Wed., August 5, 1818
An extract from the following letter has already been published in the Geneva Gazette; but some material typographical errors having occurred in its original publication in the Albany Argus, especially in that part which related to the Locks and Canal on the Seneca River, between the Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, we now insert the whole article, and with the concurrence of the author, Elkanah Watson, Esq. have made the necessary corrections - which, to distinguish them, are put in italics.
FROM THE ALBANY ARGUS
TO THE EDITOR
Seneca Falls, 14th June 1818
Dear Sir - In conformity to my promise to transmit to you such remarks as may appear useful to be promulgated, in relation to improvements in agricultural pursuits, and in the progress of the grand canal, to redeem that pledge in part is the object of this letter.
I found the road in general in a shameful state, especially the first eighteen miles this side of Albany; and it is a disgrace to this state that the toll gatherers can be permitted to oppress the weary traveller, especially the poor waggoners, by extorting money from them without receiving any adequate return; reciprocity being the basis of the law, the traveler calls for redress.
The proprietors of the turnpike should be compelled to pay the damages which are constantly sustained in the destruction of carriages. upsetting of stages, and the imminent danger of lives and limbs. It is admitted the season has been uncommonly bad, and ruinous to the roads; the efforts to keep them in some decent state at lest, while they are exacting pay, should in some measure be proportionate; and as the weather has been settled for several days, not less than twenty men should be employed in repairing on each mile, whereas I doubt if I saw that number of men occupied in that duty in 200 miles traveling.
At Manlius I turned off, about three miles north of the old turnpike, to examine the grand canal. Here I found a spacious canal in a finished state, in some places with firm sloping sides, and calculated to maintain a depth of four feet of water. I also examined the place where they were cutting through a body of transparent plaster. I continued traveling a great part of the day near the route of the canal; in some places they were just opening its path through the woods, in a direct course.
I am informed about 1,500 men are scattered along a distance of --- miles, in executing one of the most splendid enterprises that ever was attempted in any age or country. Being alone, and contemplating this canal, my mind was left free to range into the womb of futurity. I found no difficulty in looking to the end of this century, and fixing as certain, a population, within the present limits of the United States, of a least 59 millions of independent Americans; And when I cast my mind on the port of New York, the finest harbor on the globe; the Hudson river, as the most direct in its course, and freest from obstructions, of any other river within my knowledge; and then, by a sudden transition, continuing the route of the contemplated canal, with its junction with the greatest inland seas in the world; and then considering the immense shores of these great chain of lakes, and all the tributary streams, teeming with a full population, and the lake clouded with sails; in reaching the point and considering the spot that's under my eye as part of the grand artery which is to animate and give life to this glowing scene, I confess that I am at a loss of words to express the sensations of my mind.
I cannot, however, divest myself of the idea, that the whole extent of the enterprise is too vast for the resources of a single state; and I doubt not we are approaching a moment when this enterprise will be adopted by the nation, as a prominent national object: for I believe it could not be difficult to show to any man of an open mid, that the nation would gain tenfold, in the process of fifty years, by the extra rise of their distant lands.
In passing the village of Auburn, their newly organized agricultural society, for the county of Cayuga, were assembled, with a view of promulgating liberal premiums, and making the necessary preparations for an interesting exhibition in the month of October next. This society is warmly supported by many respectable Quakers of the county, and they are peculiarly fortunate in having for their president a gentleman of that profession; who adds to native urbanity and exemplary virtues, distinguished literary and scientific acquisitions.
In descending the hill leading into the village at Seneca Falls, I was agreeably surprised, and peculiarly fortunate, in witnessing the passage of the first loaded boat from Schenectady, carrying freight of sixteen tons, through the canals and locks just finished at this place, principally by the private enterprise of a few individuals, at an expense of about $60,000. My curiosity was so strongly excited, that I lost no time in examining the whole extent of the work from the first lock, which is situated three miles from the Cayuga lake, to its termination at Waterloo, a distance of five miles.
The locks excel any in workmanship I have ever seen, either in Europe or in America; they are principally constructed with large square hewn stone, taken from a quarry at the south end of the Seneca lake. There are eight chamber Locks, averaging each about eight feet lift, being sixty-four feet in all the whole distance; and four Guard Locks. This canal may be considered a branch of the grand canal, as it opens an uninterrupted water communication, for boats of sixteen tons burthen, from Schenectady, through the old canal and locks, to the south end of the Seneca lake; and when the contemplated canal is affected, from that lake to the Susquehanna river, an inland water communication will be open from New York to the Chesapeake.
In 1794, I came in a batteaux from Schenectady to this place; on the whole route I was deeply impressed with the great importance of this object in a future day, little dreaming to see it realized in my day. At that time they could only transport in a boat, through a tedious and difficult navigation, from one and a half to two tons, at an expense of 75 to 100 dollars a ton. By completion of the works along the Mohawk river and Wood creek, in 1796, boats of a different construction, carrying from 15 to 16 tons, were introduced, and the price of transportation reduced to about 32 dollars a ton up, and half that amount back.
By the calculation of a gentleman, who has resided several years in this country, he is persuaded, when the grand canal from the Seneca river to the Mohawk river is completed, it will again reduce the price of transportation 40 percent more. A proportionate reduction of transportation will also necessarily take place on the whole extent of the line from lake Erie; and the products from those waters will in course be enhanced in a proportionate degree, and the lands of the nation equally advanced in their intrinsic value.
To array this estimate one step further, should the nation magnanimously embrace the whole extent of the enterprise, including this branch, and declare a free passage, except a sufficient sum to keep up repairs, the reduction of transportation would still be much greater, and the public lands increased in value so as to justify the measure, even on the score of adding to the national purse, for new and more distant enterprises of a similar cast.