Letter from H. Meigs to Asbury Dickens, Secretary of the Columbian Institute, January 21, 1822.

ID: SIA RU007051 [SIA_007051_S02_B01_F01_D01]


Form/Genre: Letters (correspondence)

Date: 1822

Citation: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7051, Columbian Institute Records, Image No. SIA_007051_S02_B01_F01_D01

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Letter from H. Meigs to Asbury Dickens, Secretary of the Columbian Institute, Secretary of the Columbian Institute, relating to internal improvements. Dated 21 January, 1822. Read, and ordered to lie on the table, 2 February 1822.

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Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7051, Columbian Institute Records, Image No. SIA_007051_S02_B01_F01_D01

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  • 1822
  • January 21, 1822

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Letters (correspondence)

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SIA RU007051 [SIA_007051_S02_B01_F01_D01]

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(1. New York Jany 21.1822. DearSir. Internal improvements have become lately very interesting to the people of the United States, especially that by Canals of navigation the greatest in utility and expence. The State of New York has drawn the attention of the whole Country and of Europe to her great experiment. The other States appear to have similar views daily enlarging and the Federal Government continues to be moved somewhat by the great project sketched by Mr. Gallatin in his Report of 1807 of roads & canals connecting the whole Union. This policy will not fail to be pursued by our National or by our State Governments or both. In every interval of Peace it will be followed up until we shall have at least equalled the most wise and enlightened Governments of Europe in these public works. Europe has made more than 5000 miles of navigable Canal; and of this England has about 3000. It is very important to us that we should know the detail, of plan, execution & advantages of all these works if it is possible to obtain them. But these details are not easily to be obtained; for those who have given to the world, histories of some of these works
[[left page]] 2.) have either through ignorance or design, not given those particulars which it is all important to know. In Great Britain these operations have been nearly all conducted by companies obtaining charters from the Government and sometimes a donation or a loan, but having the contract & management in their own hands for their own emolument. It is therefore not surprising that our information should be defective, since the secret of profit or loss is naturally well kept. I have not been able to discover but one history of an European Canal, which appears to me to furnish those minute details, so indispensible to the formation of a correct judgement of the whole work, and that is "Histoire du Canal du Midi ou Canal de Lanquedoc, considere sous les rapports d'invention, d'art, d'administraion, d'irrigation et dans ser relations avec les etangs de l'interieur des terres qui l'avoisinent; avec les Cartes generales et particulieres, ainsi que les plans, coupes et profils des principaux ouvrages. Par Le General D'Artillerie, Audreossy Grand Officier de la Legion D'Honneur, Membre de l'Institute d'Egypte etc Printed at Paris in 1804 & dedicated to Napoleon. 2. vols. 4to. With respect to the celebrated Canal of Lanquedoc, it has been in vain to seek accurate [[end left page]] [[start right page]] (3. information from [[Waroden?]], Geographers or even from the faithful Encyclopedie. Important errors have been made public among ourselves as to its history, and have had their influence upon our judgement. In the paper issued in 1818 by The Order of The New York Corresponding Association for the promotion of Internal Improvements, this Canal is stated to be 144 ^[[insert]] feet [[/insert]] wide, nearly 200 miles long, to have 114 Locks, & to have cost $2,397,600... The breadth here stated is nearly three times the actual breadth, the number of locks almost double, and the expense, as estimated in 1804 by Andreossy, more than double. In consequence of these errors I am induced, (possessing a copy of this History,) to make a brief abstract of the principal matters and give them to the Institute for it's disposal. I do it because the work is rare among us, and because I believe that the Institute can best decide upon the utility & disposition of the information. The Canal du Midi is well known to have been contemplated by Charlemagne and by more than one of the succeeding Kings, and to have been accomplished by Lewis XIV. It is well known that Lewis intended by the execution of this navigation between the Ocean & Mediterranean to divert from [[end right page]]
