Economic Nationalism and Sectionalism * December 26, 1812
Let the importance attached by men best acquainted with the subject to the commerce of the West attest its value. The exertions which other States appear to be making to secure it will probably awaken the attention of Virginia to that part of it which should naturally belong to her.
There is still another aspect in which this subject deserves to be viewed.
That intimate connection which generally attends free commercial intercourse, the strong ties which are formed by mutual interest, and the interchange of good offices, bind together individuals of different counties, and are well calculated to cherish those friendly sentiments, those amicable dispositions which at present unite Virginia to a considerable portion of the Western people. At all times, the cultivation of these dispositions must be desirable; but, in the vicissitude of human affairs, in that mysterious future, which is in reserve, and is yet hidden from us, events may occur to render their preservation too valuable to be estimated in dollars and cents.
The advantages which may result to Virginia from opening this communication with the western country will be shared in common with her by the states of Kentucky & Ohio. . . .
The proposition that a nation finds its true interest in multiplying its channels of importation, admitting them to be equally convenient, is believed to be uncontrovertible. In addition to those arguments in support of this proposition which belong to every case, the situation of the western states suggest some which are peculiar to themselves, and which well deserve their consideration.
The whole of that extensive and fertile country, a country increasing in wealth and population with a rapidity which baffles calculation, must make its importations up the Mississippi alone, or through the Atlantic states. . . .
Should the navigation of James river be rendered as safe & easy as may be reasonably expected, and the Greenbrier and New rivers to improved in such manner as the object will justify, your commissioners believe they hazard nothing in saying that the expense of transporting one hundred weight from Richmond to the mouth of the Great Kanawha will not exceed half the price of transporting the same weight from Baltimore or Philadelphia to the same place.
The immense works meditated in New-York will certainly, if executed, give to that State great advantages in a competition for the trade of the lakes. But if other convenient and more direct channels be opened, it is not probable that the commerce of the Ohio will take the circuitous route by the lakes.
The expense of transportation from New-York through the canal contemplated can only be conjectured. The character of the rivers which would be used is not well understood; but they must possess many advantages, to give them a preference over the direct way through Virginia to the Ohio. . . .
The advantages to accrue to the United States, from opening this new channel of intercourse between the eastern and western States, are those which necessarily result to the whole body from whatever benefits its members, and those which must result to the United States, particularly, from every measure which tends to cement more closely their union of the eastern with the western states.