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Title: Historic Highways of America (Vol. 14) - The Great American Canals (Volume II, The Erie Canal)
Author: Hulbert, Archer Butler, 1873-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  The Great American Canals


  _With Maps and Illustrations_

  Volume II
  The Erie Canal






  PREFACE                                     11
  III. CLINTON'S MEMORIAL                     62
  APPENDIXES                                 211


    I. VIEW OF OLD ERIE CANAL BASIN AT BUFFALO          _Frontispiece_

        "Travaux d'améliorations intérieures ... des
        États-Unis d'Amérique de 1824 à 1831"--Paris, 1834)        107

        OF FORT STANWIX                                            117

        LOCK 37 IN THE DISTANCE                                    133

        report of February 12, 1901)                               205


This second monograph on the great American canals which played the part
of important highways westward, is devoted to an outline of the Erie
Canal. In the comparatively short space at our disposal for so great a
theme, it has been possible only to sketch some of the leading features
of our subject, namely, the early history of the Mohawk Valley route,
the origin of the canal idea, its building, the celebration of its
completion, a catalogue of its finances and enlargements, and its

Our sources have been the state _Reports_, Sweet's _Documentary
History_, Hawley's _Origin of the Erie Canal_, and the various state and
local histories which treat of the subject. A monograph, in the form of
a thesis, by Julius Winden, has been of great advantage, as will be
indicated, in presenting the influence of the Erie Canal upon the
population along its course.

The author is under a debt of gratitude to Hon. A. R. Spofford of the
Congressional Library, Hon. John S. Billings of the New York Public
Library, and T. M. Ripley of Marietta, Ohio, for advice and assistance.

                                                              A. B. H.

MARIETTA, OHIO, March 4, 1904.

The Great American Canals

Volume II

The Erie Canal



The "great western" route through New York State to the Lakes has come
under consideration in our study of highways in three places: as an
Indian trail, as a portage path, and as a pioneer road. The old Iroquois
Trail, as we have called it, ran up the Mohawk, which it crossed at
Nun-da-da-sis, "around the hill," (Utica); thence it made for the
Genesee River and the Niagara frontier; an important tributary pathway
led down the Genesee to Swa-geh (Oswego) on Lake Ontario. This was the
landward route from the Hudson to the Great Lakes. As a thoroughfare in
its entirety, it meant much to the Indians, but very little to the white
men before the nineteenth century. Though the lower Mohawk Valley was
sparsely settled early in the eighteenth century, white men did not
build their cabins along the Iroquois Trail to the westward until
nearly a century later, when the old Genesee Road was opened. Until then
the country through which the Iroquois Trail ran had been a _terra
incognita_ where only Indian runners knew the way through the Long House
of the Iroquois. Yet it was a pleasant country for all the forest
shades; from Nun-da-da-sis the trail ran on, leaving the Mohawk River
and Ole-hisk, "the place of nettles"--the famed battlefield of
Oriskany--to the north, passing Ka-ne-go-dick (Wood Creek) and
Ga-no-a-lo-hole (Lake Oneida), the "Lake of the Head on a Pole."[1] To
the southward, the path bore away toward Na-ta-dunk (Syracuse), the
place of the "broken pine-tree," and Ga-do-quat (Fort Brewerton). There
were the silver lakes strung like white gems on wreaths of heaviest
green. The low lands of the Genesee country, soon to see the great
advances heralded by the famous purchases of land speculators,
intervened; and straight beyond, far away across the pine-tree tops,
gleamed the Great Lakes and the plunging river between them; the deep
growl of Niagara seemed to warn voyageurs away to the forest trails on
either side. Those falls were the only interruption in a water highway
which in many aspects is, today, the most stupendous in the world.

Had this winding trail been the only means of communication between the
rapidly filling Hudson River valley and the chain of lakes to the
northwest, it is very probable that a Braddock or a Forbes would have
built a military road even through that bloody Long House; but the
Mohawk River, and the Oswego, offered a waterway which, though difficult
and uncertain, was the white man's route from the Hudson to the
Lakes--the western war route of which the portage at Rome was the key. A
clear picture of the old Mohawk would be a precious possession. The
records, however, are so few and so general in character that one would
be at a loss to supply an artist with his material. It is only in the
staid reports of old navigation companies that we get any definite
description of our old-time rivers. We know of the main obstructions to
continuous navigation in the Mohawk; first there was the Ga-ha-oose
Falls, or Cohoes Falls as we know them today. These were impassable for
any craft, and made Schenectady the metropolis of the lower Mohawk
Valley because it was the Mohawk terminus of the difficult portage to
Albany through the pine barrens. Thus the old-time river traffic began
at Schenectady. Proceeding northward by Te-hon-de-lo-ga, the famous
lower castle of the Mohawks, and Ga-no-jo-hi-e, the middle castle, the
traveler passed the present Fonda, which was Ga-na-wa-da, "over the
rapids," and came to the rocky confines of Ta-la-que-ga, the "place of
small bushes"--the present Little Falls. Here the roaring rapids
interrupted all navigation, empty boats not even being able to pass over
them. The early portage of one mile here in sleds over the swampy ground
has been described as it was in 1756, when enterprising Teutons residing
here transferred all boats in sleds over marshy ground which would
"admit of no wheel carriage." In all of the military operations in the
Mohawk Valley in the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars this
portage played a part. As early as 1768, Governor Sir Henry Moore
suggested the improvement of the Mohawk at the Falls of Canajoharie. A
route for a canal around Niagara Falls was surveyed in 1784. Travelers
to Niagara with heavy baggage invariably went by way of the Mohawk
batteaus. We have seen that in 1793 two of the commissioners to the
western Indians, traveling light, went overland by horse to the Genesee,
while General Lincoln went with the heavy baggage by way of the
Mohawk.[2] From Schenectady to the Oneida Portage at Rome, Little Falls
offered the only insurmountable obstruction; later on, about 1790, we
find that the Germans' sleds were out of use and that boats were
transferred on wheeled vehicles appropriately fashioned to carry them
without damage to their hulls. No great boats could be transferred by
such means; this fact had a tendency to limit the carrying capacity of
Mohawk batteaus to about one and a half tons. These boats were operated
by three men, and a journey from Rome to Schenectady and return--one
hundred and twelve miles--required, at the least estimate, nine days.
Such was the high rate of freight that, if no return freight was
secured, the cost of sending a ton to Schenectady equaled one man's
wages for eighteen days, about fourteen dollars.

The improvement of the Mohawk before 1792 was, without doubt, of no real
consequence. Ascending boatmen and forwarding companies here and there
of necessity made the river passable, otherwise there could have been no
traffic at all. As one of our maps shows, as early as 1730 a neck of
land, in one instance, was cut through.[3] The batteaus which carried
provisions and ammunition northward to Fort Stanwix or Fort Schuyler
probably often broke a new way through the dams of forest driftwood
which the flood tides left; and at high tide there was, we know, good
downward navigation. Elkanah Watson must be remembered as one of the
pioneers in the improvement of the central New York waterway. In 1788
he made a western journey by way of the Mohawk, and his journal is full
of observations which show him to have been a far-sighted man with
correct ideas of the logical advance of commerce and the revolutions it
would make.[4] Returning from his journey October, 1791, he prepared all
the facts in favor of improving New York's western waterway, in the form
of a pamphlet which he presented to General Schuyler, then a member of
the state senate. He also contributed an anonymous article to one of the
papers in January, 1792, urging publicly the improvement of the Mohawk
and Oswego Rivers.[5]

Public interest being awakened, in one way or another, as to the value
of the river route westward, and the route up the Hudson and across to
Lake George and Lake Champlain, a bill was presented to the New York
legislature authorizing the formation of two companies to undertake the
work of improving these strategic passageways between the country east
of the state and the country west. Accordingly, on the thirtieth day of
March, 1792, the following act was passed by the legislature: _An Act
for establishing and opening Lock Navigation within this State_.[6] The
legal name of the company which was to operate on the Mohawk was the
"president, directors, and company of the western inland lock navigation
in the state of New-York." The word "northern" was inserted in the legal
name of the Hudson-Lake Champlain company, which was otherwise the same.
The two companies were chartered by one and the same act, on exactly the
same basis; we will consider, however, only the one under discussion.

The Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, to operate between the
Hudson, and Lake Seneca and Lake Ontario, was to be capitalized at
$25,000; one thousand shares of twenty-five dollars each, no stockholder
being allowed more than ten shares. The subscription books were ordered
to be opened at New York and Albany on the first Tuesday of May, 1792,
and kept open until the last Tuesday. If five hundred shares were taken
the organization became effective. Thirteen directors were to control
its affairs and they were to be elected annually. Article VII authorized
"... each of the said corporations ... [to] enter into, and upon all and
singular the land and lands covered with water, where they shall deem it
proper to carry the canals and navigation hereinbefore particularly
assigned to each...." The stipulations usually made in such cases, as to
the company's right to enter land by paying damages, were nominated. The
controlling officers were empowered to name the per cent of stock the
stockholders were to be required to pay. They were also to decide upon
the rates of toll to be charged to boats for the enjoyment of benefits
of navigation; the one restriction was that the charge for one ton of
freight from Ontario or Seneca lakes to the Hudson should not exceed
twenty-five dollars, and other tolls were to be pro rata. The directors
were to be allowed to increase the capital stock at discretion, and
were ordered to make semiannual reports to the public. After ten years
an abstract record was to be published for the inspection of the
legislature, and if the profits were found to exceed fifteen per cent,
the excess above this amount they were to turn over to the state
treasurer. The act of incorporation also stipulated that the company's
charter became void if work was not undertaken in five years; if the
work was not completed in fifteen years, all rights, so far as the
residue was concerned, were to be forfeited. The state of New York
promised to give, as a free gift, to both the Western and the Northern
companies, $12,500 as soon as both had invested $25,000 in the work on
which they were starting.

On December 22, 1792, the act was amended as the lessons of the season
seemed to indicate that there was necessity. The principal amendments
were that the locks built on the company's works should have a breadth
of not less than ten feet at the base and should have a length of not
less than seventy feet between gates. The company was to be allowed, in
the future, to take up land without first having paid for it--settlement
to be made afterward in proper legal form. The land under all locks was
vested in the company owning the locks.[7]

It would seem from Elkanah Watson's account that, when these
subscription books were opened for signatures of prospective
stockholders, there were absolutely no subscribers forthcoming. "They
had been opened three days by the committee," he wrote from New York
where he happened to be in April (?), "at the old coffee-house, and not
a share was subscribed. I considered the cause hopeless--called on my
friend (I think it was) James Watson, Esq., and induced him, with much
pursuasion, to subscribe twenty [?] shares; from that moment the
subscriptions went on briskly. On my arrival in Albany, the
commissioners had kept the books open several days, at Lewis's old
tavern, in State street, and no mortal had yet signed to exceed _two
shares_. I immediately subscribed seven in each company...." Watson
also wrote to Schuyler of the low state of affairs; the latter ordered
him to subscribe to ten shares in Schuyler's name.[8]

A committee appointed by the directors of the Western Company, August
14, 1792, consisting of Philip Schuyler, Goldsbrow Bangar, and Elkanah
Watson, to examine the Mohawk from Fort Schuyler (Rome) to Schenectady,
reported in the following September. Accompanied by the surveyor Moses
De Witt, and Mr. Lightall, a carpenter, and a Mr. Nesbit, the committee
left Schenectady August 21 in a batteau, and reached Fort Schuyler on
the twenty-ninth. Their itinerary gives us a picture of the old river,
and preserves valuable facts for local historians.[9] The first day's
journey was six and one-half miles to John Mabey's, half a mile above
Jacobus Swart's. Six rapids were passed, over which the water ran, on
the average, a foot and a half deep--the river then having the least
water running "within the memory of the eldest person." The night of the
twenty-second was spent at John Fonda's, seventeen and three-fourths
miles up the river; in this distance were five sharp rapids and many
small rapids with shallow water, as at Sir William Johnson's "first
settlement," eight and one-half miles above Mabey's. The night of the
twenty-third was spent at Mr. Nellis's, nineteen and three-fourths miles
on; one mile above Fonda's was "Caughnawaga rift, deep, incommoded with
large rocks;" nine miles onward, lay Kettar's rapid, and two and a half
miles on was Colonel John Fry's. A journey of four miles the next day
brought the examiners to Fort Hendrick, four and a half miles below
Little Falls. "From the landing at the foot [of Little Falls], to the
landing at the head of the Falls, is about three-quarters of a mile, the
height thirty-nine feet two inches, the ground stony, rocky and rough."
It will be seen that this was not the old-time portage over which boats
were drawn on sleds. Two days were spent examining this strategic fall.
Proceeding on the twenty-seventh, Fort Schuyler, about fifty miles
distant, was reached on the twenty-ninth. The navigation throughout this
distance was good with but two rapids, Orendorff's and Wolf's.

The recommendations of the committee affirm that the work at Little
Falls will be the most important and expensive single work, and would
consist of a canal by which river craft can overcome the fall of nearly
forty feet; in addition to the canal "a strong work ... to prevent the
Canal and Locks from being overflowed, and damaged in high freshes; at
this point two guard gates at the distance of seventy feet from each
other must be placed; the surface of the ground here is eight feet eight
inches above the level of the water in the river above the falls, and,
as three feet ought to be given for the depth of the water in the Canal,
the depth to be dug at this point will be nearly twelve feet.... Many
large stones and rocks, and probably much solid rock will be found in
all the distance ... which is 1666 feet; the quantity of earth, stone,
and rock to be removed in this space, if the Canal has ten feet base,
will be about 242,200 cubic feet. [For] 422 feet the Canal must be
confined by a double dyke, or embankment, about four feet high; [for]
123 feet the whole depth to be dug is about 4-1/2 feet and contains
5,085 cubic feet; at various places to the water at the bottom of the
falls about 100,000 cubic feet of earth must be removed, and about 1,200
feet of a dyke to be made. An estimate of the expense of this work with
five Locks ... amounts to £10,500."

The improvement of the river from Schenectady to the mouth of the
Schoharie would call for an expenditure of £20,000 in dykes, dams, and
small canals.

At Rome a canal 5,352 feet long was proposed as a substitute for the
ancient portage path; "apparently the mean depth of the earth to be
removed for forming the Canal would be about twelve feet at the greatest
depth, hence about 642,240 cubic feet of earth must be removed. The
ground though soft is so much interwoven with the roots of trees, and
the work will also be so much retarded by the influx of water into the
Canal whilst digging, that it is supposed that one man could not remove
above fifty cubic feet per day, hence 12,845 days for one man would be
required; which at 4s. per day amounts to £2,569. In very dry times,
such as the present, the water in the Mohawk is so little that none can
be spared to increase the quantity in Wood Creek. A bulkhead must
therefore be placed ... precisely of the height with the level of the
water in the Mohawk, a boat then in this low state of the river coming
up Wood Creek ... must unlade, and be drawn across the bulkhead into the
Canal; there reloaded and proceed through the Canal into the Mohawk
River; but when the Mohawk River rises so much as that a quantity of
water equal to carry an empty boat is added to the water in the river,
the water on the bulkhead will rise to nearly that height, and the empty
boat will pass. If the rise be equal to the water drawn by a loaded
boat, the boat and its cargo will pass the bulkhead into the Canal. It
is evident by this arrangement the navigation of Wood Creek will be
much mended whenever the water in the Mohawk is higher than at present.
The whole expence at this place will probably not exceed £3,000."

Many of the general observations of this committee are important in the
history of water transportation across New York.

"Having premised thus much your Committee beg leave to observe, That
since (except in such an extraordinary dry season as the present) the
river from Schenectady to Scohara Creek is capable of considerable
navigation--is still better from thence to the Falls, and will be good
to Fort Schuyler, especially if the trees and timber are removed, That
therefore, except the removal of the trees and timber West of, and
blowing a few rocks on, some of the rapids, East of the Falls, nothing
further should be speedily attempted in the parts mentioned; but that
the primary exertions should be directed to the Canal and Locks at the
Falls; that when this is completed, the water in the river above, will
probably be sufficiently low to clear away the timber which incommodes
it, and to do the like by Wood-Creek down to the Oneida Lake, and to
remove the most dangerous rocks below the Falls. This accomplished, the
next in degree of eligibility, appears to your Committee, to extend the
navigation from Schenectady to the navigable waters of the
Hudson--because when with the improvements above suggested, the river
shall be rendered navigable in the greater part of its extent from Fort
Schuyler to Schenectady, in all seasons not so dry as the present, for
boats of considerable burthen; yet the portage from Schenectady to
Albany, is not only a very heavy charge on the produce of the upper
country, but attended with serious inconveniences to those who enter
largely into the interior commerce. To prepare for the accomplishment of
this apparently very necessary part of the navigation, your committee
recommend, That accurate surveys should be made, as early in the ensuing
spring as circumstances will permit, to enable the board to determine
the direction in which Canals are to run, to take the necessary
preliminary measures for providing the materials; that, if the works at
the Falls, &c., should be completed before the whole of the next
operating season is expired, the residue may be appropriated to this
important part of the navigation, and completed in the succeeding
year;--Soon after this shall be accomplished, the company will be
enabled to judge with precision, what farther is in their power, and if
what they have done, should prove beneficial to the community at large,
and the resources of the company be then found not competent to such a
perfect completion of the whole internal navigation, as is contemplated
by the act of incorporation, there can be little doubt but that an
enlightened Legislature will extend its aid, to objects promising such
extensive benefits to every class of citizens.

"It now remains for your Committee to venture an opinion on the mode of
conducting the contemplated improvements. The observations already made
will evince the necessity of strict economy in every operation. It will
certainly occur to the Directors, that in a work so extensive, as that
committed to them, much unnecessary expence, and much waste of time must
be incurred, unless the executive part of the business be properly
conferred; and your committee, to avoid this evil as much as possible,
recommend that the executive of the business should be committed to a
single directing head, to a man of known and acknowledged abilities, of
a mind so comprehensive, as to combine and form all the arrangements,
with a minute detail of each part....

"A Person who has had practical experience in making canals and locks,
would be a desirable and valuable acquisition, but such a person may not
be attainable in this country; if so, it has occurred to your committee,
that probably the defect might be supplied, if the person to whom the
general direction shall be committed was to select two or three of our
most ingenious and best informed carpenters, and repair with them to
view the works in Pennsylvania and Virginia, with a critical and close
attention. Canals and locks are already formed there, and little doubt
can be entertained but that every information which gentlemen are
capable of communicating will be afforded with alacrity; and your
committee have too good an opinion of their countrymen to apprehend,
that if your superintendant is a man of genius, and the mechanics who
accompany him men of approved reputation in their professions, they
would not after such an inspection be able to fulfil the wishes of their
employers with satisfaction and credit to both."

Work on the Mohawk River improvements[10] was begun in April, 1793, by a
force of three hundred men; the digging of the canal around the Little
Falls was the most important item in the difficult undertaking. Soon the
company's funds gave out and work ceased. It was begun again feebly in
January, 1794, in hopes that the next legislature would assist by
grants, loans, or money, or by subscribing to stock in the company. In
this the company was not disappointed, for the state subscribed to two
hundred shares of stock in each of the improvement schemes. In May,
1795, work was again resumed, and in November of that year boats could
go about Little Falls in the canal. It was opened November seventeenth
and on that day nine boats passed through gratis. In the next thirty
days "eight large boats, and one hundred and two small boats, passed the
little falls on the Mohawk, and paid toll in the aggregate of

This famous little canal, for in its day it was a very significant piece
of work, was 4,752 feet long; it contained five locks, each having a
lift of about nine feet; the total rise of boats ascending was
forty-four feet and seven inches. The locks were located at the lower
end of the canal; "the pits, in which they are placed, have been
excavated out of solid rock, of the hardest kind. The area of the
chambers was 74×12 feet, admitting boats drawing 3-1/2 feet; the depth
of water in the canal above the locks was three feet and would float
boats carrying 32 tons; the time of the passage was three quarters of an
hour. Nearly one-half of the canal (2550 feet) was cut through solid
rock and its total original cost was about $50,000."

At the same time, 1793, work was begun at other points, principally on a
canal from the Mohawk to the Hudson (to avoid Cohoes Falls), but the
work soon ceased because of lack of funds. In that summer the
preliminary work on the water route down Wood Creek and the Onondaga to
Lake Ontario was done. The little, winding creek was found to be almost
incorrigible. It was so crooked that thirteen cuts were made across the
points of land contained within its curving banks. The banks were lined
with aged trees whose predecessors had fallen into the narrow waterway
which they choked with their many huge, straggling branches. It was no
less a task to remove the débris from the waterway than it was to remove
from the banks the trees which would fall into the water during the next
windstorm. Many have written gaily of the swift canoes of the olden
days, gliding peacefully on the limpid surface of the old-time rivers; a
study of the condition of the old Mohawk, Susquehanna, or Ohio would
have corrected suggestions which are inherently misrepresentations. On
such smaller streams as Little River or Wood Creek, the havoc of the
wind was even more noticeable. The company now at work on Wood Creek
planned to clear the banks of timber for four rods back on each bank
and, by the report of 1796, the contracts were actually proposed to that
effect. The company had trouble with settlers along the rivers, for
felling trees which grew along the banks into the water, thereby saving
themselves the labor of burning them or hauling them away. The company
expected to cut a canal from the Mohawk to Wood Creek near Rome, New
York, to take the place of the famous portage path. In the report of
1796 it was proposed even to mortgage the works at Little Falls in order
to secure funds for this portage canal.

The plan of the complete communication was outlined by the company's
engineer, Mr. Weston, December 23, 1795, and was embodied in the report
of 1796. It called for a canal from the Hudson, above Lansing's Mill, to
the Mohawk above Cohoes Falls; these falls, seventy feet in height, had
made necessary the portage path through the pine barrens from
Schenectady to Albany. The surveyor spoke hopefully of the rapids
between Schenectady and Utica (Fort Schuyler) since rapids always
indicated pools above and below. The rapids were to be overcome by
small, low dams with oblique walls "to collect a greater quantity of
water in the channel and pond above." In the forty odd miles down Wood
Creek and Lake Oneida to Fort Brewerton, the "chief impediment is
occasioned by an old Indian ell wear [weir]--a wing wall to confine the
channel into a narrow compass."[12] At Oswego Falls (Rochester) a canal
was proposed on the south side of the river, sixty-two chains in length,
and with a fall of eighteen feet. Thence to Lake Ontario, twelve miles,
the rapidity of the river necessitated a series of dams and locks.
"Arrived at lake Ontario, it is almost superfluous to remark (what is so
obvious to every person the least acquainted with the geography of the
state) on the immense expanse of internal navigation, that opens upon
our view--the extent of these lakes (with one obstruction only, that
doubtless will be surmounted in a few years) presents to the mind--a
scene unequalled in any other part of the globe; offering to the
enterprising and adventurous, sources of trade, rapidly advancing to an
incalculable amount, ensuring a certain recompence to the individuals,
who promote, and the state, that patronizes their important
undertakings." Thus Mr. Weston concluded his report.

