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PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES
REPORTED BY EDWARD F. UNDERHILL,
1879, Oct. 28.
By Erching of
IN CONVENTION, Feb. 27, 1868.
Resolved, That there be printed, in addition to the number already printed, a sufficient num. ber of copies of the debates, documents and journals, to furnish each of the members with three copies; and also one copy each to the Mayor and the members of the Common Council of the city of Albany, and one copy each to the State Law Libraries at Rochester and Syracuse, the law libraries of the several judicial districts, the Law Institute, the Astor, Library, and the New York Historical Society in the city of New York, and the Young Men's Associations of the cities of Albany and Troy.
LUTHER CALDWELL, Secretary.
that would increase its ability so as to preserve its present trade and add to it in the future.
products, of their agriculture and industry over the Erie canal. The tonnage from Western States from 1856 to 1866 coming to the Erie canal was The policy of the enlargement of 1854, by re18,717,264. From this State, 3,272,016 If there moving the restriction of the present Constitushould be deducted from the local tonnage of the tion by a vote of the people, is now generally apState the western wheat that enters the Erie canal proved. It resulted in increased trade and inat Buffalo and from there sent to the mills at Lock- creased revenues. It might be well asked here port, Medina, Rochester, etc., and there manufac-if the capacity of the Erie canal had not been intured into flour, and then shipped to the eastern creased to float boats over eighty tons, in 1846, market, it would decrease the local State tonnage up to 240 tons, and thus cheapened transporta1,000,000,000 tons, for the period above indicated tion one-half, how could the western commerce and increase the tonnage of the Western States a have been retained to the State? It certainly like amount. These facts are important as dis- would have sought other channels to the ocean, closing the sources of our canal revenues and the and once lost to the State it could never be refatal consequences which would follow from the gained, and our people would have to suffer, not loss of the western tonnage to the Erie canal only for the folly of such unwise inactivity and through our neglect to meet the commercial neces- failure to meet the demands of commerce in the sities and the reasonable demands of the north-loss of trade, but in increased taxation for west. the purpose of paying the existing canal debt. The proposition is a plain and incontrovertible No truth is better understood than that the one, that every dollar of toll which our State levies Erie canal, on account of its greater and cheaper upon the property of a citizen of another, in con- ability in transportation, has given to this State sequence of its geographical position, is in viola- its commercial supremacy in the carrying trade; tion of a fundamental axiom of our national Union, and it is believed to be equally true, that no other that each State would best promote its own in- carrying system has the ability to retain it. Railterests, while promoting the interests of the others, way and canal statistics show that, during the last in facilitating the means of transit through it. six years, 48,007,761 tons of freight have been Each should be content with those advantages carried on the canal and the two trunk railways which follow, after having been repaid in this State, at a cost for tolls and transportation for its expenditures in furnishing and maintain- of $135,987,067. The average cost of the railing any channel of trade for others. Mr. Hoff-way charges per ton is $4.42 and a fraction, and man, whose stringent views were impressed upon the average cost of the canal charges, including every financial feature of the present Constitution, tolls, is $1.88 and a fraction. The striking conand the advocates of whose policy form a portion clusion deduced from these statistics is, that of every political party in this State, in the Con- whilst the Erie canal is only navigable for half vention of 1846, said: "I never can consent that the year, and these two trunk lines of railways the current expenses of the State should be are operated the whole year, the former has transcharged upon the right of way which the sov-ported almost an equal amount of tonnage. But ereign holds, not as property for revenue, but in the most important fact remains to be noticed, one trust for the million to promote travel, trans-in which the industrial and producing classes are portation and commerce." He also said: "Neither deeply concerned, is that the necessaries of life in form or substance do I accede to the doctrine, and the products of industry are exchanged and that the canal tolls shall be taken for general delivered at less than half the cost by the canal. purposes-I deny it. The right of way is the As nearly all the necessaries of life which are right of the million. The sovereign holds in consumed in the eastern portion of our State and trust, and can exercise it only for their benefit, the metropolitan city (the factor in this immense and has no right to make a revenue out of trade), pass through this State upon the Erie it. Such a course must engender the worst canal from the West, the price of freight is a tax oppression and the worst corruptions, and paid by the industrial more than all other classes soon realize the worst vices of the worst Such articles are of great bulk and weight, and governments-taxation on all we consume, which tolls fall most heavily on them. They are the will allow nothing to go to or from the markets necessaries of life to all in equal degree. The without tribute to the State." He then only rich man, however, pays for them from his abundenunciated a principle in political economy an-ance, the toiling millions from their hard won nounced a century ago, that a tax upon highways earnings.
