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Determining the Facts

Reading 2: Laying of the Foundation Stone, Mr. Morris’ Speech

The following speech was given by John B. Morris on July 4, 1828 during the ceremonies surrounding the laying of the B&O Railroad’s First Stone in Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Morris was an original director of the company.

"Fellow-Citizens.—The occasion which has assembled us, is one of great and momentous interest. We have met to celebrate the laying of the first stone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad: and if there be any thing which could render the day we have chosen more interesting in our eyes, than it already seems, it is that we now commence the construction of a work which is to raise our native city to that rank which the advantages of her situation and the enterprise of her citizens entitle her to hold. The result of our labors will be felt, not only by ourselves, but also by posterity,—not only by Baltimore, but also by Maryland and by the United States. We are about opening the channel through which the commerce of the mighty country beyond the Alleghany [Mountains] must seek the ocean—we are about affording facilities of intercourse between the East and the West, which will bind the one more closely to the other, beyond the power of an increased population or sectional differences to disunite. We are in fact commencing a new era in our history; for there are none present who even doubt the beneficial influence which the intended Road will have in promoting the Agriculture, Manufactures and Inland Commerce of our country. It is but a few years since the introduction of Steamboats effected powerful changes, and made those neighbors, who were before far distant from each other. Of a similar and equally important effect will be in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. While the one will have stemmed the torrent of the Mississippi, the other will have surmounted and reduced the heights of the Alleghany: and those obstacles, before considered insuperable, will have ceased to be so, as the ingenuity and industry of man shall have been exerted to overcome them.”
Questions for Reading 2
    1. Why did Mr. Morris believe that constructing the nation’s first railroad would benefit not just Baltimore, but Maryland and the rest of the United States?

    2. What does Mr. Morris believe would be influenced by the completion of the railroad?

    3. What geographical elements does Mr. Morris refer to as being obstacles that the railroad must surpass?

    Reading excerpted from the Baltimore American July 7, 1828


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