Yet the projectors of this work were men ahead of their days; in a great
measure public sympathy was not in favor of the undertaking, especially
along the line of operation. Here the strongest objections were raised,
some of them of a curious nature. One petition to the legislature read
that the operations on the Hudson "will Cause the Fish to wit Shad,
Herrin &c Totally to Abandon the North River, a circumstance which would
be felt not only by Your Petitioners but by thousands Residing between
Fort Edward and as far Southward as the River Extends."[13]

It was found to be all the company could do to keep things going on the
eastern division of their works; much less carry on the work in the
west. In ten years the company spent $367,743 and, in the end, sank
about $100,000 more. The greatest expense was in remedying faults and
failures. "... hence the expenditures baffled all calculation," frankly
writes Watson; "--besides, we were all novices in this department....
Indeed we were so extremely deficient in a knowledge of the science of
constructing locks and canals, that we found it expedient to send a
committee of respectable mechanics, to examine the imperfect works then
constructing on the Potowmac,[14] for the purpose of gaining
information--we had no other resource but from books."[15] Wooden locks
were built at Little Falls, German Flats, and Rome at large expense, and
these rotted in six years. It was wooden locks like these that the New
Yorkers had found the Virginians building on the Potomac. The locks at
German Flats and at Rome were rebuilt with brick, but the mortar was
poor and they fell to pieces. Finally, at all points, the locks were
built of stone. This experimenting was extremely expensive work and
explains why, for a long time, no dividends could be paid. Up to
December, 1804, the company had received $232,000, which was paid on
2,630 shares of capital stock. It had received $25,494 on forfeited
shares. The tolls at Little Falls since 1796, when the works there were
completed, amounted to $58,346; at Rome, $15,037 had been taken in as
tolls. The sum of $12,500 had been received as a gift from the state. Of
the total stock the state held $92,000, and the private stockholders,
$140,000. In 1798 a dividend of 3 per cent had been declared; in 1813, a
dividend of 3-1/2; in 1814, a dividend of 3; 4-1/2 per cent dividend was
paid in 1815, 8 per cent in 1816, 3 per cent in 1817, and 5-1/2 per cent
in 1818. All receipts from 1798 to 1813 had been absorbed in
improvements and repairs.[16]



The honor of originating the plan of a canal from the Great Lakes to the
Hudson will forever lie with the brilliant, visionary Gouverneur Morris.
The idea must have suggested itself to other minds even if it occurred
to Morris originally; this cannot be disproved; but Morris's shoulders
were broad enough for an honor too great for many, and his persistent
labors in behalf of the project are altogether consistent with this
verdict of a century. In 1777 Morris was known to have hinted of what we
know as the Erie Canal. In that year he was sent to General Schuyler's
army at Fort Edward, then slowly retiring before Burgoyne's advancing
regiments. Morgan Lewis, then quartermaster, later governor of New York,
leaves this testimony, in a letter dated May 26, 1828: "One evening in
particular, while describing in the most animated and glowing terms the
rapid march of the useful arts through our country, when once freed from
a foreign yoke; the spirit with which agriculture and commerce both
external and internal would advance; the facilities which would be
afforded them by the numerous water courses, intersecting the country,
and the ease by which they might be made to communicate; he announced,
in language highly poetic, and to which I cannot do justice, that at no
very distant day the waters of the great western inland seas would, by
the aid of man, break through their barriers and mingle with those of
the Hudson. I recollect asking him how they were to break through these
barriers. To which he replied, that numerous streams passed them through
natural channels, and that artificial ones might be conducted by the
same routes."[17]

In his diary for October, 1795, Morris describes his feeling on viewing
the Caledonian Canal in Scotland; "when I see this," he writes, "my mind
opens to a view of wealth for the interior of America, which hitherto I
had rather conjectured than seen."[18] In a letter to Mr. Parish in
January, 1801, he observes, after seeing a number of ships riding at
anchor in Lake Erie, "Hundreds of large ships will, at no distant
period, bound on the billows of these inland seas. At this point begins
a navigation of more than a thousand miles [to the extremity of Lake
Superior]. Shall I lead your astonishment up to the verge of
incredulity? I will. Know then that one-tenth of the expense, borne by
Britain in the last campaign, would enable ships to sail from London
through Hudson's River _into Lake Erie_."[19]

"The merit of first starting the idea of a direct communication by
water, between lake Erie and Hudson's river," wrote Simeon De Witt to
William Darby, February 25, 1822, "unquestionably belongs to Mr.
Gouverneur Morris. The first suggestion I had of it was from him. In
1803, I accidentally met with him at Schenectady. We put up for the
night at the same inn and passed the evening together. Among the
numerous topics of conversation, to which his prolific mind, and
excursive imagination, gave birth, was that of improving the means of
intercourse with the interior of our state. He then mentioned the
project of _tapping Lake Erie_, as he expressed it himself, and leading
its waters, in an artificial river, directly across the country to
Hudson's river. To this I very naturally opposed the intervening hills
and valleys as insuperable obstacles. His answer was in substance,
_labor improbus omnia vincit_, and that the object would justify the
labour and expense, whatever that might be. Considering this a romantic
thing, and characteristic of the man, I related it on several
occasions."[20] J. Geddes wrote William Darby, February 22, 1822, as
follows: "In the year of 1804, I learnt for the _first time_, from the
surveyor-general [Simeon De Witt] that Mr Gouverneur Morris, in a
conversation between them in the preceding autumn, mentioned the scheme
of a canal from lake Erie across the country to the Hudson river. The
idea of saving so much lockage by not descending to lake Ontario made a
very lively impression on my mind."[21]

With canal building going on in other portions of the country, it was
inevitable that the suggestion made by Morris could not down. The
opportunity offered here in central New York was so favorable, that a
people with only half the ambition and ability of New Yorkers would have
profited sooner or later by it. Having studied the tremendous tasks
undertaken by the Marylanders and Pennsylvanians, it can be understood
why the Erie Canal was under consideration at a comparatively early
date; the Mohawk offered a gateway through the northern foothills of the
Alleghenies, and beyond lay lakes and rivers in the direct route to Lake
Erie. There could be no question of water supply at the summit level;
the waterways to be crossed, however, might cause the engineers no
little trouble.

"I have not been able to trace," Mr. Watson leaves record, "any measure,
public or private, tending towards this great enterprize, till the 27th
October, 1807, when an anonymous publication, under the signature of
Hercules, appeared in the Genesee Messenger of Canandaigua, which is
attributed to Jesse Hawley, Esq. now [1820] collector of the port of
Rochester."[22] It is affirmed that these communications were not
inspired by the prophetic words of Morris;[23] they were fourteen in
number, and were contributed weekly from October, 1807, to March, 1808.
Hawley had thought out his problem with great seriousness and detail,
and had splendidly planned a canal from Buffalo to Utica, where improved
navigation on the Mohawk was to be depended upon. The cost he estimated
at five millions. It is not at all unlikely that Hawley's attention was
the more quickly attracted to this subject because of the celebrated
message of President Jefferson to Congress in this fall of 1807, just
when Hercules was writing his articles.

It was probably the general discussion of this great theme, more than
the result of any one influence, which led to the crystallization of the
movement, when on February 4, 1808, Joshua Forman, a member of the New
York legislature, from Onondaga County, offered the following bill:

"Whereas the President of the United States by his message to Congress,
delivered at their meeting in October last, did recommend that the
surplus money in the treasury, over and above such sums as could be
applied to the extinguishment of the national debt, be appropriated to
the great national objects of opening canals and making turnpike roads.
And whereas the state of New York, holding the first commercial rank in
the United States, possesses within herself the best route of
communication between the Atlantic and western waters, by means of a
canal, between the tide waters of the Hudson river and Lake
Erie,--through which the wealth and trade of that large portion of the
United States, bordering on the upper lakes, would for ever flow to our
great commercial emporium. And whereas the legislatures of several of
our sister states, have made great exertions to secure to their own
states the trade of that wide extended country, west of the Alleganies,
under natural advantages vastly inferior to those of this state. And
whereas it is highly important that these advantages should as speedily
as possible be improved, both to preserve and increase the commerce and
national importance of this state:--Resolved, (if the honourable the
senate concur herein) that a joint committee be appointed to take into
consideration the propriety of exploring, and causing an accurate
survey to be made of the most eligible and direct route for a canal to
open a communication between the tide waters of the Hudson river and
Lake Erie; to the end that congress may be enabled to appropriate such
sums as may be necessary to the accomplishment of that great national
object." In the general appropriation bill now passed the sum of $600
was allotted to a survey of this proposed canal and the work was done by
James Geddes, whose report, at a later day, became important.[24]

Mr. Forman's motion passed, but amounted to nothing. In 1810 Thomas
Eddy, the treasurer of the old Western Inland Lock Navigation Company,
called on General Platt, a member of the New York senate, and the two
conversed seriously about the great plan which was slowly coming more
and more to the front. Platt affirmed that he would offer a resolution
in the legislature looking toward increasing public interest in the
great dream of the farthest-seeing men of New York. Perhaps the two
drafted this resolution; at least, the very next day Platt handed De
Witt Clinton a draft of a resolution. Clinton liked it. Its author
thereupon offered it in the senate and Clinton supported it and it
passed, March 13, 1810. It began: "Whereas, the agricultural and
commercial interests of the state, require that the inland navigation
from the Hudson river to lake Ontario and lake Erie, be improved and
completed on a scale commensurate to the great advantages derived from
the accomplishment of that important object: And whereas, it is doubtful
whether the resources of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company are
adequate to such improvements:

"_Therefore resolved_, that if the honourable the assembly consent
herein, that Gouverneur Morris, Stephen Van Rensselaer, De Witt Clinton,
Simeon De Witt, William North, Thomas Eddy and Peter B. Porter, be and
they are hereby appointed commissioners for exploring the whole route,
examining the present condition of the said navigation, and considering
what further improvements ought to be made therein; and that they be
authorized to direct and procure such surveys as to them shall appear
necessary and proper in relation to these objects; and that they report
thereon to the legislature, at their next session, presenting a full
view of the subjects referred to them, with their estimates and opinion
thereon."[25] On April 5 following $3,000 was appropriated for the
expenses of the surveys called for in the above resolution.[26]

Accordingly the commissioners named explored the country between the
Hudson and Lake Erie through which the prospective waterway would run,
in the summer of 1810 with Jesse Hawley's contributions of 1807-08 in
their hands. At the next meeting of the legislature they presented an
elaborate report. It would seem that the committee had passed over the
route of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company from Schenectady to
Lake Ontario; James Geddes, the experienced engineer who had given some
little study to the region under survey, made a map and a few rough
estimates. The report opens with the declaration that the idea of
making small rivers navigable had long ago been exploded in Europe; this
was a polite way of saying that the days of the Lock Navigation Company
were fairly numbered. The report affirms that a canal parallel with the
rivers improved by the Navigation Company (Mohawk, Wood Creek, and
Oswego) is practicable as far as Oswego Falls (Rochester). The twelve
remaining miles to Lake Ontario might well be covered by a railway.

However, the committee had another plan, that of building the canal
straight west from the Oswego to Lake Erie, avoiding Lake Ontario's
winds and waves entirely. Certain interesting commercial questions were
here involved. Even with the advantages offered by the Western Inland
Lock Navigation Company, New York and Albany could not hold their own in
competition with Montreal. Freight rates down the St. Lawrence were
marvelously cheap; fifty cents a hundredweight, only, was charged by
descending boatmen from Kingston to Montreal--one-half the early rate
from Buffalo to New York on the Erie Canal when it was at last built.
The rate of freight up the St. Lawrence was only one dollar per
hundredweight. If any point east of Niagara Falls was made the terminus
of New York's canal, it was feared that Montreal would profit by it
more, perhaps, than the cities it was intended to build up and benefit.

Mr. Geddes favored the direct route to Lake Erie by way of the
"Tanawanta" River. He advanced the following rough estimate of distances
in the direct route:

                          _Miles_ _Descent_
  Mouth of Tanawanta          10    5
  Genesee River (about)       68   34
  Seneca Lake                 46   23
  Cayuga Lake                  6    3
  Rome (summit)               66   33
  Little Falls                38   19
  Schoharie                   38   19
  Summit between Schenectady
    and Albany (about)        24   12
  Hudson River                14    7
                             ---  ---
  Totals                     310  155

The actual descent would be 525 feet. Mr. Geddes's plan included
aqueducts across the Genesee River twenty-six feet high and one hundred
and fifty yards long, across the mouth of Seneca Lake eighty-three feet
high, and across the mouth of Cayuga one hundred and thirty feet high.
As a detailed survey had not been made, it was impossible to estimate
accurately the expense.

Agitation of the great question was the only tangible result of this
investigation. In 1811 Robert Livingston and Robert Fulton were added to
the committee, and a report was made to the legislature, March, 1812.
This report showed that the friends of the great waterway had resolved
to exhaust all resources before relinquishing the work. They applied to
Congress through Morris and De Witt Clinton for "Co-operation and aid in
making a canal navigation between the great lakes and Hudson's river,
which, in the opinion of the Legislature of New-York, will encourage
agriculture, promote commerce and manufacture, ficilitate [_sic_] a free
and general intercourse between different parts of the United States,
tend to the aggrandizement and prosperity of the country, and
consolidate and strengthen the Union." The legislatures of the various
states were likewise asked to lend sympathy and aid--to co-operate and
aid New York in opening the communication between the Great Lakes and
the Hudson. "... The general advantage to the whole nation," it was
urged, "is of such preponderating influence, as to render the present
object of principal, if not exclusive, concern to the national
legislature." The ways of help suggested were pecuniary assistance in
the form of loans or gifts, and a friendly voice in favor of the project
in Congress. A letter to President Madison expressed the hope that in
his annual message to Congress he would in every consistent way urge the
plan of national assistance. Accordingly in Madison's message, dated
December 23, 1812, he enclosed the act of the New York legislature
and said: "The particular undertaking contemplated by the state of
New-York ... will recall the attention of Congress to the signal
advantages to be derived to the United States, from a general system of
internal communication and conveyance.... As some of those advantages
have an intimate connexion with arrangements and exertions for the
general security, it is a period calling for these that the merits of
such a system will be seen in the strongest lights." Thomas Eddy wrote
Simeon De Witt January 9, 1812 "... accounts from Washington this days
post say that the expectations of our committee respecting aid from
Congress are very flattering--the project of a Canal from Erie to the
Hudson has many friends West of the Allegany--We are full of the news
that De Witt Clinton will be president and Munro Vice p------this is
the united wish of all parties in this City except Madisonians."

A great, comprehensive plan of national aid to local improvements was
proposed, by means of giving grants of land in Michigan to a large
number of improvement schemes in various states. Article seven read:
"_And be it further enacted_, That four million acres of land, part of
the tracts above mentioned, shall vest in and belong to the said state
of New-York, so soon as a canal shall be opened from lake Erie to
Hudson's river, not less than sixty-three feet wide on the top,
forty-five feet wide at the bottom, and five feet deep (and, if
practicable, along an inclined plane, descending not more than six feet
in a mile,) to Hudson's river, or a bason within four miles thereof; on
condition, nevertheless, that no tax, toll, or impost, shall be levied
or taken for the passage of boats not exceeding sixty feet long,
eighteen feet wide or drawing more than three feet of water on the same
canal, other than such as may be needful to pay the annual expenses of
superintending and keeping the same in repair."[27]

The war which now came on drove all plans of internal improvement from
men's minds until the struggle for honor and independence was won. The
bill quoted was never passed by Congress; a law passed by the New York
legislature in 1812, authorizing the canal commissioners to borrow five
million dollars on the credit of the state, was repealed in 1814.[28]
These had been hard years for New York.

In the autumn of 1816, Judge Platt, while holding court in New York
City, was in consultation with Clinton and Eddy concerning the canal
project, which had temporarily dropped from public attention. Though the
outlook was gloomy and discouraging, these men determined to revive
public interest in the project if it was in their power. An
advertisement was placed in the papers calling for a public meeting at
the City Hotel to consider asking the New York legislature to attack the
great problem anew. A similar call was issued at Albany for a meeting to
be held February 7, 1816, at the Tontine Coffee House, signed by ten
friends of the movement.

William Bayard was chosen chairman of the New York meeting, and the
speakers were Platt, Clinton, and Swartwout; Clinton, Swartwout, and
Thomas Eddy were appointed a committee to prepare a memorial for the
legislature. This document was drafted by De Witt Clinton and marks a
brilliant crisis in the long, wearing struggle this brave coterie of men
had made for their favorite project. New York was recovering from the
devastation and prostration caused by the war. The awakening courage of
a brave people was stirred by the appeal of Clinton's; it was so
"comprehensive a view of the immense advantages that would be produced
to the state by the completion of the canal, that copies sent throughout
the state were eagerly signed by thousands, and carried full conviction
to every mind. The project immediately became popular, and it was the
means of rousing the legislature, and produced several successive laws
in prosecuting this great work. A system of finance was drawn up by De
Witt Clinton which with some trifling alterations, was adopted by the
legislature and is now [1825] in successful operation."[29]

This memorial, in which the Erie Canal was born, and which throws much
light on the whole problem of early transportation, is given in its
entirety in the following chapter.



To the Legislature of the State of New-York.

The memorial of the subscribers, in favor of a canal navigation, between
the great western lakes and the tidewaters of the Hudson, most
respectfully represents: That they approach the legislature with a
solicitude proportionate to the importance of this great undertaking,
and with a confidence founded on the enlightened public spirit of the
constituted authorities. If, in presenting the various considerations
which have induced them to make this appeal, they should occupy more
time than is usual on common occasions, they must stand justified by
the importance of the object. Connected as it is with the essential
interest of our country, and calculated in its commencement to reflect
honor on the state, and its completion, to exalt it to an elevation of
unparalleled prosperity; your memorialists are fully persuaded, that
centuries may pass away before a subject is again presented so worthy of
all your attention, and so deserving of all your patronage and support.

The improvement of the means of intercourse between different parts of
the same country, has always been considered the first duty and the most
noble employment of government. If it be important that the inhabitants
of the same country should be bound together by a community of
interests, and a reciprocation of benefits; that agriculture should find
a sale for its productions, manufacturers a vent for their fabrics; and
commerce a market for its commodities; it is your incumbent duty, to
open, facilitate, and improve internal navigation. The pre-eminent
advantages of canals have been established by the unerring test of
experience. They unite cheapness, celerity, certainty, and safety in
the transportation of commodities.

It is calculated that the expense of transporting on a canal, amounts to
one cent a ton per mile, or one dollar a ton for one hundred miles;
while the usual cost by land conveyance, is one dollar and sixty cents
per hundredweight, or thirty-two dollars a ton for the same distance.
The celerity and certainty of this mode of transportation are evident. A
loaded boat can be towed by one or two horses, at the rate of thirty
miles a day. Hence, the seller or buyer can calculate with sufficient
precision on his sales or purchases, the period of their arrival, the
amount of their avails, and the extent of their value. A vessel on a
canal is independent of winds, tides, and currents, and is not exposed
to the delays attending conveyances by land: and with regard to safety,
there can be no competition. The injuries to which commodities are
exposed when transported by land, and the dangers to which they are
liable when conveyed by natural waters, are rarely experienced on
canals. In the latter way, comparatively speaking, no waste is
incurred, no risk is encountered, and no insurance is required. Hence,
it follows, that canals operate upon the general interests of society,
in the same way that machines for saving labor do in manufactures; they
enable the farmer, the mechanic, and the merchant, to convey their
commodities to market, and to receive a return, at least thirty times
cheaper than by roads. As to all the purposes of beneficial
communication, they diminish the distance between places, and therefore
encourage the cultivation of the most extensive and remote parts of the
country. They create new sources of internal trade, and augment the old
channels, for, the cheaper the transportation, the more expanded will be
its operation, and the greater the mass of the products of the country
for sale, the greater will be the commercial exchange of returning
merchandize, and the greater the encouragement to manufacturers, by the
increased economy and comfort of living, together with the cheapness and
abundance of raw materials; and Canals are consequently advantageous to
towns and villages, by destroying the monopoly of the adjacent country,
and advantageous to the whole country; for though some rival commodities
may be introduced into the old markets, yet many new markets will be
opened by increasing population, enlarging old and erecting new towns,
augmenting individual and aggregate wealth, and extending foreign

The prosperity of ancient Egypt, and China, may in a great degree be
attributed to their inland navigation. With little foreign commerce, the
former of those countries by these means attained and the latter
possesses, a population and opulence in proportion to their extent,
unequalled in any other. And England and Holland, the most commercial
nations of modern times, deprived of their canals, would lose the most
prolific sources of their prosperity and greatness. Inland navigation is
in fact to the same community what exterior navigation is to the great
family of mankind. As the ocean connects the nations of the earth, by
the ties of commerce and the benefits of communication, so do lakes,
rivers, and canals operate upon the inhabitants of the same country:
and it has been well observed, that "were we to make the supposition of
two states, the one having all its cities, towns, and villages upon
navigable rivers and canals, and having an easy communication with each
other; the other possessing the common conveyance of land carriage, and
supposing both states to be equal as to soil, climate, and industry,
commodities and manufactures in the former state, might be furnished
thirty per cent. cheaper than in the latter: or in other words, the
first state would be a third richer, and more affluent than the other."

The general arguments in favor of inland navigation, apply with peculiar
force to the United States, and most emphatically to this state. A
geographical view of the country, will at once demonstrate the
unexampled prosperity that will arise from our cultivating the
advantages which nature has dispensed with so liberal a hand. A great
chain of mountains passes through the United States, and divides them
into eastern and western America. In various places, rivers break
through those mountains, and are finally discharged into the ocean. To
the west, there is a collection of inland lakes exceeding in its
aggregate extent, some of the most celebrated seas of the old world.
Atlantic America, on account of the priority of its settlement, its
vicinity to the ocean, and its favorable position for commerce, has many
advantages. The western country, however, has a decided superiority in
the fertility of its soil, the benignity of its climate, and the extent
of its territory. To connect these great sections by inland navigation,
to unite our Mediterranean seas with the ocean, is evidently an object
of the first importance to the general prosperity. Nature has effected
this in some measure; the St Lawrence emanates from the lakes, and
discharges itself into the ocean in a foreign territory. Some of the
streams which flow into the Mississippi, originate near the great lakes
and pass around the chain of mountains. Some of the waters of this state
which pass into Lake Ontario, approach the Mohawk; but our Hudson has
decided advantages. It affords a tide navigation for vessels of 80 tons
to Albany and Troy, 160 miles above New-York, and this peculiarity
distinguishes it from all the other bays and rivers in the United
States, viz:

The tide in no other ascends higher than the Granite Ridge, or within
thirty miles of the Blue Ridge, or eastern chain of mountains. In the
Hudson, it breaks through the Blue Ridge, and ascends above the eastern
termination of the Catskill, or great western chain; and there are no
interrupting mountains to prevent a communication between it and the
great western lakes.

