THE Oceans and the Mediterranean Seas of our Continent are united. Canals, extending more than four hundred miles, have been completed in little more than eight years, by the energies and resources of a single State, within the territories of which no white man had set his foot at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Vessels, waterborne from the shores of Lake Erie, over the intervening hills and vallies, will meet ships from the Atlantic, at a point which, two hundred years ago, was surrounded by a wilderness, filled with savage tribes, hostile to each other.

They, like other human beings in the same uncivilized state, seemed to consider war as their natural condition, and had a proneness to treat every stranger as an enemy. Their ignorance and superstition led them to believe every thing supernatural, which was extraordinary. When they discovered the first European vessel approaching the land, apparently growing out of the ocean, and finally saw that there were human forms about it, that thought it their great Manitto with attending spirits, moving on their waters.

The meeting of the boats from the Lakes, and of vessels from the sea, will be near the spot, where he who discovered, and gives name to our magnificent river, landed in the year sixteen hundred and nine.

The first ground within the territory of this state, which Hudson touched, it is believed, was Coney Island.

How different will be the scene now presented, and that which he beheld!

We shall have around us the same great objects of nature: The seas -- the beautiful bays -- and our magnificent mountain river: But instead of the huts of savages, we shall have the abodes of a civilized, opulent, and a free people:-- Instead of uncultivated wilds, we shall be surrounded by a country yielding all that is necessary to the comfort of man:-- Instead of savages in their canoes, yelling with amazement, as when they first saw the vessel of Hudson, there will be magnificent barques, gorgeously decorated, bearing thousands of our fellow citizens, exulting in the accomplishment of a work which is an evidence, how immeasurably civilized, transcends savage man.

To celebrate an event in which the citizens of this state may justly feel so much pride, and which is so deeply connected with their interests, is to indulge very natural feelings -- But it is a higher sentiment, Mr. Mayor, which has induced the honorable body over which you preside, to engage in the proposed celebration with so much zeal and liberality, and which will induce many thousands of our fellow citizens to unite with them on the occasion. The great work of improving or creating inland navigation in the United States has but commenced. In our own State there are a hundred paths over which navigable waters are yet to be led; and within our national territory, the field for such improvements is boundless and almost uncultivated. We shall rejoice in the completion of our canals, not only for our own sakes, but with the hope that the acclamations of our celebration will be heard by all who need encouragement to follow our example.

              Map of the United States, colored

Nor do I think that we should be unwilling to confess, that upon this occasion we are desirous to attract the attention of foreign nations. -- They have told us that our government was unstable -- That it was too weak to unite so large a territory - That our republic was incapable of works of great magnitude - That these could only be performed where corporal labor might be commanded and enforced, not where it must be voluntary. But we say to them, see this great link in the chain of our union - in the great bond which is to bind us together irrefragably and for ever. -- It has been devised, planned, and executed, by the free citizens of the Republican State. A work merely of pride and ostentation, it is true, could not be executed here. It would be as impossible to build the pyramids of Egypt on our soil, as it would be to float them to our shores; but works that are useful, and connected with the public good, will only have opponents, as we have seen in the progress of this great enterprise, so long as there are doubts and fears as to its character and practicability; but let these be determined, and the suggestions of patriotism will be better stimulants than the sceptres of despots.

Before I proceed in the course which I propose to pursue on this occasion, and which I will indicate, when I shall have the honor to put into your hands this Memoir, permit me to add a few words, in addition to what I have already said, in relation to the state of our country previously to, and at the time the canals were commenced.

It is, comparatively, but a short time since, all here was wild and savage. It is possible that the fourth generation from the discovery of New York, is not yet extinct; -- It is possible that the great-grand-child of a man who saw Henry Hudson is yet living.

But short as the time is since there was any settlement of civilized man, on this part of the continent, even in that short time, the progress of civilization has been continually disturbed and retarded.

The Dutch claimed, and took possession of this part of the country, in virtue of its having been discovered by Hudson, while he was in their employ.

The settlements made by the Netherlanders were very insignificant; but new and feeble as they were, they were harassed by continual disputes, and sometimes wars; not so much with the savages, as with their civilized neighbours.

The Colony was involved in the contests between its mother country and the English, which terminated in sixteen hundred and seventy-four, when the New Netherlands were finally ceded to Great Britain.

From this time to the commencement of the Revolution, the Province of New York was involved in the wars in which England was almost uninterruptedly engaged, or its peace and prosperity was disturbed by intestine commotions.

The struggles between the French and English, for advantages in the fur trade, kept the Colonies continually embroiled with the savages. In the year sixteen hundred and ninety, these remorseless beings sacked and burnt Schenectady, and murdered most of the inhabitants.

             Plate 3 - Map of the State of New York, colored

At the commencement of the revolution, the population of the territory which now forms the State of New York, amounted to no more than one hundred and eighty thousand.

Notwithstanding the revolutionary war of eight years, the number of inhabitants increased, and at the peace in seventeen hundred and eighty-three, amounted to about two hundred thousand, not much exceeding the present population of the city. Yet in the year seventeen hundred and eighty-eight, when a treaty with the Indians was held at Fort Stanwix, the now beautiful, populous, and cultivated country through which the western Canal runs thither, from the shores of Lake Erie, contained not a single white inhabitant.

The nature of the Government, previously to our independence, was very unfavorable to the progress of improvements. No great work has been accomplished by colonists, at least in modern times. Perhaps the rule of Great Britain was as little oppressive to those she called her children, as that of any other parent state, yet the Colonial restraints and impositions then thought justifiable, were such, that the wonder is not, that we shook of our chains so soon, but that we endured them so long. It was not the mere right to tax her Colonies without their consent, which Great Britain claimed, that led to their revolt. The restrictions she imposed for the sake of her commerce were insupportable. The Colonies were not allowed to manufacture the produce of their own soil. They were obliged to send raw materials to England, that they might be returned by her manufacturers, charged with whatever they pleased to exact for profit. We can hardly believe at this day, that when we were under the dominion of our mother country, the noise of trip hammers and rolling mills, which are now every where heard in our mountains, would have been considered as treasonable sounds.

The vast and fertile regions of the west, with which we have opened communication by our Canals, were doomed to be a perpetual wilderness. The crown, and Colonial Governors, refused to make grants at any distance from sea-board, lest they should become inhabited by a people who would feel but little respect for laws so much an enmity with their interest, and who would be out of the reach of coercion.

Ireland, though not a Colony, is treated as a dependency of England. Her population, in proportion to her territory, is greater, and her natural advantages are at least equal to those of the Island of Britain. Yet Ireland has only two or three Canals, of no great extent, while England has upwards of one hundred, extending more than twenty-four hundred miles.

Florida was for a long time a Colony of an European nation, which owned the mines of Chili, Mexico, and Peru. Had this Province continued subject to Spain, there is little reason to believe, that any part of the treasures transmitted from the new to the old world, or the resources which the genial climate and fruitful soil of this beautiful country might have afforded, would have been applied to opening a Canal through the Florida Peninsula. Within four years from the cession of this territory to the United States, a project for a Canal through it, from the Atlantic, to the Gulf of Mexico, is on foot, and on the point of execution.

Spain had also under its government the Isthmus which separates the Atlantic and the Pacific. Jealous of her Colonies, she did not encourage any attempt to form a communication between the oceans.

The spirit of liberty has spread its influence to every part of this continent. Independent governments are hardly established to the South, before it is proposed to unite the two great seas.

Do we not see in these expansions of the minds of men the moment they are set free, how far despotic governments [original text has "goverments"] confine the human faculties, and limit the happiness of a people? To use and enjoy the reason and power with which man is endowed by his Creator, he must have liberty and independence.

There is as much difference between man, the subject of a despotic government, and the citizens of a free representative republic, as there is between waters diverted to some artificial channel, and the deep current of Niagara, pouring through its natural course, irresistible, but by the hand of the Almighty.

Let us suppose these objects accomplished. -- Let us suppose the two great oceans united through the Isthmus of Darien -- the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico through the Peninsula of Florida. Let us suppose the waters of the Lakes united with the Mississippi, as those of the Lakes are now with the Hudson. These will be the works of republican governments. When they are completed, which probably will be within a few years, we shall not fear to compare them with any thing that has been done in the old world, for the happiness of mankind. We may see in many countries works of the same nature, but their benefits are limited to the narrow spaces which they occupy, or at most, to the territory in which they exist; but the Canals we have accomplished, and those on the point of being executed, will affect the whole world. They will make an important change in the arrangement of the lands and waters of the earth, the effects of which will be felt by the whole human species. We know how much wealth is accumulated in Europe. We see "the gorgeous palaces, the cloud cap't towers," which are the pride and boast of its inhabitants. We turn to the history of the ages of the existence of its governments; we read of their wars -- of the many fields covered with their slain, and of their contests which have dyed the ocean with human blood, but we do not admit that these have given to those who have so long contemned our republican institutions, claims as the benefactors of mankind. But we acknowledge that the scientific institutions of the Europeans, the progress they have made in the arts and sciences, their cultivation of the human mind, deserve admiration. We do not forget that our fathers were from the other side of the great waters, and brought with them that spirit of liberty which has been transmitted through many generations, and has animated the Washingtons and Bolivars of the North and of the South. The historians, poets, men of learning and science, in the old world, are not more admired and revered on the soil which gave them birth, than they are in these distant regions. Whenever we estimate our political freedom and happiness, we remember how much of it we owe to the lessons we have learnt from our trans-atlantic ancestors; nor shall we ever refuse to admit, that the great works of art, the completion of which we are about to celebrate, and which seem so much in advance of our age as a nation, could not have been accomplished without the science and examples we derived from abroad.

We date our independence from seventeen hundred and seventy-six. But our existence as a nation must be calculated from the conclusion of the Revolutionary war in seventeen hundred and eighty-three. From that time the water communications between the Hudson and the Lakes Champlain and Ontario, seem to have attracted the attention of our citizens, with a view to open and improve them; though long previously the streams of the north and west and of the south, and the facility with which they might be united, had been noticed.

Quebec was founded by the French, the year before the North River was discovered by Hudson. When afterwards the English became possessed of the trading establishments at Albany and Schenectady, the Wood Creek of Lake Champlain, and the Wood Creek of the Oneida Lake, were the routes by which, in peace, there was intercourse between the establishments on the Lakes and the Saint Lawrence, and those on the Hudson River. In times of hostility these water courses, and the intervening portages, were traversed by the armaments of the hostile Colonies, and were the war paths of their savage allies. Consequently, though the country between the Lakes, and the Saint Lawrence and the Hudson, was all wilderness, its topographical features were perfectly well known.

             Plate 4 - Map of the Country of the Five Indian Nations (from the map in Lt. Governor Colden's 1747 History.)

In seventeen hundred and twenty-four, the then surveyor general of the Province of New York, made a report to the Colonial Governor, in which he describes the water courses and carrying places between Albany and Montreal, by way of Lake Champlain, and between Albany and the Cataraqui Lake, which is now called Ontario, by the Mohawk River, and the river which runs into the Oneida Lake, with as much accuracy as they could be described at this moment. The carrying place between the Mohawk, and the stream which we now call Wood Creek, he describes as "a portage only three miles long, except," says he, "in very dry weather, when the goods must be carried two miles further." He then describes the passage down the Onondaga River, to the Cataraqui Lake, and shews that goods might be carried from Albany to that Lake by the Mohawk, the Oneida, and the Onondaga River, cheaper, and much more conveniently, than as they were then transported, to the mouth of the Oswego River by way of the Hudson, Lake Champlain, Montreal, and the River Saint Lawrence.

A the moment I am writing, I hear the cannon, which, at the termination of a line of five hundred and thirteen miles, repeats the signal, that the first boat from Lake Erie has entered the Western Canal, on her way to this city. Who that has American blood in his veins can hear this sound without emotion? Who that has the privilege to do it, can refrain from exclaiming, I too, am an American citizen; and feel as much pride in being able to make the declaration, as ever an inhabitant of the eternal city felt, in proclaiming that he was a Roman.

This abrupt digression may be incompatible with the sober character a written memoir ought to preserve: but the excitement which so extraordinary and wonderful a circumstance occasions, I hope will excuse it.

I resume the course I was pursuing, which was to shew that long before the subject was brought before the Legislature of this State, and in very remote times, the near connection of the waters of the Hudson and the Lakes was well understood.

The historian of the Five Indian Nations informs us, that Governor Burnet erected a Fort and trading houses at the mouth of the Onondaga River, on account, says he, "of its water communications with the country of the Iroquois, and for the facility of transportation between the Lakes and Schenectady, there being but three portages in the whole route, and two of them very short." These, no doubt, were the carrying places, at the Little Falls, the Wood Creek, and at the Oswego Rapids.

Kalm, a Swede, who travelled in this country in the year seventeen hundred and forty eight, speaks of the near approach of the waters of the Hudson and the Saint Lawrence. Indeed, he seems to have supposed that there was a perfect communication from the former to the latter.

Carver, who traversed the Lake country in seventeen hundred and sixty-six, represents that a water passage between the Mohawk and Wood Creek was at that time effected at Fort Stanwix, by sluices.

In seventeen hundred and sixty-eight, Sir Henry Moore, in a Message to the Colonial Assembly, stated that "the obstruction of the navigation in the Mohawk River, between Schenectady and Fort Stanwix, occasioned by the falls of Conojoharie, had been constantly complained of, and that it was obvious to all who were conversant in matters of this kind, that the difficulty could be easily remedied by sluices, upon the plan of those in the great Canal of Languedoc in France, which was made to open a communication between the Atlantic ocean, and the Mediterranean."

I have made these few references to show that at a very early day, not only the Champlain route to Montreal, but what we now call the Ontario route to the Lakes, was perfectly well understood; and that it was well known that the water courses running westwardly and northwardly, and those running southwardly and eastwardly, were separated by low lands of very little extent. Any one that had traversed those portages, or heard them described, and knew that artificial water ways had been constructed in other parts of the world, must have thought of completing these water communications by Canals.

How much in vain, then, must it be to enquire who first thought of connecting the western and northern, and southern waters? We might as well attempt to ascertain who had the first idea of making a highway between New York and Albany, or between any other important establishments in our country. Many had opportunities of acquiring all the knowledge connected with the subject, and it is probable that the thought of water communications, where they are now made by the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, was common to hundreds at the same time.

Could we pursue this enquiry with any prospect of success, it would be a futile labor. The discovery would be of no benefit to the community, and but little more credit would be due to one to whom the original thought might be traced, if he did nothing towards executing the idea he had conceived, than if it had been a dream.

The revolutionary war had scarcely been concluded, when Washington saw in the improvement of the internal communications of this country, that, which, after her independence, most concerned her prosperity and happiness. The subject had occupied his mind before the revolution, we cannot ascertain at how early a date, but it is extremely probable that he was among those who first thought of the advantages and practicability of navigable water communications between the Lakes and the Atlantic. But no sooner had he sheathed his triumphant sword, and assumed the station of a private citizen, then he devoted himself to this object. In seventeen hundred and eighty-four he personally explored, not only what is now the route of the Champlain Canal, but the route which the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company adopted for their improvements. That is to say, the route by the Mohawk, Wood Creek, Oneida Lake, and Oswego River. This part of the life of General Washington, as written by Chief Justice Marshall, is so interesting, and so immediately connected with the subject which engages our attention, that I am convinced the following extract will be acceptable.

"To a person looking beyond the present moment, and taking the future into view, it is only necessary to glance over the map of the United States, to be impressed with the incalculable importance of connecting the western with the eastern territory, by facilitating the means of intercourse between them. To this subject the attention of General Washington had been in some measure directed in the early part of his life. While the American States were yet British Colonies, he had obtained the passage of a bill, empowering those individuals who would engage in the work, to open the Potomac, so as to render it navigable, from the tide water to Wills' Creek. The River James had also been comprehended in his plan; and he had triumphed so far over the opposition produced by local interests and prejudices, that the business was in a train which promised success, when the revolutionary war diverted the attention of its patrons, and of all America, from internal improvements, to the great objects of liberty and independence. As that war approached its termination, subjects, which for a time had yielded their pretensions to consideration, reclaimed that place to which their real magnitude entitled them; and the internal navigation again attracted the attention of the wise and thinking part of society. Accustomed to contemplate America as his country, and to consider with solicitude the interests of the whole, Washington now took a more enlarged view of the advantages to be derived from opening both the eastern and western waters: and for this, as well as for other purposes, after peace had been proclaimed, he traversed the western parts of New England and New York. "I have, lately," said he, in a letter to the Marquis of Chastellux, a foreigner, who was in pursuit of literary as well as of military fame, "made a tour through Lakes George and Champlain, as far as Crown Point; then returning to Schenectady, I proceeded up the Mohawk River to Fort Schuyler, crossed over to Wood Creek, which empties into the Oneida Lake, and affords the water communication with Ontario: I then traversed the country to the head of the eastern banks of the Susquehanna, and viewed the Lake Otsego, and the portage between that lake and the Mohawk River at Canajoharie. Prompted by these acutal observations, I could not help taking a more contemplative and extensive view of the vast inland navigation of these United States, and could not but be struck with the immense diffusion and importance of it: and with the goodness of that Providence who has dealt his favors to us with so profuse a hand. Would to God we may have wisdom enough to improve them! I shall not rest contented until I have explored the western country, and traversed those lines (or a great part of them), which have given bounds to a new empire."