and trade was bad policy for a government and This the Erie canal has accomplished, regulating unjust to the people. The millions already taken and cheapening charges by other systems of by this State from western commerce beyond its transportation, which were it not for the canal requirements for expenditures in its aid, would would be still more exorbitant. All the tonnage seem, at least now, to authorize the demand for a moved by canal and railway in our State, it will be change of policy, so that in the future only such seen, average about 8,000,000 tons annually, at a tolls should be imposed on western commerce as cost very nearly of $22,000,000. The canals would facilitate and cheapen its transit to the sea-move nearly half the amount at nearly half the board. At any rate, if the Erie canal, after pay-cost by railways. Does any one doubt that in the ing the outstanding canal and general fund debts, economy of transportation by canal and its influis further called upon to repay to the State the ence upon other means of transportation in this amount and interest of the taxes levied and col-State, there is a saving to the people of this and lected from the people, to construct and sustain other States, annually of at least a dollar a tonthe lateral canals, a policy should now be adopted $8,000,000? This is more than it would cost to
enlarge the capacity of the Erie canal to 500 tons. | from ignorance, narrow and mistaken views of the Governor Fenton, in his message transmitted to currents of trade, managers and owners of railthe Legislature January 2, 1867, on the sub-ways regarded our canals as rivals in the carrying ject of the cost of the enlargement of trade. A larger experience satisfied them that the locks on the Erie and Oswego canals, says: the superior and cheaper mode of transportation "I am informed, however, by the present able by the Erie canal for a certain portion of comState Engineer, and feel satisfied from this and merce, instead of injuring, benefited the railways other sources of information, that a suitable en- by drawing through the State passengers and largement, with single locks of capacity for boats freight, of which they would have a fair share for of five hundred tons burden, plain but substan-half the year, and a monoply during the other tial work, can be effected at a cost not exceeding $6,000,000." Those who would doubt the restraining and economical influence of the uniform price of transportation upon our canals, upon railway transportation during the season of navigation, have only to recollect that immediately after the close of navigation upon our canals, railway conventions are found in session, revising their tariffs and raising them twenty-five or thirty per cent. In a recent report from managers of railways in Pennsylvania, the Erie canal is regard-market might indicate the interest of the owners. ed as the regulator of freights in the North.
half, thus enabling them to retain the advantages which grew out of the commercial supremacy, which the Erie canal exercised during the season over all rivals in or out of the State, in bringing through the lakes vast deposits of freight to their and other mammoth storehouses, where the portion which remained after the close of navigation could be retained and shipped by the canal in the spring, or moved by railway in the winter, as the price of freights or the demands of the eastern
the means of carrying western productions to market. It is by transit, and that at a low price, enabling our people to supply their wants as well as to sell their productions, that we are to compete successfully with the people of other countries. When we speak in this connection, of the East, we should not limit our view within the confines of our own State, but include those States northerly and easterly from our own. Freedom of transit, without monopoly or taxation, is a necessary portion of the free trade between the
It is difficult for us to appreciate fully the benThe excess of the cost of transportation by efits conferred upon the State and nation, in all railway over the cost of transportation by their parts, by the facilities of exchange afforded canal has already been stated. We need not by cheap transit. It may be well claimed as the go beyond the limits of our own State to find an source of the material prosperity of this country. illustration of the cost of transportation by the In other countries it adds value to property latter, when, deprived of the State character already existing; in ours, it may be said to create which such works should possess, the private property. The West had scarcely a nominal valinterest of individuals or the greed of gain upon ue before the Erie canal was opened and afforded the part of monopolists, becomes the controlling principle of their management. The Chemung canal junction is owned by private parties and managed for the purposes of private interest. It is fourteen miles long, and connects the Chemung canal in this State, with the coal mines in Pennsylvania. The exorbitant charge of $2.58 per ton is made for the transportation of coal, the carriage of which affords by far the larger share of its business. This is confirmed by reference to Document No. 160 of the Assembly of 1867, in the report of the Investigating Committee of the Legis-States, which is the strongest material bond of lature, made April 6th, "into the matter of tolls charged on coal by the Junction Canal Company of New York;" which states that this combination "enhanced the price of coal consumed by citizens of western New York full two dollars and fifty-eight cents per ton." The toll charged on coal per ton from Elmira to Buffalo, by State canals, is forty cents; from Troy to Buffalo, 345 miles, thirty cents, on bituminous coal.
peaceful union, and any efforts to interfere with it, create an animus injurious to the community in which they find favor, stimulating those who are injured to divert business to less advantageous routes, and leading in the end to a diminution of revenue and loss of trade.
The importance of continuing to maintain the Erie canal, as the regulator of freight and as the highway of our inland commerce, open, as at present, for free competition to all the people of the United States, subject only to payment of an equitable share in the actual cost of the advantages they thus enjoy, has not escaped the sagacity of discerning men from other States. A distinguished United States Senator, from the North
With the decrease of our forests, coal has become substantially a necessary of life, and its importance as a necessity must rapidly increase; its cost, therefore, is a matter of great interest to the people of this State as well as the whole country. This example, limited though it be in conse-west, explained the methods by which, in quence, cannot fail to arrest attention, and beyond all question foreshadows something of the consequences should similar interests control the great works of the State. Surrender the control of the canals, more especially of the Erie canal, into private hands, and into those very hands is surrendered the power almost to nominate the price of coal; certainly arbitrarily to fix the price of this and many other of the leading necessaries of life.
