Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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CANALS. A canal is an artificial channel, filled with water kept at the desired level by means of locks or sluices, forming a communication between two or more places.


—1. Historical Sketch of Canals. Ancient Canals. The comparative cheapness and facility with which goods may be conveyed by sea or by means of navigable rivers seem to have suggested, at a very early period, the formation of canals. The best authenticated accounts of ancient Egypt represent that country as intersected by canals conveying the waters of the Nile to the more distant parts of the country, partly for the purpose of irrigation and partly for that of internal navigation. The efforts made by the old Egyptian monarchs, and by the Ptolemies, to construct a canal between the Red sea and the Nile, are well known, and evince the high sense which they entertained of the importance of this species of communication. (Ameilhon, Commerce des Egyptiens, p. 76.)


—Greece was too small a territory, too much intersected by arms of the sea, and subdivided into too many independent states, to afford much scope for inland navigation. Attempts were, however, made to cut a canal across the isthmus of Corinth; but they did not succeed.


—The Romans did not distinguish themselves in canal navigation. Their aqueducts, the stupendous ruins of which attest the wealth and power of their founders, were intended to furnish supplies of water to some adjoining city, and not for the conveyance of vessels or produce.


—2. Chinese Canals. In China, canals, partly for irrigation and partly for navigation, have existed from a very early period. The most celebrated among them is the Imperial or Grand canal, commencing at Hang-tchou, near the mouth of the Tching-tang-chiang river, in about latitude 30° 22' north, longitude 119° 45' east; it then stretches north, and crossing the great rivers Yang-tse-Kiang, and Hoang-ho, terminates at Linting, on the Eu-ho river, in about latitude 37° north, longitude 116° east. The direct distance between the extreme limits of the canal is about 512 miles, but, including its bends, it is above 650 miles in length; and as the Eu-ho, which is a navigable river, unites with the Pei-ho, also navigable, an internal water communication is thus established between Hang-tchou and Pekin across 10° of latitude. But apart from its magnitude and utility, the Grand canal does not rank high as a work of art. A vast amount of labor has, however, been expended upon it; for though it mostly passes through a flat country, and winds about to preserve its level, its bed is in parts cut down to a great depth, while in other parts it is carried over extensive hollows, and even lakes and morasses, on vast mounds of earth and stone. The sluices, which preserve its waters at the necessary level, are all of very simple construction, being merely intended to elevate or depress the height of the water by a few inches; as, excepting these, there is not a single lock or interruption to the navigation throughout the whole length of the canal. It is seldom more than 5 or 6 feet in depth, and in dry seasons is sometimes considerably less. The vessels by which it is navigated are sometimes rowed, and sometimes dragged by men, so that the navigation is for the most part slow. The canal is frequently faced with stone. The construction of this great work is usually ascribed to the Tartars, but the Chinese allege that it was merely repaired and renovated by the latter, and that it had been completed in the remotest period of their history. (Barrow's China, p. 335, etc.; La Lande, Canaux de Navigation, p. 529, etc.)


—3. Italian Canals. The Italians were the first people in modern Europe that attempted to plan and execute canals. They were principally, however, undertaken for the purpose of irrigation; and the works of this sort executed in the Milanese and other parts of Lombardy, in the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries, are still regarded as models, and excite the warm admiration of every one capable of appreciating them. In 1271 the Navilio Grande, or canal leading from Milan to Abbiate Grasso and the Tesino, was rendered navigable. (Young's Travels in France, etc., vol. ii., p. 170.)


—4. Dutch Canals. No country in Europe contains, in proportion to its size, so many navigable canals as the kingdom of the Netherlands, and particularly the province of Holland. The construction of these canals commenced as early as the twelfth century, when, owing to its central and convenient situation, Flanders began to be the entrepôt of the commerce between the north and south of Europe. Their number has since been astonishingly increased. "Holland," says Mr. Phillips, in his "History of Inland Navigation," is "intersected with innumerable canals. They may be compared in number and size to our public roads and highways; and as the latter with us are continually full of coaches, chaises, wagons, carts and horsemen going from and to the different cities, towns and villages, so, on the former, the Hollanders in their boats and pleasure barges, their treckschuyts, and vessels of burden, are continually journeying and conveying commodities for consumption or exportation from the interior of the country to the great cities and rivers. An inhabitant of Rotterdam, may, by means of these canals, breakfast at Delft or the Hague, dine at Leyden, and sup at Amsterdam, or return home again before night. By them, also, a most prodigious inland trade is carried on between Holland and every part of France, Flanders and Germany. When the canals are frozen over, they travel on them with skates, and perform long journeys in a very short time; while heavy burdens are conveyed in carts and sledges, which are then as much used on the canals as on our streets.


—The yearly profits produced by these canals are almost beyond belief; but it is certain, and has been proved, that they amount to more than £250,000 for about 400 miles of inland navigation, which is £625 per mile, the square surface of which mile does not exceed two acres of ground; a profit so amazing that it is no wonder other nations should imitate what has been found so advantageous.


—The canals of Holland are generally 60 feet wide and 6 deep, and are carefully kept clean; the mud, as manure, is very profitable. The canals are generally levels; of course locks are not wanted. From Rotterdam to Delft, the Hague, and Leyden, the canal is quite level, but is sometimes affected by strong winds. For the most part the canals are elevated above the fields or the country, to enable them to carry off the water which in winter inundates the land. To drain the water from Delftland, a province not more than 60 miles long, they employ 200 windmills in springtime to raise it into the canals. All the canals of Holland are bordered with dams or banks of immense thickness, and on these depends the security of the country from inundation; of course it is of great moment to keep them in the best repair; to effect which there is a kind of militia, and every village has a magazine of proper stores and men, whose business it is to convey stones and rubbish in carts to any damaged place. When a certain bell rings, or the waters are at a fixed height, every man repairs to his post. To every house or family there is assigned a certain part of the bank, in the repair of which they are to assist. When a breach is apprehended, they cover the banks all over with cloth and stones."


