On the fourth day of July, 1817, with much ceremony, the construction of the Erie Canal was commenced at Rome, on that summit which divides the waters that find their way on the one side by the St. Lawrence and on the other by the Hudson to the ocean.

On the 26th day of October, 1825, the completion of the canal was celebrated. In the short period of eight years and about four months the mighty work of connecting the great lakes with the ocean by a safe and convenient navigation had been accomplished. The high officers of the State, accompanied by many of the leading friends of the canals, embarked on its waters for the ocean amid the roars of artillery that carried the glad tidings from gun to gun, from the shores of the lake to the walls of Fort La Fayette in New York Harbor. Such a salute of artillery, formed in a battery five hundred miles long, the world had never heard before -- and never before had there been such an occasion. It was to celebrate one of those victories of peace that all men saw must determine and make certain the future glories of this new nation.

On the decks of the flotilla that then took its departure from Lake Erie stood men who had first taught the public and educated it up to the courage that had dared the enterprise; -- men who had suffered obloquy and contempt as the wildest of visionaries; -- men who had been reviled and had all manner of evil spoken of them for having led the State to undertake a project so vast that it was said of it that the utmost energies of the mightiest empire would only be sufficient for its accomplishment.

Prominent among these men was De Witt Clinton -- who more than any other man had staked everything on the success of the canal -- who had suffered more in abuse -- who had devoted more unpaid time -- who had spent more of his own money than any other man -- now Governor of the leading State of this mighty nation, surrounded by a people who were proud to do him honor, who appreciated the victory that his statesmanship had at last won over all gainsayers, and felt that henceforth his fame was secure.

We who have seen this canal in operation for nearly all of our lives, can hardly appreciate the difficulties that surrounded its early history. The population of the whole state did not at the commencement of the construction of the canal equal that of the city of New York at this day. The wealth of the people was in still smaller proportion to that which now undertakes great works. Engineering as a profession had no existence in the country. Canals the people had never seen. The agricultural interests of the eastern part of the State, where was the greatest population and the seat of political power, greatly feared the competition that the grain-growing capacity of the then far-famed Genesee county would now give them in the cities -- and strange as it now appears, the seaport that the canal was soon to make the commercial center of the world, was most obstinate in its opposition. Political parties took ground in regard to the canal policy of the State, and arrayed the blind ignorance that parties wield against it. Many men that the world called good and wise refused to aid, and in many cases violently opposed it. The great sage of Monticello, when asked to give his assistance, said that it was a hundred years too soon to undertake such an enterprise. The nation, that owned a vast domain, then wild and unsettled, that the canal was to make into powerful States, most positively refused to give the least part of its surplus wealth or of its unsaleable lands, to aid in the work. Single handed the State undertook the enterprise, and through evil and good report, depending on our own citizens for commissioners, engineers and contractors, in an inconceivably short time the work was accomplished, and on the flotilla that started from Buffalo on the 26th day of October, 1825, to mingle the waters of Lake Erie with those of the Atlantic, were borne the men who had successfully consummated the mighty enterprise. The importance of the Erie Canal was not then overrated. Railroads were little known, and would be still far behind their present development among us but that the canal, having first opened the country, made railroads possible and profitable -- and to whatever extent railroads may hereafter be constructed the Erie Canal will still remain the great regulator of the prices of transportation from the west to the east. Remaining the property of the State -- free to the navigation, with equal tolls, of every man's boat, no combination can be made to keep up the prices of transportation, as they might have been kept up, but for the canal owned by the State. Calm and sober reflection, now that we have used the canal, must admit that the rejoicings that attended the voyage of the first boats all the way to the sea were justified by the occasion, and all future ages must award the men who brought this canal into being the high meed of Public Benefactors.

A synopsis of the early history of the canal will be attempted in the following pages.

In 1724, Cadwaller Colden, then Surveyor-General of the Province of New York, in his report to Governor Burnet, after having mentioned the communication into Lake Ontario by the Onondaga river, says: "Besides the passage by the lakes, there is a river which comes from the country of the Senecas, and falls into the Onondaga river, by which we have an easy carriage into the country, without going near Cataraqui (Ontario) Lake. The head of this river goes near the Lake Erie, and probably may give a very near passage into that lake and more advantageous than the way the French are obliged to take by the great falls of the Jagara (Niagara)." (Colden's Memoir, p. 28.)

This is doubtless the first recorded speculation in regard to a water communication between the Mohawk river and Lake Erie across the interior of the country, and avoiding Lake Ontario entirely. It was but the expression of a hope that a more safe, as well as convenient way might be found to the trade of the upper Lakes than that frequented by the French, and made dangerous to the frail boats then employed in the fur trade by the storms of Lake Ontario, and was doubtless abandoned by the Surveyor-General when he had acquired more knowledge of the country. In 1847 he published a history of the Five Nations of Indians, containing a map, on which the Genesee river is quite accurately laid down as running across the country between the Seneca river and Lake Erie; showing that there could be no such line of navigation, using the natural water courses, as in 1724 he hoped might exist. In the report of the Surveyor-General in 1724 is described the portage or carrying place, between the Mohawk and Wood Creek, where the village of Rome now stands. He said the portage was three miles long, except in very dry weather, when goods must be carried two miles further.

Carver, who traversed the lake country one hundred years ago (1766), says that a water passage between the Mohawk and Wood Creek was at that time effected by sluices (Colden, p. 12), and in 1768 Sir Henry Moore, in a message to the Colonial Legislature, proposed to remedy the obstructions to the navigation of the Mohawk, between Schenectady and Fort Stanwix (now Rome), by sluices, like those in the great canal of Languedoc in France. (Colden, p. 18)

Thus it appears that while we were but a colony of Great Britain the subject of improving the natural water courses between the Hudson and the great lakes was a matter that attracted and received the attention of the Government, and as soon as we had secured our national independence the subject was still more vigorously pressed on the public attention.

In 1784, and again in 1785, Christopher Colles, of the city of New York, memorialized the Legislature, and procured an appropriation of one hundred and twenty-five dollars to enable him to examine the Mohawk river, with a view to its improvement (Clark's Onondaga, p. 51, vol. 2), and in 1786 Jeffrey Smith, a member of the Legislature, asked leave to introduce a bill for the improvement of this navigation, and for "extending the same, if practicable, to Lake Erie." (Turner's Holland Purchase, p. 619)

In 1791, Governor George Clinton, in his speech to the Legislature, urged the necessity of improving the natural water channels, so as to facilitate communications with the frontier settlements, and in that year a law was passed to authorize Commissioners of the Land Office to survey the portage at Rome and the Mohawk to the Hudson for improvement by locks, and one hundred pounds were appropriated for the object. (State Engineer's Report, 1862, p. 619)

The survey was made by Abraham Hardenburgh, under the advice of William Weston, an English Engineer. (Clark's Onon., p. 51, vol. 2.) The Commissioners who had charge of the work were Elkanah Watson, General Schuyler and Goldsbrow Banyer. (State Engineer's Report, p. 91)

The Commissioners made a report so favorable that the Legislature on the 30th of March, 1792, passed an act incorporating the "Western Inland Lock Navigation Company," with power to open a lock navigation from the Hudson to Lakes Ontario and Seneca. By the same act the "Northern Inland Lock Navigation Company" was incorporated, with power to make a lock navigation from the Hudson to Lake Champlain. (State Engineer's Report 1862, p. 92)

The capital stock of each of these companies was at first fixed at twenty-five thousand dollars; afterwards the capital of the Western Company was raised to $300,000.

