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the line, but was soon discontinued for the reason stated in the following letter:
Gen. Philip Schuyler to Gov. Chittenden.1 ALBANY October 17th 1793. Sir,-The legislature of the state of New York has incorporated a company for the purpose of opening a canal and lock navigation from the tide of water of Hudson's river to Lake Champlain. If the object of the Institution is compleated the most extensive benefits will result as well to the citizens of Vermont, as to those of this state. The works have been commenced and were progressing with a pleasing celerity, when they were arrested by the defalcation of many of the stockholders who neglected makeing payment of the Second requisition of twenty five dollars on each share assigning for reasons, that as only 672 shares had been subscribed and the estimated expence amounting to 225000 dollars, each share would amount to about 335 dollars; this, especially those who held many shares, conceived would be beyond their means. They have however since generally made the required payments, intending to sollicit further aid from the Legislature of this State, either by an additional donation to the company, or by taking an extensive number of shares in the stock, and there is little doubt but that relief will be obtained in one or other of these ways.
The directors have been advised that It was probable the Legislature of your state would contribute to this important undertaking, and have requested me to make the above communication,-should aid be extended by your state your Excellency will pardon the liberty I take in suggesting the stipulations which appear to me proper to accompany any free gift-and which will secure Its application to such part of the improvements in which the citizens of Vermont are more immediately interested, and which are, that the gift should [be] exclusively appropriated to clearing, straitning and deepning Wood Creek, from the canal and locks now constructing at Skensborough [Whitehall] to that part of said creek where It will be intersected by a canal to be drawn from Hudson's river near Fort Edward, and that the improvements should be made on such a scale as to admit the passage of vessels of sixty feet in length, ten in breadth, and to draw at least two feet of water, and that If the whole gift is not expended in this improvement the residue to be laid out on the canal to Hudson's river aforesaid,--but If the legislature should prefer to direct the subscription of a number of shares, then nothing more will be necessary than to make provision for the payment of fifty dollars on each share, being the sum paid by the original Subscribers, and to direct the payment of such future requisitions as the directors may call for on each share, in a general requisition upon all the stockholders.
If aid is extended to the company in either way, by the legislature of your state and by this, I am perfectly confident that the improvements may be compleated in five years to carry vessels of the burthen abovementioned, and even larger, from Lake Champlain to the town of Troy. It is certainly needless to detail the advantages which will be derived to
'From the original letter, in Ms. Vermont State Papers, Vol. 24, p. 66. A literal copy is given, with the addition of a few points.
The Champlain canal, as completed by New York in 1823, was forty feet wide at the surface, twenty-eight feet at the bottom, and four feet in depth.
the community from a completion of the contemplated work. They will readily occur to Your Excellency and to the enlightened legislature of the state in which you preside.
I have the honor to be with great regard Sir Your Excellency's Most Obedient Servant PH: SCHUYLER.
His Excellency Governor Chittenden &c. &c.
The foregoing letter was communicated to the General Assembly by the governor, and it was referred to Samuel Hitchcock of Burlington, Daniel Farrand of Newbury, Enoch Woodbridge of Vergennes, Matthew Lyon of Fairhaven, and Elijah Robinson of Weathersfield, to whom Councillors Safford and Marvin were joined. On the 4th of November, this committee reported "That the Legislature take measures to direct the purchase of twenty shares in the company for the use of the State;" but, it being the last day of the session, the letter and report were referred by the Assembly to the next session. No legislative action occurred until 1796, and it appears from the following letter that the company had suspended the work.
Gen. Philip Schuyler to Gov. Chittenden."
ALBANY October 10th 1796. Sir, The board of directors, of the northern inland navigation company, in this state, have determined to re-commence their operations in the ensuing year, and to prosecute, with all possible celerity, the improvements in the internal navigation. Their first object will be, the completion of the canal, and locks at Skensborough [Whitehall,] and to clear wood creek, from the timber which Obstructs the navigation thereof, so as to render it competent, for the passage of boats of ten tons burthen, in the driest seasons;-to cut down such timber standing on Its banks, as may fall into the Creek, and create fresh impediments, & to form a towing path on one of Its banks. the expence of these works; that of a canal and locks, to connect the waters of wood creek, with Hudson's river, the improvements in that river, and the other canals, and locks, requisite to form an uninterrupted water communication, between Lake Champlain, and the tide water of Hudson's river, has been estimated at three hundred thousand dollars. This sum, altho' inconsiderable, when placed in competition with the almost invaluable advantages, which must certainly result, from the facility with which the produce of the country, between this and Lake Champlain, and that produced on both sides of the lake, will be brought to market, when the work shall be compleated, is nevertheless, so extensive, as not to be raised, without much embarrassment to many of the original subscribers to the stock of the company. under the conviction of this embarrassment, the Legislature of this state, has not only gratuitously bestowed, twelve thousand five hundred dollars on the company, but as a farther aid, has subscribed two hundred shares, on the part of the people of the state. there are however, still One hundred and twenty-eight shares unsubscribed, of the one thousand, of which the stock of the company is to consist.
As a very considerable portion of the citizens of Vermont will participate in the benefits which will result from the operations of the company, the directors are persuaded, they may with propriety respectfully sollicit the aid of your legislature, and therefore entreat that respecta
From the original in Ms. Vermont State Papers, Vol. 24, p. 89.
ble body to Subscribe fifty shares to the stock of the company, on the part of their constituents, and to cause Wood Creek to be cleared in the manner above mentioned.
