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ed the different states of agriculture in the two countries, in a great degree to the following obvious principles. In Great Britain, land was dear, and labour cheap. In America the reverse took place to such a degree, that manuring land was comparatively neglected, on the mistaken, short. sighted idea, that it was cheaper to clear and cultivate new fields, than to improve and repair such as were old. To this radical error, which led to idleness and a vagabond dispersed population, he opposed the whole weight of his influence. His example and recommendations tended to revolutionize the agriculture of his country, as his valour had revolutionized its government.
The extension of inland navigation occupied much of Washington's attention, at this period of exemption from public cares.
Soon after peace was proclaimed, he made a tour as far west as Pittsburgh, and also traversed the western parts of New England and New York, and examined for himself the difficulties of bringing the trade of the west to different points on the Atlantic. Pos. sessed of an accurate knowledge of the subject, he corresponded with the governors of different states, and other influential characters. To them he suggested the propriety of making by public authority, an appointment of commissioners of integrity and ability, whose duty it should be, after ac. curate examination, to ascertain the nearest and best portages between such of the eastern and western rivers as headed near to each other, though they ran in opposite directions; and also to trace the rivers west of the Ohio, to their sources and mouths, as they respectively emptied either into the Ohio, or the lakes of Canada, and to make an accurate map of the whole, with observations on the impediments to be overcome, and the advantages to be acquired on the completion of the work.
The views of Washington in advocating the extension of inland navigation were grand, and magnificent. He considered it as an effectual mean of cementing the union of the states. In bis letter to the Governor of Virginia he observed, " I need not remark to you, sir, that the flasks and rear of the United States are possessed by other powers, and formidable ones too; nor need I press cessity of applying the cement of interest to bind all parts of the union together by "indissoluble bonds; especially of binding that part of it which lies immediately west of us, to the middle states. For what ties, let me ask, should we have upon those people ; how entirely unconnected with them shall we be, and what troubles may we not appre. hend, if the Spaniards on their right, and Great Britain on their left, instead of throwing impediments in their way as they do noiv, should hold out lures for their trade and alliance? When they get strength, which will be sooner than most people conceive, what will be the consequence of their having forined close commercial connexions with both or either of those powers? It needs not, in my opinion, the gift of prophecy to foretell.” After stating the same thing to a meinber of Congress, he proceeds, “ It may be asked, how we are to prevent this ? Happily for us the way is plain. Our immediate interests, as well as remote
political advantages, point to it; whilst a combination of circumstances render the present time more favourable than any other to accomplish it. Extend the inland navigation of the castern waters; communicate them as near as possible with those which run westward ; open these to the Ohio; open also such as extend from the Ohio toward lake Erie ; and we shall not only draw the produce of the western settlers, but the peltry and fur trade of the lakes also, to our ports ; thus adding an immense increase to our exports, and bind. ing those people to us by a chain which never can be broken."
The Virginia legislature acted on the recommendation of Gen. Washington, to the extent of his wishes ; and in consequence thereof, works of the greatest utility have been nearly accomplished. They went one step farther, and by a legislative act vested in him, at the expense of the state, one hundred and fisty shares in the navigation of the rivers Potowmac and James. The act for this pur. pose was introduced with the following preamble ; 6. Whereas it is the desire of the representatives of this commonwealth, to embrace every suitable occasion of testifying their sense of the unexampled merits of George Washington, Esq. toward bis country; and it is their wish in particular that those great works for its improvement, which, both as springing from the liberty which he has been so instrumental in establishing, and as encouraged by his patronage, will be durable monuments of his glory, may be made monuments also of the gratitude of his country. Be it enacted,” &e.
To the friend who conveyed to Washington the first intelligence of this bill, he replied, “ It is not easy for me to decide, by which my mind was most affected upon the receipt of your letter of the sixth instant, surprise or gratitude.
Both were greater than I bad words to express. The attention and good wishes which the assembly have evidenced by their act for vesting in me one hundred and fifty shares in the navigation of the rivers Potowmac and James, is more than mere compliment. There is an unequivocal and substantial meaning annexed. But believe me, sir, no circumstance has happened since I left the walks of public life, which has so much embarrassed me. On the one hand, I consider this act as a noble and unequivocal proof of the good opinion, the affection, and disposition of my country to serve me ; and I should be hurt, if by declining the acceptance of it, my refusal should be construed into disrespect or the smallest slight upon the generaus intention of the legislature, or that an ostentatious display of disinterestedness or public virtue was the source of refusai.
" On the other hand, it is really my wish to have my mind and my actions, which are the result of reflection, as free and independent as the air, that I may be more at liberty to express my sentiments, and if necessary to suggest what may occur to me under the fullest conviction, that although my judgment may be arraigned, there will be no suspicion that sinister motives had the smallest influence in the suggestion. Not content then with the bare consciousness of my having, in all this navigation business, acted upon the clearest con
viction of the political importance of the measure, I would wish that every individual who may bear that it was a favourite plan of mine, may know also that I had no other motive for promoting it than the advantage of which I conceived it would be productive to the union at large, and to this state in particular, by cementing the eastern and western territory together ; at the same time, that it will give vigour to and increase our commerce, and be a convenience to our citizens.
“ How would this matter be viewed then by the
eye of the world, and what opinion would be formed when it comes to be related that G......... W.......... exerted himself to effect this work, and that (....... W...........n has received twenty thousand dollars, and five thousand pounds sterling of the public money as an interest therein ? Would not this, if I am entitled to any merit for the part I have performed, and without it there is no foundation for the act, deprive me of the principal thing which is laudable in my conduct? Would it not in some respects be considered in the same light as a pension ? And would not the apprehensions of this induce me to offer my sentiments in future with the more reluctance? In a word, under whatever pretence, and however customary these gratuities may be in other countries, should I not thenceforward be considered as a dependent ? One moment's thought of which would give me more pain, than I should receive pleasure from the product of all the tolls, was every farthing of them vestid in me.”
To the Governor of the state, on receiving from him an official copy of the aforesaid act, Washington replied as follows ;