Philadelphia’s influence also declined with the construction and final operation of the Erie Canal. This gave an inland waterway from Albany to Buffalo and made New York City the major port of entry and the business center of the country. Transportation costs and time drastically reduced. All people had to do was take the Hudson River to Albany and from there to the Great Lakes and beyond. This was our first major public works project and a precedent for the federal government’s support for transportation.
As with the movement of the capital to Washington, a big compromise resulted in the canal. The election of 1800 was our first real Presidential Election. It was a bitter partisan affair involving three candidates-John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Aaron Burr. The electoral count quickly eliminated Adams resulting in a Jefferson-Burr contest. The result was undecided for months. As you know, ballot counting was primitive and many people tried to sway the electors.
Up stepped Alexander Hamilton who ultimately decided the outcome. While detesting both men, Hamilton knew Burr was a scheming demagogue who might the destroy our new country with alliances in Europe. In a statesmanlike act, Hamilton threw his support to arch-foe Jefferson and this decided the issue. Jefferson was declared the winner only weeks before the March 4, 1801 inauguration day; or should we say deadline. Jefferson had a hold on the country but it was tenuous at best in the north. The stage was set for the Hamilton and Burr duel.
Midway in his first term, President Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison traveled to the Finger Lakes in New York. Jefferson told the press that it was to study different species of butterflies. I think the press, with the tense climate in Washington, knew something was up. There they met Governor Dewitt Clinton from New York. In return for Clinton’s support for his administrations policies and reelection in 1804, Jefferson promised federal funds to build a canal between Buffalo and and Albany. If memory serves, the Erie Canal began operations around 1815 and continued into the 1820s.
The Erie Canal made New York the largest city in the country. Its population today is greater than 44 states. I will mention later various trends that began in New York. Partly because of the Eire Canal, Thomas Jefferson is one our greatest Presidents; and Philadelphia’s business and influence declined.