T10E GATEWAY OF THE OCEANS.
Tn:s forcing of the barrier which for three hundred years has de- fied and imperilled the commerce of the world seems now an event at hand. One half of the contract for the junction of the At- lantic and Paeifle, obtained from the state of Nicaragua last year by the promptitude of the Americans is to be held at the option of English capitalists ; and an understanding is at length announ- ced, that if the contemplated shikcanal can be constructed on conditions that shall leave no uncertainty as to the profitableness of the enterprise, it is to be carried forward with the influence of our highest mercantile firms. The necessary surveys have been actually commenced; and as a temporary route is at the same time being opened, an amount of information is likely soon to be col- lected which will familiarize us with each point regarding the ca- pabilities of the entire region. It is understood, moreover, that when the canal-surveys shall be completed, they are to be submit- ted to the rigid scrutiny of Government engineers both in Eng- land and the United States; so that before the public can be called upon to consider the expediency of embarking in the undertaking, every doubt in connexion with it, as far as practical minds are concerned, will have been removed.
The immediate steps now in course of adoption may be explained in a few words. At present the transit across the Isthmus of Panama occupies _four days, and its inconveniences and dangers are notorious. At Nicaragua, it is represented, the transit may possibly be effected in one day, and this by a continuous steam- route with the exception of fifteen miles by mule or omnibus. The passage would be up the San Juan, across Lake Nicaragua to the town of that name, and theme to the port of San Juan del Sur on the Pacific. On arriving at this terminus, (which is considerably South of the one contemplated for the permanent canal, namely Ileakjo,) the passenger would find himself some six or seven hun- dred miles nearer to California than if he had crossed at the Isth- mus of Panama ; and as the rate of speed of the American steam- ers on this service is upwards of three hundred miles a day, his saving of three days in crossing, coupled with the saving in sea distance, would be equivalent to a toter of fifteen hundred miles, measured in relation to what is accomplished by those vessels. A lower charge for the transit, and a comparatively healthy climate, are also additional inducements; and under these circumstances, anti- cipations are entertained that the great tide of traffic will be turned in the new direction. This tide, according to the last accounts from Panama, was kept up at the rate of 70,000 persons a year ; and it was expected to increase. The navigability of the San jinn, however, in its present state, remains yet to be tested. The American company who have ob- tained the privilege of the route have sent down two vessels of light draught, the Nicaragua and the Director, for the purpose of forthwith placing the matter beyond doubt. At the last date, the Director had safely crossed the bar at its mouth, and was preparing to ascend : the Nicaragua had previously gone up the Colorado, a branch river, where, it is said through the carelessness of her engineer, she had run aground upon a sand- bank, though without sustaining any damage. The next accounts will possess great interest. Whatever may be the real capabilities of the river, accidents and delays must be anticipated in the first trial of a new method of navigating it: even in our own river the Thames, the first steamer could scarcely have been expected to make a trip from London Bridge to Richmond without some mis- hap. Should, therefore, the present experiment show any dear indications of success, there will be reasonable ground for congra- tulation; and it forms so important a chapter in the history of en- terprise, that all must regard it with good wishes. if the results of this temporary transit should realize the expect- ations it seems to warrant, there can be little doubt the completion of the canal will soon be commenced with ardour. Supposing the surveys should show a cost not exceeding the sum estimated in 1837 by Lieutenant Baily, the prospect of the returns would, there is reason to believe, be much larger than the public have at any time been accustomed to suppose. There is also the fact that the increase of these returns can know no limit so long as the commerce of the world shall increase ; and indeed, already the idea of the gains to accrue appears to have struck some minds with such force as to lead them to question if the privileges which have been granted are not of a kind so extraordinarily favourable that they will sooner or later be repudiated by the State of Nicaragua. No such danger, however, exists; as the company are guaranteed in the safe pos- session of all their rights by the treaty of protection which has been ratified between Great Britain and the United States.
One most important sign in favour of the quick completion of the ship-canal is now furnished in the circumstance that there are no rival. routes. At Panama, a cheap wooden railway is to be constructed, which will prove serviceable for much of the passen- ger-traffic to Peru and Chili ; but the project for a canal at that point has been entirely given up. The same is the case at Tehu- antepec where the difficulties are far greater than at Panama.
It is Tehu- antepec, the question naturally arises, whether if an explora- tion were made of other parts of Central America or New Grenada, some route might not be discovered which might admit of the con- struction of a canal even at a less cost than will be necessary at Nicaragua. But in a matter which concerns the commerce of the whole world for ages, there are other points to be considered be- sides mere cheapness ; and those who have studied the ad- vantages of Nicaragua maintain that enough is known of the whole country both North and South of that State, to establish the fact that she possesses intrinsic capabilities essential to the per-
fectness of the entire work, which are not to be found in any other quarter, and for the absence of which no saving of any immediate sum would compensate. In the first place, it is nearer to Ca- lifornia by several hundred miles than any other route that could be pointed out except Tehuantepec, while at the same time it is so central as duly to combine the interests both of the North- ern and Southern countries of the Pacific ; in the next place, it contains two magnificent natural docks, where all the vessels in the world might refresh and refit ; thirdly, it abounds in natural products of all kinds, and is besides comparatively well-peopled ; fourthly, it possesses a temperature which is relatively mild, ' while it is also in most parts undoubtedly healthy ; and ' finally, it has a harbour on the Pacific, which, to use the words of Dunlop in his book on Central America, is as good as any port in the known world, and decidedly superior even to Portsmouth, Rio de Janeiro, Port Jackson, Taloujana, Callao, and Guayaquil. The proximity to California, moreover, settles the question as to American cooperation; which, it may be believed, would certainly not be afforded to any route further South, and without which it would be idle to contemplate the undertaking.
At the same time, however, it must be admitted that if any body of persons would adopt the example now set by the American company, and commence a survey of any new route at their own expense, they would be entitled to every oonsideration, and to rank as benefactors of the community, whatever might be the result of their endeavours. There are none who can help forward the enterprise, either directly or indirectly, upon whom it will not shed honour. That honour, too, will not be distant. The progress of the work will unite for the first time in a direct manner the two great nations upon whose mutual friendship the welfare of the world depends; and its completion will cause a revolution in com- merce more extensive and beneficent than any that has yet oc- curred, and which may still be so rapid as to be witnessed by many who even now are old.