Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

This webpage reproduces an appendix to
Early History of Illinois

Sidney Breese

published by E. B. Myers & Company,
Chicago, 1884

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p303  Origin of the Pacific Railroad

First Report in Congress.​1

The committee on public lands, to whom were referred a memorial of sundry citizens of Indiana, praying the construction of a national railroad from the Mississipiº to the Columbia river, and the memorial of Asa Whitney,​a suggesting the means, and submitting a proposition, for the construction of such road from Lake Michigan to the Pacific ocean, report:

That they have bestowed upon this proposition that consideration its importance demands, and which, but a few years since, in the then existing state of the arts and sciences, a committee of this body would have been excused for treating as a visionary speculation; and who, so far from being expected to notice by a grave report, would have been relieved from its consideration by a summary discharge. But the advances made in science, combining the active and formidable power of steam with the concentrating properties of machinery, and adapting this combination to the propulsion of vehicles by land and on water, have overcome, in a great measure, the resistance of the winds and currents,  p304 and the fury of the ocean storms, as well as the rugged way, the natural obstructions and distance of space on land, now counted not by miles, but by minutes, and have so familiarized the public mind to the contemplation of the wonderful achievements of the age, that it would seem to be the part only of benighted prejudice to avoid the due consideration of any proposition claiming the merit of discovery in the arts and sciences: and much more would it be culpable to treat with indifference a proposition resting upon established principles of mechanical philosophy, tested by the experience of civilized nations, and intended to benefit in the highest degree the whole country, and to elevate its character.

The proposition is a startling one, and of vast importance to our country and to the world; a deliberate consideration of which naturally resolves it into several points, seeming, in the opinion of the committee, to claim attention in the following order:

1. The power of Congress over the entire subject in all its bearings.

2. The practicability of the proposed work.

3. The adequacy of the means proposed for its accomplishment, and the expediency of applying such means to this object.

4. The effect of its construction in bringing into demand, and enhancing in value, the public lands to every part of the country.

5. Its effect in extending and promoting the interest of agriculture.

 p305  6. Its effect in the support and as a means of enlarging and diversifying the manufactures of the country.

7. Its effect in the development of the mineral resources of the country.

8. Its effect as one of the great arteries of intercourse in extending the internal trade and commerce of the whole country.

9. Its effect in extending our commerce with China and the other countries of Asia, the eastern Archipelago and other islands in the Pacific, and with the countries on the western coast of North and South America.

10. Its consequence in fostering the whale and other fisheries in the Pacific, the bays and rivers thereof; in extending and protecting the mercantile marine in those seas; and thus forming the most extensive nursery of seamen, and strengthening the maritime power of the United States.

11. Its use as a great highway of nations, serving for purposes of travel and transportation at rates of charge and transit duties to be regulated by ourselves, being in all respects subject to our power and control, encouraging constant intercourse, and imparting to the citizens of other countries the liberal principles of our own government.

12, and lastly. The effect that would be produced in a moral, political, and military point of view on the American Union, by the construction of a railroad across the continent to the shores of the Pacific.

This order has been adopted on account of the relation  p306 existing between the points made; and they have been extended in number for the sake of perspicuity, and to present more completely the importance of the subject in all this bearings.

1. Preliminary to the consideration of the proposition referred to the committee, and before one of such vast magnitude and importance should be entertained, it is indispensably necessary that the way should be seen perfectly clear, and that no constitutional difficulty would likely to present itself at the commencement of the undertaking, or obstruct its after progress.

Fortunately, the task of showing the absence of difficulty on this point is a very easy one. The most scrupulous, in according to Congress power to construct roads and canals, have not doubted the propriety of exercising this power upon territory beyond the jurisdiction of a State sovereignty, as the Constitution declares that "the Congress shall have power to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States." This power has been so often exercised, and so universally admitted, and rests so firmly upon the plain letter of the Constitution, that it might be considered supererogatory to defend its exercise by argument. Opposition has not been made to direct appropriations of money out of the public treasury for objects of internal improvements in the Territories, and much less should it be made to the disposal of a portion of the public lands for this object, when its effect would  p307 be to enhance the value of the residuum. The sovereignty of the United States extends over the entire route contemplated for this road, and it only remains to extinguish the Indian title to such portion of the territory as may be required for the site of the road and its appendages, and to be disposed of to obtain means for its construction.

Thus far concerns the construction of roads beyond the jurisdiction of the States; but can Congress constitutionally exercise the power to make them within the States? It has been answered that with the consent of the States on whose soil the roads are to be made, there can be no difficulty, provided the means be at the disposal of Congress. This principle was early admitted. Thus, by the act of April 30, 1802, to enable the people of Ohio to form a State government, provision was made for "laying out and making public roads, leading from the navigable waters emptying into the Atlantic to the Ohio, to the said State, and through the same; such roads to be laid out under the authority of Congress, with the consent of the several States through which the road shall pass;" and so by other acts, passed in 1803, 1811, 1816, 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820, the means were enlarged for the same object, the latter act making provision for the extension of the road to the confines of Missouri, and avowing in its preamble, as one object, the increase in the value of the public lands. Pursuant to these provisions, Congress, by the act of 1806, authorized the construction  p308 of a national road from Cumberland, in Maryland, to the Ohio; and, by the act of 1825, directed its continuation through the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and to the seat of government of the State of Missouri.

A national road having thus been authorized and partially constructed, by the exercise of this power, from the Atlantic ocean to the seat of government of Missouri, and within the jurisdiction of several States, it will not be expected that this committee should consider it necessary to argue the existence of still more ample powers to authorize the construction of a road through the public territory, and beyond the jurisdiction of any existing State, to the shores of the Pacific ocean, while they can refer to that clause of the Constitution which declares that "the Congress shall have power to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations respecting, the territory or other property belonging to the United States." Through lands wholly the property of the United States, the power to construct a road to render them salable cannot be questioned.

2. A consideration of the second point, "as to the practicability of the proposed route and construction of the work," naturally conducts the mind back to the views of that intelligent and patriotic statesman, Thomas Jefferson, as to the practicability of opening a communication with the Pacific ocean. In his confidential communication to Congress of the 18th January, 1803, suggesting the expediency of authorizing a small exploring  p309 expedition to the source of the Missouri river, who "might explore the whole line, even to the western ocean," he remarked, that "while other civilized nations have encountered great expense to enlarge the boundaries of knowledge by undertaking voyages of discovery, and for other literary purposes, in various parts and directions, our nation seems to owe to the same object, as well as to its own interests, to explore this, the only line of easy communication across the continent, and so directly traversing our own part of it. The interests of commerce place the principal object within the constitutional powers and care of Congress; and that it should incidentally advance the geographical knowledge of our own continent cannot but be an additional gratification."

The exploration having been completed, Mr. Jefferson stated, in his message to Congress of the 2d December, 1806, that "the expedition of Messrs. Lewis and Clark for exploring the river Missouri, and the best communication from that to the Pacific ocean, has had all the success which could have been expected. They have traced the Missouri nearly to its source, descended the Columbia to the Pacific ocean, ascertained with accuracy the geography of that interesting communication across our continent, and learnt the character of the country, of its commerce, and inhabitants."

These proceedings, upwards of forty years since, form the basis of the view your committee have now to take of the subject; and subsequent examinations, by individuals eminently qualified for the duty, have confirmed  p310 the general accuracy of the result of those proceedings. The more deliberate and more ample means of examining the whole face of the country, by the agency of able, scientific and experienced persons, have resulted in the location of a route, which while it pursues the general direction of that suggested by Mr. Jefferson, through the whole distance, coincides with it precisely for a portion of the way, presenting a route which may be considered the only practicable one for the site of a railroad across the continent.

The route now proposed from the west pursues the valley of the Columbia river, by Lewis' branch thereof, to the great South Pass; and thence nearly due east, striking the Missouri above the mouth of the Great Platte river, and the Mississippi above the mouth of the Wisconsin river, until it strikes the shore of Lake Michigan.

