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The honor fell to Judge John Richardson, who had been awarded the first contract to build a section of the waterway. Richardson addressed the gathering, proclaiming, "By this great highway unborn millions will easily transport their surplus productions to the shores of the Atlantic, procure their supplies, and hold a useful and profitable intercourse with all the marine nations of the world.
Byproducing intimidating obstacles to human migration, those natural barriers--together covering an area between what are today southern Canada and northern Alabama--checked the westward expansion of the vast majority of Euro-American settlers in the original colonies, and in the newly formed states, of North America.
Those who did venture beyond the Atlantic basin took advantage of several gaps left by the prehistoric collisions. In the northern colonies, the only such break was the one through which the Mohawk River flowed easterly from central New The artificial river to the Hudson River, which in turn ran southward into the Atlantic Ocean.
While Dutch and British colonists took up farming along the Mohawk and other natural rivers and lakes of central New York, they, too, found their westward migration restrained once they reached Lake Oneida, near the head of the Mohawk.
From that point, more than miles east of Lake Erie, no major waterway permitted easy access through the western interior.
|KIRKUS REVIEW||Beyond them lay the west, sparsely settled but full of potential, stifled only by the dangers and isolation of the wilderness. But then the state of New York summoned the will and resources to create a river where there had been none bef The Artificial River:|
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|The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, by Carol Sheriff||Laurence Malone The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress,|
Until shortly before Judge Richardson broke ground on the canal that would extend miles between Lake Erie and the Hudson, residents of the region had no reason to believe that such a waterway would ever exist in their lifetimes.
The desire for a canal running the width of upstate New York emerged in the early eighteenth century and reveals something about the aspirations and values of settlers in the region. If eighteenth-century inhabitants generally dismissed such an artificial waterway as mere fantasy, an undertaking beyond the realm of human accomplishment, they did project more realistic, shorter channels.
For them, the topography of upstate New York was evidence not of the shifting crust of the earth but of the Hand of Providence. God, they reasoned, would not have created The artificial river in mountain chains or riverbeds unless Man to use the contemporary term was destined to finish the work.
Yet canals of any length required great investments of labor and capital, and the Dutch and the English governments had not seriously considered devoting such resources to develop their New York colonies, even though they had both undertaken extensive transportationprojects in their own countries.
Still, local interest in canals suggests that at least some settlers on the New York frontier shared an interest in commercial exchange and modernization.
As early as the seventeenth century, Iroquois and Dutch traders had made use of the region''s natural waterways to exchange furs and guns. In more recent times, European settlers had been attracted to the region''s river valleys precisely because of the connection to markets they provided.
They would agree that farmers sought ways to unload agricultural "surpluses," but the very term "surplus," these scholars argue, suggests that the average farmer did not intentionally produce for trade, and certainly not for a market beyond the local community.
And when farmers did exchange goods and services with neighbors, these transactions rarely involved cash--not because cash was in short supply, but rather because they saw no use for assigning monetary values. Instead, they calculated value in terms of social worth, and simply kept accounts of what they owed and were owed.
A farmer, for example, might work for two days in his neighbor''s cornfield in exchange for five chickens, since that was what it would take to feed his family during the time he spent away from his own farm duties.
Or he might simply hold the neighbor accountable for two days'' labor at some later time. These farmers sought, not to accumulate wealth, but to secure a "competency" that would allow their families to live a comfortable and independent existence in a community limited in geographic reach.
Historians have found ample evidence suggesting that such a moral economy endured in some parts of the country into the nineteenth century. Whether New Yorkers of the colonial period tended to see themselves as peasants seeking a competence, businessmen pursuing profits, or consumers yearning for luxuries, their interest in canals suggests that at least some had aspirations to engage in broader market exchange.
Access to markets made the land much more valuable, and by the time work began on the Erie Canal, upstate New York had a system of turnpikes and roads linking remote farming areas to natural waterways, over which settlers sent their produce to distant markets.
Drawing on the financial resources of stockholders, many of whom would become the strongest advocates of the Erie Canal, the Western Company built canals, dams, and locks along the Mohawk River. Although the company failed to make a profit because of the scheme''s technological limitations and financial miscalculations, its goal nonetheless suggests that, as early as the s, investors believed that farmers wanted an improved means of transporting their goods to an international port.
Some farmers hoped to use these market relationships to gain no more than economic independence and physical comfort--to sell the fruits of their labor in exchange for things they did not make or grow themselves. Mary Ann Archbald, who emigrated from Scotland in with her husband and children, held such aspirations.
Three years after arriving in the United States, the Archbalds sold their initial tract of land and bought a farm directly along the banks of the Mohawk River to gain easier access to the New York market.
The Archbalds had considered moving to Ohio,but worried that the new territory was "at a great distance from markets The Archbalds sold their cloth and wheat in New York City while also growing rye, corn, barley, peas, oats, and potatoes.
Mary Ann Archbald manufactured the cloth herself from the wool shorn from the family''s seventy sheep. The size of the flock alone suggests that the Archbalds produced for the market and did not merely find themselves with an unplanned "surplus" of goods. Yet Mary Ann Archbald spoke of her quest for "independence"--that is, her dream of owning their farm outright, of being free from indebtedness, and thus free from the control and whims of a creditor.
Other settlers had more entrepreneurial goals; they concentrated on reducing their production costs while selling their goods as dearly as the market allowed.The story of the Eric Canal is the story of industrial and economic progress between the War of and the Civil War.
The Artificial River reveals the human dimension of the story of the Erie Canal. Carol Sheriff's extensive, innovative archival research shows the varied responses of ordinary people-farmers, businessmen, government officials, /5(4). An enligihtening work of social history that makes a now familiar feature of the American landscape the focus of an exploration of 19th-century perceptions of progress, politics, and the common good.
The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress On October 26, , the largest American-made canal was finished. Stretching miles, 40 feet wide and only four feet deep, the Erie Canal allowed citizens to populate places that some never dreamed of/5(1).
In The Artificial River The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, , written by Carol Sheriff, there are many different examples of paradoxes. Towns initially saw the Canal having a negative impact on them, but realized it could help. The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress On October 26, , the largest American-made canal was finished.
Stretching miles, 40 feet wide and only four feet deep, the Erie Canal allowed citizens to /5(1). The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, [Carol Sheriff] on r-bridal.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. The story of the Eric Canal is the story of industrial and economic progress between the War of and the Civil War.
The Artificial River reveals the human dimension of the story of the Erie Canal/5(25).