Scarcely had he answered those spontaneous offerings of the heart, which, on retiring from the head of the army, flowed in upon him from every part of a grateful nation, when his views were once more seriously turned to this truly interesting subject. Its magnitude was also impressed on others; and the value of obtaining the aid which his influence and active interference would afford to any exertions for giving this direction to the public mind, and for securing the happy execution of the plan which might be devised, was perceived by all those who attached to the great work a sufficient degree of importance, and who were anxious for its success. In a letter from a gentleman, (Mr. Jefferson,) who had taken an expanded view of the subject, who felt an ardent wish for its accomplishment, and who relied on funds to be advanced by the public for its execution, a detailed statement of his ideas was thus concluded:--

"But a most powerful objection always arises to propositions of this kind. It is, that public undertakings are carelessly managed, and much money spent to little purpose. To obviate this objection is the purpose of my giving you the trouble of this discussion. You have retired from public life. You have weighed this determination, and it would be impertinence in me to touch it. But would the superintendence of this work break in too much on the sweets of retirement and repose? If they would, I stop here. Your future time and wishes are sacred in my eye. If it would be only a dignified amusement to you, what a monument of your retirement it would be! It is one that would follow that of your public life, and bespeak it the work of the same great hand. I am confident, that would you either alone, or jointly with any persons you think proper, be willing to direct this business, it would remove the only objection, the weight of which I apprehend."

In the beginning of the autumn of seventeen hundred and eighty-four, General Washington made a tour as far west as Pittsburg; after returning from which, his first moments of leisure were devoted to the task of engaging his countrymen in a work, which appeared to him, to merit still more attention from its political, than from its commercial influence on the Union. In a long and interesting letter to Mr. Harrison, the Governor of Virginia, he detailed the advantages which might be derived from opening the great rivers, the Potomac and the James, as high as should be practicable. After stating with his accustomed exactness the distances, and the difficulties to be surmounted in bringing the trade of the west to different points on the Atlantic, he expressed unequivocally the opinion, that the rivers of Virginia afforded a more convenient, and a more direct course than could be found elsewhere, for that rich and increasing commerce. This was strongly urged as a motive for immediately commencing the work. But the rivers of the Atlantic constituted only a part of the great plan he contemplated. He suggested the appointment of commissioners of integrity and abilities, exempt from the suspicion of prejudice, whose duty it should be, after an accurate examination of the James and the Potomac, to search out the nearest and best portages, between those waters and the streams capable of improvement, which run into the Ohio. Those streams were to be accurately surveyed, the impediments to their navigation ascertained, and their relative advantages examined. The navigable waters, west of the Ohio, towards the great Lakes, were also to be traced to their sources, and those which empty into the Lakes to be followed to their mouths. "These things being done, and an accurate map of the whole presented to the public, he was persuaded that reason would dictate what was right and proper." For the execution of this latter part of his plan he had also much reliance on Congress; and in addition to the general advantages to be drawn from the measure, he labored, in his letters to the members of that body, to establish the opinion, that the surveys he recommended would add to the revenue, by enhancing the value of the lands offered for sale. "Nature," he said, "had made such an ample display of her bounties in those regions, that the more the country was explored, the more it would rise in estimation."

The assent and co-operation of Maryland being indispensable to the improvement of the Potomac, he was equally earnest in his endeavours to impress a conviction of its superior advantages on influential individuals in that State. In doing so, he detailed the measures which would unquestionably be adopted by New York and Pennsylvania, for acquiring the monopoly of the western commerce, and the difficulty which would be found in diverting it from the channel it had once taken. "I am not," he added "for discouraging the exertions of any State to draw the commerce of the western country to its sea-ports. The more communication we open to it, the closer we bind that rising world (for indeed it may be so called,) to our interests, and the greater strength shall we acquire by it. Those to whom nature affords the best communications, will, if they are wise, enjoy the greatest share of the trade. All I would be understood to mean, therefore, is, that the gifts of Providence may not be neglected."

But the light in which this subject would be viewed with most interest, and which gave to it most importance, was its political influence on the Union. "I need not remark to you, Sir," said he, in his letter to the Governor of Virginia, "that the flanks and rear of the United States are possessed by other powers -- and formidable ones too: nor need I press the necessity of applying the cement of interest to bind all parts of the Union together by indissoluble bonds - especially of binding that part of it which lies immediately west of us, to the middle States. For what ties let me ask, should we have upon those people, how entirely unconnected with them shall we be, and what troubles may we not apprehend, if the Spaniards on their right, and Great Britain on their left, instead of throwing impediments in their way, as they do now, should hold out lures for their trade and alliance? When they get strength, which will be sooner than most people conceive, what will be the consequence of their having formed close commercial connexions with both or either of those powers? It needs not, in my opinion, the gift of prophecy to foretell. The western settlers (I speak now from my own observations,) stand, as it were, upon a pivot. The touch of a feather would turn them any way. Until the Spaniards (very unwisely, I think) threw difficulties in their way, they looked down the Mississippi - and they looked that way for no other reason than because they could glide gently down the stream, without considering, perhaps, the fatigues of the voyage back again, and the time necessary for its performance; and because they have no other means of coming to us, but by a long land transportation through unimproved roads." Letters of the same import were also addressed to the Governor of Maryland, and to other gentlemen in that State. To a member of the National Legislature, he observed, "there is a matter which, though it does not come before Congress wholly, is, in my opinion of great political importance, and ought to be attended to in time. It is to prevent the trade of the western territory from settling in the hands either of the Spaniards or the British. If either of these happens, there is a line of separation drawn between the eastern and western country at once, the consequences of which may be fatal. To tell any man of information how fast the latter is settling, how much more rapidly it will settle by means of foreign emigrants, who can have no particular predilection for us, of the vast fertility of the soil, of the population to which the country is competent, would be unnecessary: and equally unnecessary would it be to observe, that it is by the cement of interest alone we can be held together. If then the trade of that country should flow through the Mississippi or the Saint Lawrence: if the inhabitants thereof should form commercial connexions, which we know lead to intercourses of other kinds, they would in a few years be as unconnected with us, as are those of South America. It may be asked how are we to prevent this? Happily for us the way is plain. Our immediate interests, as well as remote political advantages, point to it; whilst a combination of circumstances, render the present time more favorable than any other to accomplish it. Extend the inland navigation of the eastern waters - communicate them as near as possible with those which run westward; - open these to the Ohio; - open also such as extend from the Ohio towards Lake Erie, - and we shall not only draw the produce of the western settlers, but the peltry and fur trade of the Lakes, also to our ports - thus adding an immense increase to our exports, and binding those people to us by a chain which can never be broken."

At about the time that General Washington was exploring that part of our State, which was so well calculated for the improvement of internal navigation, the attention of the Legislature was directed to the same object. Christopher Colles, an inhabitant of the city of New York, who had been previously known for some important but unsuccessful enterprises for the public good, and who had, in the year seventeen hundred and seventy-two, given public lectures in Philadelphia, on the subject of lock navigation, in seventeen hundred and eighty-four, proposed to the Legislature to improve the navigation of the Mohawk. His enterprise was thought too mighty for the public resources, but the Legislature gave Mr. Colles some encouragement, by offering to secure to him and his associates, for ever, the profits which might arise from transportation on the river. The next year, on the reiterated application of Mr. Colles, the Legislature granted him one hundred and twenty-five dollars, to enable him to make an essay towards the execution of his plan. This he seems to have done; and, in the same year he published proposals for establishing a company to improve the inland navigation between Oswego and Albany. In this publication, Mr. Colles very forcibly anticipated all the advantages which a water communication with the Lakes would afford. He evinces his knowledge of the country, by representing that "the Allegany mountains, which pass through all the States, seem to die away as they approach the Mohawk River; and the ground," says he, "between the upper part of this river, and Wood Creek, is perfectly level."

Mr. Colles was again before the Legislature with his plan, in seventeen hundred and eighty-six, and it seems to have met with their approbation; but nothing important or effectual was done by Mr. Colles. He lived till within a few years. The difficulties he met with seem to have subdued his enterprise. Though his plan for connecting the northern and southern, and eastern and western waters, was revived in seventeen hundred and ninety-one, it does not appear that Mr. Colles had any connection with it. We may all remember him as the projector and attendant of the telegraph, erected during the late war, on Castle Clinton. Genius and talents, much above the sphere in which he seems to have moved in the latter part of his life, could not rescue him from obscurity and poverty; but it would be ungrateful to forget him at this time. No one can say how far we owe this occasion, to the ability with which he developed the great advantages that would result from opening the communications with the Lakes; to the clear views he presented of the facility with which these communications might be made; and to the activity with which he for some time pursued his object. His contemporaries have not been insensible of his merits, and have preserved a portrait of him, by Jarvis, in the Gallery of the Historical Society.

Governor George Clinton, in his speech to the Legislature, on opening the Session of seventeen hundred and ninety-one, referred to the subject of internal improvements in the following language. "Our frontier settlements, freed from apprehensions of danger, are rapidly increasing, and must soon yield extensive resources for profitable commerce. This consideration forcibly recommends the policy of continuing to facilitate the means of communication with them, as well as to strengthen the bonds of society, as to prevent the produce of those fertile districts from being diverted to other markets."

In the same Session the Legislature passed "an act concerning roads and inland navigation," by which the commissioners of the land office were directed to cause the grounds between the Mohawk River and Wood Creek, in Herkemer county, and between Hudson River and Wood Creek, in Washington county, to be explored and surveyed. The commissioners were also required by the act, to report an estimate of the expence of making Canals between these points. In the same year, the surveys which the act required were made; and in January, seventeen hundred and ninety-two, a report of the commissioners was communicated by George Clinton, the then Governor, by a Message, in which he considers the practicability of effecting the object of the Legislature, at a very moderate expence, as ascertained. He expresses a hope that a measure of such importance, not only to the agriculture and commerce of the State, but even to the influence of the laws, will continue to demand due attention.

The Members who appear to have taken the most active part in these Legislative transactions , were Mr. Adgate, Mr. Williams, Mr. Livingston, and Mr. Barker.

There were, also, many citizens not in the Legislature, who had previously to this time greatly interested themselves in promoting this important measure. These ought to be named on this occasion, but I fear I have not the information which will enable me to do justice to all. General Schuyler deserves to be first mentioned. Distinguished by the force and energy of his character, for his abilities, acquirements, and enterprise, he was one of the earliest, most strenuous, and most able supporters of improvements in our internal navigation. It has been justly said that he was the master spirit which infused life and vigour into the whole undertaking. Mr. Elkanah Watson had, as early as the year seventeen hundred and eighty-eight, attended an Indian treaty at Fort Stanwix. The view, he at that time obtained of the country, impressed him with the practicability and advantages of the water communications which Mr. Colles had, several years previously, explored and described in his publication above noticed. Of Mr. Colles's proceedings Mr. Watson appears to have had no knowledge. Mr. Watson transcribed the ideas he entertained on this subject, in a journal he kept at the time, extracts from which he published in eighteen hundred and twenty, in a work entitled, "A History of the Rise, Progress, and existing Condition of the Western Canals." This publication is avowedly made by Mr. Watson, with a view to vindicate his claims "to the exclusive honor of projecting the Canal policy" of the State of New York.

In the same year that the act of the twenty-first of March, seventeen hundred and ninety-one was passed, for surveying the contemplated routes, Mr. Watson made a journey in the western part of the State. All his views of the water communications (which had been previously proposed by Mr. Colles) were confirmed and strengthened, and he employed his pen in writing and publishing essays, which, no doubt, had an important influence on public opinion in favour of Canals. He also published, in the work last referred to, his journal of this tour.

These private journals of Mr. Watson, by some means unknown to him, as he states in the preliminary remarks to his History of the Canals, were obtained by the London booksellers, and published by them, previously to seventeen hundred and ninety five; and were, to the astonishment of Mr. Watson, referred to by Mr. Phillips, in his History of Canals; the first edition of which was published about thirty years ago.

In consequence of the favorable report of the commissioners, appointed by the act of seventeen hundred and ninety-one, and the recommendations of the Governor, the act of seventeen hundred and ninety-two, by which the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, and the Northern Inland Lock Navigation Company were incorporated, was passed. This act, it is said, was drawn by General Schuyler. He, and about fifty of the most respectable and influential citizens of the State were members of the company. Mr. Thomas Eddy, who was an early, zealous, and active friend of internal navigation, was not named in the act, but was elected a member and director the year after the company was incorporated. General Schuyler was chosen President, and he, Messieurs Eddy, Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, Barent Bleecker, Elkanah Watson, and Robert Bowne, were among the most active members.

The object of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company was to improve the navigation, and to open communications, by Canals, to the Seneca Lake, and Lake Ontario. The other company was empowered to open a lock navigation between the Hudson and Lake Champlain. This latter company did something to improve the navigation of the natural water courses to the north, but was dissolved without having made any Canal, and without having effected any thing of great importance.

So Herculean a task did it then appear to construct a Canal, that the Western Company were allowed fifteen years to accomplish their work; though it was known that the Canalling which they would have to perform would only extend a few miles.

But the company did not avail themselves of this long indulgence. In the year seventeen hundred and ninety-six, they completed the Canal at the Little Falls, of about two miles and three-fourths in length, with five locks; and a Canal of one mile and a quarter at the German Flats; and in seventeen hundred and ninety-seven, a Canal from the Mohawk to Wood Creek, of one mile and three quarters: in all less than seven miles, with nine locks. Some years afterwards they constructed several wooden locks on Wood Creek. All the works which are above enumerated, and which, at the time, were thought very great, and which were so many years completing, might now be done in six weeks. Our great canals with all their locks, aqueducts, culverts, bridges, and every thing that belongs to them, have been executed at the rate of more than a mile in a week.

The Western Company after their principal works had been constructed and once rebuilt, when it was found that they must be again reconstructed, obtained the assistance of Mr. Weston, an engineer, from Europe, of eminence in his profession. He built the existing locks of the Western Company. When their improvements were so far completed as that a boat might pass from Schenectady into the Oneida Lake, they had expended more than four hundred thousand dollars. This great expenditure obliged them to charge such heavy tolls, that their Canals were but little used; land carriage, and the natural rivers, being generally preferred.

The old locks, at the Falls, now form part of a communication from the Erie Canal, into the Mohawk River. When we stand on the lofty and magnificent stone aqueduct which is thrown over the Falls, or on the terrace which supports the western Canal, -- midway the precipitous rocks on the south side of the river, we look down on the old Canal, passing below the new structure, creeping at our feet, through its narrow channel and straightened locks.

At this point there is a combination of the beauties of nature and of art, seldom to be met with. When the latter excite the admiration of an American citizen, he must find, blended with his feelings, something of pride arising from the reflection that their existence is owing entirely to the genius of his countrymen.

The prospect of a water communication from the Hudson to Lake Ontario suggested the advantages of a like communication from that Lake to Lake Erie. With a view to the establishment of this desirable object, an act was passed in seventeen hundred and ninety-eight, incorporating the Niagara Company.

The design of those who formed this association, was to make a Canal, with locks, round the cataract of Niagara.

This project, in preference to that which has been executed, has had its advocates till a very late day. It is impossible to say, when we are looking for the dawnings of the idea of an artificial water communication between Lake Erie and the Hudson, whether those who first anticipated such a connexion, and have mentioned it in their writings, did not contemplate this as the route by which the communication would be effected, rather than that it would be made on the line occupied by the Canal which now exists.

But this act of seventeen hundred and ninety-eight, and the project of locking round the Great Falls, to which it was intended to give effect, seem very convincing proofs, that, up to this time, no person had thought of an inland lock navigation, directly from Lake Erie to the Hudson. Indeed, I may say, that up to the time when this act was passed, I have not found, in any thing written upon the subject, a single syllable intimating that the idea of such a Canal had been conceived by any human being. It unquestionably had not entered into the minds of either of the companies incorporated in seventeen hundred and ninety-two. The views of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, certainly, extended no further than to improve the natural water-courses between the mouth of the Onondaga River and the Mohawk, and to connect them by the short cuts which were necessary for that purpose. To use Mr. Watson's own expressions, who was one of the Western Company, "the utmost stretch of their views was to follow the track of nature's Canal, and to remove natural or artificial obstructions; but they never entertained the most distant conception of a Canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson. They would not have considered it," continues Mr. Watson, "much more extravagant to have suggested the possibility of a Canal to the moon."

