Theme 2: Module 2:
Early Republic MED Context and Strategies
The Formative Years of the Early Republic (1790-1870)
Population Migration, City-Building, Cultural Diffusion: the Early Republic Big City Paradigm
Those who have read Theme 1 modules understand the 19th century Early Republic and Gilded Ages especially were the periods in which the foundations of American MED were laid. Population migration, diffusion of political cultures, city-building and (in forthcoming modules) the centrality of industrial manufacturing and infrastructure were MED’s core strategy nexus or paradigm. The first three are the subject matter of this module.
That all this is largely a post-1800 phenomenon is probably surprising to many readers–our history textbooks smush all of this into a description only faintly reminiscent of what transpired. In this brief module, I try to demonstrate how the these ED drivers (population migration, cultural diffusion, city-building strategies jelled into a Big City MED paradigm from which Big City MED evolved. My plan of attack is to first describe city-building
Using Washington DC as an example–it was the first in the new Republic–then discuss how city-building embeds political culture and values into governance structures which persist for generations, if not hundreds of years (I call this “As the Twig is Bent), and finally outline one early 19th century population migration, the Yankee Diaspora, to demonstrate how migration, city-building and cultural diffusion fused and spread throughout the Big City states. While it is not discussed, one can correctly include in the paradigm the diffusion of industrialization and infrastructure, described in the next modules.
City-building, the ED strategy that produced “urbanization” was logically the initial MED strategy of the Early Republic. City-building required entrepreneurs, private financing, and public infrastructure (Washington DC the major exception). Washington was not the only city-builder, nor was he the first. Hundreds, if not thousands, followed him during the 19th century—to the present. Underscoring this point is Census data that found 24 cities/towns in 1790 whose population exceed 2,500 (with 200,000 population). By 1870 there were 683 cities/ towns above 2,500 (9.9 million), and by 1890, 1351 with 22.1 million residents. There was an awfully lot of city-building going on in the 19th century (a century later, 1990, there were 8500 towns and cities greater than 2500—187 million)[vi]
City-building, among the powerful of MED strategies, is the most unappreciated. First Wave American MED held at its core, the founding and subsequent development of cities, located deep in the wilderness. It started with private entrepreneurs like Washington, and evolved by the Civil War to include railroad corporations—discarding along the way, the poorly understood state-chartered corporations.
Westward expansion, its founding of urban centers populated with migrants and immigrants, also meant the establishment of policy systems in each community-jurisdiction. The bulk of the MED work that followed was conducted at the local level, although the states played an important role as well, even in these early years. Chapter 2 of As Two Ships also details, Henry Clay’s federal American System (contested and ultimately curtailed by states-rights populist Andrew Jackson) which unsuccessfully attempted a S&L role for the federal government. I anticipate adding a future module on the role of the federal government in the 19th century.
In this module, a brief presentation of President George Washington’s role as an active federal-level economic developer describes his impressive personally-led city-building of Washington DC. Washington, despite his “heavy” rather boring, face on a pedestal current image, was an interesting character. His was a pre-industrial age; the American national economy was agricultural, with an associated trade/export and finance agglomeration. The Mount Vernon plantation was by today’s criteria, an example of a private EDO in that economic system.
But in this module we do not write about the plantation. In my view that was secondary to his real day job: a major financial investor who opened up the (Midwestern) wilderness for settlement and city-building. In that role (especially when, as described in As Two Ships, combined with his profound interest in early canal-building) Washington was a transition figure in the opening up of the “Wilderness”–from Pittsburgh and Shenandoah Valley to Ohio and eastern banks of the Mississippi River. The closest he came to being an agent of early American industrialization, however, was his leadership/support of Alexander Hamilton–but that is another story altogether.
Pre-President Washington had been a colonial economic developer, as well as planter and general. In the first role he falls off his pedestal, and in return a bit of his personality is revealed. Washington, like Trump, was a real estate speculator. He owned land from Virginia, to Pittsburgh into the Ohio Valley, into New York, as well as parcels around today’s Washington D.C. He owned extensively in West Virginia and Kentucky. At his death, it is claimed that he was America’s richest man (his estate, not including Mount Vernon, was valued by Washington around $780,000 in 1798 dollars—Mount Vernon plus stocks and bonds, not including slaves, added about a half million more).
