The Key Players – A Canal Built by Non-professionals

thomas jeffersonThomas Jefferson

The great visionary president Thomas Jefferson was NOT a supporter of New York’s plan to build the Erie Canal!  Remember that he’d watched his friend and fellow-Virginian George Washington fail in his attempt to canalize the Potomac River.  When he heard about the project in 1809 he said:

“Making a canal 350 miles through a wilderness is little short of madness…

…Perhaps in a hundred years.”   Thomas Jefferson

Dewitt ClintonDewitt Clinton

The real hero of the Original Erie’s construction was New York’s Governor Dewitt Clinton. The canal became so closely associated with him that his opponents derisively called the project “Clinton’s Ditch”, hoping to bring him down when the canal project failed. It backfired on them though, when the canal’s overwhelming success propelled the Governor to unparalleled popularity.

“May the God of Heavens and the earth smile most propitiously on the work, and render it subservient to the best interests of the human race.”

– Gov Dewitt Clinton at the opening ceremony marking the completion of the Erie Canal ahead of schedule in 1825

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