The committee rely with confidence upon the testimony of that scientific and highly meritorious officer, Colonel Fremont, and submit his own words bearing directly upon the point under consideration. He states that the route he "followed in 1842 was up the valley of the Great Platte river to the South Pass, in north latitude 42°." "The road which is now generally followed through this region is a very good one, without any difficult ascents to overcome." "It passed through an open prairie region, and may be much improved, so as to avoid the great part of the inequalities it now presents." In describing his arrival at the great South  p311 Pass, he remarks that "the ascent had been so gradual, that with all the intimate knowledge possessed by Carson, who had made this country his home for seventeen years, we were obliged to watch very closely to find the place at which we had reached the culminating point. This was between two low hills rising on either hand fifty or sixty feet."​2 "We crossed very near the table mountain, at the southern extremity of the South Pass, which is near twenty miles in width, and already traversed by several different roads. Selecting, as well as I could in the scarcely distinguishable ascent, what might be considered the dividing ridge in this remarkable depression in the mountain, I took a barometrical observation, which gave 7,490 feet for the elevation above the Gulf of Mexico."​3 "Its importance as the great gate through which commerce and traveling may hereafter pass between the valley of the Mississippi and the North Pacific, justifies a precise notice of its locality and distance from the leading points, in addition to this statement of its elevation. As stated in the report of 1842, its latitude at the point where we crossed is 42° 24′ 32″, its longitude 109° 26′ 00″; its distance from the mouth of the Kansas by the common traveling route 962 miles; from the mouth of the Great Platte, along the valley of that river, according to our survey of 1842, 882 miles; and its distance from St. Louis about 400 miles more by the Kansas, and about 700 by the Great Platte route; these additions being steamboat conveyance  p312 in both instances. From this pass to the mouth of the Oregon is about 1,400 miles by the common traveling route; so that, under a general point of view, it may be assumed to be about half way between the Mississippi and the Pacific ocean, on the common traveling route."​4 Having arrived at the junction of the Wallawalla with the Columbia river, he remarks: "Batteaus from tide-water ascend to the junction, and thence high up the north fork or Columbia. Land conveyance only is used upon the line of Lewis' fork. To the emigrants to Oregon the Nez Perce (fort) is a point of interest, as being, to those who choose it, the termination of their overland journey. The broad expanse of the river here invites them to embark on its bosom, and the lofty trees of the forest furnish the means of doing so. From the South Pass to this place is about 1,000 miles; and as it is about the same distance from that pass to the Missouri river, at the mouth of the Kansas, it may be assumed that 2,000 miles is the necessary land travel in crossing from the United States to the Pacific ocean on this line. From the mouth of the Great Platte it would be about 100 miles less."5

This route having been explored, surveyed, altitudes ascertained, and compared with others deviating from it part of the way toward its eastern terminus, the conclusion fixing that terminus in the vicinity of the forty-second parallel of north latitude is inevitable. As regards the location of a railroad, the adherence to the same altitude  p313 toward the east, as that of the best position on the South Pass, seems most advantageous in every respect, as it will be the shortest distance to intersect steam navigation and the Atlantic coast, while there will be less difficulty in overcoming ascent and other obstructions — every consideration concurring to render the adoption of the location unavoidable. In this region of country, extending as high north as the sources of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, the higher the latitude the higher the elevation of the land above the level of tide water in the Gulf of Mexico, so that in the comparatively short distance (the difference in latitude being only about three and a half degrees) between the mouth of Kansas river to the mouth of the Big Sioux river, where the railroad would intersect the Missouri river at a point adapted to bridging, the difference in elevation is about 2,000 feet, which, at the point of departure from navigable water, is of great importance, since the ascent to be overcome from that point, to the highest elevation in the route at the South Pass, is so much less than it would be by adopting the more southern route.

This conclusion is further strengthened by the opinions and declarations of practical men familiar with the route. One of them, Joshua Pilcher, remarked that "nothing is more easily passed than these mountains. Wagons and carriages may cross them in a state of nature without difficulty, and with little delay in the day's journey. Some parts are very high, but the gradual rise of the country, in the vast slope from the Mississippi to the  p314 foot of the mountains, makes a considerable elevation without perceptible increase, and then the gaps or depressions let you through almost upon a level. This is particularly the case opposite the head of the Platte, where I crossed in 1827, and which has already been described. I have crossed here often, and always without delay or difficulty. It is, in fact, one of the best passes, and presents the best overland road from the valley of the Mississippi to the mouth of the Columbia." The other, and more recent authority (Colonel Fremont), states that "the route by the Platte is the shortest; and it may be that the eastern terminus of this line may furnish the point at which the steamboat and the steam car may hereafter meet and exchange cargoes in their magic flight across this continent."

The length of a route for a railroad from the point of crossing of the Missouri river to the ship navigation of the Columbia river has recently been estimated by Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Abert at 1,930 miles; and from the great bend to the southern shore of Lake Michigan has been estimated, by other authority, at 700 miles — making the whole distance for the proposed railroad 2,630 miles.

The distance from the South Pass, where the elevation is 7,490 feet, to the southern shore of Lake Michigan, is about 1,400 miles, so that the ascent to be overcome in the whole distance would be no more than between four and five feet to the mile; and it has already been shown that the ground at the culminating point of the great South Pass was so level as to render it difficult to discover  p315 that precise point, and that "the traveler, without being reminded of any change by toilsome ascents, suddenly finds himself on the waters which flow to the Pacific ocean." A consideration of the facts in the premises, therefore, leaves no doubt of the practicability of the proposed route for a railroad from the shore of Lake Michigan to the navigable waters of the Columbia river.

By Colonel Fremont's report of his exploration, pages 291 and 292, as also from his map accompanying the same, it appears that the mouth of the Kansas river is 700 feet above the Gulf of Mexico; thence, to the crossing of the Republican fork, is 516 miles, the ascent gradual to 2,300 feet more, or equal to four and two‑thirds feet per mile; inequalities of surface very small.

The next 128 miles ascends 1,000 feet, or less than eight feet to the mile.

The next 107 miles, to St. Vrain's fort, ascent 1,000 feet, or a little more than nine feet to the mile.

The next eighty miles, ascent 1,300 feet — 16 feet to the mile.

The next 87 miles, ascent 800 feet — over 42 feet to the mile.

The next 87 miles, toward the pass, ascent 200 feet, or two and one‑fourth feet to the mile.

From this point a descent takes place, more irregular than the former ascent, to an elevation of about 6000 feet above the sea, and maintains a uniform elevation to the Beer springs, a distance of 545 miles, and 311 miles  p316 west of the pass; then the surface appears to be equally irregular for 540 miles.

The next 178 miles is on the general elevation of 3000 feet from the sea, or a descent of 17 feet to the mile.

From the last point, to the foot of the Blue mountains, is 282 miles (the west side). The elevations and depression of this last distance vary so as to make an average grade of ten and one‑half feet to the mile; thence to Fort Vancouver the road descends 1000 feet in 303 miles, or less than three and one‑half feet to the mile.

All these elevations were taken by Colonel Fremont as the surface now is, and on the present traveled road; but it is believed that, by examination, a better and more direct route from the pass may be found, or that this one may be straightened and made much shorter and much reduced in grade.

3. The adequacy of the means proposed for defraying the cost of this undertaking, and the expediency of applying such means to this object, come next in order for consideration. Those means are to be derived from the sale of the public lands already acquired, and to be acquired by the extinguishment of the Indian title, to the breadth of thirty miles on each side of the road, extending from Lake Michigan to the shores of the Pacific. The committee will here state that a point on this lake must be selected, for the reasons, as urged by the memorialist (in which the committee fully concur), that it is the only point where the public lands, suitable to produce funds to accomplish their work, can be had; because it is the  p317 only point where material (particularly timber) can be found, and which must there be prepared and taken onward, as the road progresses, to the mountains; because it affords a cheap and easy water communication with the Atlantic cities, to take laborers, materials, and settlers to the starting point, which necessary and important advantages cannot be had from any other point, except subject to long delays and great expense; because it is the only starting point which has a settled country around, such as Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, to furnish provisions for the laborers and settlers until they can produce for themselves; because it has a direct water communication, by canal and lakes, with Pittsburg, where the iron must undoubtedly be made; because it is nearer to all the Atlantic cities than any other point; because it is more central, and on the same or nearly the same parallel of latitude as the pass in the mountains, and gives to all a freer and better opportunity for a fair competition for its benefits. The committee would also state that northeast and New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, are all pushing their railroads into or to that State of Ohio, where they will all meet and go on in one, to join this road where it crosses the Mississippi, or between that river and Lake Michigan; and when South Carolina shall have completed her road to Memphis, or through Nashville to the Ohio, the web will then be completed, and our vast country will be brought together at the grand center in the short space of four days, allowing us not only to transport passengers, but  p318 all descriptions of merchandise and produce, from the grand center to New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, Richmond and Norfolk, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, and to the Pacific, in the same time — four days; and from the Pacific to any of the above cities in less than eight days, and to China in twenty days; so that we can bring our vast country together in four days, and the extremes of the globe in thirty days. A cargo of teas from China may then be delivered in any of our Atlantic cities in thirty days, and in London or Liverpool in less than forty-five days.

