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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a point on the Mississippi River, near Rock Island, to the Illinois
River at Hennepin, thereby affording the shortest and cheapest
route from the largest areas of greatest corn production to the East,
and a connection by water between the river system of the West,
the northern lakes, and the Atlantic Ocean. Estimated cost,


3d. The enlargement and improvement, with the concurrence of
the State of New York, of one or more of the three water-routes from
the lakes to New York City, namely: The Erie Canal from Buffal(3
to Albany; the Oneida Lal^e Canal from Oswego to iVlbany; or the
Champlain Canal from Lake Champlain to deep water on the Hudson
River, including such connection as may be effected between Lake
Champlain and the Saint La\vrence River with the co-operation of
the British Provinces. Estimated cost, $12,000, 000.

Total cost of northern route from the Mississippi River to New
York City, $19,000,000.

The enlargement of the Welland Canal, now in progress, with the
construction of the Caughnawaga Canal, and the proposed enlarge-
ment of the Champlain Canal, will enable vessels of a 1,000 tons to
pass from western lake ports to ports in Vermont and to New York
City. The Erie Canal, enlarged as proposed, will pass vessels of
about 700 tons.


The plan of improvement for this route contemplates —

1st. The. radical improvement of the Ohio RiA^er from Cairo to
Pittsburgh, so as to give six to seven feet of navigation at low water.
Estimated cost, $22,000,000.

2d. The improvement of the Kanawha River from its mouth to
Great Falls, so as to give six feet of navigation at all seasons. Esti-
mated cost, including reservoirs, $3,000,000.

3d. A connection by canal or by a freight-railway from the Ohio
River or Kanawha River, near Charleston, by the shortest and most
practicable route, through West Virginia, to tide-water in Virginia;
the question as between the canal and freight-railway to be decided
after the completion of careful surve^^s and estimates. If by canal
and slack-water, the estimated cost is $55,000,000; if by a freight-
railway, the cost would probably not exceed $25,000,000.

The total expenditure necessary for the improvement of the Ohio
and Kanawha Rivers is estimated at $25,000,000. The amount
necessary to complete the connection with tide- water depends upon
the nature of the improvement, as above stated.


The plan suggested by the committee for the southern route con-
templates: 1. The improvement of the Tennessee River fi*om its
mouth to Knoxville, so as to give 3 feet of navigation at lowest
stages of water. Estimated cost, $5,000,000. 2. A communication
by canal, or freight-railway, from some convenient point on the
Tennessee River in Alabama or Tennessee, by the shortest and most
practicable route to the Atlantic Ocean. The railway, if constructed,
will be about 430 miles long; the question as between the canal and
railway to be decided. after a careful surve}' and estimate of both
shall fiave been completed. If bv canal, the cost will be about
$35,000,000. If by railway, probably about $30,000,000. Large
portions of all of the above routes have been surveyed, and carefid
estimates prepared by the War Department. It is recommended
that appropriations be made at the present session of Congress, for


completing the surveys of the entire system of improvements pro-
posed, in order to determine accurately the cost of each route, and
to enable the Government to enter at once upon the work, if the
same shall, be deemed practicable and expedient, after such surveys
shall have been completed.

In presenting this general plan of improvements, the committee
wish it to be distinctly understood that the ordinary annual appro-
priations for other important works, in aid of commerce, should not
be omitted.

The cost of the entire improvement will depend upon the decision
to be hereafter made between the canals and the freight-railway
portages on the central and southern routes. If the canals be con-
structed, the total cost will be about $155,000,000. If the railways
be chosen, the total cost will be about $120,000,000.

An actual expenditure of $20,000,000 to $25,000,000 per annum
will be required for five years, (in addition to the loan of Government
credit as above stated,) when the whole work can be completed.
The resulting benefits will, for all time, annually repay more than
double the entire cost.

