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The National Trans Alleghany Water Way

by Thompson B. Maury

1878

VIEW OF NEW RIVER. VIEW OF NEW RIVER.

The offices of running water have afforded a fertile theme for the poet and the philosopher. In the ruder ages of the world the water-ways which carve their course over the face of the globe were regarded only in the light of natural barriers against hostile invasion; and thus arose the historic principle—

Lands intersected by a narrow frith
Abhor each other.

But civilization has demonstrated that they subserve a much higher purpose, that the rivers of a country are its great arteries and highways of trade, and that they fulfill functions as numerous and benign in the political economy as in the physical geography of the regions they furrow. In the Old World, the advancing streams of culture, science and commerce, and even the migrations of nations, have ebbed and flowed along the classic valleys of the Rhine, the Rhone and the Danube; and the banks of the Tigris, the Euphrates and the Nile are rich in memories of the world's mightiest and most splendid empires. In America the fertile watersheds of the Ohio, the Mississippi and the Missouri are fast becoming what their antitypes of the great continent have been in the past. The outspreading wave of civilization and population has already reached westward to the foot of the Rocky Mountains from the Gulf of Mexico to Montana and Idaho, while even the basin of the Columbia River is rapidly filling up with an active, thriving and busy people, who can smile at the poet's vision:

Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound
Save its own dashings.

The water-courses of a country are not less valuable to it than the little Pactolus was to the ancient city of Sardis, through whose streets it ran freighted with gold. But these natural highways of human intercourse, like most of Nature's provisions, are capable of indefinite artificial extension and multiplication. Our finest modern canals are scarcely smaller, and certainly capable of more uninterrupted, safe and heavy navigation, than many of the rivers which have figured in history, and which Pascal so graphically described as "moving roads that carry us whither we wish to go."

Such considerations as these have a profound bearing on many of the great economic problems of the age, but on none more than upon the grand problem which is now agitating the national mind in the United States: How to connect its seaboard and central regions by water. A glance at the map of the Union shows that its vast interior lies ensconced between the two mountain-walls of the Rocky chain on its western side and the Appalachian chain on its eastern side. Hemmed in by these barriers is the immense expanse of the most prolific, populous and prosperous section on the continent, which, taking its name from "the Father of Waters," is geographically designated as the Mississippi Valley, estimated by Professor J. W. Foster of the Chicago University to contain an area of two million four hundred and fifty-five thousand square miles, equal to that of all Europe excepting Russia, Norway and Sweden. Unlike the inland basin of Asia, in which the vast, mountain-girt Desert of Gobi stretches out its seas of sand, stony, sterile and desolate, the inland basin of America is its garden-spot and granary. Swept by the vapor-bearing winds and rain-distilling clouds from the Gulf of Mexico, and blessed with an excellent climate, it contains all the physical elements of an empire within itself. Its position makes it the national strong-hold, so that with military men it has grown into an adage, "Whoever is master of the Mississippi is lord of the continent." It is yet but half developed, but no far-seeing mind can form any estimate of its future growth and opulence. "With a varied and splendid entourage—an imperial cordon of States—nothing," says Dr. John W. Draper of New York, "can prevent the Mississippi Valley from becoming in less than three centuries the centre of human power." The only wall of partition that shuts it off from the great marts of the world is formed by the chain of the Alleghanies, which stretch along the Atlantic seaboard, from south-west to north-east, for twelve hundred miles. This natural barrier, with a mean altitude of two thousand feet, is destitute of a central axis, and consists, as the two Rogerses, who have most fully explored its ridges, showed, of a series of convex and concave flexures, "giving them the appearance of so many colossal entrenchments." With a broad artificial channel cut through its sunken defiles and picturesque gorges, there would at once be opened a gateway for the flow and reflow of the heavy commerce of the Western World.

