NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center OLLibrary




wished to reach more directly than the steamboat could help them to do. Henry Clay, the "Father of the National Road" (§ 243), urged its extension from Wheeling across Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois through to the Mississippi. (Map, p. 215.) Picture/bannerPresident Monroe earnestly favored this enterprise, but he did not think that he had lawful power under the Constitution to spend the people's money for such purposes. Indirectly, however, he used every effort to help it forward. The road was extended nearly to the Mississippi, but by that time people had begun to build railways (§§ 252-255), so the National Road never got any farther. It was the first great work of the kind undertaken by the United States, costing, in the end, over $6,000,000. It stretched across the country for hundreds of miles, -- broad, solid, smooth, -- a true national highway.
   245. Traffic on the National Road; Emigrant Wagons. The traffic over the road was immense. Gayly painted stagecoaches ran through the more thickly settled parts. Beyond, toward the west, there was a constant stream of huge canvas-covered emigrant wagons, often so close together that the leaders of the teams could touch the wagon ahead of them with their noses. To see that procession of emigrant families going forward day after day showed how fast the people were settling that wild western country, which is now covered with cultivated farms, thriving towns, and busy cities.
   It was the beginning of that great march toward the setting sun which was to keep steadily advancing until the Pacific said "Halt!" -- that is, until we had taken possession of the whole breadth of the continent.

1823 ]



   246. The "Monroe Doctrine"; "America for Americans." While the National Road (§ 244) was being pushed westward, Mexico and several South American countries had declared themselves republics, independent of Spain. The Czar of Russia and most of the European kings looked with a jealous eye on republics. The Czar then held Russian America (now Alaska) and was endeavoring to get possession of more territory, farther south, on the Pacific coast. He, with other European rulers, formed an alliance to force the new American nations to bow their heads a gain under the old despotic yoke of Spain from which they had just freed themselves. President Monroe cried, "Hands off!" In his message to Congress (1823) he declared:
   1. That the United States would deny the right of any European power to plant any new colonies on the American continent.
   2. That we were resolved not to meddle with the affairs of the nations of the Old World.
   3. That we were equally determined that they should not in any way meddle with the affairs of the New World.
   That declaration is called the "Monroe Doctrine."1 It means that we consider that "America is for Americans." We stand by the right of the different nations on both the American continents, North and South, to manage their own affairs in their own way, without interference from Europe.
   247. Visit of Lafayette. Near the close of Monroe's administration Congress requested the President to invite Lafayette

   I The "Monroe Doctrine": in his message to Congress on December 2, 1823, President Monroe said, speaking of the project of Russia to plant one or more Russian colonies on the coast of what was then the Mexican state of California, "The occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent position which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers."
   Again, President Monroe said, in the same message, in speaking of the proposed interference of European governments in America, "We should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety."
   Finally, the President said that we could not consider any interference by Europe with the independent republics which had been established on either of the American continents "in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United Slates." See W. Macdonald's "Select Documents of United States History, 1776-1861," p. 228.




(§ 176), then a venerable man verging on seventy, to revisit the United States after forty years' absence. He came (1824), and spent more than a year traveling through the country as the guest of the nation. He visited every one of the twenty-four states, and all of the principal cities and towns.
Webster & Lafayette at Bunker Hill   He had spent much of his fortune in our cause. Congress gratefully voted him two hundred thousand dollars, and made him a grant of twenty-four thousand acres of land in Florida. He was everywhere received with enthusiasm and affection. Some of the old soldiers of the Revolution, who had fought under him, were completely overcome by their feelings on seeing their former commander, who had so generously helped them in the dark days of the war. Lafayette took part in laying the corner stone of Bunker Hill Monument (June 17, 1825), just fifty years after the battle.1 When he returned to France that autumn he was followed by the fervent prayers of the powerful nation he had done so much to establish.
   That happened more than eighty years ago, but there is good proof that the American people have not forgotten, and never will forget, the noble-hearted Frenchman.

   1 In his oration at the laying of the comer stone of Bunker Hill Monument, June 17, 1825, Daniel Webster pointed to the Revolutionary veterans who stood near him and addressed Lafayette as follows: "Those who survived that day, and whose lives have been prolonged to the present hour, are now around you. Some if them you have known in the trying scenes of the war. . . . Behold! they raise their trembling voices to invoke the blessing of God on you and yours forever. . . . Illustrious as are your merits, yet far, O, very far distant be the day, when any inscription shall bear your name, or any tongue pronounce its eulogy."




