Clinton, De Witt

SUBJECT AREA: Canals
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b. 2 March 1769 Little Britain, Orange County, New York, USA
d. 11 February 1828 Albany, New York, USA
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American statesman and entrepreneur.
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After gaining his degree at Columbia College, Clinton studied law and then entered politics. After a defeat in 1795 he studied natural science, until in 1798 he was elected to the State Senate. In 1802 he was elected to the US Senate, but he resigned in 1803 to become Mayor of New York City; he occupied this post, apart from two short breaks, until 1815, when he was removed from office. He was very concerned for the welfare of ordinary people and introduced many improvements. From 1815 Clinton devoted himself to what was to become the Erie Canal. He had already been appointed one of the canal commissioners in 1810 and had himself surveyed a possible route to Lake Erie that would be a safer passage from New York to the Great Lakes in the event of war with Great Britain. The war of 1812, in fact, interfered with the project, but in 1816 Clinton realized that the time was propitious. He arranged meetings, and on 17 April 1816 the legislature adopted his idea and a new survey for a link between the Hudson and Lake Erie was undertaken. In March 1817 he became Governor of New York State and vigorously pursued the canal scheme both in writing and by personal supervision of the works. Party politics removed him from his post as Canal Commissioner on 12 April 1824, but in November he was re-elected as Governor. He held this position when the Erie Canal (362 miles or 583 km long) and the Champlain Canal (71 miles or 114 km) were opened in 1825. In his character he was overbearing, but he was administratively competent.
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Further Reading
J.Renwick, 1840, Life of De Witt Clinton, New York.
JHB

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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