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This Week in History
May 11 - 17, 1890

May 12, 1890

Connecting the American Continents
to Raise Living Standards for All

by Anton Chaitkin
May 2014

Library of Congress digital ID cwpbh.03708. Authors: Matthew Brady (1822-96), Levin Corbin Handy (1855-1932)
James G. Blaine between 1870 and 1880.

On May 12, 1890, Secretary of State James G. Blaine submitted to President Benjamin Harrison and Congress a plan for a “survey for a railway line to connect the great commercial cities of the American hemisphere.”

After taking office in 1889, Secretary Blaine had immediately pulled together a Pan American Conference: Representatives of the U.S. and Central and South American republics met in Washington to discuss a customs union and other measures to develop modern conditions, and to unite the Americas against British imperial designs.

The plan Blaine presented on May 12 had been agreed on by the hemispheric conference.

Blaine reported that “the railways of Mexico have been extended southward, as well as northward, and toward the two oceans. The development of the Argentine system has been equally rapid. Lines of track now reach from Buenos Aires to the northern cities . . . and nearly to the Bolivian boundary. Chile has a profitable system of railroads from the mountains to the Pacific Ocean, and the completion of the tunnel that is now being pierced through the Cordilleras will bring Valparaiso within two days’ travel of Buenos Aires. In the other republics similar enterprise has been shown. Each has its local lines of railway, and to connect them all and furnish the people of the Southern Continent the means of convenient and comfortable intercourse with their neighbors north of the Isthmus [of Panama] is an undertaking worthy of encouragement and co-operation of this Government.”

A Commission was formed to do the survey and plan the great project. The chairman was Alexander Cassatt, a Pennsylvania railroad executive who was part of Philadelphia’s nationalist economics leadership grouping around Lincoln’s advisor, Henry C. Carey (1793-1879).

U.S. President William McKinley.

U.S. Army engineers and other military and civilian personnel, aided by Latin American experts and governmental authorities, mapped out 5,456 miles of new rail lines that were to connect with thousands of miles already in operation in North and South America. Blaine died in 1892, and the completed proposal—an eight-volume report with 123 illustrations and 311 maps and profiles—was presented in 1898 to President William McKinley, Blaine’s pro-nationalist protégé. McKinley was discussing this and other plans for hemispheric cooperation at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, when he was shot to death.              

Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, taking the Presidency by the bullet, cast the project aside. Seeking to demonstrate that the United States was allied with Britain , which feared the USA’s anti-colonial, cooperative role, TR broke off negotiations with Colombia for the cooperative construction of a Panama Canal, and staged a phony revolution to break off the Panama state from Colombia.

To the present day, no railroad, nor even any automobile road passes between North and South America. Now the British “Free Trade” doctrine and the Green Agenda spread poverty and misery throughout the hemisphere.