Bold Endeavors: How Our Government Built America, and Why It Must Rebuild Now

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9781416533139: Bold Endeavors: How Our Government Built America, and Why It Must Rebuild Now

Bold Endeavors is a compelling narrative of ten large and transformative events in American history. It is an absorbing journey through the past as we read about determined national leaders - Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Eisenhower - who found the will, steadiness, and political acumen to make decisions that were often unpopular but that proved to be visionary - decisions that are the building blocks of America's destiny. Rohatyn begins with the diplomatic intrigues of the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the country; moves to the controversial construction of the Erie Canal, which opened a water route to the West; then continues to Lincoln's resolute support for the transcontinental railroad, Land Grant colleges, and the Homestead Act; documents the strategy - and ruthless determination - that built the Panama Canal; details the visionary and pragmatic politics that allowed FDR to bring electricity to rural America and use the Reconstruction Finance Act to help pull the country from the grip of the Depression; captures the foresight of national purpose which led to the G.I. Bill, which propelled the nation forward; and describes the creation of the interstate highway system that modernized America. Bold Endeavors is an urgent call for present-day action in this time of grave national crisis. "The nation is falling apart - literally" Rohatyn warns. "America's roads and bridges, schools and hospitals, airports and roadways, ports and dams, water lines and air control systems - the country's entire infrastructure is rapidly and dangerously deteriorating" To reverse this catastrophic degeneration and create tens of thousands of new jobs, Rohatyn offers a carefully reasoned and practical solution. Bold and imaginative political leadership must use the power and the resources of the federal government to finance the rebuilding of the nation's infrastructure.

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About the Author:

Felix Rohatyn, a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, was a managing director at the investment banking firm Lazard Freres & Co. LLC and served as the U.S. ambassador to France. From 1975 to 1993, Mr. Rohatyn was chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation of the State of New York, where he managed the negotiations that enabled New York City to resolve its financial crisis.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

TWO

The Erie Canal

STANDING ON THE BANKS of the Mohawk River, Cadwallader Colden watched with fascination as the snaking line of birch-bark canoes made their swift way upstream toward Oneida Lake. As the Indians rhythmically plunged their paddles into the water on that afternoon in 1724, an idea began to take shape in the scientist's mind.

Colden, educated at Edinburgh University, had come to America from his native Ireland at the request of the governor of New York Province to do a geographical survey of western New York and at the same time report on relations between the French colonialists and the local Indian tribes. As he journeyed across the rugged country and observed, Colden was struck by the ingenuity the Indians used to deliver their furs to the French. Setting out from Albany, they'd carry their goods a short 16 miles overland to Schenectady and the Mohawk River; then they'd paddle their canoes upriver to Oneida Lake; until they'd finally drift, as he wrote, "with the current down the Onondoga [now the Ostwego] River to Lake Ontario." The Indians, Colden realized with admiration, had devised an easily navigable, calm water route through the Appalachian Mountains. And this shortcut sparked his thoughts.

Why not, he decided in a burst of inspiration, create a trail of waterways from the industries of the eastern seaboard to the rich wilderness of the Northwest territories? Why not connect the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean by a path of integrated rivers? Such a water route, he began to see with increasing clarity, would be a quick and economical highway that would carry people and trade back and forth between the eastern colonies and the natural bounty in the New World's frontier. It would be, he felt certain, the path that would encourage the colonies to spread westward.

It was not until nearly one hundred years later, in 1817, when the first trenches for this interconnecting waterway were dug, that Colden's practical vision would begin to be transformed into a reality. And after the 363-mile Erie Canal was completed eight years later, this swift path from the Hudson River to Lake Erie, a route that, as the inaugural proclamation announced, "wedded the waters" between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, would have consequences far beyond Colden's original expectations. Not only did this waterway open the western frontier, but it was crucial to New York City's becoming the nation's chief port and one of the world's great metropolitan centers.

The canal was a state-funded engineering marvel that demonstrated, as the eighty-year- old former president Thomas Jefferson observed, "the capability of nations to execute great enterprises." The success of the Erie Canal helped further establish the precedent that a visionary and innovative government can finance and build significant projects that will dramatically improve the nation's wealth and quality of life.

Yet the creation of the Erie Canal is also a history of tenacity, a century-long tale of perseverance by far-seeing, resolute, inventive, and often stubborn individuals. It is the story of leaders who were inspired by the originality of Colden's insight; and who, with this possibility firmly rooted in their imagination, refused to surrender to any of the obstacles that either a shortsighted Politics or a malicious Nature put in the way of what they believed was in the best interests of the nation.

GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS WORRIED. Although he was no longer president, he had not abandoned his concern for the nation he had helped create. Out of office, in retirement, he grew anxious about the country's future.

For the United States to survive and prosper, the former president believed the country would need to develop its western territories. No less troubling, he feared that if America did not firmly establish its ties to the settlers in these frontier lands, then European powers would colonize the West. The opportunity to expand the country across the continent would be lost.

It was essential that government begin "applying the cement of interest," Washington insisted in a 1785 letter to Patrick Henry, the governor of Virginia, "to bind all parts of the Union together by indispensable bonds -- especially of binding that part of it which lies immediately west of us, to the middle States." And a canal, Washington believed with passion, would be "the cement" that would firmly and indispensably bond the western lands to the rest of America.

With President Jefferson's encouragement, Washington formed the Patowmack Company to build a canal along the Potomac River (as it is now known). It would run from Alexandria, Virginia, and continue westward through the mountains beyond the nation's capital.