The importance of the Hudson river to the old settled parts of the
state, may be observed in the immense wealth which is daily borne on its
waters, in the flourishing villages and cities on its banks, and in the
opulence and prosperity of all the country connected with it, either
remotely or immediately. It may also be readily conceived, if we only
suppose that by some awful physical calamity, some overwhelming
convulsion of nature, this great river was exhausted of its waters:
Where then would be the abundance of our markets, the prosperity of our
farmers, the wealth of our merchants? Our villages would become
deserted; our flourishing cities would be converted into masses of
mouldering ruins, and this state would be precipitated into poverty and
insignificance. If a river or natural canal, navigable about 170 miles,
has been productive of such signal benefits, what blessings might not be
expected, if it were extended 300 miles through the most fertile country
in the universe, and united with the great seas of the west! The
contemplated canal would be this extension, and viewed in reference only
to the productions and consumptions of this state, would perhaps convey
more riches on its waters, than any other canal in the world. Connected
with the Hudson, it might be considered as a navigable stream that
extends 450 miles through a fertile country, embracing a great
population, and abounding with all the productions of industry. If we
were to suppose all the rivers and canals in England and Wales, combined
into one, and discharged into the ocean at a great city, after passing
through the heart of that country, then we can form a distinct idea of
the importance of the projected canal; but it indeed comprehends within
its influence a greater extent of territory, which will in time embrace
a greater population. If this work be so important, when we confine our
views to this state alone, how unspeakably beneficial must it appear,
when we extend our contemplations to the great lakes, and the country
affiliated with them! Waters extending two thousand miles from the
beginning of the canal, and a country containing more territory than all
Great Britain and Ireland, and at least as much as France.

While we do not pretend that all the trade of our western world, will
centre in any given place, (nor indeed would it be desirable if it were
practicable, because we sincerely wish the prosperity of all the
states,) yet we contend, that our natural advantages are so
transcendant, that it is in our power to obtain the greater part, and
put successful competition at defiance. As all the other communications
are impeded by mountains, the only formidable rivals of New-York for
this great prize, are New-Orleans and Montreal, the former relying on
the Mississippi, and the latter on the St Lawrence.

In considering this subject we will suppose the commencement of the
canal somewhere near the out-let of Lake Erie. The inducements for
preferring one market to another, involve a variety of considerations;
the principal are the cheapness and facility of transportation, and the
goodness of the market. If a cultivator or manufacturer can convey his
commodities with the same ease and expedition to New-York, and obtain
higher price for them than at Montreal or New-Orleans, and at the same
time supply himself at a cheaper rate with such articles as he may want
in return, he will undoubtedly prefer New-York. It ought also to be
distinctly understood, that a difference in price may be equalized by a
difference in the expense of conveyance, and that the vicinity of the
market is at all times a consideration of great importance.

From Buffalo, at or near the supposed commencement of the canal, it is
450 miles to the city of New-York, and from that city to the ocean, 20
miles. From Buffalo to Montreal 350 miles; from Montreal to the Chops of
the St Lawrence 450. From Buffalo to New Orleans by the great Lakes,
and the Illinois river, 2,250 miles; from New-Orleans to the Gulf of
Mexico 100. Hence, the distance from Buffalo to the ocean by the way of
New-York is 470 miles; by Montreal 800; and by New-Orleans 2,350.

As the upper lakes have no important outlet but into lake Erie, we are
warranted in saying, that all their trade must be auxiliary to its
trade, and that a favorable communication by water from Buffalo, will
render New-York the great depot and warehouse of the western world. In
order, however, to obviate all objections that may be raised against the
place of comparison, let us take three other positions, _Chicago_ near
the southwest end of lake Michigan, and a creek of that name, which
sometimes communicates with the Illinois, the nearest river from the
lakes to the Mississippi; _Detroit_, on the river of that name, between
lakes St Clair and Erie; and _Pittsburgh_, at the confluence of the
Alleghany and Monongahela rivers, forming the head of the Ohio and
communicating with Le Beuf by water, which is distant fifteen miles from
lake Erie.

The distance from Chicago to the ocean by New-York, is about 1200 miles.
To the mouth of the Mississippi, by New-Orleans, near 1600 miles, and to
the mouth of the St Lawrence, by Montreal, near 1600 miles.

The distance from Detroit to the ocean by New-York, is near 700 miles.
From Detroit to the ocean by Montreal, is 1050 miles. From Detroit to
the ocean, pursuing the nearest route by Cleveland, and down the
Muskingum, 2400 miles. The distance from Pittsburgh to the ocean, by Le
Beuf, lake, Buffalo, and New York, is 700 miles. The same to the ocean
by Buffalo and Montreal, 1050 miles. The same to the ocean by the Ohio
and Mississippi, 2150 miles.

These different comparative views show that New-York has, in every
instance, a decided advantage over her great rivals. In other essential
respects the scale preponderates equally in her favor. Supposing a
perfect equality of advantages as to the navigation of the lakes, yet
from Buffalo, as the point of departure, there is no comparison of
benefits. From that place the voyager to Montreal has to encounter the
inconveniences of a portage at the cataract of Niagara, to load and
unload at least three times, to brave the tempests of Lake Ontario and
the rapids of the St Lawrence. In like manner the voyager to
New-Orleans, has a portage between the Chicago and Illinois, an
inconvenient navigation in the latter stream, besides the well known
obstacles and hazards of the Mississippi. And until the invention of
steamboats, an ascending navigation was considered almost impracticable.
This inconvenience is, however, still forcibly experienced on that
river, as well as on the St Lawrence between Montreal and lake Ontario.

The navigation from lake Erie to Albany, can be completed in ten days
with perfect safety on the canal; and from Albany to New-York, there is
the best sloop navigation in the world. From Buffalo to Albany, a ton of
commodities could be conveyed on the intended canal, for three dollars,
and from Albany to New-York, according to the present prices of sloop
transportation, for $2.80, and the return cargoes would be the same. We
have not sufficient data upon which to predicate very accurate
estimates with regard to Montreal and New Orleans; but we have no
hesitation in saying, that the descending conveyance to the former,
would be four times the expense, and to the latter, at least ten times,
and that the cost of the ascending transportation would be greatly

It has been stated by several of the most respectable citizens of Ohio,
that the present expense of transportation by water from the city of
New-York to Sandusky, including the carrying places, is $4.50 per
hundred, and allowing it to cost two dollars per hundred for
transportation to Clinton, the geographical centre of the state, the
whole expense would be $6.50, which is only fifty cents more than the
transportation from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and at least $2.50 less
than the transportation by land and water from these places, and that,
in their opinion, New-York is the natural emporium of that trade, and
that the whole commercial intercourse of the western country north of
the Ohio, will be secured to her by the contemplated canal.

In addition to this, it may be stated that the St Lawrence is generally
locked up by ice seven months in the year, during which time produce
lies a dead weight on the hands of the owner; that the navigation from
New-York to the ocean, is at all times easy, and seldom obstructed by
ice, and that the passage from the Balize to New-Orleans is tedious;
that perhaps one out of five of the western boatmen who descend the
Mississippi, become victims to disease; and that many important articles
of western production are injured or destroyed by the climate. New-York
is, therefore, placed in a happy medium between the insalubrious heat of
the Mississippi, and the severe cold of the St Lawrence. She has also
pre-eminent advantages, as to the goodness and extensiveness of her
market. All the productions of the soil, and the fabrics of art, can
command an adequate price, and foreign commodities can generally be
procured at a lower rate. The trade of the Mississippi is already in the
hands of her merchants, and although accidental and transient causes may
have concurred to give Montreal an ascendency in some points, yet the
superiority of New-York is founded in nature, and if improved by the
wisdom of government, must always soar above competition.

Granting, however, that the rivals of New-York will command a
considerable portion of the western trade, yet it must be obvious, from
these united considerations, that she will engross more than sufficient
to render her the greatest commercial city in the world. The whole line
of canal will exhibit boats loaded with flour, pork, beef, pot and pearl
ashes, flaxseed, wheat, barley, corn, hemp, wool, flax, iron, lead,
copper, salt, gypsum, coal, tar, fur, peltry, ginseng, bees-wax, cheese,
butter, lard, staves, lumber, and the other valuable productions of our
country; and also, with merchandise from all parts of the world. Great
manufacturing establishments will spring up; agriculture will establish
its granaries, and commerce its warehouses in all directions. Villages,
towns, and cities, will line the banks of the canal, and the shore of
the Hudson from Erie to New-York. "The wilderness and the solitary place
will become glad, and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose."

While it is universally admitted that there ought to be a water
communication between the great lakes and the tide waters of the Hudson,
a contrariety of opinion (greatly to be deplored, as tending to injure
the whole undertaking) has arisen with respect to the route that ought
to be adopted. It is contended on the one side, that the canal should
commence in the vicinity of the outlet of lake Erie, and be carried in
the most eligible direction across the country to the head waters of the
Mohawk river at Rome: from whence it should be continued along the
valley of the Mohawk to the Hudson. It is, on the other side, insisted,
that it should be cut around the cataract of Niagara; that lake Ontario
should be navigated to the mouth of the Oswego river; that the
navigation of that river, and Wood creek, should be improved and pursued
until the junction of the latter with the Mohawk at Rome. As to the
expediency of a canal from Rome to the Hudson, there is no discrepance
of opinion: the route from Rome to the great Lakes constitutes the
subject of controversy.

If both plans were presented to the legislature, as worthy of
patronage, and if the advocates of the route by lake Ontario did not
insist that their schemes should be exclusive, and of course, that its
adoption should prove fatal to the other project, this question would
not exhibit so serious an aspect. If two roads are made, that which is
most accommodating will be preferred; but if only one is established,
whether convenient or inconvenient to individuals, beneficial or
detrimental to the public, it must necessarily be used. We are so fully
persuaded of the superiority of the Erie canal, that although we should
greatly regret so useless an expenditure of public money as making a
canal round the cataract of Niagara, yet we should not apprehend any
danger from the competition of Montreal, if the former were established.

The invincible argument in favor of the Erie canal is, that it would
diffuse the blessings of internal navigation over the most fertile and
populous parts of the state, and supply the whole community with salt,
gypsum, and in all probability coal. Whereas the Ontario route would
accommodate but an inconsiderable part of our territory, and instead of
being a great highway, leading directly to the object, it would be a
circuitous by-road, inconvenient in all essential respects.

The most serious objection against the Ontario route, is, that it will
inevitably enrich the territory of a foreign power, at the expense of
the United States. If a canal is cut around the falls of Niagara, and no
countervailing nor counteracting system is adopted in relation to lake
Erie, the commerce of the west is lost to us for ever. When a vessel
once descends into Ontario, she will pursue the course ordained by
Nature. The British Government are fully aware of this, and are now
taking the most active measures to facilitate the passage down the St

It is not to be concealed, that a great portion of the productions of
our western country are now transported to Montreal, even with all the
inconveniences attending the navigation down the Seneca and Oswego
rivers; but if this route is improved in the way proposed, and the other
not opened, the consequences will be most prejudicial. A barrel of flour
is now transported from Cayuga lake to Montreal for $1.50, and it
cannot be conveyed to Albany for less than $2.50. This simple fact
speaks a volume of admonitory instruction. But taking it for granted,
that the Ontario route will bring the commerce of the west to New-York,
yet the other ought to be preferred, on account of the superior
facilities it affords.

In the first place, it is nearer. The distance from Buffalo to Rome, is
less than 200 miles in the course of the intended canal: by lake Ontario
and Oswego, it is 232.

2. A loaded boat could pass from Buffalo to Rome by the Erie route, in
less than seven days, and with entire safety. By the Ontario route, it
will be perfectly uncertain, and not a little hazardous. After leaving
Niagara river, it would have to pass an inland sea to the extent of 127
miles, as boisterous and as dangerous as the Atlantic. And besides a
navigation of at least twenty miles over another lake, it would have to
ascend two difficult streams for 55 miles; no calculation could then be
made, either on the certainty or safety of this complicated and
inconvenient navigation.

3. When a lake vessel would arrive at Buffalo, she would have to unload
her cargo, and when this cargo arrived at Albany by the Erie canal, it
would be shifted on board of a river-sloop, in order to be transported
to New-York. From the time of the first loading on the great lakes, to
the last unloading at the storehouses in New-York, there would be three
loadings and three unloadings on this route. But when a lake vessel
arrived with a view of passing the canal of Niagara, she would be
obliged to shift her lading for that purpose, for it would be almost
impracticable to use lake vessels on the Niagara river, on account of
the difficulty of the ascending navigation. At Lewistown, or some other
place of the Niagara, another change of the cargo on board of a lake
vessel for Ontario would be necessary: at Oswego another, and at Albany
another; so that on this route there would be five loadings and five
unloadings before the commodities were stored in New York. This
difference is an object of great consequence, and presents the most
powerful objections against the Ontario route; for to the delay we must
add the accumulated expense of these changes of the cargo, the storage,
the waste and damage, especially by theft (where the chances of
depredation are increased by the merchandise passing through a multitude
of hands) and the additional lake vessels, boats and men that will be
required, thereby increasing in this respect alone, the cost two thirds
above that attending the other course. And in general it may be
observed, that the difference between a single and double freight forms
an immense saving. Goods are brought from Europe for twenty cents per
cubic foot; whereas the price from Philadelphia to Baltimore, is equal
to ten cents. This shews how far articles once embarked, are conveyed
with a very small addition of freight, and if such is the difference
between a single and a double freight, how much greater must it be in
the case under consideration! If the fall from lake Erie to lake Ontario
be 450 feet, as stated in Mr secretary Gallatin's report on canals, it
will require at least 45 locks for a navigation around the cataract.
Whether it would be practicable to accommodate all the vessels which the
population and opulence of future times will create in those waters,
with a passage through so many locks accumulated within a short
distance, is a question well worthy of serious consideration. At all
events, the demurrage must be frequent, vexatious, and expensive.

When we consider the immense expense which would attend the canal
proposed on the Niagara river; a canal requiring so many locks, and
passing through such difficult ground; when we view the Oswego river
from its outlet at Oswego to its origin in Oneida lake, encumbered with
dangerous rapids and falls, and flowing through a country almost
impervious to canal operations; and when we contemplate the numerous
embarrassments which are combined with the improvement of Wood Creek, we
are prepared to believe that the expense of this route will not greatly
fall short of the other.

It is, however, alleged that it is not practicable to make this canal;
and that if practicable, the expense will be enormous, and will far
transcend the faculties of the state.

Lake Erie is elevated 541 feet above the tide waters at Troy. The only
higher ground between it and the Hudson is but a few miles from the
lake: and this difficulty can be easily surmounted by deep cutting; of
course no tunnel will be required. The rivers which cross the line of
the canal, can be easily passed by aqueducts; on every summit level,
plenty of water can be obtained; whenever there is a great rise or
descent, locks can be erected, and the whole line will not require more
than sixty-two; perhaps there is not an equal extent of country in the
world, which presents fewer obstacles to the establishment of a canal.
The liberality of Nature has created the great ducts and arteries, and
the ingenuities of art can easily provide the connecting veins. The
general physiognomy of the country is champaign, and exhibits abundance
of water: a gentle rising from the Hudson to the lake; a soil well
adapted for such operations: no impassable hills, and no insurmountable
waters. As to distance, it is not to be considered in relation to
practicability. If a canal can be made for fifty miles, it can be made
for three hundred, provided there is no essential variance in the face
of the country; the only difference will be that in the latter case, it
will take more time, and consume more money.

But this opinion does not rest for its support upon mere speculation.
Canals have been successfully cut through more embarrassing ground, in
various parts of the United States; and even in part of the intended
route from Schenectady to Rome, locks have been erected at the Little
Falls, and at other places; and short canals have been made, and all
these operations have taken place in the most difficult parts of the
whole course of the contemplated Erie navigation. Mr. William Weston,
one of the most celebrated civil engineers in Europe, who has
superintended canals in this state and Pennsylvania, and who is
perfectly well acquainted with the country has thus expressed his
opinion on the subject: "Should your noble but stupendous plan of
uniting Lake Erie with the Hudson, be carried into effect, you have to
fear no rivalry. The commerce of the immense extent of country,
bordering on the upper lakes, is yours for ever, and to such an
incalculable amount as would baffle all conjecture to conceive. Its
execution would confer immortal honor on the projectors and supporters,
and would in its eventual consequences, render New-York the greatest
commercial emporium in the world, with perhaps the exception, at some
distant day of New-Orleans, or some other depot at the mouth of the
majestic Mississippi. From your perspicuous topographical description
and neat plan and profile of the route of the contemplated canal, I
entertain little doubt of the practicability of the measure."

With regard to the expense of this work, different estimates will be
formed. The commissioners appointed for that purpose were of opinion
that it would not cost more than five millions of dollars. On this
subject we must be guided by the light which experience affords in
analogous cases. The canal of Languedoc, or canal of the two seas in
France, connects the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and is 180 miles
in length: it has 114 locks and sluices, and a tunnel 720 feet long. The
breadth of the canal is 144 feet, and its depth six feet: it was begun
in 1666, and finished in 1681, and cost £540,000 sterling, or £3,000
sterling a mile.

The Holstein canal, begun in 1777, and finished in 1785, extends about
fifty miles: is 100 feet wide at the top, and 54 at the bottom, and not
less than ten feet deep in any part. Ships drawing nine feet four inches
of water, pass through it from the German ocean, in the vicinity of
Tonningen, into the Baltic. From two to three thousand ships have passed
in one year. The expense of the whole work was a little more than a
million and a half of dollars, which would be at the rate of 30,000
dollars a mile for this ship navigation.

The extreme length of the canal from the Forth to the Clyde, in
Scotland, is 35 miles. It rises and falls 160 feet by means of 39 locks.
Vessels pass drawing eight feet water, having 19 feet beam, and 73 feet
length. The cost is calculated at £200,000 sterling, which is at the
rate of about 23,000 dollars a mile. But this was a canal for ships
drawing eight feet of water, with an extraordinary rise for its length,
and having more than one lock for every mile.

The following will give an idea of the money expended on such works in

                        _Cost_   _Miles_
  The Rochdale Canal   £291,900    31-1/2
  Ellesmere             400,000    57
  Kennet and Avon       420,000    78
  Grand Junction        500,000    90
  Leeds and Liverpool   800,000   129

The miles of canal are 385-1/2, and the cost is £2,411,900 sterling, or
about 28,000 dollars per mile.

But in the estimation of the cost of these canals, unquestionably the
price of the land over which they pass is included, and this is
enormous. The land alone for one canal of 16 miles, is said to have cost
£90,000 sterling. With us this would be but small. If we look at the
history of the English canals, we shall see how many objects of great
expense are connected with them, with which we should have nothing to
do, and that most of them have encountered and surmounted obstacles
which we should not meet with. For instance, the Grand Junction canal
passes more than once the great ridge which divides the waters of
England; ours will pass over a country which in comparison is champaign.

But it is said that the price of labor in our country is so much above
what it is in England, that we must add greatly to the cost of her
canals in estimating the expense of ours. But that is certainly a false
conclusion, for not only must the price of the land and the adventitious
objects which have been before referred to, be deducted from the cost of
the foreign canals, but we must consider that there will be almost as
great a difference in our favor in the cost of the material and brute
labor, as there is in favor of England as to human labor, and it is well
known that so much human labor is not now required on canals as
formerly. Machines for facilitating excavation have been invented and
used with great success.

Mr. Gallatin's report on canals contains several estimates of the cost
of contemplated ones. From Weymouth to Taunton, in Massachusetts, the
expense of a canal of 26 miles, with a lockage of 260 feet, is set down
at $1,250,000. From Brunswick to Trenton, 28 miles, with a lockage of
100 feet, 800,000 dollars. From Christiana to Elk, 22 miles with a
lockage of 148 feet, 750,000 dollars. From Elizabeth river to
Pasquotank, 22 miles, with a lockage of 40 feet, 250,000 dollars. These
estimates thus vary from 48,000 to less than 12,000 dollars a mile, and
furnish the medium of about 31,000 dollars a mile. But it must be
observed that they are for small distances, are calculated to surmount
particular obstacles, and contemplate an extraordinary number of locks,
and that they do not therefore furnish proper data from which to form
correct conclusions, with respect to the probable cost of an extensive
canal, sometimes running over a great number of miles upon a level
without any expense for lockage, or any other expense than the mere

Mr. Weston, before mentioned, estimated the expense of a canal from the
tide waters at Troy to lake Ontario, a distance of 160 miles, (exclusive
of lake Oneida,) going around the Cohoes, and embracing 55 locks of
eight feet lift each, at 2,200,000 dollars, a little more than 13,000
dollars a mile. Fortunately, however, we have more accurate information
than mere estimates.

In the appendix to Mr Gallatin's report, it is stated by Mr Joshua
Gilpin, that "by actual measurement, and the sums paid on the feeder, it
was found that one mile on the Delaware and Chesapeake canal, the most
difficult of all others, from its being nearly altogether formed through
hard rocky ground, cost 13,000 dollars, and one other mile perfectly
level, and without particular impediments, cost 2,300 dollars; from
hence, the general average would be reduced to 7,650 dollars per mile."

The Middlesex canal,[31] in Massachusetts, runs over twenty-eight miles
of ground, presenting obstacles much greater than can be expected on the
route we purpose. This canal cost 478,000 dollars, which is about 17,000
dollars a mile. It contains 22 locks of solid masonry and excellent
workmanship and to accomplish this work, it was necessary to dig in some
places to the depth of 20 feet, to cut through ledges of rocks, to fill
some vallies and morasses, and to throw several aqueducts across the
intervening rivers. One of these across the river Shawshine is 280 feet
long, and 22 feet above the river.

  From the Tonewanta creek to the Seneca river, is a fall of  195 feet
  From thence to the Rome summit, is a rise of                 50  "
  From thence to the Hudson river, is a fall of               380  "
  The whole rise and fall                                     625 feet

This will require 62 locks of ten feet lift each. The expense of such
locks as experimentally proved in several instances in this state would
be about 620,000 dollars.

