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The Maryland Board of Public Works: A History by Alan M. Wilner
Volume 216, Page 8   View pdf image (33K)
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8 Board of Public Works

During this 1818-19 session Del. Clement Dorsey received leave from the House
of Delegates to introduce "an act to promote internal improvements, and establish a
board of commissioners for that purpose." Although Dorsey and delegates Thomas
Kennedy, Benjamin W. Lecompte, Kensey Harrison, and Thomas Kell were ordered
to prepare the act for introduction, the House Journal does not show that it was, in
fact, introduced. The legislature did, however, direct that a study be made of the
feasibility of the state's purchase of the turnpike roads.33

The next record of legislative action with respect to a board of public works appears
in the House Journal of the 1821 session. On 8 January 1822 the clerk was ordered
"to furnish the committee on internal improvements with a copy of the act, with its
supplements, if any, of the legislature of Virginia, establishing in that state a board
of public works." The Committee on Internal Improvements reported to the General
Assembly on 11 February 1822. After stressing the importance of internal improve-
ments and recommending the development of water transportation rather than roads,
the committee concluded with a recommendation for a board:

To keep alive the attention and the zeal of the state upon this question, your committee
conceive no better plan could be devised than the establishment of a board of public works.
As this however is a matter for which the state may not yet be prepared, and which may
require much more information in regard to the objects of internal improvement, than your
committee have it in their power to present, they would recommend for the present the
institution of a committee to be selected by the executive from among the most intelligent
members of the community, with directions to report either individually or collectively to
them, the most judicious course of improvement in reference to the roads, canals and rivers
of the state, or such parts of them as may come under their notice. And further, that the
executive be authorized, if they should deem it expedient, to cause surveys to be made,
and maps to be returned of such districts, roads or water courses as in their opinion may
be necessary to the illustration of any proposed plan of operation, and that directions be
given, that such reports be made, if possible, in time for the meeting of the next general

The committee's resolution evidently failed, but it Was reintroduced by Kennedy
during the following session.34 Again the Journal does not reflect any action on the

The General Assembly considered the subject of internal improvements again in
its 1823 session. The House Journal reflects that the governor's comments on the
subject were referred to the Committee on Internal Improvements, but the text of
those comments is not preserved. Whatever the governor's wishes, the General As-
sembly continued to disagree on any coordinated approach to internal improvements,
although at the urging of the Senate it seems that a committee of senators and del-
egates was appointed to see if the legislature could "lay aside our prejudices and to
unite in some plan by which the pecuniary resources of the state may be applied in
just and reasonable proportions to the several canals proposed to be made." The House
Journal of the 1824 session of the General Assembly contains a message from the
Senate rejecting a "bill to incorporate the president and directors of the board of public
works" but no other action with respect to such a board.35

This chapter of the state's history was thus marked by an intense interest in
various canal and turnpike projects, but because of the legislature's inability to agree
on a unified approach to internal improvements, no substantial commitment of state

33. Maryland House Journal (1818), p. 67 (hereafter H. Jour.); Acts of 1818, res. 74.

34. H. Jour. (1821), pp. 51, 106-11; (1822), p. 16.

35. Ibid. (1823), pp. 13, 105-6; (1824). d. 162


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The Maryland Board of Public Works: A History by Alan M. Wilner
Volume 216, Page 8   View pdf image (33K)
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