The Problem With Progress

by JL Beeken on 3-04-2007

If you ever thought there was a problem with progress, what would have happened if the world had stopped here?

January 31, 1829

To: President Jackson:

The canal system of this country is being threatened by the spread of a new form of transportation known as “railroads.” The federal government must preserve the canals for the fol­lowing reasons:

One. If the canal boats are supplanted by “railroads,” serious unemployment will result. Captains, cooks, drivers, hostlers, re­pairmen and lock tenders will be left without means of livelihood, not to mention the numerous farmers now employed in growing hay for horses.

Two. Boat builders would suffer and towline, whip and harness makers would be left destitute.

Three. Canal boats are absolutely essential to the defense of the United States. In the event of the expected trouble with England, the Erie Canal would be the only means by which we could ever move the supplies so vital to waging modern war.

As you may well know, Mr. President, “railroad” carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of fifteen miles per hour by “engines” which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to our crops, scaring the livestock and frightening our women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.

Martin Van Buren
Governor of New York

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