—5. Canal from Amsterdam to Nieudiep, near the Helder. The object of this canal, which is the greatest work of its kind in Holland, and probably in the world, is to afford a safe and easy passage for large vessels from Amsterdam to the German ocean. This city has 40 feet of water in the road in front of its port, but the pampus or bar at the junction of the Y with the Zuyder Zee, 7 miles below, has only a depth of 10 feet; and hence all ships of any considerable burden entering or leaving the port must unload and load part of their cargoes without the bar. As the Zuyder Zee is everywhere full of shallows, all ordinary means of improving the access to Amsterdam were necessarily ineffectual; and the resolution was, therefore, at length adopted, of cutting a canal from the city to the Helder, the most northern point of the province of Holland. The distance between these extreme points is 41 English miles, but the length of the canal is about 50½. The breadth at the surface of the water is 124½ English feet (120 Rhinland feet); the breadth at bottom 36; the depth 20 feet 9 inches. Like the Dutch canals generally, its level is that of the highest tides, and it receives its supply of water from the sea. The only locks it requires are, of course, two tide locks at the extremities; but there are, besides, two sluices, with floodgates in the intermediate space. It is crossed by 18 drawbridges. The locks and sluices are double, i.e., there are two in the breadth of the canal; and their construction and workmanship are said to be excellent. They are built of brick, for economy; but bands of limestone are interposed at intervals, and these project about an inch beyond the brick, to protect it from abrasion by the sides of vessels. There is a broad towing-path on each side, and the canal is wide enough to admit of two frigates passing.


—The line which the canal follows may be easily traced on a map of Holland. From the Y at Amsterdam it proceeds north to Purmerend; thence west to Alkmaar lake; again north by Alkmaar to a point within 2 miles of the coast, near Petten; whence it runs nearly parallel to the coast till it joins the sea a little to the east of the Helder, at the fine harbor of Nieudiep, formed within the last 50 years. At the latter place there is a powerful steam engine for supplying the canal with water during neap tides, and for other purposes. The time spent in towing vessels from Nieudiep to Amsterdam is 18 hours. The Helder is the only spot on the shores of Holland that has deep water; and it owes this advantage to its being opposite to the Texel, which, by contracting the communication between the German ocean and the Zuyder Zee to a breadth of about a mile, produces a current which scours and deepens the channel. Immediately opposite the Helder there are 100 feet water at high tides, and at the shallowest part of the bar to the westward there are 27 feet. In the same way, the artificial mound which runs into the Y opposite Amsterdam, by contracting the waterway to about 1,000 feet, keeps a depth of 40 feet in the port (at high water), while above and below there is only 10 or 12.


—The canal was begun in 1819, and finished in 1825. The cost was estimated at the sum of 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 florins, or about £1,000,000. If we compute the magnitude of this canal by the cubic contents of its bed, it is the greatest, we believe, in the world, unless some of the Chinese canals be exceptions. The volume of water which it contains, or the prisme de remplisage, is twice as great as that of the New York canal, or the canal of Languedoc, and two and a half times as great as that of the artificial part of the Caledonian canal. In consequence, however, of the facility with which the Dutch canal was dug, and of the evenness of the ground through which it passes, the difficulties the engineer had to meet in making it were trifling compared to those which had to be overcome in constructing the canals now mentioned. We have not learned what returns this canal yields; most probably it is not, at least in a direct point of view, a profitable concern. Even in Holland, notwithstanding the lowness of interest, it would require tolls to the amount of £40,000 a year to cover interest and expenses; and so large a sum can hardly, we should think, be raised by the very moderate tolls laid on the ships passing through it. This, however, is not the only consideration to be attended to in estimating the value of a work of this sort. Its influence in promoting the trade of Amsterdam, and, indeed, of Holland, may far more than compensate for its cost. It is evident, too, that the imposition of oppressive tolls would have effectually counteracted this advantage; that is, they would have defeated the very object for which the canal was constructed.


—A new canal has been built in Holland from the Zuyder Zee at Vuurtoren to Amsterdam, through the Het-ij, Wij-Ker-meer to the North sea near Breesaap. The entrance into the North sea is by two jetties, that on the north 2,000 mètres in length, that on the south 1,500. The canal drains 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres) of land, and shortens the journey from Amsterdam to the sea by 56 kilomètres.


—It is almost unnecessary to say that railways have superseded the use of canals for passenger traffic, and that the service of the latter is confined almost entirely to the carriage of goods.


—6. Danish Canals. The Holstein canal, formerly belonging to Denmark, is of very considerable importance. It joins the river Eyder with Kiel bay on the northeast coast of Holstein, forming a navigable communication between the North sea, a little to the north of Heligoland, and the Baltic, enabling vessels to pass from the one to the other by a short cut of about 100 miles, instead of the lengthened and difficult voyage round Jutland, and through the Cattegat and the sound. The Eyder is navigable for vessels not drawing more than 9 feet water from Tonningen, near its mouth, to Rendsburg, where it is joined by the canal, which communicates with the Baltic at Holtenau, about 3 miles north of Kiel. The canal is about 26 English miles in length, including about 6 miles of what is principally river navigation. The excavated portion is 95 feet wide at the top, 51 feet 6 inches at bottom, and 9 feet 6 inches deep (Eng. measure). Its highest elevation above the level of the sea is 24 feet 4 inches; to which height vessels are raised and let down by 6 locks or sluices. It is navigable by vessels of 120 tons burden, or more, provided they are constructed in that view. The total cost of the canal was about £500,000. It was opened in 1785, and has so far realized the views of its projectors as to enable coasting vessels from the Danish islands in the Baltic and the east coast of Holstein, Jutland, etc., to proceed to Hamburg, Holland, England, etc., in less time, and with much less risk, than, in the ordinary course of navigation, they could have cleared the point of the Skaw, and conversely with ships from the west. The smaller class of foreign vessels, particularly those under the Dutch and Hanseatic flags, navigating the Baltic and North seas, have largely availed themselves of the facilities afforded by this canal. About 3,000 vessels pass annually through the canal. This is a sufficient evidence of its utility. It would, however, be much more frequented, were it not for the difficult navigation of the Eyder from the sea to Rendsburg. The dues are moderate. (Coxe's Travels in the North of Europe, 5th ed., vol. v., p. 239, where there is a plan of the canal; Catteau, Tableau des Etats Danois, tom. ii., pp. 300-304; and private information.)


