United States. Inland Waterways Commission.

Preliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report online

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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 Pittsburg 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 impor-
tant 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 calcu-
lated to suppress every bias of partiahty to particular objects. Yet
some such bias, 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 con-
sideration, 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 Govermnent, will furnish the facts necessary for a correct
decision. Two communications, by Mr. B. 11. Latrobe and by Mr.
Robert Fulton, (marked E and F,) are, in the meanwhile, respectfully
referred to as containing much interesting practical information con-
nected ^vith observations of a general nature on the subject.

All which is most respectfully submitted.

Albert Gallatin,
Secretary of the Treasury.

Treasury Department, A'pril 4, 1808.

[fulton's reply]

- F.— No. 3.

Washington, December 8, 1807.

Sir: By your letter of the 29th of July, I am happy to find that the attention of
Congress is directing itself towards the opening of communications through the United
States by means of roads and canals; and it would give me particular pleasure to aid
you with useful information on such works, as I have long been contemplating their
importance in many points of view.

But a year has not yet elapsed since I returned to America, and my private con-
cerns have occupied so much of my time, that, as yet, I have acquired but very
little local information on the several canals which have been commenced.

Such information, however, is, perhaps, at present, not the most important branch
of the subject, particularly as it can be obtained in a few months at a small expense,
whenever the public mind shall be impressed with a sense of the vast advantages of
a general system of cheap conveyance. I hope, indeed, that every intelligent Ameri-
can will, in a few years, be fully convinced of the necessity of such works to pfomote
the national wealth, and his individual interest. Such conviction must arise from
that habit of reflection which accompanies the republican principle, and points out
their true mterest on subjects of political economy. From such reflections arises
their love of agriculture, and the useful arts, knowing them to augment the riches
and happiness of the nation; hence also their dislike to standing armies and military
navies, as being the means of increasing the proportion of non-productive individuals
whos§ labor is not only lost, but who must be supported out of the produce of the
industrious inhabitants, and diminish their enjoyments.

Such right thinkhig does great honor to our nation, and leads forward to the highest
possible state of civilization, by directing the powers of manfrom useless and destruc-
tive occupations to pursuits which multiply the productions of useful labor, and
create abundance.

Though such principles actuate oiu- citizens, they are not yet, in every instance,
aware of their best interests; nor can it be expected that they should perceive, at
once, the advantages of those plans of improvement which are still new in this country.
Hence the most useful works have sometimes been opposed, and we are not without
examples of men being elected into the State Legislatures for the express purpose of
preventing roads, canals, and bridges being constructed. But in such errors of
judgment our countrymen have not been singular. When a bill was brought into
the British Parliament, fifty years ago, to establish turnpike roads throughout the
kingdom, the inhabitants, for forty miles roimd London, petitioned against such
roads; their arguments were, that good roads would enable the farmers of the interior
country to bring their produce to the London market cheaper than they who lived
nearer the city, and paid higher rents; that the market would be overstocked, the
prices diminished, and they unable to pay their rents or obtain a living. The good

576 SEPOeT of the inland waterways COMMIgglON

feerisg of Parliament, however, prevailed, the roads were made, the "population and
Coianierce of London increased, the demand for produce increased, and he who lived
ueai'est to London still had a superior advantage in the market.

In like manner I hope the good sense of our Legislature will prevail over the ignor-
ance and prejudice which may still exist against canals. And here an important
question occurs, which it may be proper to examine with some attention in this
early stage of our public improvements, whether, as a system, we should prefer canals
to turnpike roads. Our habits are in favor of roads; and few of us have conceived
any better method of opening communications to the various parts of the States.
But in China and Holland canals are more numerous than roads; in those countries
the inhabitants are accustomed to see all their productions carried either on natural
or artificial canals; and they would be as mu.ch at a loss to know how we, as a civilized
people, could do without such means of conveyance as we are surprised at their
perseverance and ingenuity in making them.* England, France, and the principal
States of Europe, commenced their improvements with roads; but as the science of
the engineer improved, and civilization advanced, canals were introduced, and
England and France are now making every exertion to get the whole of their heavy
productions water-borne; for they have become sensible of the vast superiority of
canals over roads.

Our system, perhaps, ought to embrace them both; canals for the long carriage of
the whole materials of agriculture and manufactures, and roads for travelling, and
the more numerous communications of the country. With these two modes in con-
templation, when public money is to be expended with a view to the greatest good,
we should now consider which object is entitled to our first attention. Shall we
begin with canals, which will carry the farmer's produce cheap to market, and return
him merchandise at reduced prices? Or shall we first make roads to accommodate
travellers, and let the produce of our mines and forests labor under such heavy
expenses that they cannot come to market?