We have seen that on the Middlesex canal, there are 22 locks for 28
miles, which is a lock for somewhat less than every mile, whereas, 62
locks for 300 miles is but about one lock for every five miles; and the
lockage of the Middlesex canal, would alone cost 220,000 dollars. It
would, therefore, appear to be an allowance perhaps too liberal, to
consider the cost of it as a fair criterion of the expense of canals in
general in this country, and of this in particular. Reservoirs and
tunnels, are the most expensive part of the operation, and none will be
necessary in our whole route. The expense of the whole earth work of
excavating a mile of canal on level ground fifty feet wide and five feet
deep, at 18 cents per cubic yard, and allowing for the cost of forming
and trimming the banks, puddling, etc. will not exceed 4000 dollars per
mile, and the only considerable aqueduct on the whole line, will be over
the Genesee river. From a deliberate consideration of these different
estimates and actual expenditures, we are fully persuaded that this
great work will not cost more than 20,000 dollars a mile, or six
millions of dollars in the whole; but willing to make every possible
allowance; and even conceding that it will cost double that sum, yet
still we contend that there is nothing which ought to retard its
execution. The canal cannot be made in a short time. It will be the work
perhaps of 10 or 15 years.

The money will not be wanted at once. The expenditure, in order to be
beneficial ought not to exceed 500,000 dollars a year, and the work may
be accomplished in two ways, either by companies, incorporated for
particular sections of the route, or by the state. If the first is
resorted to, pecuniary sacrifices will still be necessary on the part of
the public, and great care ought to be taken to guard against the high
tolls, which will certainly injure, if not ruin the whole enterprise.

If the state shall see fit to achieve this great work, there can be no
difficulty in providing funds. Stock can be created and sold at an
advanced price. The ways and means of paying the interest will be only
required. After the first year, supposing an annual expenditure of
500,000 dollars, thirty thousand dollars must be raised to pay an
interest of six per cent; after the second year 60,000, and so on. At
this rate of interest they will regularly increase with beneficial
appropriation, and will be so little in amount that it may be raised in
many shapes without being burdensome to the community. In all human
probability, the augmented revenue proceeding from the public salt
works, and the increased price of the state lands, in consequence of
this undertaking, will more than extinguish the interest of the debt
contracted for that purpose. We should also take into view, the land
already subscribed by individuals for this work, amounting to 106,632
acres. These donations, together with those which may be confidently
anticipated, will exceed in value a million of dollars, and it will be
at all times in the power of the state to raise a revenue from the
imposition of transit duties, which may be so light as scarcely to be
felt, and yet the income may be so great, as in a short time to
extinguish the debt, and this might take effect on the completion of
every important section of the work.

If the legislature shall consider this important project in the same
point of view, and shall unite with us in opinion, that the general
prosperity is intimately and essentially involved in its prosecution, we
are fully persuaded that now is the proper time for its commencement.
Delays are the refuge of weak minds, and to procrastinate on this
occasion is to show a culpable inattention to the bounties of Nature; a
total insensibility to the blessings of Providence, and an inexcusable
neglect of the interests of society. If it were intended to advance the
views of individuals, or to foment the divisions of party; if it
promoted the interests of a few, at the expense of the prosperity of
many; if its benefits were limited as to place, or fugitive as to
duration, then indeed it might be received with cold indifference, or
treated with stern neglect; but the overflowing blessing from this great
fountain of public good and national abundance, will be as extensive as
our country, and as durable as time.

The considerations which now demand an immediate, and an undivided
attention to this great object, are so obvious, so various, and so
weighty, that we shall only attempt to glance at some of the most

In the first place, it must be evident, that no period could be adopted
in which the work can be prosecuted with less expense. Every day
augments the value of the land through which the canal will pass; and
when we consider the surplus hands which have been recently dismissed
from the army into the walks of private industry, and the facility with
which an addition can be procured to the mass of our active labour, in
consequence of the convulsions of Europe, it must be obvious that this
is now the time to make those indispensable acquisitions.

2. The longer this work is delayed, the greater will be the difficulty
in surmounting the interests that will rise up in opposition to it.
Expedients on a contracted scale have already been adopted for the
facilitations of intercourse. Turnpikes, locks, and short canals, have
been resorted to, and in consequence of those establishments, villages
have been laid out, and towns have been contemplated. To prevent
injurious speculation, to avert violent opposition, and to exhibit
dignified impartiality and fraternal affection to your fellow-citizens,
it is proper that they should be notified at once of your intentions.

3. The experience of the late war has impressed every thinking man in
the community, with the importance of this communication. The expenses
of transportation frequently exceeded the original value of the article,
and at all times operated with injurious pressure upon the finances of
the nation. The money thus lost for the want of this communication,
would have perhaps defrayed more than one half of its expense.

4. Events which are daily occurring on our frontiers, demonstrate the
necessity of this work. Is it of importance that our honourable
merchants should not be robbed of their legitimate profits; that the
public revenues should not be seriously impaired by dishonest smuggling,
and that the commerce of our cities should not be supplanted by the
mercantile establishments of foreign countries? then it is essential
that this sovereign remedy for maladies so destructive and ruinous
should be applied. It is with inconceivable regret we record the well
known fact, that merchandise from Montreal has been sold to an alarming
extent in our borders, for 15 per cent below the New-York prices.

5. A measure of this kind will have a benign tendency in raising the
value of the national domains, in expediting the sale, and enabling the
payment. Our national debt may thus, in a short time, be extinguished.
Our taxes of course will be diminished, and a considerable portion of
revenue may then be expended in great public improvements; in
encouraging the arts and sciences; in patronising the operations of
industry; in fostering the inventions of genius, and in diffusing the
blessings of knowledge.

6. However serious the fears which have been entertained of a
dismemberment of the Union by collisions between the north and the
south, it is to be apprehended that the most imminent danger lies in
another direction, and that a line of separation may be eventually drawn
between the atlantic and the western states, unless they are cemented
by a common, an ever acting and a powerful interest. The commerce of the
ocean, and the trade of the lakes, passing through one channel,
supplying the wants, increasing the wealth, and reciprocating the
benefits of each great section of the empire, will form an imperishable
cement of connexion, and an indissoluble bond of union. New-York is both
atlantic and western, and the only state in which this union of interest
can be formed and perpetuated, and in which this great centripetal power
can be energetically applied. Standing on this exalted eminence, with
power to prevent a train of the most extensive and afflicting calamities
that ever visited the world, (for such a train will inevitably follow a
dissolution of the Union,) she will justly be considered an enemy to the
human race, if she does not exert for this purpose the high faculties
which the Almighty has put into her hands.

Lastly. It may be confidently asserted, that this canal, as to the
extent of its route, as to the countries which it connects, and as to
the consequences which it will produce, is without a parallel in the
history of mankind. The union of the Baltic and Euxine; of the Red Sea
and the Mediterranean; of the Euxine and the Caspian; and of the
Mediterranean and the Atlantic, has been projected or executed by the
chiefs of powerful monarchies, and the splendor of the design has always
attracted the admiration of the world. It remains for a free state to
create a new era in history, and to erect a work, more stupendous, more
magnificent, and more beneficial, than has hitherto been achieved by the
human race. Character is as important to nations as to individuals, and
the glory of a republic, founded on the promotion of the general good,
is the common property of all its citizens.

We have thus discharged with frankness and plainness, and with every
sentiment of respect, a great duty to ourselves, to our fellow-citizens,
and to posterity, in presenting this subject to the fathers of the
commonwealth. And may that Almighty Being, in whose hands are the
destinies of states and nations, enlighten your councils and invigorate
your exertions, in favour of the best interests of our beloved country.



By an act of the New York legislature of April 17, 1816,[32] the canal
commissioners were ordered to send to the legislature "a plain and
comprehensive Report of their proceedings;" their duty was to find a
route for the projected canal, estimate the expense, ascertain on what
terms the state of New York could secure loans, and to apply for
donations of both land and money.[33]

The committee met at New York May 17, 1816, and organized. The proposed
line of the canal was divided into three sections and an engineer was
appointed for each. The Western Section embraced the portion of the
route between Lake Erie and the Seneca River; the Middle Section was
that between the Seneca River and Rome on the Mohawk; the Eastern
Section extended from Rome to Albany on the Hudson. The only point at
which there was serious question as to the best route of the canal was
between Lake Erie and the Genesee country; and the question was whether
to pass south or north of the "mountain ridge" which lay south of the
shore of Lake Ontario. Four engineers were sent to make an examination.
Two commissioners and engineers were sent to inspect the Middlesex Canal
in Massachusetts, "the best artificial navigation in the United States."

The commissioners met again July 15, after which three of them went to
inspect the important portions of a canal route which was now being
marked out by the corps of surveyors from Lake Erie to the Mohawk. The
size of the canal proposed was forty feet wide on water surface,
twenty-eight feet wide at the base and four feet deep--capable of
handling boats of one hundred tons. The locks were to be ninety feet
long, twelve feet in width in the clear. These would accommodate any
lumber that was then being shipped from the regions tapped by the canal.
The route of the canal survey was being marked by "bench marks, level
pegs, and other fixtures; ... Shafts have been sunk into the earth in
various places, to ascertain its nature, with a view to a just
estimation of the labour required, and of the expense to be incurred."
The point of junction with Lake Erie, forever a doubtful point until the
very last, was now planned at the mouth of Buffalo Creek; the water was
higher there, of course, than at any point in the Niagara River, "and
every inch gained in elevation will produce a large saving in the
expense of excavation throughout the Lake Erie level."


[_From Poussin's "Travaux d'améliorations intérieures ... des États-Unis
d'Amérique de 1824 à 1831"_ (Paris, 1834)]]

The Western Section, from Buffalo to the eastern line of the Holland
Purchase, was explored by Engineer William Peacock and Joseph Ellicott,
commissioner. Their estimate for the sixty-two miles from Buffalo to the
east end of the summit level west of the Genesee River, east of the
Great Tonawanda Swamp, was $450,000, and for the total distance to the
Genesee River, $780,000. The absence of water on this route made
reservoirs necessary, which formed a strong objection to pursuing that
course. Anticipating this, Engineer James Geddes was sent over another
course from a point twelve miles up the Tonawanda to the Seneca River.
The distance was one hundred and thirty-six miles; the rise of one
hundred and ninety-four feet from Seneca River to Lake Erie was to be
overcome by twenty-five locks; the total expense was put at $1,550,985.
The Middle Section extended from Seneca River to Rome, with a decline of
forty-eight and one-half feet in seventy-seven miles. It was surveyed
and laid out by Benjamin Wright; the estimate included $1,500 per mile
for grubbing, so heavy were the forests, and reached a total of
$853,186, which was considered liberal. The Eastern Section from Rome to
Albany was surveyed in part by Engineer Charles C. Broadhead. The
seventy odd miles to Schoharie Creek, with a descent of 132.85 feet,
called for sixteen locks and forty-five bridges--a total expenditure of
$1,090,603. The forty-two miles to Albany were not now surveyed; the
estimate for this distance was $1,106,087. The total descent of the
canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson was 564.85 feet and its length was
about 363 miles. The average estimated cost per mile was $13,800--by the
route north of the Genesee River.

The Erie Canal was born in the Act of April 15, 1817.[34] After being
passed by the legislature it went before the Council of Revision. "The
ordeal this bill met with in the Council of Revision, came near being
fatal to it; it could not have received a two-thirds vote after a veto.
The Council was composed of Lieutenant-Governor John Tayler, acting
Governor, as President of the Council, Chief Justice Thompson,
Chancellor Kent, and Judges Yates and Platt. Acting Governor Tayler was
openly opposed to the whole scheme. The Chief Justice was also opposed
to this bill. Chancellor Kent was in favor of the canal, but feared it
was too early for the State to undertake this gigantic work. Judges
Yates and Platt were in favor of the bill; but it was likely to be lost
by the casting vote of the acting Governor. Vice President Tompkins
(recently the Governor) entered the room at this stage of the
proceedings, and, in an informal way, joined in conversation upon the
subject before the Council, and in opposition to this bill. He said 'The
late peace with Great Britain was a mere truce, and we will undoubtedly
soon have a renewed war with that country; and instead of wasting the
credit and resources of the State in this chimerical project, we ought
to employ all our revenue and credit in preparing for war.'

"'Do you think so, sir?' said Chancellor Kent.

"'Yes, sir,' replied the Vice President; 'England will never forgive us
for our victories, and, my word for it, we shall have another war, with
her within two years.'

"The Chancellor, then rising from his seat, with great animation

"'If we must have war ... I am in favor of the canal and I vote for the

"With that vote the bill became a law."[35]

Preliminary work was immediately begun in the early spring of 1817 at
the strategic summit level at Rome by conducting "a careful
re-examination of the line of the canal, and of the levels of the
preceding year." This reconsideration seemed to indicate that a longer
summit level at Rome than the one selected should be made, and Utica was
chosen as the eastern extremity of this level rather than Rome. This
decision was enforced by the fact that Mohawk navigation above Utica was
always more uncertain than at any point below it; if the canal for
instance should terminate at the Mohawk because of lack of means, or
other cause, it would be advantageous to have its terminus on the Mohawk
at a point where navigation was as uniformly reliable as possible. The
Western Inland Lock Navigation Company had often found it necessary to
make a portage from Utica to Rome, such was the low stage of water in
the Mohawk. The summit level chosen, therefore, ran from Utica to the
salt-works at Salina (Syracuse). This was the eastern summit. The
western was yet to be chosen between the Genesee and the Niagara
tributaries in western New York.

Five lines of stakes were now driven into the ground from the eastern to
the western boundaries of the state of New York--a circumstance which
must be considered epoch-making in the history of America. For, look at
it as you will, the beginning of the Erie Canal must be considered a
greater marvel than the building of it. It would be difficult now to
propose an engineering feat that is within the range of sanity that
would provoke so much ridicule and debate as did the plan to build the
Erie Canal through those hundreds of miles of dense forests and reeking
swamps in 1816. A bridge across the Atlantic or a tunnel underneath it
could scarcely provoke more sneers today. Yet the summer of 1817 saw the
rows of stakes driven into the ground--over hill and vale, through
densest forest and sickliest swamp, from east to west; the outer rows
were sixty feet apart and indicated the space to be grubbed; between
these were two other rows forty feet apart which indicated the exact
dimensions of the canal; a single row of stakes in the middle marked the
exact center of the canal. Those who laughed at the stakes grew sober
when men came on over the route boring with four inch augers into the
ground every few rods to a depth of twelve feet; by this means the
nature of the soil was tested all along the route and estimates could be
made of the cost of the digging; thereupon profiles could be drawn by
the engineers. Each of the three great sections of the canal was
subdivided into very small sections which were to be let to contractors;
each working section was bounded, when possible, by a brook or ravine,
in order that each contractor might have the advantage of independent
drainage. The plan of the state's furnishing the tools for the work of
digging the canal was soon changed, the contractors being expected to
furnish their own tools. An instance of the skill of the old Erie Canal
engineers, in a day when "surveying" was as loose a word as the
dictionary contained, is interesting: "While Benjamin Wright, Esquire,
was re-examining and laying off sections from Rome, west along the canal
line, it was deemed expedient, as a test to the accuracy of the work,
that James Geddes, Esquire, should start, at a given point on the canal
line at Rome, and carry a level along the road to the east end of Oneida
Lake, marking on permanent objects the height of the surface of the
water while the lake was tranquil, at various places from the east to
the west end, along its southern shore; that he should then connect by a
level, the Oneida with the Onondaga Lake; after which he was to carry a
level from the last mentioned lake, at Salina, south about one and a
fourth miles to the canal line, and from thence to work to the east,
laying off sections along the canal line. This was accomplished, and
nine miles at the west end of the summit level were laid out into
sections. And the commissioners have the satisfaction to state, that
when the level of Mr. Wright had been carried along the canal line, to
the place where Mr. Geddes had terminated his line, the levels of these
engineers, which embraced a circuit ... of nearly one hundred miles,
differed from each other less than one and an half inches."

The first contract for work on the Erie Canal was signed June 27, 1817.
Work was not begun until a formal inaugural celebration at Rome, New
York, July 4, 1817.


The authorities of Rome arranged with the canal commissioners to unite
the celebrations of the opening of the canal with the annual Fourth of
July holiday. "At the appointed time and place, Judge Hathaway,
President of the village, made a short address, adapted to the occasion,
and then delivered the spade into the hands of the Commissioners. After
a short but graphic speech by the Commissioner Young, he handed the
spade to Judge Richardson, the first contractor, who then thrust it into
the ground and made the first excavation for the construction of the
canal. The example was immediately followed by his own laborers, and by
the assembled citizens, all ambitious of the honor of participating in
the labors of that memorable occasion. Thus amid the roar of artillery,
and the acclamations of the people, was begun that great work which
has spread civilization, wealth and refinement...."[36]

Thousands were ready to jump at the chance of securing contracts on the
great work; money was scarce along the countryside and means to make it
proportionately few; as was the case in the building of the Cumberland
Road, a great contemporary work to the south, so the Erie Canal was an
immediate boon to hundreds in that long strip of country through which
the lines of stakes were driven. Most of the contractors were well-to-do
New York farmers, and three-fourths of the army of laborers which now
attacked the long task were native born; the foreign element which
played so large a part in making the Cumberland Road did not figure in
the building of the Erie Canal. Angry gangs of mutinous foreign laborers
did not menace the first travelers on the Erie Canal. The commissioners
had the good sense to mark out the work to be done in such a way that
worthy men of little capital could secure contracts; accordingly the
distances to be contracted for were divided up and men of small or no
means at all were enabled to secure contracts as well as great
contractors with armies of workmen in their employ. Money was frequently
advanced to contractors in sums of from $200 to $2,000 according to the
size of the contract. Good security was demanded. The commissioners, on
the other hand, were warned to look out for rascally men who appear
whenever any great work is to be undertaken. In building locks and
embankments there was ample opportunity for deceit and dishonesty, which
was an item to be reckoned with.

During the first season of work fifty-eight miles on the summit level
were placed under contract, but most of the contractors were compelled
to cease work when the frosts came. In December, 1817, from $200 to
$1,000 each was advanced to contractors with which to buy provisions for
their men; beef, pork, and flour were cheaper at this season than in the
spring, and the roads over which they were to be transported were
likewise better in the winter season than at any other. This first year
of work had brought its lessons; first and foremost it proved what a
tremendous burden lay on the shoulders of the commissioners and
engineers. Contracts innumerable were to be made and signed, calling for
the provision of a hundred necessities: principally for stone, lumber,
and lime; the proper quantities were to be deposited at the proper
places--here in a heavy forest, there beside a swamp, and yonder at the
foot of a hill. The country was quite innocent of anything that
approached such a road as was needed everywhere along the line of work.
It is difficult even to hint at the multitude of perplexing questions
that the builders of the Erie Canal faced and somehow solved. The year
had proved the advisability of discarding the spade and wheelbarrow--the
European implements for canal building--for the plough and scraper. With
the latter tools the work was more quickly done and better; the feet of
the horses drawing them tended to solidify the earth along the
embankments. Three Irishmen finished three rods of the canal, four feet
deep in five and one-half days. Sixteen and one-half days work
accomplished 249-1/2 cubic yards of canal, which at twelve and one-half
cents per yard made $1.80 for each man per day. As the year progressed
it was found that the contracts were inside of the figures of the
estimates originally made.

When the season of 1818 was on, between two and three thousand men and
half that number of horses and cattle were at work. Indeed some of the
contractors had worked all winter, and many had transported the
necessary provisions and tools for the summer's campaign to the points
of work on sleds during the winter. The Genesee Road between Utica and
Syracuse, the most important of all, was useless for heavy loads in the
summer season. During this season the entire Middle Section was put
under contract; the only important change of route was at the Marl
Meadows near Camillus; this swamp without an outlet was avoided by
running a new route through the Salina plains, at an estimated saving of
some $17,000.

In all the romantic story of the building of this great work nothing is
so picturesque as the forest scenes; the digging and scraping, the
hauling and cementing, is all commonplace beside throwing the canal
across the tremendous forests which were now, in 1818, to be met in that
smiling country of which Utica, Syracuse and Rochester are the jewels of
today. Nothing like this had been attempted in America before the Erie
Canal; true the Cumberland Road was crawling away across the Alleghenies
and was now in calling distance of Wheeling on the Ohio; yet this road
was built largely on the route of older thoroughfares, and much of its
new bed ran through open lands which pioneer fires had partially
cleared. Moreover it was built on the surface of the ground. The Erie
Canal forged straight on where no foot but the silent hunter's had
stepped; its course was marked in forests so dark that the surveyor's
stakes could hardly be distinguished in the gloom--where not even the
smoke of a pioneer's fire had ever penetrated; it was not built on the
ground, but dug through the ground, and the vast network above ground
in those ancient woods was not less easily penetrated than was the
straggling mass of root and fiber that was found for many feet below the
surface. No work in America before its time began to compare in
magnitude with grubbing that sixty-foot aisle from Lake Erie to the
Hudson and the digging of a forty-foot canal in its center.

Since necessity is the mother of invention, it is not strange that here
in the New York woods should have been perfected some strange
machinery--great tugging monsters which should bodily haul down immense
trees with a crash and pluck out green stumps with single groan. It may
be these engines of forestry were imported from Europe; we know from the
correspondence of that indefatigable promoter, Washington, that great
engines for clearing trees from forest land were known in Europe and
were probably imported to America not long after the Revolutionary
War.[37] "Machinery has hitherto been used," recorded the commissioners
of the Erie Canal, "with most success, in the heavy business of
grubbing and clearing. By means of an endless screw, connected with a
cable, a wheel and a crank, one man is able to bring down a tree of the
largest size, without any cutting about its roots. For this purpose
these means are all, except the cable, combined in a small but very
strong frame of wood and iron.--This frame is immovably fastened on the
ground, at a distance of perhaps one hundred feet from the foot of the
tree, around the trunk of which fifty or sixty feet up, one end of the
cable is secured, the other being connected with the roller. When this
is done, the man turns the crank, which successively moves the screw,
the wheel and the roller, on which, as the cable winds up, the tree must
gradually yield, until, at length, it is precipitated by the weight of
its top. The force which may be exerted in this way, upon a tree, is
irresistible, as with the principle of the wheel and the screw, by the
application of the cable at a point so far from the ground, it unites
also that of the lever." The machine for hauling stumps is thus
described: "Two strong wheels, sixteen feet in diameter, are made and
connected together by a round axle-tree, twenty inches thick and thirty
feet long; between these wheels, and with its spokes inseparably framed
into their axle-tree, another wheel is placed, fourteen feet in
diameter, round the rim of which a rope is several times passed, with
one end fastened through the rim, and with the other end loose, but in
such a condition as to produce a revolution of the wheel whenever it is
pulled. This apparatus is so moved as to have the stump, on which it is
intended to operate, midway between the largest wheels, and nearly under
the axle-tree; and these wheels are so braced as to remain steady. A
very strong chain is hooked, one end to the body of the stump, or its
principal root, and the other to the axle-tree. The power of horses or
oxen is then applied to the loose end of the rope above-mentioned, and
as they draw, rotary motion is communicated, through the smallest wheel,
to the axle-tree, on which, as the chain hooked to the stump winds up,
the stump itself is gradually disengaged from the earth in which it
grew. After this disengagement is complete, the braces are taken from
the large wheels, which then afford the means of removing that stump out
of the way, as well as of transporting the apparatus where it may be
made to bear on another."