—7. Swedish Canals. The formation of an internal navigation connecting the Cattegat and the Baltic has long engaged the attention, and occupied the efforts, of the people and government of Sweden. Various motives conspired to make them embark in this arduous undertaking. The sound and other channels to the Baltic were commanded by the Danes, who were able, when at war with the Swedes, greatly to annoy the latter by cutting off all communication by sea between the eastern and western provinces of the kingdom. Hence, in the view, partly of obviating this annoyance and partly of facilitating the conveyance of iron, timber, and other bulky products from the interior to the coast, it was determined to attempt forming an internal navigation, by means of the river Gotha, and the lakes Wener, Wetter, etc., from Gottenburg to Soderkœping on the Baltic. The first and most difficult part of this enterprise was the perfecting of the communication from Gottenburg to the lake Wener. The Gotha, which flows from the latter to the former, is navigable, through by far the greater part of its course, for vessels of considerable burden; but, besides others less difficult to overcome, the navigation at the point called Tröllhætta is interrupted by a series of cataracts about 112 feet in height. Owing to the rapidity of the river, and the stubborn red granite rocks over which it flows, and by perpendicular banks of which it is bounded, the attempt to cut a lateral canal, and still more to render it directly navigable, presented the most formidable obstacles. But, undismayed by these impediments, on which it is, indeed, most probable he had not sufficiently reflected, Polhem, a native engineer, undertook, about the middle of last century, the Herculean task of constructing locks in the channel of the river, and rendering it navigable! Whether, however, it was owing to the all but insuperable obstacles opposed to such a plan, to the defective execution, or deficient strength of the works, they were wholly swept away, after being considerably advanced, and after vast sums had been expended upon them. From this period down to 1793 the undertaking was abandoned; but in that year the plan was proposed, which should have been adopted at first, of cutting a lateral canal through the solid rock, about 1½ miles from the river. This new enterprise was begun under the auspices of a company incorporated for the purpose in 1794, and was successfully completed in 1800. The canal is about 3 miles in length, and has about 6½ feet water. This is the statement of Catteau, Tableau de la Mer Baltique, tome ii., p. 77; Oddy, in his European Commerce, p. 306, and Balbi, Abrégé de la Géographic, p. 385, say that the depth of water is 10 feet. It has 8 sluices, and admits vessels of above 100 tons. In one part it is cut through the solid rock to the depth of 72 feet. The expense was a good deal less than might have been expected, being only about £80,000. The lake Wener, the navigation of which was thus opened with Gottenburg, is very large, deep, and encircled by some of the richest of the Swedish provinces, which now possess the inestimable advantage of a convenient and ready outlet for their products.


—As soon as the Tröllhætta canal had been completed, there could be no room for doubt as to the practicability of extending the navigation to Soderkœping. In furtherance of this object the lake Wener was joined to the lake Wetter by the Gotha canal, which admits vessels of the same size as that of Tröllhætta; and the prolongation of the navigation to the Baltic from the Wetter, partly by two canals of equal magnitude with the above, and partly by lakes, has since been completed. The entire undertaking is called the Gotha navigation, and deservedly ranks among the very first of the kind in Europe. Besides the above, the canal of Arboga unites the lake Hielmar to the lake Maelar; and since 1819 a canal has been constructed from the latter to the Baltic at Södertelje. The canal of Strömsholm, so called from its passing near the castle of that name, has effected a navigable communication between the province of Dalecarlia and the lake Maelar, etc. The total revenue of the 6 Swedish canals in 1864 was £36,436. (Report of Mr. Hamilton, Secretary of Legation, of Feb. 9, 1867; Coxe's Travels in the North of Europe, 5th ed. vol. iv., pp. 253-266, and vol. v., pp. 58-66; Thomson's Travels in Sweden, p. 35, etc.)


—8. French Canals. The first canal executed in France was that of Briare, 34½ English miles in length, intended to form a communication between the Seine and Loire. It was commenced in 1605, in the reign of Henry IV., and was completed in 1642, under his successor, Louis XIII. The canal of Orleans, which joins the above, was commenced in 1675. But the most stupendous undertaking of this sort, that has been executed in France, or indeed on the continent, is the canal of Languedoc. It was projected under Francis I., but was begun and completed in the reign of Louis XIV. It reaches from Narbonne to Toulouse, and was intended to form a safe and speedy means of communication between the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean. It is 64 French leagues in length, and 6 feet deep; and has, in all, 114 locks and sluices. In its highest part it is 600 feet above the level of the sea. In some places it is conveyed, by bridges of great length and strength, over large rivers. It cost upward of £1,300,000; and reflects infinite credit on the engineer, Riquet, by whom it was planned and executed.


—Besides this great work, France possesses several magnificent canals, such as that of the Centre, connecting the Loire with the Saône; of St. Quentin, joining the Scheldt and the Somme; of Besançon, joining the Saône, and consequently the Rhone, to the Rhine; of Burgundy, joining the Rhone to the Seine, etc. Some of these are of very considerable magnitude. The canal of the Centre is about 72 English miles in length. It was completed in 1791, at an expense of about 11,000,000 francs. Its summit level is about 240 feet above the level of the Loire at Digoin; the breadth at the water's edge is about 48 feet, and at bottom 30 feet; depth of water, 5¼ number of locks, 81. The canal of St. Quentin, 28 English miles in length, was completed in 1810. The canal joining the Rhone to the Rhine is the most extensive of any. It stretches from the Saône, a little above St. Jean de Losne, by Dol, Besançon, and Mulhouse, to Strasburg, where it joins the Rhine—a distance of about 200 English miles. From Dol to Vogeaucourt, near Montbéliard, the canal is principally excavated in the bed of the Doubs. It is not quite finished. The canal of Burgundy will, when completed, be about 242 kilomètres, or 150 English miles in length; but at present it is only navigable to the distance of about 95 kilomètres. In addition to these, a great many other canals have been finished, while several are in progress, and others projected. There is an excellent account of the French canals in the Histoire de la Navigation Intérieure de la France, by M. Dutens, in 2 vols. 4to, and to it we beg to refer the reader for further details. He will find at the end of the second volume a very beautiful map of the rivers and canals of France.


