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REPORT. - Albert Gallatin, Report of the Secretary of the Treasury; on the Subject of Public Roads and Canals 
Report of the Secretary of the Treasury; on the Subject of Public Roads and Canals; made in pursuance of a Resolution of the Senate, of March 2, 1807 (Washington: R.C. Weightman, 1808).
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The Secretary of the Treasury, in obedience to the resolution of the Senate of the 2d March, 1807, respectfully submits the following report on roads and canals.
THE general utility of artificial roads and canals, is at this time so universally admitted, as hardly to require any additional proofs. It is sufficiently evident that, whenever the annual expense of transportation on a certain route in its natural state, exceeds the interest on the capital employed in improving the communication, and the annual expense of transportation (exclusively of the tolls,) by the improved route; the difference is an annual additional income to the nation. Nor does in that case the general result vary, although the tolls may not have been fixed at a rate sufficient to pay to the undertakers the interest on the capital laid out. They indeed, when that happens, lose; but the community is nevertheless benefited by the undertaking. The general gain is not confined to the difference between the expenses of the transportation of those articles which had been formerly conveyed by that route, but many which were brought to market by other channels, will then find a new and more advantageous direction; and those which on account of their distance or weight could not be transported in any manner whatever, will acquire a value, and become a clear addition to the national wealth. Those and many other advantages have become so obvious, that in countries possessed of a large capital, where property is sufficiently secure to induce individuals to lay out that capital on permanent undertakings, and where a compact population creates an extensive commercial intercourse, within short distances, those improvements may often, in ordinary cases, be left to individual exertion, without any direct aid from government.
There are however some circumstances, which, whilst they render the facility of communications throughout the United States an object of primary importance, naturally check the application of private capital and enterprize, to improvements on a large scale.
The price of labor is not considered as a formidable obstacle, because whatever it may be, it equally affects the expense of transportation, which is saved by the improvement, and that of effecting the improvement itself. The want of practical knowledge is no longer felt: and the occasional influence of mistaken local interests, in sometimes thwarting or giving an improper direction to public improvements, arises from the nature of man, and is common to all countries. The great demand for capital in the United States, and the extent of territory compared with the population, are, it is believed, the true causes which prevent new undertakings, and render those already accomplished, less profitable than had been expected.
1. Notwithstanding the great increase of capital during the last fifteen years, the objects for which it is required continue to be more numerous, and its application is generally more profitable than in Europe. A small portion therefore is applied to objects which offer only the prospect of remote and moderate profit. And it also happens that a less sum being subscribed at first, than is actually requisite for completing the work, this proceeds slowly; the capital applied remains unproductive for a much longer time than was necessary, and the interest accruing during that period, becomes in fact an injurious addition to the real expense of the undertaking.
2. The present population of the United States, compared with the extent of territory over which it is spread, does not, except in the vicinity of the seaports, admit that extensive commercial intercourse within short distances, which, in England and some other countries, forms the principal support of artificial roads and canals. With a few exceptions, canals particularly, cannot in America be undertaken with a view solely to the intercourse between the two extremes of, and along the intermediate ground which they occupy. It is necessary, in order to be productive, that the canal should open a communication with a natural extensive navigation which will flow through that new channel. It follows that whenever that navigation requires to be improved, or when it might at some distance be connected by another canal to another navigation, the first canal will remain comparatively unproductive, until the other improvements are effected, until the other canal is also completed. Thus the intended canal between the Chesapeake and Delaware, will be deprived of the additional benefit arising from the intercourse between New York and the Chesapeake, until an inland navigation, shall have been opened between the Delaware and New York. Thus the expensive canals completed around the falls of Potomac, will become more and more productive in proportion to the improvement, first of the navigation of the upper branches of the river, and then of its communication with the western waters. Some works already executed are unprofitable, many more remain unattempted, because their ultimate productiveness depends on other improvements, too extensive or too distant to be embraced by the same individuals.
The general government can alone remove these obstacles.
With resources amply sufficient for the completion of every practicable improvement, it will always supply the capital wanted for any work which it may undertake, as fast as the work itself can progress, avoiding thereby the ruinous loss of interest on a dormant capital, and reducing the real expense to its lowest rate.
With these resources, and embracing the whole union, it will complete on any given line all the improvements, however distant, which may be necessary to render the whole productive, and eminently beneficial.
The early and efficient aid of the federal government is recommended by still more important considerations. The inconveniencies, complaints, and perhaps dangers, which may result from a vast extent of territory, can no otherwise be radically removed, or prevented, than by opening speedy and easy communications through all its parts. Good roads and canals, will shorten distances, facilitate commercial and personal intercourse, and unite by a still more intimate community of interests, the most remote quarters of the United States. No other single operation, within the power of government, can more effectually tend to strengthen and perpetuate that union, which secures external independence, domestic peace, and internal liberty.
With that view of the subject, the facts respecting canals, which have been collected in pursuance of the resolution of the Senate, have been arranged unthe following heads:—
1. Great canals, from north to south, along the Atlantic sea coast.
2. Communications between the Atlantic and western waters.
3. Communications between the Atlantic waters, and those of the great lakes, and river St. Lawrence.
4. Interior canals.
GREAT CANALS, ALONG THE ATLANTIC SEA COAST.
The map of the United States will shew that they possess a tide-water inland navigation, secure from storms and enemies, and which, from Massachusetts to the southern extremity of Georgia, is principally, if not solely, interrupted by four necks of land.—These are the isthmus of Barnstable; that part of New Jersey, which extends from the Rariton to the Delaware; the peninsula between the Delaware and the Chesapeake; and that low and marshy tract which divides the Chesapeake from Albemarle sound. It is ascertained that a navigation for sea vessels, drawing eight feet of water, may be effected across the three last; and a canal is also believed to be practicable, not perhaps across the isthmus of Barnstable, but from the harbor of Boston to that of Rhode Island. The Massachusetts canal would be about 26, the New Jersey about 28, and each of the two southern about 22 miles in length, making altogether less than one hundred miles.
Should this great work, the expense of which, as will hereafter be shewn, is estimated at about three millions of dollars, be accomplished, a sea vessel entering the first canal in the harbor of Boston, would through the bay of Rhode Island, Long Island sound, and the harbor of New York, reach Brunswick on the Rariton; thence pass through the second canal to Trenton on the Delaware, down that river to Christiana, or New Castle, and through the third canal to Elk river, and the Chesapeake; whence sailing down that bay, and up Elizabeth river, it would, through the fourth canal, enter the Albemarle sound, and by Pamptico, Core and Bogue sounds, reach Beaufort and Swansborough, in North Carolina. From the last mentioned place, the inland navigation, through Stumpy and Toomer’s sounds, is continued with a diminished draft of water, and by cutting two low and narrow necks, not exceeding three miles together, to Cape Fear river; and thence, by an open but short and direct run along the coast, is reached that chain of islands between which and the main, the inland navigation is continued to St. Mary’s, along the coast of South Carolina, and Georgia. It is unnecessary to add any comments on the utility of the work, in peace or war, for the transportation of merchandize, or the conveyance of persons.
The several papers under the letter (A.) herewith transmitted, contain the information which has been received on those several intended communications. The substance will now be stated.
1. Sandwich isthmus, between Barnstable bay on the north, and Buzzard’s bay on the south, had first attracted the public attention. Surveys and levels were taken, for the purpose of ascertaining the practicability of opening a cross cut, to be supplied by the sea itself, from the mouth of Back river, in Buzzard’s bay, to the mouth of Scusset river, in Barnstable bay.
The distance was found to exceed 7 miles; the elevation of the highest intermediate ground is forty feet above low water mark in Barnstable bay; the depth of water at the mouth of Back river, does not at low water, exceed 7 feet and a half; and the channel to that spot through Buzzard bay, is obstructed by shoals. The tide which rises but three feet and and a half in that bay, rises three hours and a half later, and more than eighteen feet in that of Barnstable. The shore on which that formidable tide would operate, is an open beach, without any harbor or shelter whatever. Independent of other obstacles, it was apprehended that the same natural causes, which had formed the isthmus, might fill the canal, or make a bar at its entrance; and the project seems to have been abandoned.
2. The ground was also examined between Barnstable harbor on the north, and Hyannus harbor on the south, at some distance east of Sandwich. The breadth of the peninsula does not exceed here four miles and a half, and there would be an harbor at each end of the canal. The same difference exists in the tides which rise 4 feet in Hyannus, and 16 feet in Barnstable harbor. The entrance of this is obstructed by shoals; but the great obstacle to a cross cut, is the elevation of the intermediate ground, estimated at 80 feet above tide water. Navigable ponds on that high ground might perhaps form part of a lock canal, and supply the remainder with water. But a canal frozen in winter, would not have effected the great object in view, which was to enable vessels from sea, to proceed in winter from Martha’s Vineyard, to Boston, without sailing around Cape Cod. Although the difficulty of the navigation from Boston to Barnstable, diminishes the utility of this communication, as one of the great links in this line of inland navigation, it may be resorted to, should that which will be next mentioned, prove impracticable for sea vessels.
3. The attention of the legislature of Massachusetts, under whose authority the grounds at Sandwich and Barnstable, had been examined, has lately been turned to a direct communication between Weymouth landing, within the harbor of Boston, and Taunton river, which empties into the bay of Rhode Island. A favorable report has been made, during the last session, of which a copy has lately been obtained. The distance from tide water to tide water, is 26 miles by one route, and 23 1-4 miles by another. The highest intermediate ground, is 133 feet above tide water, but may be reduced ten feet, by digging to that depth, the length of a mile. Two ponds known by the names of Weymouth and Cranberry, the largest and least elevated of which covers five hundred acres, and is 14 feet higher than the summit of the proposed canal, will supply the upper locks with water by feeders, four miles long. Whether the quantity of water contained in the ponds, and estimated equal to a daily supply of 450,000 cubic feet, will be sufficient for a sloop navigation; and whether any other ponds or streams may be brought in aid, does not seem to be fully ascertained. After descending twenty feet towards Weymouth, and seventy towards Taunton, an ample supply for the lower locks, will be derived from other large ponds, the principal of which are known by the names of Braintree and Nippinitic.
The expense may, on a supposition that the route is partly through a rocky soil, be estimated as follows:
New Jersey Canal.
A Company was incorporated some years ago, by the legislature of New Jersey, for opening a canal between the Rariton and the Delaware. Acting under the erroneous opinion that the navigation of small rivers might be improved and used as a canal, the company intended to have united, by a cross cut of one mile, the Assampink or Trenton Creek, with Stoney brook, a branch of Millstone river, and to have descended Trenton creek to the Delaware, and Stoney brook, and Millstone river, to the Rariton. The capital, which was inadequate, was not paid; but their survey of the intended route, has shewn the practicability of a canal for sea vessels, on a proper plan.
The distance from Brunswick to Trenton is 26 miles, and the only obstacle in the way is the “Sand hills,” some distance west of Brunswick. These may, it is said, be avoided by a deviation which would not encrease the distance more than two miles: and they may at all events be perforated, as has been done by the turnpike company, who have opened a road on a straight line between the two towns, without having in any place an angle of ascent of more than three degrees.