This point being selected, the adequacy of means presented will depend upon the extent of such parts of these lands as may be found of sufficient fertility to attract settlement and cultivation. Through a considerable extent of the route the land is said to be unsuitable for settlement and cultivation, and could not, therefore, be expected to sell. But for about 700 miles from the eastern terminus, the lands are said to be of good quality, though for the most part destitute of timber, and would readily sell at $1.25 per acre, if the road be made; which, estimating that there would be 26,800,000 acres, would produce the sum of $33,500,000. Calculating that in the 1,483 miles, from the South Pass to the mouth of the Columbia, 1,000 miles of that distance would be found of sufficient value, in consequence of the construction of the road, to command the same price (and it is believed that the value of agricultural productions, connected with the water-power to be found there for manufacturing purposes,  p319 fully justifies this estimate), there would be 38,400,000 acres, which would amount to $48,000,000; and together these sums would amount to $81,500,000 without considering of any value the intermediate distance of 1,113 miles, forming an area of 42,739,200 acres of land; but which, taking it at the worst, must have at least some verdant and valuable spots, which would become desirable for small settlements, and as depots for the use of the road, and for commodities and productions of intersecting veins or lateral channels of trade and commerce. The length of the proposed road being 2,630 miles, and the estimate for its construction, according to Colonel Abert, being $20,000 per mile, the probable cost would be $52,600,000, leaving an estimated surplus for repairs, and to keep the parts in operation until the whole is completed, of $28,900,000. This would appear, on full reflection, to be a moderate and safe calculation; and, moreover, the committee have reason to believe that, from the exciting interest which would not fail to surround this undertaking, when once begun, the pressure for acquisition and investments in the fertile part of these lands, and in the vicinity of so extensive a work, would place their value at least at the minimum price of the public lands. The committee, therefore, incline to believe that the means proposed are abundantly sufficient for the end in view, and have no doubt of the expediency of applying such means to this great end. It must be recollected that these lands throughout the entire distance are so immediately connected with the opening of  p320 the road, that their management and disposition should, in the opinion of the committee, form a separate and distinct system dependent upon the progressive construction of the road; and it appears to the committee that no plan could possibly be devised that would be more advantageous than to encourage the settlement of these lands on the line of the road. By this means, the two objects would act reciprocally upon each other — the road giving value to the lands, and the proceeds of the lands contributing to the construction of the road. The committee cannot doubt that the American people would consider that a most important system which would effect so extensive a work for the benefit of all the great interests of the country, without taxing any of those interests for the construction of it, and their approbation would not be withheld from the adoption of such a system without delay. The expediency, therefore, of applying the proceeds of these lands to the construction of this road, appears as strongly related to the existence of the road as effect is dependent upon cause. An eminent statesman, in writing upon this subject in 1808, observed: "Amongst the resources of the Union there is one which, from its nature, seems more particularly applicable to internal improvements." "It is believed that nothing could be more gratifying to the purchases, and to the inhabitants of the western States generally, or better calculated to remove popular objections, and to defeat improper efforts, than the application of the proceeds of the sales to improvements conferring general advantages on the nation, and an immediate benefit on  p321 the purchases and inhabitants themselves. It may be added that the United States, considered merely as owners of the soil, are also deeply interested in the opening of those communications which must necessarily enhance the value of their property."​6 But the expediency, generally, of the application of portions of the public lands to works of internal improvements has been so often affirmed, in the most solemn forms of law, from the earliest period of the government to the present day, that it would be reflecting upon intelligent minds to argue in them a want of knowledge of this fact.

4. The immediate effect of determining upon the construction of this railroad would be to create a desire to obtain lands in its vicinity, and the purchase and settlement of some would enhance the value of other tracts; but the more remote effects of the construction of the railroad will be to increase the demand and enhance the value of the public and other land in all parts of the country.

The commencement of the road will concentrate a large force of workingmen, who will require ample supplies from the products of agriculture in that vicinity; but the completion of that road, and the establishment of the means of conveyance and transporting it, will open a new and extensive demand for the products of agriculture in all parts of the country. The varied productions which will then be required for use and commerce  p322 through this channel will require various soils and climates to produce them, such as are embraced within the extensive boundaries of the United States; so that the lands for growing sugar and cotton will be as much in demand as those for raising wheat and corn.

It may be considered as an established axiom, that an active and increasing demand for agricultural products will direct public attention to the acquisition of land suitable for raising such products; and this fact leads to a consideration of the fifth point.

5. As the encouragement and extension of the interest of agriculture depend upon the demand and consumption of its products, it is necessary to show that this demand will be increased by the completion of the proposed railroad. To do this requires nothing more than a simple inquiry into the wants of those countries whose trade and commerce will be invited and introduced into the heart of this country by the means of this railroad. It may be seen, from the statements of trade with China and Australia, that raw cotton is exported to those countries from the possessions of Great Britain, and in large quantities; that flour is exported from the United States to the British East Indies, to Mauritius, Australia, China, Chili, Peru, and to Asia and the South seas generally; that tobacco is exported from the United States to the British possessions in Asia, to China, to Chili, and other countries on the Pacific. The transportation of these articles is effected by a long and dangerous voyage, the equator having to be twice crossed, to the great injury  p323 of animal and vegetable substances, and is attended with much cost and difficulty; but when these difficulties shall have been removed, and the facilities that will be afforded by the contemplated railroad substituted, it is no more than reasonable to believe that the exportation of those articles, as well as many other products of the soil, will be increased to a very large extent, to the great advantage of the agricultural interest of the whole country.

6. It may be considered as necessarily incident to the extension of agriculture, that manufactures are enlarged and diversified; the different interests in society are so intimately connected, that it may be deemed unnatural that any one should be greatly benefited without the others sharing largely in their success, if left to themselves, without legislative stimulus and bounties. Several causes will immediately attend the completion of the road, to increase the demand for American manufactures on the shores of the Pacific, and to give them the preference over those of other countries; the principal of which will be the more moderate prices at which they may be afforded, by reason of the facilities of transportation — shortening the distance to one‑third of its present length, avoiding the many dangers with which the usual voyages have been attended, thereby reducing the rates of insurance — availing of the advantages of the immense water power of the country, and of the abundance of the raw material, and of provisions for the operatives, which will be the unfailing  p324 consequence of the enlargement of agriculture. It may be seen, in the statement of the American and British trade to those countries bordering upon the Pacific, that the manufactures of woolen and cotton goods already form a large item in that trade; and, together with manufactures of iron and other metals, have been increasing in demand for several years past, so that it requires no effort of the imagination to believe, what may be fairly deducible from the natural causes confirmed by the experience of ages, that the almost boundless extent of population with whom a direct and frequent intercourse will be maintained cannot fail to increase the demand for what they want and we can supply.

7. The effect of the construction of this railroad in the development of the mineral resources of the country will be manifest, when it is considered how large an amount of iron and machinery will be required in the construction of the road, and for the numerous steam cars and steam vessels that will be required for the conveyance of passengers and transportation of merchandise upon this new route; and the re­quisitions upon the coal mines will be commensurate with the enlargement of the number of steam engines, while the demand for the finer metals will keep pace with the increased demand for the manufactures into which they may be wrought, if not also enlarged by a demand for the partially manufactured material for the supply of the ingenious Chinese artisans.

 p325  8. The natural and artificial means of communication between the different parts of a country may be compared to the arteries and veins of the human system. The intercourse, social and commercial, may be assimilated to the vital fluid which courses in the veins and sustains and invigorates our nature; the larger and more important channels of intercourse being represented by the arteries, and the lateral and less important channels by the smaller veins. This new channel of communication may appropriately be termed the great artery, since many smaller channels will intersect it, and other great arteries, such as the lake navigation and that of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, will be vitally connected with it. The natural means of communication in all parts of the country, but more especially in the western States, have been provided by a bountiful Creator, for cementing the interests and bonds of union among the people; and those natural means, connected and aided by artificial channels, might be considered of ample dimensions for the personal intercourse, and transportation of the products of the soil to those great marts of commerce upon the Atlantic seaboard and gulf coast, for the supply of home consumption, and those markets now existing upon the shores of the Atlantic. But the growing capacities of the western States, the boundless productions of their fertile soil, and the increasing numbers and indomitable energies of the people, all expanding in a progressive ratio scarcely to be  p326 realized, require a new outlet in a direction toward that quarter of the world where the demand for the necessaries of life is greater than the means of supply, and whose rich productions and commodities would be readily and profitably exchanged for such supplies. Agriculture, being thus extended and invigorated by a regular demand for its products, would, in its turn, encourage and support domestic manufactures, and would foster, to a very large extent, the internal and external commerce of the country, and put in re­quisition every means of intercourse, both internal and external.

9. The peculiarly exclusive policy heretofore prevailing with the Chinese people, the immense distance from the United States to that country by the ordinary voyages by sea, the dangers of those voyages, and the expenses attending their outfit and prosecution, have all combined to keep within comparatively narrow bounds the commerce with that country; and the two latter of these causes have operated against the commerce with the western coast of South America, and have also operated to throw the balance of trade against the United States — the imports from China for the year ending 30th June, 1845, being $7,285,914, and the exports to that country for the same period being $2,275,995, being a balance of $5,009,919 against the United States; which, in all probability, was made good by the payment of specie, although such does not appear from the statistical tables of exports for that year — the amount of specie exported to China  p327 being stated at only $158,860, the balance being probably obtained on the way by the exchange of American produce and manufactures with the countries on the west coasts of South and North America, and by bills on London, as will be seen by the tables annexed.