In view of the fact that private companies invariably combine
with each other against the public, it is recommended that no aid
he given to any route to be owned or controlled by private corpora-
tions, but that the four great channels of commerce suggested shall
be improved, created, and owned by the Government, and stand as
permanent and effective competitors with each other, and with all
the railways which may be within the range of their influence.

The committee believe that the water-routes suggested should
constitute free highways of commerce, subject only to such tolls
as may be necessary for maintenance and repairs. If, however.
Congress shall deem it expedient to require them to provide interest
on the cost of construction, and the means for ultimate redemption
of the principal, the whole improvements will involve only a loan
of Government credit.


By reference to the map of the United States it will be seen that the
completion of the system of improvements proposed will provide four
great competing commercial lines from the center of the continent to
the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. It will also be observed,
by reference to the crop-maps republished with this report, that
these routes lead directly from, or through, the greatest areas of
production, to those sections which constitute the greatest areas
of consumption; thus dividing their benefits equitably between pro-
ducers and consumers, and contributing to the development and
prosperity of the whole country. The Great Architect or the conti-
nent seems to have located its rivers and lakes with express reference
to the commercial necessities of the industrious millions who now
and shall hereafter occupy it. The plan of improvements suggested
by the committee merely follows the lines so clearly indicated by
His hand.

The proposed improvements are so located as to distribute their
benefits with great equality arnong all the States east of the Rocky
Mountains. Twenty-one of those States are situated directly on one


or more of said routes; two States — Kansas and Nebraska — are so
situated as to enjoy the full benefits of reduced cost of transportation
from the Mississippi River by all of the proposed lines. Eleven States,
viz, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode
Island, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carohna, Florida,
and Texas, nearly all of wliich consume largely the food of the West,
and most of which are to a great extent dependent upon the West
for a market for their manufactures and other products, are directly
connected by the waters of the ocean with their several termini. The
proposetl improvements Mill, therefore, connect by the cheapest known
means of transport every one of the thirty-four States, east of the
Rocky Mountams, with all the others, and but one State in the
Union will be without water connection with the whole world. The
accomplishment of so great a result, by an expenditure of money
comparatively so small, illustrates the wonderful provisions of nature
for cheap commercial facilities on this continent. '

These four great channels of commerce under pubhc control, and
hence unable to combine with each other or with existing lines of
transport, will, by the power of competition, hold in check all the
railways radiating from the interior to the seaboard, and, by affording
cheap and ample means of communication, will solve the problem of
cheap transportation. If local railways discriminate against them,
it will be in the power of the States whose boundaries they touch to
prescribe regulations for the correction of such discriminations. A
law of Congress prohibiting discriminations against river or lake ports,
will enable the other States not directly upon any of said hues to
reach them at reasonable rates. The committee submit that no
scheme of pubUc improvement could be more eminently national in
its character, nor diffuse its benefits more generally and equitably,
than the one proposed, and they beUeve that the entire system of
improvements indicated should be considered and acted upon as a

Let us now consider more specifically the benefits and advantages
to be anticipated from each route and from the entire system, when


From all points on the Mississippi River between MinneapoUs,Minn.,
and Quincy, III., the average railway rate to lake ports in 1872 was
17 cents per bushel of 60 pounds. From Chicago to New York, b}^
rail, the average charge during that year was 33 ^ cents per bushel,
and the average rate by water was 26^^ cents per bushel, making the
all-rail charges through from the Mississippi to New York 50 1 cents,
and the rail and water charges, exclusive of terminals, 43^'V cents per
bushel. In the section of this report devoted to the Fox and Wiscon-
sin River Improvement, and the Hennepin Canal, we have sho^^Ti
that an average saving can be effected through their agency, of at
least 10 cents per bushel on all the cereals transported from points
west of the Mississippi River and north of the southern hne of Iowa.
It is beheved by those who have studied the subject that the enlarge-
ment of the New York canals so as to pass boats of 600 to 1,000 tons
wiU reduce the cost of transportation on that part of the Une 50 per
cent. The estabhshment of reciprocal trade relations with the


