Government Promotion of American Canals and Railroads, 1800-1890

Government Promotion of American Canals and Railroads, 1800-1890

Government Promotion of American Canals and Railroads, 1800-1890

Government Promotion of American Canals and Railroads, 1800-1890

Excerpt

This is a study of the role of American governments--federal, state, and local--in the creation of the facilities of inland transport. In today's terms, it is an analysis of an important aspect of development policy, the provision of social overhead capital, and of the relations between public promotion and the efforts of private enterprise. In the language of the time, the issue was that of internal improvements. The older phrase carries the connotation which the modern student must not overlook--of a movement that called for the exercise of public spirit as well as the search for immediate economic gain. To improve the country's natural advantages by developments in transportation was, in the eyes of Washington and many others, a duty incumbent both on governments and on individual citizens. 1 Even before the American Revolution, the American Philosophical Society maintained a standing Committee on American Improvements, and its members went out one winter into the frozen swamps to study the prospects of a canal to connect the Chesapeake and the Delaware. They were later praised as men "whose views, extending beyond themselves, [were] employed upon objects of general benefit and utility." 2 When canal and railroad companies were organized, individuals were often urged to buy stock not only for the dividends they would receive, but also for the satisfaction of bearing an honorable part in a great state or national work. One railroad . . .

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