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.
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 tide-waters of the Hudson, most respectfully represents:
That they approach the legislature with a solicitude proportioned 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 iii it commencement to reflect honor on the state, and in 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; manufactures 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 hundred weight, 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 ;he 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 anti 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 commerce.
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 oppulence 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, mine 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 5t. 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, 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 interposing 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 riche 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 great population. If this work be so important, when we confine our views to this state alone, how unspeakable 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 center 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 transcendent, 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 a canal somewhere near the out-let of Lake Erie.
The inducements for preferring one market to another, involves 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 a 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 and of lake Michigan, and a creek of that name, which sometimes communicates with the Illinois, doe 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 1,200 miles. To the mouth of the Mississippi, by New Orleans, near 1,600 miles, and to the mouth of the St. Lawrence, by Montreal, near 1,600 miles.
The distance from Detroit to the ocean by New-York, is near 700 miles. From Detroit to the ocean by Montreal, is 1,050 miles. From Detroit to the ocean, pursuing the nearest route by Cleveland and down the Muskingum, 2,400 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, 1,050 miles . The same to the ocean by the Ohio and Mississippi, 2,150 miles.
These different comparative views show that New York has, it) 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 pottage 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 no the latter stream, besides the well known obstacles and hazards of the Mississippi- And until the invention of steam-boats, 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 from lake Erie to Albany 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 enhanced.
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; up by ice, &c. 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 u, therefore, placed in a happy medium between the insalubrious brat 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 ascendancy 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 shores 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.