The highest intermediate ground between Assampink and Stoney brook, is only fifty feet above tide water; and it is suggested that the summit level may be taken seven feet lower, cutting seven miles through a level meadow, between the confluence of the Assampink, and Shippetankin creeks, and Rowley’s mill, near the confluence of Stoney brook and Millstone river.
An adequate supply of water will be drawn by short feeders, from Philip’s springs, Trenton creek, Stoney brook, and Millstone river, all of which are more elevated than the route of the canal, the “Sand hills” excepted.
The depth of water at the two extremities of the canal, taken at low water, are NA feet at Brunswick, and ten feet at Lamberton, one mile below Trenton.
Delaware and Chesapeake Canal.
A Company incorporated by the states of Delaware and Maryland, for opening this canal, has commenced its operations, now suspended for want of funds.
The canal will commence at Welsh point on Elk river, an arm of the Chesapeake, and terminate at a distance of 22 miles, on Christiana creek, a branch of the Delaware. At low water the depth of water in Christiana is nine feet, and in Elk twelve feet, within one hundred feet from the shore. The tide rises four feet in both rivers. The canal might, without encreasing the distance, be conducted to New Castle on the Delaware itself, instead of ending at Christiana creek.
The highest intermediate ground, over which the canal will be carried on a level of 13 miles in length, is 74 feet above tide water, the descent being effected by nine locks on each side. The digging is generally easy: no expensive aqueducts or bridges, nor any other obstacles but those which have already been overcome in digging the feeder through a very rocky soil.
The supply of water drawn from Elk river, by a feeder six miles in length, already completed, which is itself a boat canal three and a half feet deep, united by a lock of ten feet lift with the main canal, is calculated to fill daily 144 locks; a quantity sufficient on an average for the daily passage of twenty four vessels. A reservoir covering thirty, and which may be encreased to 150 acres, will supply occasional deficiencies: other reservoirs may be added, and Christiana and White Clay creeks may hereafter be brought in aid of Elk river, if the supply should prove too scanty for an encreased navigation.
The canal 26 feet wide at the bottom, and 50 at the top on the water line, being dug at the depth of 8 feet, is intended for vessels of forty to 70 tons, drawing 7 1-2 feet water: but the banks twenty feet wide for towing paths, and one of which may be converted into a turnpike road, being raised three feet above the level of the water, will, by encreasing the height of the lock gates one foot, admit a depth of nine feet of water in the canal; at which depth it would perhaps be eligible to dig at once. The locks 80 feet long, 18 feet wide, and 8 (or 9) feet deep over the gate-sills, containing each 11,500 to 13,000 cubic feet of water, and with a lift of 8 to 9 feet each, will be constructed of hewn stone laid in tarras. Those dimensions both of the canal and locks, recommended by Mr. Latrobe, the engineer of the canal, may be adopted in all the other canals for sea vessels, on this line of communication.
The present annual carriage across the peninsula, which would be drawn through the canal, is estimated at forty two thousand tons, exclusively of passengers. This will be greatly encreased by the facility which the canal itself will afford to the commercial intercourse between the two bays, and to the conveyance of articles now carried through other channels, or too heavy for transportation, at the present expense of carriage. The coals wanted for Philadelphia, and which brought down from the sources of the Susquehanah and Potomac, but principally from the vicinity of Richmond, would naturally pass through the canal, have been alone estimated at more than one hundred thousand tons a year. The annual carriage of all articles may, in the present state of population, be fairly estimated at one hundred and fifty thousand tons, and the direct annual saving to the community at 300,000 dollars, being at the rate of 2 dollars a ton for the difference between land and water carriage across the peninsula, after paying the tolls. These, at the rate of fifty cents a ton, will give to the undertakers a revenue of 75,000 dollars, leaving, after a deduction of 10,000 dollars for annual repairs, and of 10,000 dollars more for attendance and contingencies, a nett income of 55,000 dollars.
The expenses of the whole work are estimated as followeth:
The interest on which sum, at 6 per cent. is 51,000 dollars.
The capital originally subscribed amounted to four hundred thousand dollars, divided into two thousand shares, of two hundred dollars each. One half of these has been forfeited after a small payment of five dollars on each share. One hundred thousand dollars paid by the other stockholders, have been expended in preparatory measures, in the purchase of water rights, and in digging the feeder, which was considered as the most difficult part of the work. Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars are still wanted to complete the work; of which sum, one hundred thousand dollars is payable by the stockholders, and the deficiency of 650,000 dollars, must be drawn from other sources.
Chesapeake and Albemarle.
1. The shortest communication between the Chesapeake and Albemarle sound, is from North landing at the head of the tide of North West river, which empties into Currituck inlet, the easternmost arm of Albemarle, to either Kempsville or Great Bridge, at the head of the tide of two different branches of the South branch of Elizabeth river, which passing by Norfolk, unites at Hampton roads, with James river, and the Chesapeake. The distance is stated at seven miles, and the levels said to be favorable. It is believed that the principal reason why this communication has not been attempted, is a bar in Currituck inlet, which does not admit the passage of vessels drawing five feet water.
2. A company incorporated by the states of Virginia and North Carolina, for opening a canal through the Dismal swamp, has made considerable progress in the work.
The canal extends 22 miles in length from Deep creek, a branch of the South branch of Elizabeth river, 7 miles above Norfolk, to Joyce’s creek, a branch of Pasquotank river, a northern arm of Albemarle sound. Vessels drawing 8 to 9 feet water may ascend both creeks to each extremity of the canal.
The intervening ground along the eastern margin of the Dismal swamp, is almost level, the rise towards the middle not exceeding two feet above the two extremities, which are only 18 feet and 9 inches above tide water. The digging is very easy; the only obstacles arise from the stumps and roots of trees, and are nearly overcome; and a single aqueduct or rather culvert over a small run emptying into the North West river is necessary.
The swamp itself supplies at the depth at which the canal is cut, the water which has heretofore been wanted; and a sufficient supply may be drawn by a feeder of 5 miles and a half in length, cut through a perfect level from lake Drummond, a natural reservoir in the center of the swamp, of fifteen miles in circumference, and about six feet higher than the water in the canal.
The canal as cut by the company is 24 feet wide, and 6 feet deep, with one bank on the west side for a towing path, 18 feet broad. The whole digging, with the exception of two miles which must be deepened 3 feet, and of three quarters of a mile in another place not entirely finished, has been completed. The locks at the two extremities of the canal are not built; but two have been erected at some distance from each extremity; probably in order to save some digging in the intervening space: they are made of square juniper logs, and have cost only three hundred dollars each.
The expense of digging has not exceeded 4,000 dollars a mile; the whole capital expended, amounts to one hundred thousand dollars, of which the state of Virginia has furnished 17,500; and it is stated that the whole work may be completed in one year, and will not, including the locks and the payment of some debts contracted by the company, exceed 25,000 dollars. But the canal, which by the original act of incorporation was to be 32 feet wide, and 8 feet deep, can on its present plan be considered only as a local object, the principal utility of which consists in bringing to market the otherwise useless lumber of the swamp. The only boats which navigate it are flats, forty feet long, six feet wide, drawing two feet of water and carrying eight thousand shingles.
It must, in order to become a national object, be capable of receiving the vessels which navigate Albemarle sound, and for that purpose be restored to its first intended dimensions, or rather be widened and deepened, on the plan adopted for the Chesapeake and Delaware canal. The expense would be as followeth:
3. The last mentioned canal is in the most direct line of the communication through Albemarle to Pamtico sound, and the adjacent Southern sounds. It has been objected, that the navigation of Pasquotank river was intricate, and that it would be more advantageous to open a communication with Chowan river, which passing by Edenton, and then uniting with the Roanoke, forms Albemarle sound.
A company was incorporated for that purpose; but the capital was not filled, and no other operation performed, but surveying the ground. The intended canal on that route, would commence at Suffolk, on Nansemond river, which empties into James river, a few miles above, and west of the mouth of Elizabeth river; and passing along the western margin of the Dismal swamp, would reach at a computed distance of thirty miles, Gates’ court house on Bennet’s creek, a branch of Chowan river, which vessels drawing ten feet of water may ascend to that spot.
The highest intermediate ground is 28 feet above tide water and consequently higher than the surface of lake Drummond. But Bennet’s creek and Curripeake swamp were considered as affording a sufficient supply of water. Should this prove adequate, the principal objection to this route will be, that the canal lands at Suffolk instead of Norfolk. This consideration, and the capital already expended on the canal from Elizabeth river to Pasquotank, seem to give a preference to this course. To which may be added, that if it be preferable to strike the waters of Chowan river, a lateral canal may be hereafter opened, along the southern margin of the Dismal swamp, from the southern extremity of the Elizabeth and Pasquotank canal, to Bennet’s creek or Edenton. Whatever route may, after a critical examination of the ground, be thought the most eligible, the opening of this communication will be more easy and less expensive than either of the three northern canals.
The following table is a recapitulation of the distance to be cut on the whole line, and of the estimated expense.
COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN THE ATLANTIC AND WESTERN WATERS.
The Apalachian mountains, to use an ancient generic denomination, extend in a direction west of south, from the 42d to the 34th degree of north latititude, approaching the sea, and even washed by the tide in the state of New York, and thence in their southerly course, gradually receding from the sea shore. Viewed as a whole, their breadth may be estimated at 110 miles, and they consist of a succession of parallel ridges, following nearly the direction of the sea coast, irregularly intersected by rivers, and divided by narrow vallies. The ridge, which divides the Atlantic rivers from the western waters, generally known by the name of Allegheny, preserves throughout a nearly equal distance of 250 miles from the Atlantic ocean, and a nearly uniform elevation of 3,000 feet above the level of the sea.
Those mountains may, however, be perhaps considered as consisting of two principal chains: between these lies the fertile lime-stone valley, which, although occasionally interrupted by transversal ridges, and in one place, by the dividing or Allegheny ridge, may be traced from Newburgh and Esopus, on the Hudson river, to Knoxville on the Tennessee.
The eastern and narrowest chain is the Blue Ridge of Virginia, which in its north east course traverses under various names, the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, forms the high lands broken at West point by the tide of the Hudson, and then uniting with the Green mountains, assumes a northerly direction, and divides the waters of the Hudson, and of lake Champlain, from those of Connecticut river. On the borders of Virginia and North Carolina, the Blue Ridge is united by an inferior mountain, with the great western chain, and thence to its southern extremity, becomes the principal or dividing mountain, discharging eastwardly the rivers Roanoke, Pedee, Santee, and Savannah, into the Atlantic ocean; southwardly the Chatahouchee, and the Alabama into the gulph of Mexico, and westwardly the New river and the Tennessee. The New river, taking a northwardly course, breaks through all the ridges of the great western chain, and at a short distance beyond it, unites under the name of Kanhawa, with the Ohio. The Tennessee pursues, at first, a south west direction between the two chains, until having reached, and in a westwardly course turned the southern extremity of the great western chain, it assumes a northwardly direction, and joins its waters with those of the Ohio, a few miles above the confluence of that river with the Mississippi.