Notwithstanding all these disadvantages, it appears that the commerce with that country offers to individual enterprise inducements sufficiently strong to justify it in braving the dangers of the seas, and incurring the expenses and delays of tedious voyages; but when those dangers and disadvantages shall have been removed in so great a degree as they will be by the completion of this great national improvement, the natural and inevitable consequences will be not only a vast increase in the amount of trade, but a complete change in its character.​b The products of the American soil will be exchanged for the rich commodities of Asia; and when the millions of mouths shall have tasted American bread, the high destinies of this commerce will have been fixed, and will be firmly maintained, despite of all conflicting interests and powers. Secondary alone to this great supply of food to the consuming millions of China will be the great staple of the south; and these two cannot fail to form the basis of the commerce with that empire, so that European capital will seek investment in those products of our soil, and must necessarily use our means of transportation to China, or render those investments a ruinous operation. To go into the Chinese market with other commodities for exchange would subject the European  p328 traders to great disadvantages. The British traders may, as they have in some years, transport millions of dollars in value of raw cotton from their East India possessions to China, and find sale for it; but when they shall be met by our planters of the south, in that market, with an abundant supply of a far superior article, they must recoil from competition, and be content to give way to American production. The balance of trade must then necessarily be in our favor; and the consequences must follow that the rich productions of Asia, and the precious metals of South America, will flow in an uninterrupted current into this country.

The opening of the new port at the mouth of the Columbia river, in connection with the proposed railroad, must necessarily produce a complete revolution in the trade and commerce of the Pacific. The United States will present a new front to the old continent; and furnished, as she will be, with an immense storehouse of provisions and materials, minerals and manufactures, she will have abundant resources and ready means by which to drive away all competitors from those wide-spread regions of commerce.

10. It would be difficult to estimate the consequences that would result from the construction of this great national highway to the shipping interests of the country. It may be that the vessels which should then be engaged in the commerce and fisheries of the Pacific would discharge their cargoes at the new port — there refit, and either take in cargoes of merchandise for trade, or prepare  p329 for a fishing voyage; so that these vessels would not find it necessary to double Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope, and each vessel could make three or four fishing voyages where they now make but one, and those vessels engaged in the East India trade might do the same. Should suitable timber be found in Oregon for the construction of vessels (of which the committee understand there is an abundance), those vessels intended to sail in the Pacific may be constructed upon its waters, and form as it were a separate marine establishment upon a strong and progressive basis, embracing an important auxiliary in that of the coasting trade and small fisheries. Under such regulations as government should not fail to make, the American shipping should be the carriers of the trade that would concentrate at their new port; should be the means of protecting American interests, and of maintaining the American honor; nor could other nations complain; while we should only follow their example in taking care of our shipping interest. The extension of our marine upon the Pacific must necessarily enlarge its dimensions upon the Atlantic. The American merchant would now be supplied with new commodities, which could not fail to be the means of a profitable trade upon the Atlantic borders to distribute to Europe. They could afford to deliver to the people of Europe the products of Asia at a lower rate than that at which those people could import them in their own vessels. European capital would no doubt largely contribute to the extension of this American system; and if that foreign  p330 interest should do no more than employ our means of conveyance (which they must necessarily do should our regulations be wise, or suffer great disadvantages), then the American marine must, as a necessary consequence, be enlarged in all its proportions; and with this enlargement would its power also be felt and acknowledged.

11. The opening of this highway across the American continent would attract the attention of the world; it would establish a short route to the riches and the marvels of the Indies; and a jaunt throughout this route would be so soon accomplished, and comparatively so free from danger, that the merchant and the traveler, and the curious, from all quarters of the civilized world, would crowd the cars and the steamships employed upon it. This crowd must pass through the heart of our country, witness its improvements, the increase of our population, the activity, the genius, and the happiness of our people, and contemplate the wisdom and the advantages of those free institutions which shall have produced such glorious effects. It would certainly not be unreasonable to suppose that this intercourse would have an extensive influence upon the opinions and the feelings of the people of the civilized world in favor of free institutions; and upon the semi-barbarians who would be drawn by these facilities of intercourse from the other side of this line of communication the most salutary effects would also be produced. The principles of true liberty and of Christianity, as twin sisters, would present their engaging forms to the admiring stranger — first  p331 attracting his attention by their simplicity, and then engaging his affections by their virtues and intelligence.

12. And last, though not least, would be the happy effects that would be produced by the opening of this great road of nations through the heart of our country. It would bring into active use all other means of communication throughout the country; it would give useful employment to the millions of our people in every branch and form of business. Agriculture, commerce, and manufactures would equally prosper, supporting each other, growing and to grow; imparting abundance, and infusing a spirit of happiness and peace; cementing the bonds of union, and placing them on a firm and imperishable basis, and thus rendering our national power supreme for all purposes of happiness, protection, and defense.

Another powerful consideration in favor of the proposed road the committee will advert to. It is the probability of the occurrence, that as the Territory of Oregon, now so distant from us, fills up with an enterprising and industrious people from the several States, they will attract to them settlers from different parts of Europe, all wishing to share in the benefits of our free government, and claiming its protecting care, which cannot be enjoyed or bestowed in full measure, by reason of the difficulty of access by land and by water. A well-grounded apprehension seems then to exist, that, unless some means like the one proposed, or rapid communication with that region, be devised and completed, that country, soon to become a State of vast proportions  p332 and of immense political importance, by reason of its position, its own wants, unattended to by this government, will be compelled to establish a separate government — a separate nation — with its cities, ports, and harbors, inviting all the nations of the earth to a free trade with them. From their position, they will control and monopolize the valuable fisheries of the Pacific, control the coast trade of Mexico, South America and the Sandwich Islands, and other islands of the Pacific, of Japan, of China, and of India, and become our most dangerous rival in the commerce of the world. In the opinion of the committee, this road will bind these two great geographical sections indissolubly together, to their mutual advantage, and be the cement of a union which time will but render more durable, and make it the admiration of the world.

Your committee will now exhibit a brief statement of the geographical and commercial (external and internal) position, advantages, and resources of Asia, for an extensive commerce with us across the Pacific to the terminus of the proposed railroad on the shore of that sea.

After leaving the Russian possessions, so near to our west coast (the commerce of which will not be without its advantages), we come to Mandchuria, or Manchoo Tartary, a part of the Chinese empire. This is approached through the sea of Okhotsk, by the mouth of the great river Saghalin,​c in north latitude about 53°, and east longitude 141°, just above the island of Japan.  p333 This river, perhaps as large as any in the world, and said to be navigable for an immense distance, rises in the Mongol territory, passes into and through a part of Russia, and along its windings must measure more than 4,000 miles, and, with its tributaries, drains 900,000 square miles; one of its branches passes near the great wall of China, and is a source of communication with the great capital, Pekin. This immense river appears to be the only source of intercourse or of commercial communication for the vast territory which it drains.

The number of the inhabitants of this extensive region is unknown, but supposed to be estimated with the population of China. The people of the northern provinces are nomadic, but agriculture is common in the south. Their capacity for commerce is not known: but as traffic is the inherent propensity of man, it being his disposition ever to exchange what he has for something different, and from our own experience with the aborigines of our country, we may conclude that, with a communication opened with them from our shores to their great river, in time, our commerce with them may extend to no inconsiderable amount.

We see that this vast region slopes to us, and their great river, the only channel of commerce, points to us, and distant from the Columbia only 4,200 miles; the present sea voyage from New York or London, 20,000 miles, requiring seven months in which to perform it. We come next to the islands  p334 of Japan, reaching from north latitude about 50° down to 30°, and between the 128° and 151° east longitude. As to its population, McCulloch says, no estimate yet put forth has the slightest pretension to accuracy. The most moderate, however, fixes it at rather more than 50,000,000. They exclude foreigners, and have no foreign commerce, except the yearly visits of two Dutch vessels and ten Chinese junks. They are said to be industrious, and very ingenious. They produce silks and teas, and a great variety of rich manufactures. Some specimens of their manufactures, as well as printing, have been exhibited, quite equaling that of the French in taste and execution. Their island is rich in minerals, particularly copper, which is so abundant as to admit of extensive exports, and is the principal article of the Dutch trade; also sulphur, tin, gold and silver, and some lead, but iron is not abundant.

The time is not far distant, after the completion of the proposed railroad, the committee believe, when an exchange of commodities must take place with this numerous people to an immense amount. No one can doubt their ability for an extensive commerce. Their distance from all the commercial nations of the earth is undoubtedly the principal cause of their isolation. They could give us their teas, their silks, their gold and silver, and their many and various manufactures, for our cotton, our tobacco, our flour, our Indian corn, our cotton and wool manufactures, our iron, our  p335 steel, our leather and hides (of which, when they commence the use, the consumption will be immense, and ours will be the only source of supply), as well as numerous other products. They are from the Columbia, or San Francisco, but 3,400 miles, the greatest distance, and shortest from the Columbia river 2,900 miles.

