The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


The details you are so good as to give me on the subject of the navigation of the waters of the Potomac and Ohio, are very pleasing to me, as I consider the union of these two rivers, as among the strongest links of connection between the eastern and western sides of our confederacy. It will, moreover, add to the commerce of Virginia, in particular, all the upper parts of the Ohio and its waters. Another vast object, and of much less difficulty, is to add, also, all the country on the lakes and their waters. This would enlarge our field immensely, and would certainly be effected by a union of the upper waters of the Ohio and Lake Erie The Big Beaver and Cuyahoga offer the most direct line, and according to information I received from General Hand, and which I had the honor of writing you in the year 1783, the streams in that neighborhood head in lagoons, and the country is flat. With respect to the doubts which you say are entertained by some, whether the upper waters of Potomac can be rendered capable of navigation on account of the falls and rugged banks, they are answered, by observing, that it is reduced to a maxim, that whenever there is water enough to float a batteau, there may be navigation for a batteau. Canals and locks may be necessary, and they are expensive; but I hardly know what expense would be too great, for the object in question. Probably, negotiations with the Indians, perhaps even settlement, must precede the execution of the Cuyahoga canal. The States of Maryland and Virginia should make a common object of it. The navigation, again, between Elizabeth River and the Sound, is of vast importance, and in my opinion, it is much better that these should be done at public than private expense.

to George Washington, 10 May 1789