In 1795 the State subscribed ten thousand dollars, and in 1796 loaned $37,500, taking a mortgage on the Little Falls canal and locks -- and the company in 1813 had expended $480,000.

This large expenditure of money proved to be of very little utility. As early as 1776 the navigation was opened from Schenectady to Seneca Lake for boats of sixteen tons burthen, in favorable stages of the water in the rivers -- but the locks being constructed of wood and brick soon failed and had to be rebuilt. The tolls were 52 cents on a barrel of flour for a hundred miles, and for a ton of goods for the same distance $5.72. (State Engineer's Report, p. 93.) The high tolls and other expenses of this navigation were so onerous that land carriage on the poor roads of that day still continued to be the usual mode of communication between the interior and the seaboard.

In 1778 a company was incorporated to make a canal around the falls of Niagara, but nothing was ever done under the law.

The Western Company employed Mr. Weston, the English Engineer to examine the Oswego river, and he reported the "navigation from Oswego Falls to Lake Ontario as hardly susceptible of improvement by means of canalling," and in 1808 the company surrendered to the State all their right to improve this river -- and thus the leading object of the company, connecting the Hudson with Lake Ontario, was formally abandoned.

The history of both the Western and Northern Internal Lock Navigation companies is but a repetition of failures, and a record of disappointed hopes. The friends of internal improvements in the interior and western parts of the State, by the end of the last century, ceased to look to the Western Company as likely to furnish any relief to their over-burthened cost of transportation. The statesmen of that day despaired of any advancement of the population and dignity of the State to be brought about by this abortive enterprise (Hoosack's Memoir, p. 381.

Most naturally discussions in regard to what measures could be adopted to enable the owners of the rich lands of the interior to find their markets, at a reasonable cost, were constant among the public men at the beginning of this century. One of these discussions led to important results. Gouverneur Morris and Simeon DeWitt met in Schenectady in 1803, and passed and evening in a free interchange of views. The means of intercourse with the interior, was an important topic. Mr. Morris "mentioned the project of tapping Lake Erie, as he expressed himself, and leading its waters, in an artificial river, directly across the country to Hudson's River." To this Mr. DeWitt very naturally opposed the intermediate hills and valleys, as insuperable obstacles. Morris's answer was, in substance, labor improbus omnia, vincit, and that the object would justify the labor and expense, whatever it might be. "Considering this as a romantic thing," says Mr. DeWitt, "I related it on several occasions." (DeWitt's Letter, Canal Laws, Vol. 1, p. 39.) Simeon DeWitt had then long been Surveyor General of the State, and was well acquainted with its topography to the west bounds of the Military Tract, but owing to the fact that so much of the State as lies west of that tract was owned in large grants by companies that had made their own surveys, and had their own land offices, he possessed no especial advantages, growing out of his position of knowing anything of the formation of the country west of the military lands; and he very naturally supposed that the rivers ran in deep valleys to Lake Ontario, and that between them were ranges of high hills. He was a man of caution, and dealt in facts, and had little or nothing of the extravagant in his nature. Mr. Morris was a man of an entirely different stamp. He was a projector. He had seen canals in Europe, and knew their utility, and he had seen Lake Erie, and had long entertained the opinion that ships were some time to sail from London by way of the Hudson to this inland sea. In view of the mighty results that would flow from a canal, all obstacles were but trivial in his mind, and hills and valleys, in his ardor, were swept away in the argument by a Latin quotation. As early as 1777, Mr. Morris had publicly expressed his views in regard to internal improvements. "After the evacuation of Ticonderoga, when our scattered forces had been concentrated at Fort Edward, Mr. Morris arrived at General Schuyler's headquarters, on a mission from the Committee of General Safety, of this State." Governor Morgan Lewis (Hoosack, p. 250) describes him as never doubting the ultimate triumph of our arms, and frequently descanting with great energy on what he termed "the rising glories of the Western world," and announcing "that at no distant day the waters of the great Western inland seas would, by the aid of man, break through their barriers and mingle with those of the Hudson." "I recollect asking him," says Governor Lewis, "how they were to break through the barriers. To which he replied, that numerous streams passed them through natural channels, and that artificial ones might be conducted by the same routes."

In 1800 Mr. Morris visited Lake Erie, and in December of that year wrote a letter to his friend John Parish, then of Hamburg, giving an account of his journey (Hosack, p. 257.) Of Niagara River, above the falls, he says: "A quiet gentle stream laves the shores of a country level and fertile. Along the banks of this stream, which, by reason of the islands in it, appears to be of moderate size, we proceed to Fort Erie. Here again the boundless waste of waters fills the mind with renewed astonishment; and here, as in turning a point of wood the lake broke on my view, I saw riding at anchor nine vessels, the least of them 100 tons. Can you bring your imagination to realize this scene? Does it seem like magic? Yet this magic is but the early effort of victorious industry. Hundreds of large ships will in no distant period bound on the billows of those inland seas. At this point commences a navigation of more than a thousand miles. Shall I lead your astonishment to the verge of incredulity? I will. Know, then, that one-tenth of the expense borne by Britain in the last campaign would enable ships to sail from London through Hudson's river to Lake Erie. As yet, my friend, we only crawl along the outer shell of our country. The interior excels the part we inhabit in soil, in climate, in everything. The proudest empire in Europe is but a bauble compared to what America will be, must be, in the course of two centuries, perhaps of one."

This shows how strongly Mr. Morris had at this early day become impressed with the great scheme of uniting Lake Erie with tide-water by a canal.

Among the men to whom Mr. DeWitt related the conversation at Schenectady, setting forth what he called Mr. Morris's "romantic" scheme, was a land surveyor, who had made his home amid the wilds of Central New York. In 1794 he had come from Pennsylvania in boats loaded with kettles for boiling salt; up the Susquehannah river to the Chemung and its branches, to the portage at Bath; then by way of the Crooked and Seneca Lakes, and the rivers to the Salt Springs, where he had made salt and surveyed and cultivated land, until his neighbors had sent him to Albany to legislate for them in the year 1804. Mr. DeWitt had long known this man as one of his most trusted deputy surveyors, and quite naturally told him of the "romantic" scheme of Morris.

This surveyor, James Geddes, says in a letter to Dr. Hosack (1 Hosack, p. 235), "The impression made on my mind was vivid; the saving of so much lockage" (by avoiding the descent to and the ascent from, Lake Ontario), "struck me as a grand desideratum. I had then been ten years in this country, a wilderness at that time but partly penetrated, had a knowledge of the chain of swamps which stretch across the country from Montezuma to the Mohawk river, and readily entertained some idea of the practicability of the project." He says in his letter, dated February, 1822: "The idea of saving so much lockage, by not descending to Lake Ontario, made a lively impression on my mind, by which I was prompted on every occasion to enquire into the practicability of the project" (Canal Laws, vol.1, p. 42.)

