Front Page Titles (by Subject) INTERIOR CANALS. - Report of the Secretary of the Treasury; on the Subject of Public Roads and Canals
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INTERIOR CANALS. - 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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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.