Date of Award


Document Type



College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Thesis Advisor

Virginia Williams

Committee Member

Donald Rakestraw

Committee Member

J. Edward Lee


Panama, United States, Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, Panamanian Flag Riots, Carter-Torrijos Treaties, Sovereignty


After the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1903 the Panamanian people had to live in an occupied country. The U.S. took control of a ten-mile stretch of land surrounding a canal of immense importance to world trade. The U.S. policy makers ignored the pleas, complaints, and demonstrations of the Panamanian people as they struggled for sovereignty in their country. This thesis will show, through the use of primary sources from the U.S. government that U.S. policy makers refused to see the importance of sovereignty to the Panamanian people until the 1964 Panamanian Flag Riots. After that episode, U.S. policy makers dramatically shifted their ideas about Panamanian sovereignty and began working on handing the Canal to Panama. South Carolina politicians and others would continue to oppose sovereignty for Panama, while more moderate politicians prevailed in working toward a compromise for Panama, which resulted in the Carter – Torrijos Treaties of 1977.