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era in the trade and commerce of the great emporium. While her own great works are obstructed, and the noble Hudson itself is frozen over, New York can still, through the Richmond and Ohio Railroad, carry on an active trade with Cincinnati and other cities in the West, and thus extend her business through the entire year, instead of crowding it into eight or nine months, as at present. On reference to proper authorities, it will be found that the average time the business of the Erie Canal has been obstructed by ice, during the last twenty years, is one hundred and twenty-four days per annum, and that of the Hudson River, from the same cause, is something over ninety-one days. Now then, considering the hurry and confusion incident to the closing of navigation, and the delay and uncertainty upon its opening before business assumes its regular course, and the time of the interruption of business from this cause may be safely stated at four months and a half in each year. But the mere suspension of business is not all the disadvantage attending this interruption. Immense quantities of merchandise and produce are stopped in transitu, occasioning great disappointment and heavy losses. How different would be the case if the course of trade could flow smoothly through the year. An immense saving would be made to New York merchants, in avoiding bad debts, which are, in many cases, made during the hurry and excitement of the business season. During this exciting period, when there seems to be a sort of mania for swelling the amount of business, many a shrewd country merchant understands the philosophy of ob. taining an extended credit, who, if his New York creditor had taken time to act with more deliberation, would have found it difficult to impose upon his credulity. New York, then, has a direct and most important interest in the construction of this great central improvement of Virginia. By means of her own canals and railroads, she can with one hand grasp the trade of the West in successful competition with her eastern rival, Boston; while, through this Virginia line, she could control with the other hand a majority of the same trade as against Philadelphia and Baltimore, her powerful competitors on the south. From all these general considerations, it is certain that the accumulation of trade and travel upon this great central railroad through Virginia will be immense, and that it will, to a great extent, participate in the business of all parts of the Union. If constructed in a manner suited to its importance, it cannot fail to be highly productive, and yield a large dividend upon the capital expended upon it. A majority of the business transacted upon this and the other great rival routes, originates beyond their western termini. This route, tapping the Ohio at the lowest point, and af. fording the easiest transit thence to tide waters, will have a decided advantage over all the others, and will draw more or less of the trade and travel which would otherwise pass over them. These views are all strengthened by the fact that the navigation of the upper Ohio is, during the warm season, when travel is the greatest, interrupted by shoals and low water. In passing up the Ohio above Cincinnati, the first difficult shoals occur at the mouth of the Guyandotte, and boats can ply between the former place and Guyandotte, when they cannot ascend higher, or at farthest above the mouth of the Great Kanawha. These considerations, then, show the character of this improvement, as a great national work, and place the productiveness of its stock beyond a
doubt. But there are other reasons which should still more strongly com. mend it to Virginia as a state work, inseparably connected with her best interests.
If the Old Dominion were a barren waste, and no business originated within her borders along the line of this improvement, it would still be evi. dent from the arguments already presented, that it would yield the state a large revenue arising from freights and tolls upon foreign trade and travel, and yet the converse of this can also be made to appear, that if no business arising beyond the limits of the State were done upon this road, it would still net a very large revenue.
And yet, with all these arguments in its favor, the people of Virginia re. main indifferent to its construction, and while similar works are advancing rapidly the wealth and population of other States, the Old Dominion, with her credit unimpaired, and out of debt, still seems reluctant to lend her aid in constructing this most important railroad, though, by its completion, the enhancement of her real estate would exceed in amount more than four times its whole expense.
In this connection it may not be improper to glance at the former com. mercial state of Virginia and compare it with her present condition, that we may be able to form an estimate of what would probably have been her present position, had she pursued a different policy.
From the most reliable authorities it appears that in 1769, the imports of Virginia were about $4,085,472, while that of New York was only $907,200! The exports of these two States were about in the same proportion, so that at that early period the commerce of Virginia was nearly five times that of New York.
At the time of the adoption of the Federal Constitution in 1791, the imports were as follows: from Virginia, $2,486,000; from New York, $3,022,000. Their exports for the same year were, from Virginia, $3,131,000; from New York, $2,505,000. The commerce of these two great States, therefore, about fifty years ago, was nearly equal. In 1796, Virginia exported $5,268,000 ; New York, $12,208,000.
