I believe that Carol Sheriff's main argument in chapter one was that the Erie Canal was the product of American values and an example of why America was unique among other countries in the world. Sheriff talks a bit about the Scottish immigrant, Mary Ann Archbald, and uses her to demonstrate the mindset and desires of citizens during the time prior to the canal's building. They wanted to engage in long-distance because they believed that wealth and morality came from the same source of virtue; but they were unable to due to America's poor transportation system. The Erie Canal was considered the technological wonder of its day because it was thought to be nothing more than a dream. The Erie Canal not only showed the world the potential that America held, but that they could make dreams into a reality.
Sheriff allows us to view the canal project from the view of its advocates and critics. DeWitt Clinton for supporters and Jeffersonians for critics, though views lean more towards Clinton. One view that has yet to be seen at this point is the rest of the world. The Erie Canal was one of America's greatest accomplishments at a point in history where America was believed to fail. Hearing Europe's thoughts before and after the Canal was built would be very interesting to me.
During the class, we were given two pictures to observe, one was right after the canal was completed, and the other was five years after the canal was built. In the span of five years, farms and small communities were created along the canal due to the profits that using the canal brought. My class was also shown a short clip with historians talking about the Erie Canal and if memory serves, the amount of money farmers and traders needed to spend for travel went from $100 to $6. What these two events suggest to me is that the Erie Canal was far more profitable than I had originally thought.
One question that I asked in class was "why were Americans so eager to trade with Britain when it hasn't been long since the American Revolution and the War of 1812?" The answer to my question was, if memory serves, that Americans were more concerned with making profits than holding grudges against a former enemy. America was in debt and they need to pay their debts, whether the money came from an ally or former enemy was the least of their concerns. Well seeing as we're still here, it was a good decision.