The western chain, much broader, and generally more elevated, is known under the names of Cumberland and Gauley mountains, from its southern extremity, near the great bend of the Tennessee river, until it becomes in Virginia, the principal or dividing mountain. Thence in its northerly course, towards the state of New York, it discharges westwardly the Green Briar river, which, by its junction with the New river, forms the Kanhawa, and the rivers Monongahela and Allegheny, which, from their confluence at Pittsburgh, assume the name of Ohio. Eastwardly it pours into the Atlantic ocean, James river, the Potomac, and the Susquehannah. From the northernmost and less elevated spurs of the chain, the Genessee flows into the lake Ontario; and in that quarter the northerly branches of the Susquehanna seem to take their source, from amongst inferior ridges, and in their course to the Chesapeake, to break through all the mountains. From the Susquehannah, the principal chain assumes a more eastwardly direction, and washed on the north by the lateral valley of the river Mowhawk, whilst it gives rise southwardly to the Delaware, it terminates under the name of Catskill mountain, in view of the tide water of the Hudson.
This description has been introduced for the double purpose of pointing out all the rivers which can afford the means of communication, and of shewing the impracticability, in the present state of science, of effecting a canal navigation across the mountains.
The most elevated lock canal of which a correct description has been given, is that of Languedoc, and the highest ground over which it is carried, is only six hundred feet above the sea. It is not believed that any canal has been undertaken, or at least completed in England, of an elevation exceeding 430 feet above the waters united by it. The Allegheny mountain is generally, and from observations made in several places, about 3,000 feet above the level of the sea. The precise height of the dividing ridge was ascertained by the commissioners, who laid out the United States road from Cumberland on the Potomac to Brownsville on the Monongahela, at 2260 above the first, and at 2150 feet above the last river. Cumberland, from the levels taken by the Potomac company, is itself 735 feet above tide water. Although some more advantageous and less elevated places may be found, particularly amongst the ridges which divide some of the upper branches of the Susquehannah from the corresponding streams emptying into the river Allegheny, there is none which is not of an elevation much beyond what has ever been overcome by canals in any other country. The impracticability arises from the principle of lock navigation, which in order to effect the ascent, requires a greater supply of water in proportion to the height to be ascended, whilst the supply of water becomes less in the same proportion. Nor does the chain of mountains through the whole extent, where it divides the Atlantic from the western rivers, afford a single pond, lake or natural reservoir. It may be added as a general feature of American geography, that except in the swamps along the southern sea coast, no lake is to be found in the United States, south of 41 degrees north latitude; and that almost every river, north of 42 degrees, issues from a lake or pond.
The works necessary in order to facilitate the communications from the sea ports across the mountains to the western waters, must therefore consist either of artificial roads extending the whole way from tide water, to the nearest and most convenient navigable western waters; or of improvements in the navigation of the leading Atlantic rivers, to the highest practicable points, connected by artificial roads across the mountains, with the nearest points from which a permanent navigation can be relied on, down the western rivers.
The principal considerations in selecting proper directions for those communications, are, the distance from the navigable western waters, both to tide water, and to the nearest navigable Atlantic river, and the extent of navigation, either natural or susceptible of improvement, which may be afforded by the rivers. Distance alone is mentioned, so far as relates to roads, because the mountains however insuperable for canals, offer no important impediment to land communications. So far from being an insurmountable barrier to commercial intercourse, between the two great sections of the union, it is now ascertained that those mountains may almost in every direction be crossed by artificial roads, as permanent, as easy, and less expensive, than similar works in the lower country. For congress having, contrary to current opinion, directed that the road from Cumberland to Brownsville should be laid out so that its ascent should not in any place exceed an angle of five degrees with the horizon; no difficulty has been experienced in effecting the object without cutting through hills, and although the road thus laid out, be in a distance of 72 miles, two or three miles shorter than that heretofore in use.
Although the distance from the sea to the principal dividing mountain through its whole length, between the western sources of the Susquehannah, and those of the Savannah, be nearly the same, yet the Atlantic bays, penetrating the coast at different depths, and in different directions, the distances from the sea ports to the nearest western navigable waters, vary considerably. Taken in straight lines from each port to the nearest branch, beyond all the mountains, of each of the four great western rivers, they may be stated as follows:
The distance from the same western points, to the upper navigation of the corresponding Atlantic rivers, cannot be stated with precision, as the upper points to which the navigation of those rivers may be improved, is not yet ascertained. The shortest portage between the waters of the Potomac, and those of the Monongahela, in their natural state, from West Port on the Potomac, to Cheat river below the falls, is about fifty miles in a straight line. But in order to secure a tolerable navigation, particularly on the Potomac, the route from Cumberland to Brownsville, (Red Stone old fort) has been preferred, and the distance by the road lately laid out is 72 miles. The portage between the North fork of the Juniata, a branch of the Susquehanna, and the corresponding waters of the river Allegheny, is somewhat shorter. That between Pattonborough, on James river, and the falls of the Kanhawa, exceeds one hundred miles.
The most prominent, though not perhaps the most insuperable obstacle in the navigation of the Atlantic rivers, consists in their lower falls, which are ascribed to a presumed continuous granite ridge, rising about 130 feet above tide water. That ridge, from New York to James river inclusively, arrests the ascent of the tide; the falls of every river within that space being precisely at the head of the tide. Pursuing thence southwardly a direction nearly parallel to the mountains, it recedes from the sea, leaving in each southern river, an extent of good navigation between the tide and the falls. Other falls of less magnitude are found at the gaps of the Blue Ridge, through which the rivers have forced their passage. Higher up the rapidity of the northern rivers, which penetrate through the inferior ridges of the great western chain, encreases as they approach, the dividing or Allegheny mountain; and their sources being nearly at the same elevation, their rapidity encreases in proportion to the shortness of their course. For that reason the navigation of the Susquehannah above the Blue Ridge is better than that of the Potomac, which affords as has been stated, the shortest commun cation from tide water to the nearest western river. The levels of the last mentioned river having been taken by the Potomac company, the general result is annexed, as giving a more correct idea of the navigation of the Atlantic rivers, than could be conveyed in any other manner.
The papers marked (C.) contain the information which has been collected respecting the works executed or contemplated on the great rivers already enumerated. It has not been understood that any improvements of importance had been yet attempted on the Savannah and Pedee, nor on any of the tributary streams of the Ohio; and the communications received under this head, relate only to the Santee, Roanoke, James river, Potomac, Susquehannah, and Ohio.
The Santee or Catawba, is said to be occasionally navigable for near 300 miles, as high up as Morgantown, in North Carolina. Two companies have been incorporated by that state, and that of South Carolina, for the purpose of improving its navigation. The lower falls are above Camden and not far from the arsenal of the United States, at Mount Rock. A canal had been commenced there, but either from want of success in the commencement, or from want of funds, the work appears to be suspended. The market for the produce brought down that river is Charleston; and the river boats were obliged at the mouth of the river to enter the sea, and to reach that port by a navigation along the sea shore, for which they were not calculated. To remedy that inconvenience, and to insure a permanent navigation, a canal has been opened by another company, uniting the Santee with Cooper river, which empties into the harbor of Charleston.
The distance between the points united, is 22 miles: the highest intervening ground was 52 feet above Santee, and 85 feet above the river Cooper; but it has been reduced 17 feet by digging; the descent to Santee being 35 feet, effected by four locks, and that to Cooper 68 feet, effected by nine locks.
The principal supply of water is afforded by springs arising from the marshy ground at the bottom of the canal, and by several drains which collect and bring from an adjacent swamp the sources of the river Cooper. The quantity is said to be seldom deficient; yet a steam engine has been contemplated as perhaps necessary in order to raise from the Santee an adequate supply.
The canal was carried over some small streams by means of aqueducts; inconsiderable ravines have been filled, and the ground was dug in some places to the depth of sixteen feet, in order to preserve the level. But it appears that the roots of trees were the greatest obstacle encountered in digging the canal. Its breadth is 20 feet at the bottom, and 35 feet at top: the depth of water is 4 feet; and it admits boats of 20 tons. The locks made of brick, faced with marble, are 60 feet long, and 10 feet wide.
The capital expended is stated at 650,667 dollars, including sixty negroes and some tracts of land belonging to the company. The canal has been completed six years; the annual tolls had never exceeded 13,000 dollars before the year 1807, and the annual expenses are stated at 7,000 dollars. The want of success in this undertaking, which though completed is very unprofitable, may be ascribed to several causes. The expense compared with the work is much greater than might have been expected, and probably than was necessary. The locks are too small for large boats, which are therefore obliged to pursue the former route down the Santee, and by sea to Charleston; and want of water is alledged as a sufficient reason for the size of the locks. But a canal in that situation cannot in America be profitable unless the navigation of the main river with which it communicates, is rendered safe and permanent; and whenever that of the Santee itself shall have been improved, the utility and profits of the canal will be considerably encreased.
The Lower or Great Falls of Roanoke.
Consist in a succession of rapids, which in a distance of fifteen miles have a fall of ninety three feet. This obstruction is such that almost all the tobacco of that river is transported by land to Petersburgh, on the Appomatox branch of James river. A canal has been contemplated from the upper end of the falls to Murfreesborough, situated on the tide water of a branch of Chowan river, 25 miles above the mouth of Bennet’s creek, which has been before mentioned as one of the lines of communication between Albemarle sound and the Chesapeake. The level is said to be favorable, without any obstructions or vallies in the way. The distance is 38 miles, and the expense of a small canal for boats, drawing 2 feet and a half of water, may be estimated as followeth:
The capital for this canal has never been subscribed, and it has been suggested that it would be practicable to open one to Petersburgh. It is not believed that any hills intervene in that course; and the greatest obstacle will be found in crossing the branches of Chowan river.
A Company incorporated by the state of Virginia, for the improvement of the navigation of the river generally, has removed some obstructions in the upper part of the river, and is bound by the charter to render it so far navigable that there may never be less than 12 inches of water over any of the shoals or rapids, from the upper end of the lower or great falls to Pattonborough, a distance of 220 miles. The natural navigation of the river through that extent is considered as better than that of any other Atlantic river above the falls.
A communication has been opened by the company from Westham, at the upper end of the great falls, to Shockoe hill in the city of Richmond, in the following manner: The water is drawn at Westham from the river into a canal 200 yards in length, at the end of which, boats descending 34 feet through three locks re-enter the river, and after using its natural navigation three miles, are brought by a canal 3 miles and a half in length to a bason on Shockoe hill, where the navigation terminates.
That bason is about 80 feet above tide water, and one mile and a half from Rockets, the port of Richmond. The whole fall from the upper end of the canal at Westham to the bason, may be stated at 48 feet, and the distance at six miles and a half. The canal is 25 feet wide, and admits boats of eight tons drawing three feet of water. The locks 80 feet long, and 16 feet wide, are of solid masonry; but the cement is defective. Three aqueducts have been thrown across valleys intervening in the course of the canal; and some difficult digging was necessary on the side of hills, and through ledges of rocks.
The canal, according to the charter, was intended to have been brought down to tide water. The performance of that condition is now suspended by an act of the legislature of Virginia, and there seems to be a considerable diversity of opinion on that subject. In a national point of view, the plan which will at the least expense put coals on board vessels lying at Rockets, deserves the preference. For coal is in no other part of the United States found in abundance in the vicinity of tide water. At present the expense of transportation by the canal is already reduced to one third of the land carriage.
