THE LEGISLATURE OF MISSOURI,
The subject of the Central
JANUARY 3, 1850
Ordered to lie on the table, and be printed.
MEMORIAL to the Congress of the United States on the subject of the
Central Pacific Railroad.
To the Congress of the United States:
Your memorialists, the General Assembly of the State of Missouri, have witnessed with a lively interest the introduction into the Senate of the United States of a bill to provide for the location and construction of a central national railroad from the Pacific ocean to the Mississippi river, with a branch road to the Columbia river. Situated as we are, on the route over which it is presumed this road will necessarily pass; being one of the nearest frontier States of the Union to the shores of the Pacific, and closely connected with the Territory of Oregon and California, by associations resulting from the numerous Missourians who, in past years, have explored and settled those distant lands, this scheme is one which has afforded to your memorialists the utmost pleasure; and in the successful completion thereof their hopes are warmly enlisted. It is due to the character of our government, to the practical usefulness of our institutions, and to the wants of our people, that such a work should be carried into erect at the earliest practicable period. The vast and fertile country now belonging to us on the shores of the Pacific—characterized by varied and salubrious climate—the richest deposits of the precious metals—extensive fisheries, with iron and timber for all the purposes of ship building—adaptation for all the demands of agriculture, and extra ordinary facilities for commerce—must, and ever will continue to invite to its borders much of the capital, industry, and enterprise of the country. To render the advantages of that land available to the whole people of the Union, it is requisite that an easy, cheap, and safe avenue of intercourse should be opened to it. Good roads are not only necessary in time of peace, but are doubly demanded in war; they constitute one of the strongest chains in binding together our glorious Union of sovereign States, wedding industry to trade, enterprise to capital, and cementing not only political but social institutions. Without them the beautiful land laved by the Pacific is in a great measure inaccessible to our citizens: with them, it opens its fertile valleys and rich mines to all. The investigations which have been made, not only by the press of the country, but by scientific and practical men, show that the present routes to the Bay of San Francisco, whether by Cape Horn, across the isthmus of Panama, or across the isthmus of Tehuantepec, are all fraught with serious difficulties; many months are consumed in that most perilous and stormiest of all voyages, the voyage around Cape Horn, and the risk is great. A railroad across the isthmus, between Chagres and Panama, would not be on our own soil; our right to its use would be controlled by the treaty made with the republic of New Granada, in the year 1846, to which the isthmus belongs. By that treaty it is guarantied to the United States that "the right of way or transit across the isthmus of Panama upon any modes of communication that now exist, or that may be hereafter constructed, shall be open and free to the citizens of the United States, for the transportation of any article of produce, manufactures, or merchandise of lawful commerce belonging to the citizens of the United States; subject to the same tolls as may be levied upon and collected from Granadian citizens." Although in a foreign land, and subject to the imposition of uncertain tolls, the enterprise of our citizens has been directed to this point of communication; and, in one of our Atlantic cities a company is now zealously soliciting subscriptions for the purpose of constructing a railroad from Chagres to Panama. The passage by railroad across the isthmus of Tehuantepec would be more than two hundred miles, and would also be in a foreign country. This route would cause much delay and expense, and would be liable to the same objections which would attend the travel across the isthmus of Panama. Both these points—the one between Chagres and Panama, and the other across the isthmus of Tehuantepec—would render the passage tedious and expensive, requiring shipments and reshipments of produce and merchandise. Panama is many degrees of latitude south of San Francisco, and the latter, although somewhat nearer north, would require a long distance to be traversed by sea, ere the Bay of San Francisco could be reached. A glance at the map will show their relative distance, and the area of sea to be navigated. To any candid mind, there is but one inference in the selection of either of these routes; and that is onerous expense, difficulty, and uncertainty. Let either of them be adopted, and our nationality would to a great extent be impaired; a traffic of tolls and disputes thereon, invasions of the rights of our citizens, confiscation of their goods, and oppression over them, under color of revenue laws, would spring up, producing dissensions between us and these foreign governments, and with one of whom, at least, treaties have been regarded, and the laws of nations respected, only when taught to her by our own sword.