The efforts of this company, on the Mohawk, had proved so expensive, and so little encouraging, that they shrunk from an attempt to complete their original design, by extending their work to Lake Ontario. In eighteen hundred and eight, they surrendered so much of their grant as gave them any privileges beyond the Oneida Lake. And, subsequently, when the Legislature had determined on executing the northern and western Canals, they ceded to the State, for a sum much less than they had expended, all their privileges and works.

But, although, those who were connected with these navigation companies, and who encouraged and promoted the objects of these associations, cannot justly claim, indeed never have claimed, the merit of projecting the great Canals, yet we should do them great injustice did we not acknowledge that we owe a great deal to their genius and enterprise. Their ill success, it is true, for some time damped the spirit of improvement, yet their efforts roused the public attention, and induced inquiries and investigations which have led to the great works, the accomplishment of which we are about to celebrate.

The very peculiar character of the country about our great Lakes was very early known. It was seen that the Saint Lawrence, the Lakes, and the Mississippi, lay in a great valley, extending from the Bay of Labrador, to the Gulf of Mexico.

Monsieur de la Salle, who, in the year sixteen hundred and sixty-nine, first explored the Mississippi from the Lakes, found that the waters of Lake Michigan, and of the rivers which run to the south, nearly approximated. It was afterwards ascertained that at certain seasons they were united, and that the intervening waters might be navigated by boats of considerable burthen. The near approach of the western waters of this State and of Lake Erie, was also conjectured, if not known, at a very early day. In the Report before mentioned, made by the Surveyor General of the Province of New York to Governor Burnet, in seventeen hundred and twenty-four, after having mentioned the communication into Lake Ontario by the Onondaga River, he says:-- "Besides the passage by the Lakes, there is a river which comes from the country of the Senekas, and falls into the Onondaga River, by which we have an easy carriage into the country, without going near the Cataraqui Lake. The head of this river goes near the Lake Erie, and probably may give a very near passage into that Lake, and much more advantageous than the way the French are obliged to take by the great falls of Jagara."

It must be recollected that these, or similar passages, are not cited to prove that there were in the minds of the authors, ideas of a Canal over the routes to which they refer; but the object in noticing these speculations is, to shew that, when Canals became afterwards more known and practised, such descriptions of the country and its waters, may very naturally have suggested the possibility of making Canals in situations so well adapted to them. These ideas might, and probably did, arise in the minds of many contemporaneously; and that, therefore, it would be in vain to endeavour to discover who first suggested the practicability of making the western Canal; upon which so much is now said, only because it has heretofore been a subject of such earnest inquiry and discussion.

We have seen, from the pamphlet published by Christopher Colles, in seventeen hundred and eighty-five, that as early as at that day, the extraordinary adaption of the country, on our western borders, for water communications, had been perceived. His expression that "the Allegany mountains died away, as they approached the Mohawk," shews that he had some idea of the path which nature has provided for the great western Canal. It was known, too, long before that project was undertaken, that the waters of Lake Erie, lying above the Great Falls, must be higher than the waters of the Hudson. In a communication from Mr. Charles Thompson, who was so long Secretary of the Continental Congress, to Mr. Jefferson, which the latter has appended to his Notes on Virginia, published in seventeen hundred and eighty-seven, Mr. Thompson supposes, that if the barriers of the Niagara River were, by any convulsion of nature, to be torn asunder, the country below would be deluged.

It must have been seen, also, that many of the interior Lakes were so high, that their outlets traversed the path which the Canal now occupies.

It is worth while to stop here to remark, that the location of several of these minor Lakes, gives a character to our western Canal, which is very peculiar. Generally, Canals have been made to form connections over ridges, dividing seas, or natural navigable channels, and commonly pass near the sources of the water-courses by which the Canals are to be supplied, and, therefore, one of the greatest difficulties in their construction, and one that frequently leads to enormous expences, is to obtain a sufficient supply of water, and to economise that element. But our western Canal passes through a valley, and intercepts, near their points of discharge into the great Lakes, water-courses, supplied by inexhaustible sources, and owing to the supplies being drawn from natural reservoirs, of great magnitude, it has not been necessary to construct an artificial one, for either of the Canals, through their whole extent of more than four hundred miles.

These very extraordinary features of our country, would very probably suggest to any person acquainted with them, the idea of making water communications over the grounds which are now occupied by the Canals. As the country was cleared of forests, and became inhabited, its topography was better known, and very probably from a suggestion that a continued Canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson, (in which the person who made it may have had no confidence,) the subject has been revolved in the minds of many, till it was found deserving consideration, and finally, to be worthy of serious examination; the favorable result of which led to the determination to execute the project.

No one seems to have had an earlier or a more vivid conception of the features of the country, between the Hudson and the western Lakes, which fitted it so peculiarly for Canal navigation, than the late Mr. Gouverneur Morris. The Lakes, the rivers, the vallies in which they lie; the advantages and profit to be derived from extensive inland communications, and their political influence, were subjects suited to the great mind of Mr. Morris, and inspired those enthusiastic anticipations which his pen has left us.

Previously to the year eighteen hundred, he does not appear to have had any definite idea of a Canal extending beyond Lake Ontario. In a letter of that time, to Mr. Lee, he seems to fix that as the point to which he thought it was practicable to open a Canal. But at about the same period, in a letter to a European correspondent, he expresses his belief in the practicability of enabling ships to sail from London, through the Hudson, into Lake Erie.

In eighteen hundred and three, in a conversation with Simeon De Witt, Esquire, the present Surveyor General, who deserves to be ranked among the early and zealous friends of the Canals, Mr. Morris spoke of the possibility of "tapping Lake Erie." But yet it is very uncertain whether Mr. Morris's idea was, at these times, that a Canal might be made directly from the Hudson to that Lake. He might have conceived, that a ship from London would sail into Ontario by the Canal, which had then been so long thought of; and from thence, into Erie by the locks around the Falls, which were contemplated by the act of seventeen hundred and ninety-four: and he might have conceived the possibility of tapping Lake Erie, by leading its waters in the same course. [Errata: It is due to Mr. Morris to mention that since the MEMOIR was written, the Author has ascertained that when in the year eighteen hundred, Mr. Morris suggested the practicability of enabling ships to sail from London into Lake Erie, and when in eighteen hundred and three he spoke of "tapping Lake Erie," he undoubtedly contemplated a water communication directly from that Lake to the Hudson, and did not, as the Memoir supposes he might have done, refer to a communication by the Niagara Canal and Lake Ontario.] But, subsequently, and particularly at about the time the project of making a Canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson, first attracted the attention of the Legislature, Mr. Morris became one of its most active and able advocates.

In eighteen hundred and seven, Mr. Jefferson, then President of the United States, proposed to Congress to devote so much of the national revenue, as the exigencies of the government did not require, which he calculated would be very large, to making roads and Canals. That part of the Message of the President, which related to these subjects, was referred to the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Gallatin, who, in eighteen hundred and eight, made a very able report; but the possibility of a Canal, from Lake Erie to the Hudson, had not occurred to him; or, if it had, he did not perceive its advantages so far as to be induced to mention it among those which he recommended, as deserving the consideration of the Government.

This message of the President was well calculated to awaken the attention of the respective States, to the advantages they possessed for internal navigation.

Mr. Jesse Hawley, in the fall of eighteen hundred and seven, published a number of pieces under the signature of "Hercules," in which he advocated, with great ability and force, the construction of a Canal from Buffalo to Utica, and proposed very nearly the same route which is now occupied by the western Canal. We cannot doubt but that these able essays had a great influence on the public mind.

Mr. Geddes, who, from the beginning, has had so large and active a part in planning and executing the Canals, in the year eighteen hundred and eight, intimated, that it was the opinion of many, that a Canal might be made from Erie to Rome. Mr. Elliott, [almost certainly refers to Joseph Ellicott] who was afterwards one of the commissioners, in a letter to the Surveyor General, written in July, eighteen hundred and eight, very strongly recommends a communication to Lake Erie, in preference to the Ontario route.

In the session of eighteen hundred and eight, Mr. Joshua Forman, a Member of the Assembly from Onondaga county, proposed, in that body, a concurrent resolution to direct a survey to be made "of the most eligible and direct route of a Canal, to open a communication between the tide waters of the Hudson River and Lake Erie." This is the first Legislative proceeding, of which there is any trace, that had reference to a Canal from the Hudson to Lake Erie.

This resolution was adopted, and subsequently, by a joint resolution proposed by Mr. Gould, in the Senate, the Surveyor General was directed to cause the survey, contemplated by Mr. Forman's resolution, to be made; but so limited were the views the Legislature, at this time, had of the great work in which they were about to engage, that they appropriated for the object of the resolution, no more than the sum of six hundred dollars.

The Surveyor General employed Mr. Geddes, who has been before mentioned, to make this survey. He performed the duty with great intelligence; and in January, eighteen hundred and nine, made a report in favour of the practicability of a route, directly from Lake Erie, which evinces how fortunately the agent had been selected.

Mr. Geddes conceived the possibility of running the Canal on the tops of the ridges which occupy the Irondequot valley; a project which would not have occurred to any but an engineer of great boldness and comprehension.

Mr. Geddes's report was made to the Surveyor General, and was by him communicated to the Legislature. But nothing appears to have been done, till in March, eighteen hundred and ten, when Jonas Platt, Esquire, then a member of the Senate, who has been among the foremost, on so many occasions, to encourage and support this great enterprise, proposed, in that body, a resolution which was unanimously adopted by the Senate, and concurred in by the Assembly, to appoint Gouverneur Morris, Stephen Van Rensselaer, William North, Thomas Eddy, and Peter B. Porter, "commissioners to explore the whole route for inland navigation, from the Hudson River to Lake Ontario, and to Lake Erie."

The Legislature had before them, at that Session, memorials from many citizens in different parts of the State, representing that Canada was attracting the greatest part of our internal commerce, in consequence of the facilities which were afforded by water communications, to transport commodities to her markets. These representations, no doubt, had their influence, but the above resolution, it appears, was brought forward by Judge Platt, at this time, on the suggestion of Mr. Thomas Eddy, the gentleman before mentioned, who had taken so active and leading a part in the concerns of the Inland Lock Navigation Companies, and who was so long the zealous and active friend of the Canals. Judge Platt and Mr. Eddy engaged our present Governor, De Witt Clinton, who was then also a member of the Senate, to support Mr. Platt's proposition. From that time, Mr. Clinton has been the able, constant indefatigable, and undaunted advocate and supporter of these great works.

They also found, at about this time, an able advocate in the late Doctor Hugh Williamson.

The memory of this distinguished citizen will be preserved, not only by his History of North Carolina, and other works which he published, but by a Biographical Memoir, written by Doctor David Hosack.

Doctor Williamson, in eighteen hundred and ten, wrote an essay, entitled "Observations on Navigable Canals;" also, "Observations on the Means of preserving the Commerce of New York;" and, "Additional Observations on Navigable Canals;" all of which had reference to the Canals of New York, and are preserved in the Medical and Philosophical Register. In the Biography Doctor Hosack remarks, that "Doctor Williamson was among the first of our citizens who entertained correct views as to the practicability of forming a Canal to connect the waters of Lake Erie with Hudson River; and the importance of this great work so engaged his feelings, that besides the papers already mentioned on Canal navigation, he published a series, on the same subject, under the signature of Atticus. These papers were so well received, that many thousand copies have been circulated through the medium of newspapers, and the pamphlet has itself been several times reprinted."

In the summer of eighteen hundred and ten, the above named commissioners explored the whole route, from the Hudson to Lake Erie; and, at the Session of eighteen hundred and eleven, they made their first report, which was drawn up by Mr. Morris, who acted as President of the Board.

It proposed a project, which, although the report was signed by all the commissioners, it is understood was entirely his own. It was to bring the waters of the lake on one continued uninterrupted plane, with an inclination of six inches to every mile, to a basin, to be formed near the margin of the Hudson, from whence there was to be a descent by a great number of locks. This project was thought by many to be impracticable; and its having been presented as a plan, which the commissioners recommended, was calculated to retard the enterprise; but the report bears testimony to the genius, and the eloquence of the writer.

Immediately upon the receipt of this report, Mr. Clinton brought in a bill, which was passed on the eighth of April, eighteen hundred and eleven. This was the first law passed on the subject of the great Canals. It added Robert R. Livingston, and Robert Fulton, to the former commissioners, and charged the Board with the consideration of all matters relating to the navigation between the Hudson and the Lakes. It authorised them to apply to other States, and to Congress for co-operation and aid; to ascertain if loans could be procured; and to treat with the Inland Lock Navigation Companies, for a surrender of their rights and interests.

The Legislature was induced to give the commissioners power to apply to Congress, because reliance was placed on receiving the assistance which the message of Mr. Jefferson, of eighteen hundred and seven, and the report of Mr. Gallatin, although he had not mentioned the Erie Canal, seemed to promise to enterprises of this nature.

The commissioners, pursuant to the powers given them by the last mentioned act, applied, in the ensuing year, to the general Government, to afford some aid to a project, no less interesting to the nation, than to the State in which it was to be executed. Two of the commissioners, Mr. Morris and Mr. Clinton, attended at the seat of the National Government, to promote the success of this application. It was not rejected, but it met with no great favor. It was thought that nothing could be done for New York, that was not done for the other States, and the negociation of the commissioners ended in a proposition brought before the House of Representatives, by a committee of that body, to appropriate to each State certain portions of the public lands, to be applied by the respective States, to the improvements of their internal communications. But the Bill reported by the committee, was never acted upon in the House.

There was at that time, however, no question but that Congress had power to afford assistance, if it were their pleasure to do so; and there was no little disappointment when, in eighteen hundred and seventeen, it was understood that Mr. Madison conceived that the constitution would not permit an appropriation of any part of the national funds or means to these purposes.

This disappointment was the greater, because no objection had been made by the Executive, to several Acts of Congress, appropriating very large sums of money, for making a road through parts of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and for similar projects elsewhere. It was not very well understood how the Constitution could allow an appropriation for roads, and not permit it for a water highway.

But most happily for us, this objection prevailed so long as the State of New York needed the aid of the General Government; and most happily for every other State in the Union, these scruples have since entirely subsided. We have been so fortunate as to complete our Canals without any extraneous aid, and we are gratified that the other States, in enterprises similar to ours, will be aided by funds from the National Treasury, and will have the assistance of distinguished foreigners and natives, who are employed in the engineering departments of the General Government.

But we have yet one humble petition to make to Congress. That having made our Canals without their interference, they will be pleased to leave us to enjoy them: and that they will not sanction any such pretension, as was of late made by some of their revenue officers, that our Canal boats, traversing our hills and vallies, in an artificial channel made by ourselves, entirely within our own territory, hundred of miles from the sea, and six or seven hundred feet above its level, were engaged in the coasting trade of the United States; that they must therefore take custom-house licences, and pay a tax to the General Government.

An Act of Congress has been passed, exempting boats employed wholly on the Canals from the necessity of paying this tax, yet the claim of a right to impose it seems to be reserved. But so long as any respect for State sovereignties remains; so long as the confederacy is considered of any value, and so long as there is any regard for the peace of the Union, it is hoped there will be no attempt to enforce this, or any similar claim.

The Canal commissioners, pursuant to the authority given to them by an Act of eighteen hundred and eleven, made application to other States, and among them our younger sisters, Vermont, Kentucky, and Ohio, proposing to them that, as they would enjoy the benefits of the contemplated improvements in the means of internal communication, they would also participate in the expence? We are not aware that any answer to this invitation of the commissioners was returned by any State but Ohio. She made a very kind and complimentary answer, in the form of a Resolution of her Legislature. The substance of which was, that we had her best wishes; that she knew very well she would be greatly benefited if our enterprise should be executed, but that she was well assured we could do it ourselves; that she was very young and not rich; she, however, testified her disposition to serve us so far as her resources would justify, if she approved, when made known to her, the plan we proposed to adopt.

Fortunately we have had no occasion to remind Ohio of this engagement, and every friend of internal improvements, must rejoice that no part of her resources have been diverted from the great work in which she is now so nobly engaged. When it is accomplished, as undoubtedly it will be, in a very short time, she need not fear to compare it with any thing of the same nature which has been achieved in this or any other part of the world. When it is considered that the population of her territory in seventeen hundred and ninety, did not exceed three thousand souls, her Canal, when it is completed, will be a stronger evidence, than the world has yet afforded, of what can be done by the moral energies of a free people, guided by wise, enterprising, and magnanimous counsellors.

