James Madison Papers

To James Madison from the New York State Canal Commissioners, 8 October 1811

From the New York State Canal Commissioners

New York October 8th 1811.


The enclosed Exemplification of a Statute passed the eighth of last april will shew that we are empowered to make application, on behalf of the State of New York, to the Congress of the United States, on the subject of a Canal betwe[e]n the Great Lakes and Hudson’s River.1

An object of such general concern seems to be within the scope of that information which is to be communicated to the National Legislature by the President of the United States, and therefore, we deem it our duty to place it in your hands.

We do not assign reasons in it’s support because they will not escape your penetration; neither do we solicit your patronage because we rely on your patriotism. It is submitted to your consideration in the most simple form and we have charged two of our Members Gouverneur Morris and Dewit Clinton to give you Sir, in presenting this Letter, the personal assurance of that respect with which We have the Honor to be Your most obedient servants

Gouvr Morris
[and six others]

RC (NHi). Signed by Morris, DeWitt Clinton, Simeon DeWitt, William North, Thomas Eddy, Robert R. Livingston, and Robert Fulton. Docketed by JM. Enclosure not found, but see n. 1.

1In April 1811 the New York State Legislature had created the New York State Canal Commission with an appropriation of $15,000 in order to advance the project of constructing a canal between the Hudson River and Lake Erie. The commission had seven members—all of whom signed the above letter to JM—and its purposes were to seek aid, both from other states and from Congress, to receive land grants and loans, and to negotiate the purchase of the assets of the failing Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, which had been incorporated in 1792 to open a waterway from Albany to Lakes Seneca and Ontario. Two of the commissioners, Gouverneur Morris and DeWitt Clinton, visited Washington in December 1811 where they lobbied both JM and Congress for support, but without success (Ronald E. Shaw, Erie Water West: A History of the Erie Canal, 1792–1854 [Lexington, Ky., 1966], pp. 45–47).

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