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already had this subject under attentive examination, as forming part of a general system of defense. In the comprehensive and truly national report recently made to the House by that committee, they express
their earnest conviction that “a small fleet of light-draught, heavily-armed, iron-clad gunboats could, in one short month, in despite of any opposition that could be made by extemporized batteries, pass up the St. Lawrence, and shell every city and village from Ogdensburg to Chicago. At one blow it could sweep our commerce from that entire chain of waters. Such a fleet wooid have it in its power to inflict a loss to be reckoned only by hundreds of millions, so vast is the wealth thus exposed to the depredations of a maritime enemy." The vivid language of their report utters but the truth in declaring that the wide spread cities and commerce of these great inland seas are now as open to incursion as was Mexico when invaded by Cortez.”
It is no sufficient answer to assert that these canals of Canada, affording facilities of access so dangerous, were constructed only for commercial purposes. Nor indeed would it be true. Taught by the experience of the war of 1812, the attention of the most eminent British statesmen and commanders has long been occupied with the importance of these canals, not merely as commercial but as military channels. Their struggles in that war to secure the naval command of Lake Ontario, together with the conflicts on Lake Erie and Lake Champlain, are well remem. bered. In 1814 the Duke of Wellington declared to the British ministry " that a paval superiority on the lakes is a sine-qua-non of success in war on the frontier of Canada.” The treaty of peace in 1815 was followed, in 1817, by the “ diplomatic arrangement,” by which Great Britain anii the United States mutually agreed to dismantle their vessels-ofwar on the lakes, and reduce their naval force on each side “to one vessel of one hundred tons burden on Lake Ontario, and one on Lake Champlain, each armed with one 18 pound cannon, and on the upper lakes to two such vessels, armed with like force."
In 1819, but two years after that pacific arrangement, the Duke of Richmond, then Governor-General of Canada, transmitted to the Secretary of State, for the colonies, a report from Lientenant-General CockBURN in favor of a line of water communication, unquestionably intended as a military work, leading from Montreal, by way of the Ottawa River and the interior chain of ininor lakes, of which the Rideau is one, to Kingston, on Lake Ontario. In 1823 it was deterinined that the cost of the work should be wbolly defrayed by the mother country. In 1825, a commission, of which Major-General Sir J. CARMICHAEL Smith was president, reported the estimated expense to the Duke of Wellington, then a member of the British Government, whereupon the canal, with connecting works on the Ottawa, was consti ucted, openly and avowedly as a military work, by the royal engineers, under the direction of the Ordnance Department. It was completed in or near the year 1831, at a cost exceeding a million sterling. The preamble of the act of the local Parliament in Canada, authorizing the taking of lands for the purpose, passed in February, 1827, expressly recites that "His Majesty has been pleased ·lo direct measures to be immediately taken, under the superintendence of the proper military department, for constructing a canal connecting the waters of Lake Ontario with the river Ottawa, and affording a convenient Davigation for the transport of naval and military stores."
In 1831, Colonel DURNFORD, of the Royal Engineers, in his testimony before a committee of the British Parliament, stated that provision was made for block-houses at several of the locks of the canal, and that the work being intended as a military communication, it was necessary that fortifications and works of defense should be erected at the entrance of the canal, and in its immediate vicinity at Kingston. A fortress of very considerable strength was accordingly erected, and is now the most important military work on Lake Ontario.
The completion and defense of this interior line of water communication bas been followed by the construction of a series of short canals, of much greater size, along the St. Lawrence River and around its rapids. Their capacity very far transcends any commercial necessity which can reasonably be expected on that line of communication for a long time to come. In point of fact, the descending trade of the St. Lawrence, (necessarily preponderating, like that of the Erie Canal, largely over the ascending) is not one-third of that of the Erie Canal. Nevertheless, the existing locks of the Erie Canal are adequate to pass a descending trade double of that it now enjoys; while, again, the locks on the St. Lawrence canals, 45 feet by 200, have double the capacity of those on the Erie; from which three elements it is arithmetically evident that the locks of the St. Lawrence bave at least twelve times the capacity really required for any purpose of existing commerce.
It was the deep conviction of danger in this inequality between the canals of the two countries for the purposes of national defense, and the absolute necessity of regaining, without delay, that equality of naval access and condition intended to be secured by the treaty stipulation of 1817, which led the Legislature of New York to pass the act of the 22d of April last. That such were the views of the Legislature, fully appears from the reports on the subject made in their Senate and Assembly. The report of Mr. Ogden, Chairman of the Canal Committee of the Assembly, substantially confirmed by that of Mr. Cook in the Senate, truly asserts that these large dimensions of the Canadian locks, is so far beyond the meager wants of Canadian commerce at the time, suggest that the higher object of military defense was not lost sight of by far seeing British states. men in their construction ; and they will not complain if, on a subject of 80 much moment, we follow their example. A preparation for defense and provision for the rapid concentration of military and defensive power in time of need could not be construed, by any logical or fair course of reasoning, into hostile intent; nor would it provoke criticism from a nation so careful as Great Britain in placing berself in defensive position.