I’ll leave it mathematicians to figure what that comes to in 2018 dollars [v]. In any case, the bulk of his fortune derived from real estate in mostly unsettled (by Europeans) geographies. He captured the nation’s richest man title when his compatriot Robert Morris, another major real estate speculator, went bankrupt and sold his land to Dutch investors who formed the Holland Land Company (it was composed of most of Upstate New York, stretching to Rochester-Buffalo [vi]). Washington on the other hand obviously prospered–speaking volumes about his real estate prowess.
He was a Mason. Masons served as his network/Rolodex /following for clients, investors, and property management. At the time commentators claimed he owned at least 100,000 acres directly, and 15 million indirectly through his investor-subsidiaries [v]. His first known purchase was in 1750 (450 acres in western Virginia). He bought 15,000 acres around Fort Pitt (downtown Pittsburgh, Point State Park) and acquired land bounties to amass nearly 40,000 acres. He continued to invest heavily throughout his lifetime, and invested aggressively in canal-building as well. If you are still in the mood another Washington ED tale [xi]
His “Art of the Deal” apparently consisted of three principles: buy (or claim as bounty for public service) as much good land as possible, trade poor land for better land whenever possible, and never sell for cash”.[v] He preferred renting the land which tenants would improve by their labor. He speculated on land across Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, into Ohio and Kentucky. This was risky under the best of circumstances; Indians still dominated most of it during his lifetime. It adds, however, for those who know their history, another dimension to Mad Anthony Wayne and Fallen Timbers. Indeed, Washington’s curious and complex relationship with Native Americans is important to understanding early American S&L ED [xx]. His Secretary of War (Henry Knox), for example, laid the foundation and approved the “sovereign nation–reservation” system (for want of a better word). [See footnote iv below}
Gordon Woods cites a letter in which 1795 President Washington wrote: “If I do not sell my lands on the Ohio and the great Kanawha (West Virginia) in a lump—or at least by whole tracts they will not be sold at all by me. These will sell for fifty percent more at this time than I would have sold them for two years ago”[v]. Hmm … Sounds like we need a special prosecutor.
Washington DC– As President, Washington was determined to build a new nation’s capital–to replace New York City and Philadelphia. This was not America’s first city-building by any means, but it was the first actually done by a sitting President. Also the methods, and the design (Pierre L’Enfant) became a viable model for other early city-builders in the Mid-Atlantic and Ohio. The story in the next paragraphs outlines Washington’s role as Washington D.C.’s first city-builder and transition figure of American ED.
It was his idea to build a national capital, and he chose the “exact site” which in 1790 was ceded by Virginia and Maryland to be a special district of the federal government[v]. After securing Congressional authorization of his plan for a new capital, Washington appointed three commissioners to a newly-approved federal land development commission—a federal EDO to build/finance the national capital.
The city was to be named after him; Washington, however, preferred to call it “Federal City’ privately). Washington personally hired L’Enfant to devise a site plan (1791), which L’Enfant produced. L’Enfant’s plan employed radial grand boulevards (modeled on Paris), and intervening grids for easy resale. Washington then left it to Hamilton (Secretary of Treasury) to secure a compromise with Jefferson to authorize funds for development (1793) and to secure Congressional approval for the specific location at the nexus of Virginia and Maryland [vii].
With Congressional approvals in hand, and an EDO at his service, Washington then appeared in person on site at the proposed location to negotiate directly with the eighteen landowners. He struck a deal with seventeen of them, leaving one outstanding—a problem, in that the outstanding land was where the present day White House is located. Owned by a curmudgeon Scotsman, David Burns, Washington negotiated with him (actually shamed him with patriotism) for several months, and finally secured sale with the proviso that only a public building would be built on the site.
The negotiated “deal” was that the owners would “pool” the individual titles into one aggregate title which the federal government would purchase at a fixed price of $25 per acre. The federal government would use only half the acreage for public buildings, public squares and roads. The other half (potentially improved by infrastructure and development) would be returned to the original landowners at no cost—a sweetheart deal by anyone’s estimation. With the exception of Burns, Washington secured their agreement in one day and evening [vii].