—The railroads now constructed in France, have, however, checked the progress of canals. We may observe, too that the state of the law in France is very unfavorable to the undertaking and success of all great public works; and we are inclined to attribute the comparative fewness of canals in France, and the recent period at which most of them have been constructed, to its influence. In that country, canals, docks, and such like works, are mostly carried on at the expense and for behoof of government, under the control of its agents. No scope has been given to the enterprise of individuals or associations. Before either a road or a canal can be constructed, plans and estimates must be made out and laid before the minister of the interior, by whom they are referred to the prefect of the department, and then to the Bureau des Ponts et des Chaussées; and supposing the project to be approved by these, and the other functionaries consulted with respect to it, the work must after all be carried on under the superintendence of some public officer. In consequence of this preposterous system, very few works of this description have been undertaken as private speculations; and while not a few of those begun by government remain unfinished and comparatively useless, those that are completed have, as was to be expected, rarely proved profitable. There are some good remarks on this subject in the useful work of M. Dupin on the Forces Commerciales of Great Britain.


—9. Prussian Canals. The Prussian states are traversed by the great navigable rivers the Elbe, the Oder, and the Vistula; the first having its embouchure in the North sea, and the others in the Baltic. The formation of an internal navigation to join these great waterways excited the attention of government at a distant period; and this object has been successfully accomplished partly by the aid of the secondary rivers falling into the above, and partly by canals. In 1662 the canal of Muhlrose was undertaken, uniting the Oder and the Spree; the latter being a navigable river falling into the Havel, also a navigable river joining the Elbe near Havelburg. But the navigation from the Oder to the Elbe by this channel was difficult and liable to frequent interruption; and to obviate these defects, Frederick the Great constructed, toward the middle of last century, the Finnow canal, stretching from the Oder at Oderburg to the Havel near Liebenwalde; the communication is thence continued by the latter and a chain of lakes to Plauen, from which point a canal has been opened joining the Elbe near Magdeburg.


—The Elbe being in this way connected with the Oder by a comparatively easy navigation, the latter has been united to the Vistula, partly by the river Netze, and partly by a canal joining that river to the Brahe, which falls into the Vistula near Bromberg. A vast inland navigation has thus been completed, barks passing freely through the whole extent of country from Hamburg to Dantzic; affording the means of shipping the products of the interior, and of importing those of foreign countries, either by the North sea or the Baltic, as may be found most advantageous. (Compare the above with Catteau, Tableau de la Mer Baltique, tome ii., pp. 11-18,)


—10. Russian Canals. The inland navigation of Russia is of vast extent, and very considerable importance.


—11. Bavarian Canals. A grand canal which was for a lengthened period in progress in Bavaria was completed in 1846, and promises to become of great public utility. It extends from Dietfurth on the Altmühl, a navigable affluent of the Danube, to Bamberg on the Mayn, a distance of 23½ German, or about 112 English miles. It is on a large scale, and has cost above £1,000,000. This magnificent undertaking, which carries an inland navigation through the centre of Europe, and realizes the project of Charlemagne for uniting the Black sea with the German ocean, is conducted by a joint-stock company, with the assistance of the Bavarian government. But the navigation of the Mayn and the Danube must be considerably improved before this grand channel of communication can acquire all the importance which, most probably, it is destined to obtain.


—12. Austrian Canals. The Austrian empire is traversed in its whole extent by the Danube; but the advantages that might result to the foreign trade of the empire from so great a command of river navigation have been materially abridged by the jealousy of the Turks, who command the embouchure of the river, and by the difficulties in some places incident to its navigation. Two pretty extensive canals have been constructed in Hungary. That called the Bega canal is 73 English miles in length: it stretches from Fascet through the Bannat by Temeswar to Becskerek, whence vessels pass by the Bega into the Theiss a little above its junction with the Danube. The other Hungarian canal is called after the emperor Francis. It stretches from the Danube by Zambor to the Theiss, which it joins near Foldvar, being 62 English miles in length; its elevation where highest does not exceed 27 feet. Besides the above, the canal of Vienna establishes a communication between that city and Neustadt. It is said to be the intention to continue this canal to Trieste; but however desirable, we doubt much whether this be practicable. A railroad has been made from Munchausen on the Danube to Budweiss on the Moldau, a navigable river that falls into the Elbe, which promises to be a highly useful communication. (Bright's Travels in Hungary, p. 246; Balbi, Abrégé de la Géographie, p. 216.)