In 1781 the practical and philosophic eye of Thomas Jefferson perceived the national necessity for a great trans-Alleghany water-line, and early in the year 1786, though still tossed on the wave of the Revolution, and not yet recovered from the shock of British invasion, the State which gave birth to the author of the "Declaration of Independence" declared for the enterprise. With all the means and energy at its command it pushed forward the work from year to year, and directed it, as Mr. Jefferson had proposed, so as to connect the head-waters of the James River, flowing from the Alleghany summits to the ocean, with the mountain-river known as the Great Kanawha, which rises near the fountains of the upper James and descends into the broad bosom of the Ohio. Although this undertaking was prosecuted slowly at first, it was permanently recognized as one that must go on; in 1832 and 1835 it received new impulses; and in 1840 it had reached the piedmont districts. In 1847 a powerful impetus was given to the work, and it was thenceforth, till 1856, forced rapidly westward up the eastern slopes of the Alleghanies, as a complete and working structure, above a point three hundred miles from the Atlantic capes, and two hundred miles from Richmond, leaving an unfinished gap to the upper or navigable part of Kanawha River of a little over one hundred and fifty miles. This enormous work was more than half finished at an outlay of $10,436,869—a sum which, during the economic period of its expenditure, went as far as nearly twice that amount would go now.

By recent legislation the State of Virginia proposes to turn over the entire property of the canal to the United States, on the sole condition of its being finished by the government and converted into a national water-highway for the good of the common country—in other words, upon the one condition of its nationalization.

It is sometimes contended that the day of canals has passed, and henceforward the railway must take their place. But this notion is opposed to the present economic necessities of the world, as well as to the provisions of Nature, which evidently point to the utilization of the hydraulic systems of the globe. The lavish and prodigal use of the coal-deposit of the earth, and the deforesting of vast tracts of soil to supply fuel for the locomotive and the stationary engine, have already wrought incalculable and almost irremediable evils. The past year has seen the prices of all English coals go up at least eighty per cent., and the coal-famine of Great Britain, foreseen some years ago, has already threatened to sap the vigor of her industrial systems and destroy her manufacturing supremacy, or, at any rate, place her at the mercy of the United States for the fuel with which to operate them. The denudation of the vast territories of the United States by the axe of emigration has already told in a marked degree upon the condition of its climate, and greatly affected its meteorology and rainfall; while the railroads, which have spread their Briarean arms over the whole country, by their immense consumption of wood for cross-ties, sills, fuel, snow-sheds, bridges, etc., have wellnigh stripped the land of its timber, leaving its bosom exposed to the biting blasts of winter and to the fiery blaze of the summer sun.

The problem of more rapid canal navigation is speedily approaching solution, and to give up the water-lines of the larger sections would be fatal to their commercial development. "The Erie Canal," said a distinguished citizen of New York a short time ago, "now conveys one-fourth of the whole export of that vast interior region I have described (the Mississippi drainage), and as much of it during its six months of uninterrupted navigation as all of the trunk railways together during the same time." "Every canal-boat," he added, "which comes to Albany with an average cargo is more than the average of the New York Central Railroad trains. In the busy canal season more than one hundred and fifty such boats come daily to tide-water, and the New York Central Railroad traffic never reaches thirty trains a day." Such a canal traffic would make more than twenty miles of uninterrupted railroad-cars, which could not, by any possibility, be handled by the largest force of railroad employés with expedition or convenience. The furore which the steam-engine has excited and so long maintained in the mechanical world is decidedly abating. Engineers are everywhere at work studying the practicability of employing new forces. The solar heat, the wind-power, the water-power of rivers, and even the tidal energy of the sea, have been and are now being harnessed to the machineries of Europe. These reservoirs of force are kept perennially full by the sun and the moon, to whose action they are due, and at a future period, when men have prodigally squandered their heritage of coal and wood wealth, they will be invoked by the mechanic and manufacturer to furnish their chief motive-power. As an economist of the force-capital deposited by the sun's influence in the bowels of the earth during its carboniferous epoch, and as using, instead of it, the force-interest received annually from the sun through the medium of rain and wind, the water-way will and must become one of the most generally employed engines of the higher civilizations yet to be.