Mr. Geddes lived near the center of the State and all his interests were connected with the growth and prosperity of the country in which he had made his home, and untiringly he pressed his investigations as to the character of the surface of the country west of the great chain of swamps. Extensive correspondence was resorted to with land agents, surveyors, and other men who, it was supposed, might be able to give information, and every available map consulted. He did not rest with this; he formed public opinion, and agitated the subject, until in 1807, it had become a theme of so great interest in Onondaga county, that it became the turning point of local politics (see Appendix A.) Judge Joshua Forman, a citizen of that county, was one of those extraordinary men who posses the power of persuading other men to adopt their views and opinions to such an extent that they direct public opinion in the communities in which they live. A graduate of Union College, and a pupil in the study of the law of Samuel Miles Hopkins, he had added to the bountiful gifts of nature the accomplishments of a scholar; to these were joined a singular grace of person and manner. Ardently advocating the canal scheme, he was by common consent selected to go to the Legislature to procure an appropriation of money to make surveys. In politics he was a Federalist, and his county was strongly against that party. To overcome this difficulty, leading Federalists and Democrats came together and formed a "Union ticket" for the Assembly, consisting of John McWhorter (Democrat), and Joshua Forman (Federalist.) To give it strength it was headed "CANAL TICKET" (Clark, vol. 2, p. 72.) Prominent in its support were Doctor William Kirkpatrick, then a Democratic member of Congress and Superintendent of Onondaga Salt Springs, and Thomas Wheeler, of the same side of politics, acting in concert with leading Federalists, including James Geddes and Elisha Alvord, and so strongly was the ticket pressed that, at Salina, Mr. Forman received 110 votes and only two were given against him (Thomas Wheeler's Letter and Ira Gillchre's Personal Communications.") His election was triumphant (see Appendix B.) Thus the leading men of Onondaga laid aside party, and united in sending to the Assembly by far the best man the county had, to do the service then required. The example then set of ignoring party claims was often followed in the many bitter contests that were afterwards encountered. This election was held in April 1807. Six months afterwards, on the 27th day of October, appeared the first number of a series of articles, in the Ontario Messenger, signed "HERCULES," and written by Jesse Hawley, strongly advocating the construction of a canal on the interior route (see Appendix C.)

On the 4th day of July, 1808, Judge Forman, in the Assembly, called up for consideration a joint resolution which he had previously submitted, and which was in the following words: "Resolved (if the honorable the Senate concur herein), That a joint committee be appointed to take into consideration the propriety of exploring and causing and accurate survey to be made of the most eligible and direct route for a canal, to open a communication between the tide waters of the Hudson River and Lake Erie, to the end that Congress may be enabled to appropriate such sums as may be necessary to the accomplishment of that great national object, and in case of such concurrence, that Mr. Gold, Mr. Gilbert, Mr. Forman, Mr. German and Mr. Hogebloom, be a committee on the part of this House." The fruit that this resolution bore, was the canals of the State of New York.

On the 21st day of March, Mr. Gold, from the joint committee, reported the resolution so amended as to order the Surveyor General "to cause an accurate survey to be made of the rivers, streams and waters (not already accurately surveyed), in the usual route of communication between the Hudson River and Lake Erie, and such other contemplated route as he may deem proper, and cause the same to be delineated on charts or maps for that purpose accompanying the same, with the elevations of the route, and such explanatory notes as may be necessary for all useful information in the premises, of which one copy shall be filed in the office of Secretary of this State, and another transmitted to the President of the United States, which the person administering the government of this State is requested to do." The Senate concurred on the 6th of April, and on the 11th of April six hundred dollars were appropriated to enable the Surveyor General to carry out the resolution.

To Judge Forman belongs the credit of procuring this first Legislative action looking to the construction of a canal directly from the Hudson to Lake Erie. He displayed great tact in the management of the matter, and though his resolution was in the first instance received with derision, he made a very able speech, showing that he was fully informed on the subject of canals generally, and sketched the route, "following the valley of the Mohawk to Rome, then the valley of Oneida and Seneca rivers to the head of Mud Creek; from the west from the Niagara up Tonnewanda and down Allen's Creek to the Genesee river" (Hosack, p. 345 -- see Forman's letter there.) He estimated the cost at $10,000,000, which he said was a "bagatelle to the value of such a navigation." The expressions of ridicule with which the proposition was at first received, were no longer heard, but the ground on which some members said they voted for the resolution, was "that it could do no harm, and might do some good."

It will be observed that the resolution, as passed, is unlike the one introduced, in this: Directions are given to survey the usual routes of communication, and only by the words "such other routes as he may deem proper," meeting the object of the mover. The joint committee could not be induced to take the responsibility of so wild a project; they only left a chance of its being examined at the discretion of the Surveyor General. The very small sum appropriated was in itself proof that but little was expected to be done, and that was probably doled out to silence the importunities of the persistent representative of Onondaga.

Such was the reception given by the Legislature to the Erie Canal, when first presented for its consideration.

It had been a part of the plans of the men of Onondaga, that Mr. Geddes should make the surveys, and the Surveyor-General readily appointed him to do the work (Ira Gillchre's and James Geddes' personal communications to author.) On the 11th of June, 1808, the Surveyor General wrote Mr. Geddes, saying, "as the provision made for the expenses of this business is not adequate to the effectual exploring of the country, you will, in the first place, examine what may appear to be the best place for a canal from Oneida Lake to Lake Ontario in the town of Mexico, and take a survey and level of it; -- also whether a canal cannot be made between Oneida Lake and Oswego, by a route in part to the west of the Oswego River, so as to avoid those parts along it where it will be impracticable to make a good navigation. The next object will be the ground between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, which must be examined with a view to determine what will be the most eligible track for a canal, from below the Niagara Falls to Lake Erie. If your means will admit of it, it would be a desirable thing to have a level taken throughout the whole distance between the two Lakes. As Mr. Joseph Ellicott has given me a description of the country from Tonnewanda Creek to the Genesee River, and pointed out a route for a canal through that tract, it is important to have a continuation of it explored to the Seneca River. No leveling or survey of it will be necessary for the present (because the appropriation will probably by this time be expended.) It must be left as a work by itself, to be undertaken hereafter, should the Government deem it necessary. A view of the ground only, with such information as may be obtained from others, is all that can now be required of you."

Mr. Geddes at once commenced his explorations in accordance with these instructions of the Surveyor General, and made careful surveys of both routes proposed from Oneida Lake to Lake Ontario, and then went to the Niagara River, and leveled around the Falls, determining with great accuracy the whole descent in the river.

