The Building of the Cape Cod Canal, 1627-1914

The Building of the Cape Cod Canal, 1627-1914

The Building of the Cape Cod Canal, 1627-1914

The Building of the Cape Cod Canal, 1627-1914


Interest in the construction of the Cape Cod Canal reaches to the beginnings of our Republic. In 1776, General George Washington sent an officer to investigate the possibility in order "to give greater security to navigation against the enemy." As early as 1780, General Knox urged the new Congress to build the Canal.

From that time until 1909, the records abound with efforts by private enterprise, proposals to the legislatures of Massachusetts and to the Congress to secure its building. Actual construction work was undertaken in 1883, but the resources of the corporation formed for the purpose proved inadequate. Periodically new corporations were organized, but for various reasons never brought the canal into being.

It was not until August Belmont, in 1909, undertook to finance and build the Canal that it became a reality. Five years later, in 1914, the Cape Cod Canal was opened.

In July 1918, during the First World War, the Federal Government took over the operation of the Canal, returning it to the owners in March 1920. At this time legal proceedings and negotiations were carried on with a view to its purchase by the Federal Government.

These negotiations and some moral commitments were in progress when John W. Weeks became Secretary of War in 1921. Secretary Weeks requested me, as Secretary of Commerce, to investigate the matter. I visited the Canal. On January 9, 1922, I appeared before the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce and urged the completion of the negotiations then under way. At that time I urged the enlargement of the Canal and that it be made free of tolls as a stimulant to the industrial development and well-being of the New England States and the country as a whole. Due to the efforts of the Secretary of War and the New England Congressional delegations, Congress authorized the purchase of the Canal and made the necessary appropriations.

But we must not forget that it was the enterprise and foresight of August Belmont which brought the Canal into being. And his accom-

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