Panama Canal. - The idea of connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by a canal across the Central American isthmus is as old as the 16th century; but no steps were taken to carry out any plan until Ferdinand de Lesseps, of Suez fame, convened in Paris in 1879 an international congress to discuss the plan of cutting through the Isthmus of Panama. On February 28, 1881, the first detachment of canal employes arrived at Colon; in 1882 the Canal Company purchased the Panama Railway. An expert commission to Panama in 1880 estimated that a canal could be made for 843,000,000 francs, but later De Lesseps announced that a tide-level canal without locks could be completed for 600,000,000 francs. Work was begun, and loans followed year after year, until the company was forced into liquidation in 1889. The Panama scandals followed (1892-93), with prosecutions and imprisonments (Lesseps, Eiffel, &c). In 1902 the United States arranged to purchase the existing works, with the right to finish the canal; but the necessary treaty was rejected by Colombia in 1903, whereon the department of Panama revolted (see above), and the new republic signed a treaty with the States in November 1903, giving the Americans full control of a strip of land on either side the canal, which is practically a dependency of the United States. The total cost of the canal to the United States is estimated to be about $200,000,000.