This whole survey of the Ontario route was not an agreeable work for Mr. Geddes, as his views were all directed to the finding of a line over which a canal could be made that would save the lockage down to Lake Ontario, and then up to the Rome summit; nevertheless he executed the work as faithfully as it could have been done, had he entertained no other views than making a canal by that route. He spent the season and the money in this work, and thus carried out his instructions, but he had not accomplished the object that he had for years been aiming at. In his letter to Mr. Darby, of February 22, 1822, published in the Canal Laws, he says: "The spot of great difficulty and uncertainty respecting our inland route remained unexamined, -- to wit: the tract between Genesee River and Palmyra, or head waters of Mud Creek, -- and the hopes from a view of maps discouraging indeed. Where was the water to be got for locking over the high land that was supposed to rise between the Genesee River and Mud Creek? All knowledge of an interior route was incomplete while this piece of country remained unknown. In December of that year I again left home for the above object, and after discovering at the west end of Palmyra that a singular brook which divides, running part to Oswego and part to the Irondequoit Bay; I leveled from this spot to the Genesee River, and to my great joy and surprise found the level of the river far elevated above the spot where the brooks parted, and no high lands in between. But to make the Genesee River run down Mud Creek, it must be got over the Irondequoit Valley. After leveling from my first line one and a half mile up the valley, I found the place where the canal is now making across that stream. * * * The passage of the Irondequoit Valley is on a surface not surpassed, perhaps, in the world for singularity. The ridges along the top of which the canal is carried, are in many places of just sufficient height and width for its support. * * * When the work is finished, the appearance to a stranger will be that nearly all of these natural embankments are artificial works. * * * The surface of the foundation of the arch for the stream to pass through, is just seventy feet below the top of the water line of the canal. * * * While traveling the snowy hills in December, 1808, I little though of ever seeing the Genesee water crossing the valley on the embankment now constructing over it. I had, to be sure, lively presentiments that time would bring about all I was planning; that boats would one day pass along on the tops of these fantastic ridges; that posterity would see and enjoy the sublime spectacle; -- but that for myself, I had been born many, very many years too soon. There are those, Sir, who can realize my feelings on such an occasion, and can forgive if I felt disposed to exclaim Eureka, on making this discovery. How would the great Brindley, with all his characteristic anxiety to avoid lockage, have felt in such a case, all his cares at an end about water to lock up from the Genesee River, finding no lockage required? Boats to pass over these arid plains, and along the very tops of these high ridges, seemed like idle tales to every one around me."

Early in the year 1805, Mr. Geddes had seen a map of the country west of the Genesee river, that led him to believe that a route could be found there without difficulty; and Mr. Ellicott had, in his letter, referred to by Mr. DeWitt, pointed out the route that appeared to him the best and had given such information, that no fears were entertained as to that part of the country. The great obstacles had been looked for between the Genesee river and the waters of the Seneca. The discovery of the passage of the Irondequoit really solved the whole question.

It is quite common for men possessing much information in regard to the history of the canal to say that its practicability was determined by the expenditure of the small sum of six hundred dollars -- which was the sum the State appropriated for making the survey and the maps and report of 1808. The true statement of the case is this: the sum appropriated by the State was expended under the instructions of the Surveyor-General in determining the ineligibility of the Lake Ontario route. The eligibility of the interior route was determined at the cost of seventy-three dollars, advanced by the Engineer from his own funds, and afterwards paid him by the State.

On the 20th day of January, 1809, Mr. Geddes submitted his report the Surveyor General and Mr. DeWitt said of it, in his letter to Mr. Darby, that it marked out a route "almost precisely in the line, which, after repeated, elaborate and expensive examinations, had been finally adopted." He continues: "Thus then was, by the operations of 1808, the fact satisfactorily established, that a canal from Lake Erie to Hudson's river was not only practicable, but practicable with uncommon facility." (Canal Laws, vol.1, p. 40, 41.)

This report of Mr. Geddes occupies twenty-five pages of the first volume of the official history of the canal (Canal Laws, vol. 1, from p. 13 to 38), and shows that the whole subject had been carefully considered. The route proposed by the way of the Tonnewanda swamp Mr. Ellicott supposed would have a summit not more than twenty feet above the mouth of Tonnewanda Creek, and not more than ten feet above Lake Erie, and that Oak Orchard Creek and some other streams would furnish sufficient water to supply this summit.

Mr. Geddes saw the objections to encountering this summit, and suggested there may be "found some place in the ridge that bounds the Tonnewanda valley on the north, as low as the level of Lake Erie, where a canal may be led across, and conducted onward, without increasing the lockage by rising to the Tonnewanda swamp" (Canal Laws, vol.1, p. 32.) In this conjecture he proved to be substantially correct, and subsequent investigation showed that the Tonnewanda Summit was seventy-five feet above Lake Erie.

It may be well to remark here, that but for the finding of a route out of the Tonnewanda valley to the north, and thus keeping below the level of Lake Erie, the canal could never have been successful. The supply of water on the Tonnewanda summit would have proved insufficient to transact the business of the canal before the lapse of many years; and if this had not proved to be so, it is very doubtful whether the one hundred and fifty feet of extra lockage would not have been looked upon as too formidable in the first cost, and as an obstruction too serious to navigation, to have given any preference to the interior route over that by way of Lake Ontario. The same may be said in regard to the Irondequoit embankment. But for those natural ridges, that now look like the work of man, we can hardly suppose that the public mind would have been brought up to hazarding the immense expenditure that would have been necessary to have constructed an entire embankment. The real object of Judge Forman's joint resolution was accomplished, so far as establishing the practicability of a canal by the interior route. The next thing to be done was to provide the money necessary to do the work. He had recited in his resolution, the message of Mr. Jefferson to Congress, in which the President recommends that the surplus moneys of the Treasury, over and above such sums as could be applied to the extinguishment of the national debt, be appropriated to the great national objects of opening canals and making turnpike roads. Believing this recommendation had been made in good faith, and that either the whole work would be assumed by the nation, or that, at the least, it would aid in it, Judge Forman, in January, 1809, made a journey to Washington to lay the project before Mr. Jefferson. Introduced by his representative in Congress, the same William Kirkpatrick who had aided so much in electing him on the Onondaga "Canal Ticket," he stated that the State of New York had explored a route for a canal, that, once constructed, would people the whole Northwestern Territory, and he fully set forth the advantages of such a canal to the whole country, in peace and in war. After hearing attentively, the President replied that it was a very fine project, and might be executed a century hence. "Why, sir," he said, "here is a canal of a few miles projected by General Washington, which, if completed, would render this a fine commercial city, which has languished for many years, because of the small sum of two hundred thousand dollars necessary to complete it cannot be obtained from the General Government, the State Government, or from individuals, and you talk of making a canal 350 miles through the wilderness! It is little short of madness to think of it at this day." In a letter to Governor Clinton in 1822, Mr. Jefferson alludes to this interview, and says: "Many, I dare say, still think with me that New York has anticipated, by a full century, the ordinary progress of improvement. This great work suggests a question, both curious and difficult, as to the comparative capability of nations to execute great enterprises. It is not from greater surplus of produce, after supplying their own wants, for in this New York is not beyond some other States: is it from other sources of industry additional to her produce? This may be: or is it a moral superiority -- a sounder calculating mind, as to the most profitable employment of surplus, by improvement of capital, instead of useless consumption? I should lean to this latter hypothesis, were I disposed to puzzle myself with such investigations" (Hosack, p. 348)

Mr. Forman returned from Washington disappointed, but not discouraged. He knew that the report of the survey of 1808 furnished the materials for a successful agitation, and he and his coadjutors gave no rest to the public mind. Simeon DeWitt says: "The favorable light in which this year's work presented the projected enterprise, after encountering prejudices from various sources, and oppositions made for various reasons, induced the Legislature , in 1810, to organize a board of commissioners, with powers and means to prosecute the business" (Canal Laws, vol. 1, p. 41.) In a letter to Doctor Hosack, dated 1828, Judge Forman says: "The report of Judge Geddes proved beyond a doubt the practicability of a canal on the interior route, and put at rest all further question of the one through Lake Ontario" (Hosack, p. 348.) Edward P. Livingston, who was a member of the New York Senate from July, 1808, to 1812, says in his letter to Dr. Hosack: "The report of Mr. Geddes, in 1809, led the public mind more generally to think on the subject, and in 1810 Mr. Platt introduced his resolutions into the Senate" (Ibid., p. 395.)