By opening a channel between Lake Erie and the trans-Allegany navigable waters, Ohio will render us infinitely a greater service than she could have done by any contribution to our funds. She will not lay out a dollar on her Canal, that will not be nearly of as much advantage to us as to herself. It would be to our interest to open the communication on which Ohio is now engaged, at our expence, and to let it be a free passage, rather than it should not be done. We could not employ the large surplus funds, which our Canals will afford, more to our advantage, than by anticipating them, and making loans to Ohio, if she should need such assistance.

When there is a Canal communication between the waters of the Ohio and the Lakes, a person may travel in a vessel from New Orleans to New York, and pass the Allegany mountains by water.

Had this been predicted only ten years ago, and the prediction been credited, we should have looked for some great convulsion of nature, by which the lands and the waters on the face of the earth would be displaced. It would never have been believed that the hands of man could effect so mighty a change.

It is not only Ohio that our example has stimulated and our success encouraged, but every State in the Union is projecting artificial water communications. Our interest, as well as our feelings, are united in our wishes for their success. We do not forget that the State of New York is but a member of the great political family, and that our welfare is intimately connected with the prosperity of the whole. But as respects our own particular interest, we must wish to promote the improvement of inland navigation in every part of the Union; for it is certain that no Canal can be opened in the United States, which will not be a benefit to us. However remote, it will be a channel through which commerce will be attracted by our great emporium, the local situation of which precludes a rival. If any part of the produce of our own State should be drawn from us, it will be because elsewhere it will find a more profitable market. The object of all our improvements is the advantage of our citizens, and if some should find the greatest profit in trading to places without our territory, yet it must be for the general good of the State; the prosperity of which depends on the welfare of its inhabitants. If communities can be so connected as that no jealousies or separate interests can arise between them, the Ohio and New York Canals are bonds that will unite these two States in perpetual amity.

In eighteen hundred and twelve a second report was made by the Board of Commissioners, to the Legislature. And at that Session an Act was passed, authorising the commissioners to borrow, on the credit of the State, five millions of dollars, to be applied to the execution of the Canals.

From this time, till the conclusion of the late war with Great Britain, little appears to have been done towards carrying into effect the then existing Canal laws. But in the mean time, that is, in March, eighteen hundred and fourteen, the commissioners presented another report, in which they reiterated their opinion that the Canals were practicable; that the State could command competent resources, and warmly urged the execution of the project. The attention of the Legislature, however, was engrossed by the then existing war. In consequence of the disarrangement of the national finances, the State of New York was obliged to employ its funds on objects which properly belonged to the general Government; and besides, a very considerable opposition had arisen to the improvement of our inland navigation, upon the great scale which the commissioners had proposed. Many believed in the impracticability of the project; others, who admitted that it might be accomplished, thought the work too mighty for the power and resources of the State.

It was also unpropitious to the adoption of the great design, that the friends of improvements in internal navigation differed in opinion as to the course which ought to be pursued; some thinking that the Ontario route, which has been before explained, should be preferred to carrying the Canal directly to Lake Erie. Under the influence of these feelings and opinions, the Legislature, in the Session of eighteen hundred and fourteen, repealed that part of the existing law, which empowered the commissioners to borrow five millions of dollars.

However dissatisfied the friends of the Canals were with this repeal, it has turned out to be one of those measures which though they appeared unpropitious at the time, we now see were most fortunate. The war prevented the employment of a foreign engineer and the repeal in question, prevented our making loans abroad. The consequence of this last measure has been, that every cent borrowed on account of the Canals was obtained from one of our own citizens, and the interest is paid to them, or to foreigners who have purchased the stock at an advance.

Perhaps the war itself, discouraging as were its immediate effects, may be set down as one of those events which finally had a tendency to promote the commencement and execution of the Canals. The want of a practicable communication, for the conveyance of material of war, from the sea-board to the western frontier, was grievously felt. It has been said that the expence of transporting cannon from Albany to the Lakes, was at one time, more than double what the pieces cost. The postponement of the project for a few years was also fortunate, inasmuch as it brought the commencement and execution of it to a time when money could be more easily obtained, and on better terms, than it could have been at, perhaps, any prior, or hitherto, subsequent period.

The retraction of the power to make loans for a time abated the zeal for improvements in inland navigation. The commissioners made no report in eighteen hundred and fifteen.

But the spirit which had been hushed by the clamours of war, was again heard when peace was restored. At the instigation of Mr. Eddy, Judge Platt, Mr. Clinton, Mr. John Pintard, and some others, a few respectable and influential citizens were convened, in New York, in the latter part of the year eighteen hundred and fifteen.

This meeting appointed a committee to draw a memorial to the Legislature in favor of the projected inland navigation.

The duty assigned to this committee was performed by their chairman, Mr. Clinton, who prepared what has been distinguished, and will always be remembered, in the history of the Canals, as the New York memorial. Its presentation formed an epocha in the progress of these works, from which their earnest and active pursuit may be dated. Their practicability, usefulness, and advantages were stated with so much clearness, ability, force, and eloquence, that, from that time, all opposition was unavailing. Petitions of the same character, from different parts of the State, and signed by many thousand citizens, were presented at the ensuing Session of the Legislature.

Governor Tompkins, in his opening speech, recommended the subject to the attention of the two Houses. The commissioners made a report in favor of an immediate commencement of the work. While they adverted to the great western Canal, as an undertaking which combined the honor, interest, and political eminence of the State, they expressed their conviction of adopting measures to connect the waters of Champlain with the Hudson.

It appears, that previously to that time, there had been no thought that our own country could furnish engineers of sufficient ability, science, and experience, to execute a work which, in this State, was entirely new. The ill success of the first Inland Lock Navigation Companies was calculated to give us very humble opinions as to the requisite talents of our citizens. But it has been the good fortune of this country, whether in war or in peace, to find men rising from her soil adequate to every emergency. Of this, the execution of these Canals, surpassed in no respect by any on earth, is a striking example. When we see them, or read their history, the reflection, that none but native American citizens have had any share in devising, planning, or superintending, any part of the work, must add to our gratification. We may hope that in time it will be questioned whether the opinion be correct, which has been promulgated by some European philosophers, and seems yet to be entertained by some trans-atlantic statesmen and reviewers, that the human species, by transportation to the new world, has degenerated in mental faculties and physical powers.

The commissioners, under the common impression that they would be obliged to look abroad for assistance, sought in Europe a civil engineer. Had it not been for the intervention of the war, one they had engaged would have shared the credit which is due to Wright, Geddes, White, Thomas, Roberts, and Briggs. Indeed, it seems that the acting commissioners, Messieurs Holley, Young, Seymour, and Bouck, discharged, in a great degree, duties which would properly belong to engineers; while, at the same time, they were united with the other commissioners, in the general direction and superintendence of the works.

In one of their former reports the commissioners mentioned that an English engineer had been engaged, but they now stated that their inquiries, and the intercourse they had had with many of our citizens in exploring the routes of the Canals, and making surveys, had induced them to believe, that it was not necessary to go from home to seek the requisite talents and qualifications; and in their report of this year (eighteen hundred and sixteen,) they express their disposition, in giving their employments, to prefer our own citizens. This report was signed by Mr. Van Rensselaer, Mr. Clinton, Mr. De Witt, Mr. North, Mr. Eddy, Mr. Porter, and Mr. Charles D. Cooper, who had been appointed by Governor Tompkins, to fill a vacancy in the board, occasioned by the death of Robert R. Livingston, Esquire. Mr. Morris did not sign the Report, because, it has been said, he was dissatisfied that his idea of an inclined plane, was in a great measure abandoned. The signature of one other commissioner was wanting -- that of Robert Fulton, who died in the month of February, in the preceding year.

It is impossible to refer to the deaths of Mr. Livingston, and Mr. Fulton, without wishing to pay some tribute to their memories. It is particularly due to them upon this occasion, because they were zealous promoters of the great enterprises, the completion of which we are about to celebrate. Mr. Fulton's opinions had the more weight, as it was well known that he was professedly a civil engineer, and had published a valuable work on internal navigation. His great success in the application of steam to propel vessels, which has given him immortality, added to the influence of his character, -- his plain, unpretending, Franklin-like style of writing, was well suited to the occasion, -- his correspondence with Mr. Morris, published on the incipiency of the project, had as much influence in disposing the public mind to favor the great national work, which, to use his own expressions, "is to secure wealth, ease, and happiness to millions," as any thing that has been written on the subject. So much was he in favor of Canals, that, in a letter to Mr. Morris, he enters into calculations, which to appear to demonstrate that the merchandize, transported in sloops on the Hudson, might be conveyed on a Canal between New York and Albany for less than they can be carried on the river, including in the estimate the cost of the Canal.

But it does not always please Providence that the benefactors of mankind shall live to share the fruits of their labors. Their reward is in the contemplation of the happiness they will be the means of transmitting to posterity, or, perhaps, it is, in being permitted to look down upon the enjoyments of the beings whom they have benefited. If so, we may believe that the spirits of Morris, of Schuyler, of Livingston, and of Fulton, will be with us when we celebrate an event which they contributed so much to produce.

The same incredulity as to the practicability of the western Canal, and the same apprehensions as to the capacity of the State continued to raise an opposition in the Legislature. Many attempts were made to arrest, or at least to curtail and postpone the project; but the opposition was unavailing. The Act of eighteen hundred and sixteen, to provide for the improvement of the internal navigation of the State, was passed in the Assembly, by a majority of seventy-three; and in the Senate, by a majority of thirteen.

By this Act Mr. Van Rensselaer, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Young, Mr. Ellicot, and Mr. Holley, were appointed commissioners. They were empowered to devise and adopt measures to effect communications, by Canals, between the Hudson and Lake Erie, and Lake Champlain, and to appoint engineers. Twenty thousand dollars were appropriated for the necessary expences of executing the Act; but no power was given to the commissioners to begin the work. On the contrary, a clause, which was in the bill to that effect when it was first reported, was stricken out.

The commissioners met in the city of New York, in May, eighteen hundred and sixteen. They appointed Mr. Clinton, President; Mr. Young, Secretary of the Board, and Mr. Holley, their treasurer. They divided the Erie Canal line into the western, middle, and eastern sections. The first, extending from the Lake to Seneca River; the middle, from thence to Rome; and the eastern, from Rome to Albany; and appointed engineers to each section. An engineer was also appointed to survey a route, which had been proposed for the Canals on the south side of the mountain ridge. This route had many advocates, but was finally relinquished.

Previously to the commencement of the session of eighteen hundred and seventeen, the commissioners, or some of them, with the assistance of the respective engineers, had explored the routes of both the Canals, and had caused them to be surveyed and marked.

When the Legislature met, a Report was presented, of great length and minuteness, with profiles and maps. The Report also submitted estimates; those for the western Canal amounted nearly to five millions of dollars, and those for the northern Canal to about nine hundred thousand. These estimates have been exceeded, but it is owing to the Canals having been enlarged; to the substitution of stone, in many instances, where wood was contemplated; and to some unforeseen difficulties; particularly at the mountain ridge, in the hardness and extent of the rock, which it was found necessary to excavate.

Notwithstanding the General Government had discovered that the Constitution of the United States would not allow it to give any countenance to an enterprise, for internal improvement, in the State of New York, and notwithstanding there was no reason to hope for any aid from our neighbours, the friends of the Canals were not disheartened. In April, eighteen hundred and seventeen, the Act, "respecting the navigable communications between the great northern and western Lakes, and the Atlantic ocean," was passed by large majorities, both in the Senate and Assembly. It continued the former commissioners, and contained the important fiat, which authorized the commencement of the Canals.

By this Act, the commissioners were empowered to open the communication between the Hudson and Lake Champlain, but as to the west, they were only authorised to connect, by Canals and Locks, the Mohawk and Seneca Rivers.

The draft of this Bill was prepared by Mr. Clinton, and the Act was passed nearly as he drew it. In it was incorporated a financial system, which, at the request of a Committee of the Legislature, he had digested. Part of this system was the establishment of the Board of Commissioners of the Canal Fund, consisting of the Lieutenant Governor, the Comptroller, the Attorney and Surveyor Generals, the Treasurer, and the Secretary of State. This Board was charged with every thing that concerned financial operations in relation to the Canals. The Bill provided ways and means to pay the interest on loans which might be made, and the debts that would be created. These were donations of lands, which had been promised or made by individuals or companies, who would be particularly benefited by the Canals; a small tax on salt manufactured at the salt springs, belonging to the State, and in the western country; a tax on steam-boat passengers; a portion of the duties arising on sales at auction; proceeds from certain lotteries; and a tax of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, to be levied, at some future time, on lands lying within twenty-five miles of the Canals.

The last mentioned tax never has been, and probably never will be, collected. Nor is it very certain that in justice and equity it ought to be. This partial tax was imposed, upon the supposition that the land holders along the lines of the Canal would be particularly benefited by them; but in truth, every part of the State derives advantages from these works, which may, with great propriety, be said to be incalculable. The inhabitants of the city of New York, will derive as much profit from the opening of these water communications, as any other portion of our citizens; and if the expences of the Canals are to be paid in proportion to the local benefits which will be derived from them, New York ought to pay at least as large a share as any part of the State.

Since the Supreme Court of the United States has decided that the grant to Livingston and Fulton, of an exclusive right to navigate the waters of the State, by steam, was invalid, there has been no attempt to collect the tax on steam-boat passengers. The lotteries have produced nothing; so that the only remaining ways and means are the donations, the salt tax, the auction duties, and the Canal tolls. These have afforded all the funds it has been requisite for the State to provide; and these great works will be paid for, in probably less time than in required to construct them, without the imposition of any general tax, and without their cost having been felt by the people in the slightest degree. But, on the contrary, the construction of the Canals has been the means of putting in circulation about a million of dollars a year, for the last eight years, in parts of the country, where every thing was stagnant for want of money and a market.

On the fourth of July, eighteen hundred and seventeen, the Canal was commenced at Rome -- that is, eight years and four months, prior to the day when the first boat, which entered the Canal from Lake Erie, will reach the ocean.

This important act, the commencement of the Erie Canal, was performed with some ceremony. Mr. Clinton, the President of the Board, who had been chosen Governor at the previous election, in eighteen hundred and seventeen, attended with the other Canal commissioners and engineers. The anniversary of our independence, since the declaration of which only forty-one years had elapsed, was selected as an auspicious day to begin this great work. The first earth was removed from the Canal path, amidst the acclamations of a large concourse of people, exulting in the past, enjoying the present, and anticipating the future.

Governor Clinton opened the Session of eighteen hundred and eighteen, with a speech, congratulating the Legislature on the auspicious commencement and successful progress of the water communications between the great western and northern Lakes, and the Atlantic ocean. He expatiated on the advantages which agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, would derive from the Canals, and on the influence which they would have on our political institutions. He assured the Legislature that the resources of the State, were adequate to the work, and that extraneous aid was unnecessary.

But, notwithstanding, the encouragement which this speech was calculated to afford, and the eloquent appeal with which it concluded, the project (for what was called by its friends "the great Canal," and by its opponents the "big ditch,") met with considerable, and very able opposition. The strength of its friends and adversaries was tried in the Assembly, on an answer, reported by a committee, to the Governor's speech. Fears were yet entertained that the anticipations of the execution of so great an enterprise, in any reasonable time, and with means which the State could provide, were enthusiastic and visionary. Many adopted an opinion, which one of our greatest statesmen, whose zeal for improvements could not be questioned, was known to have expressed, that we had undertaken this great enterprise a hundred years too soon, and that till the lapse of another century, the strength of our population, and our resources, would be inadequate to such a work.

But the part of the Answer which related to this subject, was adopted, without alteration, by a majority of nearly two to one. The Answer expressed, in a few words, the views which were at that time entertained by the friends of the Canals. I therefore beg leave to extract some passages from it. I do it the more willingly, because the last paragraph is but an echo of the words in which the Governor made the eloquent appeal with which that part of his speech, which related to this subject, concluded.

"The advantages which must result, not only to this State, but to the world, from the completion of the contemplated communications between the inland seas, on our borders, and the Atlantic ocean, are so manifest, that we cannot but express the great satisfaction with which we learn, from your Excellency, that they have been auspiciously commenced, and are in successful progress. This satisfaction is greatly increased by the information you have given us, that this stupendous work may be performed at an expence not exceeding in the aggregate, the estimates of the commissioners, and that our resources are fully adequate to them, without extraneous aid. We believe that no part of the world affords so many natural advantages for the execution of such an undertaking. Inexhaustible reservoirs lying above the level of the Canal in every part of its course; a country; not intercepted by ridges or mountains, which commonly separate the heads of water courses, are in themselves advantages, that no work of the same kind has, as we believe, ever before enjoyed. The great causes of expense in the execution of similar projects have been the necessity of passing near the summits, on which were situated the fountains which supplied the water, and the works, on that account necessary, to economise the use of that element. There is reason to believe that the ingenuity and industry of our countrymen, will enable us to do more work of this kind, than has been done elsewhere for the same money, notwithstanding the price of labor is, probably, greater than has been paid to those who have executed similar enterprises.

