Civil Engineering Marvel
Washington's Dream Canal?
Over time, historians have refereed to this engineering marvel as, "George Washington's Canal," but he did not build it. Washington observed construction progress onsite many times over the years; as an overseer. His main role was president of the Patowmack Company, and to preside over and direct its business. This included authorizing renting hundreds of enslaved workers who constructed the canals.
Exploited labor forces built the infrastructure of this nation. Ironically, both the enslaved and indentured builders were considered "unskilled laborers." Yet, the innovations they built were cutting edge at the time.
Demand for Slave Labor
The Patwomack Company's constant financial challenges caused labor to slow. When construction began at Great Falls and Little Falls the labor problems got worst. Indentured servants would run away, and blend into local communities. This would default their indenture-mortgages and compound the company's losses. This was the main reason company managers continued renting slaves. Local agricultural operations would often rent their field hands to the canal during the off season. The proximity of slave markets in Georgetown and Baltimore heightened the demand for enslaved labor to build the infrastructure growing in and around the capital city.
Last updated: September 7, 2020