During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the new nation known as the United States of America began to develop plans to improve transportation into the interior and beyond the great physical barrier of the Appalachian Mountains. A major goal was to link Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes with the Atlantic Coast through a canal. Many surveys and proposals were developed to build a canal but it was ultimately a survey performed in 1816 that established the route of the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal would connect to the port of New York City by beginning at the Hudson river near Troy, New York. The Hudson River flows into New York Bay and past the west side of Manhattan in New York City. From Troy, the canal would flow to Rome (New York) and then through Syracuse and Rochester to Buffalo, located on the northeast coast of Lake Erie.
Once the route and plans for the canal were established, it was time to obtain funds. The United States Congress easily approved a bill to provide funding for what was then known as the Great Western Canal but President James Monroe found the idea unconstitutional and vetoed it. Therefore, the New York State legislature took the matter into its own hands and approved state funding for the canal in 1816, with tolls to pay back the state treasury for upon completion.
New York City Mayor DeWitt Clinton was a major proponent of a canal and supported efforts for its construction. In 1817 he fortuitously become governor of the state and was able to thus oversee aspects of the canal construction, which later became known as "Clinton's Ditch" by some.
On July 4, 1817, construction of the Erie Canal began in Rome, New York. The first segment of the canal would proceed east from Rome to the Hudson River. Many canal contractors were simply wealthy farmers along the canal route, contracted to construct their own tiny portion of the canal. Thousands of British, German, and Irish immigrants provided the muscle for the...
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