Review (1887) of Gustave de Molinari’s
In Panama (1886)

by George H. Baker

À Panama. L’Isthme de Panama. La Martinique. Haiti. Lettres addressées au Journal des Débats. Par G. DE MOLINARI. Paris, Guillaumin et Cie, 1886. – 16mo, xi, 324 pp.

GM-PMH.1 This book is made up of letters written by the accomplished editor-in-chief of the Journal des Economistes, describing a formal visit to the Isthmus of Panama.
GM-PHM.2 In 1886, De Lesseps, the versatile head of the Panama Canal enterprise, took out a party of invited guests – representatives of the chambers of commerce of several French cities, economists, journalists, and others whose position gives them influence on public opinion in France – on a tour of inspection to report the progress and condition of the undertaking which is making such demands on French capital. Professor de Molinari was invited by double right, – as an eminent economic authority and a journalist of wide influence.
GM-PHM.3 The book, which is an unambitious but very readable performance, gives a good account of the history, progress, and present condition of the great enterprise. The author saw the canal under the most favorable circumstances, with an accompaniment of banquets, processions of young girls in white, addresses of welcome to “le grand Français,” that remarkable man, De Lesseps; but he gives in figures and statements sufficient substantiation for the opinions he expresses. He has no doubt that the canal will be completed, and reasonably near the estimates of time and expense. He claims with apparent justice that no proportion between the time and money already spent and the amount of actual excavation done would hold good for the whole work, since vast sums have necessarily been expended on preliminary operations, machinery, railways, hospitals, and the entire apparatus for making canals through wild jungles, which will continue to be useful through the entire work. The engineers represented to him a year ago that the work was probably one-third done. He sees the glory and prestige of France pledged to carry out the undertaking; failure would be for France an economic Sedan. Constantly hovering in the background there appears to the author’s eyes the wily New Yorker with his dollars, waiting a moment of weakness or doubt on the part of France, to buy for a song the half-finished work, taking with it commercial superiority and the control of the South American market.
GM-PHM.4 A trip to Martinique and Hayti gives opportunity for many pertinent observations on the economic conditions of these islands, but offers less that is new and interesting than the stay at the Isthmus.

Political Science Quarterly 2, no. 2 (June 1887), pp. 360-61.

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