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The National Road and the Difficult Path to Sustainable National Investment

Theodore Sky

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The National Road is a comprehensive history of the first federally financed interstate highway, an approximately 600-mile span that joined Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois in the nineteenth century. This book covers the road's contribution to the cultural, economic, and administrative history of the United States, its decline during the second half of the nineteenth century, and its revival in the twentieth century in the form of U.S. Route 40.

The story of the National Road embraces an account of its building, its constitutional significance, the unique culture that it represented, the movements and trends that transpired across its route, and the symbolic value that it held, and continues to hold, for the American people. Beyond its status as an American heritage symbol, it serves as a forceful reminder that the United States must continue to pursue the goal of sustainable national investment that began with the National Road and comparable projects during the early republic.
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University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware
Pages: 308Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-1-61149-020-6 • Hardback • September 2011 • $85.00 • (£51.95)
978-1-61149-489-1 • Paperback • October 2013 • $34.99 • (£21.95)
978-1-61149-021-3 • eBook • July 2011 • $34.99 • (£21.95)
Theodore Sky is distinguished lecturer at Columbus School of Law, The Catholic University of America.
Part 1 Preface
Part 2 Part I. The Great Debates about the National Road
Chapter 3 Chapter 1. Washington's Role
Chapter 4 Chapter 2. Jefferson, Gallatin and the Legislation of 1806
Chapter 5 Chapter 3. Madison: Construction in the Shadow of War and the Bonus Bill Veto
Chapter 6 Chapter 4. Monroe's Compromise and the Toll Gate Battle
Chapter 7 Chapter 5. John Quincy Adams and the High Water Mark of the National Road as a National Road
Chapter 8 Chapter 6. Andrew Jackson and the Transfer of the National Road to the States
Chapter 9 Chapter 7. The National Road and the Law, Politics and Policy of Internal Improvement
Part 10 Part II. The Road in its Prime
Chapter 11 Chapter 8. Laying Out and Building the National Road
Chapter 12 Chapter 9. Confronting Problems of Road Construction East of the Ohio in the Madison And Monroe Years: An Archival Account
Chapter 13 Chapter 10. The Culture of the Road in its Prime
Chapter 14 Chapter 11. The Road as a Microcosm of Early Republic America
Part 15 Part III. The Decline and Revival of the National Road and its Place as a National Symbol
Chapter 16 Chapter 12. The Decline and Revival of the Road: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Perspectives
Chapter 17 Chapter 13. The National Road, the Creation of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate Highway System; and the Post-Interstate Period
Chapter 18 Chapter 14. The National Road as a National Symbol
Part 19 Part IV Twenty-first Century Legacy
Chapter 20 Chapter 15. The National Road and the Enduring Role of the Federal Spending Power
Chapter 21 Chapter 16. A National Road Perspective on America's Twenty-first Century Infrastructure Challenges
Part 22 Epilogue: The National Road, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and Sustainable National Investment in the 21st Century
Part 23 Endnotes
Part 24 Bibliography
Part 25 Appendix A: National Road Time Line
Ted Sky's book on the Historic National Road is an important contribution to the National Road Heritage Corridor's work of preserving the history and heritage of this important transportation artifact. The book's focus on the historical, constitutional, and economic significance of the road's construction and maintenance during the early part of the Nineteenth Century will be exceedingly valuable to students of that period.
Donna Holdorf, Executive Director, National Road Heritage Corridor


Roads connect people, and a national road can unite a country. The significance of extending and linking an expanding nation, along with the debate surrounding the extent and suitability of public involvement in the planning and financing of such a road in the US, are compelling stories that reveal much about not just literally the path but also the pace of American economic and political development. Sky (law, Catholic Univ.) has written an interesting, thorough history of this significant early national internal improvement--the National Road. Initially authorized in 1806 by Thomas Jefferson, by 1839 it would ultimately stretch more than 600 miles across six states from Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois. This systematic, detailed study examines and deconstructs some of the legislative and constitutional debates while also providing insight into the constructive and engineering complexities in the thoroughfare's design and operation. As an instrument of national unity and identity, the National Road had cultural, political, and economic significance. As this history demonstrates, its story remains relevant as the antecedent of the continuing debates around public investment strategies; as such, this study will benefit undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, and faculty. Summing Up: Recommended. Academic, research, and public library collections.
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