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GEOKGE K. RAUDZENS The Military Impact on CanadianCanals,1815-25 IMMEDIATELY alter the War of I812 soldiers and businessmen in Canada turnedto canalbuilding.For the militarythe lesson of the war yearswas that if the Americansattackedagain,nothingbeyondMontreal couldbe defended without new water communications. Canadian businessmen thought theyneeded internalimprovements to maintainandexpandinland markets in faceofAmericancompetition. Neithergrouphadenough money to attain theseobjects. After Waterlooa Parliamentobsessed with costcuttingwasdetermined to reduce expenditures in thecolonies. Thus,soldiers withdefence projects andthecapital-starved Canadian business community combined their interests for a time. If the militarycouldshowthat monies spent by Parliament on defence couldalsoexpandCanadian commerceandthusaugment imperial prosperity - andif thebusinessmen could thereby gain fundsto supplement what development capitaltheyhad or could attractfromprivateBritishor American sources, bothgroups mightattain theirgoals. Boththerefore framedrequests toLondonaccordingly, andboth enjoyed partialsuccess; thoughat a timewhenWellington loomed large evenoverParliament the soldiers werethe moresuccessful. x Their gains, however, cameat the expense of commercial development, for onlywith I Historians whohavewrittenaboutmilitarycanalconstruction in the 1815-25 periodhaveseenBritishactivityaspreliminary to thebuildingof theRideau Canalbutgenerally havenotpointedoutin detailthe efforts of soldiers and governors to starttheOttawacanalproject.For example, seeH.P. Hill, 'TheConstruction oftheRideauCanal,•826-1832,' OntarioHistorical Society, Papers andRecords, xxa, 1925,I i7-24; H.P. Hill, 'Lieutenant Colonel JohnBy, A Biography,' RoyalEngineers Iournal,xx.xa, Dec. 1932 , 52a-5; RobertLegget, RideauWaterway(Toronto1955),PP.a1-33;G.P.deT.Glazebrook, A History o!Transportation inCanada (rev.ed.,Toronto1964) ,1,59-96 Vol. •.lVNo 3 September I973 274 THE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW substantial imperialfinancecouldthe Canadians havehopedto keepup with themuchwealthierAmericans duringthisvital canal-building era. Zealous soldiers succeeded where businessmen faltered because their influenceon government wasmore direct.When WellingtonstatedBritain was'honourbound'to pay the costs of imperialdefence, he expressed an obligation accepted by bothtight-fisted Treasuryand Commons? It was agreed thestanding American menace justified improved Canadian defences -but how much, where, and when?Initially, the soldiers askedfor too muchtoosoon.They demanded a safewaterroutefromthe seato Upper Canadavia the Ottawa and Rideaurivers.This ambitious requesthad to bemodified. Theytherefore pointed outthattheCanadians werewillingto payfor canalsleadingto Upper Canada.WouldTreasurycontribute just enough to adaptthe civiliancanals to militaryneeds? Whenthissmallsum wasgranted,bit by bit thesoldiers extracted moreandmore,pushing works up the OttawaRiveronthepretextthat the Canadians wished to improve thisrouteratherthan the St Lawrence.By •825 thesemilitarypromoters askedfor the Rideau Canal to complete the system, for by then all the moneyspenton the Ottawawouldbewasted withoutit. The civilians did get someimperialfundswhichaidedtheir St Lawrence seaway projects; but thesoldiers diverted mostof thismoneyup theOttawa.Astheydid so, theNewYorkers werecompleting theirErieCanal. During the War of 1812 the milkary transportation crisisfirstproduced schemes to improvethe St Lawrence route.For example, in June18•4 the administrator of Upper Canada,Lieutenant-General GordonDrummond, urgedthat the St Lawrence canalsshouldbe expanded? The following November Commissary-General W.H. Robinson proposed a similarproject. In particularhewanteda canalto bypass theLachinerapidsat Montreal. He requested that a 'Scientific Director,acquainted with CanalMakingi.n England,'shouldbe broughtto Canadaas soonas possible to startthis work. 4Robinson's proposed Lach'me Canalwouldeliminate thefirstbarrier to navigation westof Montreal,a barrierthat hampered access notonlyto the St Lawrencebut alsoto the Ottawa. In DecemberI8• 4 Lieutenant- • Wellingtonto Bathurst,i March I8•9, o•)45/335, ScottishRecordOffice [SRO]; Kenneth Bourne, BritainandtheBalance o[Power inNorthAmerica, •8•5-•9o8 (London1967),pp.33-6;J.MackayHitsman,Saleguarding Canada, •765-•87• (TorontoI968), pp. I z7-•o; C.P. Stacey, CanadaandtheBritish Army,•846-•87• (rev.ed.,Toronto•963), p. 14 3 Drummond to Prevost, •6 June•814,RO8, c38 , PublicArchives of Canada [PAC], pp. 85-6 4 Robinson to Prevost, x4Nov. •8x4,co4•/x57, PublicRecordOffice[rRO], PP. 355--7 THE MILITARY IMPACT ON CANADIAN CANALS 275 Colonel 'RedGeorge' Macdondl putforward hisideathatit waspossible andhighly desirable tobuilda military supply routeusing theOttawaand Rideauwaterways. If UpperCanadawasto beheldin •8x5, an OttawaRideauroutesecured by a barrierof untamedwilderness from American interdiction wasessential. Drummond and the governor-in-chief, Prevost, putfull support behind Macdonell's planandfromthispointonward the soldiers linked Robinson's Lachine scheme not with the St Lawrence but with the Ottawa and Rideau route.5 By •4 Februaryx8•5 the deputycommissary-general, I.W. Clarke, suggested to Robinsonthat while they waited for a scientific man from England, theyshould begina preliminary survey of theproposed Lachine canalline soconstruction couldbeginassoonasofficialsanction arrived? An officer wasassigned to thisduty, 7andat thesame timePrevost wroteto LordBathurst stating that hehadsubmitted theLachineplanto theLower Canadian legislature. The Canadians, apparently thinkingof civilianimprovements alongthe St Lawrenceroute,had becomesoenthusiastic they votedto contribute œ25,ooo towardtheexecution oftheplanif theimperial government agreedto carry it forward...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 273-286
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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