A plough was invented for cutting the tangled meshes of roots below the
turf "greatly superior to the one in common use. It is very narrow or
thin, and consists of a piece of iron much heavier than a common plough,
strongly connected, at its upper edge, with the beam, and in the rear,
with the handle, both of which are of the usual construction. The front
edge of the iron, where the cutting is to be done, is covered with
steel, well sharpened and shaped like the front of a coulter, except
that it retreats more as it rises to the beam. The lower edge is made
smooth and gradually thickens as it extends back towards the handle, to
about four inches. Two yoke of oxen will draw this utensile through any
roots not exceeding two inches in diameter; and by moving it, at short
intervals, through the surface of the ground to be excavated, the small
roots and fibres are so cut up as to be easily picked and harrowed out
of the way of the shovel and scraper."

During the season of 1818, all but five of the ninety-four miles of
Middle Section were grubbed and cleared with these powerful machines;
little the wonder, however, for one of the stump machines, costing two
hundred and fifty dollars, operated by seven men and two horses, could
grub from thirty to forty large stumps a day. Of the eighty-nine miles
cleared, forty-eight miles of the line was dug, eight miles being
completed and accepted. One ten-mile stretch was half done and one
twenty-mile division was one-fourth done. The total estimated expense of
the Middle Section was $1,021,851; up to January 25, 1819, $578,549 had
been expended; the $443,302 remaining was considered sufficient to
complete the section.

This division of the canal was completed in 1819; for twenty-seven miles
it was navigable and had not the frost intervened, large boats could
have traversed its entire length before the close of the year. The
expense proved to total up to $1,125,983, an excess over the estimate of
$104,132. The explanation of this excess brings out some interesting
facts concerning the progress of the work. For instance, the aqueducts
over Oneida and Onondaga Creeks had been made of solid masonry instead
of wood as stipulated in the estimate. Lack of snow during the winter of
1818-19 had prevented the hauling of much of the needed material.
Sickness among the army of workmen had produced costly delays; pioneer
conditions prevailed--the fever and ague of those who first invaded the
sluggish morasses of the interior of a new continent. Special trouble
had been experienced where the canal line approached the low-lying
valley of the sluggish Seneca. For thirty-five miles the works
paralleled this stream, and pioneers here suffered heavily every fall;
of course the laborers on the canal were, to say the least, not more
fortified against the miasma and fever than the pioneers who came more
or less prepared for such drawbacks. At one time a thousand men on the
Erie Canal were stricken down in this region, and in some instances the
work on certain "jobs" was entirely abandoned for several weeks.

But the work of the year was not confined to the Middle Section.
Exploring parties had been sent to outline more specifically the canal
line in the sections on either side. A portion of the Western Section,
from the Genesee River to Palmyra, was put under contract, to be
completed in September, 1821. The portion of the Eastern Section between
Utica and Little Falls--a distance of twenty-six miles--was also put
under contract. The expenses for the year amounted to over $100,000
ahead of the annual appropriation of $600,000. And heavier expenses yet
were in sight; among these the claims of the Western Inland Lock
Navigation Company had to be satisfied. This company had been carrying
on its business and declaring greater dividends each year up to 1818. In
that year the Erie Canal works at Wood Creek interrupted the operation
of their system and the state was compelled to satisfy the claim. There
had been, ever since 1812, a correspondence between the canal
commissioners and the Western Company looking toward a purchase of the
latter's rights. The price asked in 1812, and again in 1817, was
$190,000. The matter was at last settled in 1820 by the payment of
$152,718.52.[38] There was a moment just here when the canal came near
pausing in its swift rush to completion. A recasting of the estimates
was essayed, and the New York legislature demanded of the commissioner
what portion of the canal was most important in case only a part could
be completed. The reply was, of course, that the Western Section should
be finished whether the Eastern could be or not. The estimated expense
of completing the canal 254 miles from Utica to Lake Erie was
$2,845,561; the Eastern Section, only ninety-eight miles long, would
cost only $800,000 less, and for this distance the Mohawk River could be
made to answer the purpose of a canal if necessary.

But as if pushed forward by the very momentum of its greatness, the
canal went forward. The advances made in 1820 were rapid and important.
In the Western Section the fifty odd miles between the Genesee and
Montezuma were completed with the exception of nine. The route of 1816
was hardly changed except at Irondequoit Creek, and between Palmyra and
Lyons. The Middle Section rapidly became a busy avenue. Mile posts were
erected throughout its length, the distance from Genesee Street in Utica
to the lock into the Seneca River being a little more than ninety-six
miles. Navigation began in May. Contracts were let for the Eastern
Section that would insure the completion of the thirty miles from Utica
to Minden within the year. The course of the canal through the Mohawk
Valley was resurveyed, the experienced engineer Canvass White pushing it
forward to Cohoes Falls. The great rock wall at Little Falls was now
completed. At the close of the year ninety-eight miles of the Erie Canal
was completed, and the promise was that as much more would be done
within a twelvemonth. The point of difficulty now was in the Western
Section in gaining a route well supplied with water between Lake Erie
and the Middle Section. During the present year Mr. Thomas had surveyed
the northern route, running seventy-two miles from the Tonawanda to the


The contracts for this route were let in 1821, eighty miles being let in
contracts. The fifty miles between the Genesee and Seneca were completed
this year. Business was more brisk on the completed Middle Section than
in the year previous, the tolls received amounting to $23,001.63.
Contracts were let for the entire completion of the Eastern Section, and
boats were already running from Utica to Little Falls. A large fraction
of the excavating between Little Falls and Schenectady had been
completed by the last of the year, and the difficult problem of a route
from Cohoes Falls to Albany was now solved by Canvass White by crossing
the Mohawk.

By June, 1823, the canal was open from Rochester to Schenectady, and
when the season opened 220 miles were navigable. During 1822 all but ten
miles of the route along the Niagara River had been put under contract
and the great Genesee aqueduct had been erected. Toll to the extent of
$3,286 was collected in this year on the eastern part of the Western
Section--at Lyons, Palmyra, and Rochester. By the middle of November
water had been admitted into the Eastern Section and boats were afloat
from Little Falls to Schenectady. Water was admitted into the stretch of
canal between Brockport and Rochester, October 10, 1823. The forty-five
miles from Brockport to the Mountain Ridge (Lockport) was well along;
the four great embankments in this distance were nearly complete; that
at Sandy Creek was the highest on the entire canal, running up
seventy-six feet. The tolls in 1823 between the Genesee and Seneca
amounted to $20,954.11, showing the large amount of business done.

As the last year before completion (1824) opened, all eyes were directed
to two points in the west which were each difficult puzzles. One was the
means of crossing the Mountain Ridge at Lockport and the other was the
best way to get into Lake Erie. Finally the latter question was settled
for better or for worse by letting the contracts for the Black Rock
harbor. The work went slowly at the Mountain Ridge, but the contractors
promised that the work there would be completed by May, 1825. The tolls
this year between Mantz and Utica amounted to $77,593.26, and the tolls
on the Eastern Section totaled up to $27,444.09. Water was admitted into
the canal between Schenectady and Albany in October; the work here,
which included twenty-nine locks, had been found unexpectedly difficult.
On October 8, 1823, the first boats passed from the West and the North
(Lake Champlain canal) through the junction canal into the tide water of
the Hudson at Albany. On September 8, 1824, water was sent into the
canal from Brockport and Lockport; the line to Black Rock and the Black
Rock harbor was completed nearly on scheduled time. Among improvements
of the year must be named the hydrostatic locks built at Utica and
Syracuse. The tolls of 1824 were $294,546.62. The grand canal was

The completion was a signal for a royal celebration throughout the state
of New York which is, in many aspects, of great historic interest.[39]
Its unique details, the non-participation of many, the violent
rejoicings of others, the carrying out of symbolic ceremonies not unlike
Roman pageants, all these and many other features of the great show have
a deep significance. The political element entered largely into the

Learning that the canal would be completed about October 26, the
corporation of New York City entered into correspondence with the chief
cities and towns along the line concerning the proper celebration of the
event. Two aldermen, King and Davis, were sent to Buffalo from New York
to participate in the festivities of the great occasion.

Buffalo was in gala dress on the day set for the pageant. The city was
filled with yeomanry. At nine o'clock in the morning the grand
procession formed before the court-house; the Buffalo band, squads of
riflemen, and the committees took the lead and the vast throng moved to
the head of the Erie Canal where the canal-boat "Seneca Chief" lay at
anchor. Governor Clinton, the lieutenant-governor, and the committees
were received on board, and Jesse Hawley, who, nearly a generation
before, had published in Pittsburg the first broadside in favor of the
canal, delivered an address in behalf of the citizens of Rochester, "to
mingle and reciprocate their mutual congratulations with the citizens of
Buffalo on this grand effort."

The "Seneca Chief" was bravely equipped and manned for the occasion. Two
great paintings occupied conspicuous positions. One presented the scene
which was at the moment being enacted, Buffalo Creek and harbor with the
canal in the foreground and the "Seneca Chief" moving away. The other
picture represented Governor Clinton as Hercules, in Roman costume
resting from hard labor. Among the articles of freight to be carried by
this boat, which should first pass from Buffalo to New York over the
Erie canal, were two kegs filled with Lake Erie water. In addition to
the governor of the state and his staff, the Buffalo committee embarked
on the "Seneca Chief," comprising Hon. Judge Wilkinson, Captain Joy,
Colonel Potter, Major Burt, Colonel Dox, and Doctor Stagg. The flotilla,
which was headed by the "Seneca Chief," consisted of the canal-boats
"Chief," "Superior," "Commodore Perry" (a freight boat), and the
"Buffalo" (of Erie, Pennsylvania). "Noah's Ark" was the name of another
craft which contained beasts, birds and creeping things--a bear, two
eagles, two fawns, several fish, and two Indian boys, all traveling
under the title of "products of the West."

When the flotilla set sail a signal gun was discharged at Buffalo; the
announcement was taken up by each gun in a long line from Buffalo to New
York and the signal was passed throughout the entire distance.

As the pageant moved along through the state it was joined ever and anon
by other craft and at almost every village exercises and illuminations
were the order of the day and the much-feted governor and committees
were hauled to the best hotel and feasted. The "Niagara" joined the
squadron at Black Rock and "fell in behind." At Lockport guns captured
by Perry at the battle of Lake Erie were fired in salute to the guests
and the occasion; a gunner who, it was said, had fought under Napoleon,
discharged them. At Holley an address was given on the twenty-seventh.
At Brockport cannon welcomed the boats. There was a procession at
Newport, as everywhere else where the guests were feted. At Rochester a
_feu de joie_ was fired from the aqueduct on the arrival of the
triumphal flotilla, and here a fine boat, the "Young Lion of the West,"
rode out to meet it.

"Who comes there?" cried the "Young Lion's" sentinel as the strangers
drew near.

"Your Brothers from the West, on the waters of the great Lakes."

"By what means have they been diverted so far from their natural

"By the channel of the Grand Erie Canal."

"By whose authority, and by whom, was a work of such magnitude

"By the authority and by the enterprise of the patriotic People of the
State of New York."

The procession being formed, the vast throng marched to the Presbyterian
church where an address was delivered by Timothy Childs. General
Matthews, assisted by Jesse Hawley, presided at a banquet which followed
at one of the hotels. Grand illuminations and a ball concluded the day's
entertainment. The Rochester committee consisting of Messrs. E. B.
Strong, Ward, Leavett, Rochester, Hulbert, Reynolds, A. Strong, R.
Beach, Johnson, and E. S. Beach, embarked on the "Young Lion" for New

At Palmyra an arch across the canal welcomed the pageant on the
twenty-eighth; it read "Clinton and the Canal" from one side, and
"Internal Improvements" on the reverse. Another arch at Montezuma, which
was reached late that evening, was a transparency displaying the words
"De Witt Clinton and Internal Improvements" on one side, and "Union of
the East and West" on the other.

Buckville was found brightly illuminated at midnight; Port Byron was
reached on the twenty-ninth and Weedsport was illuminated. A twenty-four
pounder was discharged, resulting in the death of only two. Syracuse was
reached on the thirtieth; Joshua Forman, the early champion of the
canal in 1810, gave an address to which Governor Clinton made reply.

At Rome probably the first indication of ill-feeling was met; exercises
had been held on the twenty-sixth to commemorate the opening of the
canal, but dissatisfaction was felt over the fact that the Erie Canal
did not follow the route of the old Western Inland Lock Navigation
Company canal upon which the village of Rome had grown up. In
consequence, at 11 A. M. on the twenty-sixth, a procession was formed
bearing a black barrel filled with water from the old canal. Drums were
muffled and the procession moved slowly out of town to the Erie Canal
into which the barrel was emptied. The return march was made at quick
step and at the hotel an appropriate celebration was held. The present
flotilla arrived on Sunday, the thirtieth, and remained only an hour.
Utica was reached at noon on this date; during the exercises held on the
morrow, Governor Clinton took occasion to pay high tribute to Utica's
citizen, Judge Platt, who had long befriended the canal movement.
Little Falls was reached Monday evening; here, too, a change of route
displeased some; the old Lock Company canal was on the north side of the
Mohawk, and the Erie Canal was on the south side; a banquet was served
the guests at one of the hotels. At three o'clock Tuesday afternoon,
Schenectady was reached--two hours ahead of scheduled time. Here a grave
reception awaited the enthusiastic voyageurs; a local paper had
mentioned "a project of a funeral procession, or some other
demonstration of mourning." No preparation for the reception of the
visitors had been made. The canal would, it was believed, be the ruin of
Schenectady; as the terminus of the old overland portage of sixteen
miles from Albany, the town had grown in size and wealth; a large part
of all the freight from the south that passed up the Mohawk came by
wagon to Schenectady and was there loaded on boats. The village was, on
one hand, a Mecca for wagon lines and wagons, and on the other the
terminus of Mohawk shipping. The Erie Canal overturned everything. A
waterway was now opened straight through to Albany; Cohoes Falls, which
had been the making of Schenectady, was wiped out of existence by the
Erie Canal and the Schenectady of the old days was a thing of the past.
The students of Union College, however, were cosmopolitan, and the
"College Guards" did the honors of the rainy day; the guests took dinner
at a hotel and were off at four o'clock. On the following morning, above
the patroon mansion of General Stephen Van Rensselaer, the flotilla was
met by the aldermen of Albany and the last lock in the long canal was
entered at 10:30 A. M. Twenty-four cannon announced the flotilla's
arrival. The procession that soon formed moved slowly to the capital;
after a prayer and an ode, the address of the day was delivered by
Philip Hone.

At nine o'clock on Thursday morning, November 3, the flotilla set sail
from Albany on the broad Hudson; the canal boats were in tow of strong
steamers, the "Chancellor Livingston" leading the way. Unfortunately
"Noah's Ark" with its bears and Indians had not kept up with the main
procession and did not arrive in time to start for New York. The
steamers swept the boats rapidly onward; they were saluted at Catskill,
West Point and Newburgh, and arrived at New York at daylight of November
4, anchoring near the state prison.

The steamer "Washington," magnificently decorated, came alongside the
"Chancellor Livingston" bearing the committees of the Corporation and
the officers of the Governor's Guard. Alderman Cowdrey made an address
to which Clinton replied. At nine o'clock the fleet from Albany
accompanied by a fleet bearing the Corporation set out for open sea. The
spectacle was one to attract much attention. Salutes were fired from the
Battery, from the forts on Governor's Island, and from Forts Lafayette
and Tompkins. The destination of the pageant was indicated by the U. S.
schooner "Porpoise" which preceded the other craft and moored within the
Hook, where the interesting ceremony of wedding the waters of the
Atlantic and the Great Lakes was to be held. "... Never before," wrote
an enraptured beholder, "was there such a fleet collected, and so
superbly decorated; and it is very possible that a display so grand, so
beautiful, and we may even add, sublime, will never again be witnessed.
We know of nothing with which it can be compared.... The orb of day
darted his genial rays upon the bosom of the waters, where they played
as tranquilly as upon the natural mirror of a secluded lake. Indeed the
elements seemed to repose, as if to gaze upon each other, and
participate in the beauty and grandeur of the sublime spectacle."[40] At
the auspicious moment the Governor of New York permitted the water from
Lake Erie to fall into the ocean, saying: "This solemnity, at this
place, on the first arrival of vessels from Lake Erie, is intended to
indicate and commemorate the navigable communication, which has been
accomplished between our Mediterranean Seas and the Atlantic Ocean, in
about eight years, to the extent of more than four hundred and
twenty-five miles, by the wisdom, public spirit, and energy of the
people of the state of New York; and may the God of the Heavens and the
Earth smile most propitiously on this work, and render it subservient to
the best interests of the human race."[41] Whereupon the "Young Lion of
the West" gave a brave salute from "a pair of brazen lungs" which he had
provided for himself at Rochester, and a collation was served on the

While these inspiriting scenes were being enacted, the greatest
procession, it was said, that ever had been formed in America to date,
was preparing in the city under the direction of Major-general Fleming;
all classes were represented, the military and civil societies,
educational institutions, the city departments, state artillery and
benevolent and mechanical organizations, the whole enlivened by the
playing of many bands. At 10:30 o'clock the line, one mile and a half in
length, began its march. From Greenwich Street, the route was through
Canal to Broadway, up Broadway to Broome, up Broome to the Bowery, down
the Bowery to Pearl, down Pearl to the Battery, and thence to Broadway
and the City Hall. At night the illuminations were beautiful, the
commonest being the letter "C" and "Grand Canal;" the New York Coffee
House, the City Hotel, Peale's Museum, Scudder's Museum, Chatham and
Park theaters had elaborate displays. The illuminations of the City Hall
were "surpassingly beautiful." The exhibition of fireworks in New York
was said to be the greatest in its history. On Monday evening, November
7, the celebration was concluded by a grand ball at the Lafayette
Amphitheatre in Laurens Street; in order to secure the necessary space
required, the floor of the amphitheater was connected with the floors of
an adjacent circus building on one side and the floor of a riding school
on the other; as a result the largest ball room in America was
temporarily formed, measuring two hundred feet in length and from sixty
to one hundred feet in width. Above the proscenium were emblazoned the
names of the engineers of the "Grand Canal"--Briggs, White, Geddes,
Wright, and Thomas; also the names of the past and present canal
commissioners--Hart, Bouck, Holly, De Witt, Livingston, Fulton,
Clinton, Van Rensselaer, Morris, Eddy, Young, Seymour, Porter, and
Ellicott. In the ladies' banquet room a boat made of maple sugar--the
gift of Colonel Hinman of Utica to Governor Clinton--floated proudly on
Lake Erie water.

At the conclusion of the great celebration the committee from the West
departed for Lake Erie, carrying with them a keg of Atlantic water,
ornamented with the arms of the city of New York and the following words
in letters of gold: "Neptune's return to Pan. New York, 4th Nov. 1825.
Water of the Atlantic."

And the last scene in this old pageant was enacted at Buffalo on
November 23; at ten o'clock of the morning of that day the committee,
accompanied by a band, were towed out into the basin of Lake Erie; the
waters of the Atlantic were poured into the lake, Judge Wilkinson
delivering an appropriate address. In the evening a concluding
celebration was held at the Eagle Tavern. The waters of the ocean and
the Great Lakes were at last united; how largely the celebration was
inspired by political interests it is impossible to say. The fact
remains that the pageant was one of the most significant in American
history and marked a new era in the commercial awakening of America.



A careful study of the influence of the Erie Canal upon the great
commonwealth which built it has been made by Mr. Julius Winden, and the
results of his investigation, important and interesting, have been
placed at the disposal of the present writer.[42] The entire region
affected by the canal, from New York City to Buffalo, is divided by Mr.
Winden into three sections; the first covers the Hudson River valley
from the mouth of the Mohawk to the sea; the second includes the Mohawk
Valley from the Hudson to Utica where the canal left the valley; the
third extends from the Mohawk to Lake Erie. The sections are designated,
respectively, as Section A, Section B, and Section C. Again, each
section is divided into three classes; Class I includes the land within
six miles of the canal route; Class II includes all land between six and
twelve miles from the canal route; Class III includes all land within
the counties tapped by the canal lying at a greater distance than twelve
miles from its course. Mr. Winden first discusses the effect of the
canal on the population of the counties through which it ran, and thus
summarizes his results:

"Of the three sections considered, we have found one, Section A, with a
certain condition of the population due to the influence of an old
waterway, the Hudson river. Population was concentrated along the banks
of the river and decreased as the distance from the river increased. The
extension of this waterway into new and broader fields resulted in a
very great increase of the concentration of population on the banks of
the stream, but had little or no influence on the population at a
distance of six or more miles from it.

"The second region, Section B, presented conditions very similar to the
one preceding. It was influenced by an old waterway, the Mohawk River,
but this waterway was not very serviceable. The population was
concentrated along the course of the waterway, but not as markedly as in
Section A. An increase in the serviceability of the waterway and an
extension into new fields had the effect of concentrating the population
along the course of the waterway much greater than in Section A. The
region six or more miles from the waterway was little affected or none
at all.

"In the third region, Section C, we found a new region, having no
waterway and having less population per square mile where a waterway was
to be made than the region a short distance from the future course of
the waterway. The effect of the waterway was to increase the population
very rapidly along its course and produce a great concentration of
population there. In the remote region the population was also greatly
increased. We also notice that this concentration of population in Class
I along this watercourse tended to mass into cities."

The per capita valuation of property next engages attention and the
result is thus outlined:

"As before mentioned Section A was an old well-settled region during
this period, and although property had a tendency to mass along the
banks of the Hudson and gradually to diminish as the distance from the
river increased, still this increase of the valuation of property
advanced much more slowly than the increase in population.

