Open main menu

Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/190

This page needs to be proofread.

182 . F. G. YOUNG upon the subject of constructing a railroad . . ." had been referred on July 13, 1846, made what amounted to an adverse report. In this report it is first noted that Congress has un- questionable constitutional power "to grant the prayer of the petitioners, by proceeding to construct a thoroughfare from a point west of the State of Missouri to the mouth of the Co- lumbia River, for military, for post office and for commercial purposes." Furthermore, "upon the importance of the Amer- ican commerce and trade in the Pacific Ocean," there was "the same pleasing unanimity of opinion. Of its present and prospective value more than one hundred members of Congress, and a far greater number of editors and pamphleteers and essay- ists, and bookmakers have treated in a manner more or less elaborate, within the last five years." To indicate the posi- tion taken by the committee in their report, they go on to say, "All consider it (American trade in the Pacific) large, growing and worthy of proper and reasonable encouragement. If confined within suitable limits, measures tending to foster and promote this trade and commerce, will, it is believed, be decidedly popular with all classes of citizens. While the pru- dent and sober-minded would, probably, be unwilling to see the revenues or the property of the nation pledged, or in any wise committed to the construction of a costly railroad of some 2,800 or 3,000 miles in length, stretching across vast un- inhabited prairies and lofty mountains, involving an original outlay of at least a hundred millions of dollars, and a large annual cost for superintendence and repairs, it is believed they w -ild cheerfully assist to open an eligible avenue, if one could be assured at a small cost compared with the object sought to be realized." 1 The committee had examined quite carefully Colonel Fremont's report of his explorations and had consulted Colonel Benton on the matter of the "best commercial route to Oregon." Senator Benton had suggested the improvement of the Missouri to the Great Falls and also of the Columbia and the Clark's Fork. By so doing the limits i" Railroad to the Pacific Ocean," reports of committees, sgth Congress, first session, House of Representatives, No. 773, pp. i (Ser. No. 491).