Mammoth Internal Improvement Act of 1836, Briefly

1836. The Indiana General Assembly passed a law so large that it threatened, ultimately, to bankrupt the state. I have covered several projects included in this bill in several other posts. But, you never know exactly what was completely included until you read the whole thing.

Google Books has available quite a few digitized books containing the laws of Indiana passed by the General Assembly. Most of these are small. They vary in size from a little over 100 pages to around 350 or so. But 1836’s book is over 900 pages. Admittedly, there are quite a few pages dedicated to other items, including the creation of several counties. Also, for some reason, the scanned book includes other years’ laws. The Improvements bill is Chapter II, and starts on page 6.

“Chapter II, AN ACT to provide for a general system of Internal Improvements. (Approved January 27, 1836.)” This is the start of one of the largest bills ever passed in Indiana. Sections One through Three cover the creation and organization of the “Board of Internal Improvements.” It consisted of six new members, appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate, and the present Canal Commissioners.

The major part of this bill starts in Section 4, which stated “said Board of Internal Improvement is hereby authorized and directed to adopt such measures as may be necessary to commence, construct and complete, within a reasonable time, the following public works.” This contains eight projects. This list starts on page seven of the Acts of 1836 book. The following is a brief list of the projects included. The text for most of the projects include the amount of money to be expended on that project. I will not be including those in this post.

1) The White Water Canal, commencing on the west branch of the White Water river, at the crossing of the National Road, thence passing down the valley of the same to the Ohio River at Lawrenceburgh, and extending up said west branch of the White Water above the National Road as far as may be practicable. A connection between this canal and hte Central Canal is also authorized. If it can not be completed by a canal, then a railroad is authorized from the National Road to the Central Canal in Madison or Delaware county.

2) The Central Canal, commencing at a suitable point between Fort Wayne and Logansport on the Wabash and Erie Canal, thence to Muncie(town), Indianapolis, and then down the White River West Fork to the East Fork of the same river. From there, the most practicable route to Evansville.

3) An extension of the Wabash and Erie Canal from the mouth of the Tippecanoe River to Terre Haute.

4) A railroad from Madison, through Columbus, Indianapolis, Crawfordsville to Lafayette, called the Madison and Lafayette Railroad.

5) A McAdamized Turnpike Road from New Albany through Greenville, Fredricksburgh, Paoli, Mount Pleasant, and Washington to Vincennes.

6) Resurvey of a route from Jeffersonville, via New Albany, Salem, Bedford, Bloomington, and Greencastle to Crawfordsville. It is determined whether it is more practicable to construct a railroad or a McAdamized road. If it is to be a road, then it is to connect to the Salem and Ohio Turnpike Company.

7) Removal of obstructions to navigation in the Wabash River from Vincennes to the mouth of the river.

8) A survey to determine whether it is more practicable to build a canal or railroad from the Wabash and Erie canal at Fort Wayne by way of Goshen, South Bend, and LaPorte to Michigan City, to be called the Erie and Michigan Canal or Railroad.

The bill continues after Section Four. Most of the rest of the bill, contains authorizations for bonds to be issued and loans to be taken to accomplish the projects listed in Section Four. There were a total of 41 sections of the law. In the Acts of 1836 book, the last section is listed on page 21.

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