Chester A. Arthur photo

Special Message

January 08, 1884

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I submit a communication from the governor of the State of Illinois, with a copy of an act of the general assembly of that State tendering to the United States the cession of the Illinois and Michigan Canal upon condition that it shall be enlarged and maintained as a national waterway for commercial purposes.

The proposed cession is an element of the subject which Congress had under consideration in directing by the act of August 2, 1882, a survey for a canal from a point on the Illinois River at or near the town of Hennepin by the most practicable route to the Mississippi River at or above the city of Rock Island, the canal to be not less than 70 feet wide at the water line and not less than 7 feet in depth of water, and with capacity for vessels of at least 280 tons burden; and also a survey of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and an estimate of the cost of enlarging it to the dimensions of the proposed canal between Hennepin and the Mississippi River.

The surveys ordered in the above act have been completed and the report upon them is included in the last annual report of the Secretary of War, and a copy is herewith submitted. It is estimated in the report that by the enlargement of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the construction of the proposed canal by the shortest route between Hennepin and the Mississippi River a direct and convenient thoroughfare for vessels of 280 tons burden may be opened from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan at a cost of $8,110,286.65, and that the annual charge for maintenance would be $138,600.

It appears from these papers that the estimated yield of corn, wheat, and oats for 1882 in the States of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, and Nebraska was more than 1,000,000,000 bushels. It is claimed that if the cheap water transportation route which is now continuous from the Atlantic Ocean to Chicago is extended to the Upper Mississippi by such a canal a great benefit in the reduction of freight charges would result to the people of the Upper Mississippi Valley, whose productions I have only partly noted, not only upon their own shipments, but upon the articles of commerce used by them, which are now taken from the Eastern States by water only as far as Chicago.

As a matter of great interest, especially to the citizens of that part of the country, I commend the general subject to your consideration.


Chester A. Arthur, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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