4.) the strait of Gibraltar and pour through Southern France, the trade of the world with the Mediterranean. The preamble of the Decree of October 1666 is I think worthy of our attention for the spirit of enterprise it exhibits and because of the very remarkable fulfillment of the expectation of the King. I add here a translation of the most interesting part of this Preamble [[Note: a single quotation mark appears as the first character of each line for the remainder of the page]] " Indeed the proposition which has been made " to us, to unite by a Canal of navigation, the Ocean " and the Mediterranean Sea, and to construct a " new Port on the shores of our Province of Languedoc, " has appeared so extraordinary to past ages, that " the most courageous Princes and Nations, who have " left to Posterity, the finest marks of indefatigable " exertion, were astonished at the grandeur of the " enterprise and could not conceive the possibility " of its execution. Nevertheless, as elevated designs " are most worthy of magnanimous courage, and as " when considered with prudence, they are commonly " executed with success; the glory of the undertaking " and the infinite advantages to Commerce which are " represented to us, will flow from the union of the two " seas, have persuaded us that it is a Great work
(5. [[Note: a single quotation mark appears as the first character in the top 12 lines of text]] " of Peace well worthy our application & care, " capable of perpetuating to future ages, the memory " of it's author and happily distinguishing the grandeur, " abundance and felicity of our reign. " In effect, we have discovered that the communication " of the two seas, will give to the nations of all " parts of the world, as well as to our own subjects, " the facility of making by the secure navigation " of the Canal, at small expence of money & time, " a passage which can now only be perform by the " strait of Gibraltar, at great expence, of time & money " & with hazard of Piracy & Shipwreck. Etc.[[subscript]]"[[/subscript]] The preamble adds, that every possible observation had been made to secure success: that a small canal had been made by way of actual trial of the descent of water from the highest level between the two seas Etc. This experimental work was on a small scale, but is not now necessary, such is the informed skill of Civil Engineers. The construction of the Canal of Languedoc was given to Pierre Paul Riquet who contracted to execute [[strikethrough]]them[[/strikethrough]] it at the lowest rate. After the completion of the Canal in March 1681, it was bestowed upon
6) him and his heirs forever by the King, subject to a rigorous administration and inspection of the Government, which from its revenues should preserve the Canal in good order, leaving the surplus to the Engineer & his heirs. The point of division of the waters which flow into the Ocean and Mediterranean is near Tholouse, in the Black mountain, from whence but a moderate supply of water is obtained, conducted by a feeder called "Rigole de la Montagne„ of about 4 metres wide and half of one Metre deep, and in length 18552 metres. Of this feeder 5545 metres are excavated in granite & schist, and it passes through a tunnel at Camp Mazes 121 metres long and nearly three metres in diameter. The work of this tunnel and the deep cutting of 113 metres, at the entrance and exit of it was contracted for at 13 livres the running toise for the deep cutting and 80 livres the running toise for the tunnel. The Masonry necessary for the vault of the tunnel at 20 livres the cubic toise. Another feeder called "Rigole de la plaine„ of about the same width and depth, is conducted to the length of 44,571 metres. Attempts have been made in 1669- 1675- between 1705 and 1725- in 1754 and in 1765, to render this [[end page]] [[start page]] (7. "Rigole de la plaine„ useful for navigation, but all these attempts have failed notwithstanding its importance to the plain of Revel and the country adjacent, for the transportation of its grain and other products - a country through which it has a course of about 27 miles. These Feeders of the Mountain & the Plain, together with the Reservoirs of Saint-Ferréol & Lampy and the Basin of Naurouse, constitute the principal sources of water for the Line of Navigable Canal. The Reservoir of Saint-Ferréol, when full, has a surface of 66 Hectares, equal to about 132 acres, and its cubic content of water is 6,956,000 Cubic Metres. The reservoir is formed by a Dam across the valley of the small stream Laudot. This Dam is constructed of three parallel walls of solid masonry; About 60 metres is the distance from the centre to each outer wall, making a thickness of 120 metres. The spaces between these walls is filled with earth, clay and pebbles. The outer walls are considerably less in elevation than the centre wall. The greatest height of this Dam or Barrier is 33 metres. This Dam has always leaked considerably. The Reservoir of Lampy is formed by a Dam across a small valley. This Barrier is admired for the
8.) solidity of its masonry, but it constantly loses water by percolation. This reservoir contains 2,665,000 Cubic metres of water. The Basin of Naurouse contains 444,000 cubic metres of water. The navigable line of the Canal du Midi is 275,236 metres, and that of all its Feeders is 80,669 metres. The breadth of water surface in the canal of navigation is 19 metres and an half except where it is cut in rock, where this width is much diminished. On the navigable line 9800 metres are excavated in rock. There are 62 locks on the whole line, and the rise and fall of the whole line is 252 metres. The prices for the execution of the Feeders and canal were contracted for at 30 livres the running toise for "Rigole de la Montagne„ 10 livres the running toise for "Rigole de la Plaine„ and 30 livres the running toise for the navigable line. The Locks were contracted for at 15000 livres each. Andreossy remarks that the same Locks would cost in his time 50000 livres each. The wages of the Labourers on the Canal were 8 and 9 Sous a day. There were employed upon it during the 14 years of its construction, 8000