Washington’s intent, however, was to sell portions of the public area to private owners, hopefully minimizing land speculation and fostering local, non-absentee-ownership. The public land did not sell very well and so in 1793, First Wave booster-huckster to his core, the President sitting on a horse, personally headed a parade, with two brass bands, a bunch of Masons in costume, and treated attendees to a barbecue—during which he conducted the land auction, personally bought the first four properties of what was undeveloped swampland[viii], and commenced the city’s development. The auction was not especially successful, but it was a start.
This is what a Privatist-MEP city-builder did in those days. It was a fitting culmination for a man who had lived a life centered around real estate development. That he used a governmental EDO, and built a master-planned city for the federal government is the exception to the rule of city-building in the Early Republic. City-building over the next eighty years was predominately private led, except for a grid unplanned, and mostly relied on private EDOs. Several examples, Chicago in particular, are described in As Two Ships. Of more consequence to the typical city-building was that Washington (and Morris among others) had set in motion east of the Mississippi Big City land assembly, surveying, initial settlement and amassed tremendous acreage into huge land corporations. It was these private land corporations that pioneered passage into the interior.
As the Twig is Bent
The diffusion of Atlantic coastal political cultures into the interior, straight thru to the Pacific coast is amazingly an Early Republic affair. Descriptions of city-building usually center on private entrepreneurs who literally carved a city out of the wilderness. That city-building is the first step in urbanization is obvious; that it is a central strategy of MED less so; and that city-building is a multi-dimensional strategy usually falls between the cracks of history. In this topic-area I focus on the governance and physical layout of early cities–these are the key structures which are approved during early city-building. These structures, I contend, embed the values and priorities of our first settlers and decision-makers; these values and priorities embedded in political and physical structure persist for incredibly long period of time–to the present day for some values and priorities.
To provide context for the next topic, the Yankee Diaspora, I focus on upper New York State as an example of how values became embedded in political structures. As background, Midwestern states outside of the thirteen original colonies were regulated by the various Northwest Land Ordinance (the first, penned by Jefferson was in 1784, and were followed by annual Articles of Confederation ordinance(the one cited in history books is 1787–but there were four), culminating in the 1789 adoption by the new Congress of the United States. Upper New York state was never included in these ordinances.
Upper New York was no-state land, or more precisely all states. Royal colonial charters gave overlapping portions of upper New York to Massachusetts and New York–and later to the Iroquois. So in 1786, in neutral Hartford CT, the two states negotiated an agreement to divvy up the land. In a convoluted, which in short order went bankrupt compromise Massachusetts surrendered title to New York, but retained the right to sell the land first and keep the proceeds.
Massachusetts quickly sold the land to a private corporation (Phelps and Gorham), which went bankrupt. Massachusetts then sold the rights (3 million acres) to our friend Robert Morris in 1791. He promptly went bankrupt and sold the land (1793) to a group of five Dutch investors, who formed the infamous Holland Land Company. The Holland Land Company made its deal with the Iroquois, and hired Joseph Ellicott to manage upstate New York. Ellicott had been Washington’s surveyor for the nation’s capital. He then surveyed upstate and platted it out into townships and individual parcels, as required by New York state. This was not completed until 1801.
New England-style townships were part of the original 1786 compromise with Massachusetts. New York State was uncomfortable with this, and required the insertion of strong counties to coordinate related townships, and serve as a vehicle to exert state preferences. This began the tension between state, county and cities-towns that has characterized New York administrative politics ever since. In the 19th century this tension imparted a considerable decentralization in urban development policy-making, and the oft-times aggressive intrusion of the state into local affairs. Also New England towns lacked the tradition, and the powers to conduct local MED, and the best way to take hold of policy-making meant subsequent incorporation as a city–a process controlled by the state.
