* New York Governor DeWitt Clinton *
Message of Jan. 4, 1820

Abstract 2339 - CR [Register] Feb. 1:1/1,2,3,4,5; 2/1,2,3,4,5; 3/1


Of his Excellency Governor CLINTON, to the two Houses of the Legislature, at the opening of the session.


SINCE THE LAST SESSION OF THE Legislature, the distresses of the community have continued to increase: and in consequence of the general uneasiness excited by this unpropitious state of things meeting have been held in various places to solicit your interposition. Immediately on the termination of the late war, a fatal blow was given to the manufacturing interest by the importation of vast quantities of foreign fabrics, neither required by our wants nor our comforts. In all sections of the country, and in all descriptions of society the progress of extravagance and luxury has been alarming. In individuals, expenditure has exceeded income; and in our collective capacity, as a nation, the aggregate value of our exported productions has been greatly inferior to the cost of foreign commodities. The demands of foreign markets for the products of agriculture have been diminished by a state of general peace, and the pernicious multiplication of banking institutions, and the inordinate diffusion of a paper currency, have produced the most serious calamities. In cases of this description, government may alleviate, but can never remove the evils. The conservative power over the general good is at all times vested in the great body of the people: and in the present crisis, it consists most emphatically in the retrenchment of our expenses and in the augmentation of our industry. The sources of the prosperity of nations, as well as of the happiness of individuals, must be formed and cherished at home. The season of suffering cannot, however be of long duration. A vast capital, now unproductive and unemployed will soon be applied to animate the efforts of useful industry: and the renovating power, and enterprising spirit of our country, must predominate over the obstacles which have conspired to check its prosperity. Whatever measures as you may adopt, will I am confident, be marked by a sacred regard for private right and public utility. And I would suggest to you whether a portion of our funds might not be usefully employed in loans for the purpose of alleviating the pressure of the community.

The favorable condition of the treasury and the high credit of the state are equally a subject of congratulation. With the continuance of our present system of finance, we will, I am persuaded, be enabled to defray the expense of government, to evince the usual munificence of the state, and to prosecute our internal improvements without any resort to new burthens, and with a reduced rate of interest.

The law which was passed at the last session for the encouragement of agriculture, has fully realized the patriotic views of the legislature. The institution of a board of superintend that important pursuit with authority to receive and communicate useful information and to dispense the means of valuable improvement will always be considered an important era in our history: and the encouragement of local institutions, by the appropriation of a premium fund for the best and must abundant products, has already excited an unrivalled spirit of emulation and exertions. Twenty seven counties have drawn from the treasury the monies allotted for that purpose, and forty-one have established agricultural associations. The universal interest which this subject has treated, and the extraordinary benefits which it has dispensed, may be seen in the exhibitions and competitions for premiums in the combinations of practical and scientific men; in the luminous discourses of the presiding officers; in the vast collection of citizens, at the places assigned for meeting; in the improved quality and increased quantity of our commodities and particularly in such unprecedented and abundant products, and to induce a belief, that, in some instances, agriculture has nearly attained its utmost perfection, by raising the greatest possibly quantity of produce at the least comparative expense. The excellence of this system may, however, be greatly improved by extending the duration, augmenting the fund, and enlarging the power of the superintending board. A statistical survey, describing the actual condition, and developing the possible improvement of the state, may be easily affected through these institutions: and I know of no measure better calculated to promote our cardinal interests; to encourage our agriculture, manufactures and trade; to illustrate our resources: to advance natural science and political philosophy: and to elevate the character of our country.

Experience has evinced, the precarious and fluctuating nature of foreign markets for the disposal of our products. Even in the most prosperous times of our commerce, and in seasons of the greatest foreign demand, there was at least twice as much grain consumed in this state alone as was exported from all the United States. The principal surplus of agricultural productions, not required for the use of the agricultural interest, must be either consumed at home, or lost to the cultivator. Foreign commerce may co-operate in creating flourishing Atlantic cities; but internal trade must erect our towns on the lakes and rivers, and our inland villages; and internal trade must derive its principle aliment from the products of our agriculture and manufactures. As the protection of the foreign and of the carrying trade, two of the great branches of commerce, is exclusively entrusted to the national government the state authorities cannot extend their power beyond the encouragement of the home trade, by cherishing the agricultural and manufacturing interests, and promoting the channels of communication and the co-operation of the general administration for the attainment of these invaluable ends, is to a certain extent, all important.

