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1784.] OBSERVATIONS ON INTERNAL NAVIGATION. 457
the wild, unsettled regions of the Alleganies, until he came out into the Shenandoah Valley near Staunton. He returned to Mount Vernon on the 4th of October; having since the 1st of September travelled on horseback six hundred and eighty miles, for a great part of the time in wild, mountainous country, where he was obliged to encamp at night. This, like his tour to the northern forts with Governor Clinton, gave proof of his unfailing vigor and activity.
During all this tour he had carefully observed the course and character of the streams flowing from the west into the Ohio, and the distance of their navigable parts from the head navigation of the rivers east of the mountains, with the nearest and best portage between them. For many years he had been convinced of the practicability of an easy and short communication between the Potomac and James River, and the waters of the Ohio, and thence on to the great chain of
and of the vast advantages that would result therefrom to the States of Virginia and Maryland. He had even attempted to set a company on foot to undertake at their own expense the opening of such a communication, but the breaking out of the Revolution had put a stop to the enterprise. One object of his recent tour was to make observations and collect information on this subject; and all that he had seen and heard quickened his solicitude to carry the scheme into effect.
Political as well as commercial interests, he conceived, were involved in the enterprise. He had noticed that the flanks and rear of the United States were possessed by foreign and formidable powers, who
might lure the western people into a trade and alliance with them. The Western States, he observed, stood as it were upon a pivot, so that the touch of a feather might turn them any way. They had looked down the Mississippi, and been tempted in that direction by the facilities of sending every thing down the stream ; whereas they had no means of coming to us but by long land transportations and rugged roads. The jealous and untoward disposition of the Spaniards, it was true, almost barred the use of the Mississippi; but they might change their policy, and invite trade in that direction. The retention by the British government, also, of the posts of Detroit, Niagara and Oswego, though contrary to the spirit of the treaty, shut up
the channel of trade in that quarter. These posts, however, would eventually be given up; and then, he was persuaded, the people of New York would lose no time in removing every obstacle in the way of a water communication ; and "I shall be mistaken,” said he, “if they do not build vessels for the navigation of the lakes, which will supersede the necessity of coasting on either side."
It behooved Virginia, therefore, to lose no time in availing herself of the present favorable conjuncture to secure a share of western trade by connecting the Potomac and James rivers with the waters beyond the mountains. The industry of the western settlers had hitherto been checked by the want of outlets to their products, owing to the before-mentioned obstacles : “ But smooth the road,” said he, “and make easy the way for them, and then see what an influx of articles will pour upon us; how amazingly our exports will be increased by them,
FAREWELL VISIT OF LAFAYETTE.
and how amply all shall be compensated for any trouble and expense we may encounter to effect it.”
Such were some of the ideas ably and amply set forth by him in a letter to Benjamin Harrison, Governor of Virginia, who, struck with his plan for opening the navigation of the western waters, laid the letter before the State legislature. The favor with which it was received induced Washington to repair to Richmond and give his personal support to the measure. He arrived there on the 15th of November. On the following morning a committee of five members of the House of Assembly, headed by Patrick Henry, waited on him in behalf of that body, to testify their reverence for his character and affection for his person, and their sense of the proofs given by him since his return to private life, that no change of situation could turn his thoughts from the welfare of his country. The suggestions of Washington in his letter to the governor, and his representations, during this visit to Richmond, gave the first impulse to the great system of internal improvement since pursued throughout the United States.
At Richmond he was joined by the Marquis de Lafayette ; who since their separation had accompanied the commissioners to Fort Schuyler, and been present at the formation of a treaty with the Indians; after which he had made a tour of the Eastern States, “ crowned every where," writes Washington, “ with wreaths of love and respect.'
They returned together to Mount Vernon, where
* Letter of Washington to the Marchioness de Lafayette.
Lafayette again passed several days, a cherished inmate of the domestic circle.
When his visit was ended, Washington, to defer the parting scene, accompanied him to Annapolis. On returning to Mount Vernon, he wrote a farewell letter to the marquis, bordering more upon the sentimental than almost any other in his multifarious correspond
“In the moment of our separation, upon the road as I travelled and every hour since, I have felt all that love, respect and attachment for you, with which length of years, close connection, and your merits have inspired
I often asked myself, as our carriages separated, whether that was the last sight I ever should have of you? And though I wished to answer no, my fears answered
I called to mind the days of my youth, and found they had long since fled to return no more ; that I was now descending the hill I had been fifty-two years climbing, and that, though I was blessed with a good constitution, I was of a short-lived family, and might soon expect to be entombed in the mansion of my fathers. These thoughts darkened the shades, and gave a gloom to the picture, and consequently, to my prospect of ever seeing you again.”
BOHEME OF INLAND NAVIGATION-SHARES OF STOOK OFFERED TO WASI
INGTON-DECLINED_RURAL IMPROVEMENTS-TIE TAX OF LETTER
WRITING THE TAX OF SITTING
GARDENING MANAGEMENT OF THE ESTATE-DOMESTIC LIFE-VISIT
LAUGHING --PASSION FOR HUNTING REVIVED-DEATH OF GENERAL GREENE-HIS CHARACTER-WASHINGTON'S REGRETS AND ENCOMIUMS LETTERS TO THE FRENCH NOBLEMEN.
Washington's zeal for the public good had now found a new channel; or, rather, his late tours into the interior of the Union had quickened ideas long existing in his mind on the subject of internal navigation. letter to Richard Henry Lee, recently chosen President of Congress, he urged it upon his attention ; suggesting that the western waters should be explored, their navigable capabilities ascertained, and that a complete map should be made of the country: that in all grants of land by the United States, there should be a reserve made for special sale of all mines, mineral and salt springs: that a medium price should be adopted for the western lands sufficient to prevent monopoly, but not to discourage useful settlers.