To throw some light on this interesting question, I will base my calculations on the
Lancaster turnpike road. There the fair experiment has been made to penetrate
from Philadelphia to the interior country; and the mode of calculation here given
will serve for drawing comparisons on the utility of roads and canals for all the great
leading communications of America.

From Philadelphia to the Susquehannah, at Columbia, is 74 miles; that road, if I
am rightly informed, cost, on an average, 6,000 dollars a mile, or 444,000 for the whole.
On it, from Columbia to Philadelphia, a barrel of flour, say 200 weight, pays one dollar
carriage. A broad wheel wagon carries 30 barrels, or three tons, and pays for turn-
pike three dollars; thus for, each ton carried, the turnpike company receives only
one dollar.

I will now suppose a canal to have been cut from Philadelphia to Columbia, and,
with its windings, to make 100 miles, at $15,000t a mile; or, for the whole, §1,500,000.
On such canal, one man, one boy, and horse would convey 25 tons 20 miles a day,f on
which the following would be the expenses:

One man |1. 00

One horse 1. 00

One boy 50

Tolls for repairing the canal 1. 00

Tolls for passing locks, inclined planes, tunnels, and aqueducts 1. 00

Interest on the wear of the boat 50

Total 15. 00

This is equal to 20 cents a ton for 20 miles, and no more than one dollar a ton for
100 miles, instead of ten dollars paid by the road. Consequently, for each ton carried
from Columbia to Philadelphia on the canal, the company might take a toll of six
dollars instead of one which is now got by the road; and then the flour would arrive
at Philadelphia for seven dollars a ton instead of ten, which it now pays. The mer-
chandise would also arrive at Columbia, from Philadelphia, for three dollars a ton

*The royal canal from Canton to Pekin is 825 miles long; its breadth, 50 feet; its
depth, 9 feet.

fOn averaging the canals of America, 15,000 dollars a mile will be abundantly
sufficient to construct them in the best manner, particularly if made on the inclined
plane principle with small boats, each carrying six tons.

J One horse will draw on a canal from 25 to 50 tons, 20 miles in one day. _ I have
stated the least they ever do, and the highest rate of charges, that no deception may
enter into their calculations.


less than is now paid, which cheap c-arriage, both ways, would not onlj^ benefit the
farmer and merchant, but would draw more commerce on the canal than now moves
on the road, and thereby add to the profits of the company.

But to proceed with my calculation. I will suppose that exactly the same number
of tons would move on the canal that are now transported by the road. Again, let
it be supposed that, at one dollar a ton, the turnpike company gains five per cent,
per annum on their capital of $444,000, or $22,900, consequently, 22,200 tons must be
carried, which, at $6 a ton to the canal company, would have given $133,300 a year,
or eight and a half per cent, for their capital of $1,500,000.

The reason of this vast difference in the expense of carriage by roads or canals, will
be obvious to any one who will take the trouble to reflect that, on a road of the best
kind, four horses, and sometimes five, are necessary to transport only three tons.
On a canal one horse will draw twenty-five tons, and thus perform the work of forty
horses. The saving, therefore, is in the value of the horses, their feeding, shoeing,
gear, wagons, and attendance. These facts should induce companies to consider
well their interests, when contemplating an enterprise of this sort, and what would
be their profits, not only in interest for their capital, but the benefit which their
lands would receive by the cheap carriage of maniu-e, and of their productions.

In considering the profit to accrue to a company from a canal instead of roads, there
is another important calculation to be made; and for that purpose I will proceed
with the Lancaster turnpike, supposing it to extend to Pittsburg, three hundred and
twenty miles, on which, the carriage being at the rate now paid from Columbia to
Philadelphia, that is, $10 a ton for seventy-four miles, the ton from Pittsburg would
amount to $42; at which price, a barrel of flour would cost $4 in carriage, an expense
which excludes it from the market. Thus, grain, the most important and abundant
production of our interior country, and which should give vigor to our manufactures,
is shut up in the districts most faA^orable to its culture; or, to render it portable, and
convert it into cash, it must be distilled, to brutalize and poison society. In like
manner, all heavy articles of little moneyed value can only move within the narrow
limits of one hundred miles; but were a canal made the whole distance, and by one
or more companies, they might arrange the tolls in the following manner, so as to favor
the long carriage of heavy articles:

The expense of man, boy, and horse, as before stated, would cost only $3 to boat
one ton of flour three hundred miles; this is 30 cents a barrel. Suppose, then, that
the company received 70 cents a barrel, or $7 a ton, flour could then come from Pitts-
burg to Philadelphia for one dollar a barrel, the sum which is now paid from Columbia.
Thus, the canal company would gain $7 a ton by a trade which could never move
through a road of equal length. Here we see that on canals the tolls may be so arranged
as to draw to them articles of little moneyed value; and it would be the interest of
the company or companies to make such regulations. But on turnpike roads no such
accommodation of charges, in proportion to distance, can be effected, because of
the number of horses, which cannot be dispensed with.* Even were the roads made
at the public expense, and toll free, still the carriage of one ton for three hundred
miles would cost at least $35. But were canals made at the public expense, and no
other toll demanded than should be sufficient to keep them in repair, a ton in boating
and tolls would only cost $3 for three hundred miles; and for $35, the sum which
must be paid to carry one ton three hundred miles on the best of roads, it could be
boated three thousand flve hundred miles, and draw resources from the centre of
this vast continent.