In the early history of our railways, arising
Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, certain railroad companies had become so far consolidated as to constitute almost a complete monopoly for transportion in those States, with the natural result of exorbitant freights, unjustly putting money into the pockets of the few at the expense of the producers of national wealth. The Senator, on behalf of the people of his State, protested against regarding the Erie canal "in any other light than as a national work," stating in strong terms his reluctance "to let a company occupy the only un
occupied ground for a transit route that there is] In this brief reference to the various benefits between the Mississippi river and the Atlantic which the construction of the Erie canal has conOcean, and then set all people that are west of it ferred upon the people of this State, it ought not at defiance, and charge just such tolls as they to be omitted, as it cannot be forgotten by this choose." generation, the great changes which were at once Governor Morgan, whose former official rela-produced upon its material prosperity. tions to the canal system of the State of New It should be remembered by the Convention York gave him an intimate and practical know- that the assessed valuation of all the real and ledge of his subject, during a debate in the personal property in the State of New York, as Senate of the United States, after predicting the reported to the Comptroller in 1866, was $1,531,effects upon the people of his own and other 229,636; that the value of the property transStates upon the sale of the Erie canal to railway ported on the Erie canal, in the thirty years from corporations, who he claimed must become the 1837, inclusive, was nearly three times the value purchasers, and are ever ready and willing to run of all the real and personal property of the State; into debt to extend their monopoly, said: "The that the canals for the last seven years have proSenator from Ohio said this morning they burnt duced net revenues of $20,636,868; that the their corn for fuel. Let this monopoly be created Western States had, in 1860, a population of and the Erie canal will be made to pay $100,000,- about 9,000,000, which is being decennially 000; and they will not only be compelled to burn augmented at a ratio of 65 per cent; that the their corn in the West, but they will also burn population of New York, Brooklyn, Albany, their wheat when they get the entire control of Troy, Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, Oswego, the carrying trade. I think it will be the darkest Rochester, Lockport and Buffalo, in 1820, before day for the agricultural products of the West they the completion of the Erie canal, was only ever saw." 162,921; that the population of those cities in 1865 was 1,398,526; that of the assessed valuation of all the real and personal property in the sixty counties of the State ($1,531,229,636), seventeen, embracing New York city, Kings, Queens, Suffolk, Westchester, Albany, Saratoga, Washington, Schenectady, Oneida, Rensselaer, Oswego, Onondaga, Monroe, Niagara and Erie (less than one-fourth the area of the State), have $1,227,526,000; and that these counties are all upon the line of the Erie canal. Valuation of property in this State in 1825, when Erie canal was opened for business,..
He might have well included his own people as equal sufferers with the West, in that event, for whatever calamity has befallen one has been equally disastrous to the other, so closely are they bound together in sympathy and interest.
It would truly be the "darkest day" the people of this State ever saw, when the control of this channel of commerce should pass from their hands to complete the combination of collossal railway corporations, consolidating and extending throughout the country, and wielding as they would then $400, 000, 000 of capital, with no check upon the price of delivery of the necessaries of life, except their forbearance, and the easy virtue of modern Legislatures. The imbecility of a people that would permit it, would deserve any fate.
The commercial conventions in Chicago, in 1862, and in Detroit, in 1865, to which the Boards of Trade in every city and village in the Northern States sent large delegations, including many distinguished members of this Convention, adopted similar views, which were expressed in their report, as follows:
"Public sentiment requires, and has a right to demand, that the State of New York shall hold this great thoroughfare-this connecting link between the East and the West-not for local aggrandizement, or State revenue, but as the trustee of the nation; and impose only such tolls on commerce as shall be required to preserve the integrity of the work, and ultimately pay the cost of construction."
These views are sound in political economy, and such substantial adoption of them in the future policy of the State toward her sister States as would, by constitutional provisions, make the Erie canal hereafter a free, national canal, would be a measure of most enlightened policy and as promotive of the interests of our own people as honorable to the commonwealth. The public sentiment of mankind, as well as the dictates of political economy, require that products of vital and common necessity to the race should only be so taxed as to insure adequate and complete means for their transit.
Valuation of property, 1866,.
A tax of one milf on valuation of 1825,
A tax of one mill on valuation of 1866,
$299,197,721 00 1,531,229,636 00
The increase in the assessed value of property in 1866 over 1855, was 411 per cent, which percentage also represents the increase in the product of a one mill tax in 1866 over a one mill tax in 1825.
It is no exaggeration to say that this vast increase of wealth through the center of the State has been created within 42 years by the commercial operations of that canal. All parts of the State have felt its benefits in some degree. There is not a piece of tillable land upon the Adirondack mountains, in the northern part of our State, or on the Green mountains, in the south, that has not been advanced in value by it. The causes which have produced these stupendous results will prove as powerful in the future as in the past, if unwise measures do not check progress and the full development of our original canal policy.
It is claimed by some that there is no danger of our losing the western trade. We have formidable rivals in railways and canals made or partly in operation or projected, in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the British Provinces. Five great trunk lines, extending from the seaboard to and beyond Chicago, at present the greatest center of our great inland commerce,