Should the Legislature be pleased to Subscribe fifty, or any other number of shares, permit me to mention, that the present stockholders have already paid fifty dollars on each share, and that a like sum, would be to be paid on each share, which may be subscribed on the part of your state, and as It is believed, that the aggregate expence of all the works will not exceed the sum I have stated, only two hundred and fifty dollars more, will be required on each share, by instalments, probably not exceeding fifty dollars in each year, for the five ensuing years, in which time it is expected to compleat the works, and Should the legislature be farther pleased to cause wood creek to be cleared and cut the timber from Its banks, as abovementioned, It would require the labour of about thirty men, for sixty working days, especially If in the Course of the ensuing Winter, when the Ice in the creek shall be sufficiently strong to Support the weight of trees on It, those trees were cut, and also so much of the timber, already in the Creek, as may project above the Ice, and both cut into such lengths, as that it may with facility float down the Creek, with the spring freshes;
I have taken the liberty to Inclose for your Excellency's information; and that of the Legislature, the Act of Incorporation, and two Subsequent Acts relative to the Company, and a report of the board of directors, from which will be seen the benefits which have already resulted to the community from the Operations of the Western company. may I entreat you Sir to lay this letter with the papers inclosed, before your legislature, and to sollicit your aid to Obtain the prayer of the directors, -and to advise me of the determination of the legislature on the subject.
I have the Honor to be with great respect your Excellency's Most Obedient Servant
PH: SCHUYLER, president
of the directors of the Western Company. His Excellency Thomas Chittenden Esqr &c &c & c1 Oct. 20 1796, this letter, with the accompanying documents, was presented to the Assembly and referred to Messrs. Elijah Dewey of Bennington, Matthew Lyon of Fairhaven, Oliver Gallup of Hartland, Josiah Arms of Brattleborough, Abel Thompson of Ferrisburgh, Daniel Farrand of Newbury, and Elisha Sheldon of Sheldon. Councillors Knoulton and Strong were joined. Oct. 31, the committee submitted the letter in full to the House, with the following report:
To the honorable the General Assembly,--Your committee to whom was referred the consideration of the letter from the president of the northern inland lock navigation company in the state of New-Yorkwith the accompanying papers, Report, That they have duly considered the matter therein contained, and view it of the utmost importance to the prosperity of this state, to give every encouragement to that very necessary work, they therefore recommend it to the legislature to comply with the requisitions contained in said letter, and in order to raise the necessary sums your committee farther recommend the laying of a tax
'The peculiar excellences and defects of this letter seem to warrant the statement of Elkanah Watson, that "General Schuyler possessed the highest order of talents, but without scholastic attainments."
of two pence on each acre on every town in this state lying on Lake Champlain, of one penny on each acre in the towns in the second tier from the said lake, and one half penny on each acre on the towns in the third tier, with the direction in the act for the monies arising from the profits of such shares to be paid into the treasury of the respective towns so taxed in due proportion, all which is submitted by
LUKE KNOULTON, for Committee.
In a postscript to this report, the committee further recommended, in case the House accepted the report, "that the representatives of the towns concerned nominate the persons who are to transact the business. as it is not expected that the state treasurer will be concerned in the matter." After debate, it was resolved to postpone the subject until the next session; but on the 2d of Nov. Elisha Sheldon of Sheldon introduced a bill entitled "An act enabling all the organized towns in this state to tax themselves for the purposes therein mentioned ;" and Nov. 8th it became a law. The preamble of this act was as follows:
Whereas the legislature of the state of Newyork have established a company in said state, called and known by the name of the President, Directors, and Company of the northern inland lock navigation from the now navigable part of Hudson's river to Lake Champlain ; & have enabled said company to receive and enjoy certain profits which may arise therefrom. And whereas the President of said Company has made application to this legislature to subscribe for fifty shares thereof, -And although it appears to the legislature, that the purchase of said shares, for the purpose of encouraging said undertaking, would be highly beneficial to the state at large, yet as it would be more particularly beneficial to the western and north western parts thereof, the legslature do not think fit to purchase said shares with money taken from the public treasury, but for the purpose of encouraging an undertaking so laudable and beneficial to mankind, the legislature have thought fit to enable such towns as, from a spirit of liberality and enterprize, shall have a wish to become stockholders in said company, to tax themselves for the purpose.
Therefore the act authorized and empowered organized towns to levy a tax not exceeding six per cent. on the grand list, or a land-tax not exceeding three pence per acre payable in money only, for the purpose stated, and went on to provide for the collection of the taxes.1 It is not known that this act was in any degree successful, but it is worthy of notice as being the precedent for several acts of recent date, and also of the existing general statute, authorizing towns to aid, by bonds or stock, in the construction of railroads.
While Gen. Schuyler was endeavoring to push on the work of his company in New York, the men of enterprise in the valley of Connecticut river were not idle. By companies chartered by Vermont, and in one instance at least by a lottery, means were raised for clearing the bed of the river, and constructing the necessary canals and locks. Massachusetts and Connecticut co-operated in the work, and finally the river was made available for transportation by flat-boats and rafts, much to the
'See Laws of 1796, pp. 42-47.
advantage of the inhabitants of the valley in Vermont and New Hampshire. These improvements were specially advantageous to those engaged in the lumber trade; and the canals still furnish water-power for manufactures of great value. In 1830, a small steam-boat ascended the Connecticut to Wells River Village; in 1831, five additional boats were built and put on the river at different sections between Hartford, Conn., and Wells River Village, and were run about a year; but in 1832 the company failed, and the boats were withdrawn.
1 Vermont Historical Magazine, Vol. II, p. 955.