—13. Spanish Canals. Nowhere are canals more necessary, both for the purposes of navigation and irrigation, than in Spain; but the nature of the soil, and the poverty and ignorance of the government as well as of the people, oppose formidable obstacles to their construction. During the reign of Charles II. a company of Dutch contractors offered to render the Mancanares navigable from Madrid to where it falls into the Tagus, and the latter from that point to Lisbon, provided they were allowed to levy a duty for a certain number of years on the goods conveyed by this channel. The council of Castile took this proposal into their serious consideration, and after maturely weighing it pronounced the singular decision, "That if it had pleased God that these two rivers should have been navigable, He would not have wanted human assistance to have made them such; but that, as He has not done it, it is plain He did not think it proper that it should be done. To attempt it, therefore, would be to violate the decrees of His providence, and to mend the imperfections which he designedly left in His works." (Clarke's Letters on the Spanish Nation, p. 284.) But such undertakings are no longer looked upon as sinful; and many have been projected since the accession of the Bourbon dynasty, though few have been perfected. The canal of the Ebrc, begun under the emperor Charles V., is the most important of the Spanish canals; but it is only partially completed, and during dry seasons it suffers from want of water. It runs parallel to the right bank of the Ebro, from Tudela in Navarre to below Saragossa; the intention being to carry it to Sastago, where it is to unite with the Ebro. The canal of Castile is intended to lay open the country between the Douro and Reynosa, and to facilitate the conveyance of grain from the interior to Santander and Bilbao. It passes by Valladolid, Palencia, and Aguilar del Campos; a small part has been executed, and is now in operation. A company has also undertaken, what the Dutch contractors formerly offered—to render the Tagus navigable from Aranjuez to Lisbon; the free navigation of the river having been stipulated at the congress of Vienna. A project for deepening the Guadalquivir, and some others, are also on foot. (Geographical Dictionary, ii. 710.) It would appear from Mr. Sackville West's Report to the Foreign Office, of Jan. 1, 1867, that on Dec. 31, 1865, the total amount of canal shares and subventions was 211,040,251 reals vellon, or £2,110,402, and that the sum estimated as necessary for their completion was 11,816,190 reals vellon, or £118,561. (Reports of Secretaries of Legation, No. 5 of 1867.)


—14. British Canals. Owing partly to the late rise of extensive manufactures and commerce in Great Britain, but more, perhaps, to the insular situation of the country, no part of which is very distant from the sea of from a navigable river, no attempt was made, in England, to construct canals till a comparatively recent period. The efforts of those who first began to improve the means of internal navigation were limited to attempts to deepen the beds of rivers, and to render them better fitted for the conveyance of vessels. So early as 1635, Mr. Sandys, of Flatbury, Worcestershire, formed a project for rendering the Avon navigable from the Severn, near Tewkesbury, through the counties of Warwick, Worcester and Gloucester, "that the towns and country might be better supplied with wood, iron, pit-coal, and other commodities." This scheme was approved by the principal nobility and landowners in the adjoining counties; but the civil war having broken out soon after, the project was abandoned, and does not seem to have been revived. After the restoration and during the earlier part of last century various acts were at different times obtained for cheapening and improving river navigation. For the most part, however, these attempts were not very successful. The current of the rivers gradually changed the form of their channels; the dikes and other artificial constructions were apt to be destroyed by inundations; alluvial sand banks were formed below the weirs; in summer the channels were frequently too dry to admit of being navigated, while at other periods the current was so strong as to render it quite impossible to ascend the river, which at all times, indeed, was a laborious and expensive undertaking. These difficulties in the way of river navigation seem to have suggested the expediency of abandoning the channels of most rivers, and of digging parallel to them artificial channels, in which the water might be kept at the proper level by means of locks. The act passed by the legislature in 1755 for improving the navigation of Sankey Brook on the Mersey gave rise to a lateral canal of this description, about 11¼ miles in length, which deserves to be mentioned as the earliest effort of the sort in England.


—But before this canal had been completed, the celebrated duke of Bridgewater, and his equally celebrated engineer, the self-instructed James Brindley, had conceived a plan of inland navigation independent altogether of natural channels, and intended to afford the greatest facilities to commerce, by carrying canals across rivers and through mountains, wherever it was practicable to construct them.


—The duke was proprietor of a large estate at Worsley, 7 miles from Manchester, in which were some very rich coal mines, which had hitherto been in great measure useless, owing to the cost of carrying coal to market. Being desirous of turning his mines to some account, it occurred to him that his purpose would be best accomplished by cutting a canal from Worsley to Manchester. Mr. Brindley, having been consulted, declared that the scheme was practicable; and an act having been obtained, the work was immediately commenced. "The principle," says Mr. Phillips, "laid down at the commencement of this business reflects as much honor on the noble undertaker as it does upon his engineer. It was resolved that the canal should be perfect in its kind; and that, in order to preserve the level of the water, it should be free from the usual obstruction of locks. But in accomplishing this end many difficulties were deemed insurmountable. It was necessary that the canal should be carried over rivers, and many large and deep valleys, where it was evident that such stupendous mounds of earth must be raised as would scarcely, it was thought by numbers, be completed by the labor of ages; and, above all, it was not known from what source so large a supply of water could be drawn, even on this improved plan, as would supply the navigation. But Mr. Brindley, with a strength of mind peculiar to himself, and being possessed of the confidence of his great patron, contrived such admirable machines, and took such methods to facilitate the progress of the work, that the world soon began to wonder how it could be thought so difficult. When the canal was completed as far as Barton, where the Irwell is navigable for large vessels, Mr. Brindley proposed to carry it over that river by an aqueduct 39 feet above the surface of the water in the river. This, however, being considered as a wild and extravagant project, he desired, in order to justify his conduct toward his noble employer, that the opinion of another engineer might be taken, believing that he could easily convince an intelligent person of the practicability of the design. A gentleman of eminence was accordingly called, who, being conducted to the place where it was intended that the aqueduct should be made, ridiculed the attempt; and, when the height and dimensions were communicated to him, he exclaimed, "I have often heard of castles in the air, but never was shown before where any of them were to be erected." This unfavorable verdict did not deter the duke from following the opinion of his own engineer. The aqueduct was immediately begun; and it was carried on with such rapidity and success as astonished those who, but a little before, thought it impossible."


—Before the canal from Worsley to Manchester had been completed, it occurred to the duke and his engineer that it might be practicable to extend it by a branch, which, running through Chester parallel to the river Mersey, should at length terminate in that river below the limits of its artificial navigation, and thus afford a new, safer and cheaper means of communication between Manchester and its vicinity and Liverpool. The execution of this plan was authorized by an act passed in 1761. This canal, which is above 29 miles in length, was finished in about 5 years. It was constructed in the best manner, and has proved equally advantageous to its noble proprietor and the public.


