« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
tion. The Report exhibits the result of their labors during the first season.
The work first presented in the Report, is the proposed canal communication between the tide water of the Potomac and the Ohio river. This connexion of the central states with the great streams of the West, appears to have engaged attention, ever since our adventurous population began to pass the Allegany ridge. While we were yet colonies, and the segregated inhabitants beyond that barrier could scarcely have assumed the character of settlements, General Washington, then an undistinguished individual, obtained an act of the Virginia legislature, to improve the navigation of the Potomac, with a view to extend a tie into those separated regions, which might bind them by interest, as well as consanguinity, to the Atlantic shores. The war of the Revolution only suspended these exertions; for in 1784, as soon as the great work of independence had been consummated, and the leisure of retirement allowed him to turn his attention to peaceful concerns, we find him at once engaged in endeavors to open this important communication. During the contest, the tide of emigration had been gradually but constantly setting from the East, into the valleys of the West; and when the government of the United States went into operation, instead of finding its sphere confined within the boundaries. of the Atlantic and the Allegany mountains, it was obliged to stretch forth its arms almost to the Mississippi. If an easy communication with the West had formerly been important, when it was almost a wilderness, the territories, which were now rising up in its bosom, rendered such a facility doubly important. General Washington, therefore, exerted his influence to harmonize the various interests concerned, and happily induced a cooperation of the states of Virginia and Maryland, whose joint exertions effected the object intended, which was merely to improve the navigation of the Potomac.
But this beneficial improvement, which was probably equal to the ability, and may have answered the demands of the times, is far behind the means, and affords but a slight accommodation for the intercourse, of the present day. The Cumberland road has greatly increased the facility of communication; still, however, these channels are altogether insufficient for the great and constantly augmenting trade, which is pressing against both sides of the Allegany mountains, like contrary tides seeking to mingle their waters. The state of Ohio, bordering on Lake
Erie, which now no longer has its only outlet through Lake Ontario and the protracted St Lawrence, but finds itself gently conducted down the slope of intervening country into the Hudson, naturally turns to New York, for many or most of its external supplies. Indiana, from somewhat similar local causes, may look to the same market. But populous and growing states south of Ohio, and even a part of the state of Ohio itself, naturally seek the Atlantic states through the Allegany ridge, and must form such a connexion with them. Their trade cannot be lured down the Mississippi, merely by the facilis descensus, the easiness of the descent; there is a shrewdness in mercantile calculation, which takes into account the difficulties and tediousness of the return, hoc opus, hic labor est. Steam navigation has greatly accelerated the upward voyage; still, however, there are many months in the year, when the Ohio and its tributaries are nearly innavigable, from the lowness of their waters.
If, in estimating the importance of this central communication, we extend our views beyond the season of peace, and regard its utility under many of the vicissitudes, to which a nation is subjected, we shall find that there can be no work in our country, so absolutely essential to its welfare. We have been involved in wars, and may be involved in them again. Under such a calamity, the commerce of the Gulf of Mexico, being the most tangible, would probably be the first to suffer, and the supply of the West, by the way of New Orleans, might be in a great measure cut off. And if the hostility were with Great Britain, which shares with us the dominion over Lake Erie, even the New York chain of connexion with the West might be severed.
But the proposed canal through the Allegany ridge, running through the heart of the country, will open a secure and almost intangible avenue for commercial intercourse, not only with the states conterminous with that ridge, but with the whole western country. And as soon as the proposed canal navigation along the seaboard shall be completed, this intercourse may embrace nearly the whole maritime frontier.
There can have been little or no question, during some years past, that the trade, which naturally passes across the Allegany mountains, is sufficient to repay, in due time, the expense of constructing the proposed canal. Satisfactory calculations have been made, which show that the transportation already moving slowly and heavily to and from the West, through this course,
would yield a toll, equal to the interest of a sum quite adequate to complete such a work. And the same calculations go to prove, that the probable difference in the cost of the transportation would be as one to twenty. The only questions then appear to be, Can the means be obtained? and, Where is the most eligible route? We confidently trust, that the means, as they exist in the country, will be forthcoming, as soon as the surveys shall have definitively settled upon the best route. The practicability of the route has already been satisfactorily determined, and where any doubt remains, as to part of the course, it arises only from the difficulty of selecting the best out of many.
We cannot follow the Board through all the scientific and minute details of their Report. There appears to be no alternative, as to the course of the canal from tide water to the summit level, and that it must necessarily conform to the windings of the Potomac, which has sought out and followed down the only line of declivity, in that section, which runs from that elevation to the base of the mountains. In one instance, it has broken through a barrier, which the labor of man might vainly have attempted to surmount or remove. The passage of the confluent streams of the Potomac and the Shenandoah, through the Blue Ridge, so graphically described by Mr Jefferson, in his Notes on Virginia,' is familiar to every reader. There can be no greater triumph of science, than the calmness and certainty with which it traces up its plan through this formidable gap, unless it be the consummation of the work, when we shall behold a regulated stream, gliding imperturbably along the rugged and precipitous banks of a powerful river, which rushes over the prostrate mountains in all the wildness of the elements unchained.
