See also Panama Canal .