—"When the duke of Bridgewater," says Dr. Aikin, "undertook this great design, the price of carriage on the river navigation was 12s. the ton from Manchester to Liverpool, while that of land carriage was 40s. the ton. The duke's charge on his canal was limited by statute to 6s.; and together with this vast superiority in cheapness, it had all the speed and regularity of land carriage. The articles conveyed by it were, likewise, much more numerous than those by the river navigation; besides manufactured goods and their raw materials, coals from the duke's own pits were deposited in yards at various parts of the canal, for the supply of Cheshire; lime, manure and building materials were carried from place to place; and the markets of Manchester obtained a supply of provisions from districts too remote for the ordinary land conveyances. A branch of useful and profitable carriage, hitherto scarcely known in England, was also undertaken, which was that of passengers. Boats, on the model of the Dutch treckschuyts, but more agreeable and capacious, were set up, which, at very reasonable rates and with great convenience, carried numbers of persons daily to and from Manchester along the line of the canal." (Aikin's Description of the Country round Manchester, p. 116.)


—The success attending the duke of Bridgewater's canals stimulated public-spirited individuals in other districts to undertake similar works. Mr. Brindley had early formed the magnificent scheme of joining the great ports of London, Liverpool, Bristol and Hull by a system of internal navigation; and though he died in 1772, at the early age of 56, he had the satisfaction to see his grand project in a fair way of being realized. The Trent and Mersey, or as it has been more commonly termed, the Grand Trunk canal. 96 miles in length, was begun in 1766 and completed in 1777. It stretches from near Runcorn on the Mersey, where it communicates with the duke of Bridgewater's canal, to Newcastle-under-Line; thence southward to near Titchfield; and then northwesterly, till it joins the Trent at Wilden ferry, at the northwestern extremity of Leicestershire. A water communication between Hull and Liverpool was thus completed; and by means of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal, which joins the Grand Trunk near Haywood in the former, and the Severn near Stourport in the latter, the same means of communication was extended to Bristol. During the time that the Grand Trunk canal was being made, a canal was undertaken from Liverpool to Leeds, 130 miles in length; another from Birmingham to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal, joining it near Wolverhampton, and one from Birmingham to Fazeley and thence to Coventry. By canals subsequently undertaken, a communication was formed between the Grand Trunk canal and Oxford, and consequently with London, completing Brindley's magnificent scheme. In 1792 the Grand Junction canal was begun, which runs in a pretty straight line from Brentford, on the Thames, a little above the metropolis, to Braunston, in Northamptonshire. where it unites with the Oxford and other central canals. It is about 90 miles in length. There is also a direct water communication, by means of the river Leanavigation, the Cambridge Junction canal, etc., between London and the Wash. In addition to these, an immense number of other canals, some of them of great magnitude and importance, have been constructed in different parts of the country; so that a command of internal navigation has been obtained, unparalleled in any European country, with the exception of Holland.


—In Scotland, the great canal to join the Forth and Clyde was begun in 1768, but it was suspended in 1777, and was not resumed till after the close of the American war. It was finally completed in 1790. Its total length, including the collateral cuts to Glasgow and the Monkland canal, is 38 8/4 miles. Where highest it is 150 feet above the level of the sea. It is on a larger scale than any of the English canals. Its medium width at the surface is 56, and at the bottom 27 feet. Originally it was about 8 feet 6 inches deep; but its banks have been raised, so that the depth of water is now about 10 feet. It has, in all, 39 locks. In completing this canal many serious difficulties had to be encountered. These, however, were all successfully overcome; and though unprofitable for a while, it has for many years past yielded a better return to its proprietors. Swift boats on the plan of those subsequently described were established on this canal in 1832. (Cleland's Statistics of Glasgow, p. 170, etc.)


—The Union canal joins the Forth and Clyde canal near Falkirk, and stretches thence to Edinburgh, being 31½ miles in length. It is 40 feet wide at the top, 20 at bottom, and 5 deep. It was completed in 1822. But it appears to have been an extremely ill-advised undertaking; so much so that its proprietors have sold it at a heavy loss to the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway company, who employ it in the conveyance of coal and other heavy goods.


—A canal intended to form a communication between Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan was commenced in 1807; but only that portion connecting Glasgow with Paisley and Ardrossan was commenced in 1807; but only that portion connecting Glasgow with Paisley and the village of Johnstoun has hitherto been finished. This part is about 12 miles long; the canal being 30 feet broad at top, 18 at bottom, and 4½ deep. It was here that the experiments were originally made on quick traveling by canals, which are said to have demonstrated that it was practicable to impel a properly constructed boat, carrying passengers and goods, along a canal at the rate of 9 or 10 miles an hour, without injury to the banks!


—The Crinan canal across the peninsula of Kintyre, admitting vessels of 160 tons burden, is 9 miles in length, and 12 feet in depth.


—The Caledonian canal is the greatest undertaking of the sort attempted in the empire. It stretches southwest and northeast across the island from a point near Inverness to another near Fort William. It is chiefly formed by Loch Ness, Loch Oich, and Loch Lochy. The total length of the canal, including the lakes, is 60½ miles; but the excavated part is only about 23 miles. At the summit it is 96½ feet above the level of the Western ocean. It is mostly constructed upon a very grand scale, being intended to be 20 feet deep, 50 feet wide at bottom, and 122 at top; the locks are 20 feet deep, 172 long, and 40 broad; and had it been wholly executed as was originally intended, frigates of 32 guns and merchant ships of 1,000 tons burden might have passed through it. It was opened in 1822, being executed entirely at the expense of government, from the designs and under the superintendence of Thomas Telford, Esq. The entire cost amounted, exclusive of interest, on the 1st of May, 1853, to £1,347,780. It would appear, however, to have been projected without due consideration, and has been a most unprofitable speculation. The revenue of the canal amounted in 1852-3 to only £5,889, whereas the expenditure during the same year, excluding allowance for wear and tear, and including £900 for repairs, amounted to £7,429! But this is not all. Owing to a wish to lessen the expense and to hasten the opening of the canal, parts of it were not excavated to their proper depth, while others were executed in a hurried and insufficient manner. Hence the canal does not really admit vessels of above 250 or 300 tons burden, and previously to steam tugs being provided on the lakes, they were frequently delayed in making their passage across for a lengthened period. During 1837 and 1838 the works sustained considerable damage; and the reader need not be surprised to hear that it was gravely debated whether it would not be better entirely to break up and abandon the canal.