So long as the subject of trans-Alleghany water-communication was viewed as one merely affecting individual States, it possessed no national interest. But in its present aspect it is of vast moment, both national and international. While many overcrowded portions of the Old World are often confronted with both the spectre and the reality of gaunt famine, and their breadless thousands are looking wistfully to the fresh and prolific fields of the New, for relief, there are annually lost to the country and the world vast stores of corn, which the Western farmers cannot afford to send by railroad to the seaboard for foreign shipment, and freely use as a substitute for fuel. This fact is suggestive and significant. To understand its import we have only to look at the geographical position of the West and the Mississippi Valley, isolated in the heart of a continent.

There are three outlets for the commerce of these sections seeking New York, the emporium of the New World, and the chief trans-Atlantic markets: 1. By the Mississippi River to New Orleans, and thence by transhipment to New York and Europe. 2. By the northern lakes to the St. Lawrence Valley, or by the former to the Erie Canal. 3. By the costly transportation of railroads over the Alleghanies or along the lake-shores eastward.

THE CANAL BASIN AT LEXINGTON, VIRGINIA. THE CANAL BASIN AT LEXINGTON, VIRGINIA.

The first of these routes is of course the longest, both in time and distance. It takes the merchandise by an extensive détour, which, from the mouth of the Ohio River, viâ the Gulf, to New York, exceeds three thousand miles. Although lying in the powerful current of the Gulf Stream, which is a propelling force speeding forward the vessel that trusts its warm, blue waters, this route is exposed to the most violent cyclonic storms, and navigators shun and evade it during the equinoctial or hurricane season. But, barring danger and distance, no country with such an outlet to the sea as the Mississippi River affords can be considered dependent upon any artificial communication. Notwithstanding the objections which exist to this long route (which is both expensive and long), its trade is rapidly increasing from the very exigencies of the case. The introduction of the barge-system on the great Western rivers has greatly facilitated and cheapened transportation. Steam-tugs, carrying neither passengers nor freight, are substituted for the steamboat. These tugs never stop except to coal and attach the barges, already loaded before their arrival at a city, and proceed with great despatch. Steaming steadily on, night and day, they make the trip from St. Louis to New Orleans almost as quickly as the oft-detained steamboat. The distance has been made between these cities by a tug, with ten heavily-freighted barges, in six days. The tugs plying on the Minnesota River carry with good speed barges containing thirty thousand bushels of wheat, and the freight of a single trip would fill more than eighty railroad-cars. This transportation is cheap, because the tugs require less than one-fourth the expense for running and management required by the steamboats. The carriage of grain from Minnesota to New Orleans by this method costs no more than the freightage from the same point to Chicago by rail. A boatload of wheat from St. Paul, taking the river route, is not once handled until it is put aboard ship at the Crescent City. The mighty energy of the North-west—"the Germany of America," as it has been well called by Dr. Draper—has long since discovered that the Mississippi is the best existing route to European markets. Grain can be shipped by way of St. Louis and New Orleans to New York and Europe twenty cents a bushel cheaper than it can be carried by the other existing routes. As long ago as 1868 the Illinois Central Railroad took hold of the West India and Southern trade through the river route, and offered such commercial inducements to Western importers that "Havana sends her products by this route to the North-west, instead of by New York." As the North-west expands and multiplies in resources and population, it will be compelled to transact its foreign and seaboard commerce through the noble navigable waters of the Mississippi, unless it can obtain a short and cheap transportation to New York by some trans-Alleghany water-line. In the event of the North-western trade being diverted southward along the great natural artery of the continent, where no tolls, no tariffs and no transhipments are required, the loss will fall most heavily upon New York and the seaboard marts. The increasing stream of South American commerce, in the same event, must inevitably take the short, speedy and entirely inexpensive route to the North-west (through the broad and free highway of the "Father of Waters"), rather than encounter the delay, danger and expense of the Gulf-Stream route to New York, and thence by rail or the Lakes to its destination. The longer the present trade-status continues, and the mammoth corporations of the railroads force the transportation of the North-west, the West and the Mississippi Valley to take the river and Gulf route to the sea, the greater and more fixed becomes the diversion of this incalculable commerce from the great markets of the Middle and Eastern States. So far, therefore, from the far West being at the mercy of the East in this matter, the former has the advantage. The East, rather than allow the present tendency of the commercial current to set well in toward the Gulf, and wear a channel for itself, should strain every nerve to keep it steadily moving toward its own maritime cities. The great cities of the Atlantic seaboard can better afford to construct a water-line over the mountains at their own cost than to run the risk of the Mississippi River becoming the commercial avenue for its vast valley and drainage, and thus bearing the golden stream away from their harbors and streets.

