Imágenes de páginas

Hudson and the great inland seas of the North and West. They connect vast navigable public waters, and themselves assume something of a public character.


The voyage from Europe to America, even if destined to Southern ports, is deflected by the ocean currents so as to pass closely by the gates of our commercial metropolis. That capacious harbor is open the whole year, accessible in all prevailing winds, is sheltered, safe and tranquil. From it the smooth waters of the Hudson give transit to the lightest hull, carrying the largest cargo, which the skill of man has brought into use. The head of navigation on the Hudson touches the natural pass of commerce, opened up in the geographical configuration of this continent, where the Alleganies are cloven down to their base, and travel and traffic are allowed to flow accross on a level and by the narrowest isthmus, to the lake ports, which connect with all that great system of inland water communication and interior commerce, the most remarkable, in its character and extent, and accessories, that exists in any part of the globe.


Tributary to the western centres of lake commerce, such as Chicago and Milwaukce, are vast areas of fertile soils, which stretch to and partly include the valley of the Upper Mississippi. Open prairies, easily brought into cultivation, fitted for the use of agricultural machinery, adapted to the cheap construction of railways, and peculiarly dependent on their use as a means of intercourse and traffic, have been opened to settlers at nominal prices. They have been rapidly filled by a young, intelligent and energetic population, trained in the arts and industries of an older civilization, and applying them to natural advantages which have been found elsewhere, only in conjunction with the social barbarism of an uninhabited wilderness. They are now covered with a net work of railways, which connect myriads of little centres with the lake ports and with the trunk railways, that bring them into practical contiguity to our great Eastern centres of population, capital, commerce and manufactures.


New York, without arrogating to itself an undue share in these achievements, may contemplate with proud satisfaction its contribution to results so magnificent. Important as are the advantages which have accrued to itself, it has not sought to monopolise the benefits of its policy. The price of such cereals and other products of agriculture as are exported in considerable quantities, are mainly fixed by the competitions of the foreign markets, even for our own consumption. The cheapening of the cost of transit, therefore, chiefly profits the producer. This consideration illustrates how large and liberal, in the main, is the policy adopted by the State-a policy which I had the satisfaction of advocating in 1846 and 1867 — of

treating these great works as a trust for the million, and not seeking to make revenue or profit for the sovereign out of the right of way. In consonance with the same policy, was the action of the State in 1851, in permitting the transit free of tolls, upon a railway which it allowed to be constructed between the termini of the Erie canal and along its bank. It had originally undertaken the construction and administration of the canal, in order to create a facile and cheap transportation demanded by the interests of the people, and not otherwise possible to be attained. It did not forget the motive for which it had acted, and remember only its selfish interests as a proprietor. It, therefore, by an act which anticipated the necessity afterward to arise by the construction of rival routes, repealed all. restraints on the carriage of property, and opened to free competition every mode of transit, even in rivalry to its own works, for the products of the west and for the manufactures and merchandise of the east.


The Erie Canal remains an important and valuable instrument of transport, not only by its direct services, but by its regulating power in competition with other methods of transportation. The State, so far as we can now foresee, ought to preserve it, and not contemplate its abandonment.


If the State accepts the view which commands it to abstain as a proprietor from making profit out of the canal, but to deal with it as a trust, it still has great duties to perform. It is bound, as a faithful trustee, to protect this great work, not only from a spoliation of its revenues and from maladministration, but from empirical changes, proposed in the seductive form of specious improvements that would destroy its usefulness while charging it with new incumbrance; and from an improvident tampering with its incomes that would dissipate its means of effecting real improvements.

These are its ever-recurring and its greatest perils.


The 925 miles of lake navigation from Chicago to Buffalo, and the 495 miles of canal and river navigation from Buffalo to New York, and the 3,000 miles of ocean navigation from New York to the Old World, cannot be made homogenous or even assimilated; each is subject to physical conditions which are unchangeable, and to which the vehicle of transportation must be adapted.


The rough and stormy lakes require a strong vessel, made seaworthy by its deep keel, fully manned, and of a form intended for speed in an unlimited expanse of water. The canal admits of a light keel, and a shape which will carry a larger proportional cargo; for the boat moves safely in a tranquil channel of water, closely confined by physi[SENATE JOURNAL.]


cal boundaries on the bottom and sides, and cannot but submit to a slow movement.

The propellor of the lakes tends to grow in dimensions. A recent one carries 70,000 bushels of wheat, or 2,100 tons. A barge to be towed by each propellor is a system now being tried with fair prospects of success.

The lake craft of the average size carries less cargo in proportion to the vessel than the canal boat; and it costs twice and half or three times as much as the canal boat per ton of capacity.

[ocr errors]

If the Canal were made large enough to pass the lake craft, the transporter could not afford to use the lake craft on the canal. It carries too little cargo it is too costly it would have to reduce its rate of motion from about eight miles per hour on the lake to less than three miles per hour, which is the highest aim of the canal boats, that now make only 1 miles per hour.

Such a vehicle of transport would not be adapted to the water channel it must move in, and would not be economical. Transhipment at Buffalo, with modern machinery, would cost little, compared with the loss incident to using an unfit and illy adapted instrument.

To enlarge the Erie canal to dimensions adapted to the movement of such a vessel, at the rate of less than three miles per hour, would be so inconvenient to the traffic, that it would be easier and cheaper to construct an independent work. That would probably cost a principal sum, the annual interest on which would be greater than the entire amount now received by the carrier for his services, and by the State for its tolls on all the existing business. A shorter route would be likely to be preferred. The Hudson river, from Troy to deep water, would need a similar reconstruction.