Anyhow, during the Yankee Diaspora time period, upper New York state formed New England towns–and as we shall see were settled by New Englanders. In the tension that followed chronic attempts by upstaters to succeed were so numerous one can find an extensive Wikipedia topic on the matter. I believe the last attempt was yesterday. The first major episode revolved around Albany’s Governor George Clinton, an opponent of New York City Federalists, a Jacksonian anti-Federalist. Another Governor Clinton, his nephew had this wild idea about a canal across the entire of the upstate. That is another story, discussed in a future module. Albany, BTW, was Dutch-settled, chartered as a city in 1686, became the state capital in 1797–it may be the oldest chartered city in the Western hemisphere.
In diffusing cultures, it is argued, getting there first is critical. The first settlers set up the political and administrative system in their initial state constitution. Things, of course, get more complicated when two or more sets of first settlers arrive at the same constitutional convention and have to duke it out. In New York, the first state constitution (which remained in force to 1821) was approved in 1777, required property-ownership to vote and did not reflect the future New England goings on. Vermont BTW revolted in 1790 and it seceded, becoming a state in 1791. Into this administrative cacophony strode the Holland Land Company. and as we shall see the Holland Land Company financing of early settlement meant that upper New York settlers (usually renters until they paid off their mortgage) lacked voting rights–until 1821. They did not participate in the constitution which set up the initial policy systems of the Upstate.
Latecomers, mostly immigrants that follow after the state constitution, can affect popular culture, politics, and much more, but changing state constitutions is not always easy—besides, it’s not always apparent that fundamental structural change is an answer to less fundamental policy issues, priorities and processes. That so-called “neutral” structures contain values, preferences, beliefs, beneficiaries, processes, and priorities, is not inherently obvious. Structures harden into traditions over time, and tradition becomes accepted as simply “the way we do it around here”—that’s one reason why city-building is so important to ED. Upstate New York demonstrates how idiosyncratic this city-building and diffusion of cultures can be–and how over time it can lead to distinctive sub-state regional patterns, as well as distinctive, enduring and often competing sub-state ED.
Into the Wilderness: New England Yankee Diaspora
Our fascination with political culture requires us to understand how, and by whom, our cities were established. As different population streams came into contact, hybrids and variations of the two cultures developed. The flows of different and distinctive populations was not haphazard or random. Each population stream followed geographic/economic patterns that led to regional variations that were institutionalized in state constitutions and municipal charters. In the nineteenth century, population mobility was constant.
As a starting point, this section describes the critically important Yankee Diaspora, which produced many of the Midwest state constitutions, in whole or in part, and continued on to Kansas, Colorado, the Dakotas, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle–and indirectly to Hawaii. Population migration, inseparably linked with the formation of new cities and towns, were also inescapably linked to the diffusion of our two ships-the Progressive and Privatist cultures.
“New England Yankees were almost entirely the descendants of 21,000 Puritans who arrived between 1629 and 1640 (Barone, 2013, p. 52). For the next 150 years confined, except through sea trade, to the borders of today’s New England, they prospered, became Unitarians, started the American Revolution, and procreated. The American Revolution, triggered by Yankee belligerence, and the Constitution that followed in 1789 set the stage, but Mad Anthony Wayne’s victory over Native Americans at Fallen Timbers in 1796 pulled the cork from the bottle. After 1800 New England poured out its surplus population.
First was migration within New England itself, to Vermont and Maine– both populations tripled between 1790 and 1810. Maine became a state in 1820. But then New Englanders surged across upstate New York, the Yankee dash to the Pacific really started.
Upstate New York
The Holland Company hired Joseph Ellicott, and he hired Pierre L’Enfant (designer of Washington D.C.); together, they platted central and Western New York, which was subsequently sold to New England emigrants. Other speculators such as William Bingham (could you guess Binghamton) did the same for central/southwestern New York. Bingham sold the land to New Englanders who came in groups, often extended families from the same town. For example, thirty fishermen from Martha’s Vineyard/ Nantucket founded Hudson in Columbia County along the Hudson in 1783.
