Response Paper 3 The Great Water Highway through New York State



Response Paper 3: The Great Water Highway through New York State

This book is written based on accounts by American travelers traveling through the country. This particular Chapter, in the first volume dubbed, “Life in the East”, narrates two accounts by two different travelers traversing the Erie Canal, seven years apart. This book details events during the formative first half of America’s history, just eight years after Washington’s inauguration. It describes a young nation whose democratic society is new, where the novel principles of representative- self-governance are just being put into practice. This period is characterized by events such as the economic augmentation due to the establishment of the first cotton mill, transportation had taken a gigantic step forward from the completion of the Erie Canal and in 1826, and the first railroad was being used in Massachusetts.

The author compiled these different takes to prove the benefits of the Erie canalway and its impact on the development of a nation. Built in the antebellum period, an era characterized by the union of the eastern states and the purchase of Louisiana in 1803, the Erie Canal expanded the United States trade from the Atlantic Coast to inland trade. Before the canal was built, the cost of overland movement of goods was too high and therefore prohibitive. It was difficult to penetrate the west of the thirteen original colonies since the land was heavily forested, the Appalachian Mountains were in the way, and these lands lacked an interconnected waterway. The New York officials saw these challenges as an opportunity, and with the leadership of the Governor, DeWitt Clinton, they focused in building a canal system across upper New York. The salt deposits at Syracuse also motivated the leaders, since it was difficult to transport the salt to the East Coast on horseback. The canal could also provide a western router for the nation.

The book, gives a picture of America by Americans themselves rather than by Britons or other authors. The purpose of this book is to reflect the everyday America life in terms of their national, social and cultural patterns in the period after the founding of the nation and at the end of the Civil war. The purpose of this book is to inform Americans about their own history. This particular chapter, Chapter VII, is a description of the tremendous improvements made in the Erie Canal. The Chapter allows the reader to understand the development of the Erie Canal way, a National Heritage Corridor. The differences between the two accounts in this chapter explicitly show the fast rate of development in this era. The first account uses the canal and horses for travel, while in the second account, just seven years later, the author, Thomas S. Woodcock, uses the canal, horses, and steam engines (Tyron, 112). The author is pinpointing the development of transport in this era.

The author aims to show the impact of technological innovation on American life. It particularly shows the benefits of the steam engine. Despite the authors of the two accounts both travelling the same distance, from Albany to Schenectady, the author on the second account arrives much faster (Tyron, 107). It is also interesting to note, that during that era, the steam engines could not travel via steep areas, as this problem had not been figured out yet. The passengers therefore alight the train, then board horses, for two miles, to another steam engine. While the first traveler took four hours to travel, the second one took two. Today, this journey takes 25 minutes by car. The author therefore aims to underscore the tremendous progress man has taken especially in the field of transportation in the early nineteenth century.

Not only did the Erie Canal promote trade, travel and the opening up of the Far West regions (now the mid-west) it was also a major factor in the growth of New York City. From the first author, the Erie Canal had contributed to the growth of Albany into a thriving condition. Before the construction of the Erie Canal, port cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, were bigger than New City. The canal gave New City access to the Midwest, and therefore, became a primary port in the nation. It became the nation’s commercial capital and later, the main port of entry by immigrants from Europe (Shaw, 133). Due to the construction of the canal, the population of New York City quadrupled and made it an attractive venue for the financing industry. By 1850, New York City had surpassed Philadelphia to be the nation’s distinguished banking center.

In conclusion, the article discusses the infrastructural developments of the early nineteenth century, in particular, the Erie Canal. From the two accounts by the different authors there seems to be a difference in developments. These accounts prove the fact that the early nineteenth century was a period for rapid development for the nation. By compiling these two articles, the author communicates to the modern-day reader the vast improvement of the canal and its effects on trade and urbanization.

Works Cited

BIBLIOGRAPHY Shaw, Ronald. Erie Water West. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1966.

Tyron, Warren. “A Mirror for Americans: Life and Manners in the United States 1790-1870 as Recorded by American Travelers.” Volume I: Life in the East. The University of Chicago Press, 1952.