The reciprocal dependence of the great departments of productive industry, is a wise dispensation of providence to extend the sphere of human society. The successful progress of the important channels of communication now opening in the state, will have a benign influence, not only in producing facility and cheapness of transportation for the proceeds of labor, but also in creating markets for their consumption. Already do we perceive the establishment of villages on the borders of the great canal; and the raw materials of the husbandman, obtained with comparative ease and cheapness by the manufacturer, will be converted into articles of accommodation and comfort. This in time, will establish on a solid foundation, and important interest, which will use the fruits of agriculture, as well in the fabrication of commodities, as in the sustenance of human life. And thus, by the reciprocal action of benign influences, the great departments of productive labor, will harmoniously cooperate in creating individual and national opulence.—The carriers, buyers, and tenders, of our commodities will constitute and important class in the interior; and the great accession to the other professions and pursuits, and the general augmentation of our population in consequence of our growing prosperity, will enable us to carry on a vast system of internal trade, which will in a great measure supersede the necessity of foreign markets.

The middle section of the Western Canal, including a lateral canal to Salma, and comprising a distance of more than 96 miles, has been completed. On the 23d day of October last, the commissioners navigated it from Utica to Rome, and found their most sanguine expectations realized in the celerity, economy and excellence of the execution; and on the 24th November the hamplain canal was also in a navigable state. In less than two years and five months 120 miles of artificial navigation have been finished; and thus the physical, as well as financial practicability of uniting the waters of the western and northern lakes with the Atlantic ocean, has been established beyond the reach of doubt or cavil. The efforts of direct hostility to the system of internal improvements will in future be feeble. Honest and well disposed men, who have hitherto entertained doubts, have yielded them to the unparalleled success of this measure. But as there is great reason to apprehend the exertions of insidious enmity, I conside it my solemn duty to warn you against them. As the canal proceeds to the west, the country east will of course be accommodated and in proportion to its progress to completion in that ration will it be considered more easy to combine a greater mass of population against its further extension. Attempts have already been unade to arrest its progress west of the Seneca river, and it is highly probable that they will be renewed when the work is finished to the Genesee. As the benefits of artificial or improved navigation are rendered more obvious by experience, efforts will be made to obtain appropriations for great local accommodations, and while good men will endeavor to acquire them with honest views and for patrotic purposes, they will receive the countenance of persons of a different description who in furtherance of selfish design will strive to destroy the great fabric of internal improvements by withdrawing or dispersing the fund appropriated for its support.

Under a full persuasto that the honor and prosperity of the state imperiously demand the completion of the whole of this great work, and that if we are just to ourselves and to posterity, it will be effected in five years, I am happy to assure you that the decided and prudent measured of the canal commissioners in October last, are in full accordance with these impressions. And that meeting they directed that portion of the western section, which extends from the Seneca river to Rochester on the Gennesee rive, and that portion of the eastern section which commences at the termination of the middle section, and reaches the east side of the Little Falls, to be marked out as part of the Great Western canal, and to be contracted for as such: and considerable progress has been already made in these important operations.