“ Defensive measures are always pacific measures; their bearing and tendency are toward peace; they avert rather than provoke war; induce caution on the part of rivals and antagonists, and never provoke hostilities on the part of friends. It is submitted with entire confidence that the means of placing gunboats speedily and certainly on the border lakes will tend greatly to prevent war with our northern neighbor. She would respect us more, and surely not fear us Jess, if we stand on a perfect equality with herself in the particular referred to."
In opposition to these sensible and patriotic views, it has been asserted that no real necessity exists for enlarging the channels of our American canals for the passage of gunboats, but, on the contrary, that the safety of our cities and commerce on the lakes may be fully and surely provi.
ded for either by accumulating and storing materials for gunboats at points on the canal near the lakes, or, in case of war, by marching a military force into Canada to seize and destroy its canals.
In respect to the first of these expedients, it may be observed, that even if it could be lawfully and wisely adopted under the provisions and true intent of the existing treaty, the very materials thus to be stored for any adequate number of vessels, (estimated at $200,000 each,) and probably destined only to decay through a long course of years, would cost very nearly, if not quite, as much as the whole expense of enlarging the ninety locks on the Erie and Oswego canals; and, furthermore, that we should mueb underrate the resolution and activity of our vigorous adversary in - assuming that, with his large and powerful fleet of gunboats, ready at any moment to be precipitated into the lakes, he would give us time to complete our vessels before the mischief would be done.
In respect to the proposed seizure and destruction of the Canadian canals, it may in like manner be observed, and that too in a spirit of perfect amity, that our British bretòren, sharing with ourselves a descent from common ancestors, inherit, at least, a reasonable amount of courage, if not of obstinacy; that the matter of seizing and destroying their canals, however tribing it may seem, would hardly go by default; and, at any rate, that their numerous and swift-sailing gunboats could ascend and ravage the whole coast of the lakes before our military columns, of adequate force, could be put in motion.
Such, too, seems to be the present opinion of the British people as manifested through their public journals. The leading article in the London Times of the 7th of January last, in reference to the disturbing affair of the Trent, then pending, declares :
" That as soon as the St. Lawrence is opened again there will be an end of our difficulty. We can then pour into the lakes such a fleet of gunboats, and other craft, as will give us the complete and immediate command of those waters. Directly the navigation is clear, we can send up vessel after vessel without any restriction, except such as are imposed by the size of the canals. The Americans would have no such resource. They would have no access to the lakes from the sea, and it is impossible that they could construct vessels of any considerable power in the interval that would elapse before the ice broke up. With the opening of spring, tbe lakes would be ours."
It was after a careful examination of this important matter in both houses of the Legislature of New York, and taking into view not only the greatly exposed condition of her northern water frontier, but the immense stream of lake commerce pouring into her territory, and through her canals and railways, not only from the mineral and grazing districts of northern Pennsylvania and Ohio, but from the truly imperial group of agricultural States adjacent to the upper iakes, that the act of the 22d of April was passed by large majorities both in the Senate and Assembly, placing all the State canals connected with the lakes at the service of the general government. By the provisions of the act, the United States will become fully entitled, whenever it shall provide the pecuniary means for enlarging the locks on the Erie and Oswego canals, to the perpetual right of passage through those canals “ free from toll or charge, for its vesselsof-war, boats, gunboats, transports, troops, supplies, or munitions of war.” The act grants a similar right of perpetual passage in case the govern
ment shall provide the means for two other works, one being a branch canal (now partially constructed) from the Erie Canal to the safe and commodious harbor of Great Sodus Bay, on Lake Ontario, furnishing a very desirable rendezvous for naval vessels; the other being the enlargement of the Champlain Canal, on the direct route of the old and natural war path of our revolutionary history, and opening a channel of rapid and easy access to an important military point on the St. Lawrence River, before Montreal, where the chain of water communication between Upper and Lower Canada might be broken.
The cost of enlarging the locks on the Erie and Oswego canals, to be paid by the United Staies, will not exceed $3,500,000. That of the branch to the Great Sodus Bay is not yet definitely ascertained. The enlargement of the Champlain Canal has been estimated by the State engineer at $3,700,000; but with due economy may probably be considerably reduced below that amount.