We have now approached the vast empire of China situated between 20° and 56° north latitude, and between 70° and 140° east longitude from Greenwich; population, as per official reports in 1813, 367,000,000, upon an area of 3,010,400 square miles, embracing Tartary. But Lord McCartney says, in the account of his embassy, that China proper contains an area of 1,298,000 square miles; population of which in 1813, by official report, was 360,279,897. The committee believe it may not be uninteresting to notice here somewhat particularly the different provinces of this vast empire which border upon the ocean, and open their riches to our acquisition; and first in order on the north is the Pe‑chi‑li, its capital the great city and capital of the empire, Pekin, with a population estimated at 1,300,000 to 3,000,000, between latitude 35° and 42° north; its population 16,702,763, upon an area of 58,949 square miles; or, according to Gutzlaff, 59,700 — population, 27,990,871. This province appears to be almost a barren sand, and the inhabitants mostly depend upon the southern provinces and Mongolia. The great canal runs entirely through it; and the Pio‑ho, which empties into the gulf of Pe‑chi‑li (crossed  p336 by the canal), is navigable for vessels of considerable burden for forty miles, and for flat-boats to within twelve or twenty miles of the great capital.

The great city of Tientsin, about sixty miles from the sea, is the port of Pekin, and supplies the capital with the two great necessaries of life, grain and salt. Mr. Gutzlaff says, "that more than 500 junks arrive here annually by sea from the south; but by far the greater part of the trade, and all the grain junks, come inland by canal. As the country here yields few productions, and Pekin consumes immense quantities of stores, the imports are of course very large." Sysee silver is mentioned as being particularly plentiful, and in fact the chief article of export. He says: "I was quite surprised to see so much Sysee silver in circulation. The quantity of it was so great that there seemed no difficulty in collecting thousands of taels at the shortest notice. A regular trade in silver is carried on by a great many individuals."7

2nd. The next in order is the Shantung province, the native country of Confucius, lying south and east of Pe‑chi‑li. Its coast has rocky promontories and fertile valleys, but the overgrown population (28,958,760 upon 56,800 square miles) exhausts the soil. The principal emporia are Ting‑choo‑foo and Kan‑choo‑foo. Extreme poverty forces great numbers from their native soil. They go in quest of a livelihood to Lëaoutung, and other places, and furnish from thence their  p337 poor relatives with the necessaries of life. The grand canal, or Yan‑ho, runs through a part of this province, and is navigated by innumerable small craft. All the grain junks which bring the tribute or tax of the provinces to the capital have to pass through it on their way to Pekin. The capital is Tse‑nan‑foo. The coal mines of this province are said to be valuable, and supply the empire.

3d. We now come to the provinces of Keang‑soo and Gan‑hwuy, or Kiang‑nan, directly south of the last, with 72,011,560 inhabitants, upon a superficies of 81,500 square miles. It is an exceedingly fertile, and, perhaps, the most populous district in China. It contains Nankin, the ancient capital, and the celebrated Soo‑choo, and other very large cities. The land toward the sea is a continued plain, and contains many thousand villages and cities. The inhabitants possess both skill and industry, and are celebrated for their literary talents, as well as for their rich manufactures of silks, etc. Nankin is probably the most celebrated as a manufacturing town of any in the world. The great river Hoang‑ho crosses the upper part of this province, and empties into the sea at 34° north latitude. The mighty Yang‑tse‑keang flows through the whole extent of this province, and empties into the sea in north latitude about 31°. There are other navigable streams which pass through the province and empty into the sea; and the great canal passes its entire length, centering in this province all the commence of this vast empire,  p338 for every thing from the south and west must pass here on its way to and from Pekin; and in this province, just to the south of the island Tsoong‑ming, and at the mouth of the mighty Yang‑tse‑keang, is the great city of Changhae, open to foreign commerce, and must in time be the largest and most important emporium of all Asia. Mr. Gutzlaff says, "more than a thousand junks were anchored in the river."

4th. The province of Honan, lying inland, west by north of the last mentioned, with 62,000 square miles, and 23,037,171 inhabitants, is considered to be the first tract of land which was inhabited by the Chinese. A greater part of the country is a plain, which toward the west swells into mountains. The capital is Kai‑fung‑foo, a large city, with a very industrious population. The great Hoang‑ho flows through the entire province, and is navigable the whole distance.

5th. Advancing south on the coast, we come to Chi‑kiang province, land of silks and green teas. It contains 26,256,784 inhabitants, on a superficies of 57,200 square miles. It is thickly populated, and its citizens are perhaps the finest and most polished in the empire. The island of Chusan is directly in its front. Ningpo, the port open to foreign commerce, almost directly opposite to Chusan, is an emporium of first rank, and has a good harbor. Hang‑choo, its capital, situated about 100 miles nearly west of Chusan, bordering an estuary of the sea, is the most celebrated city in China, next to Pekin, and the seat of vast industry,  p339 population, wealth, and luxury. This province is very center of the silk manufacture and of tea cultivation. Chusan is called "Tea Island." Amongst the Chusan group are excellent harbors, sheltered against all winds. The great canal commences in and passes through a part of this province. A canal also passes from the terminus of the great canal here, and joins the Yang‑tse‑keang branch, forming the canal which communicates between Canton and Pekin.

6th. Next in order is the Fuh‑kien province, situated directly south; with 14,777,410 inhabitants, on 57,150 square miles. The island of Formosa is directly opposite, and under its jurisdiction. The southern part does not afford a sufficient supply of grain for the consumption of its inhabitants, the soil being barren. The northern districts are more fertile, and produce an abundance of tea. This is particularly the black tea district. No part of the Chinese coast has more good harbors, and nowhere in China is so brisk a trade carried on. The inhabitants are very enterprising, and emigrate in great numbers to the southern regions of Asia. They are decidedly a commercial people. Amoy, the principal emporium, and open to foreign commerce, is the residence of numerous merchants, owning more than 300 large junks, with which they carry on trade with the other ports of China, and with the Malay Archipelago. Amoy is in north latitude 24½°. Foo‑chow‑foo is the capital of the province, in north latitude about 26½°, on the river Min, which is navigable for large  p340 ships to within ten miles of the city, the great emporium for the black tea trade. The large river on which the town is built communicates with the districts where the teas are grown and manufactured, affording every facility for its safe transportation. The island of Formosa, directly opposite, is said to have made great advances in trade; it is one of the most fertile islands in the world, producing large quantities of sugar, rice, camphor, etc., and said to be rich in minerals and coals of good quality, in abundance.

This and the Chi‑kiang province produce the great staples of teas and silks, and Mr. Gutzlaff says (which has been found to be true since the ports were opened) that "they are much cheaper here than at Canton."

Teas and silks from these two provinces, as well as all other products and all articles of commerce, are taken by canal to a branch of the Yang‑tse‑keang, in the north of the Kiang‑si province, which heads in the Melin mountains in latitude 25° north, and longitude east 114°, which stream is used as a canal; thence over the Melin pass, 35 miles, on men's shoulders, no animals being used; thence on the Canton river, to Canton. Thus has all the commerce to and from Canton and Pekin, and from and to Canton with the provinces, for years been drawn over shoals and sand-bars and high mountains, with great difficulties, involving an expense estimated at not less than 25 shillings sterling for every picul of 133 pounds, equal to $4.17 per hundred pounds. With all this heavy expense and great  p341 inconvenience, still there has, as yet, been but little trade diverted from Canton; owing partly to the fact that Canton and Hong Kong are nearer and more convenient to India and the opium trade, and on account of the monsoons, which blow up and down this coast six months each way, rendering it almost impossible for a sail vessel, and very difficult for a steam vessel, to make head against it; while a vessel sailing from or to San Francisco, or the Columbia river, would have the wind favorable — that is, what the sailors term "on the wind," and most desirable. The object the English have had in view, or one of them, was to concentrate all the commerce of China at Hong Kong, and, with the immense power, influence, and capital in India, thus to control it. The opening of the northern ports, though they fought for it, has operated against the policy they hoped to establish; so much, that they would now willingly have the northern ports closed against them unless they can retain Chusan; hence the business is carried on through its old channels.

This enormous expense of transportation on the teas alone exported to England and the United States, at the above estimate, amounts to the immense sum of $3,336,000 annually. These two provinces are directly on the sea; but the commerce of teas is prohibited by water for the Chinese themselves.

7th. Kiang‑si is directly west of the two last provinces; it has a fertile soil, and an overflowing population. Its extent is 27,000 square miles, with 30,426,999  p342 inhabitants; it has some large cities. The mighty Yang‑tse‑keang crosses its northern frontier, and the southern branch extends through its entire length, north and south, to the Melin mountains and pass, forming the canal to and from Canton.

8th. Directly west of the last-mentioned province is the province of Hou‑quang‑now, Hoo‑pih, and Hoonan; population, 36,022,605, upon a superficies of 168,300 square miles. The fertility of this province is highly extolled by the Chinese, but it does not produce any thing beyond a supply for its inhabitants. It also has some large cities. The Yang‑tse‑keang passes entirely through this province, with many windings as well as tributaries, and many extensive lakes — all navigable.

9th. Proceeding south, we pass the Melin mountains to the province of Quang‑tong, fronting the China sea; it has 97,100 square miles, with 19,170,030 inhabitants. The principal city of this province is Canton, one of the greatest emporia of all Asia, and, till the peace of 1842, the only place legally open to foreigners in the Chinese empire. Its population is estimated at one million; the inhabitants are industrious and skillful, and will imitate European manufactures. It is situated about 75 miles inland from the sea, on the Choo‑keang (Pearl) river, which has its source in the Melin pass, and is used as the only commercial channel with all the northern and north-western provinces.

