The Panama Canal: for an enquiry into its financing, a policeman guards a prison-cell in which some of the principals are remanded. Watercolour drawing by H.S. Robert, ca. 1897.
- Robert, H. S.
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After the success of the Suez canal, the engineer Ferdinand De Lesseps turned his attention to building a canal through the isthmus of Panama. In 1879 a company was formed for this purpose, the Compagnie universelle du canal interocéanique de Panama, in which De Lesseps, his son Charles, and Gustave Eiffel were involved. The company raised a large amount of capital mainly from small investors, their prospects having been exaggerated by the press, parliamentarians, government ministers, and the banks, all of whom were later alleged to have been receiving bribes from the company's financiers, especially Baron De Reinach and Cornelius Herz (both Jewish). In 1889 the company collapsed and many of the shareholders were ruined. After a period of government cover-up, the scandal was revealed in 1892, an enquiry was instituted and those involved were prosecuted. Baron De Reinach died (either from natural causes or by suicide; one of the present drawings shows him being murdered), Ferdinand and Charles De Lesseps and Gustave Eiffel were sentenced to prison terms (which they never served), and Herz fled to England: the present drawings show him living in Bournemouth and claiming that his diabetes gave him not long to live. The antisemitism to which the matter gave rise contributed to the climate of the Dreyfus Affair, which started in 1894. The enquiry finally issued its report in 1897, which may be the date of the drawings of which this is one: Herz, shown in these drawings as still alive, died in the following year, having suffered cruelly from diabetes (whence the title of this series, "Un diabétique")
1 drawing : pencil and watercolour ; sheet 14.7 x 10.5 cm.
Ce qui fut la cause de la fermeture de la porte d'un cachot humide sur bien des administrateurs car ...
Maron J. Simon, The Panama affair, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 
Wellcome Library no. 532772i
Author tentatively identified as "H.S. Robert" from indistinct signature on all the drawings, apparently consisting of H and R in monogram with a small s between them, the R being the initial letter of Robert. Noone of this name has yet been identified from other sources