The original capital of the company amounted to 140,000 dollars, of which the state of Virginia owns fifty thousand; and 91,000 dollars arising from the proceeds of tolls, had before the 1st January, 1805, been applied to the work, making together an expenditure of 231,000 dollars. The annual tolls raised on fourteen thousand tons of country produce, and on two thousand coal boats, have amounted to 16,750 dollars: and the annual repairs and expenses are estimated at 5000 dollars. But as the company draw also a revenue from the rent of water, applied to mills and other water works erected along the canal, they have been able in some years to make dividends of 16,800 dollars, being at the rate of 12 per cent. on the original capital, but of only about 7 per cent. if calculated on the sum of 244,000 dollars, the amount of capital expended, and interest accrued before any dividend was made.
The company incorporated by the states of Maryland and Virginia, for improving the navigation of that river, has executed the following works.
1. At a distance of 12 miles above the head of the tide, which ascends about 3 miles above the city of Washington, the river is 143 feet higher than tide water. At that place designated by the name of Great falls, the boats passing through a canal one mile in length, six feet deep, and twenty five feet wide, descend 76 feet by five locks, 100 feet long, and 12 feet wide each, and re-entering the river, follow its natural bed, eight miles and a half. Another canal of the same dimensions, and two miles and a half in length, brings them then through three locks and by a descent of 37 feet to tide water. This last fall is distinguished by the name of Little falls. The two lower locks of the Great falls, excavated out of the solid rock, have each a lift of 18 feet: the three upper locks of solid masonary are of unequal height, and have together a lift of forty feet. The three locks of the Little falls, are each one hundred feet in length and eighteen feet wide. That breadth is unnecessary, and consumes two much water, a defect which will be remedied, when stone locks will be substituted to those now in use, which being of wood, will soon be decayed.
Three other canals without locks have been opened around three distinct falls: the principal at the Shenandoe falls below Harper’s ferry, and at the place where the Potomac breaks through the Blue Ridge, is one mile in length around a fall of fifteen feet. Between this and the Great falls another canal three quarters of a mile in length, is opened around the Seneca falls. The third, fifty yards in length, has been cut around Houre’s falls, five miles above the Shenandoe falls. Above this place, the navigation has been improved by deepening occasionally the channel, raising the water in shallow places by small dams, and opening sluices along the shore. It is believed that by multiplying the number of those low dams, by throwing the channel along the shore, and when necessary opening canals with or without locks around the principal rapids, the navigation may be improved, perhaps as high up as Cumberland, 188 miles above tide water, to such a degree as to render the river passable for boats the greater part of the year. And if this be found practicable on the Potomac, which is the most rapid of the great Atlantic rivers, the same improvements may with greater facility be effected on any of the others. It will be indispensable, in order to attain that object on the Potomac, that additional canals with locks, should be opened at the Shenandoe or Blue Ridge falls, which as has already been stated, fall 43 feet, in the distance of five miles.
2. The Shenandoe, a river nearly as large as the Potomac itself, after a course of 250 miles through the Great Lime-stone valley, unites its waters with those of the Potomac at Harper’s ferry, just above the Blue Ridge. From Port Republic till within eight miles of the Potomac, a distance of near 200 miles, it affords a good navigation, the fall of the river being at the rate of less than two feet a mile. In the last eight miles it falls eighty feet, and was impassable before the improvements completed last year by the Potomac company. Six different canals, 20 feet wide, four feet and a half deep, and extending altogether 2400 yards, have been opened round the most difficult falls. Through those, and five stone locks, 100 feet long and 12 feet wide each, and effecting together a descent of near fifty feet, the communication is now opened, and will render the undertaking much more productive than heretofore. The water in all those canals and locks, as well as in those executed on the Potomac, is uniformly supplied by the river itself.
The capital originally subscribed amounted to 311,560 dollars, divided into 701 shares; of which the state of Maryland owns 220, and the state of Virginia seventy. The total amount expended, including an additional payment received from late subscribers, 38,000 dollars arising from tolls, which have been applied to the work, and a debt of about 67,000 dollars contracted by the company, amounts to 444,652 dollars. The annual tolls raised on eight thousand tons of sundry articles, valued at more than half a million of dollars, have not before the opening of the Shenandoe, exceeded 15,000 dollars; and the annual expenses and repairs are stated at 5,000 dollars.
One hundred shares of £. 145 sterling each, remain open for subscription.
This river has no perpendicular or altogether impassable falls: but from the head of the tide up to the Pennsylvania line, a distance of ten miles, the navigation is impeded by a succession of dangerous rapids; and these, though occasionally separated by sheets of smooth water, continue 40 miles higher up, at least as far as Columbia; the whole fall from this place, to the head of the tide, being estimated at about 140 feet. The navigation through that distance, at all times dangerous, is practicable only during the high freshets, when rafts and flat bottomed boats, 80 feet long and 17 feet wide, may descend from the several widely extended upper branches of the river. Less dangerous falls are found at the place where it breaks through the Blue Ridge; above which the natural navigation from Middletown upwards, whether up the Juniata, the West branch, or the East branch, is much better than that of the Potomac, and has been improved in several places at the expense of the state of Pennsvlvania. A canal one mile long, and 4 feet deep, with two brick locks, has also been opened around the Conewago falls, in the gap of the Blue Ridge, fourteen thousand dollars having been paid for that object by the same state. Its entrance is difficult, and it is used for water works, being free for navigation, though private property. From Columbia down to the Maryland line, considerable improvements in the bed of the river have also been made at the expense of the two states, and the descending navigation has on the whole been improved: but few boats ever attempt to ascend. Nor is it believed that the natural advantages of the most considerable Atlantic river will ever be fully enjoyed, until a canal shall have been opened the whole way from Columbia, either to tide water, or to the Delaware and Chesapeake canal.
A company incorporated by the state of Maryland, for opening a canal around the falls, in that part of the river which extends from the Pennsylvania line, to tide water, has completed that part of the work, the utility of which is but very partially felt, whilst the bed of the river remains the only communication from its upper extremity up to Columbia.
The canal, 30 feet wide, 3 feet deep, and admitting boats of 20 tons, is nine miles in length, with a fall of 59 feet. The descent is effected by eight stone locks, each of which is 100 feet in length, and 12 feet wide. The water is supplied by the river itself; and in order to cross the rivers Conawingo and Octorara, these, by means of dams, have been raised ten and twelve feet to the level of the canal.
Its defects consist in the want of sufficient breadth of the locks, which do not admit the rafts and wide flat bottom boats, generally used in bringing down the country produce, and in want of water at the lower end of the canal. This last defect may be remedied by extending the canal 700 yards lower down along the edge of the river; and it is probable, that as timber will become more scarce and valuable in the upper branches of the Susquehannah, boats of a different construction will be used. In the mean while, the annual tolls have not yet amounted to one thousand, whilst the annual expenses are stated at twelve hundred dollars, and the capital expended at 250,000 dollars.
The attempts made to open a communication from Middletown, in the Lime stone valley, to Philadelphia, partly by canals, and partly by means of the Skuylkill, will be noticed under the head of “Interior Canals.”
The navigation of the Kanhawa, and of the eastern branches of the Tennessee, Monongahela, and Allegheny, in their course through the mountains, may at a future period be improved. But from the foot of the mountains, all those rivers, and particularly the Ohio, flow with a much gentler current than the Atlantic rivers: a circumstance easily accounted for, when it is recollected that Brownsville on the Monongahela, and at a distance of two thousand miles by water from the sea, is only 115 feet more elevated than Cumberland on the Potomac; whilst this river with all its meanders, reaches tide water, within less than two hundred miles. All those rivers at the annual melting of the snows rise to the height of more than forty feet, affording from the upper points to which they are navigable, a safe navigation to the sea for any ship that can pass over the bar at the mouth of the Mississippi. As early as the year 1793, a schooner built on the Monogahela, between Brownsville and Pittsburgh, reached New Orleans by that extraordinary inland navigation, and arrived safely at Philadelphia. This first essay, stimulated the spirit of enterprize so conspicuous in the American character; and numerous vessels from one hundred to three hundred and fifty tons burthen are now annually built at several ship yards on the Ohio, even as high up as Pittsburgh, and bringing down to New Orleans the produce of the upper country consumed there, carry to Europe, and to the Atlantic ports of the United States, the sugar, the cotton, and the tobacco of Louisiana, and of the states of Tennessee and Kentucky.
That branch of national industry gives value to the immense forests of the Ohio and of its numerous branches, will soon make a considerable and perhaps necessary accession to the shipping of the United States, and has a tendency to diminish the price of freights from New Orleans to the other American and to foreign ports. The importance of this last consideration will be duly felt, if the magnitude of the exports, of which New Orleans is destined to be the emporium, be contrasted with the probable amount of its importations. For such are the labor, time and expense necessary to ascend the rapid stream of the Mississippi; and the nature of its banks annually overflowed on a breadth of several miles, precludes the possibility of towing paths; that whilst the greater part of the produce of the immense country watered by that river and its tributary streams, must necessarily be exported through its channel, the importations of a considerable portion of that country will continue to be supplied from the Atlantic sea ports, by water and land communications, susceptible of considerable improvement. And thus unless another outlet be found for a portion of the exports, or unless the upper country can supply vessels, those exports must necessarily pay a double freight.
The only impediments to that navigation are, on the Tennessee, “the Muscle shoals,” of which no particular account has been received; and, on the Ohio, the falls of Louisville. Ordinary boats can with difficulty pass these in summer, and the navigation is even during the freshets, dangerous for the large vessels. The attention of the legislature of Kentucky, and of the inhabitants of the western country generally, has therefore been particularly drawn to the opening of a canal at that place. A company has been lately incorporated by the state of Kentucky for that purpose, with a capital which may amount to 500,000 dollars, but a small portion of which has yet been subscribed. The expense however is estimated at a sum less than the nominal capital.
The proposed canal would be near two miles in length, and must be dug, in some places to a depth of 27, but generally of about 16 feet; the breadth at the bottom being 20 feet with the necessary slope, would make it generally 68 feet wide at top, and in particular places not less than one hundred. The fall at low water is about 22 feet, and would require three locks of dimensions sufficient to pass ships of 400 tons, and drawing 14 feet of water. The greatest expense will be that of digging and removing the earth, which may be estimated at 400,000 cubic yards, and according to the representation made of the nature of the ground, will not probably cost more than 200,000 dollars. To this may be added 100,000 dollars for the locks and other necessary works, making altogether three hundred thousand dollars. The greatest difficulty seems to be the protection of the locks and canals against the rise of the river, which sometimes overflows the whole ground through which the canal must be opened.
THE expense of the improvements suggested in the communications between the Atlantic and western waters, may be stated as followeth:
Although a canal navigation, uniting the Atlantic and western waters in a direct course across the mountains appears impracticable, yet those mountains may be turned either on the north by means of the Mohawk valley and of lake Ontario, or on the south through Georgia, and the Mississippi territory. The first communication will be noticed under the head of “the river St. Laurence and great lakes.” Of the second it will be sufficient to observe, that the country lying between the sources of the rivers Chatahouchee and Mobile, and the gulph of Mexico, is an inclined plane, regularly descending towards the sea, and that by following the proper levels, it presents no natural obstacle to the opening of a canal, fed by the waters of the two last mentioned rivers, and extending from the tide water on the coast of Georgia, to the Mississippi. The distance in a direct line is about 550 miles, and to be overcome, requires only time, perseverance and labor. When it is recollected that such an undertaking would discharge the Mississippi into the Atlantic, the remarks already made on the trade of that river, and other obvious considerations, will sufficiently point out its immence importance. Nor should the plan, on account of its magnitude, be thought chimerical; for the elevation and other natural obstacles of intervening ground, or want of a sufficient suply of water, and not distance, are the only insuperable impediments to an artificial navigation.
