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Lot 5: Adams, John Quincy. Autograph letter signed as President, 1 page (10 x 7 ¾ in.; 254 x 197 mm.)

The Property of a Distinguished American Private Collector

Platinum House

by Profiles in History

December 18, 2012

Calabasas Hills, CA, USA

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Description:

5. Adams, John Quincy. Autograph letter signed as President, 1 page (10 x 7 ¾ in.; 254 x 197 mm.), “Washington,” 9 March 1827, to Richard Riker Esquire, Recorder of the City of New York, regarding the completion of the Erie Canal; marginal split at horizontal fold. 

President John Quincy Adams on the successful completion of the New York Canals [i.e., the Erie Canal] which have mingled the waters of the Western Lakes with the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

President Adams sends thanks to his correspondent for two copies of an elegantly bound narrative on the completion of the Erie Canal (October 26, 1825). 

He writes in full: Sir.  I have duly received your Letter of the 26th. ulto. [February 26, 1827] together with two copies elegantly bound of the very interesting Memoir of Mr. Colder upon the New York Canals, and the annexed authentic narratives of the Celebrations upon the completion of those great Works which have mingled the waters of the Western Lakes with the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

One of these copies was intended by the kindness of the Corporation, for my deceased father [John Adams, d. July 4, 1826], and in his name, and in that of his Representatives, I pray you to tender to that body our thanks for this civic tribute to his memory.  For the copy of them designed and forwarded for me the Corporation will please to accept my acknowledgements.  It contains in itself evidence that many of the Arts which adorn, as well as those which comfort human life, are prospering in our Country and evinces that the Spirit, which was found equal to the great undertaking of inland communication is persuading every portion of your community, and moving in happy concert towards that object of the aspirations of the wise and good, the improvement of our common condition. Accept also for your self, the thanks and Respects of your fellow Citizens.  John Quincy Adams.

On October 26, 1825, the Erie Canal was completed - then officially opened at Buffalo.  It connected the Hudson River with Lake Erie by way of the Mohawk River, channels in Lake Oneida and short stretches of other rivers.  Mules pulled flat-bottomed barges through the four-foot deep, 363-mile long canal at the rate of a mile and a half an hour.  During its first year of operation, the Erie Canal saw 7,000 barges travel its course from Albany to Buffalo.  Those who had worked on the canal, begun in 1817, remained to establish towns along its route.  The flow of goods along the Erie Canal and the Hudson River - a combined distance of 550 miles - soon made New York the nation’s busiest seaport, as well as the nation's financial center.  The completion of the Erie Canal signalled the beginning of a major era of canal building; 3,000 miles of inland waterways were constructed by the 1840s.  Combined with the surge of road building, the construction of these inland waterways helped open up many new territories in the west to commerce and settlement.

A number of other Western canals were completed between 1825-56 linking the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers with the Great Lakes.  They included: (1) the Ohio Canal connecting Portsmouth and Cleveland (1825-32); (2) the Miami Canal connecting Cincinnati and Toledo (1825-45); (3) the Louisville and Portland Canal around the falls of the Ohio River (1826-31); (4) the Wabash and Erie Canal, linking Toledo with Evansville - the longest canal in the U.S. (1832-56); (5) the Illinois and Michigan Canal connecting Lake Michigan and the Illinois River (1836-48); and (6) the original Welland Canal around Niagara Falls connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario (built by Canada, 1829-33).

Of all the canal projects, the Erie Canal was unique in that it achieved a profit.  Most of the other canals eventually failed because their construction required an insurmountable debt that could not be recouped from users’ fees.   The new age of the railroads brought an end to the role of canals in the commercial growth and westward expansion of the nation.  

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