The effects of opening these communications can, as yet, be but indistinctly seen in their extent. They will reach every member of the community; -- they must be felt by every citizen of the United States: and, indeed, so important an alteration in the natural disposition of the lands and waters of the earth cannot but have an influence on the condition of mankind. It will afford the means of easy intercourse with an internal sea-coast, connected with immeasurable tracts of fruitful soil, not inferior in extent to the shores of the Mediterranean. When these works are accomplished, a water communication between the Lakes and the Mississippi, and forty or fifty thousand miles of navigable streams, may be made without difficulty, and at inconsiderable expence. The commerce of an immense space will be led to the Hudson. If this should be the result of the great enterprise in which we are engaged, New York will have advantages infinitely greater than any city has ever had, and she must forever enjoy them without a rival. The commerce of the Mediterranean is the support of many great commercial cities, but New York will stand alone at the entrance of this extensive channel, and must be a greater emporium than ever called herself the mistress of commerce.

Besides the advantages which your Excellency has enumerated, and which it is so obvious, will be the result of the accomplishment of this stupendous work, there is certainly a national glory connected with the enterprise, calculated to excite the pride of every patriot. When we consider that every portion of the nation will feel the animating spirit and vivifying influence of these great works, that they will receive the benedictions of posterity, and command the approbation of the civilized world, we are required to persevere, so far as a prudent regard to the resources of the State will permit, by every consideration which ought to influence the consciences, and govern the conduct of a free, enlightened, and magnanimous people."

The commissioners, Mr. Van Rensselaer, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Young, and Mr. Holley, made a very minute, elaborate, and encouraging Report. Among other matters which were very satisfactory, they stated that they had engaged, on the section that they had commenced, Mr. Isaac Briggs, an eminent mathematician, who has rendered important services in the progress of the Canals.

The commissioners also states, that they had begun by dividing the middle section of the Canal line, into small sections, and procuring the work to be done on these by contract. Perhaps nothing has contributed more to the successful accomplishment of the work than that the commissioners have so generally persevered in this plan. It was also gratifying to learn from the commissioners report, that the engineers, and the young men they had employed as assistants, had evinced capacity and talents which left no room to fear that we should be obliged to seek abroad, mental or scientific aid.

The Session of eighteen hundred and nineteen, was opened by a speech of Governor Clinton, no less satisfactory that that of the last year. He was enabled to reiterate his congratulations on the progress of the work, as well on the northern as on the western Canal, and to give assurances that the experience which that progress had afforded, left not a doubt of the feasibility of the work or of the ability of the State without any taxes, or any other means than those which had been already provided, to meet the necessary expenditure. He therefore warmly recommended that a law should be passed, authorising the completion of both Canals, as soon as was practicable.

After a very favorable report from the Canal commissioners, in which they represented that the works on the middle section, under the superintendence of Benjamin Wright, Esquire, as principal engineer, had been conducted with great success; and after a report from a Committee of the Assembly, reciprocating the Governor's sentiments on the subject, the act of eighteen hundred and nineteen "concerning the great western and northern Canals," was passed.

This law authorised the commissioners to complete both the eastern and western, as well as the middle section of the Erie Canal, and empowered the commissioners of the Canal Fund to make the necessary loans.

A law was also passed at this Session for constructing a harbour at Buffalo Creek.

Mr. Hart, who signed the report, as one of the commissioners, had been appointed in the room of Mr. Ellicott, who had resigned. Afterwards Henry Seymour was appointed to fill this place.

Mr. Canvas White, and Mr. Nathan S. Roberts, who had acted as assistant engineers, the commissioners stated, had evinced so much talent and usefulness, that they had assigned them more important duties.

The Report is also interesting on account of its announcing the discovery, near the Canal line, of what the commissioners call meagre lime. It is that material which, when made into mortar, indurates under water, and has been so essential to the construction of the hydraulic works of the Canals. This important discovery was made by Mr. Canvas White, who has obtained a patent for its use. Nature seem not only to have laid out the path for the great western Canal, but to have made the most bountiful provision near it, of all the materials necessary for its construction. The massive stones of which the locks are composed, have been obtained without difficulty wherever they have been requisite. This water lime has already become an article of commerce within the United States, and is said to be so superior to the Roman cement, and the English limes, that no doubt it will soon be exported.

In the Report now adverted to, the commissioners gave a description of several labor-saving machines, employed on the Canals; among others, they mentioned a machine for prostrating the forest trees, that grew on the Canal lines; another, with which the stumps of trees, that had been cut down, were eradicated: and a third, for cutting up roots. These were all the inventions of our own countrymen, and though they may not seem of sufficient consequence to be mentioned on this occasion, were of very great importance in the completion of these works. Indeed, to see a forest tree, which had withstood the elements till it attained maturity, torn up by its roots, and bending itself to the earth, in obedience to the command of man, is a spectacle that must awaken feelings of gratitude to that Being, who has bestowed on his creatures so much power and wisdom.

At the opening of the Session of eighteen hundred and twenty, Governor Clinton had the gratification of announcing, in his speech to the Legislature, "that the middle section of the western Canal, including a lateral cut to Salina, and comprising a distance of nearly ninety-six miles, had been completed. That on the twenty-third day of the preceding October, the commissioners navigated it from Utica to Rome, and found their most sanguine expectations realised in the celerity, economy, and excellence of its execution. That, on the twenty-fourth day of the previous November, the whole Champlain Canal was also in a navigable state. That thus, in less than two years and five months, one hundred and twenty miles of artificial navigation had been finished."

The Governor was enabled to say, that these works, in their then unfinished state, had given to our internal trade an animation, which could not be duly appreciated, without the advantages of personal observation.

The Report of the Canal commissioners was equally satisfactory. It contained very long and minute details of what had been done, as well as views and estimates of the work that remained to be executed.

The Report was accompanied by surveys, made by Mr. Thomas, of the harbour at Buffalo. Mr. Thomas submitted propositions which he had received, for harbours at Black Rock, and at some other points near what was supposed would be the termination of the Erie Canal.

At this Session a law was passed allowing the Canal commissioners a salary of two thousand dollars a year, but it contained a clause that this provision should only extend to three of the commissioners who should be actually engaged in the superintendence of the works. This was intended to meet the arrangement which the commissioners had previously made as to themselves. Mr. Young, Mr. Seymour, and Mr. Holley, had been active and immediate superintendents of the execution of the Canals for which they had received a compensation or salary, while Mr. Clinton and Mr. Van Rensselaer's duties were confined to the meetings of the board. Neither of these gentlemen have ever taken the least compensation for their services.

Hence arose the designation of acting commissioners, which was applied to Mr. Young, Mr. Seymour, and Mr. Holley, and afterwards to Mr. W.E. Bouck, when he was the next year appointed one of the Board. These gentlemen have devoted themselves to the management and superintendence of the works, with a zeal and ability to which the speed, efficacy, and economy with which it has been executed, bears the best evidence. When it is considered that the commissioners and engineers could have had no experience in canalling; that the science they acquired must have been in a great measure the result of mental application, while they were constantly employed in the active and anxious duties of their station, they deserve a commendation to which any thing I could say on this occasion, would be very inadequate.

From the time the navigation to Lake Champlain, and between Rome and Montezuma was opened, all opposition to the completion of the western Canal to Lake Erie and the Hudson ceased, or was very feeble.

Those who had entertained honest doubts as to the practicability of the great work, yielded to this evidence of the feasibility of executing the whole of the original plan. Experiments on so large a scale gave confidence in the estimates which had been made before the work was commenced; these estimates were somewhat exceeded by the actual expenditure, owing to circumstances before noticed, and to some other adventitious causes, which the commissioners, in their Report, satisfactorily explained.

The advantages, as well as the profit, of these water communications, were immediately felt. The Canal from Champlain, and the middle section of the western Canal, were covered with boats the moment they were opened; and although no tolls were taken till July, eighteen hundred and twenty, the amount received in the course of the season, gave earnest of what the Canals would produce when they were finished. No doubt was longer entertained but that the resources and credit of the State were competent to furnish all the funds that would be required.

From this time the communications from the executive, and the reports of the commissioners, to the Legislature, were details of the uninterrupted and fortunate progress of the great work, and congratulations on the rapidity with which the period was approaching when the State, and the nation, would be in possession of the incalculable advantages which must result from the completion of the New York Canals.

These communications and reports are documents of the most interesting and useful character. They are important, not only as furnishing a detailed and very circumstantial history of these works, in their daily progress, but as affording minute information, which must be of the greatest use to those who may be engaged in similar enterprises. It would not be consistent with the character of this Memoir, to swell it with these details; It is not in a production of this nature that practical information will be sought. The State has established an additional claim as the munificent benefactors of mankind, in authorising, by a law passed in February, of the present year, a collection and publication of "all the laws, reports, and documents relative to the Canals, requisite for a complete official history of those works, with correct maps, delineating the routes of the Erie and Champlain Canals, and designating the lands through which they pass."

In compliance with this law, two splendid octavo volumes, with plates and charts, and a large atlas, have just been published. They have been completed under the superintendence of a committee of the Legislature; but justice would not be done were it not acknowledged that the State owes, to the indefatigable industry and ability of John Van Ness Yates, Esquire, the Secretary of State, this splendid history of works which will be for ever connected with her glory.

While these volumes contain much that mere men of letters will not read, he who seeks for minute information as to the origin and progress of the New York Canals, would have been satisfied with no abbreviation of the matter they contain; and the practical engineer, who desires instruction, will find nothing which he will think ought to have been omitted. The routes that have been proposed and abandoned; the plans which have been suggested, or tried and relinquished; the experiments which have been made, and proved unsuccessful, will all have their use, and "The Official History" of these works would have been incomplete had any of these things been unnoticed.

By the first of October, eighteen hundred and twenty-three, the eastern section of the Canal was completed. In the mean time the western section had progressed from Montezuma towards Erie, so that when the lock which forms the communication between the Canals, and the artificial basin in the Hudson River, at Albany, was opened on the eighth of October, eighteen hundred and twenty-three, there was a continuous Canal navigation from the Genesee River, and from White Hall, at the head of Lake Champlain, to Albany.

Such an auspicious event as the passage of the first boats from the west, and the north into the tide waters, was celebrated with some ceremony. Large committees from New York, and from other places on the Canal route, attended at Albany. The New York committee was headed by Mr. William Bayard. He had presided at the Meeting at which the New York Memorial, before mentioned, originated. Mr. James was the Chairman of the Albany committee of citizens. These gentlemen had on all occasions given the full weight of their long established and respectable characters in favor of the execution of the Canals. When the extent of the proposed artificial water-ways, the hills, and vallies, and rivers, over which they were to pass, were contemplated, and the resources of the State were considered, many thought the plan perfectly visionary. By some, the sincerity of its advocates was doubted: they were suspected of sinister designs, or they were regarded as infatuated enthusiasts; but the countenance of many such men as Mr. Van Rensselaer, Mr. Bayard, and Mr. James, whose age and experience, and rank in society, commanded respect, tended to induce a belief that the project was founded on mature reflection and sober calculation, and to give confidence that, notwithstanding its magnitude and difficulties, it might be accomplished.

The pencil could not do justice to the scene presented on the fine autumnal morning when the Albany lock was first opened. Numerous steam boats and river vessels, splendidly dressed, decorated the beautiful amphitheatre formed by the hills which border the valley of the Hudson, at this place; the river winding its bright stream far from the north, and losing itself in the distance to the south; - the islands it embraced; - the woods, variegated by the approach of winter, a beauty peculiar to our climate; - the wreathed arches, and other embellishments, which had been erected for the occasion, were all objects of admiration. A line of Canal boats, with colours flying, bands of music, and crowded with people, were seen coming from the north, and seemed to glide over the level grounds, which hid the waters of the Canal for some distance, as if they were moved by enchantment.

The first boat which entered the lock was the De Witt Clinton, having on board Governor Yates, the Mayor and Corporation of Albany, the Canal commissioners and engineers, the committees, and other citizens. Several other boats succeeded. One, (not the least interesting object in the scene,) was filled with ladies. The cap-stone of the lock was laid with masonic ceremonies, by the fraternity who appeared in great numbers and in grand costume.

The waters of the west, and of the ocean, were then mingled by Doctor Mitchell, who pronounced an epithalamium upon the union of the River and the Lakes, after which the lock gates were opened, and the De Witt Clinton majestically sunk upon the bosom of the Hudson.

She was then towed by a long line of barges, past the steam boats and other vessels to a wharf at the upper end of the city, where those gentlemen, who were embarked on board the Canal boats, landed and joined a military and civic procession, which was conducted by a large stage, fancifully decorated, erected for the occasion in front of the Capitol. Here the Canal commissioners received a congratulatory address from Charles E. Dudley, Esquire, Mayor of Albany, which was answered by Mr. Clinton, as President of the Board of Commissioners. The Albany committee was addressed by Mr. Bayard, which was returned by Mr. James, and the day concluded with a banquet, at which it may be said, with as much propriety as it could be said in relation to any other festive board, that there was "the feast of reason and the flow of soul."

The completion of the eastern section was a matter of great gratification to the friends of the Canals, indeed it may be said to every citizen, for, at the time we are speaking of, the Canals had ceased to have any opponents; but the difficulties which presented themselves on this section, appeared more formidable than any that were to be met with elsewhere on the route. The cataract of the Cohoes was to be surmounted; a path for the Canal was to be found along the abrupt rocky shores, rising generally to a great elevation, and in many places divided only by the narrow bed of the Mohawk; the upper falls of that river were to be overcome. To accomplish this, and preserve a due level, it was necessary to carry the Canal upon a ledge twenty and thirty feet above the base of perpendicular rocks. The ingenuity of our countrymen found, by what they called sand blasts, means of blowing off such masses of rock, that a road was made for the Canals with much less labor than had been anticipated. In eighty days a work was accomplished, which before it was commenced, it was calculated would require several years. The Canal between Schenectady and Albany twice crosses the Mohawk River in aqueducts of more than eighteen hundred feet in extent.

In speaking of this section, the Canal commissioners, in their report of eighteen hundred and twenty-four say, "none but those who had examined the line previous to the commencement of the work, -- who had seen the rude and undulating surface which is traversed, -- the rocks which were to be blasted, -- the irregular ledges, filled with chasms and fissures, which were to form the basis of a water-tight Canal, -- the spungy swamps and gravel beds, and quick sands which were to be made impervious to water, -- and, in short, the huge masses of rough materials which, with uncommon labor, were to be reduced to symmetry and form, can duly appreciate the efforts which it has required to surmount these serious obstacles."

The Canal commissioners do not hesitate to admit, that had this section been commenced originally, while their information as to constructing Canals was merely theoretical, probably the attempt to complete it would either have been entirely abortive, or so imperfectly executed, as to have defeated, or perhaps postponed for a century, the accomplishment of the great work of internal improvements.

In the course of the season of eighteen hundred and twenty-three, the Gleaner, and afterwards several other Canal boats, from Vermont, arrived in the city of New York, bearing to our market the produce of the forests, the fields, and the mines, of the shores of Lake Champlain.

In November, of the same year, the Sally and Mary, a boat of sixty or seventy tons, from Hector, in Tompkins county, at the head of the Seneca Lake, seventy miles south of the Erie Canal, and three hundred and fifty miles from New York, had passed into the Canal, by the locks at Waterloo and the Seneca River. She arrived at New York, freighted with the rich productions of the west. So happy an illustration of the advantages of the Canals was not suffered to pass unnoticed by our citizens. They gave Messrs. Osborn and Sealy, two farmers of Tompkins county, who were her owners and navigators, a public entertainment.

The vessel was not only received as the precursor of a commerce, which will be unlimited in its extent and importance, but as an interesting evidence of the ingenuity and enterprise of our countrymen. Her timbers grew near where she was built; her proprietors were her architects; her cargo was the produce of the fields from whence she sprung, and she was navigated by those who cultivated them; her sails and rigging even, were emphatically domestic manufactures, for they were grown, and made, at the homes of her owners.

When we look at a map, and see marked out, the many Lakes and sheets of navigable waters which occupy the centre of our State, and reflect that every place on their shores is, for all purposes of commerce, converted by the Canals into a sea-port, and that the trade of all of them must centre in this metropolis, we may have some idea of the advantages which the city and country will derive from the opening of these water communications.

The completion of the western section, and of course of the whole Erie Canal, was announced to us by the sound of cannon, on the twenty-sixth of last month, and to-morrow we shall witness the arrival of a Canal boat, from Buffalo, after an internal navigation of five hundred and thirteen miles: she will have passed three hundred and sixty-three miles on one continued uninterrupted artificial Canal, forty feet wide on the surface, twenty-eight feet at the bottom, with four feet depth of water: she will have passed through eighty-three locks, built of massive stone, the chambers of which are ninety by fifteen feet, capable of containing boats of more than a hundred tons burthen; and she will, when she arrives at Albany, have descended five hundred and fifty-five feet; but her ascent and descent in the course of her voyage, will have been six hundred and sixty-two feet.

