The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 1AN ACT GRANTING FEDERAL LAND FOR CANAL PURPOSES
March 2, 1827
This facsimile is of a copy of an act passed by the United States Congress, approved by President John Quincy Adams, and transmitted to the State of Illinois. An earlier federal act passed in 1822 had provided the state the actual canal route and ninety feet of public lands on each side of it as an inducement for Illinois to undertake this important internal improvement. A canal connecting the Great Lakes to the Illinois River and thus the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico had the potential of profoundly affecting national and international trade and commerce as well as affording the United States military a means by which it could reach and defend much of the nation's northwestern border.
This 1827 act was significantly more generous in the land grant it offered in that it provided the state alternate sections of land extending five miles out from each side of the proposed canal. In all this was to amount to some 284,000 acres of public lands. The donation was considered generous at the time it was made and it proved to be a precedent in the federal government's commitment to the project.
For a map of the completed canal route, see Exhibit A.
Points to Consider
Why was the United States Congress granting land to the State of Illinois?
Ultimately which two major bodies of water would have been linked by this proposed canal?
Which benefits was the canal expected to afford and to whom?
Provide arguments for and against the involvement of the United States government and the State of Illinois in canal construction.