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Letter of Hon. David Wing, Jr., on accepting the office of Secretary of
State. To the Honourable Abel Spencer Esq.
Speaker of the General Assembly of the State of Vermont. Sir,-Impressed with a lively sense of the honor conferred on me by the general assembly, in appointing me to the office of Secretary of State, I return therefor my sincere and grateful thanks. When I consider the importance of the office, and my own qualifications, it is with much diffidence I accept the appointment. I consider it very unfortunate for me, that I receive the appointment on the resignation of a man, who has filled the office for a number of years, with the universal approbation of the state; for any error of mine in the execution of the office, will of course be more glaring in the view of the public. However, I Hatter myself, that every unintentional error I may commit, will be excused by the candid and honest.
D. WING, Jun. Burlington, Oct. 18, 1802.
DAVID WING, Jr., was born in Rochester, Mass. June 24 1766, came to Montpelier about 1790, and for twelve years served as town clerk, town representative, and judge of the county court, and then was elected to the secretaryship. To this oflice he was annuallly re-elected until his death, Sept. 13 1806. By his capacity, integrity, and gentlemanly manners, he became one of the most popular of the public men of the State; of which the fact that, while he was a Federalist in politics, Republican legislatures retained him constantly in office, is ample proof. Had he lived, he doubtless would have been employed in many higher offices.See D. P. Thompson's History of Montpelier, pp. 175-177.
For other papers see as follows: Address of the Council of Censors to the General Assembly, ante, p. 46; Letters of resignation by Gamaliel Painter, ante, p. 95—Truman Squier, ante, p. 173–Gen. William Chamberlain, ante, p. 239—and Luke Knoulton, ante, p. 271.
INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS, ON LAND AND WATER.
A very large proportion of the acts of the legislature, in the period covered by this volume, levied taxes on the proprietors of land in the new towns in the State, to raise money to be expended in building and repairing roads and bridges — the purpose and effect being to impose a portion of these burdens upon the owners, both resident and non-resident, of the land to be benefitted by the expenditure ; but at the same time, by a general statute, each male person, (clergymen and teachers excepted,) between the ages of twenty-one and sixty years, was required to work out, on the highways, a tax of sixteen shillings annually.' In some special cases lotteries were authorized, the proceeds of which were used in the construction of roads and bridges which were either unusually expensive or of more than local benefit. Within the same period, turnpikes were provided for by acts of incorporation ; and the exclusive right to run stages and maintain ferries was in some instances granted.
CHAMPLAIN CANAL, AND NAVIGATION OF CONNECTICUT RIVER.
While these necessary works of internal improvement were going on --- and the multitude of them made the expense very heavy, – there was an equal necesssity for avenues of transportation out of the Stale, and especially to the seaboard, and it is found that to this matter public attention was turned with more interest and zeal than it had been, at an earlier date, to Ira Allen's project of a canal from the river St. Lawrence to lake Champlain. The earliest allusion to this subject in Vermont is the following in the Vermont Gazette of Sept. 6, 1790:8
Acts of March 8 1787, and Nov. 1 1792. . See Vol. III, pp. 407-420.
3 About 1784, perhaps later, William Gilliland, of Willsborough, N. Y., wrote as follows:
The region of both sides of Lake Champlain, is now a well inhabited country, and the lands amazingly advanced in value even at present.
BENNINGTON, September 6. A correspondent from the county of Rutland informs, that the plan of opening a water communication between Lake Champlain and Hudson's river, has become a subject of much conversation in that and the northern counties of this state. A company of gentlemen in that part of the country have agreed to make an excursion a few weeks hence, for the purpose of examining the ground between Fort Anne and Hudson's river, and determining the practicability of the scheme, by actual mensuration, if necessary. Our correspondent adds, that the practicability cannot be doubted, if a stream of water can be found sufficient to supply a canal, capable of being brought on to the highest ground in the course. Wood Creek is boatable from Lake Champlain to Fort Anne, fifteen miles, except the falls at Whitehall, which may easily be locked ; from Fort Anne to the Hudson is twelve or fourteen miles through a level country:
The advantages to be derived from the accomplishment of such an undertaking, to the fertile country adjacent to Lake Champlain, are almost inconceivably great ; and the addition of 150 miles inland navigation, through the most fertile and thriving country in this part of America, to the present commercial advantages of New York, will give them a decided superiority in trade to any place in the union. It is apprehended, should the execution of the scheme be found possible, by actual survey, the expensiveness of the undertaking will be no obstacle to its accomplishment. It is an object worthy the attention not only of individuals, but the legislatures both of New York and Vermont.
This was more than a year before, in March 1792, Gen. PHILIP SCHUYLER, aided materially by ELKANAH WATSON, procured from New York the charter of the Western and Northern Inland Lock Navigation Companies, which were the precursors of both the present Erie and the Champlain canals.'
Simultaneously with this project in western Vermont, in eastern the improvement of Connecticut river for navigable purposes was consid
How much more valuable will they become, when an Inland navigation will be made from sea to sea, which it is expected will be completed in less than two years from this time.-See Winslow C. Watson's Champlain Valley, pp. 196-198.
a common error.
Mr. Watson construes this as meaning a canal from Lake Champlain to IIudson's River, which was not entered upon until 1792, and even the most brilliant imagination could hardly conceive the probability of its construction in two years. Perhaps Gilliland's word was ten, misread “two,"
It seems to be more probable that Mr. Gilliland had in mind Ira Allen's projected canal between Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence river, the survey of which was actually completed in 1785. -See Ira Allen's History of Vermont, in Vt. Hist. Soc. Collections, Vol. 1, pp. 472, 477-480. On either hypothesis, Gilliland undoubtedly somewhat interested and intluenced his Vermont neighbors on the eastern shore of the Lake. Ilis enterprises were large, and his associations with Vermont intimate.