The enlargement of the locks on the Erie and the Oswego canals can be easily coicpleted in a single winter, and, if necessary, by the 1st of May next. Up to the 30th of September, 1861, the State had expended, in constructing these two canals, and in enlarging their dimensions to the size required for the commerce of the lakes, the sum of $43,575,167. Their nett tolls, deducting repairs, are wholly devoted to the reimbursement of the debt incurred in their enlargement, and are kept at the lowest rate consistent with that object.
These then are the prominent features of the canals which the legislative act of New York has placed at the service of the government. In view of her peculiar geographical position in the Union, with three of the six great northern lakes (Champlain included) lying immediately on her border, she now feels entitled respectfully but earnestly to claim that the national duty of defending such a chain of seas, not only from imminent and immediate danger, but the remotest chance of assault and ravage by a maritime enemy, is among the highest and most imperative obligations of the general government. In entering into the Union, of which, through every change of circumstances, she has been a loyal inember, she voluntarily and cheerfully surrendered to the general government, without stint or reservation, the rich revenues from foreign inports
, which ber geographical position, coinmanding at once the ocean and the lakes, would have enabled ber, with any views less comprehensive and national, practically to monopolize.
For the sake of that priceless Union, she gave up all the common treasury, for the very purpose of enabling the national government then called into being fully and faithfully to discharge its sovereign and transcendent duties, among which noue was more conspicuous or emphatic than the solemn and perpetual obligation imposed by the Constitution,
to provide for the common defense of the States.” She does not presume or desire to calculate the value or count the cost of that glorious national structure, and nevertheless, in view of the scanty measure of
protection and relief she now asks, far less for herself than the loyal group of sister States richly clustering around the lakes, she cannot refrain from stating that the duties collected at the single port of New York, an:) faithfully paid over to the national treasury, alreally amount to $971,06:3,527 ; of which inmense sumn $355,235,855 is included in the single decade from 1830 to 1300. These duties, it is true, were eventually paid by the con
sumers of foreign products scattered broadcast throughout the nation, but it must be remembered that of those consumers a population of 10,- 58,005 . are embraced within the States adjacent to the lakes, without including the narrow but very valuable strip of territory on those waters belonging to Pennsylvania.
How much, or rather bow little has been done by the general government to provide for the common defense of the State around these inland seas froni hostile attack, sufficiently appears from the fact that the wbole amount appropriated for every species of lake defense, up to the present moment, is but $1,676,650, while on the other band, the cost of the fortifications alone on the Atlantic ard Gulf of Mexico, to say noth. ing of the hundreds of millions expended on the navy, bas been $34,487,809.
To these facts the attention of the general government is now invited, in no spirit of complaint or supplication, but only of unaffected filial respect. New York did not complain even in 1811, when the government, then administered by President Madison, denied the petition presented in her behalf by De Wit Clinton and Governor Morris, two of her first canal commissioners, seeking the scanty measure of aid which, at that early day, she really required for pushing the Erie Canal through ber nearly untrodden territory out to the great national wilderness around the lakes. The refusal, not particularly parental in tone or manner, served only to invigorate her youthful and unaided efforts, and compelled her to win alone the reputation she gladly would bave shared with the everhonored Union, of which she was, and is, and ever will remain, a dutiful and obedient member. But the present exigencies of her canals, like those of the kindred canal of Illinois, are wholly national; the duty of adapting them to the common defense emphatically and exclusively national; and it would be veither just nor generous to require either her or Illinois separately to burthen their people for objects plainly of primary interest and necessity to all the States.
2. The question then arises, cannot the United States now afford to expend the amount necessary to defend these lakes, with their immense fleets of commercial vessels, from maritime aggression; and this brings us to the class of facts secondly above proposed for examination, involving the pational importance of the commerce of the lakes.
They will conclusively show, that the national commerce, for which the lakes afford the natural channel, constitutes a fundamental and vital element of our national strength; that it has now attained such dimensions that the general government cannot, wisely or sately, neglect or disregard it; and that, even for fiscal purposes, iis pecuniary value is so great, with a prospect of increase so enormous, that the nation cannot atford, for a moment, to leave it exposed to any possibility of disturbance.
The present condition and past growth of this commerce will need to be stated somewhat in detail. It is so interwoven with the Erie Canal, its great national outlet to the ocean, that the history of neither can be complete without including both.
The Erie Canal, completed in 1825, with the scanty dimensions of forty feet wide and four feet deep, was regarded, for several years after its completion, by a considerable portion of our population, as a local work, mainly intended for the State of New York and its local commerce. Nor was this narrow view, at the time, particularly surprising, for, as late as