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BENNINGTON, September 6.
A correspondent from the county of Rutland informs, that the plan of opening a water communication between Lake Champlain and Hudson's river, has become a subject of much conversation in that and the northern counties of this state. A company of gentlemen in that part of the country have agreed to make an excursion a few weeks hence, for the purpose of examining the ground between Fort Anne and Hudson's river, and determining the practicability of the scheme, by actual mensuration, if necessary. Our correspondent adds, that the practicability cannot be doubted, if a stream of water can be found sufficient to supply a canal, capable of being brought on to the highest ground in the course. Wood Creek is boatable from Lake Champlain to Fort Arne, fifteen miles, except the falls at Whitehall, which may easily be locked; from Fort Anne to the Hudson is twelve or fourteen miles through a level country.
The advantages to be derived from the accomplishment of such an undertaking, to the fertile country adjacent to Lake Champlain, are almost inconceivably great; and the addition of 150 miles inland navigation, through the most fertile and thriving country in this part of America, to the present commercial advantages of New York, will give them a decided superiority in trade to any place in the union. It is apprehended, should the execution of the scheme be found possible, by actual survey, the expensiveness of the undertaking will be no obstacle to its accomplishment. It is an object worthy the attention not only of individuals, but the legislatures both of New York and Vermont.
This was more than a year before, in March 1792, Gen. PHILIP SCHUYLER, aided materially by ELKANAH WATSON, procured from New York the charter of the Western and Northern Inland Lock Navigation Companies, which were the precursors of both the present Erie and the Champlain canals.'
Simultaneously with this project in western Vermont, in eastern the improvement of Connecticut river for navigable purposes was consid
How much more valuable will they become, when an Inland navigation will be made from sea to sea, which it is expected will be completed in less than two years from this time.-See Winslow C. Watson's Champlain Valley, pp. 196-198.
Mr. Watson construes this as meaning a canal from Lake Champlain to Hudson's River, which was not entered upon until 1792, and even the most brilliant imagination could hardly conceive the probability of its construction in two years. Perhaps Gilliland's word was ten, misread "two," a common error. It seems to be more probable that Mr. Gilliland had in mind Ira Allen's projected canal between Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence river, the survey of which was actually completed in 1785. -See Ira Allen's History of Vermont, in Vt. Hist. Soc. Collections, Vol. 1, pp. 472, 477–480. On either hypothesis, Gilliland undoubtedly somewhat interested and influenced his Vermont neighbors on the eastern shore of the Lake. His enterprises were large, and his associations with Vermont intimate.
1See Men and Times of the Revolution, by Elkanah Watson, pp. 316-331.
ered, and at the October session of the legislature of 1791, the following was one of the articles of business assigned for that session:
10th. That the Legislature take into consideration the expediency of opening a communication between the waters of Lake Champlain and Hudson's river-and also of rendering the navigation of Connecticut river more easy and advantageous.
This article was committed to Messrs. Arad Hunt of Hinsdale [Vernon,] Jonathan Robinson of Bennington, Roger Enos then of Hartland, Matthew Lyon of Fairhaven, Gamaliel Painter of Middlebury, William Dennison of Strafford, and Ira Allen of Colchester; and Jonathan Arnold was joined from the Council. Oct. 31 this committee made a report in respect to the proposed Champlain canal, which report was tabled for the time then being, and no notice is found of any subsequent action thereon in the journal of the Assembly, nor was the report printed. It is probable that the report was favorable to the scheme, but recommended no definite action, as New York, within the limits of which the whole work was to be done, had not then authorized it. On the same day, the House passed a bill entitled "An act granting to William Page, [then of Charlestown, N. H., finally of Rutland,] Lewis R. Morris [of Springfield,] and their associates, their heirs, and assigns, forever, the exclusive privilege of locking Bellows Falls." This act fixed the tolls for thirty-two years; provided that at the end of that period, and every ten years thereafter, the supreme court might reduce the tolls, but not so as to prevent the proprietors from receiving twelve per cent. per annum on their actual expenditure; and made it the duty of the governor to issue a charter to the grantees, “and to incorporate them into a body politic, by the name of the company for rendering Connecticut river navigable by Bellows falls, with such privileges and immunities as may be necessary for the safety and well ordering of said property." For some reason, and possibly from an unwillingness of the gevernor to exercise the great powers reposed in him by this act, an act of incorporation of the same company was passed in October 1792, which, in addition to the provisions of the first act, authorized the county court by committees to assess damages for lands taken, and for injuries to private property."
Under the act of New York of March 1792, work was commenced on the Champlain canal in 1793, at Whitehall, and probably elsewhere on
At the next session, Oct. 1792, the governor communicated a letter from William Eaton, relative to this report. Eaton had been clerk of the House in 1791. His letter cannot be found.
See Laws of Vermont, Haswell's revision printed in 1791, and Acts of 1792. It is worthy of note that the powers here given to the courts in respect to land damages, and the reduction of tolls, were embraced in the charters for railroads nearly half a century later. The provision as to land damages was undoubtedly derived from the statute as to lands taken for highways.
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
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.2
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 Esq" &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."