The Utopian idea that Norfolk may become the rival of the great seaports and centres of capital, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, is without the field of discussion. It is not more possible than that a magnetized knife-blade should exert a more powerful attraction than the largest lodestone or the mightiest electro-magnet.

The Lake route from the Mississippi Valley to the East was made continuous and complete by the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. The day of the old flat-boats had not then closed, and the application of steam to river navigation was still in its infancy. The growth of the West—which has always outstripped its internal improvements—like an immense river long dammed up, bursting the barriers that confined it, forced its way toward the sea. Although it was said at first that the canal would never pay, "the opening of this work," as the Superintendent of the Census says, "was an announcement of a new era in the internal grain-trade of the United States. To the pioneer, the agriculturist and the merchant the grand avenue developed a new world. From that period do we date the rise and progress of the North-west." This splendid structure is to-day the great artery of Eastern wealth; and but for the fact that for six months in the year, when the vast sea of Western commerce would seek an outlet through its banks to the East, it is locked by ice, it would be widened into a ship-canal. It lies in the very track of the great north-westerly winds, which descend with torrential rush and polar cold over the Lakes, and thence through Northern New York. Last year, as late as the third of March, when the vegetation of the Middle States was beginning to spring forth in vernal beauty, the whole of the lower Lake region and Western and Northern New York were swept by these Arctic tempests; and this is the climatic rule rather than an exceptional case. Even in the season of open water the Lakes are exposed to the most violent storms, and within their narrow shores hundreds of vessels are annually lost. The mariner overtaken by what would be a moderate gale in a broad sea is in imminent peril for want of sea-room; and in a snow-storm, however light—whose winds elsewhere he would court to fill his sails and propel his craft—his course is beset with danger and difficulty. For more than half the year navigation is suspended by the thickening terrors of the tempest and the accumulated obstacles of ice. And yet, with all the obstacles which impair the utility of the Lake route while it is in operation, the volume of Western produce prefers it, or rather is forced by the necessities of the case to employ it. And these necessities will continue to increase. With the aid of all the railroads now or to be constructed, the rapid expansion of Western commerce has distanced the facilities of transport. The iron horse, as has been well said, has always stimulated industry and production beyond his power to carry it. It was the forcible remark of the English traveler Sir Morton Peto that the American railroads from West to East were "choked with traffic." So great is the inadequacy of all existing outlets for conveying the more than Amazonian streams of trans-Alleghany merchandise that it has long since become the interest of every great corporation, as well as of every citizen of the country, to open for them new and national highways.

From this digression, embracing facts and views which seemed essential to an intelligent discussion of the main subject, we pass on to examine the Appalachian outlet by which the great Western empire of America may find its way to the sea. The bird's-eye view here presented will show the Appalachian mountain-chain, and the waters which thread their way along its gentle slopes eastward to the Atlantic basin and westward to the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. The Alleghanies bear a striking geographic resemblance to the Highlands of Scotland, so famed in song and story. Like the central Grampian Hills—those majestic buttresses in whose recesses the old Caledonians found secure and impregnable asylums from the Roman legions—except that they are richer in verdure and less lofty, they form the grand natural rampart of the American Union. To use the words of Lavallée, the French military historian and statistician, "Mountains play the principal part in military operations: true ramparts of states, they interrupt the development of strategic movements, and render the greatest efforts necessary for their passage and possession. They are the poetical part of the theatre of the art of war." If the day ever comes, as come it may, when the kingly powers of the world combine to crush the republican institutions of the United States, and swarm the harbors and bays of our Atlantic seaboard with their allied navies, the defiles of the Alleghanies will prove the Thermopylæs of the Union; and against their eastern base the surging wave of invasion must be stayed, if stayed at all. Like the Scottish peaks,

The grisly champions that guard
The infant rills of Highland Dee,

or the Spanish wall of the Pyrenean chain, on whose Sierras, in 1808, Wellington's blazing lines of Torres Vedras arrested Massena's march, the mountains that look out on our Atlantic sea-front must ever be of the highest military importance.