This work, which is presented not as an immediate but as a distant object, worthy of consideration, would probably require ten millions of dollars, and thirty years for its completion. The annual sales of the public lands in the Mississippi territory, which are estimated at fifty millions of acres, would after paying the debt due to the state of Georgia, afford sufficient funds; and the encreased value of the residue, would alone more than compensate the expense.
It is proper to add, that an inland navigation, even for open boats, already exists from New Orleans by the canal Carondelet, to the lake Pontchartrain, thence between the coast and the adjacent islands to the bay of Mobile, and up its two principal rivers, the Alibama, and the Tombigbee to the head of the tide within the acknowledged boundaries of the United States. The current of these two rivers being much less rapid than that of the Mississippi, they have long been contemplated, particularly the Tombigbee, as affording a better communication to the ascending or returning trade from New Orleans to the waters of the Tennessee, from which they are separated by short portages.
COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN THE ATLANTIC RIVERS, AND THE RIVER ST. LAURENCE AND GREAT LAKES.
Vessels ascend the river St. Laurence from the sea to Montreal. The river Sorel discharges at some distance below that town the waters of lake George and lake Champlain, which penetrate southwardly within the United States. From Montreal to lake Ontario, the ascent of the river St. Laurence is estimated at about 200 feet. From the eastern extremity of lake Ontario, an inland navigation for vessels of more than 100 tons burthen, is continued more than one thousand miles, through lakes Erie, St. Clair, and Huron, to the western and southern extremities of lake Michigan, without any other interruption than that of the falls and rapids of Niagara, between lake Erie and lake Ontario. The descent from fort Schlosser to Devil’s hole, a distance of four miles, which includes the perpendicular falls of Niagara, has by correct measurement been ascertained at 375 feet. The whole fall from lake Erie to lake Ontario, is estimated at 450 feet, making the elevation of lake Erie above tide water, six hundred and fifty feet.
Lake Superior, the largest of those inland seas, communicates with the northern extremity of lake Huron, by the river and rapids of St. Mary’s. The fall of these is not ascertained: but it is said that a small canal has been opened around the most difficult part, by the North West Fur company.
Five of the Atlantic rivers approach the waters of the St. Laurence; viz. The Penobscot, Kennebeck, Connecticut, the North, or Hudson river, and the Tioga branch of the Susquehannah. This last river will afford a useful communication with the rivers Seneca, and Genessee, which empty into lake Ontario. The length of the portage has not been precisely stated; and the general navigation of the Susquehannah has already been noticed. It may however be observed, that it is the only Atlantic river whose sources approach both the western waters, and those of the St. Laurence.
The three eastern rivers, afford convenient communications with the province of Lower Canada, but not with that extensive inland navigation, which penetrates through the United States, within two hundred miles of the Mississippi. No statement has been received of any improvement having yet been made on the Penobscot, or Kennebeck; and a very imperfect account has been obtained of some short canals opened around the several falls of the river Connecticut. One at Bellows’ falls, in the state of Vermont, has been particularly mentioned, and is the highest improvement on the river.
What is called the North river, is a narrow and long bay, which in its northwardly course from the harbor of New York, breaks through, or turns all the mountains, affording a tide navigation for vessels of 80 tons to Albany and Troy, 160 miles above New York. This peculiarity distinguishes the North river from all the other bays and rivers of the United States. The tide in no other ascends higher than the granite ridge, or comes within thirty miles of the Blue Ridge, or eastern chain of mountains. In the North river, it breaks through the Blue Ridge at West Point, and ascends above the eastern termination of the Catskill, or great western chain.
A few miles above Troy, and the head of the tide, the Hudson from the north, and the Mohawk from the west, unite their waters, and form the North river. The Hudson in its course upwards, approaches the waters of lake Champlain, and the Mohawk, those of lake Ontario.
Hudson and Champlain, or Northern Navigation.
A Company was incorporated several years ago by the state of New York, for the purpose of opening this communication, and a survey taken by Mr. Weston, a copy of which has not yet been obtained. From collateral information, it appears that it was proposed to open a canal 12 miles long, with a lockage of 106 feet, from Waterford, at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk, to the upper end of the great falls of Stillwater. This was considered as the most difficult part of the whole route, and the expense estimated at 275,000 dollars. Another canal and lock would be necessary around the falls of fort Miller: but the remainder of the navigation up the Hudson to fort Edward, does not require any material improvement.
At some distance above fort Edward, it was intended to connect by a canal and locks, the Hudson with the North Wood creek, at fort Ann. The navigation down the creek to Skeensborough is used, but requires to be improved. At this place, where falls render another canal necessary, North Wood creek empties into the south bay of lake Champlain; and thence is a natural sloop navigation through the whole extent of the lake. The expense of the works from fort Edward to Skeensborough, had been estimated at 200,000 dollars.
The funds of the company were insufficient, and have, it is said, been expended without much permanent utility at Stillwater and Skeensborough.
The distance in a straight line from Waterford to Skeensborough is fifty miles; and the expense of opening a permanent boat navigation on a proper plan through the whole line, is from imperfect materials estimated at about 800,000 dollars. This communication would divert to a port of the United States the trade of one half of the state of Vermont, and of a part of that of New York, which is now principally carried through the channel of the St. Laurence, and of the province of Canada.
Mohawk and Ontario, or Western Navigation.
A Company incorporated by the state of New York, for the improvement of this navigation, has made considerable progress, and an accurate survey having been taken of the distances and levels of the greater part of the route, the result will in the first place be stated.
The elevation of the summit level between the Mohawk and the waters of lake Ontario, being only 390 feet above the tide water at Troy, and 190 feet above lake Ontario, a canal navigation is practicable the whole distance. Whether this should be attempted for a sloop or boat navigation, must depend principally, if not altogether, on the supply of water. It is stated that the canal from the summit level to Troy, must necessarily follow the valley of the Mohawk, and perhaps occasionally enter and cross the river. Calculated for a boat navigation, the expense may be estimated as followeth:
It is not believed that a sloop navigation, if practicable, could be effected for a less sum than five millions of dollars. The following works have already been completed by the company:
At the Little falls a canal three quarters of a mile in length, has been opened, and a descent of 42 feet effected by six locks of solid masonry, each of which is 70 feet long, and 12 feet wide. At the German flats, four miles above the Little falls, another canal one mile in length, with two stone locks of the same materials and dimensions, effects a descent of ten feet.
On the summit level a canal one mile and three quarters in length, and supplied with water from the river Mohawk by a short feeder, unites that river and Wood creek, by means of two locks of the same dimensions and materials, one at each extremity of the canal. All those canals are 2 feet and a half deep, 24 wide at bottom, and 32 at top, and admit boats of ten tons. It is proper to state, that at first, wooden locks had been erected at the Little falls, and brick locks on the summit canal. At both places they had become totally unfit for service at the end of seven years, and it was necessary to replace them by stone locks: a circumstance which encreased considerably the expense of the undertaking.
Several minor improvements have been made on the Mohawk; and the navigation of Wood creek, of which the principal defect is want of water, has been improved by raising dams, and by the erection of four temporary wooden locks. But until a canal shall have been opened the whole distance from the summit level to lake Oneida, the navigation will be imperfect, and the profits inconsiderable.
The funds of the company do not enable them to undertake the necessary improvements at the two extremities of the line, a canal around the Cohoes falls to tide water, and another canal from lake Oneida to lake Ontario. The usual portage at the first place is from Schenectady to Albany; and a very good and expensive artificial road of 16 miles, made by another company, unites the two towns. Another company has lately been incorporated, for the purpose of making an artificial road at the other extremity of the line from Rotterdam, on lake Oneida, to Salmon creek on lake Ontario.
The capital of the company is 232,000 dollars, of which the state of New York owns 92,000; but with the exception of one dividend of 3 per cent. all the tolls have been applied to the works; and including these and a debt of 20,000 dollars due by the company, the whole expenditure amounts to 370,000 dollars. The annual tolls do not yet exceed 13,000 dollars.
The fall from lake Erie to lake Ontario has already been stated at 450 feet. A company had also been incorporated by the state of New York, for the purpose of opening a canal at this place: but it does not appear that any thing ever was attempted after the survey had been made. The intention seems to have been to open a canal navigation for boats only, from fort Schlosser to Devil’s hole; the lake itself and Giles’s creek would have supplied the water, and the expense was estimated at 437,000 dollars.
It is however evident that the canal, in order to be as eminently useful as the nature of the undertaking seems to require, should be on such scale as to admit vessels which can navigate both lakes. Considering the distance, which in that case must be extended to about ten miles, and the lockage of 450 feet, it is not believed that the expense can be estimated at less than 1,000,000 dollars.
The works necessary to effect water communications between the tide water of the North river, the St. Laurence, and all the lakes, (lake Superior only excepted) are therefore estimated at four millions of dollars, viz.
The papers relative to those communications will be found under the letter (B.); but the utility of these will not be confined to the extensive navigation of the lakes themselves. For the mountains being completely turned, when arrived into lake Erie, the ridge which separates the waters emptying into that and into lake Michigan, from the northern branches of the Ohio, and from the waters of the Mississippi, is of a moderate elevation, and is gradually depressed in its course westwardly. There is no doubt of the practicability of opening canals at a future period, between several of those waters, either by selecting proper levels, or by means of short tunnels across favorable parts of the ridge. It will at present be sufficient to point out the principal communications now in use.
The distance from lake Erie to lake Chetoughe, an extensive and important elevated reservoir, which is the source of the Canowango branch of the Allegheny, is seven miles by a continual ascent, the elevation of which is not ascertained.
From Presq’ isle on lake Erie, to Le Beuf on French creek, another branch of the Allegheny, the distance is sixteen miles, and a company is incorporated by the state of Pennsylvania, for making an artificial road across that portage.
The navigation from lake Chetoughe, and from Le Beuf to Pittsburgh, offers no impediment whenever the waters are high; and the greater part of the salt now consumed in the north-west counties of Pennsylvania, as far as Pittsburgh, and some distance down the Ohio, is brought from the salt springs of New York, by Oswego, through lake Ontario; then across the portage of Niagara to lake Erie, and thence by either of the two last mentioned portages to the waters of the river Allegheny.
The distance from the place where the Cayuga, a river emptying into lake Erie, ceases to be navigable, to the navigable waters of the Muskingum, which empties into the Ohio 170 miles below Pittsburgh, is only six miles; and a company is said to be formed for the improvement of that communication.
Sandusky river and the Scioro take their sources in the same swamp. The navigation of the Miami of lake Erie is interrupted by some falls; but its upper branches approach those of the Miami of the Ohio, and of the Wabash, and are stated as being nearly on the same level.
The Illinois river, which empties into the Mississippi above St. Louis, rises in a swamp, which when the waters are high, affords a natural canoe navigation to the sources of Chicago creek, a short stream, which falls into lake Michigan, at its southern extremity.