Judge Platt lived in Oneida county, and had been elected to the Senate of the State in 1809 and appears, by his letter to Dr. Hosack (page 382 of his memoir), to have been moved to introduce his resolution by the efforts of Thomas Eddy, who was one of the directors of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, to have a law passed in aid of that company. Mr. Platt felt that the time had come for the State to assume the whole subject of improving its internal navigation, and that a canal -- not the removal of bars and obstructions from the beds of rivers, and the making of locks around the rapids -- was the object at which the public should aim; that rivers and lakes should be made serviceable to feed a canal that should reach from Lake Erie to tide-water, if such could be made. It took a night's argument to bring Mr. Eddy to see the force of this view; but once convinced, he became a zealous and useful friend of such a canal.

The resolution was drawn up for the appointment of commissioners with power to examine the whole subject and report their views on the 13th day of March, and by the 15th had passed both houses by unanimous votes -- such had been the progress in public opinion in the short time that had elapsed since Judge Forman's movement had been received with derision.

The resolution was drawn up with a view to place on the Commission men of commanding talents and position belonging to both political parties, whose services should be given without compensation. When the resolution was introduced, at the request of Mr. Clinton a blank was left for the names, that he might be unembarassed in seconding it. The day after its passage, in blank, the names of Gouverneur Morris, Stephen Van Rensselaer, DeWitt Clinton, Simeon DeWitt, William North, Thomas Eddy, and Peter B. Porter, were inserted.

In this movement Mr. Platt consulted Stephen Van Rensselaer and Abraham Van Vechten, then members of the Assembly, and who both gave their valuable aid to that House.

During the session three thousand dollars were appropriated to pay the expenses that the commissioners might incur for surveys, and such objects generally as were embraced in the discharge of their duties.

Mr. Platt has given in his letter to Doctor Hosack and interesting account of his consultation with Mr. Clinton saying, "Mr. Clinton was then a member of the Senate, and possessed a powerful influence over the dominant party in the State. * * * We requested an interview, and unfolded our plan, and the prominent facts and considerations in support of it. * * * Mr. Clinton listened with intense interest, and deep agitation of mind. He then said that he was in a great measure a stranger to the western interior of our State; that he had given but little attention to the subject of canal navigation, but that the exposition of our plan struck his mind with great force; that he was then prepared to say that it was an object worthy of thorough examination; and that if I would move the resolution in blank (without the names of the commissioners), he would second and support it;" and Judge Platt says, "From this period Mr. Clinton devoted the best powers of his vigorous and capacious mind to this subject and appeared to grasp and realize it as an object of the highest public utility, and worth of his noblest ambition" (Hosack, pp. 383, 384.)

On the second day of July, 1810, the commissioners all met at the Surveyor General's office in Albany (Campbell's Life of Clinton, p. 30) Mr. DeWitt having engaged Mr. Geddes to attend them as Surveyor from Utica to show them the route he had reported in favor of, Gouverneur Morris and General Van Rensselaer determined to make the trip by land, the other commissioners, except General North, by the line of rivers in boats as far as Geneva. The party in boats embarked on the fourth of July from Schenectady, and toiled up the Mohawk to Utica, making observations as they progressed in regard to the river. On the tenth day of the month, the Board were all present at a meeting in Utica, and there they met the Surveyor. On the 12th day of July the commissioners held a meeting at Rome, to make their final arrangements for the exploration. Here their work really commenced, for this was the dividing point of the routes by Lake Ontario, and directly across the country. All east of this summit had been surveyed by the Western Lock Navigation Company, and had been used from the earliest period in which the country had been known. At this important meeting Mr. Morris gave his view in regard to the interior route. "He was for breaking down the mound of Lake Erie, and letting out the waters to follow the level of the country, so as to form a sloop navigation with the Hudson, without any aid from any other water" (Clinton's Journal Campbell's Life, p. 54.)

This shows what was meant by the expression used by Mr. Morris in 1803, in his conversation with Mr. DeWitt -- "tapping Lake Erie." Mr. Clinton records this announcement of the senior commissioner, in his journal, but makes no comments. Though Mr. Morris had been considering the subject of a water communication from the great lakes to the Hudson, ever since 1777 (Hosack, p. 250), and had visited the canals of Europe to gather information, he had not arrived at any true conception of what the face of the country would permit of being done, and it is not strange that Mr. DeWitt should have called his scheme a "romantic" thing. The Surveyor, who had for six years been gathering facts and making examinations of the country knew that such a scheme was utterly impracticable. Long after this, in 1829, Mr. Geddes said, in a published letter, "I had great opportunities of being acquainted with Mr. Morris's canal notions. His great desire to lessen lockage probably suggested the idea of passing across the country south of Lake Ontario."

From Rome the Commissioners adjourned to meet at Geneva. Oswego was visited, and the party retraced their way to Three River Point, and thence up the Seneca river to Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, arriving at Geneva on the 24th day of July, where they found a letter from that part of the company that had gone by land promising to meet them on the Niagara river.

The parties that explored the rivers consisted of Messrs. Clinton, DeWitt, Eddy, North and Porter, Commissioners, and Geddes, Surveyor.

This journey was undertaken at no little hazard to health at this season of the year. Great Pains were taken to protect the party from malaria, and only one or two of the number experienced much injury from the deadly fevers that made these rivers of so bad repute.

At Geneva the boats were sold, and carriages procured. From this place the party went to view the confluence of Mud Creek and the Canandaigua outlet at Lyons. Mr. Clinton says in his journal that on the 27th of July they "crossed the Irondequoit creek at Mann's Mills, where Mr. Geddes proposes a great embankment for his canal, from the Genesee river to the head waters of Mud Creek. He crosses Irondequoit creek here, in order to obtain the greatest elevation of ground on the other side." (Campbell, p. 111.)

The Genesee river was carefully observed at the point where Rochester now stands, and then the party went on westward by the Ridge road and arrived at Lewiston at the end of the month and on the second day of August were joined by Morris and Van Rensselaer.

On the third of August a meeting was held at Chippeway, at which they gave Mr. Geddes instructions to take levels and distances on a variety of points, and adjourned to meet in the city of New York. (Campbell, p. 132)

On the fifth of August Mr. Clinton says they were at Buffalo, which he describes as a place of great resort. All persons that travel to the Western States and Ohio, from the Eastern States, and all that visit the Falls of Niagara, come this way. The village, he said, "contained from thirty to forty houses, * * five lawyers and no church." (Campbell, p. 136 and 137.)

At Black Rock the party broke up, leaving Mr. Geddes to commence his surveys.

