Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/293

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY



APRIL, 1908



OUR INLAND WATERWAYS
By W J McGEE, LL.D.
U. S. INLAND WATERWAYS COMMISSIONER (SECRETARY OF THE COMMISSION)

WE are in the throes of our second waterway agitation. The movement extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, and involves every state and territory. The first agitation followed hard on the Revolution, and in far-reaching effect shared with the Declaration of Independence the distinction of opening the most important era in American history; the present agitation seems to promise a peaceful yet potent revolution in our material progress and in appreciation of the fundamental elements of national character and strength.

 

The Early Agitation and its Results

When the American colonies revolted against a tax imposed by a foreign monarchy the pendulum of feeling swung far toward purely local self-government throughout independent states. Yet within five years after the states were established and loosely confederated, questions of interstate relations arose; and when George Washington and others foresaw the increasing importance of commerce, and sought to develop the requisite facilities in connection with the typical interstate Potomac River, they induced Virginia and Maryland jointly to create a commission to devise plans of procedure. This was our original Inland Waterways Commission, the prototype, too, of the Interstate Commerce Commission; it represented the first recurrent swing of the pendulum toward interdependent organization. The commissioners met at Alexandria in March, 1785, and adjourned to Mount Vernon as Washington's guests. Obstacles arose, especially in the prevailing sentiment for supreme state autonomy; and with the view of increasing