The great embankment across the Irondiquot, over which the western section of the Canal passes, is one of the greatest works on the Canals. This aerial water-course extends more than a quarter of a mile, on a mound of earth, seventy feet in height, from a stream, flowing through a culvert, at its base. The passenger looks down from the narrow eminence, on the tops of aged forest trees, rooted in the bottom of the valley. There are works upon the Canals, which are, undoubtedly, of a more artificial character, and may appear to some more magnificent, but when the length and height, and magnitude of this embankment is considered, and when, above the tops of the trees, boats are seen passing on its summit, which is but little wider than is necessary for the Canal and towing path, it must excite great admiration.

The aqueduct over the Genesee River, at Rochester, is another magnificent object on this section, which deserves notice. It is a structure of ten arches of hewn stone, extending two hundred and two feet.

The deep cutting towards the western extremity of this section has cost more money, and required more labor, than any other work on the Canals. To pass the mountain ridge, there has been a necessity for excavating seven miles, to an average depth of twenty-five feet, three miles of which is through hard rock. The combined locks, at the brow of the mountain, the commissioners describe as a work of the first magnitude on the line, and as one of the greatest of the kind in the world.

Upon the middle section there is an uninterrupted level of sixty-nine miles and a half, from Salina to Frankfort; and on the western section, there is another level, from Lockport to Rochester, uninterrupted by any lock, of sixty-three miles. The extraordinary length of these levels, evince the correctness of Mr. Colles' idea, which has been before mentioned, that "the Allegany mountains died away as they approached the Mohawk."

There are very many objects on this western section, as well as on other parts of the Canals, which deserve attention, but to notice them, would require details which this occasion will not admit. Those who wish information as to these and other particulars, must refer to the volumes before mentioned, published by authority of the State; or to a volume, published in eighteen hundred and twenty, under the direction of the New York Corresponding Association for the Promotion of Internal Improvements. It contains a collection of public documents relating to the Canals, up to the time of its publication; but it is now more valuable for an introduction, which was written by the late Mr. Charles G. Haines, one of the Association, in whose death the cause of internal improvements lost a very warm, able, and active advocate. In the prime of life, he fell a sacrifice to the ardour and unremitting industry, with which he devoted himself to the acquirement of knowledge, the practice of his profession, and to the promotion of almost every plan that was on foot for the public good. His frame was too slender, and his constitution too weak to bear the excitement of his ardent mind. He died just as he had commenced a career, which, had he lived to pursue it, must have led to eminence; but, though his friends regret that he did not live to reap the fruits of his talents and industry, they more deeply regret that, by his death, they have been deprived of one who had gained all that esteem and respect which genius, acquirements, zeal, industry, honor, and benevolence deserve.

At Albany the Canal terminates in a basin, formed from the Hudson, by extending a pier, or mole, into the river, and running it parallel to the shore, nearly three quarters of a mile. The communication with the River, is at the southerly extremity of the mole, by a sloop lock which admits the passage of river vessels, as well as of Canal boats, in and out of the basin. Stores are building on the pier, which is seventy-six feet in width, on the top. From one end of these stores, Canal boats in the basin may be laden or unladen; and, at the other end, sloops in the river may be loaded or discharged.

This spacious harbour, which will have a superficies of about thirty-two acres, has been made by a private Company, incorporated for the purpose, by a law of the State. They are permitted to have the benefit of certain tolls, but it is presumed the State has reserved the right to control the corporation, so far as to oblige it to exercise its powers entirely in subservience to the interests of the public.

The Erie Canal, at its western extremity, at present discharges into an artificial basin, made from the Niagara River, at Black Rock, by connecting the main shore with Squaw Island. In the dam from Squaw Island to the main, there is a sloop lock, which communicates with the river below. If the bridge, which has been thrown over the Niagara River, from the main to Goat Island, at the very brink of the Great Falls, by Judge Porter, did not shew us what might be done by great boldness, ingenuity, and enterprise, and convince us that works may be constructed in the river, of sufficient strength to resist its current, where it is most impetuous, we might doubt whether it would be possible to make the mole or piers of the Black Rock harbour, stable; if, contrary to predictions, it should stand, -- if still water should be produced within the harbour, -- and if it should not be injured or obstructed by ice or sands, it cannot be questioned but that it will be of great importance. It will be more valuable, because without it, there is no harbour in that quarter, except at Buffalo; to which, if the harbour at Black Rock should not be found to answer, the Canal will be continued along the margin of the Niagara River, to join, what is considered, a part of the Erie Canal, extending from the town of Buffalo to the Lake.

The rival interests of Buffalo and Black Rock, have created much excitement as to the termination of the Canal to the west. There has been a difference of opinion among the Canal commissioners, and among the engineers, as to the plan which ought to be adopted. The Legislature seems to have pursued a discreet and impartial course, by reserving the grounds for, and the right to make, the Canal along the margin of the Niagara River, if, after the works at Black Rock are completed and tested, the public good requires the Canal to be uninterruptedly continued to Buffalo harbour.

To mention all who have been connected in the immediate execution of these great works, as they deserve, would require a list, which, if an attempt were now made to present it, there is reason to fear would not be perfect. It would also require information which I do not possess, and which no time is allowed to acquire. All the commissioners have been mentioned; those who have been designated as the acting commissioners, and who in some measure performed the duties of engineers, as well as of advisers and superintendents, are Mr. Holley, Mr. Young, Mr. Seymour, and Mr. Bouck. The principle engineers are Mr. Wright, Mr. Geddes, Mr. White, and Mr. Thomas. In one of their reports the commissioners say "in looking back to the numerous difficulties and responsibilities, some of them of an aspect the most disheartening, which surrounded the Canals, especially on their commencement, we feel compelled, by common justice, to commend the aid which has, at all times, been afforded by our engineers. In the selection of all the persons who are now employed by us under this character, we have been eminently fortunate. But to the Honorable Benjamin Wright and James Geddes, the State is mostly indebted. Possessing much local information, competent science, long experience in many kinds of business, bearing some analogy to Canal operations, and well established characters for industry and fidelity, these gentlemen have rendered the most essential services in all the duties of their department. They were first appointed engineers. They have unceasingly, and with improving fitness, devoted their best faculties to the great cause in which they were engaged; and they have hitherto been found equal to the high trusts confided to them."

But no eulogy could do so much justice to the commissioners and engineers as an appeal to their works. It has been said, and it is believed truly, that they have completed, in the shortest time, and at the least expence, the longest uninterrupted Canal in the world.

The official reports of the Canal commissioners, of the commissioners of the Canal fund and the engineers, are calculated to do them infinite credit: but it is impossible to take any particular view of the merits of these documents on this occasion: nor is it now so necessary, as they are before the public in the volumes before mentioned, published by authority of the State.

From the time that the great Canal project was brought before the Legislature, by Judge Platt, in eighteen hundred and ten, Mr. Clinton has bestowed his time and talents to promote the commencement, progress, and completion of these great works, with an entire devotedness. The constancy with which he met all opposition; -- the extent of the information he communicated, -- his encouragement as to the resources and capacity of the State, although she was left alone to perform so great a work; the unrivalled eloquence with which, in his speeches to the Legislature, as well as in those Canal reports which he drew, he appealed to the honor, the pride, and the patriotism of his native State, it must be admitted contributed greatly to the accomplishment of the great works, in celebrating the completion of which all hearts now join.

Many of those who thought the Canals impracticable, till a large portion of them were finished, and who supposed that their failure would overwhelm with disgrace all who were connected with their execution, did not hesitate to charge Mr. Clinton with being answerable for engaging the State in so great and so expensive an undertaking. Surely they who would have censured him so severely if the Canals had failed, will not, in justice, refuse to give him due credit, now that they have succeeded.

His exertions were not confined to his official duties, as President of the Board of Canal commissioners, and as Governor; his able pen was constantly employed in promoting an enterprise which, as he said, was identified not only with the prosperity, happiness, and honor, of his own State, but with that of his country. He had so large a share in the accomplishment of these great works, that his name will always be intimately connected with them, and will not be forgotten while they endure.

The history of the Canals is one of the proudest monuments that the present age will transmit to posterity: but now, when the agitations of the times are past, when no passion is mixed with our feelings, there is one page which many will wish blotted out. It is that which records the Legislative vote by which Mr. Clinton, on the last day of the Session, of the year eighteen hundred and twenty-four, when the Canals were on the point of being finished, was removed as a Canal commissioner.

But these great Canals will not be regarded as the work of individuals. They will be attributed to the State of New York; every citizen deserves a share of the credit connected with them. In the language of the commissioners it will be said "their labors could not have been perfected without the support of a wise foresight, and just liberality, in several successive Legislatures. To us, it appears, that these Legislatures have afforded a spectacle, most animating, encouraging, and delightful, in reference to the sagacity of the people to understand, and their wisdom to provide for their most substantial interests. They exhibit the most impressive example which the United States have yet produced, since the adoption of the Federal Constitution, of the beneficent effects of a free Government, upon the character of a community. They are intimately connected with the best hopes of the Republic. Rising above all fugitive and partial interests, and with a full detail of the costs of these works before them, the immediate representatives of the people have so clearly discerned the benefits which they would introduce, as to apply to them from year to year a greater portion of their funds than was sufficient to defray the expences of the State Government."

The well-meaning opposition which the Canals for a certain time encountered, as well in as out of the Legislature, was not without its good effects. It induced a circumspection, economy, and system of rigid accountability, which might not have been observed, if all had been as unanimously and zealously in favor of Canals, as they are at the present moment.

It has been said, in this Memoir, that the Erie Canal is the longest in the world. It is believed that it is so; but it must be recollected that we speak of it as one continuous uninterrupted artificial Canal, for upwards of three hundred and sixty miles.

As has been mentioned, England has more than a hundred Canals: but she has no one, which, independent of branches, extends a hundred miles.

The largest Canal in France is the Canal of Languedoc, which is one hundred and fifteen miles.

The inland navigation of Russia is so extensive, that it is said to be possible to convey goods by water near four thousand five hundred miles, but this is by using her Lakes, and natural water-courses, which are connected by Canals, no one of which is more than half as long as the Erie Canal.

Besides innumerable Canals spread over the whole surface of China, she has an inland navigation, extending from Canton to Pekin, a distance of eight hundred and twenty-five miles, but this navigation is not formed by an uninterrupted Canal. On the contrary, the artificial works are connected by Lakes and natural water-courses. But it is extraordinary that the Chinese do not use locks, at least not generally. They pass from one level to another by means of sluices. This renders the descent dangerous, and the ascent so difficult and laborious, that it requires the united exertions of many men to drag a vessel from a lower to a higher level.

But if we consider the extent of the internal navigation which is opened by the formation of the New York Canals, we shall find it greatly beyond that which any other country in the world affords. Within our own State we have a navigation into the minor Lakes, and upon several navigable streams, that can no be less than a thousand miles.

From the embouchure of the Canal at Lake Erie, to the head of Lake Superior, is more than one thousand miles, but with slight interruption the water communications extend to the Arctic Sea.

Had Captain Franklin, and his party, who are now exploring those regions for a North-west passage, commenced his expedition, so as to have arrived here a few months later than he did, he would have found that he could have been transported from London, five thousand miles towards his destination, without being obliged to set his foot on land.

By the Erie Canal, and the Oswego River, there is a communication with the Lower Saint Lawrence, and thus an inland navigation is opened through the whole extent of that river, which, added to the Lakes, gives a line of navigable waters extending not less than two thousand miles.

The Lake coast, including Lake Michigan and Green Bay, extends nearly four thousand miles, besides there are many navigable rivers falling into the Lakes and the Saint Lawrence, with which a perfect water communication from the City of New York, is formed by opening the Erie and Champlain Canals.

It is curious to observe, that by these artificial water-ways, the continent of America will be divided into great islands.

One, bounded by the Champlain Canal, the Sorel, the Saint Lawrence, the Atlantic, and the Hudson. Another, by the Champlain Canal, Lake Champlain, the Sorel, the Saint Lawrence, Ontario, the Niagara, Lake Erie, and the western Canal. And a third, is bounded by the Hudson, the Erie Canal, the Lakes, the water communication which exists between them at certain seasons, and the waters of the Mississippi, the Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic. A Canal, of not more than one mile and three-quarters, between the Ouisconsin, which falls into the Mississippi, and the Fox River, which empties into Lake Michigan, streams that are now constantly navigated, will form another immense island, that will have Lake Superior for its northern, and the Mississippi for its western boundary.

Indeed, every Canal that may be opened, and make a communication between the waters of the Lakes and of the Mississippi, will form a new subdivision of the continent into islands, with the immeasurable shores of which the city of New York may have commercial intercourse, with more certainty, facility, and advantage, than if they were washed by the sea.

But, supposing no other communication to be completed than that with the Mississippi, which will be formed by the Canal that Ohio is now executing, we shall then have a perfect line of internal navigation, from the city of New York, by the Hudson, the Erie Canal, Lake Erie, the Ohio Canal, the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, and Jefferson Rivers, to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, a distance of nearly five thousand miles; and, with less interruption than there is in the great China Canals. By Lewis River and the Oregon, we shall have an internal navigation from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

From Astoria at the mouth of the Oregon, to China, would, in a steam-boat, on the Pacific ocean, be a passage of some fifteen or twenty days. And thus, will be formed a northwest passage to India, for which Hudson was searching when he discovered the river which bears his name.

It is possible that the route above indicated may be that which will hereafter be pursued by travellers between the western shores of the European, and the Eastern shores of the Asiatic continents. New York, Albany, Utica, Buffalo, Cleveland, and St. Louis, may become post towns on the common high road to India. This route would hardly be half as long as that which is now pursued by sea; and though a journey to China, through our Canals, Lakes, and Rivers, and over the North Pacific, would be longer than the route over the European and Asiatic continents, yet the former could be accomplished with much the greater ease. A person embarking on the Thames, by pursuing always a westerly course, with some deviations to follow the sinuosities of the rivers and Canals, might arrive at China, without setting his fool on land, except to cross the Rocky Mountains, over which we shall, in time, if a Canal be impracticable, have a turnpike road.

The principal navigable rivers, west of the Allegany Mountains, which are tributary to the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri, with which, (supposing the Ohio Canal to be opened,) we shall have an internal water communication, extend more than six thousand miles; and thus, if we take the northern rivers, the shores of the Lakes, the Ohio, the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the other principal tributary rivers above mentioned, we shall have an internal navigation, connected with the city of New York, by the Canals of this State, of more than fifteen thousand miles. If we take into the account the innumerable minor navigable streams, which are branches of the great water-courses above enumerated, and the rivers discharging themselves into the Gulph of Mexico, independently of the Mississippi, such as the Apalachicola, the Alabama, the Tombeckbee, Pearl River, and others, the estimate made by the Assembly, in their answer to the Governor's speech, in eighteen hundred and eighteen, that the internal navigation which would be connected with the Hudson, by the Canals, would amount to forty or fifty thousand miles, will not appear exaggerated.

The Canals of New York and Ohio will make a change in the course of waters on the American continent, which it could hardly have been believed the power of man could have effected. From the summit level of the Champlain Canal, waters, which used to find their way to the Atlantic through the Hudson, will be turned back, and will now mix with the sea in the Straits of Belisle. Streams, on the summit level of the Ohio Canal, which now swell the cataract of Niagara, will be conducted to the Gulph of Mexico, by the channels of the great river.

When we consider that the immense regions surrounding the Lakes, and bounded by the great rivers, water-courses, and Canals, to which we have adverted, are all within the temperate zone, -- that they are all capable of sustaining man; -- that they are populating with astonishing rapidity, -- that the greatest part of the soil is fruitful, and much of it as rich and productive as any on earth, we must be impressed with ideas of the importance of the great works we have accomplished.

Though New York cannot expect to attract more than a part of the commerce of these vast countries, yet till other communications are opened between the west and the east, a large portion of it will be drawn to her great market. New channels may divert some of the trade of the west from New York, but her position on the confines of the sea, at a point nearer to the Lakes than any other on the whole American coast; -- her beautiful, spacious, and secure harbour, -- her constantly uninterrupted navigation, to the ocean, -- and her healthful climate, are advantages which are combined at no other spot in the United States. New York must largely share in the fur trade of the north, for which so much human blood has been shed. The water communications between Hudson's Bay and the Mississippi, and Lake Superior, are almost perfect. The inhabitants of the shores of all the great Lakes will find their natural market at the mouth of the Hudson: the upper Mississippi, the Ohio, and all their tributary streams, will send produce, and receive returns from this mercantile emporium. When the boundless regions of the Missouri are populated, and the fruits of their cultivation are deposited at Saint Louis, there are many circumstances which will induce a transportation of a part of them, at least, to this metropolis, through the Ohio and New York Canals.