Another communication generally used by the Indian traders is that from Green bay, also in lake Michigan, to the Mississippi, by Fox river, and tho Ouisconsing. Nor is there any doubt that if the inland navigation between the North river and the lakes was completely opened, the whole Indian trade either of the Mississippi by lake Michigan, or of the north-west by lake Superior, must necessarily center in an Atlantic port of the United States; a consideration of minor importance as a commercial object, when compared with the other advantages of that great communication, but of great weight in its relation to the political intercourse of the United States, with the Indians.
Under this denomination will be included all the canals of which any knowledge has been obtained, and which are not immediately on the rivers opening communications with the western waters or with those of the St. Laurence, although some of them may be considered as extending those communications to more remote sea ports. The documents from which the information is extracted will be found under the letters (C. c.)
The navigation of that river, which rising in the state of New-Hampshire, falls into the sea at Newburyport after a course of 180 miles, is interrupted by several falls. A canal called Blodget’s canal has been opened around Asmoskeag falls. Lower down and about 40 miles from the sea, the Essex canal, 4 miles in length, and admitting boats drawing 3 feet and a half, will open a communication around the Patucket falls, effecting through 3 locks, a descent of 34 feet. From the lower extremity of the canal, the river is navigable to the head of the tide at Haverhill, although the fall be 45 feet within that distance. No particular account has been received of the capital expended; but it is believed that the work will be profitable to the undertakers.
The Middlesex canal, uniting the waters of that river with the harbor of Boston, is however the greatest work of the kind which has been completed in the United States.
That canal, 12 feet wide and 3 1-2 feet deep, draws its supply of water from Sudbury or Concord river, a branch of the Merrimack, and from the summit ground extends six miles with a descent of 28 feet to the Merrimack above the Patucket falls, and 22 miles with a descent of 107 feet to the tide water of the harbour of Boston. The descent to the Merrimack is effected by three, and that to tide water, by nineteen locks. They are all 90 feet long, 12 feet wide, of solid masonry and excellent workmanship.
In order to open that canal, it was necessary to dig in some places at 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. All those obstacles have been overcome, and boats of 24 tons, 75 feet long and 11 feet wide, can navigate the canal. Those in most general use are of smaller dimensions, and are drawn by two horses at the rate of three miles an hour. A raft of one mile in length and containing eight hundred tons of timber, has been drawn by two oxen, part of the way at the rate of one mile an hour. Common boats pass from one end of the canal to the other in 12 hours. The capital expended on the work is stated at 478,000 dollars, and the water rights and necessary land cost a farther sum of 58,000 dollars. The total expense has exceeded 550,000 dollars: the tolls have never yet exceeded 17,000 dollars a year, but are encreasing.
Several other canals have been contemplated in the state of Massachusetts, intended to unite the waters of Providence or Patucket river, with those of Charles river, which falls into the harbor of Boston, and of the river Connecticut. The grounds have been surveyed, but no particular description has been obtained, and the works have not yet been commenced.
Schuylkill and Delaware.
A Company was incorporated several years ago by the state of Pennsylvania, for opening a canal from Norristown, on the river Schuylkill, to the tide water of the Delaware at Philadelphia. The distance is 16 miles, the fall 53 feet, and the canal deriving its water from the Schuylkill, would have been carried on a level to Philadelphia, and in its descent to the Delaware supplied the city with water, and the shipping with docks. The expense had been estimated at 533,000 dollars; the work was commenced, one third part of the digging effected, and a considerable sum expended. But either from want of funds, or from an improper selection of the ground, or from other causes not fully understood, the undertaking if not altogether abandoned, has been suspended for several years.
This canal was intended as the first link of an extensive western communication. The Schuylkill, from Norristown to Reading, 46 miles higher up the river, being navigable a great portion of the year, was considered as the next link.
Schuylkill and Susquehannah.
Another company was incorporated, for the purpose of opening an inland navigation between Reading, on the Schuylkill, to Middletown, on the Susquehannah. Both towns are in the great Lime stone valley, beyond the Blue Ridge, and the distance is 70 miles. It had been at first supposed that it would be sufficient to cut a canal four miles in length, on the summit level between the two rivers; and thereby to unite the Tulpehocken which falls into the Schuylkill, with the Quitipahilla, a branch of the Swatara, which empties into the Susquehannah. But it was soon ascertained that the original plan of improving by a succession of dams the navigation of those small rivers was erroneous, and that it would be necessary to cut a canal the whole way.
The summit level is at an elevation of 310 feet above the Schuylkill, and of 308 feet above the Susquehannah. Adjacent springs are considered sufficient for the upper locks: and the creeks would after a short descent afford an abundant supply. The proposed dimensions of the canal were a breadth of 20 feet at the bottom, and a depth of 3 feet and a half: and the expense was estimated at near 1,500,000 dollars.
The work was commenced: the canal has been cut the whole distance of 4 miles on the summit level; five locks made of brick have been constructed; land and water rights have been purchased, and a considerable capital has been expended. But although the state of Pensylvania has permitted the company to raise 266,000 dollars by lottery, and is bound to pay to them 300,000 dollars whenever the work shall have been completed, it remains suspended for want of funds.
The great lockage necessary for this canal, is the principal objection to that line of communication: and it has been suggested that a canal from Columbia, on the Susquehannah, to tide water or to the great Delaware and Chesapeake canal, would be much less expensive, and equally beneficial both to the interior country and to Philadelphia. This question, as many others suggested in this report, cannot be decided by any but practical and skilful engineers.
A Company has been incorporated for opening a canal from the upper end of the falls of that river, which is the south branch of James River, to Petersburgh on the head of the tide. The distance is five miles, and the descent more than thirty feet to a bason, about 60 feet above the tide, in which the canal will terminate. The water is drawn from the river; and the canal 16 feet wide, 3 feet deep, and admitting boats of 6 tons, is nearly completed. The capital already expended amounts to sixty thousand dollars. But the company own thirty negroes, and suppose that their labor, and a further sum of ten thousand dollars, will be sufficient to build the locks, and to dig about half a mile which remains to be cut in order to open the communication between the river and the bason. This work which has been carried on with much zeal, and at a small expense, will open an important navigation of near 100 miles.
Neuse and Beaufort.
The harbor of Beaufort, in North Carolina, and which must not be confounded with that of the same name in South Carolina, admits vessels drawing eighteen feet of water. Ocracoke inlet the only navigable entrance into the Pamtico and Albemarle sounds, that extensive estuary of the rivers Chowan, Roanoke, Tar and Neuse, has less water, and is 70 miles from Newbern, on the last mentioned river. The distance between Newport, or Beaufort river and the Neuse, being only three miles, and the elevation of the highest intervening ground no more than seven feet above tide water, a canal uniting the two rivers, was undertaken by a company incorporated for that purpose by the state of North Carolina. All the shares have, from particular circumstances, become the property of one individual; and the work which had been commenced some years ago, is now suspended.
Cape Fear River.
A Company incorporated by the same state, for improving the navigation of this river, after having exhausted a portion of their funds, which did not exceed twelve thousand dollars, in fruitless attempts to improve the natural navigation of the river, have opened a canal with a lock, which opens a safe passage around the Buck horn or great falls, seven miles below the junction of the Deep and Haw river. Another canal, six miles in length, with two locks, is necessary around Smilie’s falls. Nearly half that distance has been completed; but the work is now suspended for want of funds. The legislature has lately authorised the company to encrease their capital.
The canal Carondelet, which has already been mentioned, extends from Bayou St. John, to the fortifications, or ditch of the city, and thereby opens an inland communication with lake Pontchartrain. A company is incorporated by the territorial legislature, for the purpose of repairing and improving that work and of uniting the canal by locks with the Mississippi. Independent of other advantages, this undertaking would enable government to transport with facility and use the same naval force for the defence of both the Mississippi and lake Pontchartrain, the two great avenues by which New Orleans may be approached from the sea.
TURNPIKE, OR ARTIFICIAL ROADS.
A great number of artificial roads have been completed in the eastern and middle states, at an expense varying from less than one thousand to fourteen thousand dollars a mile. The labor bestowed on the least expensive species consists in shortening the distance, diminishing the ascent of hills, removing rocks, levelling, raising and giving a proper shape to the bed of the roads, draining them by ditches, and erecting bridges over the intervening streams. But the natural soil of the road is used, instead of covering it with a stratum of gravel or pounded stones.
It appears by one of the papers marked (D.) under which letter will be found all the information which has been obtained respecting roads, that fifty turnpike companies have been incorporated, since the year 1803, in the state of Connecticut alone; and that the roads undertaken by those companies are all of that description. Thirty nine of those roads extending together 770 miles, are completed. The most expensive is that from New Haven to Hartford, which has cost 79,261 dollars; or the distance being 34 miles and three quarters, at the rate of 2,280 dollars a mile: but about 18,000 dollars of the capital have been expended in the purchase of the land through which the road is carried. The nett income on this road, deducting the annual repairs and expenses from the annual tolls, does not exceed 3000 dollars. Of six of the roads, which together extend 120 miles, no account has been received. The other thirty two extend together 615 miles, and have cost only 340,000 dollars, or on an average at the rate of 550 dollars a mile: and it seems that the aggregate of annual tolls on the whole is 86,000 dollars; from which deducting the annual repairs and expenses, amounting to 48,000 dollars, leaves a nett income of 38,000 dollars, or of about eleven per cent. on the capital expended.
No particular account has been received of the roads in the other eastern states; but it is known that besides some of a similar description with those of the state of Connecticut, several of a more expensive kind have been completed, particularly in Massachusetts. The cost has varied from 3000 to 14,000 dollars a mile; and amongst artificial roads of the first grade may be mentioned those from Boston to Providence, to Salem, and to Newburyport. These are all covered with an artificial stratum of gravel or pounded stones, and finished in the most substantial manner. Great expense has also been incurred in order to shorten the distance without exceeding the angle of ascent, which is fixed at 5 degrees; and it is stated that the road to Newburyport, 32 miles in length, and in which marshes and rocks presented considerable obstacles, has cost 400,000 dollars, or at the rate of 12,500 dollars a mile. Those expensive roads, however useful and permanent, appear to be much less profitable than those of Connecticut. The Salem road is said to yield six per cent. another road has been stated as yielding eight per cent. the income of all the others in the state of Massachusetts, is said not to exceed on an average three per cent. and that of the road from Boston to Newburyport, amounts to no more than two per cent.
A greater capital has been vested on turnpike roads in the state of New York, than in any other. In less than seven years, sixty seven companies have been incorporated, with a nominal capital of near five millions of dollars, for the purpose of making more than 3000 miles of artificial roads; and twenty one other companies have also been incorporated with a capital of 400,000 dollars; for the purpose of erecting 21 toll bridges. Although no particular account has been received either of the capital actually expended, of the annual amount of tolls, or of the materials of the roads, it is known that great progress has been made: and it has been stated that nine hundred miles of road were already completed by 28 companies, whose capital amounted to 1,800,000 dollars, and who had 200 miles of road more to finish.
Those roads extend in every direction, but particularly from every town or village on the North river, westwardly and north-westwardly, towards the waters of the Susquehannah, and those of the great lakes. The most expensive is that from Albany to Schenectady, fourteen miles long, and which has cost at the rate of ten thousand dollars a mile. Near 140 miles of roads extending westwardly from Albany and Schenectady, appear to have cost at the rate of 2,500 or 3,000 dollars a mile. The expense of all the others does not seem on an average to exceed 1,250 dollars a mile.