"Section B was an old and well settled region, but it was not as old as
Section A. Here valuation massed along the canal but it did not increase
as rapidly as the population, still it increased more rapidly in
proportion to the increase of population than did Section A.

"Section C was a new region where the increase in valuation kept pace
with the increasing population and even exceeded it.

"A re-invigoration of an old region by increased commercial advantages
such as the Erie canal provided for in Sections A and B results in an
increase of property within about six miles of that commercial route,
but it has little effect outside of that limit. This increase of
property, however, does not keep pace with the increase in population,
_i.e._ property in this case is more stable and unchangeable than
population. On the other hand, in a new region never having felt the
influence of a commercial route such as the Erie Canal, property within
about six miles of the route increases as rapidly and even more rapidly
than the population. This increase of property is not confined within
the six mile limit, but extends much farther away from the route than it
does in an old well-settled region having previously felt the influence
of a commercial route. Thus the extension of a waterway into new fields
is beneficial to the region along the banks of the old waterway, but
affects the territory a distance from the route little or none at all;
while a waterway extended into a new region is of very great benefit to
the region immediately along the route and it is also beneficial, to a
less degree, to the remote regions. It must be remembered that a
waterway is different from a railroad, in that material can be shipped
at almost any point, while a railroad has certain stations were material
can be shipped; thus a waterway's influence is continuous along the
line, while the influence of the railroad is at points where there are

"In the distribution of real and personal property in 1835 very
significant results are shown. In Class I of Section A the real property
per capita was $150.22 and the personal property was $49.11; in Class II
the real property was $195.96 and the personal $34.34; in Class III the
real property was $166.49 and the personal was $37.22. The least real
property per capita and the least personal property per capita was in
Class II, and Class III was second in both. In Class I of Section B the
real property was $133.81 per capita and the personal $49.71; in Class
II the real property was $108.92 and the personal $17.41; in Class III
the real property was $90.68 and the personal $13.34.


                                _Real_  _Personal_
                    Section A
  Class I                      $150.22    $49.11
  Class II                      195.96     34.34
  Classes I and II              159.78     46.02
  Class III                     166.49     37.22

                    Section B
  Class I                      $133.81    $49.71
  Class II                      108.92     17.41
  Classes I and II              124.61     37.78
  Class III                      90.68     13.34

                    Section C
  Class I                       154.50     26.39
  Class II                      131.19     15.49
  Classes I and II              146.94     22.85
  Class III                     103.90     14.02

"Both real and personal property were greatest in Class I, Class II was
second in both, and Class III was third in both. Class I of Section C
was first in both real and personal property; Class II was second and
Class III was third in both real and personal property. This section
shows the same relations that we find in Section B.

"The location of the real and personal property in the three sections
considered indicates very clearly that the personal property was massed
along the waterway; in Class I and as the distance increased from the
waterway the personal property diminished."

Of the improvement of land Mr. Winden remarks:

"It may be stated that there was a slight tendency for the improvement
of land to increase concomitantly with the increase in population; but
the topography of the country and other elements entered in to such an
extent as to nearly destroy this parallel growth. The improvement of
land is much more stable and less likely to sudden and great changes
than is the population. For this reason we would not expect to find as
large a per cent of improved land in proportion to the population in
Section C as we would find in Section B, nor as large a per cent in
Section B as in Section A; because Section A is the oldest in
settlement, and Section C the youngest. The per cent of improved land as
a whole in the three sections supports this conclusion. But in comparing
the various classes of each section with each other, however, we do not
always find the greater per cent of improved land in the region of the
most concentrated population. In Section A, in 1820 and 1825, a larger
per cent of land was improved in Class II than in Class I, while the
population in Class I was much greater than in Class II. In Section B
in 1835 Class II had a larger per cent of improved land than Class I
while the population was nearly twice as great per square mile in the
latter as in the former. A somewhat similar condition also existed in
Section C. In 1820 and 1825 both the population and the per cent of
improved land were greater in Class II than in Class I; in 1835 the per
cent of improved land was still greater in Class II but the population
was much less than in Class I. The above conditions indicate that the
population and also the wealth increased with such remarkable rapidity
in Class I along the entire watercourse independently of the
topographical conditions and in spite of natural disadvantages. They
also indicate that the concentration of population in Class I was much
greater than the population per square mile taken alone would seem to
indicate. This is especially true of Class I in 1835."

The effect of the canal on live stock is thus summed up:

"During this entire period Classes II and III raised more stock in
proportion to their population than did Class I. At the beginning of
the period in 1820, Class II in Sections A and B and Class III in
Section C raised the greatest number of horses. Class III in Sections B
and C and Class II in Section A raised the greatest number of cattle;
Class III of Sections A and C and Class II of Section B raised the
greatest number of sheep. At the close of the period in 1835, Class II
in all three sections raised the greatest number of horses, Class III in
Sections A and C and Class II in Section B raised the greatest number of
cattle. Class III in all the sections raised the greatest number of
sheep. It is thus clearly seen that the area of the least concentration
of population was the region in which stock-raising was most extensively
carried on. By this it is not meant that there is a smaller amount of
stock raised in a given area, where the population is dense than in a
sparsely settled region, but that there is a smaller proportion raised
to the population."

Mr. Winden's summary in connection with the study of aliens and
foreigners is most interesting:

"It is thus clearly seen that if New York State received her just share
of all the classes of emigrants arriving in the United States during
this period, she would have added to her population, a strong, useful
and able-bodied class of men who would aid her greatly in her

"Why this region of concentrated population, the towns along the Erie
canal, should contain such a large part of the foreign element is
probably due to numerous causes. This was a region of great activity and
growth; a place where there was room for unskilled as well as skilled
labor of all kinds; it was along a direct route of transportation and
travel to the great and growing west and a foreigner knowing nothing
about the country and having no definite destination would stop along
the route wherever he could make a living. Although chance may have
largely determined the location of the foreigners in this new country,
his old environment was also an important factor in determining his
place of settlement. He came from an old and well settled region in
Europe where the population was concentrated and the country often
overcrowded and in coming to America he would tend to seek a region of
somewhat similar characteristics. He found these conditions with the
exception of an overcrowded population in the densely settled country
immediately along the Erie canal and the Hudson.

"In turning to the New Englander in New York we find a people of an
entirely different education and character from that of the foreigner.
This is seen most strikingly in the choice of their location. They were
shrewd, frugal, and hardworking farmers who left their New England homes
because they failed to supply their wants. In seeking a new home in the
west they naturally followed their old occupation and for this reason we
find the larger part of them in the rural region. In Class I of Section
A, 4.1% was of New England birth; in Class II 2.7%, and in Class III,
5.2%; in Class I of Section B, 5.7%, in Class II, 9.7%, and in Class
III, 10.1%; in Class I of Section C, 10.1%, in Class II, 10.3% and in
Class III, 11.7%. The New Englander also tended to shun the large
cities. In Albany 5.1% was of New England birth, and in Utica 7.8%,
while in Class I of Section B, in which these two cities were situated,
5.7% was of New England birth. In Buffalo 9.3% was of this origin and in
Rochester 9.6% while in Class I of Section C 10.1% originated in New

"The preceding discussion leads us to the conclusion that the foreigner
was massed in the region of concentrated population and especially in
the cities, and as the concentration of population diminished, the per
cent of foreigners decreased. In other words, along the Erie Canal lay
the larger part of the foreign population. Of this foreign population in
New York State, the larger per cent was born in Great Britain and her
dependencies, and this class was chiefly found where the population was
thickest. The New Englander constituted a larger part of those born in
other states of the Union and they were found chiefly in the rural

In his study of politics as presented in the territory traversed by the
Erie Canal Mr. Winden raises most interesting questions. We quote him in
full, appending his notes:

"Turning now to the political aspect in New York State during this
period we find a complicated problem. In the election of 1830 there were
two important parties. Summing up the principles for which these two
important political parties of New York stood in this election, we find
that the Anti-Masonic or National Republican party opposed the Masonic
order;[43] supported Clay's American policy of protection and the
extension of the internal improvement system;[44] catered to the
workingmen[45] and opposed the administration of both the national and
state government. In other words it was like all new parties, gathering
to its fold all the radical elements by adopting some of their
ideas.[46] In the campaign which followed they made an aggressive
canvass, making the most of the Morgan outrage. The Republican, or
Masonic party, as it was called by the Anti-Masons, tried to be
indifferent to the Masonic order and disavowed all support of it;[47]
opposed the American system and did not advocate an extensive local
improvement system[48] and supported the national and state
administrations. They conducted a defensive campaign against the
accusations of the Anti-Masons.

"Before considering the vote of the election it is necessary to take a
hasty view of the social and economic conditions of the state at that
time. Morgan had disappeared in western New York four years before and
this had caused a great local opposition to the Masons which had spread
throughout the state and even into neighboring states. The internal
improvement movement had assumed stupendous proportions; the state had
completed four canals within the last seven years; the Champlain in
1823, the Erie in 1825, the Oswego in 1828, and the Cayuga and Seneca in
1829. And the people were clamoring for more. Just after the completion
of the Erie canal in 1825, petitions for other canals had poured in from
almost every county in the west.[49] Thus it can be safely said that the
entire western part of the state was in favor of internal improvements
at public expense.

"Now considering the vote, we find that Section A gave a large majority
to Mr. Throop, the Republican candidate. In Section B he also received a
majority but not as great as in Section A. In this section an important
fact is noticeable, Classes II and III gave a smaller majority to Mr.
Throop than Class I. These two classes having no canals thus expressed
their desire for some means of communication. Section C cast a large
majority in favor of Mr. Granger, the National Republican candidate. The
result in Section C was just what we should expect. Class III of this
section which was in most need of some means of communication voted a
much larger majority in favor of Mr. Granger than Classes I and II. The
cities, however, gave a majority to Mr. Throop, Utica casting a larger
and Albany a smaller majority than the class in which they are situated.
Buffalo also cast a majority in favor of Mr. Throop, although the class
in which it is situated cast a majority in favor of Mr. Granger. (See

"Thus it is clearly shown that the people largely voted for the
respective candidates because they stood for economic principles which
were of direct interest to them.[50] The most densely populated east
determined the election and Mr. Throop, the Republican candidate, was
elected by a vote of 128,842. Mr. Granger received 120,361 votes,
mostly from the west and rural regions which were demanding internal
improvements, while Mr. Williams, the candidate of the dissatisfied
Working Men's party, received 2,332 votes.[51]


                 _Throop_ _Granger_
    Section A
  Class I           60%    40%
  Class II          62     38
  Classes I and II  60     40
  Class III         60     40
    Section B
  Class I           58     42
  Class II          54     46
  Classes I and II  57     43
  Class III         55     45
    Section C
  Class I           44     56
  Class II          44     56
  Classes I and II  44     56
  Class III         39     61
  Albany            54     46
  Buffalo           52-    48+
  Utica             60+    40-

"In the presidential election of 1840, strictly economic principles were
not prominent. The Whig National convention met at Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania, December 4, 1839, and nominated William H. Harrison of
Ohio and John Tyler of Virginia for President and Vice-president
respectively. They conducted the campaign with unbounded enthusiasm,
attacking Van Buren and his financial policy with great energy. Although
they adopted no platform, they favored loose construction, the American
system of protective tariff, and internal improvement by the national

"The Democratic national convention met at Baltimore, May 5, 1840, and
adopted a strict constructionist platform, denying the power of Congress
to carry on internal improvements,[52] to protect manufactures, to
charter a National Bank, or to interfere with slavery in the states. It
unanimously renominated President Van Buren, but left nominations for
the Vice-presidency to be made by the various states. The simultaneous
appearance of the 'Panic of 1837' and Van Buren in the presidential
chair produced the belief in the popular mind that he was the cause of
that unfortunate financial distress. The vote in New York is likely to
indicate the two following facts: where the financial distress was
greatest and the region most favorable to internal improvements. Van
Buren carried Section A, with the largest majority in Class III.
Recalling that this was a rural region, very stable in its population
and valuation, we see that it would be least affected by financial
distress. Classes I and II of Section B were also carried by Van Buren,
but the rural region, Class III, was carried by Harrison. Section C was
also carried by Harrison, with the largest majority in Class III. The
large cities also gave a majority to Harrison and although Albany and
Utica are situated in a class which cast a larger vote for Van Buren
they gave a majority to Harrison; and even Buffalo gave a greater per
cent of its vote to Harrison than the class in which it is situated. The
large majority in Class III of Section C may be accounted for by the
enthusiasm for internal improvements in this region and the majority in
the cities by their opposition to Van Buren because of the great
distress they were subject to during the Panic of 1837.

"We find the state issues and results of the election somewhat similar
to those of the national election in the state. The Whigs nominated
Governor W. H. Seward and the Democrats nominated Mr. Bouck. The Whigs
advocated internal improvements upon a large scale, while the Democrats
advocated retrenchment in this work. The Albany _Argus_ of September 25,
1840, states of Mr. Seward, the Whig nominee for governor: Departing
from the democratic policy of enlarging the Erie canal by means of its
revenues only, he has urged upon the legislature, its 'more speedy'
enlargement, at all hazards, and the creation of a debt for that
purpose--a debt which alone will absorb all our revenues, leaving the
principal to be paid by direct taxation. He has recommended that state
work be undertaken, the cost of which will involve the people in debt of
at least $40,000,000. In addition he has urged upon the legislature
loans to corporations--of the credit of the state to an indefinite
amount--for almost every mad scheme speculators might suggest.[53]

"Summing up the most important internal improvement works for which Mr.
Seward advocated state aid, we have, the enlargement of the Erie
canal,[54] the Black River canal in the counties of Oneida and Lewis and
joining the Black River with the Erie canal, the Genesee Valley canal in
the counties of Broome, Chenango, Madison, and Oneida joining the
Chenango river with the Erie Canal (the two canals last mentioned would
unite Lake Ontario with the Susquehanna River), and the Hudson and Erie
Railroad previously mentioned. Turning to the results of the election we
find that Section A gave a large majority to Mr. Bouck with the greatest
per cent of the vote in Class I, and the least in Class III; Classes I
and II of Section B also cast a majority for Mr. Bouck, but Class III
and all of Section C gave a majority to Mr. Seward. Class III of the
last mentioned section gave the largest per cent and Class II the next
to the largest per cent of the vote to Mr. Seward. Recalling that the
Hudson and Erie railroad was to pass through the entire length of the
southern part of Class III of Section C and also through Class III of
Section A, we see the cause of the increased vote above the neighboring
classes for Mr. Seward. (See Table.) The conclusion to be drawn from the
above fact that the rural region which was most desirous of obtaining
some means of communication had cast the larger per cent for Mr. Seward
who supported an extensive system of internal improvement, is that
economic conditions largely determined the vote.


                     _For Governor_        _For President_
                    _Seward_ _Bouck_    _Harrison_ _Van Buren_
    Section A
  Class I              44%      56%        47%        53%
  Class II             47       53         47         53
  Classes I and II     48       52         47         53
  Class III            46       54         46         54
    Section B
  Class I              47       53         49         51
  Class II             48       52         47         53
  Classes I and II     48       52         49         51
  Class III            50+      50-        51         49
    Section C
  Class I              53       47         53         47
  Class II             54       46         52         48
  Classes I and II     53       47         52         48
  Class III            55       45         56         44
  Albany               54       46         55         45
  Buffalo              55+      45-        56         44
  Rochester            55       45
  Utica                52       48         52         48

"In conclusion it may be stated that the Erie Canal was a great stimulus
to the growth of population and the increase in valuation of property
along the entire waterway of the Hudson and Erie Canal. The greatest
activity, however, was felt west of the head waters of the Mohawk along
the canal proper. This concentration of population tended to turn the
attention of the people away from rural pursuits and resulted in their
congregation in cities where they developed a commercial life. Along
this line of dense population the immigrating foreign element gathered
in large numbers while the New England settlers confined themselves to
the rural regions. The political effect of the canal was to produce a
great enthusiasm for internal improvements which was the main political
issue in the state during the following years. The western part of the
state and rural regions at a distance from the canal clamored for
further improvements which would benefit them, and accordingly cast a
majority of their votes for the candidates who stood for an extensive
internal improvement system while the east opposed them. It should also
be mentioned that in each section with the exception of Section A in the
election of 1830 and the presidential election of 1840, the region with
the largest number of foreigners cast a greater per cent of its vote
for the conservative candidate than the region containing the greatest
number of New Englanders. Thus it is clearly seen that political life is
largely influenced by economic conditions and the character of the



No more important question was proposed to the commissioners in 1816
than the one which asked them to ascertain where the money that was to
build the Erie Canal was coming from. Of course a loan must be made and
the commissioners at once began casting about for information. William
Bayard inquired for loans in Europe, but no answer was now at hand. "The
Committee entertain no doubt," was the tentative reply in 1817, "but
that as much money can be obtained in this country, as may be required
for the canal, on the credit of the state, at an interest of 6 per cent
by the creation of a funded debt, and that ample funds may be
appropriated for the payment of the interest, and the gradual
extinguishment of the debt without the imposition of taxes." The
commissioners applied to those states which, it seemed, would be most
benefited by the canal, Vermont on one side and Ohio and Kentucky (!) on
the other, and to the United States. "But if no extraneous aid should be
afforded," the commissioners concluded with threatening menace, "it will
at all times be in the power of this state to levy high transit on the
articles transported to and from those states and the territory of the
United States, and thereby secure eventually, a greater fund than can
possibly arise from any present contribution from those quarters." In
order to facilitate gifts in lands or money, the commissioners scattered
blank forms of cession and bequest throughout the country; "one form
relates to gratuitous grants of land for the ground through which the
canal is to pass, and the other is a contribution to the fund for making
it. Agents have also been appointed in Vermont and Ohio for the same
purpose." It was reported that nearly all the land necessary for the
canal throughout its entire length would be ceded by the owners to the
state for the purpose. In concluding their report for the year ending
February 15, 1817, the commissioners affirmed that "their
investigations have shown the physical facility of this great internal
communication, and a little attention to the resources of the state will
demonstrate its financial practicability. And they may be permitted to
remark, that unless it is established the greater part of the trade
which does not descend the Mississippi, from all those vast and fertile
regions west of the Seneca lake, will be lost to the United States."
This report is signed by De Witt Clinton, S. Van Rensselaer, Samuel
Young, and Myron Holley.

The needs of the canal were of course outlined in the estimates of
expense of building; the estimated cost of the Western Section,
according to James Geddes, was $1,801,862; that of the Middle Section,
by Benjamin Wright's figures, was $853,186, and that of the Eastern
Section, Charles C. Broadhead estimated at $2,271,690. The total
amounted to $4,926,538 or five millions in round numbers. The committee
of the legislature advised the organization of the Board of
Commissioners of a Canal Fund, to borrow $1,500,000 at six per cent
interest. The annual revenue of the canal was estimated at $924,000 and
the expenditure $547,000.

William Ford, chairman of the joint committee of the legislature,
addressed De Witt Clinton on March 8, 1817, asking him to outline a
financial system for a canal fund. Clinton's scheme, which became the
basis of all New York's canal building, is thus sketched by Mr.

"1. Borrow $1,500,000 on the credit of the State, by the creation of a
funded debt, with interest at six per cent, principal reimbursable in
twenty years.

"2. The said Committee shall keep an account of all moneys received for
the said fund, (which moneys shall be kept in the treasury), and shall
pay over, from time to time, such moneys as shall be required for the
execution of the powers committed to them.

"3. The said Committee of the fund shall, as soon as the whole or a part
of the said works be completed, have power to establish and receive
reasonable tolls.

"4. The annual application of $60,000 of the moneys arising which the
State may derive from the sale of unappropriated lands, shall be pledged
for the payment of said debt and the interest thereof. And they shall
have power to apply any unappropriated money in the treasury to make
good any deficiency or suspension in the payment of said funds.

"5. The said Committee shall, at the opening of the next session of the
Legislature, report a plan of finances for the execution of the whole of
said canals, and also of a sinking fund for the extinguishment of the

"In this same communication it was stated that 400,000 tons of freight
were carried annually on the Hudson River.

"Thus De Witt Clinton laid the foundation of our canal financial system.
He estimated that ten million tons annually would be carried upon the
canals; that the cost of a ton for transportation from Buffalo to Albany
would be $3.00."

The expenses of the engineering department to April 2, 1817, had been
$14,462, and the total for exploration and surveying $42,957. The act
to provide funds for the canal and also funds for the redemption of the
funded debt of the state was passed April 21, 1818. This law authorized
the comptroller to sell certain three per cent United States bonds, and
to apply the proceeds to the redemption of the funded debt; the
comptroller was ordered to borrow one million dollars at six per cent
after advertising for proposals for the same. The governor was empowered
to appoint a cashier of a New York bank to issue certificates of stock,
the principal to be redeemable until 1823, taxed at one mill on the
dollar; state deposits were to be made in any bank in New York that
would loan one million dollars. The act of March, 1819, authorized the
borrowing of $700,000 yearly for the building of the canal; on March 25
this was reduced to $600,000; an assessment of a tax upon all lands
within twenty-five miles of the canal, formerly made, was at this time
suspended. By a law of April 7, 1819, the commissioners were again
authorized to borrow a sum not exceeding (together with the net income
of the canal fund) $600,000. The board of commissioners of the canal
fund was now reduced to three members (January 20, 1820) at a salary of
$2,500 each. To meet the extraordinary expenses of 1819, as previously
detailed, the commissioners were empowered, April 12, 1820, to borrow
$122,500 at six per cent interest; three fourths of this was to be
equally divided between the Eastern and Western sections; the remainder
was for the Champlain Canal. The first tolls were levied on the Erie
Canal July, 1820; in that year $5,244 was collected, $450 of it from the
old canal of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company at Little Falls.

By a concurrent resolution in the legislature, the comptroller, A.
McIntyre, was allowed to put into execution a plan for a sinking fund
for the extinguishing of the canal debt, January 12, 1821. He took, as a
basis of his calculation, a debt of $5,905,456 and a revenue of
$210,000; the loan of $600,000, with revenues, was to be continued as
heretofore. By this plan the debt was to be extinguished in 1842, at
which time the revenue, it was estimated, would be about $580,000, and
the canal tolls, $150,000 beyond expenditures for repairs.