Although all these anticipations should not be realised, yet we may be sure that, before the close of the present century, New York, which, at the conclusion of the revolutionary war, contained less than twenty-five thousand inhabitants, and now has one hundred and seventy thousand, will be one of the greatest commercial cities in the world.

I am aware that these estimates of the effects of our Canals will appear to be exaggerated or enthusiastic. Possibly they may be so. The occasion does not require accurate measurements and precise calculations of distances. If there be error in any of those which have been presented, they may be corrected by reference to a map of the United States, from a view of which they are made. As to the future advantages of the water communications, the opening of which we are about to celebrate, we may be permitted to mix our hopes and wishes and the feelings of the moment with our speculations. Were this a work that would ever be resorted to for practical information, it would be necessary to employ time, not now allowed, for mature reflection, and it would be proper to subdue the excitement which success in so great an enterprise must, for a time, create in any breast not preternaturally cold.

It has been said that we Americans, not content with the consideration to which our actual condition entitles us, indulge a boastful disposition in anticipations of future greatness. If this be so, it is at least as pardonable as the weakness of those who pride themselves on the greatness of their ancestors. Our former predictions, however extravagant they may have appeared, have been more than realised. Around us every object is new, youthful, and vigorous: it is natural that we should indulge and express hopes of continued prosperity, and of a rich and powerful maturity. Did we live amidst ruins, which mark former greatness; -- were we always presented with scenes indicating present decay, and forboding constant deterioration, we might be as little inclined as others to look forward. But we delight in the promised sunshine of the future, and leave to those who are conscious that they have passed their grand climacteric, to console themselves with the splendor of the past.

After the views we have taken of the advantages which will result from the Canals, it seems almost unnecessary to descend to estimates of their costs, and of what will be their money produce to the treasury of the State. But something on this topic will be expected.

The Canals not having been completed when the commissioners made their last report, there are not now documents before the public which will shew precisely what has been the cost of these works. There are, however, data which will enable us to ascertain the amount very nearly.

In the annual report of the commissioners of the Canal Fund, made in eighteen hundred and twenty-five, they state that all the monies paid for the Canals, up to the first of January, of that year, after deducting the tolls received, amounted to eight millions eight hundred and twenty-nine thousand and fifty-dollars. We find that the tolls received to the last mentioned date amounted to four hundred and ninety-one thousand four hundred and fifteen dollars; and, according to the last report of the Canal commissioners, it then required to complete the Canals, and to satisfy all claims for damages, eight hundred thousand dollars. These sums added together amount to ten millions one hundred and twenty thousand, four hundred and sixty-five dollars, which may be taken as the whole amount which has been disbursed on account of the Canals.

The Erie Canal is three hundred and sixty three miles in length, and, on the Champlain route there are eighteen miles of Canal. The extent, therefore, of canalling is three hundred and eighty-one miles, which gives an average of twenty-six thousand two hundred and forty-one dollars a mile. [Errata: The extent of the improved navigation on the Hudson and on Wood Creek is not given correctly; there are only eight miles of river navigation on the Hudson, and five miles on the Wood Creek. The eight miles on the Hudson will be passed the next season by a Canal which is now constructing. The whole communication between Lake Champlain and the Hudson will then be by Canal, except the five miles on Wood Creek, so that the extent of the Canals is four hundred and twenty-two miles, -- that is to say, the Erie Canal is three hundred and sixty-three miles and the Champlain Canal, independent of the five miles on Wood Creek, is fifty-nine miles in length.]

But there are, connected with the Champlain Canal, forty-six miles of improved navigation in the Hudson, and in Wood Creek. The expence of these improvements has been very great: so that, in estimating the cost of the Canals per mile, these forty-six miles ought to be taken into the calculation. This makes the whole length four hundred and twenty-seven miles, and the cost, per mile, twenty-three thousand four hundred and twenty dollars.

But, it must be recollected, that when the question is, how much the Canals have actually cost the State, they must have credit for the amount of the tolls they have yielded.

The last mentioned report of the Canal commissioners states, that from the opening of the navigation in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty-four, till it was closed by the winter, late in December, of the same year, although only two hundred and eighty miles of the Erie Canal were navigable, and "although the regions west of Buffalo, had hardly begun to pay their contribution to the western Canal," amounted to three hundred and fifty thousand, seven hundred and sixty-one dollars. The commissioners calculate that the tolls, for the present year, will amount to five hundred thousand dollars; and that for the nine years succeeding January eighteen hundred and twenty-six, they will increase an average of seventy-five thousand dollars a year. That the tolls, with the revenue pledged by the Constitution of the State, adopted in eighteen hundred and twenty-two, to the Canal Fund, till the Canal debt be extinguished, will in ten years, besides meeting all necessary expences for repairs and superintendence pay off the whole of the Canal debt which, it is estimated, will on the first of January next, when the Canals will be entirely completed, amount to seven millions, six hundred and ninety-three thousand, seven hundred dollars; and will, at the expiration of the period last mentioned, leave the State in the receipt of a clear, unincumbered revenue, from the Canal Fund, of more than a million and a half of dollars.

But when the Canal debt is paid, the salt tax, and the State duties on sales at auction may be, and the former probably will be, repealed. The steam-boat tax, it is presumed, cannot, or will not, be collected. If, then, we deduct, after January, eighteen hundred and thirty-six, from the proceeds of the Canal Fund, four hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, for these objects (they now amount only to three hundred and fifty thousand dollars) and make a further deduction of one hundred thousand dollars for repairs, collection, and superintendence; the State will then have a nett revenue, arising from the Canals, free of all charges, of one million of dollars, which is more than equal to four times the ordinary annual expences of her government.

So that if the expectations of the Canal commissioners, as to the tolls be realised, and the financial scheme they have proposed, or any other as effectual be adopted, and firmly and faithfully pursued, this State will, after the expiration of ten years, exhibit to the world the novel spectacle of a community of between two and three millions of people, (for our population will be at least as extensive in ten years), not only maintaining their Government, without taxes, but deriving a large surplus revenue from property of the State.

We shall, it is true, be still liable to pay the imposts which the General Government may think proper to impose, on such foreign goods as we may choose to consume; but the independent farmer, who raises on his own lands, and manufactures all that he eats, drinks, wears, and uses, may live, without paying to the State or to the national Government, any kind of tax, either direct or indirect.

It is worthy of remark, that in the eight years, during which the State of New York has been expending between nine and ten millions in the construction of her Canals, there have been collected, for duties of impost and tonnage, at the Custom-house, in the city of New York, and paid into the treasury of the United States, more than sixty-four millions of dollars; besides other monies collected at the Custom-houses of the United States in other parts of the State, the amount of which there is now no opportunity to ascertain.

Within the period just mentioned, more than nine millions of dollars have been raised in the State, and applied to the support of common schools; besides, very large sums have been bestowed on colleges, and for the promotion of science and literature.

The commissioners say, that their calculations, as to the receipt of tolls for the time to come, have been estimated so much within the probable proceeds, that they presume no contingency can take place, which will reduce the aggregate amount of the Canal Fund, at the end of ten years, below the sum specified. There is the more confidence due to their estimates, because, it is certainly true, as they remark, that hitherto their anticipations, in reference to the receipt of tolls, have uniformly fallen short of the reality. They add, that they have no doubt but that the same fate awaits the calculations which are presented in the report to which we now refer, and they express a confidence that the Canal tolls are destined to a much more rapid increase than the commissioners have made the basis of their calculations as to the extinguishment of the debt. They suppose, that there is now within the sphere of the operation of the Erie Canal alone, a population of one million of inhabitants; and that, that population will continue to increase at a ratio, which will double it in ten years; that the tolls will be annually augmented in proportion to the increase of the population. Then, in the year eighteen hundred and forty-six, the Erie Canal will, of itself, produce a revenue of two millions of dollars; and, in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-six, four millions of dollars.

The anticipations of the Canal commissioners, as to the time in which the Canal debt may be paid off, are supported by the Report of the commissioners of the Canal Fund, and by a Report of a joint committee of the Senate and Assembly on Canals, to which the Reports of both these Boards were referred.

The Committee, in their Report say, "that the productiveness of the Canals is established, and the income derivable from them far beyond the anticipations of the most sanguine. The Canals will pay for themselves, as the committee believe, in a shorter period of time, than estimated by the commissioners of the Canal Fund, in their highly interesting and valuable Report, made to the Legislature, at the present Session."

What will be the augmentation of revenue from the Erie Canal, now that it entirely opened, and becomes the high road for the commerce of the shores of the Lakes, and of the rivers of the north and west, it is impossible to predict.

Hitherto, persons using the western Canal have been almost entirely inhabitants of our own State, living near it. But, no doubt, as, the commissioners say, the time will arrive, within fifty years, when the number of the people of this State, who will use the Canal, will form but an inconsiderable fraction of the whole number whose property will float upon it; when nine-tenths of the produce and merchandize transported upon the western Canal, will pay tool for the whole length of the line.

It seems certain that, in a short time, the receipts of toll will be limited by nothing but the capacity of the Canals to admit the passage of boats. Ten thousand boats passed at the junction locks the last season, which is at the rate of about forty a day, for two hundred and fifty days, during which time we may calculate that the Canal, in ordinary seasons, will be free from ice.

One hundred and twenty-boats are probably as many as can be passed through the locks in twenty-four hours. Though a single boat may be passed in less than twelve minutes, yet there would be so many circumstances to create the delay, when boats come to be continually passing, night and day, that ten or twelve minutes is as little as should be allowed for the passage of each boat.

In the course of a few years after the Ohio Canal is opened, more boats will be struggling for a passage than can get through without great delay. Double locks, at least at the junction, and a Canal on the north side of the Mohawk River, which is already in contemplation, must be made.

These anticipations, as to the condition of the State, in eighteen hundred and thirty-six, -- in regard to the debt, -- and as to the revenue the Canals will produce, are founded on the supposition that no new debts are created for similar or other purposes.

The faith of the State as to the revenue pledged by the Constitution to the Canal Fund, and as to the tolls of the Canals now completed, should, and no doubt will, be held sacred to the extinguishment of the debt created for the construction of these Canals; but it does not follow that the large surplus revenue the State will receive, after the present Canal debt is paid, may not be regarded as the basis of a new credit, on which to raise monies to be applied to further internal improvements, which, though they may not yield as large a revenue as the existing Canals, will be of great advantage to large portions of our population, who, till other communications be opened, will feel no other benefit from what has been done, than that they share in the general prosperity.

It is the duty of a Government to distribute its favors as equally as possible. Canals should be made "to pass through every vale, and wind round every hill," if it can be done with a due regard to the present and future resources of the State.

No maxim in political economy is so dangerous as that a public debt is a public blessing. When we reflect that the debts of the European Governments, which doom most of them to an eternal bankruptcy, have been created to support wars, that determined nothing but who should be the people's masters, and impose upon them, new burthens, it is not wonderful that such a precept should be odious. It could only have been adopted where Governments require other support than the affections of their subjects.

But, if it would not be as pernicious, it would, at least, be unwise, and unjust, to maintain that Government should contract no debt, however beneficial the object may be for the present, or in relation to the future.

Had this State been, and were she always to be, governed by such a determination, the great works from which we, and our most remote descendants will derive such incalculable advantages, would not have been, and could never be, executed. In truth, there seems no reason of policy or justice that ought to restrain a government from referring to posterity the payment of some portion of a debt, created more for their benefit than for that of the existing generation; particularly when those of future times will have augmented means, arising not only from the object itself, for which the debt was incurred, but from increased population. For example: to pay the Canal debt, at this moment, would require from each citizen of the State, about five dollars. Supposing our population to double, in eighteen years, it would require, from each citizen, a contribution of only two dollars and a half, to pay the debt at the expiration of that time. This is supposing that the Canals will yield only enough to pay the interest of the money borrowed on their account. But we have seen that they will do a great deal more.

These reflections are not made so much in reference to the Canals already completed, as with a view to the great number of internal improvements which we see, by the public papers, are contemplated.

We have yet to consider the Canals in more interesting and important relations. They are intimately connected with our social and political institutions.

The important act of eighteen hundred and seventeen, which established the Canal Fund, constituted a board of commissioners to manage it, and authorised the Canal commissioners to commence the Canals, is prefaced by a declaration of the Legislature, which is an evidence that they did not engage in these important works, without correct and enlarged views of the advantages that would result from their completion. In the preamble to the above-mentioned Act, it is said, that "navigable communications between Lakes Erie and Champlain, by means of Canals connected with the Hudson, will promote agriculture and commerce, mitigate the calamities of war, and enhance the blessings of peace, -- consolidate the union, advance the prosperity and elevate the character of the United States."

Already have these anticipations been raised. The money spent in the construction of the Canals has enriched the inhabitants of the great portions of the State through which they pass.

But their permanent influence on agriculture is much more important. The difference between what would have been the price of transporting a ton of wheat to the New York market before the Canals were made, and what it costs now, all goes to the profit of the agriculturist. The farmer of Le Roy, in Genesee county, who in eighteen hundred and nineteen, sold his wheat at thirty cents a bushel, now obtains a dollar, there, for the same quantity.

There are too, many products of the soil, which, unless they can be cheaply transported, are of no true value; but now, that the Canals are open, the distance from market may be almost computed by the distance from the Canal, or the distance from the water communications with it: so that the farmer at Cleveland, or Detroit, as to all beneficial purposes, is as near to the city of New York, as an inhabitant of Otsego county was four years ago.

It is, for this reason, that farms near the Canal lines, have not as yet increased in price, as it was expected they would do. Owners of these lands have been selling them for less than it was thought they would at this time have commanded, because they found that for what they could obtain for an acre on the Canal, they could purchase five or six acres equally good in Ohio, the Michigan territory, or further west; and that the price at home of the produce of the one, would be nearly equal to the price of the produce of the other, because the difference of the cost of transportation to market would be inconsiderable.

There is no fact that can more forcibly illustrate the advantages of Canal navigation to the agriculture of a country, that that which is related of the effects of the Canals in Ireland, although they are on so limited a scale. To insure a competent supply of corn for the consumption of the city of Dublin, the Government paid, before the inland navigation to that city was opened, a bounty of one hundred thousand pounds Irish, for the transportation of corn to that capital; "but, in place of this being the case, that city has now become one of the first corn ports of Europe; and Ireland, in general, which half a century ago imported corn to half a million per annum, has now a surplus produce in that article to the value of four millions of pounds sterling, per annum."

The author of the article on inland navigation, in the Edinburgh Encyclopœdia, seems to impute this astonishing change in the condition of Ireland, to the improvement of her internal water communications. Possibly it is owing to the same cause that Ireland has of late been able to supply us with cargoes of potatoes. Probably we shall soon have it in our power to return the favor by sending her some from the county of Niagara or Green Bay. A cargo of bricks for building, from Antwerp, which is now landing on our wharves, we hope is among the last that will be brought to us across the Atlantic. Our supply of this article will undoubtedly be increased from the Canal countries, where, on account of the abundance of fuel, it can be manufactured at, comparatively, little cost. Besides, the use of bricks will, in some measure, be, superseded by marble, of which there are such quantities and varieties on the Canals, and of which, already, so many private as well as public buildings are erected in our city.

As an additional evidence of the advantages that Canals will be to agriculture, and at the same time to shew that their produce will be beyond any thing that was anticipated in their origin, because, they will be used for purposes not then contemplated, the commissioners mention, in one of their reports, that leached ashes, for manure, were transported from Fort Edward, on the Champlain Canal, to Long Island. The distance is nearly two hundred miles.

The public papers apprize us, that there will arrive to-morrow, with the first Canal boat, a vessel called Noah's Ark, from the yet unbuilt city of Ararat, which is to arise on an island, near the western termination of the Canal. She will bring, it is said, to our metropolis, to gratify the curiosity of its inhabitants, specimens of all manner of living things, to be found in the forests that surround the Falls of Niagara.

The Canals have been more used, by travellers, than was anticipated. There are, upon the western Canal, a great number of boats, elegantly fitted up, which are entirely employed in carrying passengers. They travel at the rate of four miles an hour, a speed which the law, to prevent injury to the banks of the Canals, doe not allow them to exceed.

The fare is four cents a mile, for which excellent provisions and comfortable lodgings are provided on board the boats. The price of a passage from New York to Albany, one hundred and fifty miles, in the best steam packets, is four dollars: in other steam boats it is less, and in the steam tow-boats, as low as one dollar. So that a person may travel from New York to Buffalo, with the utmost comfort, and without fatigue, for about eighteen dollars. Indeed, for much less, if he chooses to take the inferior steam boats on the river, and the freight boats, on the Canal, which carry passengers at a lower rate than the passage boats. This journey, of five hundred and thirteen miles, may be accomplished, by steam boats and Canal boats, in six days.

