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President Buchanan asks Congress for powers to intervene in Central America to protect U.S. citizens and trade routes

James Buchanan, engraving, circa 1860, detail
Buchanan sought authority to send U.S. ground and naval units to protect the transit of American citizens and trade across the isthmus of Panama. Increasingly important as a short-cut to the west coast ports of California and increasingly vulnerable to political upsets, the three routes in the area had been disrupted several times during the past few years, most notably in an April 1856 riot in Panama that claimed the lives of fifteen foreign passengers in transit. (By John Osborne)
Source Citation: 
Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Central America, Volume III  (San Francisco, CA: History Company, 1887), 522.