Mr. Geddes' first business was to find, if such a place existed, a depression in the range of lands that bounded the valley of the Tonnewanda creek on its north side -- through which the waters of Lake Erie might be carried without too deep cutting to be admissible. In this he was entirely successful.

On the second day of March, 1811, the Commissioners made their first report, drawn up by their President, Mr. Morris. They reported against the Lake Ontario route, giving such good reasons for so doing, that henceforth only enemies of the canal urged its adoption.

In reference to an inland navigation the Commissioners say that "they beg leave to refer for information to the annexed reports and maps of Mr. James Geddes. * * From these it is evident that such navigation is practicable. Whether the route he sketched out will hereafter be pursued; whether a better may not be found -- and other questions subordinate to those, can only be solved at a future time." (Canal Laws, p. 52.)

The Commissioners go on to give a general view of the country, and propose a canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson with an average descent of six inches per mile. This was Mr. Morris's idea of a canal, and to carry it out he was willing to make the enormous embankments that would be required to cross the valleys of the Genesee, 26 feet high; Seneca river 83 feet high, and Cayuga 130 feet. He estimated the cost of such a canal from the Niagara river to the Hudson at only five million dollars.

One valuable suggestion of this report will forever remain of controlling force. They protest against allowing any private individuals or company owning this canal -- urging that it would prevent cheap transportation.

On the 8th day of May, 1811, a law was passed adding to the Commission Robert R. Livingston and Robert Fulton, and giving power to employ engineers and make further surveys, and to make application to the National and State Governments for aid, to execute the great work. Fifteen thousand dollars were appropriated.

On the 14th day of March, 1812, the Commissioners made their second report, in which they say they have met with no success in their applications to other States and the National Government for aid, and say that having once offered the canal to the Government and the offer not having been accepted, the State is at liberty to consult and pursue the maxims of policy, and derive for itself the benefits of the tolls that may justly be collected. They say that they have continued their surveys, and quote from a letter of the English Engineer, Mr. Weston: "From the perspicuous topographical description and neat plan and profile of the route of the contemplated canal, I entertain little doubt of the practicability of the measure." (Canal Laws, vol. 1, pp. 81, 82.) These maps and profiles were made by Mr. Geddes, and sent to England for the opinion of the then most eminent Engineer of that country. In this report Mr. Morris abandons his idea of an inclined plane east of the Seneca outlet. The estimated cost of a canal is raised to $6,000,000.

In November, 1811, Judge Benjamin Wright, of the village of Rome, who had been in the service of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company as an Engineer, was employed to make a survey of the north side of the Mohawk river. His report demonstrated the impracticability of a canal along that river, having a uniform descent of six inches to the mile. (Canal Laws, vol. 1, pp. 531-557.)

The Commissioners had now in their service two men who afterwards became eminent as engineers, and of whom it may with truth be said, they were the fathers, in this country, of a new liberal profession; and that of the great number of able civil engineers that have succeeded them, none have excelled them. But the capacity of these two men the Commissioners and the public generally had not become informed, and the report of 1812 calls them Surveyors, and dwells on the importance of securing the services of a "capable engineer of the first talents, tried integrity and approved experience." Afterwards, in 1821, the Commissioners, say that to these two men the State is mostly indebted for the manner in which they discharged their duties -- and that they have been found equal to the high trusts confided to them. (Canal Laws, vol. 2, p. 23.)

To the fact that the Commissioners for many years expected to put the canal in charge of an engineer of European reputation, we may ascribe the practice that very early grew up of not giving the reports of what they called "Surveyors" to the public. The reports of the engineers were generally used by the Commissioners to furnish materials that in the more imposing name of the Commission, were laid before the Legislature.

On the 19th day of June, 1812, an important law was passed, authorizing the Commissioners to purchase, authorizing the Commissioners to purchase all the rights and interests of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, with certain provisos, and to borrow the sum of five million dollars, to be used in the construction of the canal.

On the 8th day of March 1814, the Commissioners reported that they had appointed an English engineer who was soon to be at work ascertaining the best line for the canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson, and that they have caused further investigations to be made up to the last summer, when they were suspended in consequence of the war. In this report the express a desire to not be held as committed exclusively to a canal descending according to the level of the country, like and inclined plane. (Canal Laws, vol. 1, p. 105.)

On the 15th day of April, 1814, the law of 1812, authorizing the borrowing of $5,000,000, was repealed. The war with Great Britain then absorbed all thoughts and all energies, and while it continued all efforts for a canal were abandoned, and the project slept; until the fall of 1815 a movement was made in the city of New York by Mr. Clinton, Judge Platt and Mr. Eddy. Cards of invitation were sent to about one hundred men to meet at the City Hall, to consult as to the best measures to be adopted. William Bayard was chairman and John Pintard secretary.

Judge Platt made a speech, and urged the formal abandonment of the plan of an inclined plane, and the appointment of a committee to prepare and circulate a memorial of a committee to prepare and circulate a memorial to the Legislature in favor of the canal. Mr. Clinton was put at the head of the committee, and associated with him were Thomas Eddy, Cadwallader D. Colden and John Swartwout. Mr. Clinton drew the memorial, with his wonderful ability, showing a perfect knowledge of the subject, with a sagacious discernment of its beneficial results to the State and to the nation. (Platt in Hosack's Memoir, pp. 385-6.)

This was a signal of a concerted movement along the whole line. Great meetings were held at Albany, Utica, Onondaga, Geneva, Canandaigua and Buffalo. The meeting at Onondaga was held the 23rd day of February, 1816, and was presided over by James Geddes, and its memorial was drawn by Joshua Forman. It was signed by over three thousand petitioners. (Clark's Onon., vol. 2, p. 59.) At the meeting in Canandaigua Colonel Troup presided, and Gideon Granger, John Greig, John Nicholas, Nathan N. Howell, and Myron Holly took active parts in its proceedings. This agitation led to more then one hundred thousand petitioners asking the Legislature to at once go on with the construction of the canal.

On the 8th day of March 1816, the Commissions made their next report, and in this they call on the Legislature to furnish means to pay a professional engineer, and say that there are so few competent persons in Europe that there is every inducement to employ one of our own countrymen if the necessary scientific and practical knowledge can be found.

The negotiations with Mr. Weston, who had acted as consulting engineer, and as such had examined the maps and profiles of Mr. Geddes, had failed. He had been offered a salary of seven thousand dollars a year to leave England and come and take the direction of the construction of the canal. At last he gave a final refusal, saying he only declined the greatest honor ever offered him because of age and family matters. Thus the Commissioners were forced to employ native and New York talent.

The report of 1816 says nothing about inclined planes, and it is not signed by Mr. Morris, as Mr. Colden (p. 45) suggests for this reason.

Much surveying had been done, out of deference to Mr. Morris's views (Personal Communications from Mr. Geddes), his tenacity being very great. But the measure had passed beyond his control, and with his influence passed away the idea that a foreign engineer must have the direction of the location and construction of our canals.

Though the war had checked the enterprise for a while, it had conclusively shown the importance of its success. The want of a practicable communication from the seaboard to the lakes was grievously felt. It has been said that at one time the cost of the transportation of cannon from Albany to the lakes was twice and more than twice their first cost. (Colden, p. 42.)

