In 1852, Lieutenant Horatio Governeur Wright led the the Corps of Engineers in the second inland waterway Renaissance. Wright supervised the construction of the first Haulover Canal lined with wood, two feet deep and twelve feet wide at a cost established by Congress at $1,200. Although the amount seems minuscule today, it represented a breakthrough in Congressional thinking about the expenditure of federal funds for internal improvements. For a half a century, Congress authorized funds for surveying projects only but none for construction.
The Haulover Canal, however, represented an exception. The U.S. Army had fought two costly wars against the Seminoles. Men, materiel, and munitions shipped on the Indian River had to be hauled by carts over this spit of land between two bodies of water. For the next 150 years, the “common defense” exception authorized numerous projects that at first seemed disqualified for construction funding. Congress also devised numerous ingenuous schemes to circumvent restraints such as when Congress authorized the purchase of stock in railroad companies to aid internal improvements.