Economic Sectionalism and Nationalism * March 15, 1784
Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 15 March 1784*
. . . the deed for the cession of Western territory by Virginia was executed & accepted on the 1st instant. I hope our country will of herself determine to cede still further to the meridian of the mouth of the Great Kanhaway. further she cannot govern . . . ; the union of this navigation with that of the Patowmac is a subject on which I mentioned that I would take the liberty of writing to you. I am sure it's value and practicability are both well known to you. this is the moment however for seizing it if ever we mean to have it. all the world is becoming commercial. was it practicable to keep our new empire separated from them we might indulge ourselves in speculating whether commerce contributes to the happiness of mankind. but we cannot separate ourselves from them. our citizens have had too full a taste of the comforts furnished by the arts & manufactures to be debarred the use of them. we must then in our own defense endeavor to share as large a portion as we can of this modern source of wealth & power. that offered to us from the Western country is under a competition between the Hudson, the Patomac & the Mississippi itself. . . . nature then has declared in favor of the Patowmac, and through that channel offers to pour into our lap the whole commerce of the Western world. but unfortunately the channel by the Hudson is already open & known in practice; ours is still to be opened. this is the moment in which the trade of the West will begin to get into motion and to take it's direction. it behooves us then to open our doors to it.
George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 29 March 1784
. . . My opinion coincides perfectly with yours respecting the practicability of an easy, & short communication between the waters of the Ohio & Potomack, of all the advantages of that communication & the preference it has over all others. . . .
More than ten years ago I was struck with the importance of it, & despairing of any aid from the public, I became a principal mover of a Bill to empower a number of subscribers to undertake, at their own expense . . . the extension of the Navigation from tide water to Will's Creek (about 150 miles). . . . To get this business in motion, I was obliged, even upon that ground, to comprehend James River, in order to remove the jealousies which arose from the attempt to extend the Navigation of the Potomack. . . .
In this situation things were when I took command of the Army the War afterwards called Mens attention to different objects and all the money they could or would raise, were applied to other purposes; but with you, I am satisfied not a moment ought to be lost in recommencing the business; for I know the Yorkers will delay no time to remove every obstacle in the way of the other communication. . . .
I will not enter upon the subject of Commerce It has its advantages & disadvantages, but which of them preponderates is not the question. From Trade our Citizens will not be restrained, and therefore it behooves us to place it in the most convenient channels, under proper regulation freed, as much as possible, from those vices which luxury, the consequence of wealth and power, naturally introduce.