The flood of petitions poured on the Legislature was answered by the passage, on the 17th day of April, 1816, of "an act to provide for the improvement of the internal navigation of this State."

The joint committee of the Senate and Assembly, by Mr. Jacob Rutzen Van Rensselaer, made their report, on the 21st day of March, and they embraced in it statements from Mr. Geddes of the character of the route from Lake Erie to the Seneca river, and of Mr. Wright, from the Seneca river to the Hudson.

The report of the committee, embracing the communications of these engineers, was strongly in favor of immediately commencing the work. After a very long discussion this bill was so amended as to provide for the making of surveys and the gathering of information in regard to the whole cost, not only of the Erie canal, but of a canal along the Hudson from the tidewater to Lake Champlain. But no authority was given to commence the work.

The Commission was somewhat altered by the law of 1816 -- Mr. Morris, General Peter B. Porter and Simeon DeWitt of the original commission were left off - and some new names added, so that the Commission as newly constituted consisted of Stephen Van Rensselaer, DeWitt Clinton, Samuel Young, Joseph Ellicott and Myron Holley. Mr. Morris was doubtless left off in consequence of the difficulties that had grown out of the difficulties that had grown out of the drawing of the last report. That Mr. Morris felt the injury that was being done to him, appears from his note dated March 9, 1816, which was published in the American in April, 1819. He says: "I have an ardent wish that the canal may be made; but so humble is my ambition, that I am content that the reputation of having imagined, proposed, and carried it into effect, be given to any person." Could this blow have been deferred four months he would have been beyond its reach, for by that time he was in his grave. General Porter was concerned in determining the boundary line between the United States and the British Possessions - he being Commissioner for our Government.

Twenty thousand dollars were appropriated to carry out the Canal Law of 1816.

In 1814 the Canal Commissioners had proposed the Champlain Canal, and by 1816 it had become evident to the friends of the Erie Canal that they must combine the Northern Canal with their own to get the necessary strength in the Legislature, and thus the projects were united.

On the 17th day of May 1816, the Commissioners met at New York, and appointed Mr. Clinton President, Mr. Young Secretary, and Mr. Holley Treasurer, and on the 17th day of February, 1817, they made their first report, from which it appears that Mr. Ellicott, having for his engineer William Peacock, made a careful exploration of the route that he had favored from Buffalo to the Genesee river, by way of the summit between Tonnewanda Creek and Black Creek; -- that Mr. Geddes took a point eleven miles up the Tonnewanda Creek and followed his route, keeping below the level of Lake Erie, and leading its waters as far east as the Seneca river, where his section terminated. Of this section thus marked out, the commissioners say, it has a level of 69 miles and 51 ½ chains, and they speak of it as having other great advantages.

The middle section of the canal extended from the Seneca river to Rome, and was put under the charge of Mr. Benjamin Wright. The eastern section, extending from Rome to the Hudson River, was put under Mr. Charles C. Broadhead as engineer. The Northern Canal had for its engineer Lewis Garin.

As had been stated, all efforts to secure the services of the English engineer, Mr. Watson, having failed, the commissioners were in great doubt as the best course to pursue. Under these circumstances Mr. Geddes and Mr. Wright, having consulted with each other, appeared before the Board, and expressed their confidence in their ability to locate and construct the canals, but expressed a strong desire that the commissioners should feel a like confidence if they were to be entrusted with the responsibility (Personal Communication from James Geddes.) Most fortunately for the State, the commissioners gave these engineers that confidence. But in doing so they encountered the censures of the enemies of the canals, in and out of legislative halls. On the Assembly floor, it was tauntingly asked, "Who is this James Geddes, and who is this Benjamin Wright that the Commissioners have trusted with this responsibility -- what canals have they ever constructed? What great public works have they accomplished?" But really the Commissioners had no alternative -- and now it is easy to see that the course adopted was much wiser than to have the canals entrusted to the keeping of any one man, as would have been the case had the efforts made to secure Mr. Weston been successful.

To add still more to these difficulties in regard to the engineering, it was said in high places, by men who claimed much knowledge on such subjects, that no confidence could be placed in an ordinary engineer's spirit level for laying out long lines of canal, and that there was no possibility of running a line for the long levels that was not liable to be erroneous to the whole depth of the canal. So much annoyance did these cavilers produce that in the next year it was deemed expedient to settle that matter that a full test should be made. It was decided that Mr. Geddes should start at a given point on the canal line at Rome, and carry a level along the road to the east end of Oneida Lake, and taking the height of the lake while the water was tranquil, that he should then connect by a level the Oneida with Onondaga Lake; after which carry a level from that lake to the canal line -- thence to work east, laying off sections along the canal line. This he did, and laid out nine miles toward Rome. Mr. Wright started from the same point in Rome, and carried the line westward until he came to the stakes set by Mr. Geddes. The levels of these two engineers, which embraced a circuit of nearly one hundred miles, differed from each other less than an inch and a half!! (Canal Laws, vol.1, pp 369, 370, and Personal Communication.) The publication of the result of this test level put an end to much of the talk of pretenders to scientific knowledge.

The report of the Commissioners in March, 1817, was very elaborate, and was made up chiefly from the reports of the engineers, and without giving them any credit, but so drawn as to make only the Commissioners appear to the public (See Mr. Wright's letter in Hosack's Memoir, p. 504), and this continued to be henceforth the uniform practice of the Commissioners.

On the 15th day of April, 1817, the canal policy of this State was finally established by law. This law was supported in the Assembly with great ability by many members, and opposed as desperately by others. The eminent Elisha Williams, then a member from Columbia county, broke over the claims of local interests and gave the bill a support that was decisive; "he appealed to the members from New York city, who were almost to a man hostile to the project, 'If,' said he, turning to a leading member of that delegation, 'if the canal is to be a shower of gold, it will fall upon New York; if a river of gold, it will flow into her lap.'" (Hosack, p. 450.)

In the Senate, Mr. Martin Van Buren's support was as efficient as that of Mr. Williams in the Assembly. He insisted that the facts were then fully ascertained and that the time had come to commence the work. So marked was the effect of Mr. Van Buren's speech that when he sat down, Mr. Clinton who had been a listener in the Senate Chamber, "breaking through that reserve which political collisions had created, approached him and expressed his thanks for his exertions in the most flattering terms." (Hosack, p. 453.)