—There was naturally, however, an extreme disinclination to destroy a work which, how inexpedient soever originally, has been executed at an enormous expense, and various schemes have been suggested for relieving the public from the expense of keeping it up without involving its destruction. Among others it has been proposed to assign it to a joint-stock company, on their agreeing to complete the works and keep them in repair; and an act authorizing such transfer was passed in 1840. But hitherto it has not been found possible to dispose of the canal in this way, and parliament has since voted large sums for the partial repair of the works, which, though a good deal improved, will every now and then require fresh outlays.


—Some other canals have been projected and completed in different parts of Scotland. Of these the Monkland canal, for the supply of Glasgow with coal, has been the most successful.


—15. Irish Canals. Various canals have been undertaken in Ireland, of which the Grand canal and the Royal canal are the principal. The Grand canal was begun in 1765, by a body of subscribers; but they could not have completed the work without very large advances from government. The canal commences at Dublin, and stretches in a westerly direction, inclining a little to the south, to the Snannon, with which it unites near Banagher, a distance of 85 statute miles, and thence on the west side of the river to Ballinasloe, 14 miles. But exclusive of the main trunk, there is a branch to Athy, where it joins the Barrow, a distance of about 27 miles; and there are branches to Portarlington, Mount Mellick, and some other places. The total length of the canal, with its various branches, is about 164 English miles, Its summit elevation is 200 feet above the level of the sea at Dublin. It is 40 feet wide at the surface, from 24 to 20 feet at bottom, has 6 feet water, and cost, in all, above £2,000,000.


—Two capital errors seem to have been committed in the formation of this canal—it was framed on too large a scale, and was carried too far north. Had it been 4 or 4½ instead of 6 feet deep, its utility would have been but little impaired, while its expense would have been very materially diminished. But the great error was in its direction. Instead of joining the Shannon about 15 miles above Lough Derg, it should have joined it below Limerick. By this means barges and other vessels passing from Dublin to Limerick, and conversely, would have avoided the difficult and dangerous navigation of the upper Shannon; and the canal would have passed through a comparatively fertile country; and it would not have been necessary to carry it across the bog of Allen, in which, says Mr. Wakefield, "the company have buried more money than would have cut a spacious canal from Dublin to Limerick." (Account of Ireland, vol. i., p. 642.)


—The Royal canal was undertaken in 1789. It stretches westward from Dublin to the Shannon, which it joins near Tormanbury. Its entire length is about 92 miles, exclusive of a branch of 5 miles from Kilashee to Longford; its highest elevation is 322 feet above the level of the sea. At bottom it is 24 feet wide, having 6 feet depth of water. It had cost, exclusive of interest on stock, loans, etc., advanced by government, in February, 1823, £1,421,954.


—This canal seems to have been planned in the most injudicious manner. It has the same defect as the Grand canal, of being extravagantly large; and throughout its whole course it is nearly parallel to, and not very distant from, the latter. There are consequently two immense canals where there ought, perhaps, to be none. At all events, it is abundantly certain that one canal of comparatively moderate dimensions would have been quite enough for all the business of the district, even if it were much greater than it is at this moment, or than it is ever likely to become.


—It appears from "Thom's Almanac" for 1868, that in 1866 the gross revenue of the Royal canal was £10,504. while the net revenue of the Grand canal for the first half of 1866 was £7,535; and deducting from these sums the expense attending the working of the canals, and allowing for their ordinary wear and tear, it is extremely doubtful whether these great public works, which have cost between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000, produce a sixpence of clear revenue.


—Besides the above there are some other canals, as well as various river excavations, in Ireland, the chief of which is the Ulster, 48 miles long; but hardly one of them yields a reasonable return for the capital expended upon it. They have almost all been liberally assisted by grants of public money; and their history, and that of the two great canals now adverted to, strikingly corroborates the caustic remark of Arthur Young, that "a history of public works in Ireland would be a history of jobs." (Tour in Ireland, part ii., p. 66, 4to ed.) Those who wish to make themselves fully acquainted with the history and state of the canals of Ireland may consult the Report by Messrs. Henry Mullins and M'Mahon, in the Appendix to the "Report of the Select Committee of 1830 on the State of Ireland," and the valuable "Report on Railways."


—16. American Canals. The United States are pre-eminently distinguished by the spirit with which they have undertaken, and the perseverance they have displayed in executing, the most magnificent plans for improving and extending internal navigation. Besides many others of great, though inferior, magnitude, a canal has been formed connecting the Hudson with lake Erie. This immense work is 363 miles in length, the rise and fall along the entire line being 692 feet. It was originally 40 feet wide at the surface, 28 feet at bottom, and 4 feet deep. But these dimensions being found, from the rapidly increasing traffic and importance of the canal, to be far too limited, an act was passed in 1835, providing for its enlargement. Under this act the canal has been increased, so as to be 70 feet wide on the surface, 42 feet at the bottom, and 7 feet in depth, the locks being of corresponding dimensions. The original cost of the canal was $9,027,456, and the cost of the enlargement has been about $25,000,000. or nearly three times its first cost. The Erie canal is the property of the state of New York and is one of the greatest and most important works of its kind in the world. Notwithstanding the contracted scale on which it was originally constructed, it has completely verified the predictions of its projector, De Witt Clinton, having been at once extremely profitable as a mercantile speculation, and of singular advantage in a public point of view to the state of New York and the Union generally.


—The Chesapeake and Ohio canal would, had it been completed, have been a great and useful work. It begins at the tide water of the Potomac river above Georgetown in the District of Columbia, and is intended to terminate at Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, a distance of 341½ miles. Its dimensions are nearly identical with those of the new Erie canal; its breadth at the surface being from 60 to 80 feet, and at bottom 50 feet, with a depth of water varying from 6 to 7 feet. Several tunnels occur in the line which crosses the Alleghany ridge. The cost of this work was estimated at $22,275,000, which were to be subscribed partly by individuals, and partly by the United States and the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Owing, however, to the inability, or rather disinclination, of the two last-mentioned states to make good their engagements, the works on the canal have been suspended, after about 10 millions of dollars have been expended upon them. But the probability is that they will be resumed and completed at some future period; their completion being the only means by which the capital already expended upon them can be made to yield anything.