The whole length of the western section is about one hundred and sixty three miles, and of the eastern about ninety seven; and notwithstanding the disparity of the distance, it is estimated that the expense of each will be about the same, making in the aggregate, four millions of dollars.—The object and tendency of that measure of the canal commissioners must be obvious—and policy as well as justice concurred in recommending its adoption. By operating in both directions, a solemn pledges given of our determination to finish the whole canal; sectional jealousies are allayed;--the advantages arising from pecuniary expenditures are impartially dispensed; and every advance of the work, in either way, will facilitate communication—The completion of the middle section has already opened markets for a fertile and extensive region. The expense of conveying a barrel o flour by land to Albany from the country about the Cayuga lake, was more than twice as much as the exportation of one from new York to Liverpool; -- and the difference between the former and the present cost of conveyance will not only remunerate the manufacturer, but afford on increased compensation to the agriculturalist, independently of the rise of the commodity in value, from its being furnished with a good market. It is believed that our Atlantic country will soon be supplied with salt from the west, cheaper than from abroad, and the revenue from the salt works, appropriated to the construction of the canal, already exceeds the most favorable estimates, and shews conclusively the importance if this communication to the accommodation of a vast country… In the progress of the canal, gypsum of the best quality has been discovered; and it is ascertained that this region contains a sufficient quantity of that valuable mineral for the supply of the whole U.S. heretofore, the principal ingredients for hydraulic mortar were procured at a great expense from abroad for the construction of locks, but a species of lime stone has been found dispersed over the whole country, admirably adopted for water cement, and entirely superceeding the necessity of a foreign supply. Stone for the construction of locks, culveries, bridges and aqueducts, is also found in abundance; and it is confidently believed, as well from the geological character of this region, as from various other indications, that coal will be discovered amply sufficient for domestic uses and manufacturing establishments. The animation which the work, in its present unfinished state, has given to our internal trade, cannot be duly appreciated without the advantages of personal observation, nor can all its blessings be realized or displayed, until years of experience have passed away.

It is a subject of high felicitation to observe the energies of our sister states directed in a similar way to the promotion of the general prosperity. The Carolinas and Virginia have adopted wise and vigorous measures for the advancement of inland communication; and some of the western states have been equally decided and public spirited. An union of the waters of the Illinois river and lake Michigan, and a connexion between lake Erie and the Ohio in the direction of Sandusky and Scioto rivers, are seriously contemplated. While measures so honorable to our sister states must always command our best wish and secure our highest approbation let us be deeply impressed with the importance of attending to improvements of a similar character. Communications between the waters of lake Ontario, and the western canal. Between the river St. Lawrence and lake Champlain and between the Susquehannah river and the Seneca lake, will accommodate important and respectable portions if our population, deserving, as well from their enterprising industry as pubic spirited character, every attention from the government. The improvements of the Oswego river; the establishment of a harbor at Buffalo; and the draining of the Cayuga marshes have received that consideration which was due to subjects so worthy of the favorable attention of the canal commissioners; and the results of their measures will be communicated to you as soon as possible.

The board of commissioners constituted by an act of the last session to report a plan for improving the navigation of Hudson river, have attended to the important business assigned to them. --The low state of the waters was favorable to their operations, and evinces beyond a doubt the necessity of your benign interposition. (which indeed cannot be too earnestly inculcated) as you will preceive from the proceedings of this board, which will be presented to you.

By the acts respecting navigation communications between the greyt western and northern lakes and the Atlantic ocean, passed the 15th of April, 1817, a tax of $250,000 is directed to be imposed upon the lands lying within twenty-five miles on each side of the canals, from the Mohawk to the Seneca river and from lake Champlain to the Hudson. And by the act concerning the great western and northern canals, passed on the 7th of April last, this assessment is suspended until the furthre order of the legislature. In ordinations of this nature, it is necessarily folow that part…* portions of territory will…* extraordinary benefits…* the augmentation of the…* their ability to con…* the public burthen will be proportionable enhanced and consequently the taxes in other places will be correspondently diminished. And it is submitted to you whether it comports with the magnanimity of government to lay partial or local impositions in order to defray the expenses of a magnificent work, identified with the general prosperity.

The improvement of natural and the prosecution of artificial navigation ought not, however, to divert your attention from the establishment of roads and bridges, so much demanded by the wants of new settlements, the convenience of all descriptions of people and the primary interests of society. …[see note, below]


ALBANY, Jan. 4, 1820 (160)


[The address continues on the subject of roads and bridges, civil and criminal justice, disease and sanitation, education, public morale, and general comments about the governance of the state.]

(From Annals of Cleveland - 1818-1935, Volume I (1820), pages 1031 through 1035. Cleveland: Cleveland WPA. 1937.)

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