Dominion of Canada, which shall induce the construction of the
Caughnawaga Canal (if such an arrangement can be made), and
wliich wall encourage Canadian shipmasters to compete for the carry-
ing trade on the lakes, will also materially cheapen the cost of transport
to New England. The evidence taken by your committee fidly jus-
tifies the opinion that by the enlargement of the New York canals,
the construction of the Caughnawaga Canal, and the use of the en-
larged Canadian canals, the cost of transport from Chicago to Bur-
Hngton, Vt., and to New York City will not exceed from 12 to 15
cents per bushel, making the entire cost from the Mississippi River
to BurUngton, Vt., or to New York, not more than 22 cents per
bushel, against the present cost of 43i*V cents by water, and 50^ cents
by rail. We may, therefore, reasonably estimate that by the pro-
posed improvements upon this route a saving can be effected of 20
cents per bushel, or $6.70 per ton, on all the east tonnage moved be-
tween that river and the East.


Assuming a charge of 4 mills per ton per mile on the ^N^sissippi
River, and on the improved Ohio and Kanawha Rivers,'^ a charge of
8 mills per ton per mile on the James River and Kanawha Canal, and
6 mills per ton per mile on the slack-water improvement, the follow-
ing statement will represent the cost of transport from Cairo, 111., to
"" Richmond, Va., by the central water line:

Cairo to Great Falls of the Kanawha, 790 miles, 4 mills per ton per mile $3. 16

From Great Falls to Richmond the distance (equating each lock at one-half

mile of canal) is 509 miles, of which 348 is canal (equated) and 161 is slack


348 miles canal, at 8 mills per ton per mile 2. 78

161 miles of slack-water, at 6 mills per ton per mile 96

Total per ton for entire distance & 6. 90

Equal to 20.4 cents per bushel of 60 pounds.

If the freight railway from the Kanawha to tide-water be adopted,
instead of the canal and slack-water improvement, the cost of trans-
port from the Oliio River to the ocean will, it is beHeved, be substan-
tially the same as above stated.

The central route would be closed by ice only about 30 days each
year, and hence it would be an active competitor with all the railways
from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic at times when competi-
tion is now suspended by reason of frost on the northern water-
route. The effect of such a regulator of railway charges would be to
greatly reduce the present winter rates, and by the constant compe-
tition it would mamtain to compel uniformly low charges on all rail
and water Hues from the interior to the eastern and southern sea-
board. Its advantages would be greatest, however, to the central

o The evidence taken by the Committee, and already stated in this report, shows
that the average charges by the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers is now only from 3J to 4J
mills per ton per mile, and in many cases only 2 mills.

b It is due to this route to say that the above estimates of cost are fully 50 percent,
higher than those relied upon by its advocates. The Committee have adopted them
from superabundant caution, preferring to understate the benefits to be anticipated
from all the routes, rather than to exaggerate them. The successful application of
Bteam as a motor on canals will doubtless reduce the cost of transport by tnls line very
much below the figures named.


tier of States. Four of the largest interior cities of the continent —
St. Louis, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Pittsburgh — are situated directly
upon it. The trade of these cities, together with the other towns and
cities on the Ohio River, is now far in excess of our entire foreign com-
merce. A vast area of the richest agricultural and mineral country
in the world is directly tributary to it, and only awaits reasonable
facihties for transportation, to develop a commerce the magnitude of
wliich it is difficult now to conceive.


Assuming the same rate of charges as in the estimate just made
for the central route, viz, 4 mills per ton per mile on open river, 6
mills per ton per mile on slack-water navigation, and 8 mills per ton

er mile by canal, the following will represent the cost of transport

y this route from Cairo to the ocean:

Open river, 980 miles, 4 mills per ton $3. 92

Slack-water, 70 miles, 6 mills per ton 42

Canal, 325 miles, 8 mills per ton 2. 60

Total i^er ton for entire distance a 6. 94

Equal to 20.8 cents ]>er bushel of 60 pounds.

