ERIE CANAL - [De Witt CLINTON]
Memorial of the Citizens of New York, in Favor of Canal Navigation between the Great Western Lakes and the Tide-Waters of the Hudson
New York: Samuel Wood & Sons, 1816. 8vo. 18pp. Uncut and unopened. Toning.
Among the earliest and most influential works leading to the building of the Erie Canal.
"In the autumn of 1815, Judge Jonas Platt was holding court in New York, and Thomas Eddy, having invited him to breakfast one morning, proposed to him the plan of endeavoring to get up a public meeting, in order to urge the propriety of offering a memorial to the Legislature, importuning them to construct the canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson. Judge Platt readily agreed and consented to present the subject to the meeting. Eddy called on De Witt Clinton, then Mayor of New York, who heartily joined in the undertaking. It was agreed that cards of invitation should be sent to about a hundred prominent men of the city. The large and respectable assemblage which gathered at the City Hotel, on December 3, was presided over by William Bayard and addressed by Judge Platt, De Witt Clinton, John Swartwout and others. In his introductory speech Judge Platt urged the expediency of a formal and public abandonment of the plan of an inclined-plane canal which had been proposed in the first report of the commissioners. Clinton, Swartwout, Eddy and Cadwallader D. Colden were appointed a committee to prepare a memorial to the Legislature. This able document, known in canal history as the 'New York Memorial,' was written by Clinton, and from its presentation may be dated the earnest and active progress of the enterprise. This memorial, says one writer, 'was the foundation of the present system of internal navigation; ... it effectually exploded the Ontario route, and silenced forever its advocates; and ... it produced an electrical effect throughout the whole country.' It was signed by a great portion of the respectable citizens of New York City, and copies sent throughout the state aroused an enthusiasm which resulted in public meetings in almost every city and village between Albany and Buffalo, and in the adoption of similar memorials. This agitation brought before the next Legislature an appeal from more than one hundred thousand petitioners to proceed at once with the work of making a canal. The project immediately became popular. This memorial with its clear and concise style of expression, its forceful arguments, and its large amount of information concerning the whole subject appealed to the multitudes who read it, and turned many of the skeptical to its favor" (Whitford, History of the Canal System of the State of New York).
The work is surprisingly scarce; we can find no example on the market in over fifty years.