180 . F. G. YOUNG During the forties, John Plumbe continues his petitioning and memorializing for a charter and grant of lands. But the representative promoters of a transcontinental railway during this decade were Asa Whitney and George Wilkes, both of New York. Whitney as a merchant had spent some time in China and Japan and became completely taken with the idea of a railroad across the American continent as a means of making "the United States the center and axle of the com- merce of the world" j 1 such a road would "invite an indefinite and incalculable amount of exchanges across the continent, between the Atlantic and the Pacific States, between the At- lantic slope and Eastern Asia, and between Europe and Asia, which could not otherwise be afforded, and which but for this, would never take place." 2 "He gave up business, and with the fanaticism of a Mad Mullah preaching a holy war devoted ten years of his life and all of his fortune to advocating the immediate building of a transcontinental railroad." 3 His plan contemplated individual proprietorship. His re- quest was regularly for a grant of land sixty miles wide throughout the whole length of the road, thirty miles on each side. The Government was, however, to be paid ten cents an acre for this domain of nearly 100,000,000 acres. This scheme of Whitney's represented the extreme of the private ownership with subsidy idea. Other promoters, urging plans involving private ownership relied upon a corporate organization and called for grants of less royal proportions. Whitney expected to finance the building of the road with the returns to be secured from the sales of lands. Such sales were to be achieved through an elaborate process of coloniza- tion conducted as the building was in progress. The promoters under corporate organization depended upon stock subscrip- tions or the loan of the national credit. George Wilkes was, on the other hand, the most active advocate of a transcontinental railway as a government en- iThe reports of committees, 3ist Congress, first session, Vol I, No. 140, p. 3. 2lbid., p. ii. 3Carter, When Railroads Were New, p. 228.
Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/188
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