New Englanders moved into New York in droves after 1805. New Englanders incorporated the village of Syracuse in 1825, becoming a city in 1847 (Woodard, 2011, p. 174). Upstate New York’s 1790 population of 121,000 exploded and increased to nearly 1.4 million by 1830—“at which point Upstate New York had more people than any other single state”. (Barone, 2013, p. 66). New York State, little more than New York City at the time, was minimally involved in the settlement itself—in effect it had contracted it out to out of state land speculators.
From the beginning, it was abundantly clear that Yankee migration meant city-building—industrial cities and commercial trade. New Englanders didn’t just hack out a homestead: “Entire families would pack their possessions, rendezvous with their neighbors, and journey en masse to their new destination, often led by their minister. On arrival they planted a new town—not just a collection of individual farms—complete with master plot plan, with specific sites set aside for streets, the town green and commons, a … meeting house, and the all-important public school. They also brought their town meeting government with them. (Woodard, 2011, p. 176). The resulting settlement created tension between the State and municipal government. New England towns contested with New York cities. To remedy this, New York State empowered county government as an administrative partner to deliver state services and coordinate those New England-style municipal government activities. That structural heritage continues, today.
The Erie Canal (approved 1810, started in 1817 and completed in 1825) facilitated upstate manufacturing, while linking Midwestern agriculture to New York City. Textiles in Utica and flour milling in Rochester flourished. Buffalo, its innovation, the grain mill, developed into a great logistics and transshipment center between the Midwest (as far as Minneapolis) and New York City. That meant upstate New York was developing cutting edge industrial cities. Textiles, familiar to New Englanders, and agricultural processing were the first agglomerations that developed. Transportation, the source of raw materials and export of the finished product, was critical. Upstate New York was transshipment center on a regional scale. Its export economy was not based on native raw materials or resources.
Ohio, Michigan to Iowa and Indiana
Ohio came next. The Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery and divided land for private sale into 36 square mile townships, each sub-divided into 35 sections including one section reserved to build a public school. Believe it or not, the state of Connecticut held title to a strip of Ohio land (the Western Reserve) not included in the 1787 Northwest Ordinance. The Western Reserve included Youngstown, Akron and Cleveland—and (in theory) extended across several states. Connecticut (1795) sold the Western Reserve to privately-owned Connecticut Land Company.
With the 1796 Fallen Timbers victory, land speculators and surveyors quickly headed west. In 1796 Moses Cleaveland, lead surveyor for the Connecticut Land Company, platted the Reserve into townships, formally founding Cleveland and Youngstown. Settlers from Connecticut staked out land, including Moses Cleaveland “and was settled almost entirely by Yankees and in the years after the Civil War, when New England cities were thronged with Irish Catholic immigrants, the Western Reserve was, with Vermont, the most Yankee dominated part of the country. Yankee domination lasted until the early twentieth century, when Ellis Islanders thronged to work in the new steel, auto and tire factories in Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown” (Barone, 2013, p. 64)
The remainder of Ohio was settled by just about everybody—Virginians, Pennsylvanians, Scotch-Irish and southern German (Catholic) immigrants. That is why it remains a political swing state to this day. In the north half, Yankees dominated. Following Yankee tradition, settlers founded colleges: Ohio University (first President being William McGuffey), Hiram College (President Garfield’s alma mater), Baldwin-Wallace College, Antioch (Horace Mann first President), Oberlin (1833 by Vermonters), Kenyon (Rutherford B. Hayes) and, Western Reserve College.
