* Letter from Isaac Briggs *
Engineer, New York Canal


Abstract 787 - CR Feb. 16:2/4,5 (continued)

ALBANY, 1ST MO. 16, 1819

My esteemed friend,

I duly received, at the village of Herkimer, thy favor of 22d ult, requesting information of the actual state and progress of the work on the Canals of the state of New York, and that I would promptly answer the following querries:

"1 How much of the canals is actually completed?

2 What places are connected the parts of which are finished?

3 The names of the engineers employed, and where?

4 Any other circumstances that you may deem of importance respecting the canals?

At the time I received thy letter I was engaged almost night and day, in making laborious calculations for a detailed report to the board of Canal Commissioners, and fearing that the short space of time until this report ought to be presented would scarcely admit of my doing justice to the subject, I requested my friend David Holt to make to thee my apology for the delay of my answer, which I found would be unavoidable. I now embrace with pleasure the first opportunity which my arduous duties have permitted, to answer they queries.

1. Portions of the Canals amounting to 65 miles are actually completed--46 1/2 miles of the Western, and 18 1/2 miles of the Northern; 15 miles more than half done, and there is as much work performed on the remaining parts, as is quite equal to the finishing of those 15 miles; making an aggregate equal to 80 miles of finished Canal.

2. No important places are yet connected by the parts finished, on account of some works not completed--crossing streams in the Western, and locks inthe Northern canal. But, in the course of next season, Whiteball on lake Champlain will be con-...* Works at (Onondaigua with Utica and the Mohawk, by 60 miles--between Utica and Onondaigua the canal passes inexhaustible beds of the finest gypsum; so that, unless the weather should be beyond probability unfavorable, or some other improbably occurrence, 83 miles of canal will, before the close of next season, begin to yield revenue.

3. The Engineers are Benjamin Wright, James Giddes, and Isaac Briggs; Canvass White, James Ferguson, Valentine Gill and Asa Moore have also been employed. I believe Canvass White has been placed in the rank of engineer, and James Ferguson still remains an assistant. Valentine Gill has been employed as a draftsman, and Asa Moore as surveyor. During the late season, Wright and White have been employed on the middle section of the Western Canal; Geddes and Ferguson, on the Northern; and Briggs, Gill and Moore, in exploring and locating the Canal and its locks, on the Eastern section, from Utica down the valley of the Mohawk.

4. In my answer to the 2d query, I have said that 83 miles of canal will, before the close of next season, begin to yield revenue, I will here add, that, in fair probability, the season after next (1820) may commence with an active navigation on 117 miles of canal; and, if the legislature should, at their present session, authorize the whole of the western canal to be made as speedily as it can be economically done, there may be, at the close of 1820, many miles more in great forwardness, and the whole of the canal may be finished before the close of 1825, as easily as, and at a smaller expense than in any longer period.

By a sound and prudent fiscal management, no burdens on the people, beyond the present taxes, and those only for, one year or more, will be necessary to accomplish this noble work.

When the expense of a great project is previously estimated, it usually happens that, after the thing is finished, the actual expense greatly exceeds the estimate. In the whole of the work hitherto done, the contrary is found to be the fact, and an animating fact it is, the actual expense falls considerably short of the general estimate made in 1817, when the subject was proposed to the legislature.

Although experience afforded, such encouragement in the middle section, yet there remained doubts respecting the eastern section where, probably, the greatest difficulties exist.

I have, during the late season, carefully and minutely examined 40 miles of this section, which portion includes some of the principal difficulties and it is my decided opinion that this portion of the canal can be made for an expense, averaging 16 per cent of $2,700 per mile, less than the estimate of the commissioners.

I have said that, after on year more of the present taxes, no burdens on the people will be necessary for the canal. Suppose no more than 120,000 tons to be transported in one year, a distance of 117 miles, at a toll of 1 cent per ton per mile, this would yield $140,400 the interest of $2,340,000, at 6 per cent. Every succeeding year would add more freight and bring into use an additional portion of canal. The consequences are so obvious, that I am persuaded it is unnecessary to pursue further the calculation. A stimulus to useful industry, and an increase of individual happiness--the extension of enlargement of all the resourses of the state--an acceserated augmentation of its population, wealth and power--and, instead of burdens, an aundant revenue. These would be the consequences of a liberal and enlightened policy.

Respectfully, thy friend

ISAAC BRIGGS.

William Darby. (20)

* Missing from Newspaper file

(From Annals of Cleveland - 1818-1935, Volume I (1819), pages 356 through 358. Cleveland: Cleveland WPA. 1937.)


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