More detailed information has been obtained respecting the roads in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
In New Jersey a turnpike road has lately been completed from Trenton to Brunswick. The distance is 25 miles; the greatest angle of ascent 3 degrees, and the road is nearly in a straight line, the only considerable obstruction being the “Sand Hills,” through which it was necessary to dig at the depth of thirty feet, in order not to exceed the angle of ascent. The road is 36 feet wide, fifteen feet of which are covered with about 6 inches of gravel. A few wooden bridges with stone abutments and piers have been erected across the intervening streams. The whole expense is stated at 2,500 dollars a mile. From Brunswick the road will be extended to Elizabeth town, and the work is now progressing. Another road has been undertaken in the same state from Brunswick to Easton, on the river Delaware. The distance is 43 miles, of which eleven have been completed at an expense of 40,000 dollars. This road will be more expensive than the preceding, both on account of the ground, the bridges being more numerous, and the Blue Ridge, (Musconekong mountain) intervening: and because a more substantial facing or greater thickness of gravel is requisite. The funds of the company are exhausted.
In Pennsylvania artificial roads of the most substantial kind, have been completed, or are progressing, from Philadelphia, in sundry directions.
The principal are to Bristol and Trenton, 12 miles of which are completed; to Germantown and Perkiomen, with two branches to Willow Grove, and to Chesnut Hill; and to Lancaster and Columbia, with a branch to Harrisburgh.
The distance from Philadelphia to Perkiomen is 25 miles and a quarter; the two branches extend, one 10 miles and the other 7 miles and a half; making together, near 43 miles. The angle of ascent is 4 degrees; the breadth of the road fifty feet, of which 28 feet, having a convexity of 15 inches, are covered with a stratum either of gravel 18 inches thick or of pounded stones 12 inches thick. One half of the stones forming the lower part of the stratum, are broken into pieces not more than five inches in diameter: the other half or upper part of the stratum consists of stones broken into pieces not more than two inches and a half in diameter: and this difference in the size of the stones is represented as a considerable defect. Side or summer roads extend on each side of the gravel or stone road. The five miles next to Philadelphia have cost at the rate of 14,517 dollars a mile. The other 20 miles and a half at the rate of 10,490 dollars a mile. Yet there were no natural impediments, and only small bridges or culverts were necessary. The capital expended on these 25 miles and a half is 285,000 dolls.: the tolls amount to 19,000 dollars: the annual repairs and expenses to 10,000 dollars: the nett income to about 9,000 dollars, or little more than 3 per cent. on the capital expended.
The distance from the Schuylkill, at Philadelphia, to Lancaster, is 62 miles and a quarter. Exclusively of the side or summer roads, twenty four feet of the bed of the road are covered with a stratum of pounded stones 18 inches thick in the middle of the road, and decreasing each way to 12 inches. The Valley hills are the most elevated and steep on the road; but the angle of ascent no where exceeds 4 degrees. Stone bridges have been erected across all the intervening streams. That across the river Conestogo consisting of nine arches, is private property; and the most expensive built by the company, is that across the Brandywine, consisting of three arches of solid masonry, and which cost 12,000 dollars. The capital of the company amounted to 360,000 dollars; but this being insufficient, it became necessary to apply a considerable portion of the tolls to the completion of the work. The whole expense amounts to 465,000 dollars, or at the rate of about 7,500 dollars a mile. The annual tolls have not yet exceeded 25,000 dollars; and the annnual repairs and expenses are estimated at 13,000, leaving a nett income of about 12,000 dollars. The prospect of an increased profit, derived from the proposed extension of the road, has however raised the price of that stock nearly to par.
The Lancaster road, the first extensive turnpike that was completed in the United States, is the first link of the great western communication from Philadelphia. It has been extended ten miles westwardly to Columbia on the Susquehannah, and another branch is now progressing northwestwardly to Harrisburgh, also on the Susquehannah, and 36 miles from Lancaster. The state of Pennsylvania has also incorporated two companies in order to extend the road by two different routes as far as Pittsburgh on the Ohio, and near 300 miles from Philadelphia. The southern route, following the main post road, passes by Bedford and Somerset. The northern route passes by Huntingdon and Frankstown, the highest point to which the Juniata branch of the Susquehannah is navigable. To this route the state has authorised a subscription of one hundred thousand dollars.
Other roads in a north-west direction from Philadelphia, towards the Genessee and Presqu’isle on lake Erie, are also progressing, and have been encouraged by the subscriptions or donations of the legislature. They are generally on a much less expensive plan than those in the direction of Pittsburgh. A section of 30 miles from Lausanne on the Lehigh, to Nescopeck on the Susquehannah, has been completed at the expense of 36,000 dollars, by a company; and it is intended to extend it 70 miles further to Newton, on the Tioga branch of the Susquehannah.
In Maryland, roads extending from Baltimore in various directions, have lately been undertaken by several companies and are rapidly progressing. On the falls turnpike, which extends in a northerly direction, about four miles of a road 22 feet wide, covered with a stratum of pounded stones 10 inches thick, and having an ascent not exceeding 4 degrees, have been completed at the rate of 7,500 dollars a mile.
The “Reister town” turnpike, in a northwestwardly direction, extends 16 miles to that village; whence two branches extending one 19 and the other 29 miles farther, will enter Pennsylvania at two different places. The road 24 feet wide, is covered with a stratum 12 inches thick, of pounded stones not more than 3 inches in diameter. The angle of ascent does not exceed 3 degrees and a half. Ten miles have been completed at the expense of 10,000 dollars a mile, and the work is progressing. The capital of the company amounts to 420,000 dollars.
The capital of the “Frederick town” turnpike company amounts to 500,000 dollars; and the company is authorised to open the great western road, as far as Boonsborough, beyond the Blue Ridge, and 62 miles from Baltimore. The angle of ascent will not exceed 4 degrees; the road has a convexity of 9 inches, and on a breadth of 22 feet is covered with a stratum 10 inches thick of pounded stones, not exceeding 3 inches in diameter, over which are spread two inches of gravel or coarse sand. The first 20 miles next to Baltimore have cost at the rate of 9,000 dollars, and the next 17 miles are contracted for at the rate of 7,000 dollars a mile.
The distance from Boonsborough to Cumberland, at the foot of the Allegheny mountain, following the present road is 73 miles; and although the company is not yet authorised to extend the turnpike to that place, the ground has been surveyed, and it is ascertained that the road may be continued with an angle of ascent not exceeding 4 degrees. The ascent of the road laid out by the United States from Cumberland to Brownsville, on the Monongahela, does not exceed 5 degrees, and the distance is 72 miles: making the whole distance of a turnpike road from Baltimore to the navigable waters of the Ohio, 207 miles. The distance from the City of Washington to the same spot on the Monongahela is some miles shorter, being as has already been stated, the shortest communication between tide water and the navigable western waters.
South of the Potomac few artificial roads have been undertaken. From Alexandria one is now progressing in a northwestwardly direction towards Middleburgh. Another has lately been commenced from Richmond to Ross’s coal mine. But the only one which, so far as any accounts have been received, is completed, extends 12 miles from Manchester, opposite to Richmond, in a westwardly direction to the coal mines of Falling creek. This road, 36 feet wide is gravelled and has cost 50,000 dollars: but the last 4 miles did not cost more than at the rate of 3000 dollars a mile. Yet it is sufficiently substantial, the foute being very level, to admit waggons carrying four tons.
The greater progress made in the improvement of roads in the northern parts of the union, must be principally ascribed to a more compact population, which renders those improvements more necessary, and at the same time supplies with greater facility the means of effecting them. The same difference is perceptible in the number of bridges erected in the several states.
In the eastern states, and particularly Massachusetts, wooden bridges uniting boldness to elegance, and having no defect but want of durability, have been erected over the broadest and deepest rivers. In the lower counties of Pennsylvania stone bridges are generally found across all the small streams. Both in that state, and at some distance eastwardly, bridges with stone piers and abutments, and a wooden superstructure are common over wide rivers. Of these the most expensive, and which may be considered as the first in the United States, is the permanent Schuylkill bridge near Philadelphia, erected by a company at an expense of 300,000 dollars. Its length including the abutments does not exceed 750 feet, and it is supported only by two piers and the abutments. But those piers, 195 feet apart, are of the most solid workmanship, and one of them was sunk at a depth of more than 24 feet below low water. The bridge is 42 feet wide, and the wooden superstructure is enclosed and covered with a shingle roof.
The want of bridges south of Pennsylvania, even on the main post road, is sensibly felt. One lately thrown across the Potomac 3 miles above the city of Washington, and which without any intervening piers is wholly suspended to iron chains extending from bank to bank, deserves notice on account of the boldness of its construction, and of its comparative cheapness. The principle of this new plan, derived from the tenacity of iron, seems applicable to all rapid streams of a moderate breadth.
The general principles of improved roads seem to be: 1st, the reduction of hills by diminishing the angle of ascent, which ought not to exceed, whenever practicable, 3 degrees and a half, and under no circumstances five degrees: 2d, a sufficient convexity in the bed of the road, together with ditches and drains, all which are intended to prevent the injury caused by standing water or freshets: 3d, an artificial bed of pounded stones or gravel sufficiently substantial to support the weight of the carriages in general use on the road, either for the conveyance of persons, or for the transportation of merchandize.
On the last point it appears from the facts already stated, or scattered in the communications received on that subject: 1st, That the stones ought to be similar in quality and reduced to the same size, which should not exceed three inches in diameter: 2d, That the preferable qualities of stone, rank in the following order—hard black stone, granite, flint, or quartz, blue lime stone, white ditto: 3d, That the stratum may be either of pounded stones 12 inches thick, or of pounded stones 10 inches thick, with 2 inches of gravel spread over the stones; or entirely of gravel 18 inches thick: 4th, That when the materials are equally convenient, the expense of those three modes will not materially differ, but that the rate of expense depends principally on the number of hills and bridges, distance of materials, breadth of the road, and price of labor: and 5th, That the general adoption of broad wheels for the transportation of heavy loads, is necessary to the full enjoyment of the advantages expected from the most substantial artificial roads. On the degree of convexity and on the proper shape to be given to the natural bed of the road under the artificial stratum, a diversity of opinions seems to prevail.
The roads heretofore made may be divided into three general classes.
1. Those where the only improvement consists in the reduction of hills, and in the convexity and ditches of the road, whereby the angle of ascent is rendered more easy, and standing water excluded; but where the natural soil is used without any artificial stratum. The expense of these roads may vary according to local circumstances, and the perfection of the work, from five hundred to one thousand dollars a mile. They are most generally in use in the eastern states, and may be introduced with advantage in all those districts of country, where wealth does not admit more expensive improvements, or where the materials of an artificial stratum are altogether wanting. It is only in the last case, that they may be considered as a national object; and no other improvement besides bridges and causeways, is perhaps practicable in the lower country of the southern states. Iron, and even timber rail roads, may however be sometimes substituted in those level parts of the country, where stones and gravel are not to be found.
2. Roads prepared as above, of a reduced breadth, and covered with a thin coat of gravel not more than six or nine inches thick; such as the turnpike lately made between Trenton and Brunswick. These roads, the expense of which may be estimated at about 3000 dollars a mile, may be used wherever the frost does not materially affect them, and in every climate, when they are intended principally for the conveyance of persons, and not for the transportation of heavy loads.