When the first Great Lakes steamship launched in 1818, Yankee immigrants, (disproportionately Vermonters) left Western New York and moved into Michigan’s Saginaw River Valley to start a lumber industry (Barone, 2013, p. 69). The Michigan Territory, governed by General Lewis Cass, a New Hampshire native, became home to quite a few transplanted New Englanders. Solomon Sibley, Massachusetts-born and a Brown University graduate was Detroit’s first mayor (1806) and Elijah Brush, a Vermonter (Dartmouth), it’s second. Northern Indiana, Iowa and Illinois followed the same pattern as Michigan. Though far less numerous in Indiana than Ohio, Vermonters and Connecticut men established northern Indiana towns such as Montpelier, Wolcottville, and Orland. Among its first Vermont-born settlers was Governor James Whitcomb, who set up the state’s public school system and Caleb Mills, the first President of Wabash College. (Barone, 2013, p. 69)
Yankees laid down the cultural infrastructure of a large part of Ohio, portions of Iowa and Illinois, and almost the entirety of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. They had almost near-total control over the politics in the latter three states for much of the nineteenth century. “Five of the first six governors of Michigan were Yankees, and four had been born in New England. In Wisconsin nine of the first twelve governors were born Yankees …. (By contrast, in Illinois—where Midlands and Appalachian cultures were in the majority—not one of the first six governors was of Yankee descent—all born south of the Mason-Dixon line). “A third of Minnesota’s first territorial legislature was New England-born and a great many of the rest were [New Englanders] from Upstate New York … In all three Upper Great Lake states, Yankees dominated discussions in the constitutional conventions and transplanted their legal, political and religious norms” (Woodard, 2011, p. 177).
New England’s “jewel in the crown”, however, was Chicago. Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard (Vermont), following the Black Hawk War’s end (1832), hired William B. Ogden (Delaware County New York) as his lawyer, and along with Grant Goodrich (Chautauqua County New York), formed “Chicago’s first urban elite … made up mostly of young, self-made men from New England and New York State”. As the original city-builders of Chicago, they transformed a wilderness outpost into the great metropolis. (Barone, 2013, p. 70).
Chicago, however, was far from the end of the line for Yankee immigration. Vermont born John Deere set up a plow factory on the Mississippi at Moline (Illinois). From the 1830’s onward, Yankees piled into Wisconsin, and after the 1840’s saturated Iowa. Burlington, Iowa, named for another Burlington back east, and Grenville Dodge (from Danvers Massachusetts, later chief surveyor for transcontinental Union Pacific) founded Grinnell Iowa. Yankees rushed into Kansas and Nebraska to prevent slavery from expanding into those territories (John Brown, for example, was born in Torrington Connecticut–Interesting irony: John Brown’s father Owen, owner of a Connecticut tannery, hired as his apprentice Jesse Grant, the father of Ulysses).
Left to another chapter is the tale of New Englanders in Oregon and San Francisco—not to mention Hawaii. Yankees liked to travel.
More interested in government at the state and national level, Yankees were noticeably less focused on sub-state policy. Yankee first settlers installed the New England Township with its preference for schools, internal improvements, and people-focused policy outputs such as education, caring for the widows, disabled, and economically disadvantaged. Such townships, aside from infrastructure, rarely ranked Privatist-style economic development as a high priority. Even today, townships, compared to other governmental forms, towns are the least involved in sub-state economic development—leaving that policy area to higher levels of government.
The New England system was not applied uniformly in states settled by the Yankee Diaspora. The Yankee Diaspora spread into lands governed by another state (New York), or was shared with settlers from the Midlands and Scotch-Irish. Middle Atlantic States developed their own style of sub-state governance reflecting their New Netherlands, Greater Appalachia, and Midlands political cultures. As Midwest states set up their initial government and state constitution, the structures incorporated into their state constitutions reflect influences from different first settlement cultures, tempered by the nature of constitution-making, a process naturally dominated by elites. Consider the Wisconsin constitution approved in 1848 (still in effect today).
Wisconsin counties, absent a court system, possessed considerable autonomy from the state, and were robustly empowered to assume responsibility for many policy areas (enjoying powers relevant to economic development, for instance). Yet, Wisconsin townships adopted New England town meetings, highly prioritized road and bridge infrastructure, while providing indigent residents baseline medical care and funeral expenses. Fiscal affairs, however, were a “complicated mix of state-county-township revenue-raising and spending”. (Russo, 2001, pp. 103-104) From this example, it is evident that development of various sub-state systems came early in economic development history, thus having ample time to harden into distinct patterns that subtlety affect contemporary policy-making. Wisconsin was a typical example of the patchwork blend of administrative cultural experiences.