The law had still to pass the ordeal of the Council of Revision. Judge Platt who had become one of the members of that body, gives the following account of its action. The Council consisted of Lieutenant and acting Governor Taylor, Chancellor Kent, Chief Justice Thompson, Judges Yates and Platt. After the bill had been read, the president called on the Chancellor for his opinion. He said that he had given very little attention to the subject; that it appeared to him a gigantic project, which would require the wealth of the United States to accomplish; that it had passed the Legislature by small majorities, after a desperate struggle; and he thought it inexpedient to commit the State in such a vast undertaking until public opinion could be better united in its favor. Chief Justice Thompson said he cherished no hostility to the canal, and that he would not enquire as to the majorities, as the Legislature had agreed to the measure he would be inclined to leave the responsibility with them; but he said the bill gave arbitrary powers to the Commissioners over private rights, without proper guards, and he therefore opposed the bill. Judge Yates was a decided friend of the canal, and voted for the bill. Judge Platt was also ardent in its favor. The Lieutenant Governor "panted with honest zeal to strangle the infant Hercules in its birth by casting vote in the negative." A warm discussion arose, but a more temperate examination of the bill obviated in some measure the objections of the Chancellor and Chief Justice. "Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins [late Governor of the State] came into the Council Chamber and familiarly took a seat, and joined in the argument, which was informal and desultory. He expressed a decided opinion against the bill, and among other reasons, he stated that the late peace with Great Britain was a mere truce; that we should undoubtedly soon have a renewed war with that country; and that instead of wasting the credit and resources of the State on this chimerical project we ought immediately to employ all the revenue and credit of the State in providing arsenals, arming the militia, erecting fortifications, and preparing for war. "Do you think so, Sir?" said Chancellor Kent. "Yes, Sir," was the reply; "England will never forgive us for our victories on the land and on the ocean and the lakes; and my word for it, we shall have another war with her within two years." The Chancellor, then rising from his seat, with great animation declared, "if we are to have war, or to have a canal, I am in favor of the canal, and I vote for the bill." Thus Platt, Yates and Kent out-voted Taylor and Thompson, and the bill became a law.

So narrow are the chances on which great measures sometimes turn. The accidental coming into the Council Chamber of the Vice President of the United States to oppose an already lost measure, by using, for his purposes, an unfortunate argument, made no less a man than the great lawgiver of this continent change his views, and with his change the fortunes of the bill were changed. The Chancellor, looking from his political standpoint, undoubtedly thought that if the ability of this State was taxed to the utmost in constructing a canal, that the dominant party would find more difficulty in involving the nation in war, than it would have if our finances were embarrassed, and that with the Vice President "the wish was father to the thought."

This law, that was passed with so much difficulty, created the Board known as the "Commissioners of the Canal Fund," consisting of the Lieutenant Governor, the Comptroller, the Attorney General, the Surveyor General, Secretary of State, and the State Treasurer, whose duty it is "to manage to the best advantage all things belonging to said fund."

The Canal Commissioners were authorized to commence constructing canals from Lakes Erie and Champlain to the Hudson river by opening communication by canals and locks between the Mohawk and Seneca rivers, and between Lake Champlain and the Hudson river, receiving from the Commissioners of the Canal fund the moneys necessary.

A fund was created, by imposing a duty of twelve and a half cents per bushel upon all salt to be manufactured in the western district of this State; a tax of one dollar on every passenger that should make a trip of over one hundred miles on any steamboat on the Hudson river, and half that sum for any distance less than one hundred and over thirty miles; the proceeds of all lotteries which should be drawn in this State after the sums granted on them were paid; all the net proceeds from the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company property which was to be purchased; all the donations made, or to be made; all the duties upon sales at auction, after deducting $33,500 annually, which sum was appropriated to the Hospital, economical school, orphan asylum, and foreign poor in the city of New York.

Besides these several means of revenue, $250,000 were to be raised by levying a tax on all the lands and real estate lying along the route of said canals, and within twenty five miles thereof on each side, the assessment to be made by the Canal Commissioners according to the benefit which their opinion will be derived from the canals.

This financial scheme proved eminently successful. The salt duties alone paying toward the canals more than $3,000,000 -- which is considerably more than one-third the cost of both of them -- and by September, 1833, the salt and auction duties had paid $5,812,621. (State Engineer's Report 1862, p. 139.) The tax on steamboat passengers was suspended the next year, and the tax on lands along the canals was never collected, and the lotteries never paid anything.

George Tibbetts, then a Senator from Troy, was the author of this financial scheme, and to him belongs the great credit that has so justly been awarded to it. (Hosack. See Stones' and Tibbetts' account.)

Thus has been traced from the suggestion of Gouverneur Morris, in 1803, to Simeon DeWitt, in the year 1817, the project of uniting Lake Erie and tide-water on the Hudson river -- for thus long was the State in maturing anything that can justly be called a CANAL POLICY -- and from so small a beginning did this mighty policy spring.

The time was ripe, and the men, just fitted to do the various things that were necessary to be done, most fortunately stood ready for the duty. Gouverneur Morris is beyond all doubt entitled to the credit of having made the suggestion of the "interior route." This suggestion was seized by a man who, though of few words, was persevering, and who by hard labor accomplished great results.

It has been asked why Mr. Geddes, being a member of the Legislature when Mr. DeWitt told him of Mr. Morris's "romantic" scheme, did not move for some legislative action. The answer is, he had then had no time to mature his views, nor had he yet gathered such facts as were necessary to justify legislative action. To appropriate all the knowledge of the topography of the country that then existed was his first work. Correspondence with land agents and surveyors in the Western part of the State was resorted to, and so successful had been his inquiries that, when in 1808 Mr. DeWitt issued his instructions as to a survey, Mr. Ellicott had pointed out a route from the Niagara river to the Genesee -- which, if a better one could not be found, it was thought would answer for the then supposed wants of a canal -- so that the whole question was very soon narrowed down to the country between the Genesee river and the head waters of Mud Creek. By 1807, the time had come for legislative action, and few men have ever lived in this state better calculated to procure such action than Joshua Forman. The only apparent difficulty was in his belonging to the Federal party in politics, and living in a county strongly Democratic, and thus as a partisan he could not be elected; and to secure his services it was necessary to form a new party -- a canal party. This was done so well that the then Democratic member of Congress, Dr. Kirkpatrick, as well as many others prominent in that party, ardently supported the movement. Forman was successful in the Legislature, and this survey led to the appointment of a Board of Canal Commissioners, having for one of its members De Witt Clinton, who personally informed himself of the topographical formation of the country, and thus became convinced of the practicability of a canal; and holding the position that he did in political influence in the State, he was able to do more than it has at any other time been granted to one man to do for the glory and prosperity of our State.

In a government constituted like ours, no great measure can be successful without the concurrence of the efforts of many influential me; and now that we look back on this, we cannot but see that, while no one man can we give all the credit, there is enough to divide and give us an ample share to every one of those who were instrumental in bringing everything to a successful conclusion.

No more fitting words can be chosen to close this paper than those used by Mr. Morris in the Commissioner's Report of 1812:

"The life of an individual is short. The time is not distant when those who make this report will have passed away. But we can fix no term to the existence of a State; and the first wish of a patriot's heart is, that his own may be eternal. But whatever limit may have been assigned to the duration of New York by those eternal decrees which established the heavens and the earth, it is hardly to be expected that she will be blotted from the list of political societies before the effects here predicted shall have been sensibly felt. And even when, by the flow of that perpetual stream which bears all human institutions away, our Constitution shall be dissolved and our laws be lost, still the descendants of our children's children will remain. The same mountains will stand, the same river's flow, new moral combinations will be formed on the old physical foundations, and the extended line of remote posterity, after the lapse of thousands of years, and the ravages of repeated revolutions; when the records of history shall have been obliterated, and the tongue of tradition have converted the shadowy remembrance of ancient events into childish tales of miracle, -- this national work shall remain. It shall bear testimony to the genius, the learning, the industry and intelligence of the present age."

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