A project often urged within the last ten years is the enlargement of the locks and other structures of the Erie canal, without a proportionate enlargement of the waterway. That plan exhibits a singular union of injurious costliness and fatal parsimony. It is founded on the fallacy that the use of a large boat, without reference to its adaptation to the waterway in which it is to move, would be economical. It is supported by an estimate of the State Engineer in 1864, that the cost of transportation would be reduced one-half. His opinion has been repeated on all occasions until the present time.

But that estimate, when analyzed, is found to omit all the wages and support of the crew during the return trip, and during the time occupied in loading and unloading, and to allow for the use of the boat about half its real cost. In other respects, it was utterly unworthy of trust.


The truth is, the boat is but one part of the whole machine of transportation; economy in the service depends upon getting the best adaptation of all the various parts the boat-the motive powerthe canal, with its structures and its waterway; the best group of

[ocr errors]

adaptations which adjustments and compromises of each can work out and combine; and the resultant of the greatest economies which can be obtained in conjunction.

A larger boat, in a waterway which now needs to be itself enlarged and improved to give a good transit to the present boat, would be an unmixed damage to the economy of the service, attained at immense



The Erie canal was planned in view of the best science and experience then possessed. It has excellent adaptations. It is a superior instrument of transportation. It should not be fundamentally changed in its character and conditions without great consideration. It should be perfected, and so made available to every practicable extent, for facilitating and cheapening the exchanges of commodities between the East and the West.


The two questions concerning it are: first, its capacity to do an aggregate business during a given period; secondly, the economy per ton per mile of the transportation it affords. These questions are generally confused in all discussions. They are completely distinct. They depend upon wholly different conditions.


Capacity to accommodate an aggregate tonnage during a day, a month, or a season of navigation, depends on the number of boats of the normal size which the locks are able to pass during the period. Boats can be multiplied indefinitely. The limit to their use is in the number to which the locks can give transit. The time occupied in a lockage is the test. But it is unnecessary to apply that, for the actual results of experience set at rest every doubt.

Of the seventy-two locks which intervene between the waters of Lake Erie and the waters of the Hudson, all but a few have been doubled for many years. In 1867, when the subject was discussed in the Constitutional Convention, thirteen remained single. For the first time, on the opening of navigation next spring, double locks will be brought into use throughout the entire canal. That will nearly double the capacity of the canal to make lockages. The largest delivery of the Erie Canal at tide-water was in 1862. It amounted to 2,917,094 tons, in cargoes averaging 167 tons. The lockages both ways, and including rafts which pass only one way,- at Alexander's, which is in the throat of the canal, three miles west of Schenectady,was 34,977. In 1873, the deliveries were 2,585,355 tons, in cargoes averaging 213 tons, and the lockages were 24,960.

The theoretical capacity of the canal will be three or four times the largest tonnage it has ever reached. There is no doubt it can conveniently and easily do double the business which has ever existed, even though the locks be not manned and worked with the highest efficiency. The subject of capacity may, therefore, be dismissed from this discussion.


The question really worthy of our attention is how we can perfect the canal, so as to reduce the cost per ton per mile of the transportation it affords.

Quickening the movement of the boat increases the service it renders in a given period. It lessens every element in the cost of that service. It enlarges the number of tons carried in the given time, and by enlarging the divisor of the same expenses, it reduces the rate of cost ton per mile.



The economy in the transit of the boat must be made, not in the locks, but in the water-way. The 72 locks in the 345 miles between Buffalo and West Troy, if each takes five minutes, would occupy exactly six hours.

In October, 1873, 76 boats were timed, and their average passage down, with average cargoes of 227 tons, was 10 days, 2 hours and . 46 minutes, or nearly 243 hours. If we double the time taken in the locks, the time occupied on the levels between them would still be over 95 per cent of the whole time of the voyage. It is clear, therefore, that the saving of time must be made in the 95 per cent, and not in the five per cent. Economy per ton per mile in the transportation, so far as it depends on the structure of the canal, is to be found in the relation which the water-way bears to the boat.

The movement of the boat through water confined in an artificial channel-narrow and shallow-is, at best, very slow. The engineers, in 1835, planned the Erie Canal and the boat with such reiations to each other as to give the greatest economy of power and facility of transit. The boat has inclined to grow rather large and too square. The water-way was practically never excavated in every part to its proper dimensions. Time, the action of the elements, and neglect of administration, all tend to fill it by deposits. I may be excused for repeating here what I said in the Constitutional Convention eight

years ago:


"What the Erie Canal wants is more water in the prism water in the water-way. A great deal of it is not much more than six feet, and boats drag along over a little skim of water; whereas it ought to have a body of water larger and deeper even than was intended in the original project. Bring it up to seven feet-honest seven feet and on all the levels, wherever you can, bottom it out; throw the excavation upon the banks; increase that seven feet toward eight feet, as you can do so, progressively and economically. You may also take out the bench-walls."


I recommend that such measures be taken as your wisdom, aided by such information as can be had from the proper administrative officers, may devise, to put in good condition and to improve the water-way of the Erie Canal; and that provision be made by law to enable the State Engineer, soon after navigation is opened, to measure

« AnteriorContinuar »