It is believed that a freight railway from the vicinity of Gunters-
ville, Ala., or Chattanooga, Tenn., would enable this route to accom-
plish very nearly the same results. This route will never be ob-
structed by ice, and hence will afford unfailing competition throughout
the year. Its greatest advantages, however, will be found, not so
much in furnishing a highway of commerce to the sea-board, as in
opening up a valuable connection between the grain-growing States
of the West and the cotton-plantations of the South, whereby each
section will have the full benefit of those crops for which its soil and
climate are best adapted. It will connect with various southern
rivers, penetrating a very large portion of the cotton districts of tlie
South. It is believed that eventually inland navigation will be
obtained at small expense along the coast of South Carolina, Georgia,
and Florida, connecting with the rivers in those States which flow
into the ocean. By this route the center of the cotton-producing
region can be reached from the center of the corn area at a cost not
exceeding 15 to 18 cents per bushel; and hence, in addition to the
creation of a new competing avenue to the sea, the home market for
food that will be developed, and the increased production of cotton
that will be induced, will much more than compensate for the entire


The evidence submitted wdth this report justifies the conclusion,
that upon the completion of the entire improvement of the Missis-
sippi River, wheat and corn can be transported from Minnesota,
Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and other States above
Cairo, to New Orleans for an average of 12 cents per bushel, and that

a The same remark should be made with reference to this route just made with
regard to the "central," viz, that the estimates of the Committee are much higher
than those of its special advocates.


the cost from Saint Paul will not exceed 17 cents. The average rate
from New Orleans to Liverpool in 1872 was about 27 cents, (currency,)
which can be reduced, as nereinbefore shown, to 18 or 20 cents by
the improvement at the mouth of the river. Estimating the cost
from Saint Paul to New Orleans at 17 cents, the two transfers at
Saint Louis and New Orleans at 1 cent each, and the charge from
New Orleans to Liverpool at 20 cents, the total from Saint Paul to
Liverpool will be 39 cents per bushel. The charge in 1872 from
Saint Paul to Liverpool, including transfers and terminals at Chicago,
Buffalo, and New York, by the cheapest route, averaged 67.5 cents
per bushel. The saving to be effected by the improvements of this
route may therefore be estimated at 28 cents per bushel from Saint
Paul to Liverpool, with a proportionate reduction from all other
points on the river.

In view of the benefits and advantages to be derived from each of
the four proposed routes, and from their combined influence when in
constant competition with each other, and with the railroad-system
of the country, it is, in the judgment of your Committee, entirely safe
to say that the completion of the system of improvements suggested
will effect a permanent reduction of 50 per cent, in the cost of trans-
porting fourth-class freights from the valley of the Mississippi to the
seaboard, and that the cost of carrying a bushel of wheat or corn to
the markets of the East, and of the world, wdll be reduced at least 20
to 25 cents per bushel below the present railway-charges, and that a
similar reduction will be effected on return-freights.

The actual movement of grain to the eastern and southern markets
in 1872, as shown by the carefvilly prepared statistics submitted with
this report, amounted to about 213,000,000 bushels. An average
saving of 20 cents per bushel on the surplus moved that year would
have amounted to over $42,000,000, or more than two-thirds of the
entire expenditure necessary to complete the proposed routes, in
addition to the loan of Government credit as before stated. But for
the fact that large quantities of corn were unable to find a market,
on account of the high transportation-charges, the amount moved
would have been very much greater. Hence, in addition to the
saving in transportation above named, a benefit perhaps equally
great would have been conferred upon the producer in affording him
a market for his surplus products.