The entire foreign commerce of the empire, until 1843, has been carried on at this city. McCulloch, in  p343 speaking of Canton (Com. Dic., article "Canton"), says "the British trade with China has progressively and rapidly increased since 1700; and the great mass of the foreign commerce (which, inclusive of that of the junks, is estimated at $80,000,000 yearly) is carried on by the English and Americans."

10th. The next province of note is Kwang‑si, situated directly west of the last, and communicating by means of a large navigable river, which heads in the extreme west, and navigable through the entire province. This province contains a population of 7,313,895, upon 87,800 square miles; it produces an abundance of grain, and the mountains are said to be rich in ore, and even gold is found; but the policy of the Chinese government does not allow the working of mines (which are said to be numerous and rich in many parts of the empire) on a large scale, for fear of withdrawing the attention of the people from the cultivation of the soil.

The committee would state that the above embraces only the provinces directly on the coast, or directly communicating with it by navigable rivers and canals, with an aggregate population of 274,667,977, with ability for commerce to an unlimited amount. The provinces west communicate with these by rivers and canals, and contribute to its importance.

This vast empire is drained by immense rivers, some far exceeding our great Mississippi and Missouri.​d The Saghalin, on the north, has been mentioned; the Pi‑ho,  p344 communicating with the great city, Pekin, and emptying into the gulf of Pi‑chi‑li; the great Whoang‑ho (Yellow river) takes its rise in the Mongol district of Kokona, passing through several territories, then entirely through the empire, where, after crossing the great canal, it empties into the Yellow sea in latitude about 34° north, and estimated to be more than 2,000 miles long.

We next come to the mighty Yang‑tse‑keang (Son of the Sea); its source is in the Pe‑ling mountains, in Thibet. After an immense distance in a southerly direction, it enters the Chinese empire in north latitude about 28°; then it winds its way through the richest part of China and the most numerous population of any part of the globe, crossing the vast empire; and after having accommodated, by its tributaries, its lakes, its vast and numerous windings, its intersections by canals, almost the entire empire, and after drawing together on the great canal at Ching‑kyang‑foo, the vast productions, commerce, and resources of the greater part of this vast empire, gently rolls itself into the ocean in north latitude about 31°, just in front of the great city of Chang‑hae, the port open for foreign commerce, being in length more than 4,000 miles, and navigable even into Thibet.

South of the Melin mountains we find one large river draining the two southern provinces, connecting with Canton and the ocean; and a river forming the channel of commerce and intercourse north, from Canton to the Melin pass.

 p345  Thus it will be seen that this vast empire slopes to the ocean and to us, with its whole territory intersected by canals and navigable streams, all uniting with, or tributary to, the mighty Yang‑tse‑keang and Whoang‑ho, wafting their rich freights into the great canal, convenient to great city of Chang‑hae, distant from the Columbia or San Francisco 5,400 miles, and ready for an exchange for our numerous products and commodities. The present sea voyage is over 18,000 miles, and requiring nearly six months in which to perform it.

The committee would also remark, that these immense rivers and canals, linked all together, rendering inland communication so exceedingly easy, and pouring the entire fountain of production of the entire empire into the ports with which we can so easily communicate, appear as if the arrangement was intended for our especial benefit by a Divine Providence.

The population being from the Imperial census, and taken for taxation, is supposed, by those best informed, to be under, rather than over, the actual number, and it is also believed that a considerable increase has taken place since that date, and that the entire population of China is not now less than 450,000,000 to 500,000,000, of the most temperate, orderly, frugal, intelligent, and industrious, of any people on the globe; not one of whom, arrived at man's estate, but can read and write. They use no machinery, even for manufacturing; still, with all the soil occupied, they do not produce from it enough to sustain life, and famine often ensues a  p346 short drought. Their foreign commerce, carried on by themselves, is small, and confined to Japan, Manilla, Java, Borneo, and Singapore. Their productions for export are teas, in which they have no competitor, raw silk, and manufactured silks, which may be extended to an unlimited amount. With a little attention, they can compete successfully with any nation, except, perhaps, in articles of taste, purely in blending colors. Plain silk goods they can make cheaper than any other nation; but our tariff of 1842, imposing a specific per pound duty, entirely excluded their silks.

They are very ingenious and expert, and manufacture almost any thing in good taste. Some of their goods are richer than those of similar fabric in any other country. They produce drugs, camphor, rhubarb, etc., etc., for all the world, and can produce any quantity of sugar, and probably cheaper than any other country, for labor is nowhere so cheap, or more bountifully applied; and they can produce numerous other articles both desirable and useful, which are now excluded from their exports by the expense unavoidably attendant upon a commerce so far off. Their imports consist of manufactured cotton and woolen goods, some iron and steel, and a variety of other goods from England; and from Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras, 300,000 to 400,000 bales cotton annually, and from $13,000,000 to 20,000,000 in opium, and some rice. From the Dutch islands they import a large amount of rice, an account of which is not found in any statistics. Waterson's Cyclopedia, page 153, says: "The  p347 quantity of rice imported into China in 1834, in British vessels, was 15,406, and in American 7,412 tons; total, 22,818 tons." They also import products of the sea and islands, such as birds' nests, biche-de‑mer, fish maws, sharks' fins, sandal wood, putchuck, ratans, pepper, and a great variety of articles. From us they take some raw cotton, and hereafter it is probable they will take a large amount. They now use it for wadding their clothing. It is better than the India cotton, and we can produce it cheaper; but in the manner in which we gin it the fibres are bent or broken; and as they have no machinery, they cannot straighten or use it for spinning. A way will yet be found, no doubt, to accomplish this object, when it is not unreasonable to suppose they will take 300,000 or 500,000 bales annually; and more, if we take their products in exchange. They take our cotton goods, drills, and sheetings, to a large amount. No nation can compete with us in these goods, and they, the former particularly, may be considered as staple as rice. They take our lead and copper, our ginseng, furs, and our flour, and if we could send to them short of the long voyage twice across the equator (almost sure to destroy all produce animal or vegetable), they would take our Indian corn in any quantity, our rice, our tobacco, our pork, beef, hams and lard. All foreigners now there depend upon us for these articles, as well as butter and cheese; both of which, your committee are informed, being sold frequently at one dollar per pound. It appears that in 1838 they commenced taking leather and hides from Russia; the  p348 amount more than doubled in four years. As they keep but few animals, they cannot supply themselves with leather; and this is, no doubt, the cause why it has not been in general use; but should its use increase as it has commenced, the demand will soon become very great, and to us alone must they look for a supply.

The committee have mentioned a few leading important articles; but should we succeed in opening a direct way, whereby a free, frequent, and cheap exchange could take place, they fully believe the variety on each side would be endless, and the amount without limit; and we should have an advantage over the present sea voyage, or any other route or channel, which would be incalculable, and will all pass, both ways, in north latitude from above 30° to above 40°, so that teas and other products, our Indian corn, flour, beef, pork, hams, butter, cheese, etc., etc., will escape the great danger of injury and destruction from the long sea voyage around the cape, or any route twice across the equator.

It is known that the Chinese are not a maritime people, and probably never will be so, from custom and want of materials for building ships; therefore the more important is the commerce to us, as we should be carriers both ways. We now have all this within our grasp, to be secured to us forever by this iron road, as the committee fully believe.

Starting again from our coast, and taking a more southern direction, we first come to the Sandwich  p349 islands, properly called the West Indies of the Pacific, in north latitude 20°, west longitude 156° distant from our coast 2,160 miles. This group of islands has become important as a commercial station in that vast ocean.​e The population in 1836 was 108,000; imports, $475,000; exports, $460,000; it is said to be very fertile, and produces sugar cane of better quality than any other part of the world, and some advance has been made in the manufacture of sugar. The population has made great advances in civilization. In 1831 there belonged to the island 14 vessels, of 2,630 tons, of which four brigs and seven schooners belonged to the natives.

We next come to the many islands of the Pacific called Polynesia; their supposed aggregate population 1,500,000. Much has been said of these many islands, their richness of soil, capacity for tropical productions, products of the sea, etc., etc.; but commerce is to develop their resources, as also to civilize the inhabitants, as it has with the Sandwich islands. To us they will be important, and by our commerce and intercourse must they be brought to light and life.

We now come on the south of the equator to the island of Papua, or New Guinea, situate between the equator and south latitude 9°, and between 120° and 150° west longitude, with the Pacific ocean on the north and east; number of inhabitants supposed, 500,000; area, 305,540 square miles. The inhabitants are supposed to practice gardening in the interior, as they  p350 supply the inhabitants of the coast with food, in exchange for axes, knives, and other coarse cutlery, which are purchased from the Malays and Chinese; also, from the latter, blue and red cloths. In exchange the Chinese take missory bark, slaves, ambergris, biche-de‑mer, tortoise shell, pearls, birds' nests, birds of Paradise, and many other articles. This island is distant from our continent 5,340 miles.