But, striking as this comparison is, I will still extend it. The merchandise which can
bear the expense of carriage on our present roads to Pittsburg, Kentucky, Tennessee,
or any other distance of three hundred miles, and which for that distance pays $100
a ton, could be boated on canals ten thousand miles for that sum.

As these calculations are founded on facts which will not be denied by any one
acquainted with the advantages of canals, it is the interest of every man of landed
property, and particularly of the farmers of the back countries, that canals should be
immediately constructed, and rendered as numerous as the funds of the nation will
permit, and the present population requires; and, as inhabitants multiply most
towards the interior, and must extend westward, still moving more distant from the
seacoast and the market for their produce, it is good policy and right that canals
should follow them. In twenty-five years our population will amount to fourteen
millions, two-thirds of whom will spread over the Western countries. Suppose, then,

* In my work on small canals, published in 1796, page 140, there is a table showing
a mode of regulating the boating and tonnage in such manner that a ton may be trans-
ported one thousand three hundred miles for $5; yet by this method canal companies
woxild gain more toll than by any other means yet practised.


that $3,500,000 were annually appropriated to canals; such a sum would pay for three
hundred miles of canals each year; and in twenty years we should have six thousand
miles circulating through, and penetrating into the interior of the different States.
Such sums, though seemingly large, and such works, though apparently stupendous,
are not more than sufficient to keep pace with the rapid increase of our population,
to open a market, and carry to every district such foreign articles as we near the coast
enjoy. With this view of the subject arises a political question of the utmost magni-
tude to these States, which is, that, as our national debt diminishes, and the treasury
increases in surplus revenue, will it not be the best interests of the people to continue
the present duties on imports; and expend the products in national improvements?

To illustrate this question, I will state some examples of the rate of duties, and the
expense of carriage, to prove that, by keeping on the duties, and making canals with
the revenue, goods, in a great number of instances, will be cheaper to the consumer
than by taking off the duties, and leaving the transport to roads.

First example.

Brown sugar pays in duty two and a half cents per pound, or for one hundred

pounds $2. 50

It pays for wagoning three hundred miles 5. 00

Total 7. 50

By the canal, it would cost, in boating, 15 cents for three hundred miles; conse-
quently, the boating and duty would amount to $2.65; therefore, by keeping on the
duty, and making the canal, sugar would arrive at the interior, three hundred miles,
$2.35 the hundred weight cheaper than if the duties were taken off, and the transport
left to roads.

Second example.

One bushel of salt, weighing fifty-six pounds, paid in duty. $0. 20

To carry it three hundred miles by roads, the expense is 2. 50

Total 2. 70

By the canal, it would cost, for boating three hundred miles, 7| cents. By keeping
on the duties, and making the canals, it would arrive to the interior consumer 6|
cents the bushel cheaper than were the duties taken off, and the transport left to roads.

Third example.

Molasses pays 5 cents a gallon duty; this is, for one hundred pounds $0. 75

It pays for wagoning three hundred miles 5. 00

Total 5. 75

By the canal, the carriage would cost 15 cents, and it would arrive at the interior
at $4.10 the hundred weight, or 27 cents a gallon cheaper than were the duties taken
off, and the transport left to roads.

Numerous other articles might be stated to show that the real mode of rendering
them cheap to the interior consumer is to keep on the duties, and facilitate the carriage
with the funds so raised.

These, however, may be considered as partial benefits, and not sufficiently general
to warrant keeping on the duties: but there is a point of view in which I hope it will
appear that the advantages are general, and will be felt throughout every part of the
States. It is by reducing the expense of all kinds of carriage, and thus economise to
each individual more than he now pays in duty on the foreign articles he consumes;
for example, wood for fuel is an article of the first necessity; it cannot bear the expense
of transport twenty miles on roads; at that distance it is shut out from the market, and
the price of fuel is consequently raised to the amount of carriage; were a cord of wood
carried twenty miles on roads, it would pay for wagoning at least $3; on a canal it
would pay 20 cents; thus, on only one cord of wood, there is an economy of $2. 80.

Which economy would pay the duty on fourteen pounds of tea, at 20 ceiits the
pound duty; or one hundred and forty pounds of sugar, at 2 cents the pound duty;
or fifty-six pounds of coffee, at 5 cents the pound duty; or fourteen bushels of salt,
at 20 cents the bushel duty; or fifty-six gallons of molasses, at 5 cents the gallon duty.