3. The artificial roads of the best contruction, such as have been already described. These when not exceeding 22 feet in breadth, and except in the vicinity of large cities, will cost at the rate of 7000 dollars a mile, exclusively of bridges over large rivers. And they must be resorted to, whenever a commercial road for heavy transportation is intended, particularly in the middle states, or rather in the United States, between 41 and 36 degrees of north latitude. North of the 41st degree, the snow lies generally during the whole winter; and the great bulk of heavy transportation is effected in sleighs during that season. There is therefore less necessity for using the roads in the spring; and they are also better protected against the effects of the frost by the snow. South of the 36th degree, which in the Atlantic states may be considered as the boundary of the great cotton cultivation, the frost does not materially injure the roads. It is between those two extremes that the most substantial are required; and it also happens that the great land communications with the western country, which considerably increase the amount of transportation, are principally within the same limits.
The same principles, which have directed the arrangement adopted in this report in relation to canals, will also point out those roads which seem in the first instance to claim the patronage of the general government.
Those which appear most necessary for the communications between the Atlantic and western rivers have already been mentioned under that head; and the improvement of the water communication between the North river and the great lakes ought to take the precedence of any other in that direction.
That road which therefore seems exclusively to claim public attention, is a great turnpike extending from Maine to Georgia in the general direction of the sea coast and main post road, and passing through all the principal sea ports. The general convenience and importance of such a work are too obvious to require any comments: and the expense seems to be the primary object of consideration.
The distance will be roughly estimated at 1,600 miles; and from what has been stated on the subject of roads generally, it may be inferred that the greater part of the road being intended almost exclusively for travelling, and not for transportation of heavy articles, the expense cannot exceed the rate of 3,000 dollars a mile. For although some detached portions of the route, being commercial roads, must be improved as such, and at a greater expense; an equivalent reduction in other parts will result from those portions which are already improved by private companies, and from the impossibility, for want of materials for an artificial stratum, of going in some places beyond what has been described as the first or cheapest species of turnpikes. The whole expense may therefore be estimated at 4,800,000 dollars.
A secondary object, but of more importance to government than to individuals, would be the improvement, on a much less expensive scale, of certain portions of roads leading to some points on the extremes of the union, intended principally for the purpose of accelerating the progress of the mail, and the prompt transmission of information of a public nature. The points contemplated, are Detroit, St. Louis in Upper Louisiana, and New Orleans. The portions of road which traversing a wilderness cannot be improved without the aid of the United States, are; from the Tuscarora branch of the Muskingum to Detroit; from Cincinnati, by Vincennes, to St. Louis; and from Nashville in Tennessee, or Athens in Georgia; to Natches. The expense necessary to enable the mail and even stages to proceed at the rate of 80 miles a day, may, at the rate of about 200 dollars a mile, including bridges over all the small streams, be estimated for those three roads, at 200,000 dollars.
RECAPITULATION AND RESOURCES.
The improvements which have been respectfully suggested as most important, in order to facilitate the communication between the great geographical divisions of the United States, will now be recapitulated; and their expense compared with the resources applicable to that object.
I. From north to south, in a direction parallel to the sea coast:
An annual appropriation of two million of dollars, would accomplish all those great objects in ten years, and may without inconvenience, be supplied in time of peace, by the existing revenues and resources of the United States. This may be examplified in several ways.
The annual appropriation on account of the principal and interest of the public debt, has, during the last six years, amounted to eight millions of dollars. After the present year, or at farthest, after the ensuing year, the sum which, on account of the irredeemable nature of the remaining debt, may be applied to that object, cannot in any one year exceed 4,600,000 dollars, leaving therefore from that source alone, an annual surplus of 3,400,000 dollars, applicable to any other object.
From the 1st January, 1801, to the 1st January, 1809, a period of eight years, the United States shall have discharged about 34 millions of the principal of the old debt, or deducting the Louisiana debt, incurred during the same period, and not yet discharged, about 23 millions of dollars. They may with equal facility, apply in a period of ten years, a sum of 20 millions of dollars, to internal improvements.
The annual permanent revenue of the United States, calculated on a state of general peace, and on the most moderate estimate, was in a report made to Congress on the 6th day of December, 1806, computed for the years 1809-1815, at 14 millions of dollars, The annual expenses on the peace establishment, and including the 4,600,000 dollars, on account of the debt, and 400,000 dollars for contingencies, do not exceed eight millions and a half, leaving an annual surplus of five millions and a half of dollars. To provide for the protection and defence of the country, is undoubtedly the object to which the resources of the United States, must, in the first instance be applied, and to the exclusion of all others, if the times shall require it. But it is believed, that in times of peace, (and to such period only are these remarks applicable) the surplus will be amply sufficient to defray the expenses of all the preparatory measures of a permanent nature which prudence may suggest, and to pay the sum destined for internal improvements. Three millions annually applied during the same period of ten years, would arm every man in the United States, fill the public arsenals and magazines, erect every battery and fortification which could be manned, and even, if thought eligible, build a navy. That the whole surplus would be inadequate to the support of any considerable increase of the land or naval force kept in actual service in time of peace, will be readily admitted. But such a system is not contemplated: if ever adopted, the objects of this report must probably be abandoned. For, it has not heretofore been found an easy task for any government to indulge in that species of expenses, which leaving no trace behind it, adds nothing to the real strength of the country, and at the same time to provide for either its permanent defence or improvement.
It must not be omitted that the facility of communications, constitutes, particularly in the United States, an important branch of national defence. Their extensive territory opposes a powerful obstacle to the progress of an enemy. But on the other hand, the number of regular forces, which may be raised, necessarily limited by the population, will for many years be inconsiderable when compared with that extent of territory. That defect cannot otherwise be supplied than by those great national improvements, which will afford the means of a rapid concentration of that regular force, and of a formidable body of militia, on any given point.
Amongst the resources of the union, there is one which from its nature seems more particularly applicable to internal improvements. Exclusively of Louisiana, the general government possesses, in trust for the people of the United States, about one hundred millions of acres fit for cultivation, north of the river Ohio, and near fifty millions south of the state of Tennessee. For the disposition of those lands a plan has been adopted, calculated to enable every industrious citizen to become a freeholder, to secure indisputable titles to the purchasers, to obtain a national revenue, and above all to suppress monopoly. Its success has surpassed that of every former attempt, and exceeded the expectations of its authors. But a higher price than had usually been paid for waste lands by the first inhabitants of the frontier became an unavoidable ingredient of a system intended for general benefit, and was necessary in order to prevent the public lands being engrossed by individuals possessing greater wealth, activity or local advantages. It is believed that nothing could be more gratifying to the purchasers, and to the inhabitants of the western states generally, or better calculated to remove popular objections, and to defeat insidious efforts, than the application of the proceeds of the sales to improvements conferring general advantages on the nation, and an immediate benefit on the purchasers and inhabitants themselves. It may be added, that the United States, considered merely as owners of the soil, are also deeply interested in the opening of those communications, which must necessarily enhance the value of their property. Thus the opening of an inland navigation from tide water to the great lakes, would immediately give to the great body of lands bordering on those lakes, as great value as if they were situated at the distance of one hundred miles by land from the sea coast. And if the proceeds of the first ten millions of acres which may be sold, were applied to such improvements, the United States would be amply repaid in the sale of the other ninety millions.
The annual appropriation of two millions of dollars drawn from the general revenues of the union, which has been suggested, could operate to its full extent only in times of peace and under prosperous circumstances. The application of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands, might perhaps be made permanent until it had amounted to a certain sum, and until the most important improvements had been effected. The fund created by those improvements, the expense of which has been estimated at twenty millions of dollars, would afterwards become itself a perpetual resource for further improvements. Although some of those first communications should not become immediately productive, and although the same liberal policy, which dictated the measure, would consider them less as objects of revenue to government, than of increased wealth and general convenience to the nation, yet they would all sooner or later acquire, as productive property, their par value. Whenever that had taken place in relation to any of them, the stock might be sold to individuals or companies, and the proceeds applied to a new improvement. And by persevering in that plan, a succession of improvements would be effected until every portion of the United States should enjoy all the advantages of inland navigation and improved roads, of which it was susceptible. To effect that great object, a disbursement of twenty millions of dollars, applied with more or less rapidity according to the circumstances of the United States, would be amply sufficient.
The manner in which the public monies may be applied to such objects, remains to be considered.
It is evident that the United States cannot under the constitution open any road or canal, without the consent of the state through which such road or canal must pass. In order therefore to remove every impediment to a national plan of internal improvements, an amendment to the constitution was suggested by the executive when the subject was recommended to the consideration of Congress. Until this be obtained, the assent of the states being necessary for each improvement, the modifications under which that assent may be given, will necessarily control the manner of applying the money. It may be however observed that in relation to the specific improvements which have been suggested, there is hardly any which is not either already authorised by the states respectively, or so immediately beneficial to them, as to render it highly probable that no material difficulty will be experienced in that respect.
The monies may be applied in two different manners: the United States may with the assent of the states, undertake some of the works at their sole expense; or they may subscribe a certain number of shares of the stock of companies incorporated for the purpose. Loans might also in some instances be made to such companies. The first mode would perhaps, by effectually controlling local interests, give the most proper general direction to the work. Its details would probably be executed on a more economical plan by private companies. Both modes may perhaps be blended together so as to obtain the advantages pertaining to each. But the modifications of which the plan is susceptible must vary according to the nature of the work, and of the charters, and seem to belong to that class of details, which are not the immediate subject of consideration.
At present the only work undertaken by the United States at their sole expense, and to which the assent of the states has been obtained, is the road from Cumberland to Brownsville. An appropriation may for that purpose be made at any time. In relation to all other works, the U. States have nothing at this time in their power but to assist those already authorised; either by loans or by becoming stockholders; and the last mode appears the most eligible. The only companies incorporated for effecting some of the improvements considered in this report as of national and first rate importance, which have applied for such assistance, are the Chesapeake and Delaware canal, the Susquehannah canal, and the Dismal swamp companies; and authority might be given to subscribe a certain number of shares to each, on condition that the plan of the work to be executed should be approved by the general government. A subscription to the Ohio canal, to the Pittsburgh road, and perhaps to some other objects not fully ascertained, is also practicable at this time.
As an important basis of the general system, an immediate authority might also be given to take the surveys and levels of the routes of the most important roads and canals which are contemplated: a work always useful, and by which the practicability and expense of the undertakings would be ascertained with much more correctness than in this report. A moderate appropriation would be sufficient for those several objects.
In the selection of the objects submitted in obedience to the order of the Senate, as claiming in the first instance the aid of the general government, general principles have been adhered to, as best calculated to surpress every biass of partiality to particular objects. Yet some such biass, of which no individual is perfectly free, may without being felt, have operated on this report. The national legislature alone, embracing every local interest, and superior to every local consideration, is competent to the selection of such national objects. The materials contained in the papers herewith transmitted, and the information to be derived from surveys taken under the authority of the general government, will furnish the facts necessary for a correct decision. Two communications, by Mr. B. H. Latrobe, and by Mr. Robert Fulton, marked E. and F. are in the meanwhile respectfully referred to, as containing much interesting practical information, connected with observations of a general nature, on the subject.
All which is respectfully submitted.