To throw across their central ridges a great aqueduct is no mean undertaking of merely local significance, but may take rank with the old Roman aqueducts, with the magnificent roads constructed by Napoleon over the Alps, and with the more modern and now triumphant tunnels through Mont Cenis and the Hoosac Mountains, and the rapidly-progressing railway over the Andes from Callao to the Amazon Valley.

The broad and national features of the proposed trans-Alleghany water-way have so strongly commended themselves to President Grant that in his last message he recommends preliminary Congressional action, and in a more recent address to a number of distinguished visitors at the Executive Mansion he used much stronger and bolder language in assuring them that "he hoped Congress would give such encouragement to the measure as to secure the completion of the canal." He has in these words only repeated the sentiments of his illustrious predecessors, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, in behalf of the value of the work. We have already alluded to Mr. Jefferson's early advocacy of a water-line by the James and Kanawha Rivers. The first idea of this enterprise seems to have been suggested to Washington as early as the year 1753, after his celebrated trip from Jamestown to Fort Duquesne as an envoy of Governor Dinwiddie. At the close of the Revolutionary war he made an arduous and personal exploration of the country for many hundred miles. He kept a journal in which were minutely recorded his conversations with all intelligent persons he met respecting the facilities for internal navigation afforded by the rivers rising in the Alleghany Mountains and flowing either east or west. Returning to Mount Vernon October 4, 1784, he wrote, as the result of his observations, to the then governor of Virginia, the father of William Henry Harrison: "I shall take the liberty now, my dear sir, to suggest a matter which would (if I am not too short-sighted a politician) mark your administration as an important era in the annals of this country. It has been my decided opinion that the shortest, easiest and least expensive communication with the invaluable and extensive country back of us would be by one or both of the rivers of this State which have their sources in the Appalachian Mountains." General Washington, on the 26th of August, 1785, became the first president of the company authorized by the legislation which he had suggested previously to Governor Harrison. It is well known that the same views entertained by Washington and Jefferson were held and advocated by Mr. Madison, long before the most prescient statesman could descry the faintest image of that colossal empire of population, wealth and rapid development now lying west of the Alleghanies.

For the great future water-ways which are needed for the Western, the North-western and the Mississippi Valley trade there are several routes that have been demonstrated to be practicable. One of these is by a projected canal to connect the Coosa River with the Alabama River, and thence following that stream to the Gulf of Mexico. This, if ever carried out, as eventually it is probable will be the case, would avoid the bars and dangers of the navigation of the lower Mississippi, and in a measure obviate the necessity of the proposed sub-canals in Louisiana and other engineering expedients to remove or turn the very serious river-obstacles to an outlet south of New Orleans. Another proposal is to connect the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, and to run a canal from the latter to the Ocmulgee or Savannah River, and thence by the use of slack water to reach the harbors of Savannah and Charleston. This scheme has been clearly proved to be feasible, although the distance seems objectionable. The third (or central) water-line proposed is that so long agitated since the beginning of the present century, so often surveyed and re-surveyed by the most eminent engineers, and not long since by the United States Engineer Corps under the direction of General A. A. Humphreys, the chief engineer of the United States army. It is the shortest and most direct line, and has the advantage that it is, as we have seen, already nearly half completed, from the head of tide-water on the James River, above Lexington, to Buchanan, near the summit-level of the mountains. The engineers who have reported upon it—among whom are the late Colonel E. Lorraine, Benjamin H. Latrobe, Esq., and other eminent engineers—estimate that the largest sum required for its completion to the Kanawha River is $37,364,000, and the length of time required four years. "Of this large sum, however," they say, "it can be clearly shown that there will be no need of any other advance by government than the interest which will accumulate while the work is in progress, which, by issuing the bonds every six months, as required, will not reach the sum of six million dollars. And this is every cent that will ever be required to be advanced. Should the government undertake to make the work a fine one, it will of course cost the whole amount estimated, but this would be more than made up by its increased benefits to the whole country.

