At the request of Congress in 1899, President William McKinley appointed a commission of military officers, government officials, and engineers to determine the cost and most practical route of constructing a canal under U.S. control and ownership. Seated in the front row at the far left is renowned engineer George S. Morison, the commissionís primary proponent of a Panama route.

Most of the members of the Isthmian Canal Commission favored a canal across Nicaragua. Civil engineer George S. Morison wrote the minority views in the Commissionís 1901 report to Congress. He sent this letter to President Theodore Roosevelt explaining the technical reasons for his preference for Panama. The letter helped persuade Roosevelt that Panama was the best route.

The authors of this Scientific American article concluded that construction would be feasible in both Nicaragua and Panama. A Nicaraguan canal would be closer to the United States but four times longer than one in Panama.

Proponents of a Panama canal route emphasized the threat of active volcanoes and earthquakes in Nicaragua, neither of which plagued Panama.

Although many in Congress and two presidential canal commissions favored Nicaragua, President Theodore Roosevelt, convinced of Panamaís technical merits, decided the canal would be built there.