Thomas Mann Randolph to Nicholas P. Trist
|Dear Sir,||march 30. 1825.|
With your permission I will give you in writing my reply to the objections which you inform me are made to my vote on the James & Shanhawa River and Road Bill in the House of Delegates last session. I have constantly complained, when ever the subject was mentioned, of the inequality of the James River tolls. Taking bulk, weight, and average value of the three main products Tobacco & Wheat including flour, and assuming either as a standard with the first old rate of toll, still paid it will be found that Tobacco is at least one half, and Wheat about one fourth lower than Flour. Let every man calculate for himself. Find the circumscribed [. . .] angular solid figure to the Cylinder formed by the standard Hogshead and Barrell, for that is the true stowage of each; the space between the cylinders made [. . .] by the bilge circles and the height [. . .] is lost in Boats. Find the sum of the cubic contents of five Winchester bushels and place added together. Take the weight and average value in commerce, as it that is now settled down, of the three articles. assume the toll hitherto and still paid upon either for a standard and the Rule of Three will demonstrate Alabour, in somewhat diminishing the corn culture through the substitute afforded by a fall of Wheat. I anticipate a remark that the quantity of Tobacco refused and sold very low affects the result of the foregoing calculation by diminishing the average value, and I reply that for Albemarle I am willing the refused Tobacco should be included, and to other Counties I observe that the advantage of being able to sell his chaff for something, enjoyed by the Planter over the Farmer, is no trifle in his favor, when the capacity for bearing public burthens is in question. Allthough I had this [. . .] ancient impression, accompanied with a desire to have some agency, in our equalization, constantly on my mind. nevertheless I was opposed to an absolute increase of tolls in as a member of the Committee of Road and internal navigation. I would have preferred taking Tobacco as the standard myself & [. . .] it, but the majority of 131 to 43 on that question & sessions the Ryder without change shews how determined the House was [. . .] the small majority of 102 to 88 shews how willing members now part of the State [. . .] more to humour the new malcontents in abandoning the whole scheme even though 800.000 $ had been expended for it . In the House I voted against that resolution in the report of the Committee notwithstanding the amendment to it by Colonel Lowell, which struck out the sum of 20.000 $. proposed in it to be raised by additional tolls. I voted against the addition to the Bill of the clause by way of Ryder containing the increased rates. I steadily voted with Mr Garland in all his unavailing endeavours to amend the Ryder. on Mr McRaes motion to postpone the Bill and Ryder indefinitely, I did not vote at all, for my judgement would not permit me to vote against a Bill which involved the reputation for consistency of the state, while it bore along with it the most-important interests of the whole extensive valley of James River above the Blue ridge, and of all the valley of Shanhawa. I voted with Mr Garland against the motion of Mr Col[. . .]ton, that the main question on engrossing the Ryder be now put, and 3 voted against engrossing the Ryder. But 2 voted ultimately for the Bill, with the Ryder, when 3 found the House determined neither to amend or separate it. The vote for the primary question was 136 to 43. on the passage of the Bill it was 102 to 88. I did say that I had expected the senate would amend the Ryder by calculating the tolls, which had been arbitrarily imposed without sufficient calculation. When the Bill came back from the senate I said so while endeavouring still to procure amendments by a new Bill and not before. I am perfectly satisfied that I voted as the County would have instructed me if it had convened for the purpose. It is my principle to support the sectional interest untill a fair compromise of all interests is agreed to by a majority, and upon that principle something must be yielded: the less the better I admit; but the general interest is allso a great County interests must not be abandoned from personal apprehensions. The County will not pay one additional cent by way of toll untill the lower section of the Canal is navigable, which cannot be for several years yet, & may not be sooner than the Blue ridge section; in the mean time a revision and equalization of the new tolls is very certain to take place. No one acquainted with the river can in candour have a doubt about the advantage of the lower section when complete, to the upper Counties. Maidens adventure will become a place of Deposits, the freight from and to which in decked vessels of 25 tons will be as low as that on the New York Canal, and the slave Boatmen will return home without visiting Richmond. Farmers on a large scale may then save nearly the whole freight without the complicated mischief of delay, theft, and risk of small pox meazles &c. My view of the James River navigation has never altered in the least. While a member of the Board of Public Works early in 1819 I insisted on the plan by short sections of Canal with locks at dangerous places only, and sluices elsewhere. I acted sincerely with an overpowering majority for a continued canal untill a call for three millions at one time once in January 1824, at a time when the scheme was fast becoming hopeless from the manifest want of knowledge on the subject & the obviously obvious blunders committed, forced me to separate. all then agreed to undertake the Blue Ridge section, finish the lower and stop, for a time at-least; which I have ever believed was first suggested by myself. Last Winter those all along in favor of a continued canal suddenly came to the resolution of abandoning the whole scheme of improvements including the Shawhana road in the state all then stood, from their manner and speeches in and out of the House I say so; unless their own grand magnificent plan should be prosecuted, whatever might be the cost. I determined at-once, without hezitation, to remain on my old ground, yet I am now charged with inconsistency and they are triumphing. The County will decide deliberately but I cannot believe myself wrong untill their decision. Ever render the command of the County when its Will is clearly manifested I never can be under the controlling influence of a family interest—, or a distinct class of men or of the busy and overbearing few who sometimes undertake to declare the Public Will which they unknowingly confound with their own.