"The work when completed, even at a low rate of tolls—not over about half the rate charged on the Erie Canal—will return the advance, pay the interest and redeem the principal in less than twenty years.

BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF THE TRANS-ALLEGHANY WATER-LINE. BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF THE TRANS-ALLEGHANY WATER-LINE.

"In considering this question we are not left to mere conjecture. The wonderful history of the Erie Canal, and a comparison of the circumstances connected with the operations of that great work with those under which this enterprise will be inaugurated and accompanied, furnish sufficient data for reliable conclusions."

When we consider that the Erie Canal, though frozen up and useless for half the year, has not only long since paid for its construction out of its tolls, but makes a present of itself to the State, with about thirty millions of dollars of net profit, and that it does more than five times the business of the great New York Central Railroad, transporting annually over five million tons of cargo (which exceeds the total foreign commerce of New York City), and yet is "choked" and gorged with freight, the close figuring of the engineers does not appear to be questionable.

The immense saving in the cost of water-carriage as compared with that of railway-transportation is hardly conceived by the public mind. Many of the railroads carry produce at very low and reasonable rates, but they cannot afford to take it at much if any less than three times the amount charged by the canals. It appears from the report of the New York State Engineer for 1868 that the average receipts per ton per mile on the New York Central Railroad and the Erie Railway was 2.92 cents and 2.42 cents respectively; while on the New York State canals it was 1 cent only, tolls included. But a trans-Alleghany canal would, after getting fully into operation, be able to transport produce more cheaply than the New York canals, which are frozen over about five months of the year, and during the very period when the great tide of Western freightage and the ingathered crops is pressing most heavily for an outlet to the East. There are many products of the West and the Mississippi Valley that will not bear the cost of transportation to the Eastern cities, either by rail, Gulf or Lake route, because they would consume in transitu for freight between sixty and seventy per cent. of their market value in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

These views have been ably and earnestly pressed time and again upon Congress by Eastern and Western statesmen, merchants and citizens of all classes, by the press of all parties, and by the boards of trade and commercial conventions. The surveys cover every foot of the proposed James River Canal extension to the Ohio Valley, which, by general consent, seems to be regarded as the most eligible because it is the most direct central route, and because the State of Virginia has most munificently offered to remand the half-completed work to the general government on the sole condition of its nationalization.

If, as history has always testified, it be true that

Mountains interposed
Make enemies of nations, which had else,
Like kindred drops, been mingled into one,

it would be difficult, as it is unnecessary, even to attempt to form an adequate estimate of this great trans-Alleghany highway as a benign and powerful agent in the political reconstruction and moral unification of the American States.

After leaving Buchanan, the proposed route for the extension of the James River and Kanawha Canal runs westward to the mouth of Fork Run, a small mountain-river, and ascends that stream to the summit-level, seventeen hundred feet above tide-water. It then pierces the main range of the Alleghanies, passing under Tuckahoe and Katis Mountains by a tunnel nearly eight miles long, and emerges into the valley of the Greenbrier River on the western mountain-slope. Its water-line pursues its course by slack-water navigation down the Greenbrier to New River, and down New River to Lyken's Shoals on the Kanawha, eighty-five miles above its mouth. The last distance of eighty-five miles will be traversed by open navigation, as the Kanawha Valley permits it. Major W. B. Craighill of the Engineer Corps, in his able report to General A. A. Humphreys on this central water-line, says: "The recent completion of the Mont Cenis Tunnel in Europe, and the rapid progress made with the Hoosac Tunnel in this country, with the experience gained in these works, and the improved facilities daily coming into use for carrying on such operations, induce us to approach such an undertaking as the Lorraine tunnel not only without apprehension of failure, but with a feeling of assured certainty of success. It is no longer an extraordinary, but an ordinary, undertaking."

The practical capacity of the water-line when completed will be of almost unlimited extent, while the canal proper with its locks will have a capacity of from fifteen to twenty millions of tons annually. In the fall and early winter, after the harvests are over, and during the very season that the highway is most needed, and when the northern routes are blocked by ice, this trans-Alleghany water-way will be open.