(9. and sometimes 12000 persons. The expence of construction was defrayed by the King and the Province of Lanquedoc. Of this expence the Province gave 5,886,164 Livres, and advanced to the King for the same purpose 2,000,000 Livres. The King gave from his Building Funds, 7,736,555 Livres. The total cost of this work was 15,622,719 Livres; estimated by Andreossy in 1803 to be equivalent to 30,577,912 Francs. The first sum is equivalent /in round numbers) to about 3,100,000 Dollars. If such a construction was made by Labourers at 50 Cents a day instead of 9 Sous, it would cost 17,222,000 Dollars, if executed at wages of 75 cents a day,it would cost 25,833,000 Dollars. So that the expenditure upon this great work of Peace, at the period of its execution, was truly great. The only important obstacle to the course of the navigable line occurred at the hill of Malpas composed of a soft rock ("tuf[[erased]]f[[/erased]] sablon^[[insertion]]n[[/insertion]]eux„) of easy excavation. Here some deep cutting and a tunnel
10.) of 156 metres were formed. This tunnel was at first vaulted with pine timber, but this decaying in a few years, was replaced by a vault of good masonry. The following table exhibits the Revenues, Expences and Net product of the Canal for 106 years. [[vertical wavy line to the bottom of the page]] [[end page]] [[start page]] (11. The Receipts, Expences & Net product of the Canal for 106 years in series. [[table, in 5 columns]] [[column 1]] Series of ten years for the first 100- and one of six years the last [[line]] from - to 1686 - 1695 1696 - 1705 1706 - 1715 1716 - 1725 1726 - 1735 1736 - 1745 1746 - 1755 1756 - 1765 1766 - 1775 1776 - 1785 [[line]] 1786 - 1791 [[line]] Total of 106 years [[/column 1]] [[column 2]] Receipts [[line]] Francs.Cen 1,812,749.90 3,323,591.38 4,931,950.50 4,004,570.61 4,017,991.61 4,156,966.27 6,280,274.20 6,697,109.67 7,623,986.22 9,881,346.56 [[line]] 4,724,545.07 [[line]] 57,455,081.99 [[/column 2]] [[column 3]] Expences [[line]] Francs.Cen 906,502.81 1,124,484.96 1,853,943.94 1,494.180.95 1,795.970.83 1,928,875.87 3,016,004.88 2,614,479.71 3,879,540.29 4,385,884.65 [[line]] 2,670,571.92 [[line]] 25,670,440.81 [[/column 3]] [[column 4]] Net product of the Series [[line]] Francs.Cen 906,247.09 2,199,106.42 3,078,006.56 2,510,389.66 2,222,020.78 2,228,090.40 3,264,269.32 4,082,629.96 3,744,445.93 5,495,461.91 [[line]] 2,053,973.15 [[line]] 31,784,641.18 [[/column 4]] [[column 5]] Net product of the Common year of each Series [[line]] Francs.Centimes 90,624.70 219,910.64 307,800.65 251,038.96 222,202.07 222,809.04 326,426.93 408,262.94 374,444.59 549,546.19 [[line]] 342,328.85 [[line]] [[empty section of the table]] [[/column 5]] [[/table in 5 columns]] This table exhibits an annual average net product for 106 years of about 300000 francs equivalent to about 60000 Dollars. The average tons of trade annually is estimated by Andreossy, at 615000 or 6,000,000 Myriagrammes. The population of the territories through which it passes & which may participate more directly in its advantages is about 1500000 souls. The road formed on the banks of the Canal is ascertained to be for transportation more expensive than that
12.) on the Canal, in the ratio of [[underlined]]6. to 1.[[/underlined] The toll established in 1684 continued to be taken until the Revolution when it was not materially altered That toll was about 3 cents per ton per mile, or 2 centimes, 1,137,076 for a distance of 5 kilometres for a weight of 5 Myriagrammes of all merchandise except some articles specifically charged with toll. The grain [[strikeout]]exported[[/strikeout]] [[insertion]] conveyed [[/insertion]] on the Canal furnishes about two thirds of its revenue. From the Port of Agde at its mouth on the Mediterranean, 600,000 bushels have been exported in 7 months. The annual repairs of the Canal require an interruption of intercourse of about 45 days. The greatest length of canal between two Locks is 53747 ^[[insertion]] metres [[/insertion]] from the Lock of Argens to that of Fonserane. The annual expences of the Canal average for 106 years nearly 50000 Dollars [[?]] I am Dear Sir with great respect Your most Obedient Servant H. Meigs [[following two lines have a squiggly line to the right]] Asbury Dickins Esquire Secretary of the Colombian Institute. [[end page]] [[start page]] [[blank page]]
[[paper rotated through 180 degrees]] Asbury Dickins Esquire Secretary of the Columbian Institute. [[/paper rotated through 180 degrees]] [[paper in landscape format, folded to form 3 columns]] [[column 1]] (No 3.) Read, and ordered to lie on the table. Feb. 2. 1822 ----- [[/column 1]] [[column 2]] From H. Meigs to A. Dickins, relating to internal improvements,- dated 21[[superscript]]st[[/superscript]]. January, 1822. [[Double line]] 2[[superscript]]d[[/superscript]]. February, 1822. Read, and ordered to lie on the table. [[Double line]] [[/column 2]] [[column 3 is blank]]