To this must be added the enhanced value which such reduction
would give to the improved lands of the West, amounting, in the
eight Northwestern States of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota,
Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska, in 1870, to 55,841,000
acres. Estimating the productive capacity of these lands at an
average of only twenty bushels per acre, (the average of corn, oats,
&c., being, in fact, very much greater,) an addition of only ten cents
per bushel (one-half the estimated saving) to the value of the cereals
those States are capable of producing, would give a net profit of $2
per acre, which is the equivalent of ten per cent, interest on a capital
of $20, and hence equal to an increase m the value of lands to that
extent. Twenty dollars per acre, added to the value of improved
lands in those States, would exceed an ag^egate of $1,100,000,000.
This calculation assumes that one-half of the reduction will inure to
the benefit of the consumer and the other half to the producer.


Add to all this the increased value of farms in other States, the
increased value of unimproved lands, the enhanced value of cotton-
plantations, the benefits to accrue from reduced cost of movement
of the products of the mine, the foundry, the factory, the workshop,
and of the thousands of other commodities demanding cheaper trans-
portation, and some conception may be formed of the vast additions
to be made to our national wealth and prosperity by the system of
improvements under consideration. In comparison with the great
benefits reasonably to be anticipated, their cost is utterly insignificant.

The probable effect of such reduction in the cost of internal trans-
portation upon our exports and foreign balances of trade is also
worthy of the most careful consideration. America and Russia are
the great food-producing nations of the world. Great Britain is the
principal market. For many years America and Russia have been
active competitors for the supply of that market. Until recently,
the farmers of the West have had the advantage of the wheat-
producers on the Don and the Volga; but, a few years ago, Russia
maugurated a system of internal improvements by which the cost
of transporting her products from the interior to the seaboard is
greatly reduced. The result is shown by the importations of wheat
into the United Kingdom during two periods of five years each.

Imports of reheat from Russia and America into the United Kingdom from 1860 to 1864,
compared with the iTuports from 1868 to 1872.

1800 to 1864, inclusive.

1868 to 1872, inclusive.






47, 370, 809




United States


An increase during the latter period as compared with the former
of 70,590,213 bushels from Russia, and a decrease of 10,584,746 from
t^he United States.

The cheaper mode of handling grain by elevators has not yet been
adopted by Russia, but doubtless will be very soon. When this
shall be done, and her wise system of internal improvements, which
have already turned the wavering balances in her favor, shall be
completed, she will be able to drive us from the markets of the world,
unless wiser counsels shall guide our statesmanship than have hitherto
prevailed. In fact, as the increased size of ocean-vessels is constantly
decreasing the cost of ocean-transport, and our wheat-fields are
yearly receding farther westward from the lakes, it is not impossible
that when she shall have driven us from the markets of Europe, she
will become our active competitor in Boston and Portland, if cneaper
means of internal transport be not provided.

A condition of things equally unsatisfactory exists with regard to
our chief article of export, cotton. High transportation-charges
from the grain-fields of the Northwest to the cotton-fields of the
South have compelled the planter to devote his cotton-lands to the
production of wheat and corn, for which they are by nature unsuited,
thereby reducing the product of cotton and diminishing the market



for grain. The effect upon our cotton exportations is shown by the
following statement:

Receipts of cotton in Great Britain in 1860 compared with 1872.







United States

275, 048, 144

United States

All other countries.




All other countries

Our cotton exports have fallen off nearly 50 per cent., while other
countries have gained nearly 300 per cent. This is doubtless largely
due to the war, which stimulated the production of cotton in India;
but it is also attributable to a great extent to the causes above
mentioned, and to the system of internal improvements inaugurated
by Great Britain in India, for the express purpose of rendering
herself independent of us for the supply of cotton. Every cent
unnecessarily added to the cost of transportation is to that extent a
protection to the cotton-planters, of India and the food-producers of
Russia, against the farmers of the West and the cotton-planters of
the South.

The cry of despair which comes from the over-burdened West, the
demand for cheaper food heard from the laboring classes at the East
and from the plantations of the South, and the rapid falling off of our
prmcipal articles of export, all indicate the imperative necessity for

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 69 of 83)