Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/299

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

fact of his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt was as a Moses leading the people from an "oppressed and degraded state of commerce" in which they found themselves beleaguered, as did their forebears a century and a quarter before. Nearly all the water craft of the river system were assembled; railways abandoned schedules and stopped freight traffic to accommodate specials; entire towns were evacuated that the inhabitants might gather on the river front. On the average each river town—Keokuk, Quincy, Hannibal, Louisiana, St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Ste. Genevieve, Cairo, Memphis, and the rest—showed more spectators standing out to salute the presidential party than its entire population; while day and night the air was rent with acclamations of voice, steam whistle, shrieking siren, salvo of guns, and roar and rattle of fireworks.

Individual members of the commission, singly or in groups, studied the Ohio, the upper Missouri and its tributaries, the vast Columbia Valley and Puget Sound, the California rivers, Rio Colorado, the streams of the Gulf slope, and the waters and projects of the Atlantic slope. And the interest of citizens grew in every state, until the autumn of 1907 produced such a crop of conventions and such a volume of support for waterway improvement as no other peaceful issue ever evoked. The Irrigation Congress in Sacramento in September; the Lakes-to-Gulf meeting at Memphis, the Upper Mississippi Improvement convention at Moline, the Interstate Waterway convention at Victoria (Texas), and the celebration of the opening of Hennepin Canal at Sterling, in October; the Trans-Mississippi Congress at Muskogee, the Atlantic Deeper Waterway conference at Philadelphia, the Drainage Congress at Baltimore, the Gulf State Waterway convention at Birmingham, and the Ohio Improvement Association meeting at Wheeling, in November; the National Rivers and Harbors Congress at Washington in December—these were among the national or interstate conventions devoted either primarily or secondarily to waterway improvement and attended by hundreds or thousands of delegates from every state and territory and representing every industrial and public interest of the country during the closing months of 1907. And state executives have commenced to combine not only with their constituents but with each other; at Sacramento there were five governors, at Memphis eighteen, at Muskogee and Washington half a dozen each and at several others from one to three.

Nor is this the end: Under their broad instructions the commission found it needful to consider not merely the improvement of our rivers but the use and conservation of related resources; and deeming the proper administration of these a duty devolving jointly on the nation and the states, they asked the president to follow Washington's example by invoking the advice of our several co-sovereignties in a conference on