It was an inspired idea, and it had influential and well-known supporters. Nevertheless, the project was immediately besieged by managerial, labor, and financial problems. When Washington died in 1799, an already troubled company began to unravel. Still, the Patowmack Company managed to flounder on until, at last, it went bankrupt in 1810.

Yet despite all its problems and its ultimate failure, the Patowmack Company had succeeded in popularizing the former president's original vision: A canal tying the East to the western territories was vital to the new republic's future.

AS THE IDEA OF a Potomac canal began to attract supporters in Virginia, Christopher Colles, an Irish immigrant to America, tried to apply his practical experience to the building of an interconnecting waterway based in New York. In Ireland, Colles had worked on improving navigation on the Shannon River; now he hoped to use this expertise to benefit his new homeland.

While Washington was busy trying to attract investors to his Patowmack Company, Colles went off to make an impressively detailed survey of New York's waterways. When he was finished, Colles presented his findings to the New York state legislature; unlike the former president, he believed that government, not private individuals, should finance the construction of a system that would play such an integral part in the further development of the new nation.

The paper that Colles presented to the legislature in 1784 was entitled "Proposals for the Speedy Settlement of the Vast and Unappropriated Lands of the Western Frontiers of New York, and for the Improvement of the Inland Navigation Between Albany and Oswego." Although its title was long-winded, Colles's paper was a succinct, well-reasoned call for practical action. It emphasized the advantages of travel on the calm Mohawk River waters, and detailed the economic benefits that would result from a canal that connected the nation's seacoast to its interior. Insightfully, Colles bolstered his argument by pointing out the military advantages in such a canal. "In times of war," he wrote, "provisions and military stores may be moved with facility in sufficient quantity to answer any emergency."

The legislature listened attentively to Colles's presentation, but in the end refused to allocate funds. Still, his carefully presented ideas got the citizens and politicians of New York State thinking. Perhaps, they began increasingly to reflect, a canal did make sense.

NEW YORK STATE SENATOR Philip Schuyler had been particularly intrigued by Colles's argument for a canal. More important, he was an influential voice in the legislature. A scion of New York's Dutch aristocracy and father-in- law of Alexander Hamilton, Schuyler had served in the Provincial Army in the 1750s and then went on to become a fabled Continental Army general during the Revolution. After independence, he was elected to the New York State Senate.

It was in 1791 when he was a state senator that Schuyler was approached by Elkanah Watson. Watson, part adventurer, part entrepreneur, had returned to the United States after running a business in France. Upon his arrival in Virginia, Watson had a chance encounter with former president George Washington. Washington talked enthusiastically to the young man about his plan for a Potomac River Canal. It was this small conversation, Watson would later say, that first kindled "a canal flame in my mind."

Six years later, Watson, now living in Albany, New York, and helping to organize a local bank, led an expedition to explore the possibility of building a canal that would connect the Hudson River to Lake Erie. Once his report on the trip was completed, the affable Watson, a man with a unique ability to align himself with celebrated mentors, presented it to Schuyler.

Schuyler, whose interest in a canal had first been prodded years earlier by Colles, read Watson's paper with a growing enthusiasm. By the time he was finished, Schuyler was convinced that Watson's plan for two canals -- one from the Hudson to Lake Ontario, the other from the Hudson to Lake Champlain -- was both inspired and practical. He was determined to help. Schuyler used his considerable influence to convince the state senate to finance two enterprises -- the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company and the Northern Inland Lock Navigation Company -- that together would construct the two canals. The canals were never built. And in time, the companies quietly went out of business. Nevertheless, the collaboration between Schuyler and Watson had established a principle that would prove significant: New York State was willing to finance a canal.

AFTER THE DISMAL FAILURES of the two lock navigation companies, the public and political support for a New York canal seemed to disappear. For over a decade the project was largely ignored, and further political efforts were abandoned. But then, in 1807, it was suddenly revitalized. From the depths of debtors' prison, a voice reached out and once again captured people's imagination and ignited their enthusiasm.

Jesse Hawley was a western New York flour merchant whose business had collapsed because of his inability to make timely shipments to his customers. Both the rough upstate roads and the choppy Mohawk River had proved to be unmanageable routes; his ...

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Book Description Simon & Schuster. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 272 pages. Dimensions: 8.9in. x 6.0in. x 0.7in.Bold Endeavors is a compelling narrative of ten large and transformative events in American history. It is an absorbing journey through the past as we read about determined national leaders - Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Eisenhower - who found the will, steadiness, and political acumen to make decisions that were often unpopular but that proved to be visionary - decisions that are the building blocks of Americas destiny. Rohatyn begins with the diplomatic intrigues of the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the country; moves to the controversial construction of the Erie Canal, which opened a water route to the West; then continues to Lincolns resolute support for the transcontinental railroad, Land Grant colleges, and the Homestead Act; documents the strategy - and ruthless determination - that built the Panama Canal; details the visionary and pragmatic politics that allowed FDR to bring electricity to rural America and use the Reconstruction Finance Act to help pull the country from the grip of the Depression; captures the foresight of national purpose which led to the G. I. Bill, which propelled the nation forward; and describes the creation of the interstate highway system that modernized America. Bold Endeavors is an urgent call for present-day action in this time of grave national crisis. The nation is falling apart - literally Rohatyn warns. Americas roads and bridges, schools and hospitals, airports and roadways, ports and dams, water lines and air control systems - the countrys entire infrastructure is rapidly and dangerously deteriorating To reverse this catastrophic degeneration and create tens of thousands of new jobs, Rohatyn offers a carefully reasoned and practical solution. Bold and imaginative political leadership must use the power and the resources of the federal government to finance the rebuilding of the nations infrastructure. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9781416533139

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