I will now suppose a city of fifty thousand inhabitants who, for their household and
other uses, will consume fifty thousand cords a year, on which there would be an


economy of one hundred and forty thousand dollars; a sum, in all, probably equal
to the duties paid by the inhabitants; for the duties divided on the whole of the
American people, is but |2.28 to each individual; here I have estimated each person
to pay $2.80; yet this estimate is made on one cord of wood to each inhabitant of a
city; were I to calcxdate the economy on the carriage of building timber, lime, sand,
bricks, stone, ii'on, flour, corn, provisions, and materials of all kinds which enter or
go out of a city, it would be five times this sum; and thus the towns and cities are to
be benefited. The farmer or miller who lives twenty miles from a market, pays at
least 22 cents to wagon a barrel of flour that distance; by the canal it would cost two
cents, the economy would be 20 cents; at one hundred miles the economy would be
100 cents, and at one hundred and fifty miles it would be 150 cents; beyond this dis-
tance the flom' cannot come to market by roads; yet, at this distance, the economy
of 150 cents on the carriage of one barrel of flour would pay the duty on seven and a
half pounds of tea; or seventy-five pounds of sugar; or thirty pounds of coffee; or
seven and a half bushels of salt; or thirty gallons of molasses.

Thus it is, that the benefits arising from a good system of canals are general and
mutual; therefore, should the peace and the reduction of the national debt give an
overflowing treasury, I hope you and the majority of Americans will think with me
that the duties should not be taken off, nor diminished; for such an act, instead of
relieving the people, would really oppress them, by destroying the means of reducing
the expense of transport, and of opening to them a cheap mode of arriving at good
markets. To proceed with these demonstrations, let us look at the rich productions
of our interior country: wheat, flour, oats, barley, beans, grain, and pulse of all kinds,
cider, apples, and fruits of all kinds, salt, salted beef, pork and other meats*, hides,
tallow, beeswax, cast and forged iron, pot and pearl ashes, tanner's bark, tar, pitch,
rosin and turpentine, hemp, flax and wool, plaster of Paris, so necessary to our agricul-
ture, coals and potter's earth for our manufactures, marble, lime, and timber for
our buildings.

All of these articles are of the first necessity; but none of them can bear the expense
of $0 the hundred weight, to be transported three hundred miles on roads; yet on
canals they would cost, in boating, only 15 cents the hundred weight for that distance.

There is another great advantage to individuals and the nation arising from canals,
which roads can never give. It is that when a canal runs through a long line of moun-
tainous country, such as the greater part of the interior of America, all the grounds
below for half a mile or more may be wanted and converted into meadows, and other
profitable culture. How much these conveniences of irrigation will add to the produce
of agriculture, and the beauties of nature, I leave to experienced farmers and agri-
cultural societies to calculate. In Italy and Spain it is the practice to sell water out
of the canals for watering meadows and other lands. In such cases tubes are put into
the canal, under the jjressure of a certain head of water, and suffered to run a given
time for a fixed price; the moneys thus gained add much to the emoluments of the
canal companies.

But, with all these immense advantages, which canals give, it may be a question
with many individuals, whether they can be constructed in great leading lines from
om" seacoasts and navigable rivers, to the frontiers of the several States, or pass our
mountains, and penetrate to the remote parts of our interior country. Should doubts
arise on this part of the plan, I beg leave to assure you that there is no difficulty in
carrying canals over our highest mountains, and even where nature has denied us
water; for water is always to be found in the valleys, and the canal can be constructed
to the foot of the moimtain, carrying the water to that situation. • Should there be no
water on the mountain or its sides, there will be wood or coals; either, or both of which,
can be brought cheap to the works, by means of the canal. Then with steam engines,
the upper ponds of canal can be filled from the lower levels, and, with the engines,
the boats can, on inclined planes, be drawn from the lower to the upper canal; for
this mode of operating it is necessary to have small boats of six tons each. As the
steam engines are to draw up and let down the boats on inclined planes, no water is
drawn from the upper level of canal, as when locks are used; consequently when the
upper ponds have been once filled, it is only necessary that the engine should supply
leakage and evaporation. There is another mode of supplying the leakage and
evaporation of the higher levels; on the tops and sides of mountains there are
hollows or ravines, which can be banked at the lower extremity, thus forming a reser-
voir to catch the rain or melted snow. From such reservoirs, the ponds of canal can
be replenished in the dry months of summer. This mode of reserving water is in
practice in England for canals, and in Spain for irrigation. In this manner I will

*Animals are now driven to market 300 or more miles at a considerable expense
and loss of flesh, principally for two reasons, first, the expense of transporting the
salt to the interior, and secondly, the expense of carrying the salted meats to market.

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 67 of 83)