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Back to Panama



The earliest mention of a canal across the isthmus of Central America dates back to 1534, when Charles V, king of Spain, suggested that a canal in Panama would ease the voyage for ships  travelling to and from Ecuador and Peru.

Given the strategic situation of Central America as a narrow land dividing two great oceans, other forms of trade links were attempted over the years. The ill-fated Darien Scheme was an attempt launched by Scotland in 1698 to set up an overland trade route, but was defeated by the generally inhospitable conditions, and abandoned in 1700.

An all-water route between the oceans was still seen as the ideal solution. On 1 January 1880 the French, under Ferdinand de Lesseps, began construction on a sea-level canal (i.e. without locks) through Panama. In 1893, the French scheme was defeated. The United States, under Theodore Roosvelt, bought out the French equipment and excavations, and began work in 1904, after helping Panama to declare independence from Colombia in exchange for control of the Canal Zone.

After WWII, the United States control over the canal and the zone surrounding it became contentious. Negotiations toward a more equitable settlement began in 1974, and resulted in the Torrijos-Carter Treaty. Signed by President Carter on 7 September 1977, this set in motion the process of handing the canal over to Panama.

Relations with the U.S. came to a crisis when Manuel Noriega took control of the country in 1981. In 1989 U.S. President George Bush launched an invasion of Panama and President Noriega was taken prisoner. On 31 December 1999 the treaty of 1977 came into force and control of the canal was handed over.

The Panama Canal Authority (Autoridad del Canal de Panamá, or ACP) is now the agency of the government of Panama responsible for the operation and management of the Panama Canal. The ACP took over the administration of the Panama Canal from the Panama Canal Comission (the joint US-Panama agency that managed the Canal) on the 31 December 1999.




Scottish Company Trading to Africa and the Indies



The colony at Darien, founded by the Scottish Company Trading to Africa and the Indies in 1698, was doomed almost from the beginning despite a good start and the establishment of New Edinburgh and New St. Andrews. What disease, religious intolerance, and starvation didn't accomplish the Spaniards finished. The original 1698 colonists abandoned their settlement and took to the high seas in the hopes of they knew not what. A relief expedition arrived in 1700 and included Captain Campbell and 200 men. Learning that a Spanish force of 1,600 was encamped at Toubacanti across the Isthmus and was only waiting the appearance of its supporting fleet to advance against him, Campbell led his force the very day after it disembarked and under cover of night assaulted the Spaniards. His attack successful, Campbell returned to the Scottish embarkation point only to find it under attack by the Spanish fleet that had been expected at Toubacanti. After unsuccessfully attempting to repel the attack, Campbell and a few friends found a small boat and made their escape. The colonists left behind surrendered and some eventually made their way to Jamaica but most never saw Scotland again. Campbell was awarded a medal in gold showing the achievement of the Company. His companions and the directors of the ill-advised Scottish trading company may have received silver strikings. The miserable survivors of the expedition got nothing. [1]


Arms of the Company

Univ. of Glasgow Library, (Sp Coll Spencer f51) [2]


The arms are:

Arms: Azure, a saltire argent, between a ship under sail flagged of Scotland in chief proper, a Peruvian sheep in base, a camel on the dexter and an elephant on the sinister [proper], the first two of these loaded and the last bearing a turret of the second.

Crest: A rising sun.

Supporters: Dexter an Indian, sinister a Negro “au naturel,” each bearing on his shoulder a cornucopia

Motto: In an escroll above, “Qua panditur orbis, and in the table of the compartment this symbol, “Vis unita fortior.” (Wherever the world extends, united strength is stronger).


[Matriculated in Lyon Register, 10th July 1696.] [3]


Gold medal of Alexander Cambell, 1703


Canal Zone Isthmus of Panama



Picture: H.d.V

A coat of arms for the Canal Zone  Isthmus of Panama was adopted on 8 June 1915. It is:


Arms: Or, a ship with sails unfurled affrontée, flying the American flag on the main, between two canal shores Purpure and sailing on the waves of the canal proper; in a chief is the coat of arms of the United States of America: paly of thirteen Argent and Gules, a chief Azure.



This coat of arms is on the seal of the Canal Zone with the legend: seal of the canal zone  isthmus of panama.[4]


Panama Canal Commission / Comision del Canal de Panamá



Even before the death of Omar Torrijos on 1 August 1981, the President of the U.S. adopted a new seal for the Canal Zone as agreed by the Torrijos-Carter Treaty. The Presidential Executive Order reads:


Executive Order 12304 of April 29, 1981


Seal for the Panama Canal Commission

By the authority vested in me as President of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. There is approved for the official use of the Panama Canal Commission a seal approved by the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Commission, and described as follows:

A view of a lower lock chamber of the Panama Canal, showing the bow end of a ship in an upper chamber, behind a closed gate, flanked on the left by a control house and on the right by a towing locomotive and three lamp standards. The ship colors to be dull red hull with white trim, white superstructure, white king posts, and gray funnel. The lock walls, control house and lamp standards to be white. The control house roof to be dull red. The lock gate and towing locomotive to be gray. The sky to be light blue and the water to be azure blue. All to be encircled with a white band edged in navy blue and containing the inscription “PANAMA CANAL COMMISSION * COMMISSION DEL CANAL DE PANAMA *” in navy blue letters.

Sec. 2. The design of the seal is attached hereto and made a part of this Order.

Signature of Ronald Reagan



April 29, 1981. [5]


Autoridad del Canal de Panamá



The logo of the Authority consists of the cypher ACP, the name AUTORIDAD DEL CANAL DE PANAMÁ and the outline of two halves of a five-pointed star parted per fess.


Æ See illustration in the head of this essay



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© Hubert de Vries, 2013-03-01. Updated 2014-09-17


[1] Text from:  http://www.stacksarchive.com/viewlot.php?auction=ST0106&lot=791&auclink=#fullimagefullimage. With a picture of the medal struck after the disaster, sold at an auction 1983.

[2] http://universityofglasgowlibrary.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/scotlands-failed-colony-the-darien-scheme/darien_logo/

[3] Fox-Davies, A.-C.: The Book of Public Arms, 1915,  p. 714. A color picture on: http://www.rbs.com/about/history-100/shaping-our-future-together/darien-company-subscribers-1696.html

[4] http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/panamacanal_civilserv.htm

[5] http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Executive_Order_12304


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