Panama affair

   The Panama affair was one of the most important financial scandals of the third republic. After having obtained from the Colombian government a territorial concession, Ferdinand de lesseps brought together at Paris an international congress with the idea of building an inter-oceanic canal in Panama (1879-81). Underestimating the technical difficulties of the enterprise that the engineers estimated would cost billions of francs and cause the death of many workers, de Lesseps appealed to the public and to leading financiers for funds. A large amount of the monies collected went toward press campaigns for the project. in 1887, de Lesseps abandoned his initial plan and asked gustave eiffel for help. He also had government approval, from various members of parliament and some ministers, to sell bonds. The campaign failed, and nearly 800,000 subscribers went bankrupt. Because of collusion between political and financial figures, the scandal was stifled until 1891, when an inquiry was opened regarding de Lesseps's finances. jacques REiNACH,a financier also involved, apparently committed suicide as a result of the scandal. De Lesseps was sentenced to five years in prison; the engineers involved, including Eiffel, to two (later reversed); and the scandal caused important political and ideological repercussions (a violent press campaign against Jewish financing started by the anti-Semite Edouard drumont in his newspaper, Le Libre Parole).

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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