Great complaints are made of the lowness of the bridges which cross the Canal, and which, to accommodate the inhabitants whose farms are frequently divided by it, are very numerous, and oblige passengers to leave the deck as often as they occur. But, it must be recollected, that the object of these Canals was not to accommodate passengers: they were not necessary for this purpose, when we have turnpike roads over which a person may travel; with much greater speed, than can be permitted on the Canals. They were intended for the transportation of freight and merchandize. The bridges could not be made higher without much further expence, and great inconvenience to the farmers, for whose accommodation they were designed. On the other hand, bridges, not permanent, would subject the boats to great interruption and delay. When the Canals are as much occupied by freight boats, as unquestionably they will be in a very short time, they must be abandoned by all travellers, except those of mere curiosity. The interruptions in passing the locks, when the Canals are full of boats, will be so great, that those who wish to travel, with any expedition will prefer another mode of conveyance.

There are some manufactures which the traveller may observe near the Canals, which, though apparently of no great consequence, yet are so new and ingenious, as not to be undeserving of notice.

The city of New York, and, indeed, most parts of the State, are now supplied with pails and tubs, and wooden ware of that description, made by turning lathes, and other machinery, moved by water. In our neighbouring county of West Chester, there are fields, enclosed by fences curiously put together, in pannels, on the borders of our artificial rivers, and, after being transported several hundred miles, were purchased for much less than any other fence, equally good, could be made for, near where they are used.

Those who apprehended that the Canals would be injurious to the farmers living near the city, and making no use of them, and who supposed that the value of the produce of the southern counties would be depreciated by supplies which would, by means of the Canals, be brought cheaply to the market from a distance, find that their fears, in these respects, were groundless. The increase of the population of the city, keeps pace with the increase of supplies. There is already another New York grown up from that which existed before the Canals were commenced, and the demand for the provisions of the southern farmers is as great as it was when they had the monopoly of the market. At the same time the money they receive is increased in value by the diminution of the price of labor, and of commodities. The wives and daughters of Delaware county, will sell their butter and cheese for as much as they could have obtained if there were no Canals, and will buy American cottons, their ribbands and gowns, at a less price; while their husbands and fathers will find the expences of cultivation diminished.

The vast quarries of marble, and beds of gypsum, -- the inexhaustible mines of iron ore, and the immeasurable forests, which are contiguous to the Canals, indicate how advantageous they would be, even if their effects were confined to our own State; but when we see the connections they will form with boundless fields producing raw materials, and with markets, the human mind is hardly capable of comprehending the extent to which they will promote agriculture, manufactures, and commerce.

We see, with astonishment, the progress already made in populating regions which only yesterday, it may be said were uninhabited. Already the whole Canal line is occupied. Almost at every turn in its course the traveller will find a village presented to his view, about which every thing indicates, by the newness of its appearance, that it is but the growth of a few months. He will frequently see, on the borders of the Canal, a large excavation for a basin, intended for the port of a town, which he will perceive by the scale on which the streets are laid out, by the preparations for public buildings, and private stores, and warehouses, is considered as the foundation of a great city, the founders of which may fancy that they, or their posterity, will date "ab urbi condita," though the scite is still overshadowed by the forests, which there has not been time to clear from the back grounds. It is indeed curious to observe, in some places, houses of no mean appearance, erecting and marking the lines of spacious streets, from which the stumps of the trees, on which the timber employed in the buildings may have grown, are not eradicated.

The founders of these nascent cities, anticipate that the spot they have selected, has advantages which will insure it a growth and prosperity equal to other places whose origin is similar: Utica, Rochester, and Buffalo, now of importance, and commanding a great trade, were but a few years ago as new as any of those which are starting with a hope to rival the elder offspring of the Canals.

The effects that facilitating communications will have on the social habits and feelings of our citizens, is not one of the least advantages we shall derive from these works. Formerly the inhabitants of our sea-board, and of our northern and western territory, were almost strangers to each other. We thought, and spoke of the borders of the Lakes as of some distant territory, a journey to which was not so often made, as a voyage across the Atlantic. But the great commercial relations, which at present exist between every part of the State, oblige our citizens to have frequent personal intercourse; and, out of this, grow kindly sentiments, that never can exist between those who have no common interest, and have no intimacy. Now, a citizen of New York thinks much less of a journey to Buffalo, than he did formerly of going to Albany; and persons who never would have known each other, daily mix in our familiar circles, with mutual good feelings.

All the great and wise men who have been concerned in projecting and executing these works, and others, of a similar nature, have made the important effects, which the improvements of the means of internal intercourse would have on our political institutions, a theme of their writings. We have seen with what zeal Washington devoted himself to forming water communications between the west and the south, with a view to their political effects; -- the territory we now possess, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific; from Key West to the Saint Croix, more than twenty-six degrees of latitude, and embracing two millions of square miles, could not have been retained under one Government, if we had no other means of water communication than existed twenty years ago. Natural barriers must have divided us into as many distinct Governments, as there would have been distinct interests. Why should the trans-Allegany States have remained united with those on the Atlantic, when the mountains rendered all profitable intercourse between them impracticable? Nay! the different sections of our own State were becoming estranged from each other: we may all remember when a division of this State was the subject of familiar conversation. The Saint Lawrence was the high road to the only market the inhabitants of our western territory could reach; and Montreal, if not under her present form of Government, under some other, would soon have been to them, what New York now is.

But the establishment of steam navigation, and the opening of Canals, have not only consolidated the interests of our own State, but indissolubly united every part of the Union. It is impossible to dwell on this part of the subject, without repeating language which has been used by those who have been the advocates of the Canals. Governor Clinton, in his speech, at the opening of the Session, in eighteen hundred and nineteen, presents the subject to the Legislature in the following eloquent words. "In the United States our liberty and our Union are inseparably connected; a dismemberment of the Republic into separate confederacies would necessarily produce the jealous circumspection, and hostile preparations, of bordering States: large standing armies would be immediately raised, -- increasing and vindictive wars would follow, -- and a military despotism would reign triumphant on the ruins of civil liberty; a dissolution of the Union may, therefore, be considered as the natural death of our free Government, and to avert this awful calamity, all local prejudices and geographical distinctions should be discarded. The people should be habituated to frequent intercourse and beneficial intercommunication, and the whole Republic ought to be bound together by the golden ties of commerce, and the adamantine chains of interest.

"When the western Canal is finished, and a communication is formed between Lake Michigan and Illinois River, or between the Ohio and the waters of Lake Erie, the greater part of the United States will form one vast island, susceptible of circumnavigation, to the extent of many thousand miles. The most distant parts of the confederacy will then be in a state of approximation, and the distinction of eastern and western, and southern and northern interests, will be entirely prostrated. To be instrumental in producing so much good, by increasing the stock of human happiness -- by establishing the perpetuity of free government, -- and by extending the empire of improvement, of knowledge, of refinement, and of religion, is an ambition worthy of a free people. The most exalted reputation is that which arises from the dispensation of happiness to our fellow creatures; and that conduct is most acceptable to God, which is most beneficial to man. Character is as important to States, as to individuals, and the glory of a Republic, founded on the promotion of the general good is the common property of all its citizens."

Among those who have written on this subject, no one appears more clearly to have seen, or more forcibly to have urged the advantages of navigable communications in relation to our Government and Union, than the late Robert Fulton.

When Mr. Gallatin was about forming the Report before mentioned, which he made to Congress, in eighteen hundred and eight, he addressed one of the circulars, by which he sought information, to Mr. Fulton, who, after having enumerated, in his answer, the economical advantages of roads and Canals, says, "numerous have been the speculations on the duration of our Union, and intrigues have been practised to sever the western from the eastern States. The opinion endeavoured to be inculcated was, that the inhabitants beyond the mountains were cut off from the market of the Atlantic States; that, consequently, they had a separate interest, and should use their resources to open a communication of their own; that remote from the seat of Government, they could not enjoy their portion of advantages arising from the Union, and that sooner or later they must separate, and govern for themselves.

"Others, by drawing their examples from European governments, and the monarchies which have grown out of the feudal habits of nations of warriors, whose minds were bent to the absolute power of the few, and the servile obedience of the many, have conceived these states of too great an extent to continue united under a republican form of government; and that the time is not distant when they will divide into little kingdoms, retrograding from common sense to ignorance, adopting all the follies and barbarities which are every day practised in the kingdoms and petty states of Europe.

"But those who have reasoned in this way, have not reflected that men are the creatures of habit, and that their habits, as well as their interests, may be so combined as to make it impossible to separate them without falling back into a state of barbarism.

"Although in ancient times, some specks of civilization have been effaced by hordes of uncultivated men, yet it is remarkable, that since the invention of printing and the general diffusion of knowledge, no nation has retrograded in science or improvements; nor it is reasonable to suppose that Americans, who have as much, if not more information in general, than any other people, will ever abandon an advantage which they have once gained.

"England, which was at one time seven petty kingdoms, has by long habit been united into one. Scotland, by succession, became united to England, and is now bound to her by habit, by turnpike roads, canals, and reciprocal interests.

"In like manner, all the countries of England, or departments of France, are bound to each other; and when the United States shall be bound together by Canals, by cheap and easy access to a market in all directions, by a sense of mutual interests arising from mutual intercourse and mingled commerce, it will be no more possible to split them into independent and separate governments, each lining its frontiers with fortifications and troops, to shackle their own exports and imports to and from the neighbouring States, than it is now possible for the Government of England to divide, and form again into seven kingdoms. But it is necessary to bind the states together by the people's interests, one of which is to enable every man to sell the produce of his labor at the best market, and purchase at the cheapest. This accords with the idea of Hume, "that the Government of a wise people would be little more than a system of civil police: for the best interest of man is industry and a free exchange of the produce of his labor, for the things which he may require.

"On this humane principle, what stronger bonds of union can be invented, than those which enable each individual to transport the produce of his industry, twelve hundred miles, for sixty cents the hundred weight? Here then, is a certain method of securing the union of the States, and of rendering it as lasting as the continent we inhabit."

At the conclusion of a work on Canals, which Mr. Fulton published in England, in seventeen hundred and ninety-six, he subjoins a letter addressed by him, at that time, to the Governor of Pennsylvania (Thomas Mifflin, Esq.) in which he urges that State to open Canal communications from the Lakes to the Atlantic waters. In this, he says, "I hope I shall see the time when Canals will pass through every vale, wind round each hill, and bind the whole country together in bonds of social intercourse."

Had this philanthropic, patriotic, and enlightened citizen been spared but a few years, his anticipations, in part, at least, would have been realised. The Erie, Champlain, and Ohio Canals, are but the commencement of a system, the progress of which nothing can arrest. In our own State the Lacawaxen Canal, from the head waters of the Delaware, to the Hudson, is nearly completed, a Canal from Oswego, on Lake Ontario, to the Erie Canal, and a Canal to make more perfect communications between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, and the Erie Canal, are in great forwardness.

At the last Session of the Legislature, a law was passed, authorising surveys, for seventeen Canals, in different parts of the State.

The Legislature had a just estimate of the work in which they are about to engage, when, in the preamble of their act of eighteen hundred and seventeen, they said the completion of these enterprises will elevate the character of the United States. It must do so, when it is considered, that the New York Canals have been executed by a single Member of the Union, which, less that fifty years ago, was a Colony, with a population not exceeding two hundred thousand; that of that time eight years have been passed in struggles for independence, and three years in a war to which she was a party with the most powerful nation on earth.

But, whatever may be thought abroad, we cannot but have a just pride in the execution of works, which are not surpassed. Posterity will look back to those who transmitted these blessings, with admiration and veneration. The fourth of November, eighteen hundred and twenty-five, when we shall for the first time, have in our harbour boats from Lake Erie, will ever live in the memories of a grateful people; and the splendor with which that event will be celebrated by the City of New York, will be remembered, as an evidence of the patriotism and liberality of her citizens and magistrates.



The learned writer of the preceding Memoir has, probably through delicacy, made two omissions which the Committee deem it their duty to supply.

In page eleven of the Memoir, a reference is made to a Report, submitted as early as the year seventeen hundred and twenty-four, to the Colonial Governor, by the then Surveyor General of the Province of New York . In the next page, the author of the Report to Governor Burnet, is designated as the Historian of the Five Indian Nations. And in page twenty-eight he is again referred to as the Surveyor General of the Province, &c. His name, however, is no where mentioned in the Memoir.

The Report alluded to is a most able document. It is entitled "A Memorial concerning the Fur-trade of the Province of New York, presented to his Excellency William Burnet, Esq. Captain General and Governor, &c. by CADWALLADER COLDEN, Surveyor General of the said Province, the tenth of November, seventeen hundred and twenty-four."

In this Report the author not only describes the water-courses and portages between this and Canada, and those between us and the great western Lakes, with wonderful accuracy, but presents, in the clearest manner, the immense facilities which these water communications are susceptible of affording to our internal trade. He also carries his views beyond the Lakes to the Mississippi, and after stating that "many of the branches of that river come so near to the branches of the rivers which empty themselves into the great Lakes, that in several places there is but a short land carriage from the one to the other;" he concludes with the following emphatic observation:-- "If one considers the length of this river (the Mississippi), and its numerous branches, he must say, that by means of this river and the Lakes, there is opened to his view such a scene of inland navigation as cannot be paralleled in any other part of the world ."

The report will be found at length in his History of the Five Indian Nations, printed in London, in seventeen hundred and forty-seven. A map is attached to the work, shewing the Lakes, the proximity of many of the important water-streams to them, and the portages or carrying places.

Mr. Colden was the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of New York for many years, and the administration of the Government repeatedly devolved upon him, by the death or absence of several Governors in Chief. He was a man of great ability and probity, and maintained a literary and philosophical correspondence with Linnæus, Dr. Franklin, Gronovius, Dr. Pottersfield, Dr. Whittle of Edinburgh, Mr. Peter Collison, F.R.S. of London, and other distinguished men of the age. His life will be found in Dr. Rees' Cyclopœdia, Phil. Ed. Vol. IX.

The writer of the Memoir, who is the grandson of Governor Colden, has, perhaps, with propriety, omitted to introduce his own name. The work, however, which he has prepared at the request of the Committee of the Corporation, shews his high estimate of the Canal policy.

It is, nevertheless, due to him to state, that he was one of a Committee who, in eighteen hundred and fifteen, was appointed by a Meeting of citizens, in the City of New York, to draw a Memorial to the Legislature in favor of the contemplated western and northern Canals. In eighteen hundred and eighteen Mr. Colden was elected one of the Vice Presidents of the "New York Corresponding Association for the Promotion of Internal Improvements."

In the same year, eighteen hundred and eighteen, he represented the City of New York in the Assembly of the State, and drafted the answer to the speech of Governor Clinton; a part of that answer is contained in the Memoir, pages fifty-one--fifty-three, and shows the then views of Mr. Colden on the great work, the completion of which we have lately celebrated.

In eighteen hundred and twenty-four Mr. Colden was elected a Member of the Senate, from the first Senatorial District, and in that public station, which he yet fills, he has lost no opportunity to advance the cause of internal improvements. In eighteen hundred and twenty-five he was chosen one of a joint Committee of the Senate and Assembly, and assisted to compile that invaluable collection of official documents, consisting of two octavo volumes, entitled "Laws of the State of New York in relation to the Erie and Champlain Canals, together with the Annual Reports of the Canal Commissioners, and other Documents requisite for a Complete Official History of those Works; also correct Maps, delineating the Routes of the Erie and Champlain Canals, and designating the lands through which they pass." This collection is referred to in the Memoir, pages fifty-eight and fifty-nine. The Committee conclude by remarking, that Mr. Colden, as a private citizen, and in his official station, has, throughout, shewn himself the zealous and constant friend of every measure which was calculated to open to us that vast "inland navigation" which his grandfather, more than a century ago, so ably described.

} Committee of the Corporation of the
City of New York.


November 7th, 1825.

His Honor, the Mayor, submitted to the Common Council the Memoir of the Honorable Cadwallader D. Colden,


That the thanks of the Board be presented to Mr. Colden, for the ability and impartiality with which he has prepared a Memoir on the subject of our Canals, at the request of the Common Council, and for the use of the Corporation.

And to mark the estimation of the Board for his able and laborious research,

              IT IS ORDERED,

That this Resolution be printed with the Memoir, and be elegantly engrossed and splendidly framed, and presented to him in the name of the Common Council; and, as a further testimony of the respect, that the Committee transmit to Mr. Colden, in behalf of this Board, A MEDAL, of the highest Class, which shall be struck to commemorate the completion of the GREAT STATE WORK, which unites our Lakes with the Ocean.


J. MORTON, Clerk.

Originally transcribed from the original text and HTML prepared by Bill Carr, 5/21/99. Edited by Frank E. Sadowski Jr., 2/28/2014.

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