   In the very center of Paris, in the grounds of the palace of the Louvre, one sees a commanding equestrian statue (1900). On the base of that statue we read this inscription:


   248. Summary. Four chief events marked the period of the presidency of James Monroe. They were: (1) the debate on the extension of slavery west of the Mississippi River, ending in the Missouri Compromise; (2) the pushing forward of the National Road into Ohio, which opened up a large section of the West to emigrants from the Atlantic states; (3) our declaration of the Monroe Doctrine, that Europe must keep her hands off both American continents; (4) the visit of Lafayette.


   249. John Quincy Adams' Administration (Sixth President, One Term, 1825-1829);1 Governor Clinton and the Erie Canal. The year that Mr. Adams became President (1825) the Erie Canal was completed by the state of New York. It was the most important public improvement yet made by any state in the Union.

    1 John Quincy Adams, son of President John Adams, was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, in 1767; died, 1848. He was originally a Federalist (§ 203); later, he acted for a time with the Democratic-Republican party (§ 203), though his sympathies were largely with those who eventually organized the Whig party. (§ 273), who, like the extinct Federalists, desired to give a broad interpretation to the Constitution (§ 203). The Whigs, led by Henry Clay, favored a protective tariff (that is, a heavy tax imposed on imported goods for the purpose of "protecting" our manufacturers against foreign competition; a revenue tariff is a lighter tax imposed merely to obtain money or revenue for the government). They also favored public improvements -- such as the building of roads, canals, and the like -- at the expense of the nation, in opposition to the Democratic party, which insisted on a strict interpretation of the Constitution, favored free trade, or a simple revenue tariff, and believed that each state should make its own improvements at its own expense.
   John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson were the two leading candidates for the presidency in 1824; both were nominally Democrats, for that was the only party then existing, but Adams, as an independent Democrat, still held certain Federalist principles, while Jackson,




It connected the Hudson River at Troy and Albany with Lake Erie, at Buffalo.
   Governor De Witt Clinton of New York carried the great work through. When he proposed it, many denounced and ridiculed the undertaking as a sheer waste of the people's hard-earned money. They nicknamed it "Clinton's Big Ditch." They said

Henry Clay


that it never would be completed, that it would swallow up millions in taxes, and in the end yield nothing but mud.
   250. How the Canal was built; its Opening. Governor Clinton had indeed put his hand to a stupendous task. Lake Erie is 363 miles west of the Hudson, and it is nearly 600 feet above the level of that river. The country between the Hudson and the lake is in some places rough and broken. There were people in New York who knew these difficulties, and who asked the Governor whether he could make water run uphill. He replied that he

as a man of the people, bitterly opposed them. Neither candidate got a majority of the electoral votes, and the House of Representatives finally chose Mr. Adams President (John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, Vice President). Mr. Adams had refused to make any exertion to secure his own election; and when asked by his friend Edward Everett if he did not intend to do something to obtain it, he replied, "I shall do absolutely nothing." It was one of those rare cases in which the office sought the man, and not the man the office.




could do better: he could build locks which would make the water lift the canal boats over the hills.
   When all was ready he set his army of laborers at work. They toiled eight years in the wilderness, cutting down forests, digging out the earth, blasting their way through ridges of rock, building aqueduct bridges to carry the canal across rivers, constructing locks of solid masonry to carry it up the hillsides.
   In the autumn of 1825 the great undertaking was finished, and, when the water was let in, a row of cannon about five miles apart, extending from Buffalo to New York, flashed the news the whole length of the state. Governor Clinton traveled from Buffalo to Albany by the canal, and thence by the Hudson to New York City. He brought with him a keg of water from Lake Erie. When he reached the city he solemnly poured the water into the harbor to commemorate, as he said, "the navigable communication opened between our Mediterranean seas (meaning our Great Lakes) and the Atlantic Ocean."
   251. What the Canal has done for New York and for the Country. The canal has since done far more than Governor Clinton expected. The expense of building it was easily paid by means of a small toll or tax levied by the state on boats and freight. Before the canal was built, the charge for hauling a barrel of flour from Albany to Buffalo was ten dollars, and it took three weeks to get it there. After the canal was opened, a barrel of flour could be sent through in a week, at a cost of thirty cents! Since its completion to the present time over $6,000,000,000 worth of freight has been carried on its waters.
   The canal originally ran through a country in great part unsettled. It was the means of bringing in great numbers of emigrants from the East. On its banks arose scores of flourishing towns and rapidly growing cities. New York City gained immensely by the trade with the West, which began as soon as this water way was opened. Later, the canal was made free of toll, and from spring to the end of autumn a constant procession of boats laden with grain used to be seen going eastward day and night; while a similar procession, laden with merchandise, was

Prior page
General Index
Next page

© 1999, 2000, 2001 for NEGenWeb Project, T&C Miller