The Erie Canal

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In The Artificial River, Carol Sheriff describes how when the digging of the Erie Canal began on July 4, 1817, no one would have been able to predict that the canal would even be considered a paradox of progress. One of the major contradictions of progress was whether or not triumphing art over nature was even considered progress. People were not sure during the nineteenth century if changing the environment for industrialization was necessarily a good thing. Another contradiction to progress that resulted from the Erie Canal was when people started holding the state government responsible for all their financial misfortunes. An additional contradiction to progress that the Erie Canal displayed was how many of its workers were either children, or men that lived lives that were intemperate and disrespectful to women. As American history students look back at the Erie Canal today, they generally only imagine how the canal was extraordinary for the residents of New York, but not all the issues and problems it also produced.

People in the northern United States during the early nineteenth century wanted to rapidly industrialize and increase the amount of money they were making. The Erie Canal they believed was a great way to reduce the distance and time of shipping goods to the west. They also realized that the canal would probably increase their markets, which would mean a larger profit. The problem with all of this was how people had to destroy parts of nature in order for this to happen. Nathaniel Hawthorne, a prominent writer during the time, described the canal as “too rapid, unthinking advance of progress.” (57) Hawthorne and his supporters were very upset to see how forests and swamps were being destroyed and ruined in order t...

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... stealing, and sleeping with random women, there was no way they could help make the United States a better place. The commercial class needed such people in order for their own business’s to prosper, yet they still disapproved how the lower class spent its free time. Instead of helping change the lower class’s lifestyle, the commercial class just complained about it.

In conclusion, there were constantly problems arising during the construction of the Erie Canal. Even though the Erie Canal definitely helped boost economic activity and industrialization in Upstate New York, it also caused more and more people becoming reliable on the government. It also helped bring morality and ethics into their everyday decisions. The major hope of the Erie Canal was to make the United States a better country, but there were obviously paradoxes that came along with that goal.
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