Some fifteen years ago, Western Maryland was flooded with scrip, issued by the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company in one of its many financial “straights,” and for several years thereafter, as will be remembered, this scrip formed a large part of our currency. It first found its way into the hands of Contractors who were the creditors of the Company, and then by them it was paid to the laborers upon the work, who in turn paid it to farmers, merchants, mechanics and business men generally, and thus it was scattered broadcast over the counties of Frederick, Washington and Allegany. It had a fine run for a season, and helped the Company out of more than one of its innumerable pecuniary difficulties, but no
provision having been made for its redemption, it gradually depreciated until it reached a point of utter worthlessness, with thousands of it in the pockets of our people.
We have always thought that the very first dollar which the Company could call its own, after meeting its preferred liabilities, ought to be appropriated to the absorption of this scrip; and we are therefore pleased to learn that an effort is about to be made for the purpose of affecting this object, though only in part, or to a very limited extent. A memorial, numerously signed by the creditors of the Canal, was some months ago laid before the Board of Directors, asking that “one-third of the monies taken for Tolls might be received in all the established evidences of debt against said Company, provided said evidences are held, owned and offered by persons actually trading on the Canal.” The Committee, to whom this memorial was referred, consisting of Messrs. Dodge, Devecmon, and Coudy, have recently published a report in which they strongly favor the proposition of the memorialists. It is believed that this arrangement would increase the trade on the Canal to such an extent that its revenues would not be impaired by the receipt of this scrip, which is to be confined to persons actually trading upon the Canal. It would afford such persons an opportunity to speculate, but what of that? The money is not worth the paper upon which it is stamped, and nay value which might be imparted to it by this of any other arrangement would be better than nothing.
But it appears that the Directors have not the authority or power to grant the payer of these creditors of the Company, as all the revenues of the Canal are pledged to the payment of debts for repairs and to the Bondholders. The Committee say, upon this branch of the subject, in the concluding paragraph of their Report, “that whether the State and the Bondholders shall believe with this Committee, that large additional revenue can be created in the manner proposed and thus their interest be promoted, is a matter upon which their judgement must be final. The Committee suppose that whatever action may be had, must be based upon the consent of the Bondholders and authorized by the Legislature of Maryland. The Committee therefore recommend, that the subject be presented, in the next annual report, by the President and Directors, to the attention of the Stockholders, consisting chiefly of the representatives of the State; and by the same means to the attention of the Bondholders – with the earnest recommendation of the Board to the most favorable consideration of each.
C&O National Historic Park
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (Md.); Washington County (Md.), History