Abraham Lincoln and Zachariah Chandler both believed in internal improvements.

Young Lincoln


Young Abraham Lincoln realized early in his life that progress depended on internal improvements for commerce and traffic that is necessary for communites to thrive and prosper. While living in New Salem, he was an advocate of establishing commercial traffic on the Sangamon River via riverboats. Such an enterprise, if successful, was likely to bring financial prosperity to the village. Unfortunately, for New Salem, it ultimately did not happen. As a result, New Salem, Illinois, died as a community within a relatively short time afterward. Lincoln, himself, moved on. Maybe if the river quest had worked out, he might have stayed there. How history might have changed if he had remained in New Salem! Lincoln did leave New Salem. He arrived in Springfield broke and without much resources…

Zachariah Chandler was also keen on internal improvements. In Michigan, in the 1840’s and 1850’s, many enterprising men were, according to Mary Karl George, author of Zachariah Chandler: A Political Biography. She notes that such diverse gentlemen as Lewis Cass, Charles C. Trowbridge, Henry Baldwin, Christian Buhl, and Franklin Moore were investors. Zachariach Chandler was an investor also. Investor in what, you ask? Plank roads. Plank Roads were the future of communites in Michigan in those days. They were improvements over dirt roads, trails, and paths. They were the “modern highways” of that era. Plank road companies sprang up quickly-such as the Detroit-Howell, Lansing-Howell, Erin-Mt. Clemens, and Detroit-Erin Plank Road Companies. Unlike Abraham Lincoln, who had failed in his early business ventures, Chandler became wealthy. The Plank Road system in Michigan eventually gave way to our modern roads-a legacy left from Chandler and those other early investors. Lincoln also dabbled with the internal improvements regarding canals. That was pretty much a failure too. However, he was a successful lawyer. He once said that after he was finished being President of the United States, he simply wanted to return to his law practice and resume his former lifestyle. He probably would have taken a plank road or two on his return home?  No, he had the use of roailroad system by then. Lincoln did take the train home, but it wasn’t what he had envisioned. Chandler continued his career in politics. He would live to see the further expansion of the United States as improvements kept paving the way. By the way, did I mention that Lincoln was very much involved in the transcontinental railroad? A huge internal improvement!

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