On attaining the summit level, many routes to the head waters of the Monongahela present themselves, all of which, that hold out any promise, have been surveyed with skilful minuteness. The Board sum up their remarks on these various routes, with the observation, that the important advantages of a greater supply of water, by a length shorter by nine miles, of a tunnel shorter by two and a half miles, render the Deep Creek route superior to the other; though the final surveys only can settle that point, yet at this stage of our operations we would recommend that route in preference.' This route is fortyone miles and seven hundred and eighteen yards on the summit level, has VOL. XXIV.No. 54.
a tunnel a mile and one third in length, through a ridge two hundred and twentyseven feet high, and has a deep cutting of nearly six miles. The tunneling required on the other routes, varies from the above amount to more than five miles. It is ascertained that this route has an abundance of water.
The total length of the proposed canal, from the tide water of the Potomac to Pittsburg, is computed to be three hundred and fifty miles and a half. The total rise on the eastern side, is computed to be 2296 feet; the total descent on the western side, at 1540 feet; making an aggregate of rise and descent of 3837 feet, which is the total of lockage. This amount of lockage is considerably greater, it is believed, than that of any other canal extant. That of the Erie canal is small in comparison. The tunnel, however, is but little more than a third as long as the Huddersfield tunnel in England.*
* We indulged a hope, throughout the session of 1825-6, that the Board of Engineers would be able to lay before Congress a definitive report on the subject of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal; but it appears from the report of the committee on roads and canals, presented to the House of Representatives just before its adjournment, that the Board, 'with every effort,' had not been able to prepare the estimates, &c. in time for that session. As this report of the committee furnishes some facts and details, which were not embraced in the Report of the Board of Engineers, we shall append such as throw new light upon the proposed course of the canal, and which further illustrate its commercial advantages.
It will be observed that the last report of the Board, designates the Deep Creek route, as being, according to existing surveys, the most eligible route by which to pass the summit level. The report of the committee says, that,' since the report of the Board of Internal Improvement, further surveys have been made, resulting in the discovery of a new summit level, for the canal, between Casselman river and Well's Creek, where an ample supply of water is said to exist, and to which, should it be found necessary, the whole of the supply of the Deep Creek summit might be transferred by a feeder. This new summit is nearly four hundred feet lower than that of Deep Creek, and about twentysix miles nearer from Cumberland to the Yougheogany. This important saving of lockage and distance, gives the Casselman route a decided preference, though it will require a tunnel of greater length than the other. Another strong argument in favor of this route is derived from the consideration, that it approaches within a very short distance of the waters of the Juniatta, by which, in the opinion of an experienced engineer, who has examined the country, a connexion may be formed with the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, so as to obtain the great object of uniting Pittsburg and Philadelphia."
Our limits do not allow us to make other extracts from this valuable report, than the following, which, while it exhibits the extent of the
The next work presented in order in the Report is, the Ohio and Erie canal. This canal is an indispensable link in the chain of navigation which is to connect the various parts of our country together. Without it, the geographical separation of of the region of the Lakes from the heart of the country, would be almost as distinct as ever. The survey of this route was not completed in all its details; but the Board deemed themselves warranted, from the facts ascertained, to report,‘that a canal from Pittsburg to Lake Erie is not only practicable, but offers no difficulties from the nature of the soil, and will be amply provided with water for its navigation.' After ascending the Big Beaver, a tributary of the Ohio, three routes to Lake Erie present themselves, differing in length from a hundred and four to a hundred and thirteen miles, the full distance from Pittsburg to that lake. A fourth route runs up the valley of the Allegany river, a hundred and forty miles in length. The greatest height above Lake Erie, in any of them, is 470 feet, and the greatest amount of lockage, 773 feet. The harbors on the south side of Lake Erie, formed by the mouths of rivers, into one of which it is proposed to conduct this canal, are subject to the disadvan
trade which crosses the Allegany ridge, at the same time shows the comparative disadvantages it has to encounter.
'Some idea of the commercial advantages of this work may be formed, when the fact is stated, that the transportation of merchandise for the supply of the Western states to Pittsburg in one year, has amounted to one and a half million of dollars, and that the amount carried to Wheeling, and other towns on the Western waters, and wagoned on through Ohio, at dry seasons, must have exceeded this amount; most of those wagons had also return loads of agricultural produce, which, with the amount carried by farmers and others, would probably nearly equal the transportation westward, and should it amount to only half, still it would appear that the country sustains a tax for transportation, of four of five millions a year; whereas, if this merchandise were waterborne on canals, the cost would be reduced to less than half a million; the difference in cost being estimated as 10 to 1; though the usual estimate has been as 20 to 1. Besides, the construction of the canal (as in New York) would more than double the quantity of trade and commerce; thus the whole cost of the canal would be saved to the country in a few years, yielding, at the same time, on the stock invested, a profit of 6 or 8 per cent. to the government, more than the amount of interest accruing on the national debt, which the national creditors are anxious should be paid, and also returning to the people a portion of the money paid by them into the treasury, to promote and cherish industry, trade, commerce, and manufactures, and these profits and advantages, of course, increasing with the increasing growth and population of the country.'