[iv] A new work, Colin C. Calloway, The Indian World of George Washington, Oxford University Press, 2018) literally opens up the topic of Washington as real estate speculator, city-builder, and ridden with conflicts of interest, President and formulator of Native American “foreign policy”–war and conquest. His 1791 St Clair Expedition into northwest Ohio was destroyed. The 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua between the United States and the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederation opened up Upstate New York for Holland Land Company settlement. The 1795 Treaty of Greenville, with the twelve tribes of the Western Confederacy failed miserably. But Calloway deals comprehensively with the multi-faceted Native American relations, with extensive information applicable to ED in the South as well as North.
[v] http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/winter13/washington.cfm[v] http://lehrmaninstitute.org/history/founders-land.html[v] http://lehrmaninstitute.org/history/founders-land.html
[vi] Robert Silsby, the Holland Land Company in Western New York. Volume VIII, Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.
[viii] Eric Monkkonen, America Becomes Urban: the Development of U.S. Cities and Towns 1780-1980 (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1988), p. 63.
[ix] London Times, March 30, 1874; quoted in Carter Goodrich, Government Promotion of American Canals and Railroads, 1800-1890 (Columbia University Press, 1960), reprinted by Greenwood Press, Westport CT, 1974, p. 10.
[x] Carter Goodrich, Government Promotion of American Canals and Railroads, 1800-1890 (Columbia University Press, 1960), reprinted by Greenwood Press, Westport CT, 1974, p. 9.
[xx] Several recent books present material and commentary on Washington as an economic developer. In particular, I suggest Colin Calloway, the Indian World of George Washington (Oxford, 2018). Washington’s western real estate assembly and speculation, an early American land developer role, was fraught with relationships with Native Americans, relationships that may, or may not, stand the test of time. .
[ix]This Washington ED tale comes from Martin Doyle’s, the Source (2018), pp. 19-23. In 1784, after his retirement as commander-in-chief, fifty-two year old Washington settled back in to Mount Vernon and his old preoccupations. Western expansion was his then-hot button. So he took a little trip out west from Sept 1 to October 4. Up the Potomac to Cumberland, he proceeded on foot (and portage) into Ohio regions, across the Appalachians, and then toward (PA) Monongahela River–about 680 miles. Primarily surveying, he also was plotting the best routes to penetrate into the interior. Recognizing that this route crossed through three states, he was preparing legislation for Articles of Confederation approval.
One night, at an obscure place now called George’s Creek (edge of the Appalachians) he met with settlers in a small cabin to ask for input on his project. Apparently most were deferential to Washington’s ideas, except for one young Swiss-immigrant survey who was out there doing his thing on his own.
The immigrant in a clumsy French accent in no uncertain terms told Washington he was wrong–pointing out what he regarded as the best route. Washington was not happy, stared at him, looked down for some time, looked up and said “You are right sir“. The next morning he offered the Swiss surveyor a job as his manager of western properties. True to the French side of his nature, the surveyor turned Washington down flatly.
Seventeen years later, Albert Gallatin, became Secretary of the Treasury for fourteen-years under three presidents (1801-1814), serving on the 1812-ending Treaty of Ghent, and founding the Second Bank of the United States. We will return to Gallatin in Theme 3 Module Series A: Module 1
Returning after this rebuff to Mount Vernon, Washington prepared the legislation for approval by the Articles of Confederation legislature. He got nowhere. Venting to Jefferson, he complained that dealing with interstate commerce within the confines of the Articles was impossible given the “incertitude” of its members that were present and the reality that most were not even present. So in 1785, as a first step he gathered delegates from Maryland and Virginia to nail down navigation and development along the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay. The so-called “Mount Vernon Compact” was then approved by both state legislatures.
One of the participants at the Mount Vernon meeting, a gentleman named James Madison suggested that a meeting of the thirteen colonies should be convened to tackle the interstate commerce issues. In September 1786 that meeting was held in Annapolis. There Washington advanced legislation to create a “Potomac Company”, a federal development EDO to develop the river and adjoining regions. He failed yet again. With the third time as charm, however, they agreed to meet yet one more time, in 1787 in Philadelphia. The interstate agenda was expanded considerably at that meeting–today it is known as the “Constitutional Convention” that drafted a new Constitution for the United States of America.
Who would have “thunk” economic development was so instrumental to the formation of our nation?