We now come to Australia, a continent, as it is called, lying between 10° 39′ and 39° 11′ south latitude, and extending from 113° to 153° 16′ east longitude. Its form is compact; its average length estimated at 1,750 miles; its coast line, 7,750 miles, and its area estimated at about 3,000,000 square miles; population, colonial, 160,000; native, 63,000. The aggregate population of the adjoining islands with it is estimated at about 1,000,000. It is an English possession, and becoming important; probably capable of sustaining an immense population; distant from our continent 6,000 miles, and directly on the route from Oregon to India. Coal is said to be abundant in immense fields, and in strata more horizontal than in the old world, and not far below the surface. Near the equator, in latitude 2° north to 6° south, and from 119° to 125° east longitude, is the island of Celebes; area, 75,000 square miles; population, between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000. This is a Dutch possession, producing a large quantity of rice, which is principally sold to the Chinese.

We now come to numerous rich islands. Java,  p351 south of the equator, latitude between 6° and 9°, and 105° and 115° east longitude; in length 600 miles; breadth, 40 to 130; area, 45,700; population, 5,000,000 to 6,000,000. This is a Dutch possession, immensely rich in its products for export of coffee, sugar, indigo, etc., etc., amounting annually to over $30,000,000, and mostly to Holland. It is distant from our continent 6,920 miles.

Then Sumatra presents itself, divided by the equator, and between 6° north and 4° south latitude, and 96° and 106° east longitude; 1,050 miles long; area, 122,000 square miles; population, 2,000,000; very rich in products, yielding annually 30,000,000 pounds of pepper, and various other articles of profitable commerce.

Then Borneo, divided by the equator between latitude 4° 10′ south, and 7° north, and 109° and 119° 20′ east longitude; on the north and west, the China sea; east, the Celebes sea, and straits of Macassar; and south, the Java sea; length, 750 miles; breadth, 350 miles; area, 260,000 square miles; population supposed to be 3,000,000 to 4,000,000, of which 150,000 are Chinese. The soil is said to be rich, not surpassed by any, and supposed to be capable of yielding an immense amount and great variety of tropical products, which find a ready market in this country and in Europe. It is also rich in minerals, gold, antimony, tin, and diamonds. It has good harbors.

Captain J. Brooke, who aided the rajah Muda Hassim in expelling the Malay pirates, received for his reward  p352 the province of Sarawack. In 1841 he took possession of his province, and established a government or regulations under the crown of Borneo. He speaks of the aborigines, or natives (Dyaks), in the highest terms of praise; mild, industrious, and so scrupulously honest that not a single case of theft came under his observation. They are not addicted to any of the glaring vices of a wild state; marry but one wife, etc., etc. He expects much from them under the influence of civilized intercourse. He speaks of the gold of Sambas as being very rich, worked by the Chinese, and produces yearly, at a very moderate estimate, $2,600,000; he also speaks of coal. This island will in time, no doubt, become vastly important, and sustain an immense population and an immense commerce, equal or beyond that of Java, in proportion to its area, compared with which it can sustain 30,000,000 to 40,000,000, and a production for export of $150,000,000 annually.

Further north, and nearer to China, are the Philippine islands, between latitude 5° and 20° north, and 117° and 124° east longitude; area, 134,000 square miles; population, 3,500,000; very rich in products; under the Spanish government; and owing to the many restrictions to which its commerce is subjected, a full development of resources is prevented. They produce sugar, coffee, indigo, hemp, etc., — such articles as we want in exchange for our cotton, cotton manufactures, and many other products. When the inhabitants of these, and the other islands, are freed from vassalage, and can  p353 enjoy unrestrainedly the reward of their own labor, we shall find their ability to produce and exchange their products for ours almost without limit. They are distant from our coast 6,340 miles.

We now come to Singapore and India; the former a small island at the south extremity of the Malay peninsula, in latitude 1° 17′ north, and 103° 51′ east longitude. It is thought all the commerce of British India will center here, it having a fine healthy climate, much less variable than Calcutta or other places, and so directly convenient to all the islands that it must center all the commerce. It is distant from Oregon 7,660 miles.

India slopes to the ocean; all the rivers, the only channels of commerce, head in the Himmaleh mountains, and empty into the ocean toward us, opposite our Pacific front. The area of British India (Waterson's Cyclopedia, 1846) is 1,357,000 square miles; population, 134,300,000, not including the recent conquest of Cabul and Afghanistan, which, with the different tribes or nations besides, may be estimated at 50,000,000 more, making a total of 184,300,000 inhabitants, the commerce of which now centers in Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Ceylon, and Singapore, to an aggregate yearly amount of $150,000,000 though Waterson makes for Calcutta and Bombay for 1841, Madras, 1837, Ceylon, 1835, and Singapore, the aggregate of $165,000,000. There has been a great increase since, as the committee are informed, but of which they have no late authentic accounts.

 p354  The greater part of this immense commerce is with Europe and America. There is also an immense amount of trade in barter, of which we have no account. We here see this immense capacity for commerce and trade, notwithstanding the heavy burdens by which labor is robbed of its just reward.

India is embarrassed at this time with a debt of about $172,000,000, at an annual interest of $8,142,625, and to which is to be added the expenses of the last and present war and conquest, and a yearly expense or tax for being governed, of $85,824,180, exceeding the revenue from all sources by $4,651,115; but, when England shall have changed her policy of taxing colonies to provide for an aristocracy at home, and these people become able to govern themselves, or be governed at moderate expense, and can enjoy the full fruits of their labor, then their capacity for commerce and trade will be immense, and it is the free and rapid and frequent intercourse which our railroad will establish, that will bring about all these changes, and all this vast commerce and communication must be subject to it; and, in addition to, and with all this, we shall have our lines of steamers running up and down the coast from Oregon to South America, producing the same results everywhere, freedom of intercourse and exchange of commodities. And all this is now within our reach, as the committee believe; and in such close proximity as this road will bring us to countries so populous and fruitful, can it be  p355 doubted, with our well-known commercial energy, wonderful ingenuity, and vast resources, that we shall enjoy the largest share of all the profits which a free and rapid communication with it cannot fail to bestow?

For a more particular account of this trade and traffic, the committee refer to the statistics contained in the appendix, which they have prepared with great care, and from authentic documents; and also to the estimates for the cost of the road, and accurate general railroad statistics, numbered from 1 to 14.

The committee are aware that distinguished men entertain the opinion that the commercial route to the Pacific will be to the great falls of the Missouri; thence overland, by Lewis and Clark's route, to the waters of the Columbia.

The committee think it will not be denied that a line of travel and commerce so important as this will be, must, to be profitable, be uninterrupted and unobstructed. Transhipments, a change in the mode of transportation, causing additional labor to be bestowed on the articles of commerce, enhance the price, produce delay, and burden the trade with heavy expenses. It is well ascertained, the committee believe, that the Columbia river, and that branch of it which would be reached by this route, has many obstructions, some of which, it is thought, cannot be removed by any reasonable outlay of money, whilst the Missouri river is not considered as a safe and constantly  p356 navigable stream, susceptible of profitable use at all seasons of the year. Information of the most satisfactory character seems to justify this belief, and to force upon the mind the conviction that, as a channel of trade to India and China, through which must annually pass millions in value, and to which speedy and safe transit is of so great importance, it cannot be relied upon, or cannot enter into competition with a railroad. Throughout the world, railroads are fast superseding all other means of conveyance, and we now see, at this very moment, one of the States of this Union, to avoid the delays and embarrassments of river navigation, in the winter season, of a stream more free from natural obstructions than almost any other projecting a railroad on its very border, to connect its commercial with its political emporium. The Hudson river is justly celebrated among the rivers of the world for constant and safe navigation; yet, in these times of rapid movement and of commercial activity, the wants of the public are not met by its advantages, great as they undoubtedly are.​f

For a descending navigation at those seasons of the year when the melting of the mountain snows fills the channel of the Missouri, it may be profitably used; but in the fall and winter seasons, when the waters have subsided or are frozen, all commerce by it must necessarily cease. Upon a railroad, no interruption producing any very great delay can take place, and the committee believe that transportation upon one 3,000 miles in length  p357 can be carried on with as great certainty and at as high speed as upon one of less extent, and at less comparative expense.

Whilst, therefore, it is seen that this railroad will possess the advantages of a permanent and an uninterrupted use for travel and the transportation of merchandise, and that the use of the Missouri or any other of the rivers in connection with it would be obstructed not only by ice, but by the want of water at certain seasons, it is to be remarked that this river may, during a large portion of the year, afford a channel for a full proportion of the commerce of the Pacific to take a direction toward the ports on the banks of the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, and other rivers, and extending to New Orleans and the gulf coast, giving the several States bordering upon them all the advantages which the road from its intersection with the Missouri to Lake Michigan may give to the States bordering on the great lakes, and on those channels of communication leading thence to the shores of the Atlantic; so that, while the construction of this road will detract nothing from the capacities of the Missouri to contribute, by its natural advantages, however interrupted, to the augmentation of such trade as may find its way into that channel, this road will be the sure and faithful means for the safe and rapid conveyance of whatever may be placed upon its cars, to increase the trade of all the navigable streams south of the point of intersection.

