Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hibernicus - Letter VI

Submitted by Dick Palmer

(Extract from: "Letters on the Natural History and Internal Resources of the State of New York"
By Hibernicus (DeWitt Clinton) New York, 1822)

My Dear Sir,

Before leaving London I bought "An account of the Great Western Canal of New York, with an illustrative map," which was reprinted at that great literary mart, and when I arrived here, the great outlines of the country and of the canal were familiar to my mind. Actual inspection has exceeded the most sanguine anticipation. Sometimes I think that I am in the region of enchantment, and that the magical operations of eastern fiction are acted over again in this country. Two canals of 124 miles, uniting to a certain extent the great fresh water seas of the interior, with the ocean; and all this done without noise, and as it were without effort, in less than two years and a half, must shut the mouth of scepticism, and excite universal astonishment. The more I examine into this subject the more important consequences do I observe. The men who are the premum mobile of this scheme, appear to understand the genuine sources of national wealth, and the orthodox principles of political economy. Internal trade is the great substratum of riches. It excites all kinds of industry, sharpens the faculties, and multiplies the exertions of man; and inland navigation is the lever of Archimedes, which will set in motion this world of occupation and exertion.

Both sides of the canal are in fence. This is necessary in order to protect the bank from cattle, and the farms from depredations. I was shewn at Whitesborough, a fence, the materials of which were conveyed from Canasaraga last fall, on the canal. Twenty-two hundred cedar rails were transported with one horse, two men and a boy, and it took in going and returning, three days, at $3 per day; in the aggregate, $9; while by land it would have employed 40 wagons two days, which at $2 per day, would have cost $160.

I am of opinion that the salt of Salina can be sold at Albany, when the canal is finished, for 31 cents a bushel, and the expense will not exceed six cents. The principal cost now is the barrel, but when conveyed in bulk, this of course will be done away. I saw a salt boat building near Syracuse, which was intended to convey 1600 bushels in bulk.

In like manner gypsum can be got at Utica for $2 a ton, and delivered at Albany for $1 1/2 or $2 more. This source of fertilization will be diffused through this channel over the whole state. I have much to say on this subject, and am now considering whether it will be best to prepare it by calcination or grinding before transportation, or transport the raw material. Suppose that 100,000 farmers should each save twenty dollars a year in gypsum, and ten dollars in salt, by means of the canal, here would be an annual saving of three million dollars, a sum more than sufficient in two years to make the whole canal. And this is a very moderate calculation. Salt is essential to the health of cattle, and the consumption of this for that purpose, for the table, and for preserving fish and meats, is immense.

Gypsum rises every year in public estimation, and I am told that during the late war, the farmers of Saratoga and Dutchess counties would go to the gypsum beds of Madison and Onondaga counties for a supply, a distance of 150 or 200 miles. To shut out the foreign supply of gypsum and salt, would be a great saving to the public in every sense of the word: and this will be most effectually accomplished.

A horse can easily draw 25 tons on a canal. This would take at least 20 teams for land transportation. The conveyance of commodities by water will supersede the use of an animal for draught, which is the most voracious and wasteful of the graminivorous class of brutes. Two beneficial consequences will result, and in a most extensive manner. 1st. The diminished demand of horses for domestic accommodation, will enable exportation to foreign markets; and 2d. Their place will be supplied by neat cattle, sheep, swine, and poultry, which will be increased in proportion to the augmented stores of grain and grass for their benefit. It has long been anxiously desired by good agriculturalists to substitute the ox for the horse in farming, and though this has partially succeeded in the eastern states, yet the horse is almost exclusively used for the conveyance of commodities a distance.

Every diminution of expense in transportation, will add so much to the profits of the farmer and manufacturer. Hence manufacturers will be enabled to sell their fabrics at a low price, and to this canal I look for resurrection and form establishment of the manufacturing of the State.


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