28 JUNE 1940, Page 5

Philatelists will find an interesting stamp story in M. Andre

Siegfried's new book on the Suez and Panama Canals. In 19o2, when the American Senate was sharply divided on the vital question of whether the projected Atlantic-Pacific water- way should follow a Panama or a Nicaragua route—Nicaragua being at the moment a strong favourite—the volcano, Mt. Pelee, in the French island of Martinique in the Caribbean Sea, erupted, with disastrous consequences to life and property. To a French engineer, M. Bunau-Varilla, who was an ardent sup- porter of the Panama route, this came as a godsend. Nicaragua, with a certain rashness, had just issued a postage-stamp show- ing, apparently as one of the characteristics of the country, a smoking volcano. Immediately the alert Frenchman obtained 90 of the stamps and sent one to each of the 90 members (the number is 96 today, but was 90 then) of the Senate, with a few pointed words typed beneath. The effect was decisive. The Senate forthwith reversed an almost unanimous vote it had given a few months earlier in favour of the Nicaragua route and resolved irrevocably to build the canal at Panama. The House of Representatives agreed, and the Nicaragua route was dead.

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