Mr. Whitney's Railroad

Asa Whitney's plans for a transcontinetal railroad were met alternately with scorn and acclaim. Whitney anticipated a United States as the central point for international trade; harbors on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts would be fed by rail lines criss-crossing the country, moving goods for import and export easily across country.

Mr. Whitney's Railroad.

We publish below a communication on this subject by an intelligent member of Congress, who has, we know, given much attention to the features of the plan proposed. The means of opening a more direct and expeditious communication than any which now exists with the Territories of the United States on the Pacific have for some time engaged the public attention, and the public mind has settled down into the belief that such a communication is absolutely necessary. We cannot give our support to a government work, even in order to accomplish so desirable a result; and we therefore invite attention to those schemes which do not require a departure from the constitution in that particular.

For the Union.
The Whitney Railroad.

Under this head I am pleased to notice in your paper of yesterday (Dec. 15) an extract from the Philadelphia Inquirer, containing a very short and explicit explanation of Mr. Whitney's great plan for a free railroad to the Pacific, and naming its great advantages to the nation, from the low rates of tolls both for passengers and merchandise, which could be attained only from its being exempt from the necessity of earning the interest on its cost; which fact should be considered as the grand principle on which the success of the work must depend, and can be accomplished only on Mr. Whitney's plan, which I think must be obvious to all who may take the time to examine the subject; because, were the road to be built by the government, then the necessary means-not less than $200,000,000-must be borrowed, and the people would not be willing to sink its cost, and submit to perpetual taxation to meet the interest thereon. Or, were it to be built by a chartered company, furnishing its own means, it would in both cases be the same: the interest on the outlay must be earned by the road, else it could not be kept up; and a rate of tolls equal to meet that interest, together with the expenses for operation and repairs for a road of such length, would be far too high for the business expected upon it. This is a consideration of vast importance, and should not be overlooked; for on it depends the complete success or total failure of the greatest and most important project ever brought before the world.

There are also vastly important considerations which can be attained only by Mr. Whitney's plan, and which the editor of the Inquirer has not noticed-one of which is the carrying of the mails to California and Oregon.

Mr. Whitney's bill provides that the United States mails, &c., shall be transported free of charge. Just look at the immense saving to the nation in this alone. See the enormous sums now being paid, and which will be increased every year, for the mails and other transportation by the way of Panama, as well as for extraordinary expenses for agents, &c, all of which would pass on this road without costing the nation one dollar

I hope the editor of the Inquirer is correct, "that a highly favorable feeling does exist," and also that Congress will act promptly upon it; for certainly "now is the time."

It is now proposed to give the lands to actual settlers, which I have no doubt will be done. Where, then, can be the objection to selling them to build this road?-when, too, the building of the road will be the best and surest means of getting them settled, so as to render them of any value to either the settler or to the nation; because the building of the road would give employment to and furnish means for the settler to pay for whatever land he might require, and the road would take his products to market at rates for transport which would return a handsome reward for his labor, placing him far better off than to have land, free of cost, without the road; and it would cause both the settler and the land to become a source of wealth to the nation.

Myself, with many other citizens, (yes, I may say almost the entire country, if I may judge from what I have seen, from the public press, and other expressions,) are deeply interested in this great enterprise; and with the people there seems, with few exceptions, to be but one opinion: they understand it, and desire its immediate adoption. But I find that in Congress it is not understood, except in the committees which have examined it. The cause of this I cannot ascertain, except it is that members are so much occupied that they do not get time to examine subjects any faster than brought up for action. But I do hope that this vastly important subject may not be allowed to sleep in Congress any longer. A very little discussion, with a proper disposition to understand, would make all the members familiar with it; and I believe it would be found to be so simple, and still promising such vast and beneficial results, that there would be found few, if any, to oppose it.

Mr. Whitney, the originator of the plan, having devoted so many years to it, must understand the whole subject in all its bearings. He makes the proposition to the nation, which places the subject in an entirely different position from an offer for proposals from the government: it is his proposal, his plan, and his detail, and he is certainly better qualified to explain them than any other person. I therefore hope that a proposition will be made for Congress to grant him the use of the Hall of Representatives for an evening, when he can have an opportunity to explain all his plans and views, not only to the members of Congress, but to all who take an interest in the subject and desire to hear him.

M. C.

About this Document

  • Date: December 16, 1847