"If these estimates of revenue and of the expense of making the canals,
be correct, it results that the canals will be completed in 1830, and
that the canal loans will be discharged in 1843." An act dated February
9, 1821, authorized the commissioners to borrow one million dollars in
both 1821 and 1822. Nothing can be more interesting than the financial
estimates, the fears and doubts and the staunch firmness of these
directors of the Erie Canal. In almost every case the estimates of
expenses fell far below the actual cost; often the expenses ran thirty
per cent above estimates; on the other hand the most optimistic
commissioner never, in his most enthusiastic moment, realized what a
tremendous income was to be received from the Erie Canal when it should
be completed. Far as expenses ran ahead of estimates, they never
exceeded them so far as the actual income of the canal exceeded the
estimated income. This cannot be more clearly indicated than by a table
showing estimated tolls and those actually received, from 1826 to 1834:

  _Year_       _Estimated (1826)_  _Received_
   1826            $500,000        $492,664.00
   1827             550,000         786,244.64
   1828             600,000         838,412.00
   1829             650,000         861,302.00
   1830             700,000         943,545.35
   1831             750,000       1,091,714.26
   1832             800,000       1,085,612.28
   1833             850,000       1,290,136.20
   1834             900,000       1,179,744.97
                 ----------      -------------
    Totals       $6,300,000      $8,539,377.70

In only these eight years, it will be seen, the receipts exceeded the
estimates by nearly two and one-quarter millions. In many places these
estimates had been laughed to scorn. It will be difficult to find in all
the commercial history of America a more splendid success, and it will
be quite as difficult to find an instance where success was more richly

Between June, 1817, and October, 1821, the sum of $2,893,500 was
borrowed for canal work, the lenders advancing $91,202 in premiums; the
yearly interest was $159,580. The tolls of 1821 amounted to $23,000. It
will be interesting to notice on what these tolls were levied; the list
includes 44,723 barrels of flour, 17,068 barrels of salt, 43,078 bushels
of wheat, 1,061,844 feet of lumber, 71,000 bushels of lime, 9,993 pounds
of maple sugar, 85 tons of butter and lard, 772 tons of gypsum, 2,500
tons of merchandise, 47 wagons, and 10 coaches. The rates of toll per
mile in 1821 were as follows:

    _Article_                                 _Rate_
  Salt                                      5 mills per ton.
  Gypsum                                    5 mills per ton.
  Flour, meal, etc                          1 cent per ton.
  Merchandise                               2 cents per ton.
  Timber (square and round)                 5 mills per 100 solid feet.
  Boards (planks, and reduced to one inch)  5 mills per 1000 solid feet.
  Shingles                                  1 mill per 1000.
  Bricks, sand, lime, iron ore, and stone   5 mills per ton.
  Fence rails and posts                     2 cents per 1000.
  Wood for fuel                             1 cent per cord.
  All fuel for manufacture of salt          free.
  Boats for transportation of property      1 mill per ton of capacity.
  Boats for carriage of persons             5 cents per mile of their
  Staves and heading for pipes              1 cent per 1000.
  Staves and heading for hogsheads          7 mills per 1000.
  Staves and heading for barrels            5 mills per 1000.
  All articles not named                    1 cent per ton.[56]

The large amounts handled by the canal commissioners during the building
of the canal will indicate the great responsibility that lay on their
shoulders; between 1817 and 1822 the amount paid out by Myron Holley was
$1,799,425.58; by H. Seymour, $833,335.70; by S. Young, $554,641.19.

By a law passed March 29, 1823, the commissioners were authorized to
borrow $1,300,000 and also $120,000 to pay interest on the canal bonds.
The tolls collected the year before amounted to $60,446.89; in this year
they ran up to $125,991.76; $77,593.26 was collected between the Seneca
and Utica, and $27,444.09 between Little Falls and Albany. On April 12,
1824, the commissioners were authorized to borrow one million dollars to
complete the canals. In this year ten thousand boats passed the junction
of the Erie and Champlain canals; 157,446 tons of freight were handled
and $294,546.62 was received from tolls. The following table will show
the exact number of miles that was completed in the years from 1820 to
1824 and the tolls received from the canal alone:

  _Year_    _Miles completed_     _Tolls_
   1820            94            $5,437.34
   1821            94            23,000.00
   1822           116            57,160.39
   1823           160           105,037.35
   1824           280           294,546.62

The expense of building in these years was:

  _Year_              _Expense_
   1817-21        $2,004,523.53
   1822            1,184,468.73
   1823            1,941,962.37
   1824            1,785,447.84
  Total           $6,916,402.47

The debt incurred, including the amount required for completion and
payment of all claims at the close of the year 1824, was $7,700,000.

This estimate proved approximately correct, the total cost being
$19,255.49 per mile, a trifle over one-half of the cost per mile of the
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

The success of the Erie Canal, shown by the tolls received from 1825 to
1834 ($8,539,377.70), was more than its promoters had expected; indeed
it was so great that the enlargement of the canal was rendered
imperative within a decade. This was first urged by the citizens of one
of the jewel-cities made by the great waterway--Utica. The memorial now
reported to the legislature by E. F. Johnson called for a steamboat
canal from Utica to Oswego (Lake Ontario) which was to be extended to
Albany; the proposed depth was eight feet, width fifty-eight feet on the
bottom and ninety feet on the surface, the locks one hundred and thirty
feet long by thirty feet wide. "On the Erie Canal," the memorial urged,
"the cost of animal power is 12 per cent greater than steam power on the
Hudson for flour, and 42 per cent greater for merchandize; agricultural
products, including ashes, 21 per cent greater on the canal than on the
Hudson river. The Erie canal is small, and the traction of boats that
navigate it is from 30 to 45, and most usually 40 per cent greater than
would occur on a canal of the most favorable size for the boat used....
That a canal boat, 104 feet long, 16 feet wide, drawing 7 feet water,
would carry 200 tons, and require a lock 115 feet long by 17 feet wide;
the sectional area of boat below load water line 108 feet. The gross
load of a schooner, with its own weight, would be 350 tons. Canal boats,
constructed with reference to freight merely, will generally weigh in
the ratio of their cargo as 4 to 9."[57] Engineer N. S. Roberts in a
report dated January 17, 1835, said: "The present canal admits boats
13-1/2 feet wide, 3 feet draught, 80 feet long, displaces 80 tons water,
weight of boat 30 to 35 tons, cargo 45 tons. Size of canal, 28 [26?]
feet bottom, 40 feet surface, 4 feet depth cross sec[tion] = 136 [132?]
sq. feet. Enlarged canal to reduce cost of transportation, 43-3/4 per
cent must be 33 feet bottom, 48 feet top, and 5 feet deep, cross
sec[tion]: 202.5; width and size of locks: 15×110 between gates,
admitting a boat 102 feet long, 13-1/2 feet wide, and 4 feet

After examination, the canal board determined to make the canal seventy
feet wide on the surface, seven feet deep; the locks were to measure
110 feet between quoins and be eighteen feet deep. It was estimated that
a canal of these proportions would save fifty per cent of transportation
charges exclusive of tolls.[59] The enlargement construction law was
passed May 11, 1835; the act called for the construction of "double
locks thereon as soon as they should deem it for the public interest;
the dimensions of the canals and locks to be fixed by the Canal

The new canal, seventy feet wide by seven feet deep, was divided into
four sections. The first was from Albany to the eastern end of the Rome
summit; the estimated cost of this section for enlargement was
$2,864,335.96. The second section ran from east end of Rome summit to
Jordan; estimated cost, $1,194,804.74. The third lay between Jordan and
Rochester; estimated cost $2,739,139.51. The portion from Rochester to
Buffalo comprised the fourth section, its estimated cost being
$4,518,575.85. The total estimated cost, after adding ten per cent for
contingencies, was $12,448,856.06.[61] Twenty-one double and three
single locks were planned between Albany and Schenectady; one double and
three single at Little Falls; two double and one single at Syracuse; one
single lock at Lyons; two single at Lockville; one double and one single
at Macedon. On January 1, 1838, these were all under contract, at a
contract price of $3,035,087.[62] One year later contracts to the amount
of ten and one-half millions for the whole work of enlargement had been
signed. The commissioners were authorized by an act passed April 18,
1839, to borrow four millions.[63] The work went on rapidly. By April 1,
1842, the Rochester aqueduct was completed, at a cost of half a million;
the north tier of the locks at Lockport was in use in April of the next
year. The total cost of the works here was $610,978. In 1845 twenty-nine
out of forty-nine double set of locks between Albany and Syracuse were
completed and ninety-eight miles of the new enlarged canal was open for
use; the cost for this portion was $3,685,438. The total cost of
enlargement contracted for prior to April 1, 1842, was $9,361,442. By
1850 the cost had run up to fifteen millions, which was distributed by
years as follows:

  _Year_    _Expense_       _Year_    _Expense_

   1835     $31,810.70       1844    $418,692.06
   1836      53,218.83       1845     155,130.43
   1837     636,312.17       1846      70,012.35
   1838   1,163,196.12       1847      62,331.30
   1839   2,237,785.74       1848     634,573.08
   1840   3,234,749.66       1849   1,000,323.97
   1841   2,518,309.72       1850   1,365,695.00
   1842   1,521,152.51              ------------
   1843     530,801.54      Total $15,634,095.18[64]

This enlargement was completed in 1862 and is legally known as the
"enlargement of 1862." When completed the canal was 350-1/2 miles long;
it had seventy-two locks, measuring 110×18 feet, of which fifty-seven
were double and fifteen single. The building of double locks did not
cease until 1875.

Further enlargement of the Erie Canal has been almost constantly under
discussion. In 1863 State Engineer Taylor suggested gunboat locks
twenty-six feet wide and two hundred and twenty-five feet long, with a
depth of seven feet. What was known as the "Seymour Plan" was brought
forward by State Engineer Seymour in 1878, which called for a deepening
of the canal to eight feet by lowering the bottom in some places and
raising the banks in others. State Engineer Sweet proposed a ship canal
across New York, eighteen feet in depth, in 1884. In 1892 the subject of
enlarging the canal was considered by Congress,[65] but nothing was done
until 1895 when the "Nine Million" act was passed by the New York
legislature, granting about half the sum asked for by the state engineer
for improvement.

The work was begun in 1897 and consisted of deepening the canal to nine
feet in the waterway and eight feet over structures. The work went on
through 1898 when the appropriation gave out and it was suspended.

But before the passage of this act an effort was being made to secure
recognition at Albany in order that the subject of enlargement might be
more thoroughly studied before the state should be committed to any
policy; and even after the general assembly had voted for the
expenditure of nine millions of dollars, yet the men behind the scenes
were not dismayed, but with greater determination their work was carried

The story of initiative work, of the arousing of public sentiment, the
obtaining of recognition of those in power at Albany, the years of work
expended and of thousands of dollars obtained by voluntary subscription
for the carrying on of the work can never be told in detail and could
only be told by such men as Mr. George H. Raymond of Buffalo and his
associates. But that their work was efficient time has already proved.

The first official recognition of the necessity for radical enlargement
or total abandonment (this latter being a natural deduction from the
former) was the passage of an act by the general assembly of the
state[66] authorizing the governor to appoint a commission "to examine
into the commerce of New York, the cause of its decline and the means
for its revival."

Governor Black appointed Charles A. Schieren, Andrew H. Green, C. C.
Shayne, Hugh Kelly, and Alexander R. Smith to constitute what was
officially known as the New York Commerce Commission but was usually
called the "Black Commission." This body of men submitted a preliminary
report to the legislature of 1899[67] and continued its investigations
under authority of an amendment[68] making, in 1900, a most exhaustive
report thereon.

Long before the final report of the "Black Commission"[69] was submitted
Theodore Roosevelt was governor and taking active steps to assist in the
solution of the "canal question." A "Committee on Canals of the State of
New York" was appointed. The following quotations from Governor
Roosevelt's letter of appointment written to Francis V. Greene on March
8, 1899, are self-explanatory:

"I am very desirous of seeing the canal policy of the state definitely
formulated. As you know, the nine million dollars designated to deepen
the canal to the depth of nine feet has been practically expended, and
it is reported that sixteen millions additional will be needed to carry
this scheme through, while at the same time, certain experts have said
that the scheme, when carried through, will not be satisfactory....

"I desire the opinion of a body of experts, ... I have decided to ask
five of the citizens of New York, whose reputation in these respects
stands highest, to act with the Superintendent of Public Works, Col.
Partridge, and the State Engineer and Surveyor, Mr. Bond, to make the
necessary investigations.... The other four gentlemen will be Major T.
W. Symons, Hon. John N. Scatcherd, Hon. George E. Green and Hon. Frank
S. Witherbee....

"The broad question of the proper policy which the State should pursue
in canal matters remains unsolved, and I ask you to help me reach the
proper solution."

This committee submitted a report to the governor, under date of January
15, 1900, stating "That the canals connecting the Hudson River with Lake
Erie, Ontario and Champlain should not be abandoned, but should be
maintained and enlarged." The report contained many maps, documents and
tables, and offered convincing arguments. The consideration of the two
reports, viz., the Black Commission and the Roosevelt Committee, by the
next general assembly resulted in the passage of "an act directing the
State Engineer and Surveyor to cause surveys, plans and estimates to be
made for improving the Erie canal, the Champlain canal, and the Oswego
canal and making an appropriation therefor."[70]

The work thus authorized was carried out and a report, comprising a
thousand pages of printed matter and thirty-four plates in atlas form,
was submitted to the general assembly the following year.

One of the clearest statements of the conditions which led New York to
face the great work of enlarging her canal is contained in a letter
written to Governor Odell by William F. King, President of the
Merchants' Association of New York, as follows:

"I wish to call your attention to what, to my mind, is one of the most
important public improvements that can be made for the benefit of the
people of this State, namely, the improvement of the Erie Canal. It must
not be forgotten that formerly the minerals, the products of the farm,
the production of cotton, lumber, coal; in fact, all raw materials, were
brought Eastward to be turned into manufactured goods, and shipped West.
Today what are the conditions? The goods are manufactured ready for
market right in the States where the raw material is found. The
consequence is that these self-same States have grown so rapidly and so
much in wealth that it behooves our people to realize the importance of
the Erie Canal to the manufacturing industries, and the farming element
of the State.

"The widening and deepening of the Erie Canal means continued prosperity
to the manufacturing industries of this State. It means that the raw
material will come to our different towns, villages, and cities at an
extremely low cost, and that we will then be able to compete with the
manufacturing industries of the great Middle West. Unless this is done,
there is but one alternative, that this great State lose its commercial
supremacy, which would also mean a great loss in population. People must
be employed. If they cannot secure work they will go to that market
where their services can be utilized at good wages.

"The farmers of this State must remember that conditions have changed in
regard to the products of the farm. Eastern farmers cannot, because of
natural conditions, produce grain and meat products as well as Western
farmers can. Therefore, Eastern farmers cannot profitably compete in
these products. They think that cheap grain and provision freights from
the West to the seaboard give Western farm products a still greater
advantage, and therefore are opposed to them. That may be true; but will
choking the Erie Canal, so that the New York Central Railroad Company
can maintain high local freight rates on manufactured products and
high-class traffic, keep Western farm products from reaching the
seaboard as cheaply as now? We can prevent Western grain and provisions
from passing across the State of New York, and the present railroad
policy is rapidly doing it; but the only effect will be to send the
traffic through Canada and by rail routes to Boston, Philadelphia,
Baltimore, Newport News, Charleston, and especially New Orleans and
Galveston. That will greatly harm this city, but what good will it do to
the New York State farmer?

"The true market for a large part of this State's farm products must be
local and the demand must come from the creation, development, and
prosperity of local industries throughout the State, and these, in turn,
depend upon cheap freight rates such as the Erie Canal will insure.
Those cheap rates will enable the important cities of central New York
to obtain iron ore, and coal as cheaply as the lake ports and the
Pennsylvania towns now obtain those raw materials, and will give the
manufacturers of those cities a considerable advantage in freight
charges upon products intended for export. Factories in the midst of
farms, with cheap freight outlets, is the ideal condition for industrial
prosperity. This condition will reach its highest point by development
of the Erie Canal.

"It is the duty of the people of the State to avail themselves of that
which nature has provided, the greatest waterway in this country, if not
in the world, the Great Lakes. The connection of the Erie Canal with the
Hudson River also means a connection with the East River and turns Long
Island Sound into an outlet of the Erie Canal, by which freight from the
great West can be transported to the Eastern States. With the Erie Canal
improved, New York would become the greatest harbor in the world. It
would bring about a continuance of the enjoyment by this city of the
import trade of the nation. It would also make New York the outlet for
the export trade of the United States with other countries, making New
York city not only the greatest financial center, but also the greatest
commercial city. We have about 110 miles of water front available for
shipping. This water front should be made available for additional
shipping, so that the export trade could be increased, making New York
city the center for export trade the same as Liverpool is in England.
This can only be done by the improvement of the Erie Canal.

"It is for you, if you are reëlected Governor of the State, to advocate
a referendum to allow the people to vote for the building of a 1,000-ton
barge canal. The party ignoring this issue is, to my belief, doomed to
defeat. The people throughout the State are aroused to the importance of
the question. They are determined to be allowed to vote on this


The referendum was discussed, the necessary laws passed, the project
submitted to the people and by a majority of nearly a quarter of a
million the state voted to expend $101,000,000 for the rebuilding of its
canals with a prism 12 feet deep, 75 feet wide on the bottom, and 123
feet at the surface of water, capable of floating economically a barge
of 10 feet draft of 1,000 tons capacity; with locks 328 feet long and
28 feet broad, capable of passing two boats, 150 feet long, 25 feet wide
and 10 feet draft.

Thus, in brief, was inaugurated the largest work of its kind in our
history, an artificial waterway to connect an inland lake and river, the
entire expense to be borne by a single state.

For the very boldness of its conception and the magnitude of its
realization it demands our respect. As the old Erie Canal heralded a new
epoch in the commercial history of America, is it not possible that the
new Grand Canal will be the beginning of another new epoch in this new
century? A study of the map of the new canal appended will show, for one
thing, that New York is going back to the old idea of canalizing rivers.
Instead of building a canal beside the Mohawk, for instance, her
engineers will canalize that river. This is in direct opposition to the
advice sent by Benjamin Franklin from England to the Pennsylvania
promoters of inland navigation at the close of the Revolutionary
War;[71] it is an indication of the great advances in engineering
science since the days of Smeaton, and is made possible by the
substitution of the screw propeller for the mule and tow-path. It is by
this means that the Ohio River is to be made a great artery of
commerce.[72] With steamers fitted out with low pressure engines it is
estimated that freight can be transported profitably on the Ohio at an
astonishingly low rate with which no land method of transportation can
ever dare hope to compete. The new project of New York, therefore,
brings back all the old-time dreams of early American promoters--of
Washington's for the Potomac, of Morris's for the Mohawk, and of Robert
Morris's for the Susquehanna. If modern engineering can make the
canalization of one river a success, it can of hundreds of rivers. No
sooner was the Erie Canal a success in 1825 than Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Maryland and other states began canal building. No sooner had New York
voted in favor of her thousand-ton barge canal than Ohio again followed
by passing an act looking toward the improvement of her canal from the
Ohio to Lake Erie. Does New York again lead the way to a new field of
national development by means of canalization of rivers at the beginning
of the twentieth century, as she did by means of canal-building at the
beginning of the nineteenth?



ACT OF APRIL 17, 1816[73]

I _Be it enacted by the People of the State of New-York, represented in
Senate and Assembly_, That Stephen Van Rensselaer, De Witt Clinton,
Samuel Young, Joseph Ellicott and Myron Holley, be and they are hereby
appointed commissioners, to consider, devise and adopt such measures as
may or shall be requisite, to facilitate and effect the communication,
by means of canals and locks, between the navigable waters of Hudson's
river and lake Erie, and the said navigable waters and lake Champlain;
and in case of the resignation or death of any of the said
commissioners, the vacancy thereby occasioned, shall be supplied by the
legislature, in the manner in which senators of the United States, from
this state, are directed to be chosen.

II _And be it further enacted_, That the said commissioners shall choose
one of their number, to be president of their board, and shall appoint a
fit person for their secretary, who shall be allowed and paid such
salary as the said commissioners shall deem proper and reasonable: And
the president of the said board of commissioners shall have power to
call a meeting of the same whenever in his opinion, the public interests
require it; and the said board may adjourn from time to time, to meet at
any time and place they may deem most conducive to the public good: _And
further_, the said commissioners shall have power to employ such and so
many agents, engineers, surveyors, draftsmen and other persons, as in
their opinion may be necessary to enable them to fulfil and discharge
the duties imposed upon them by this act; and to allow and pay the said
agents, engineers, surveyors, draftsmen and other persons, for their
respective services, such sum or sums as may be adequate and reasonable.

III _And be it further enacted_, That it shall be the duty of the said
commissioners, as soon as may be after the passing of this act, to cause
those parts of the territory of this state which may lie upon or
contiguous to the probable courses and ranges of the said canals, to be
explored and examined for the purpose of fixing and determining the most
eligible and proper routes for the same, and to cause all necessary
surveys and levels to be taken, and accurate maps, field books and
drafts thereof to be made, and further to adopt and recommend proper
plans for the construction and formation of the said canals, and of the
locks, dams, embankments, tunnels and aqueducts which may be necessary
for the completion of the same, and to cause all necessary plans, drafts
and models thereof, to be executed under their direction.

IV _And be it further enacted_, That the said commissioners or a
majority of them, shall be, and they are hereby authorized and required
to make application in behalf of this state, to the government of the
United States, and of such states and territories as may be benefited by
the said canals or either of them, to the proprietors of lands through
or near which the said canals or either of them, may, or may be proposed
to, pass, to all bodies politic and corporate, public or private, and
all citizens or inhabitants of this or any other of the United States,
for cessions, grants or donations of land or money, for the purpose of
aiding in the constructing or completing of both or either of the said
canals, according to the discretion of the several grantors or donors,
and to take to the people of this state, such grants and conveyances as
may be proper and competent to vest a good and sufficient title in the
said people to the lands so to be ceded or granted as aforesaid, and for
the purposes above-mentioned, it shall be the duty of the said
commissioners to open books of subscription in such and so many places
as they may think necessary and expedient, and under such rules and
regulations as they may from time to time establish: _And further_, it
shall be their duty to ascertain whether to any and to what amount, and
upon what terms loans of money may or can be procured on the credit of
this state, for the purpose aforesaid.

V _And be it further enacted_, That it shall be the duty of the said
commissioners to make, or cause to be made, with as much accuracy and
minuteness as may be, calculations and estimates of the sum or sums of
money which may or will be necessary for completing each of the said
canals, according to the plan or plans which may be adopted and
recommended by them, for the construction or formation of the same, and
to cause the said calculations and estimates, and all surveys, maps,
field books, plans, drafts and models authorised and directed by this
act, or so many thereof as may be completed, together with a plain and
comprehensive report of all their proceedings under and by virtue of
this act, to be presented to the legislature of this state within twenty
days after the commencement of the next regular annual session thereof.