See Men and Times of the Revolution, by Elkanah Watson, pp. 316–331.
ered, and at the October session of the legislature of 1791, the following was one of the articles of business assigned for that session:
10th. That the Legislature take into consideration the expediency of opening a communication between the waters of Lake Champlain and Hudson's river-and also of rendering the navigation of Connecticut river more easy and advantageous.
This article was committed to Messrs. Arad Hunt of Hinsdale (Vernon,] Jonathan Robinson of Bennington, Roger Enos then of Hartland, Matthew Lyon of Fairhaven, Gamaliel Painter of Middlebury, William Dennison of Strafford, and Ira Allen of Colchester; and Jonathan Arnold was joined from the Council. Oct. 31 this committee made a report in respect to the proposed Champlain canal, which report was tabled for the time then being, and no notice is found of any subsequent action thereon in the journal of the Assembly, nor was the report printed. It is probable that the report was favorable to the scheme, but recommended no definite action, as New York, within the limits of which the whole work was to be done, had not then authorized it. On the same day, the House passed a bill entitled "An act granting to William Page, [then of Charlestown, N. H., tinally of Rutland,] Lewis R. Morris [of Springfield,) and their associates, their heirs, and assigns, forever, the exclusive privilege of locking Bellows Falls.” This act fixed the tolls for thirty-two years; provided that at the end of that period, and every ten years thereafter, the supreme court might reduce the tolls, but not so as to prevent the proprietors from receiving twelve per cent. per annum on their actual expenditure; and made it the duty of the governor to issue a charter to the grantees, " and to incorporate them into a body politic, by the name of the company for rendering Connecticut river navigable by Bellows falls, with such privileges and immunities as may be necessary for the safety and well ordering of said property.” For some reason, and possibly from an unwillingness of the gevernor to exercise the great powers reposed in him by this act, an act of incorporation of the same company was passed in October 1792, which, in addition to the provisions of the first act, authorized the county court by committees to assess damages for lands taken, and for injuries to private property.”
Under the act of New York of March 1792, work was commenced on the Champlain canal in 1793, at Whitehall, and probably elsewhere on
At the next session, Oct. 1792, the governor communicated a letter from William Eaton, relative to this report. Eaton had been clerk of the House in 1791. Iis letter cannot be found.
See Laws of Vermont, Haswell's revision printed in 1791, and Acts of 1792. It is worthy of note that the powers here given to the courts in respect to land damages, and the reduction of tolls, were embraced in the charters for railroads nearly half a century later. The provision as to land damages was undoubtedly derived from the statute as to lands taken for highways.
the line, but was soon discontinued for the reason stated in the following letter : Gen. Philip Schuyler to Gov. Chittenden.'
ALBANY October 17th 1793. Sir,—The legislature of the state of New York has incorporated a company for the purpose of opening a canal and lock navigation from the iide of water of Hudson's river to Lake Champlain. If the object of the Institution is compleated the most extensive benefits will result as well to the citizens of Vermont, as to those of this state. The works have been commenced and were progressing with a pleasing celerity, when they were arrested by the defalcation of many of the stockholders who neglected makeing payment of the Second requisition of twenty five dollars on each share assigning for reasons, that as only 672 shares had been subscribed and the estimated expence amounting to 225000 dollars, each share would amount to about 335 dollars ; this, especially those who held many shares, conceived would be beyond their means. They have however since generally made the required payments, intending to sollicit further aid from the Legislature of this Siate, either by an additional donation to the company, or by taking an extensive number of shares in the stock, and there is little doubt but that relief will be obtained in one or other of these ways.
The directors have been advised that It was probable the Legislature of your state would contribute to this important undertaking, and have requested me to make the above communication,-should aid be extended by your state your Excellency will pardon the liberty I take in suggesting the stipulations which appear to me proper to accompany any free gift-and which will secure Its application to such part of the improvements in which the citizens of Vermont are more immediately interested,-and which are, that the gift should [be] cxclusively appropriated to clearing, straitning and deepning Wood Creek, from the canal and locks now constructing at Skensborough [Whitehall] to that part of said creek where It will be intersected by a canal to be drawn from Hudson's river near Fort Edward, and that the improveinents should be made on such a scale as to admit the passage of vessels of sixty feet in length, ten in breadth, and to draw at least two feet of water, and that If the whole gift is not expended in this improvement the residue to be laid out on the canal to Hudson's river aforesaid, -but If the legislature should prefer to direct the subscription of a number of shares, then nothing more will be necessary than to make provision for the payment of fifty dollars on each share, being the sum paid by the original Subscribers, and to direct the payment of such future requisitions as the directors may call for on each share, in a general requisition upon all the stockholders.
If aid is extended to the company in either way, by the legislature of your state and by this, I am perfectly confident that the improvements may be compleated in five years to carry vessels of the burthen abovementioned, and even larger, from Lake Champlain to the town of Troy. It is certainly needless to detail the advantages which will be derived to
* From the original letter, in Ms. Vermont State Papers, Vol. 24, p. 66. A literal copy is given, with the addition of a few points.
* The Champlain canal, as completed by New York in 1823, was forty feet wide at the surface, twenty-eight feet at the bottom, and four feet in depth.