Saturday, March 2, 2013
March 2, 1769, is the birthdate of politician DeWitt Clinton, “Father of the Erie Canal.” Born north of New York City, he was educated at King’s College, now Columbia University. He was briefly a U.S. Senator from New York (1802-03) but he resigned because of living conditions in newly built Washington, D.C. He was appointed Mayor of New York City (through 1815), lost the 1812 presidential race to James Madison, and was Governor of New York through 1828. As a member of the Erie Canal Commission, he surveyed the canal’s route from Albany to Lake Erie, secured $7 million to build it, and endured fierce attacks for what opponents called “Clinton’s Ditch.” Completed in 1825, the canal was North America’s most important work of civil engineering. It hastened the nation’s westward expansion, bringing riches to the Empire State and glory to Clinton, who opened the waterway with a 10-day boat trip from Buffalo to New York Harbor.