VI _And be it further enacted_, That the treasurer shall, on the warrant
of the comptroller, pay to the order of a majority of the said
commissioners, out of any monies in the treasury, not otherwise
appropriated, any sum or sums not exceeding twenty thousand dollars,
and for which the said commissioners shall account to the comptroller of
this state.

VII _And be it further enacted_, That the act entitled "an act to
provide for the improvement of the internal navigation of this state,"
passed the 8th day of April, 1811, and the act, entitled "an act further
to provide for the improvement of the internal navigation of this
state," passed June 19th 1812, be and the same are hereby repealed.


ACT OF APRIL 15, 1817[74]

_Whereas_, navigable communications between Lakes Erie and Champlain,
and the Atlantic ocean, by means of canals connected with the Hudson
river, will promote agriculture, manufactures and commerce, mitigate the
calamities of war, and enhance the blessings of peace, consolidate the
union, and advance the prosperity and elevate the character of the
United States:

_And whereas_, it is the incumbent duty of the people of this state, to
avail themselves of the means which the Almighty has placed in their
hands for the production of such signal, extensive and lasting benefits
to the human race: _Now, therefore_, in full confidence that the
congress of the United States, and the states equally interested with
this state in the commencement, prosecution and completion of those
important works, will contribute their full proportion of the expense;
and in order that adequate funds may be provided, and properly arranged
and managed, for the prosecution and completion of all the navigable
communications contemplated by this act:

I _Be it enacted by the people of the state of New York, represented in
Senate and Assembly_, That there shall be constituted a fund to be
denominated the canal fund, which shall consist of all such
appropriations, grants and donations, as may be made for that purpose by
the legislature of this state, by the congress of the United States, by
individual states, and by corporations, companies and individuals; which
fund shall be superintended and managed by a board of commissioners, to
be denominated "the commissioners of the canal fund," consisting of the
lieutenant-governor, the comptroller, the attorney-general, the
surveyor-general, secretary and treasurer, a majority of whom with the
comptroller shall be a quorum for the transaction of business; and that
it shall be the duty of the said board to receive, arrange and manage to
the best advantage all things belonging to the same fund, to borrow,
from time to time, monies on the credit of the people of this state at a
rate of interest not exceeding six per centum per annum, and not
exceeding in any one year a sum which, together with the net income of
the said fund, shall amount to four hundred thousand dollars; for which
monies, so to be borrowed, the comptroller shall issue transferable
certificates of stock, payable at such time or times as may be
determined by said board; out of the said fund to pay to the canal
commissioners hereafter mentioned, the monies so to be borrowed and the
income of the said fund, reserving at all times sufficient to pay the
interest of all monies that shall have been borrowed by the said board;
to recommend from time to time to the legislature, the adoption of such
measures as may be thought proper by the said board for the improvement
of the said fund, and to report to the legislature, at the opening of
every session thereof, the state of said fund; and that the comptroller
and treasurer shall open separate books, and keep the accounts of the
said fund distinct from the other funds of the state.

II _And be it further enacted_, That the commissioners appointed by the
act, entitled "an act to provide for the improvement of the internal
navigation of this state" passed April 17, 1816, shall continue to
possess the powers thereby conferred, and be denominated "the canal
commissioners;" and they are hereby authorized and empowered, in behalf
of this state, and on the credit of the fund herein pledged, to commence
making the said canals, by opening communications by canals and locks
between the Mohawk and Seneca rivers, and between Lake Champlain and the
Hudson river; to receive from time to time from the commissioners of the
canal fund, such monies as may be necessary for and applicable to the
objects hereby contemplated; to cause the same to be expended in the
most prudent and economical manner, in all such works as may be proper
to make the said canals; and on completing any part or parts of the
works or canals contemplated by this act, to establish reasonable tolls
and adopt all measures necessary for the collection and payment thereof
to the commissioners of the canal fund; that a majority of the said
commissioners shall be a board for the transaction of business, each of
whom shall take an oath well and faithfully to execute the duties of his
office, and shall report to the legislature at each session thereof, the
state of said works and expenditures, and recommend such measures as
they may think advisable for the accomplishment of the objects intended
by this act; and in case of any vacancy in the office of commissioner,
during the recess of the legislature, the person administering the
government may appoint a person to fill such vacancy until the
legislature shall act in the premises.

III _And be it further enacted_, That it shall and may be lawful for the
said canal commissioners, and each of them, by themselves, and by every
superintendent, agent, and engineer, employed by them, to enter upon,
take possession of, and use all and singular any lands, waters, and
streams necessary for the prosecution of the improvements intended by
this act, and to make all such canals, feeders, dykes, locks, dams, and
other works and devices as they may think proper for making said
improvements, doing nevertheless no unnecessary damage; and that in case
any lands, waters or streams taken and appropriated for any of the
purposes aforesaid, shall not be given or granted to the people of this
state, it shall be the duty of the canal commissioners from time to
time, and as often as they think reasonable and proper, to cause
application to be made to the justices of the supreme court, or any two
of them, for the appointment of appraisers; and the said justices shall
thereupon, by writing, appoint not less than three, nor more than five
discreet disinterested persons as appraisers, who shall, before they
enter upon the duties of their appointment, severally take and subscribe
an oath or affirmation, before some person authorised to administer
oaths, faithfully and impartially to perform the trust and duties
required of them by this act, which oath or affirmation shall be filed
with the secretary of the canal commissioners; and it shall be the duty
of the said appraisers, or a majority of them, to make a just and
equitable estimate and appraisal of the loss and damage, if any, over
and above the benefit and advantage to the respective owners and
proprietors or parties interested in the premises so required for the
purposes aforesaid, by and in consequence of making and constructing any
of the works aforesaid; and the said appraisers, or a majority of them,
shall make regular entries of their determination and appraisal, with an
apt and sufficient description of the several premises appropriated for
the purposes aforesaid, in a book or books to be provided and kept by
the canal commissioners, and certify and sign their names to such
entries and appraisal, and in like manner certify their determination as
to these several premises which will suffer no damages, or will be
benefited more than injured by or in consequence of the works aforesaid;
and the canal commissioners shall pay the damages so to be assessed and
appraised, and the fee simple of the premises so appropriated shall be
vested in the people of this state.

IV _And be it further enacted_, That whenever, in the opinion of the
canal commissioners, it shall be for the interest of this state, for the
prosecution of the works contemplated by this act, that all the interest
and title (if any) in law and equity of the western inland lock
navigation company should be vested in the people of this state, it
shall be lawful for the said canal commissioners to pass a resolution to
that effect, and that it shall then be lawful for the president of the
canal commissioners to cause a copy of such resolution, with a notice
signed by himself and the secretary of the said commissioners, to be
delivered to the president or other known officer of the said company,
notifying the president and directors of the said company that an
application will be made to the justices of the supreme court, at a term
thereof to be held not less than thirty days from the time of giving
such notice, for the appointment of appraisers to estimate the damages
to be sustained by the same company, by investing in the people of this
state all the lands, waters, canals, locks, feeders, and appurtenances
thereto acquired, used and claimed by the said company, under its act of
incorporation, and the several acts amending the same; and it shall be
the duty of the justices aforesaid, at the term mentioned in the said
notice, and on proof of the service thereof, to appoint, by writing
under the seal of the said court, and the hands of at least three of the
said justices, not less than three, nor more than five disinterested
persons, being citizens of the United States, to estimate and appraise
the damages aforesaid; and it shall be the duty of the said appraisers,
or a majority of them, to estimate and appraise the damages aforesaid,
and severally to certify the same under oath, before an officer
authorised to take the acknowledgement of deeds, to be a just,
equitable, and impartial appraisal to the best of their judgment and
belief, and shall thereupon deliver the same to one of the canal
commissioners, who shall report the same to the same court; and if the
said court shall be of opinion that the said damages have been fairly
and equitably assessed, the said justices, or any three of them, may
certify the same on the same report, and the amount of the said damages
and the expenses of the said appraisal shall be audited by the
comptroller, and paid on his warrant by the treasurer out of the canal
fund; and the people of this state shall thereupon be invested with, and
the said canal commissioners may cause to be used, all the lands,
waters, streams, canals, locks, feeders, and appurtenances aforesaid,
for the purposes intended by this act.

V _And be it further enacted_, That for the purposes contemplated by
this act, and for the payment of the interest and final redemption of
the principal of the sums to be borrowed by virtue hereof, there shall
be, and hereby are appropriated and pledged, a duty or tax of twelve and
a half cents per bushel upon all salt to be manufactured in the western
district of this state; a tax of one dollar upon each steamboat
passenger, for each and every trip or voyage such passenger may be
conveyed upon the Hudson river on board of any steamboat over one
hundred miles, and half that sum for any distance less than one hundred
miles and over thirty miles; the proceeds of all lotteries which shall
be drawn in this state, after the sums now granted upon them shall be
paid; all the net proceeds of this state from the western inland lock
navigation company; all the net proceeds of the said canals and each
part thereof when made; all grants and donations made or to be made for
the purpose of making the said canals; all the duties upon sales at
auction, after deducting thereout twenty-three thousand five hundred
dollars, annually appropriated to the hospital, the economical school,
and the orphan asylum society, and ten thousand dollars hereby
appropriated annually for the support of foreign poor in the city of New

VI _And be it further enacted_, That from and after the first Tuesday of
August next, there shall be paid and collected in the manner now
directed by law, upon all salt to be manufactured in the county of
Onondaga, a duty of twelve and a half cents per bushel, instead of the
present duties, and the like tax or duty of twelve and a half cents per
bushel upon all other salt to be manufactured in the western district
of this state, which shall be collected by the superintendent of the
salt springs, until otherwise directed by the legislature; and for that
purpose, he shall have a responsible deputy residing at each place where
salt is or may be manufactured, with the like powers and subject to the
like duties as his present deputies; and that all the provisions,
forfeitures, penalties, and restrictions contained in the laws relative
to the duties upon Onondaga salt, so far as the same may be applicable,
shall be in force for the purposes of enforcing the payment and
collection of the tax or duties upon salt hereby levied and imposed. And
further, that the said superintendent, instead of a yearly report to the
legislature, shall make a quarter yearly report to the commissioners of
the canal fund, and pay into the treasury of this state, on the first
Tuesday of February, May, August and November, in each year, all the
monies collected by him during the quarter preceding each of those days,
deducting in addition to what by law is now allowed to be deducted, five
per cent of the duties collected at all other salt works, not situated
in the county of Onondaga, and two per cent of the duties upon Onondaga
salt, as a compensation for collecting and paying over the same.

VII _And be it further enacted_, That it shall be the duty of the said
canal commissioners, to raise the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand
dollars, to be appropriated towards the making and completing of the
said canals from the Mohawk river to the Seneca river, and from Lake
Champlain to Hudson's river, by causing to be assessed and levied in
such manner as the said commissioners may determine and direct, the said
sum of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, upon the lands and real
estate, lying along the route of the said canals, and within twenty-five
miles of the same, on each side thereof: which sum so to be assessed and
levied, shall be assessed on the said lands and real estate adjacent to
the said several canals, in such proportion for each, as the said
commissioners shall determine. And the said commissioners shall have
power to make such rules and regulations, and adopt such measures for
the assessing, levying, and collecting the sum or sums of money, either
by sale of the said lands or otherwise, as they shall deem meet, and the
said assessment shall be made on said lands, according to the benefit
which they shall be considered by the said commissioners, as deriving
from the making of the said canals respectively: _Provided_, That such
rules, regulations and measures, shall before they are carried into
effect, be sanctioned and approved by the chancellor and judges of the
supreme court, or a majority of them: _And provided further_, That if
any company or individual subject for such tax, shall subscribe any
money or other property towards the completion of the said canals, the
amount of such donation or voluntary subscription, shall, if the same is
less than the amount of the tax, be deducted therefrom, and if more, he
or they shall be entirely discharged from the said tax.

_And be it further enacted_, That from and after the first day of May
next, the aforesaid tax upon steamboat passengers, shall be demanded,
taken and received, by each captain or master of every steamboat
navigating the Hudson river;[75] and that during each month thereafter,
in which such boat shall be employed for the conveyance of passengers,
it shall be the duty of such captain or master, to cause to be delivered
to the comptroller of this state, a return or account, sworn to, before
some officer authorized to administer oaths, stating the name of the
boat, the number of trips made by such boat during such month, and the
whole number of passengers conveyed on board such boat, at each of the
said trips, over one hundred miles, and the number conveyed less than
one hundred miles, and over thirty miles, and pay into the treasury of
this state the amount of such tax collected during the time mentioned in
the said return, deducting three per cent thereof, as a compensation for
making such return, and collecting and paying over the said tax: _And
further_, That in case of any neglect or refusal in making such return,
or collecting and paying over the tax as directed in and by this
section, the captain or master so neglecting, shall forfeit and pay the
sum of five hundred dollars, besides the amount of the tax so directed
to be collected and paid over, to be recovered in an action of debt in
the name of the people of this state, and for the use of the aforesaid


[1] It is said that the strange name of the city on the Ohio River,
Wheeling, is derived from a word _Wheelen_, also meaning "a head on a
pole" in another dialect.

[2] _Historic Highways of America_, vol. viii, p. 184.

[3] _Historic Highways of America_, vol. xii, p. 97.

[4] Mr. Watson's _Journal_ is included in his _History of the ...
Western Canals in the State of New York_ (Albany, 1820).

[5] _Id._, pp. 20-21.

[6] _Laws of the State of New-York_ (New York, 1792), vol. ii, ch. xl.

[7] _Laws of the State of New-York_ (New York, 1793), pp. 13-17.

[8] _History of the ... Western Canals in the State of New York_, p. 85.
It must be remembered that Watson was writing from memory in 1820; in
general his authority may be considered excellent. We have indicated
inconsistencies by interrogation points.

[9] _The Report of a Committee appointed to explore the western
waters ... for the purpose of prosecuting the Inland Lock Navigation_
(Albany, 1792).

[10] Our source of information on these early Mohawk improvements is
_Report of the Directors of the Western and Northern Inland Lock
Navigation Companies in the State of New York to the Legislature_, 1796.

[11] _Id._, p. 9, _note_.

[12] _Id._, p. 16.

[13] MS. _Letters on Canals_ by Philip Schuyler and Simeon De Witt,
1793-94, Lenox Library.

[14] _Historic Highways of America_, vol. xiii, ch. 2.

[15] _History of the ... Western Canals in the State of New York_, pp.

[16] _Id._, pp. 93-94.

[17] Sparks, _Life of Gouverneur Morris_ (Boston, 1832), vol. i, pp.

[18] _Id._, p. 498.

[19] _Id._, pp. 498-499.

[20] _Laws of the State of New-York relative to the Canals_ (Albany,
1825), pp. 38-39.

[21] _Id._, p. 42.

[22] _History of the ... Western Canals in the State of New York_, p.

[23] M. S. Hawley, _Origin of the Erie Canal_, p. 20. Clinton gave
Hawley great credit for his part in promoting the Erie Canal idea--p.

"He [Hawley] was at Colonel Mynderse's office in 1805, attending to the
shipment of some flour to market, by the circuitous and uncertain route
then in use. Himself and Colonel Mynderse conversing upon the
necessities for better facilities, Mr. Hawley said: 'Why not have a
canal extend direct into our country, and benefit all--merchants,
millers, and farmers.'" Hawley then pointed out on a map that Lake Erie
could be made a head of water. "A change having occurred in Mr. Hawley's
business, he spent the winter of 1806 and 1807 in Pittsburg,
Pennsylvania, and not knowing when he would return to Ontario county, he
sketched the first essay, and to preserve it from oblivion, as he said,
he procured it to be published there, on the fourteenth day of January,
1807, in the newspaper called the _Commonwealth_."--_Origin of the Erie
Canal_, pp. 23-24.

[24] _Id._, pp. 69-70.

[25] _Public Documents relating to the New-York Canals_ (New York,
1821), pp. xlix-l.

[26] _Laws of the State of New-York relative to the Canals_, p. 47.

[27] _Id._, p. 67.

[28] _Laws of New York_, 1814.

[29] _Public Documents relating to Canals_, pp. li-lii.

[30] "Memorial of the citizens of New-York, in favor of a
Canal-Navigation between the great western Lakes and the tide-waters of
the Hudson, presented to the Assembly February 21, 1816, and ordered to
be printed."--From _Laws of the State of New-York relative to the
Canals_, p. 122.

[31] The Middlesex Canal was twenty-seven miles in length and joined
Boston Harbor at Charlestown with the Merrimac River. It was
incorporated in 1789, begun in 1790 and opened in 1804. Its cost to 1815
was over half a million. It was thirty feet wide at the top, twenty feet
wide at the base and three feet deep. The rise from Boston to summit
level was one hundred and four feet and the descent to the Merrimac,
thirty-two feet. It included twenty locks, seventy-five feet long, ten
feet wide at the base and eleven feet wide at the top, capable of
locking a boat of fourteen tons. The income from tolls beginning with
$7,000 in 1808 had increased to $25,000 in 1815; land beside the canal
had increased in value one-third, and New Hampshire timber at once
became worth from one to three dollars per ton standing, which before
was worth nothing. The success of this canal must be considered as
having something to do in the promotion of the Erie Canal.

[32] See appendix A.

[33] The material for the earlier portions of this chapter is largely
from the annual reports of the canal commissioners from 1816 to 1825
contained in _Public Documents relating to the New-York Canals_ (New
York, 1821), pp. 103-185, 311-333, 344-365, 429-450, and _Laws of the
State of New-York relative to the Canals_, vol. ii, pp. 60-78, 95-118,

[34] Appendix B.

[35] M. S. Hawley, _Origin of the Erie Canal_, pp. 41-42; Hawley's
source of information was Judge Platt, one of the Council.

[36] _Id._, pp. 42-43. Cf. p. 143, referring to the change of route at
Rome and consequent dissatisfaction.

[37] Sparks's _Writings of Washington_, vol. ii, pp. 341, 342.

[38]_Public Documents_ (1821), p. 403.

[39] For elaborate account of this celebration see W. L. Stone's
_Narrative of the Festivities observed in honor of the Completion of the
Grand Erie Canal_ (New York, 1825), and local histories.

[40] W. L. Stone, _Narrative of the Festivities observed in honor of the
Completion of the Grand Erie Canal_, p. 321. This monograph has been
used extensively in describing the celebration festivities.

[41] _Id._, pp. 320-321.

[42] _The Influence of the Erie Canal upon the population along its
course_, bearing the imprint of the University of Wisconsin, 1901.

[43] Hammond, _Political History of New York_, vol. ii, pp. 369, 378.
McMaster, _History of U.S._, vol. v, p. 109.

[44] Freeman's _Journal_, Cooperstown, Otsego County, New York,
September 20, 1830, p. 2, c. 2.

[45] Freeman's _Journal_, August 16, 1830, p. 2, c. 6. Seward,
_Autobiography of W. H. Seward from 1801 to 1834_, p. 78.

[46] Hammond, _Political History of New York_, vol. ii, p. 396.

[47] Hammond, _Political History of New York_, vol. ii, p. 397.

[48] Jenkins, _Political History of New York_, p. 363.

[49] The following counties sent petitions to the Legislature: Tioga,
Steuben, Yates, Ontario, Wayne, Cayuga, Seneca, Tompkins, Chenango,
Broome, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Herkimer, Lewis, Jefferson, and
Chautauqua. (_Laws of the State of New York, relative to Erie and
Champlain canals_, 1825, i, pp. 279-281.)

[50] This fact is supported by Mr. Jenkins in his _Political History of
New York_. He says: "Mr. Granger received a very heavy vote in the sixth
and eighth districts; and it is probable his friends had confidently
expected that the Chenango canal interests would secure his election.
"The sixth Senatorial district to which the feeling in favor of the
Chenango canal was mainly confined, gave Mr. Granger more than 2,000
majority. Notwithstanding it had given 6,000 the other way in 1829." The
majority for Mr. Granger in the eighth district was nearly 13,000.

[51] Jenkins, _Political History of New York_, p. 372.

[52] W. N. Holland, _Life and Political Opinions of Van Buren_: Attitude
toward internal improvements, pp. 269-274.

[53] This is probably a reference to such loans as were authorized to be
made to the New York and Erie Railroad. The New York and Erie Railroad
was incorporated in 1832 and in 1836 the legislature authorized a loan
of the credit of the state to the company for the amount of $3,000,000
subject to certain restrictions, some of which were that the route of
the road should be through the Southern tier of counties in the state,
one-fourth was to be completed in ten years, one-half in fifteen years,
and the whole of it in twenty years. The road was to begin at Tappan,
Rockland County, on the Hudson, pass through Goshen, Oswego, Elmira, and
other towns and end at Dunkirk on Lake Erie.--Tanner, _Canals and
Railroads of the United States_, 1840, p. 74.

[54] Lossing, _Empire State_, p. 493.

[55] _Documentary Sketch of New York State Canals_ by S. H. Sweet
(Albany, 1863), p. 104.

[56] _Laws of the State of New-York relative to the Canals_ (Albany,
1825), vol. ii, pp. 13-14.

[57] Sweet's _Documentary History_, pp. 198-199.

[58] _Id._, p. 201.

[59] _Id._, p. 207-208.

[60] _Id._, p. 204.

[61] _Id._, p. 205.

[62] _Id._, p. 210.

[63] _Id._, p. 213.

[64] _Id._, p. 326.

[65] _House Reports, No. 423, 54th Cong., 1st sess., 1896_, also, _No.
1023, 55th Cong., 1st sess._

[66] _Laws of 1898_, ch. 44.

[67] _Senate Documents_, no. 23.

[68] _Laws of 1899_, ch. 494.

[69] _Report of the New York Commerce Commission_, Albany, 1900.

[70] _Laws of 1900_, ch. 411.

[71] _Historic Highways of America_, vol. xiii, p. 25.

[72] _Historic Highways of America_, vol. ix, pp. 213-215.

[73] "An act to provide for the improvement of the internal navigation
of this state," passed April 17, 1816. From _Laws of the State of
New-York relative to the Canals_, vol. ii, pp. 184-186.

[74] "An Act respecting Navigable Communications between the great
western and northern lakes and the Atlantic ocean," passed April 15,
1817. From _Laws of the State of New-York relative to the Canals_, vol.
ii, pp. 358-364.

[75] Suspended. See act March 30, 1820.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

1. Passages in italics are surrounded by _underscores_.

2. Obvious errors in spelling and punctuation have been corrected.

3. Footnotes have been moved to the end of the main text body.

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