Your memorialists are satisfied that this great enterprise should not be intrusted to private individuals nor to associations of men, how large soever might be their capital. Its objects are national, and its execution should be exclusively national, and we do not hesitate to recommend and urge upon your honorable body such legislation, by appropriations of land and money, as may be necessary to carry it into operation. Starting from the Atlantic, following the latitude of the Bay of San Francisco, this great road would sweep through the States of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, a part of Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. St. Louis, now the attractive centre of a vast and increasing trade and the pulsations of whose commercial energy are felt throughout the mighty valley of the Mississippi, naturally presents the proper point at which this road would cross the Mississippi river. Reaching there, it is at once in direct communication with the great valley, with the commerce of the lakes, the Atlantic cities, New Orleans, and the West Indies. From St. Louis the course of the road, on either side of the Missouri river in this State would be through a country admirably adapted to its location, cheapness, facility, and durability of construction. Leaving the borders of this State, its course would be over a country which although uninhabited, by no means presents that howling wilderness and sterile waste which credulity believes to exist there. The truthful and brilliant explorations of Fremont, and the experience of our own mountaineers and trappers, show that the mountains between us and the Pacific are at numerous points crossed with ease, while the vast plains which they wall in, offer the best locations for roads. The terms of sterility and barrenness which have been applied to that intermediate country are alike false and unjust. That land has never felt the redeeming hand of the pioneer, nor has any rill from the mighty stream of emigration ever remained in it.
Let this road be commenced, and donations of lands be made to active settlers, on or near its course, and soon a thriving population will fill those plains and valleys. Your memorialists beg leave to adopt as their views of this great question the arguments, deductions, and illustrations used by their faithful senator, Hon. Thomas H. Benton, in his speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 7th February, 1849, on the introduction by him of a bill to provide for the location and construction of this road; and, as the representatives of the people of Missouri, to pledge all proper State legislation, whether by guarantying a right of way or otherwise, to protect and secure the progress of this work through our borders. The apparent greatness of this undertaking sinks into insignificance when we consider the elastic energy and indomitable perseverance of our people.
The recent war in which we have been engaged, clearly proved that there were no difficulties which we could not surmount, no toilsome marches which we could not overcome, and no territory, how distant soever, which we could not conquer and hold. Peace has its victories, too! And where can there be a more glorious one than the common cement, progress, and completion of such a work as this? From the earliest period of the history of civilization the trade of the East has ever been the dazzling object of mercantile desire, and from it have sprung those cities whose names, familiar as household words, stand forth bright examples of prosperity opulence, and literature, amid the ruins of forgotten empires and decayed States; from the period when the placid waters of the great South sea first met the ardent gaze of Balboa, all Europe has looked to it as offering the best communication with the markets of the East.
England, true to her commercial instincts, has of late years encouraged the construction of a ship canal across the isthmus of Panama, and is adopting every measure to secure to her great mart, London, that trade which has alone built up that gigantic city. We need not refer to the commodious harbors, the golden treasures, the delightful climate of California, and the capabilities of its soil for the pursuits of agriculture; nor need we allude to the influence, by these means, upon the nations of the earth of our free institutions and of the gradual yet certain revolutions which an acquaintance with them must and will work in the social condition of man, teaching him that the people are capable of governing themselves, and this enables them to rescue themselves and their posterity from the curse of monarchy and irresponsible power.
To your honorable body these facts are well known and these inferences properly estimated. For facility of access and safety the harbor of San Francisco is not surpassed by any in the world; and it will form a point on one side for Asiatic commerce, and by means of this road, on the other, for American. The spices and luxurious commodities of the East Indies will be readily and easily exchanged for the manufactures, metals, and agricultural products of our own land, while a new impulse will be given to our shipping interest in the Pacific. The whole course and character of the Atlantic trade will by means of this road be changed; and what monarchs and potentates have failed to achieve, the energy of Republican America will perform. This result is in our own hands. Our flag, unfolded on the shores of the Atlantic, streams from the summits of the Allegheny and Rocky mountains, and only meets the setting sun on the shores of the Pacific. From sea to sea the broad domain is our own, and there is no foreign power near to intrude or molest us. Shall we not now seize the golden opportunity, and, by a liberal expenditure of money and means secure the harvest which will amply repay us; and will not only policy, but sound economy, justify this outlay of national capital? In the language of our senator, Col. Benton, "an American road to India through the heart of our country will revive, upon its line, all the wonders of which we have read, and eclipse them. The western wilderness, from the Pacific to the Mississippi, will start into life under its touch. A long line of cities will grow up existing cities will take a new start. The state of the New World calls for a new road to India, and it is our destiny to give it—the last and the greatest. Let us act up to the greatness of the occasion, and show ourselves worthy of the extraordinary circumstances in which we are placed, by securing, while we can, an American road to India, central and national, for ourselves and our posterity—now and hereafter, for thousands of years to come."
Resolved, That the secretary of state be required to furnish each of the senators and representatives in Congress from this State with a copy of he above memorial.
— Approved March 12, 1849.
Courtesy of the Bruce C. Cooper Collection.