On this day in 1834, Andrew Jackson becomes the first president to use federal troops to quell labor unrest.
After Washington’s death, the Patowmack Company folded. However, in 1823, legislators, business leaders and engineers held a convention in the capital to revive and expand the canal project. With plans to achieve a safe inland waterway route to the Ohio River, the newly chartered Chesapeake and Ohio Canal company began construction in 1828. President John Quincy Adams ceremoniously broke ground on what became an enterprise fraught with financial difficulties and frequent labor stoppages. The incredibly rocky ground proved nearly impossible to excavate and years of slow progress sent costs soaring. In addition, property owners fought the canal’s passage through their land, exacerbating the situation.
Construction teams consisted primarily of Irish, German, Dutch and black workers who, with primitive tools, were forced to work long hours for low wages in dangerous conditions. Fed up, the workers rioted on January 29, but were quickly put down by federal troops. The move set a dangerous precedent for future labor-management relations. When labor uprisings increased toward and into the turn of the century, business leaders were confident in the knowledge that they could turn to local, state or federal government leaders to head off labor unrest. Although work resumed on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the project was finally abandoned in 1850, with the farthest reach of the canal ending at Cumberland, Maryland.
– History.com Staff