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Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/191

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HISTORY OF RAILWAY TRANSPORTATION 183 of steamboat navigation on these rivers could be brought with- in 150 miles of each other. Over this distance "the goods of India and of China may be transported ... in many ways, as they are light and of sufficient value to justify the expense." The committee fell in with the idea of Senator Benton and earnestly recommended to the House a bill making provision for a survey to ascertain the feasibility of the pass between the headwaters of the Missouri and those of the Columbia and for determining the practicability of the improvement of those rivers for navigation. "If this route," they say, "upon examination, proves impracticable, the committee greatly fear that a cheap, safe, and speedy communication with our posses- sions upon the Pacific, through the territories we now own, may not reasonably be expected to be obtained for many years." 1 While several expressions in the report of this com- mittee are quite significant, at least on the position of the committee itself, it is to be noted that the prize of the trade with the Orient figures as the dominant motive rather than the binding of the Oregon country closely with the remainder of the nation. Wilkes' strictures on Whitney's project seemed only to in- cite the latter to more vigorous efforts to secure a charter and land grant for the road. He was before Congress with me- morials in 1845, 1846 and again in 1848. The Committee of the House on Roads and Canals, or a majority of it, if the language of its report is to be accepted as evidence, was brought to the point of simply worshipping the man and his project. "Much deference is due," they say, "to one who has so long, and with such effect, devoted himself to this great object, and who has in these labors compassed sea and land, traversed the globe, passed through the states of the Union again and again, and himself penetrated eight hundred miles of the almost trackless route which he thinks most expedient to be adopted." 2 Again, they express their sense of the backing of Whitney in i Ibid., p. 6. 2 Whitney's Railroad to the Pacific, reports of committees, 3ist Congress, first session, House of Representatives, No. 140, p. a (Ser. No. 583).