The idea of a passage between North and South America is older than their respective names. Christopher Columbus had searched in vain for a water passage through the land that would lead him to the Indies where riches awaited him. Napoleon III of France had once toyed with the idea of building a canal in France's land across the sea, but nothing ever became of it. Perhaps because it would have been a high-risk operation involving lots of money and feats of ingenuity never attempted on a large scale.
No real progress was ever made, other than ideas and brainstorming, until the nineteenth century when a French individual named Ferdinand de Lesseps thought that it was time for a French-owned canal at Panama. He began convincing his countrymen that such a canal would make them famous and rich. Large business agreements were made and stock was sold for Lesseps new company the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique. The results of this stock sale were unsettling for the French. The company was only able to raise eight percent of what Lesseps had hoped for- 30 million francs of his requested 400 million francs.
To understand France's failure in the building of the canal you must understand the physical geography of what is now the country of Panama in South America. At the time of the French canal construction the area was a republic of Columbia. Panama borders Costa Rica, Columbia, the Caribbean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean. Its strategic location is on the eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America. The purpose of the canal was to link the North Atlantic Ocean via the Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean. The total area of the country is 78, 200 sq km. The ethnic composition is 64 percent Mestizo, 14 percent Black and Mulatto, 10 percent white, 8 percent Amerindian, and 4 percent Asian. The official name of the country is RepÃºblica de PanamÃ¡. The land use is forested 43.8%; meadows and