From this period it may be truly remarked that the illustrious men of Virginia became politicians, rather than devoted to the commercial and agricultural interest of the Commonwealth, and from this point of time this State rapidly declines, while her powerful competitor advances still more rapidly in commerce and wealth. From 1821 to 1842, the import trade of these States were, in round numbers, as follows :Years.
550,000 From these facts it will be seen that the import trade of Virginia fell from $4,085,472 in 1769, to $550,000 in 1832! while that of New York increased from $907,000 in 1769, to $57,000,000 in 1832! that the import trade of New York in 1832 was about seventy times greater than it was in 1769, while that of Virginia was eleven times less !!
Their comparative exports and imports in 1838 and 1840 were as fol. lows: 1838–Virginia exported...... $3,985,228 Imported...... $377,142 1838_New York 23,000,471
68,453,206 1840–Virginia 4,778,220
545,086 1840-New York « 34,264,080
50,440,740 Their tonnage was as follows :
New York, 1821,
518,133 With these astounding facts before them, let the people of Virginia de. termine how long this retrograde movement shall continue. In her posi. tion in the Union, her soil, productions, climate, and natural resources, there is nothing which justifies this humiliating comparison. On the contrary, Virginia possesses within herself all the natural elements of wealth and prosperity in greater abundance than her great and powerful rival at the North.
Her noble Chesapeake is one of the most extraordinary geographical features of the North American continent. Midway between the Gulfs of Mexico and St. Lawrence, it indents the country with deep and broad es. tuaries, and affords a safer and more extensive inland navigation than any bay of its size in the world. It would seem on looking at the map to be the place designed by nature as the safest harbor of our ships, inviting and concentrating the commerce of the whole country. On the west, the Potomac, the Rappahannock, the York, and James Rivers, are large navi. gable streams which open up into the whole of Eastern Virginia, affording the most abundant facilities for commerce; and yet, with all these natural advantages, Virginia, from being as she ought still to be, the first commer. cial State in the Union, has fallen to a medium rank among the States of the republic.
From this comparison of Virginia with New York, let us consider briefly the immediate advantages which would result to her from opening her central improvement, and it will be apparent that her honor, her wealth, and prosperity, demand its immediate construction. Indeed, these advantages are so obvious that it would almost seem superfluous to advert to them. Many of these were briefly noticed in the number of November last, already alluded to, but they should be presented again and again until the people of Virginia can be brought to act upon this subject so vital to their interest.
The cost of this central improvement would probably be ten millions of dollars. It could be built for less, but not in a style corresponding to its importance as a great national and state work. In reference to the vast trade and travel which beyond all question would pass over it, how insig. nificant does this amount appear !
In a political point of view, its construction is indispensable to the very existence of the Commonwealth. Causes are at work which have rendered antagonistical the interests of the eastern and western portions of this great State. Indeed the changes which have already been rung upon the disunion and dismemberment of the Old Dominion, may in an evil hour prevail, and produce results which every true Virginian would deplore. This great work once constructed would forever remove all these angry and exciting causes of discontent, and give to the whole State the practi.
