The reading, The Artificial River The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress by Carol Sheriff, discusses in chapter 3 and chapter 4 about the advantages and disadvantages of the Erie Canal. For instance, the advantages in the canal were that it was now possible to emigrate inward west, commerce, and made communication easier. The reason why anyone hardly emigrated west was because the cost of moving essential items such as stoves and furniture were too high. Chapter 3 was titled Reducing distance and time which is exactly what the canal did. The canal significantly reduced the time of travel by one third and that reduced the cost it took to move goods such as lumber or wheat. The canal even made communicating easier. Letters would reach loved ones as well. Another advantage that the canal had was the amount of opportunity it presented. americans in the west had access to luxury items such as tea and the east had access to other goods. The canal also created jobs in the construction of the canal.
Although the canal was viewed as a " vehicle for communing with nature and as a symbol of American ingenuity" it also had its disadvantages. Nathaniel Hawthorne recounts that " the canals technology as a threat to America's special geography and moral destiny , as encouragement of too much civilization." This meant that the more access to move westward the more overcrowding there would be. whuch exactly what happened on the canal itself. If a boat would sink then other boats would be stuck until the boat was repaired or removed. one of the biggest drawbacks of the canal was that the canal was not operational at least 5 months out of the year during the winter. The frozen water would put a halt in the travel, commerce and communication.
In the discussion in class after reading chapter 3 and 4, even though the canal had significant drawbacks; it was still better than having to transport by wagon. Another question that was brought up was about the railroad and why no one had thought to use that but the railroad had not made an appearance yet that could cross country he country and also the time it would take to build it. In the meantime the canal was available to meet their goals and learn to evolve from the disadvantages.
The question the I have remaining is if the canal presented hazards and restrictions traveling by water then would that limit the freedom of Americans; one of our basic rights?