Open main menu

Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/189

This page needs to be proofread.


HISTORY OF RAILWAY TRANSPORTATION 181 terprise. He urged the construction of it out of direct ap- propriations, claiming that the sales of public lands would be so stimulated that "in less than one year from the marking out of the line more than thirty millions would be poured into the treasury. . . Furthermore, he held that "its vast rev- enues," under government operation, "would not only enable the government, after paying off the cost, to relieve the coun- try of the burden of almost every tax, whether imposed or otherwise, but afford a surplus. . . ," 1 The result of turning this national duty, as he regarded it, over to private enterprise would, as he contended, be initially a great fraud perpetrated upon the unsuspecting public in the first wave of excitement caused by a demonstration in a formal beginning of construction ; later, if the work was prosecuted at all, a monopoly of menacing proportions would be de- veloped, probably under the control of a foreign government. All this criticism was directed against Whitney's project. 2 Wilkes pressed his project for a "national railroad" vigor- ously. It was submitted to Congress in December, 1845. A memorial by him "praying for an expression from the legis- lature of Oregon to the Senate and House of Representa- tives on the subject of his project of a national railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean . . ." reached that territory in September, 1846. It elicited favorable comment and brought out resolutions adopted at a public meeting held in Oregon City, soon after the receipt of his memorial and pamphlet from the East. The main suggestion looking toward co-operation with him was for the sending of a delegate to Washington to support the Wilkes project along with Ore- gon interests pertaining grants of lands for the early settlers and for "nothing short of 54 degrees and 40 minutes north" for the boundary of Oregon territory on the north. 3 In Congress, the Committee on Roads and Canals, to whom the Wilkes memorial, "with numerous petitions and memorials i Wilkes, "The History of Oregon, Geographical and Political," reprinted in "The Washington Historical Quarterly," Vol. II, pp. 190-192. 2lbid., pp. 277-279. 3Oregon Spectator, September 3, 17, and October 3, 1846.