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Pamphlet, Highway to the Pacific…Speech of Mr. [Thomas Hart] Benton. Delivered in the Senate of the United States, Dec. 16, 1850

In this speech of December 1850, Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri argued for a central route with its eastern terminus in his home city of St. Louis. Though Congress ultimately chose a central route, its eastern point was not in St. Louis, but in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

Pamphlet, Highway to the Pacific. Speech of Mr. [Thomas Hart] Benton. Delivered in the Senate of the United States, Dec. 16, 1850

Debating the Rail Route

In 1853 Congress authorized funds for the Army Corps of Engineers to survey four possible routes for a railway from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Members of Congress recognized the potential for commerce and development that a transcontinental railway would bring, and they advocated strenuously for their own regions. Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri was an outspoken proponent of a central route. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, a former and future senator from Mississippi, favored a southern route.