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NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.
NEW SERIES, NO. XXIX.
ART. I.-1. Report of the Examination which has been made by the Board of Engineers, with a view to Internal Improvement, &c. February 14, 1825. Printed by Order of the Senate.
2. Information required by a Resolution of the House of Representatives of the 13th ult. in Relation to Expenditures incident or relating to Internal Improvements, for the Years 1824 and 1825. Read and laid upon the Table, April 3,
3. Report of the Board of Internal Improvement, upon the Subject of a National Road from the City of Washington to New Orleans. April 12, 1826.
AN Act was passed by the Congress of the United States, in April, 1824, authorizing the President' to cause the necessary surveys, plans, and estimates to be made, of such roads and canals, as he may deem of national importance in a commercial or military point of view, or necessary to the transportation of the public mail.' This act was not carried through without an elaborate discussion, nor without calling forth an animated opposition. Although it did not immediately involve the often agitated question, whether Congress has the power, independently of the States, to execute a system of internal improvement, yet it had such a reference to it, as to rouse all VOL. XXIV.NO. 54.
the apprehensions connected with that subject, and to justify a course of argument, which ranged through the whole theory and practice of the implied powers of the constitution. It was a rambling and desultory debate, considering the point at issue; and many were on the affirmative side at the final vote, who would have been strenuous in the opposition, had the unqualified power been surrendered, which formed the drift of the arguments.
The internal improvement of our country, by means of canals and permanent roads, viewed apart from the power by which they may be constructed, can encounter no opposition from the wise and patriotic. The results of canalling are now involved in no uncertainty. The experiment has been in full operation for about half a century in England, with the most satisfactory, and even triumphant success. From good authority, it appears, that £13,205,117 sterling, affording at this time an aggregate dividend of £782,257 sterling, or about 53 per cent, have been vested in canals in England. By this extensive system of internal improvement, that country has become everywhere intersected with navigable waters; her innermost regions have become accessible to boats from almost all points of her coast, bringing out her treasures from the very bowels of her mountains, and pouring them into the lap of commerce with the same facility, as if nature had cast them upon the verge of the ocean tides. The thousand streams, which used to be running wastefully down her mountains and hills, are now carefully gathered up into reservoirs, and converted, from mere ornaments of the landscape, into powerful auxiliaries of trade. The favored inhabitants of the banks of large rivers, who were formerly accustomed to regard the less fortunate residents in the interior, as cut off from all the profits of commerce, now behold artificial streams descend from all quarters and, regardless of the laws of nature, seek out the nearest route to market, leaving these boasted rivers to flow on in idleness and inutility.
There is scarcely a town in England now, of any considerable population and business, which has not communications of this kind, connecting it with the resources essential to its prosperity and comfort, and with markets for its surplus articles of manufacture and land produce. Her mines, from these circumstances, all become available, and the agriculturist of the interior has the same excitements to industry, as the agriculturist of the coast or the navigable rivers. These canals, joined with their
auxiliary railways, and with the permanent roads, have doubtless contributed as much to the prosperity of Britain, as her external commerce; and by bringing into operation a mass of enterprise and wealth, unequalled by any other nation, have enabled her to sustain burdens, which have been the subject of falsified prophecies for the last twenty or thirty years.
It is not surprising, that the United States have heretofore turned so little of their attention to extensive internal improvements. Both population and wealth have been too much scattered for such laborious and expensive undertakings, independently of the many political causes, which have tended to discourage them. But we have now, in some degree, a dense and wealthy population, and the commercial facilities of the country bear no proportion to either its wants or its ability. Demand and consumption are no longer confined to a maritime border; a wide spread interior is claiming its supply. For many years after the emigrant to the West left the Atlantic states, he was obliged to content himself with the scanty produce of the new country around him. He had little to ask from abroad, because his means of payment were small. But the wilderness is now an obsolete term with us; and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, there is a well settled and active population, whose wants, and whose competency to gratify them, are nearly the same. The resident on the Ohio and its tributaries, seeks the same comforts, and almost the same luxuries, as the resident on the Hudson or the Delaware, and has nearly the same means to acquire them.
There was something formidable in the contemplation of these extensive works, and it was natural to distrust ourselves, notwithstanding that other countries had been so successful. But, fortunately, we have now an experiment in our own country, which affords every encouragement to science and to enterprise. New York has, in the very outset, completed a canal which surpasses, in some respects, any similar work in the oldest countries. It is connected with a series of lakes, part only of whose shores are at all inhabited, and runs through a country, populous and highly cultivated, it is true, but having many natural facilities for transportation, considerably improved by art; and yet it promises to be, ere many years, a source of great income to the state which achieved it, besides being of incalculable benefit to the country at large. The beneficial results of a work like this are not confined to itself. It becomes, as it were, the parent
mouths of the rivers in the other. This difference gives greater advantage to improvement, by canal, in the northern, and less in the southern division. In the former, it is conceived to be of high national importance, to unite its deep and capacious bays by a series of canals; and the Board was accordingly instructed to examine the routes for canals between the Delaware and the Raritan, between Barnstable and Buzzard's bays, and Boston harbor and Narraganset bay. The execution of the very important link in this line of communication between the Delaware and the Chesapeake, having been already commenced, was not comprehended in the order.'
In the section lying south of this, none of these advantages for communication by canals exist. Á line of inland navigation extends, it is true, along nearly the whole line of coasts, which is susceptible of improvement, and may be rendered highly serviceable, particularly in war, and on that account may be fairly considered of "national importance." The Dismal Swamp canal, from the Chesapeake to Albemarle sound, which is nearly completed, constitutes a very important link in this navigation. But it is conceived, that, for the southern division of our country, the improvement which would best effect the views of Congress, would be a durable road, extending from the seat of government to New Orleans, through the Atlantic states; and the Board will accordingly receive instructions to examine the route as soon as the next season will permit.'
These three great works, then, the canal to Ohio and Lake Erie, with the improvement of the navigation of the Ohio, Mississippi, and the canal round Muscle Shoal; the series of canals connecting the bays north of the seat of government; and a durable road, extending from the seat of government to New Orleans, uniting the whole of the southern Atlantic states, are conceived to be the most important objects within the provisions of the act of the last session.'
There are other improvements of a secondary character, in a national view, which are comprehended in the system of surveys; namely, a connexion of the Atlantic with the Gulf of Mexico, by the most eligible routes through Florida; of the Susquehannah with the Allegany; of the James river with the Kenhawa; and of Lake Champlain with the St Lawrence.
With a view to execute the three primary objects embraced in the foregoing plan, a Board of Internal Improvement was formed, consisting of scientific officers of the corps of engineers, and many civil engineers of approved talents and local informa