cal lesson that their true glory and prosperity consisted in union, and a generous regard for the welfare of the whole. As a source of revenue to the State, there can be no question. Estimating its cost as before at ten millions of dollars, the interest on that sum would be, at 6 per cent, six hundred thousand dollars per annum. Probable cost of repairs, salaries of officers, including all expenses of working the road, would be seven hundred thousand dollars, making the annual disbursements of the company thirteen hundred thousand dollars. This estimate is based chiefly on the data furnished by the last report of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company of the income and disbursements of the main stem of their road, for the year ending September 30th, 1845. The income from the same data in the ratio of the length of the two roads, would be about one million five hundred thousand dollars. This, allowing the large sum of seven hundred thousand dollars for expenses, would leave still eight hundred thousand dollars, or 8 per cent on the capital stock. But this estimate is based upon the productiveness of the Baltimore and Ohio Road in its present unfinished state, in reference to which it is very justly remarked in the said able report, that the results of their road in its present unfinished state are but “the small dust of the balance, compared with those which may be expected when the work is completed to the Ohio River.” From the same report it appears that the whole number of passengers upon the main stem of their road, for the year 1845, was 202,450, and the aggregate passage money was $369,200 30. Now when it is considered that this work is still incomplete, and that the travel will be immensely increased when once it is extended to the Ohio, and that the Richmond and Ohio Railroad, from its more favorable location, would command even more travel than the Baltimore Road, it cannot be extravagant to estimate the travel on the Richmond Road to be equal at least to 150,000 through passengers annually. Assuming this as a basis, and estimating the fare through at only ten dollars, the annual income from this source alone would be $1,500,000. The income from freight on the Baltimore Road for the year ending Sept. 30th, 1845, was $360,720 00, or nearly the same as its income from passengers. On this basis the aggregate income on the Richmond and Ohio Railroad could hardly fall short of $3,000,000. Large as this may appear, it will be found on reflection to be moderate in view of the rapidly increasing trade and travel of the West. In this view of the case, where is the wisdom of that policy which shrinks from the expenditure of $10,000,000 to accomplish results like these ? But again, from the experience of the past, we have abundant evidence that the increased value of real estate in Virginia should alone stimulate the legislature to the speedy accomplishment of this noble enterprise. In this point of view this road will most favorably compare with any road in the United States. Crossing the great valleys of Virginia at right angles, it at once opens an immense and fertile territory which is now secluded and shut up between her mountain ranges. Looking at the statistics of New York, it appears that in 1825, the year when the Erie Canal was finished, the value of her improved lands was $174,024,175 ; and that in 1835, ten years afterwards, that valuation had risen to $241,385,050, showing an enhanced value equal to $72,361,475 !
Now, then, there can be no reason why the enhancement of real estate in Virginia will not be in a greater ratio on the completion of her great work than it was in New York, for its present value is at its lowest depression, and although no data are at hand from which to estimate the present value of her real estate, it will certainly be safe to estimate the increased value of the same in ten years, resulting from the construction of this work, at $30,000,000. Another view of this matter will demonstrate the propriety, as a financial measure, of the construction of this great railway entirely on State account. There are in Virginia at least 41,600,000 acres of land. Now when we consider that lands are extremely depressed in price in this State when compared with lands in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and that this great central railroad when completed would infuse life and activity throughout the Commonwealth, removing in a great degree the causes which have so long and so low depressed the price of lands, and introducing thousands of enterprising citizens from other States, and millions of active capital, no sane mind can doubt that its effects would raise the price of lands throughout the State on an average seventy-five cents per acre. This would produce $31,200,000, in the enhanced value of real estate alone, without reference to the value of real estate in cities, towns, and villages. The consequent enhancement of property in the city of Richmond alone, would in ten years be more than half that amount. It would undoubtedly be safe to predict that the taxable property, real and personal, would be increased within ten years from the completion of this great work, as its immediate consequence, at least $100,000,000. Vast as this sum may appear, it will be found far less than the ratio of increase of property in New York within ten years from the completion of the Erie Canal—and it should be considered, too, in making this comparison, that in 1825, the price of lands in New York were comparatively high, and the State in a highly prosperous condition—while lands at the West were very cheap, and the influence of the canal was to equalize the price of lands in New York and the West, by affording greater facilities for the market of western products. But the case is far different with Virginia. She is pressed on the north, the east, and west, with a denser population than her own. The surrounding lands of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, are of no better quality, but command a price from 1 to 300 per cent higher. And the tendency of opening this great thoroughfare, and giving free course to trade and travel through Virginia, will be to elevate the price of her lands more than 100 per cent. From the statistics accompanying the last census, it appears that while the sheep of New York produce 1.92 lbs. of wool per head, the sheep of Virginia, with little or no care, yield 2.25 lbs. per head. Their wool is also of a superior quality, and has gained the premium at several of the last annual fairs held at Lowell, Massachusetts. These facts are important, going to show the superiority of Virginia over New York as a wool-growing country. In the counties along the line of the Richmond and Ohio Railroad, there was, in 1840, a population in round numbers of 300,000, and these counties, in 1840, produced about 5,500,000 bushels of corn, 1,500,000 of wheat, and about 300,000 pounds of wool. The great resources of iron, lead, salt, and lumber, are along this same line, and would originate a vast and rapidly augmenting business. Indeed, it may be affirmed, without fear