QUEBEC, 12th August, 1854.
SIR,-As you have been pleased to signify your willingness to undertake the duties connected with the location of the contemplated line of Canal between the River St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain, in the performance of which the Commissioners of this Department were most desirous to have the benefit of the counsel and experience of a gentleman of such admitted high standing, it now becomes necessary that you should be informed as to the points upon which your opinion and advice are more immediately sought for.
The advantages to this Province which are calculated upon from the construction of this Canal are fully set forth in the Annual Report of this Department to the Legislature for the year 1852, in pages 32 to 38. A copy of this Report is herewith transmitted. By reference to it you will perceive that the objects aimed at are :
To enable our Canals to compete successfully with the Erie Canals, and the Railways on the south bank of the St. Lawrence, in the transport of property to and from the Atlantic seaboard in the United States, and with the Western States and Canada.
To furnish a cheaper, quicker, and (from reduced transhipments) a more desirable route to the great trade which passes between tide water in the Hudson River, the Railways in New England and the City of New York, on the one hand, and the Western States and Canada, on the other; and thus to bring traffic and tolls to the St. Lawrence Canals, which, by the competition of the Oswego and Erie Canals, and the Ogdensburg and other Railways, and the want of an efficient connection between them and Lake Champlain, obtain scarcely any of the transit trade between the Atlantic and the Western States or Canada.
To enhance the value of one of our great staple exports (lumber,) by furnishing a direct, cheap, and capacious connection between the great lumbering districts of the Ottawa the Upper and Lower St. Lawrence, and the greatest lumber mart in the world, that of Albany and Troy.
By connecting Lake Champlain with the St. Lawrence upon an efficient scale, to open the districts upon that Lake to the sea, via Quebec, and afford them a shorter and cheaper route for imports of coal, iron, salt, fish, oil, &c., which articles can be had [sic] down at Quebec at cheaper rates than at any other American port, in consequence of the larger amount of tonnage entering inwards in ballast.
Such were some of the principal objects considered attainable by the construction of this work, in 1852, when the Report alluded to was written; but the Commissioners are of opinion that the altered circumstances under which the Province will be placed by the passing of the Reciprocity Act, and the opening of the River St. Lawrence to our American neighbours, afford increased and strong grounds for belief in the great importance of this work for the development of the resources of the country.
Your views upon the points embraced in the foregoing are particularly requested, especially with respect to the trade of the Great West, its channels, whether in use or in course of construction, the changes that are likely to take place in a great portion of it, as regards its transport eastward by the Lakes and Rivers, instead of down the Mississippi, upon the completion of the several lines of navigation and railways leading from the interior to those Lakes; and the probable proportion of it which may be induced down the proposed Canal, for the supply of the Eastern States, the West Indies, &c.
Your opinion also as to how far such trade may be interfered with, or competition formed by the several lines of Railway north and south of the Lakes and Rivers, now made, or in course of construction, will also be considered valuable, not only from your intimate knowledge of that trade and section of country, but as President of an important Railway there.
The next point on which your well-considered opinion is requested is the general location of the line, and particularly its terminus on the St. Lawrence. Upon this much difference of opinion exists, traceable, in a great measure, to the separate or local interests of the several sections of the Province.
As the Commissioners desire that this question shall be decided unbiasedly, and solely upon grounds connected with the accommodation and facilities for the contemplated trade, together with the engineering difficulties or otherwise, which may be found to exist, it is well merely to state that some advocate the line to start from Sane Point, on the Beauharnois Canal, thereby, as they suppose, to carry such a level as would overcome the summit between the two waters at the least expense; others urge the selection of Caughnawaga, opposite the head of the Lachine Canal, as being the place most convenient for the Ottawa trade. The interests of Montreal naturally desire its commencement at some point opposite or a little below that city, the population, trade and importance of which must necessarily command due attention; and, finally, there is a party who consider that the route of the Richelieu River should be that decided on.
The third point to which your attention is requested is as to the depth of water and dimensions of the Lock and Canal which it may be in your opinion the most advisable to adopt; and an approximate estimate of the cost of the work, the nature of the trade to be calculated on, the class of vessels suited for it, the capacity of the present Canals, and the capabilities of the harbours on the Lakes, will, no doubt, materially govern your decision on this point, which is more important, as by the scale of this Canal will be determined also that of the enlargement or new branch of the Welland Canal, a work which, it is believed, must be undertaken at no distant day.
It is most desirable that your Report should be received at as early a day as the efficient discharge of the duty will permit, with a view to which you will make such arrangements as you may deem expedient.I am, Sir,
Your most obedient servant,
(Signed,) J. CHABOT,
Chief Commissioner Public Works.
J. B. Jarvis, Esquire,
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