The Nation: Tenn-Tom's Trials

In 1760 a French explorer, the Marquis de Montcalm, advised King Louis XV that a waterway linking the Tennessee and Tombigbee rivers should be built to promote trade. Phooey said Louie. But the idea remained alive, and in 1870 a U.S. Government study was completed by an esteemed engineer who concluded that the project was technically feasible but asked, "From whence cometh the commerce" to justify it? More studies were done—in 1880, 1890, 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1938—but always the answer was the same: "Whence cometh . . . ?"

It was not until 1946 that Congress authorized financing for a...

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