The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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January 29, 1833

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The board of canal commissioners had been formed by the General Assembly in 1829 to oversee the establishment of a canal route, the selection of federal lands adjacent to it as provided by the U.S. Congress, and the construction of the canal itself. The commissioners had in 1829 found a route and selected those adjacent lands to which the state was entitled. It held the first sales of selected lands in 1830 at Springfield and then Chicago (see document 3 and document 5). Receipts totaled $13,704.64. Sales held in 1831 brought only $500.23 and ones held in 1832 raised $4,594.00, so at the end of 1832 total land sale revenue amounted to $18,789.87. (The figures provided in document 7 are not entirely correct.) Unfortunately the canal commissioners' expenses for this period totaled $15,973.07, leaving a net balance of only $2,825.80.

By this time it was being debated in public forums whether or not a railroad might be a more efficient means of linking Lake Michigan to the Illinois River. The General Assembly abolished the canal commissioners with an act approved February 15, 1831 and the project for a time was left in limbo. When Chicago was incorporated as a town in 1833 its population numbered approximately 350.

Points to Consider

Why was the state legislature inquiring as to the amount of canal lands sold and the price they had brought?
Why had a town been laid out at Ottawa and why were its lots not selling as well as those at Chicago?
What was the total sum raised from the sale of canal town lots and rural acres? Was $18,924.83 a sufficient sum with which to construct a canal connecting Lake Michigan to the Illinois River in 1833?
Why had more revenue been raised from selling rural acreage than by selling town lots?

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