The committee acknowledge they have not the most  p358 perfect confidence in the ability of the memorialist, or any other person, however eminent, to accomplish this magnificent enterprise; but, on a careful view of all the interests of the United States as connected with it, are willing to recommend that the quantity of public land indicated in the bill shall be set apart for that purpose, as, in the event of success, the whole country will be benefited one hundred fold the value of the land; and if unsuccessful, no injury or loss will be sustained.

They admit, also, that their knowledge of the capabilities of the country for such a road west of the "Pass" is very limited, but it is sufficient to justify them in saying that a railroad can be constructed over it. They take this for granted; for, what obstacle cannot American ingenuity and engineer overcome! and the route is now constantly passed by loaded wagons. The length is no objection — that diminishes the more it is considered, and the mind has become already familiarized to its real or supposed difficulties. And as a large portion of the whole route, both east and west of the "Pass," is now a wilderness, and probably will ever be, a strong argument is furnished, by that fact, in favor of the construction of the road, for it has been very truly remarked that the railroad system is peculiarly adapted to two very different states of society; in limited districts, inhabited by a dense and industrious population, where any discovery which renders more speedy and regular the already easy communication from place to place is an additional saving of time and capital — an additional advantage gained in the  p359 ceaseless struggle of competing industry; and again, in vast regions only here and there dotted with settlements, where modes of communication are rather matters of vital necessity than of mere gain or convenience.

It has been objected that the route of the proposed road will be obstructed by snows, on account of the great election of the country overwhelm it passes. It appears, from known facts, that as we proceed west from the great lakes the climate becomes more and more mild. In Wisconsin Territory the snow seldom falls to the depth of one foot, and the winter is not severe; while on the upper Missouri there is still less snow, and the climate still more mild — so much so that the American cattle have been pastured several winters in succession, and kept in good condition — though sufficient ice formed to impede the navigation of the river for several months. It is true that some peaks of the Rocky mountains tower to an altitude of eternal snows; but through the pass and the valley, the committee believe, from representations made to them by intelligent travelers who have passed them, there is usually but little snow — not sufficient to impede the progress of a railroad car to any serious extent — not so much so as in the New England States; and from the mountains to the Pacific, the climate is known to be as mild as that of England.​g

The committee are free to confess that they are by no means perfectly satisfied with the plan proposed by the bill for constructing the road, but believe that the public lands is the only fund out of which it will be made, if  p360 ever. Objections may be urged to the plan itself; yet it may be the means of suggesting another, more perfect and less liable to objection, on which all can unite. This bill may have the effect, if nothing more, to bring the subject fairly before Congress and the country, the final result of which will be the accomplishment of the great work.

When it is considered that the United States claim to own more than 1,000,000,000 acres of unsettled lands, the amount proposed to be appropriated for the road is not one‑tenth of the whole quantity; the nine-tenths to be enhanced in value by the road to an amount certainly equal to the value of the quantity proposed to be appropriated. In fact, the great residuum will derive nearly all its value from the road, for, situated as they are, without the road they will not sell for a century to come, if ever. The question of the policy of making it is far different from what it would be if the lands through which it passed were individual property. They are the property of the nation, and if their value be enhanced by any artificial channels of trade, the advantages accrue to the nation — to the government first, and then to every citizen.

Its effect, however, upon the property of individuals, and on the western States particularly, will be vastly beneficial. The lands within them would be enhanced at least twenty-five cents an acre, which, applied to the whole mass of acres within them, would amount to more millions than the road will cost. Besides this, it will give  p361 to these States the same advantage, by means of the trans-Pacific trade which will flow through this channel, that the trans-Atlantic trade gives to the eastern portion of our Union. It is this which makes the poor lands of the Atlantic slope sell for $50 or more per acre, inferior as they are in every respect to those of the western States, whose average value cannot be estimated at more than $5 per acre. This new trade which will be opened to the West by this road will equalize these advantages. St. Louis, or some other central point, will enjoy the benefits of the China trade equally with New York or Boston; and as a mart for the vast productions of the immense regions bordering on the Pacific, and as a point at which the varied productions of American skill and ingenuity destined for those markets will center, that city or some other in the valley of the Mississippi, will possess commercial advantages equal, if not superior, to those of any point on the Atlantic seaboard.

The committee are of opinion that, no matter in what aspects this great subject is viewed, it commends itself to favor. Its influence upon Oregon itself; upon the commerce of the Pacific, our trade with China, India, and the distant and rich islands of the sea, and upon our export trade — the product of that vast calcareous basin of the Mississippi, of more than 1,200,000 square miles, to be carried on this road to and through that ocean, from which we are now cut off by an expanse of sea, by the capes, equal to half the circumference of the globe — cannot be estimated.

 p362  The committee believe that the present is an auspicious moment at which to commence this work; and upon the announcement of the fact that the project has received the favorable notice of Congress, the energies of our people will be aroused to a new life. It is not a party measure, the one on which the politician of every hue and creed can cordially unite; one which will strengthen the bonds of our Union, allay sectional jealousies, and arouse a proud national feeling.

We have within ourselves all the material and all the means necessary for its accomplishment, and it rests with Congress to say whether or not these materials and these means shall be thus employed; whether the enterprise is one of sufficient importance to justify setting apart one‑tenth of the public lands, now valueless, to its accomplishment. The committee will not anticipate, but cannot doubt the decision.

The committee are aware that many, whose opinions are entitled to great respect, think the enterprise premature, and in advance of the wants and progress of the country; but it must be borne in mind that as the lands are the fund out of which the road is to be made, the best may be taken by individuals, lessening the value of the fund by the amount of such appropriation; and as at least twenty years will be consumed in constructing it, it becomes important that the earliest moment should be seized in which to commence operations.

The means proposed to be devoted to it are vast,  p363 it is true; but, the committee think, not in disproportion to the grand and magnificent object to be accomplished by their proper application.

In view, then, of all the premises and of all the anticipated results to flow from the undertaking, if accomplished, the committee cannot refrain from recommending it to the attentive consideration of the national legislature, and of the country at large. By the aid of a small portion of the public lands, the committee believe the United States can possess a channel of speedy and safe communication, through which will pour, in a continued, rich, and fertilizing stream, a large proportion of the commerce of the oriental world.

The Author's Notes:

1 In Senate of the United States, July 31, 1846. Submitted, and ordered to be printed without the map. Mr. Breese made the following report. To accompany Senate Bill No. 246.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Fremont's Rep., Sen. Doc. 174, p60.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Ib. 128.

[decorative delimiter]

4 Fremont's Rep., Sen. Doc. 174, p129.

[decorative delimiter]

5 Ib. 183, 184.

[decorative delimiter]

6 Report of Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury, made to the Senate of the United States, April 4, 1808. [American State Papers, Miscellaneous, No. 250, pp724 to 921.]

[decorative delimiter]

7 Sketches of China, by J. F. Davis, volume 2, page 215.

Thayer's Notes:

a Asa Whitney's project and colorful personality, as well as the congressional opposition to the scheme, are detailed in John D. Galloway, The First Transcontinental Railroad, pp32‑37 and Robert West Howard, The Great Iron Trail, pp41‑47.

[decorative delimiter]

b With this sentence Sen. Breese introduces the main theme of his report: China is a huge market for American trade, and this is why a transcontinental railroad should be built. A different motivation subsequently drove the project — unifying our country —, so Chinese commerce as a reason for the railroad seems odd to us today, but Sen. Breese is in the mainstream of his time: see F. R. Dulles, The Old China Trade, p175 ff., for widespread public opinion on the topic in 1822. Interestingly, after that, Dulles goes on to mention Breese; in the context not of the railroad and in 1846, but of holding on to Oregon in 1844. The idea seems to have had a powerful hold on the man.

[decorative delimiter]

c Also Sakhalin River: the Mongol name of the Amur, which is indeed one of the world's great rivers, the tenth-longest — if only about 2800 km long rather than the 6400 km claimed in this report.

[decorative delimiter]

d The only Chinese river longer than the Mississippi is the Yangtse, nosing it out by about 25 km.

[decorative delimiter]

e The strategic position of the Hawaiian Islands and the changing concerns of American policy in less than a century are brought into sharp focus by the map in A Short History of the United States Navy.

[decorative delimiter]

f Winter ice on the Hudson was one of the main factors in the genesis of the New York State railway system; details are given in Harlow, The Road of the Century, pp138 ff.

[decorative delimiter]

g As we now know, the western plains and even more so the Rocky Mountains receive very significant snowfalls; the committee severely underestimated the obstacle. Extensive details on the problem and its solution in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad — just twenty years after the committee's report — are given in Galloway, The First Transcontinental Railroad, pp147‑151.

In extenuation of the committee, the supposed mild climate of the Central Plains was a notion commonly found in accounts of the time, and ten years later we still find it stated of Iowa in a book written by a man intimately familiar with that country: Iowa As It Is in 1856, Chapter 2, "The Climate"; although it should be noted that this book was a guide expressly written to promote immigration there.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 10 Apr 20