The local trade in its path would alone justify its construction. It will penetrate the finest mineral lands of Virginia and West Virginia, which have been so long locked up from the world. The great Kanawha coal-fields and iron- and salt-mines are unsurpassed by any now known in any part of the globe. In the large demand from England and Europe for coal, which is finding expression in the large orders sent to Philadelphia and Baltimore for Pennsylvania and Maryland coal, there is the best possible evidence that the local trade of the national canal would be enormous. So highly thought of is the Kanawha cannel coal that it is now shipped down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, and sent thence by sea to New York, where it brings per ton about three times the price of anthracite in that market. It is equal to the best English and Nova Scotia cannel, while the Kanawha bituminous and splint coals are unsurpassed by any others. The veins lie horizontally, and vary from three to fifteen feet in thickness, the aggregate thickness of the various strata amounting in some localities to forty or fifty feet of the solid carbon.

But, great as are the local interests and the trade of the water-line, they are entirely lost sight of in the national aspect of the question.

The population now demanding a direct and central highway for its great inland commerce, according to the best estimates (those of Poor), cannot fall short of fifteen millions, and most probably exceeds that number. It is now conclusively established that the centre of gravity of our national population has crossed the Appalachian chain. Professor Hilgard of the Coast Survey prepared a year ago, at the request of the Hon. J. A. Garfield of Ohio, a series of calculations to ascertain this centre of gravity by the four last censuses. Supposing a plane of the exact shape and size of the United States, exclusive of Alaska, loaded with the actual population, he determined the points on which it would balance. In the recently-published words of Mr. Garfield we give the following results of Professor Hilgard's calculations: By this process he found that in 1840 the centre of gravity of the population was at a point in Virginia near the eastern foot of the Appalachian chain, and near the parallel of 39° N. latitude. In 1850 this centre had moved westward fifty-seven miles across the mountains, to a point nearly south of Parkersburg, Virginia. In 1860 it had moved westward eighty-two miles, to a point nearly south of Chillicothe, Ohio. In 1870 it had reached a point near Wilmington, Clinton county, Ohio, about forty-five miles north-east of Cincinnati. In no case had it widely departed from the thirty-ninth parallel. If the same rate be maintained during the next three decades, which I doubt, it will fall in the neighborhood of Bloomington, Indiana, by 1900. Professor Hilgard also found that a line drawn from Lake Erie, at the north-eastern corner of Ohio, to Pensacola in Florida, would divide the population of the United States, as it stood in 1870, into two equal parts. This line is nearly parallel to the line of the Atlantic coast. From these calculations it will appear that both the "centre of gravity" and the line that divides the population in half are more than one hundred and fifty miles west of the Appalachian chain.

If these computations be correct, Poor's figures are too low by two or three millions at least. But, apart from the demand for an inter-continental canal by the population on the west of the Appalachian chain, the seaboard States and cities east of the Appalachians are, as we have already shown, as profoundly interested in such a national cheap thoroughfare as is the former section. Careful estimates have shown that the surplus produce of the trans-Alleghany sections and the Mississippi Valley cannot be less than twenty-five million tons; and this would immediately seek an outlet through the Virginia water-line to the sea. The saving that would result to the West and to the whole country would be enormous; and at a very moderate calculation the amount would be an average of two dollars per ton on the river route, viâ New Orleans, and ten dollars per ton over the railroad routes. The completion of a comparatively short canal of eighty miles, to cover the gap from Buchanan to the upper Kanawha, would without the shadow of exaggeration save the West forty millions of dollars a year; and the central water-line would yield an interest of ten to fifteen per cent. on the capital invested, while opening a continuous water-road from Liverpool to Omaha, running nearly due west, fifty-nine hundred miles in length! By reducing the freights on the other present thoroughfares through the influence of wholesome competition, it would perhaps at once lessen the cost of inland transportation by nearly one hundred millions of dollars annually!

These considerations, and the added fact that for many years the chambers of commerce of the great Western cities, the many commercial conventions that have met, and the legislatures of the States bordering on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, have earnestly and unanimously memorialized Congress in behalf of the completion of this great inter-continental highway, fully establish the national character of the measure now pending in the national councils.

Thompson B. Maury.