—A great many other canals have been completed and are in progress in different parts of the Union. Of the former, the Ohio canal, uniting the Ohio with lake Erie, is by far the most important, and is, if at all, only less advantageous than the Erie canal Cleveland, where the canal unites with lake Erie, has become one of the greatest emporiums on the lakes.


—17. Utility of Canals. The utility of canals, when judiciously contrived, and opening an easy communication between places capable of maintaining an extensive intercourse with each other, has never been better set forth than in a work published in 1765, entitled "A View of the Advantages of Inland Navigation," etc. But the following extract from Macpherson's Annals of Commerce (1760) contains a brief, and at the same time eloquent summary of the principal advantages resulting from their construction. "They give fresh life to established manufactures, and they encourage the establishment of new ones by the ease of transporting the materials of manufacture and provisions; and thence we see new villages start up upon the borders of canals in places formerly condemned to sterility and solitude. They invigorate, and in many places create, internal trade, which, for its extent and value, is an object of still more importance than foreign commerce, and is exempted from the many hardships and dangers of a maritime life and changes of climate. To this may be added that they greatly promote foreign trade, and consequently enrich the merchants of the ports where they, or the navigable rivers they are connected with, terminate, by facilitating the exportation of produce from, and the introduction of foreign merchandise into, the interior parts of the country, which are thus placed nearly on a level with the maritime parts; or, in other words, the interior parts become coasts and enjoy the accommodations of shipping. The price of provisions is nearly equalized through the whole country; the blessings of Providence are more uniformly distributed; and the monopolist is disappointed in his schemes of iniquity and oppression by the ease wherewith provisions are transported from a considerable distance. The advantages to agriculture, which provides a great part of the materials, and almost the whole of the subsistence, required in carrying on manufactures and commerce, are pre-eminently great. Manure, marl, lime and all other bulky articles, which could not possibly bear the great expense of cartage, and also corn and other produce, can be carried at a very light expense on canals; whereby poor lands are enriched, and barren lands are brought into cultivation, to the great emolument of the farmer and landholder, and the general advantage of the community, in an augmented supply of the necessaries of life and materials of manufactures; coals (the importance of which to a manufacturing country few people not actually concerned in manufactures are capable of duly appreciating), stone, lime, iron ore, and minerals in general, as well as many other articles of great bulk in proportion to their value, which had hitherto lain useless to their proprietors by reason of the expense, and, in many cases, impossibility of carriage, are called into life, and rendered a fund of wealth, by the vicinity of a canal; which thus gives birth to a trade, whereby, in return it is maintained."


—18. Increased Speed of Traveling by Canals. Great as have been the advantages derived from the formation of canals, their progress has been to a considerable degree checked by the formation of railroads. We believe, however, that canals will always be preferred for the conveyance of coal and other bulky and heavy products; and even passengers could be conveyed along them with a rapidity that would previously have been supposed impossible. This new system was introduced on the Paisley and Glasgow canal, by Mr. Houston, in June, 1831. The results are described in the following statements. to which it is unnecessary to call the reader's attention.


—Mr. Thomas Graham, civil engineer, in his "Letter to Canal Proprietors and Traders," says, "The experiments of great velocity have been tried and proved on the narrowest, shallowest, and most curved canal in Scotland, viz., the Ardrossan or Paisley canal, connecting the city of Glasgow with the town of Paisley and village of Johnstoun—a distance of 12 miles. The result has disproved every previous theory as to difficulty and expense of attaining great velocity on canals, and as to the danger or damage to their banks by great velocity in moving vessels along them.


—The ordinary speed for the conveyance of passengers on the Ardrossan canal has, for nearly 2 years been from 9 to 10 miles an hour; and, although there are 14 journeys along the canal per day, at this rapid speed, its banks have sustained no injury. The boats are 70 feet in length, about 5 feet 6 inches broad, and, but for the extreme narrowness of the canal, might be made broader. They carry easily from 70 to 80 passengers; and, when required, can and have carried upward of 110 passengers. The entire cost of a boat and fittings up is about £125. The hulls are formed of light iron plates and ribs, and the covering is of wood and light oiled cloth. They are more airy, light and comfortable than any coach. They permit the passengers to move about from the outer to the inner cabin, and the fares per mile are one penny in the first, and three farthings in the second cabin. The passengers are all carried under cover; having the privilege also of an uncovered space. These boats are drawn by 2 horses (the price of which may be from £50 to £60 per pair), in stages of 4 miles in length, which are done in from 22 to 25 minutes, including stoppages to let out and take in passengers, each set of horses doing 3 or 4 stages alternately each day. In fact, the boats are drawn through this narrow and shallow canal at a velocity which many celebrated engineers had demonstrated, and which the public believed, to be impossible.


—The entire amount of the whole expenses of attendants and horses, and of running one of these boats 4 trips of 12 miles each (the length of the canal) or 48 miles daily, including interest on the capital, and 20 per cent. laid aside annually for replacement of the boats, or loss on the capital therein invested, and a considerable sum laid aside for accidents and replacement of the horses, is £700 some odd shillings; or, taking the number of working days to be 312 annually, something under £2 2s. 4d. per day, or about 11d. per mile. The actual cost of carrying from 80 to 100 persons a distance of 30 miles (the length of the Liverpool railway), at a velocity of nearly 10 miles an hour, on the Paisley canal, one of the most curved, narrow and shallow in Britain, is therefore just £1 7s. 6d. Such, in brief, are the facts, and, incredible as they may appear, they are facts which no one who inquires can possibly doubt."


—Boats on this principle were for a time established on a great many British canals, and on the Grand and Royal canals in Ireland.

J. R. M'C.

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