Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 17 >> Lemurs to Lied Von Der Glocke >> Lesseps

Lesseps

canal, suez and time

LESSEPS, lEs'e'ps (Fr. le-seps), Ferdinand, VICOMTE DE, French diplomat: b. Versailles, 19 Nov. 1805; d. 7 Dec. 1894. He entered the diplomatic service in 1828, and after being'con sul at various places was Ambassador to Mad rid in 1848-49. In 1854 he went to Egypt at the invitation of the viceroy, Said Pasha. This gave opportunity for the development of a plan that had been developing in his mind for 20 years. He there sketched a plan for canalizing the Isthmus of Suez, obtained a concession from the viceroy for building the same and in 1856 published a report on the subject. He encountered all sorts of opposition, chiefly from the English, who feared that the new waterway would be under antagonistic control. Prom inent engineers questioned its feasibility, and the Turks, under English influence, refused permission to utilize Turkish territory. The work was at last begun in 1859, and carried to completion under De Lesseps' supervision in 1869. (See SUEZ CANAL). He also planned the unfortunate Panama Canal (q.v.), and after the company was dissolved in 1889, judicial proceed ings were taken against De Lesseps and other directors for maladministration of funds and bribery, and he was condemned to imprisonment.

As he was then much advanced in years, it is probable that the errors of this enterprise, were mainly chargeable to others, and that his reputa tion was borrowed for this work after he had passed his active usefulness. The plans were changed from time to time, much money was wasted, until it became evident that the work could not be completed with available funds, and the crash came in 1888, when De Lesseps was 83 years old. (See PANAMA CANAL). He was elected to the Academy of Sciences in 1875, and to the Academie Francaise in 1884. Among his writings arc Winoire a l'Aca•inie des Sciences sur le Nile Blanc et la Soudan'; 'Principaux Faits dc l'Histoire 'Letters, Journal et Documents relatifs a l'His toire du Canal de Suez' (1875-81), crowned by the Academy; 'Souvenirs de Quarante (1887), and du Canal do (1890). Consult biographies by Bertrand and Ferrier (1%7) and by Smith (2d ed., 1895).