It was a different time in the history of the Congress, as no money was specifically set aside for the canal, but lawmakers gave the city council of Alexandria, Virginia (on the other side of the Potomac) the "power to levy" both a property tax and "personal property and the occupations" of residents there to pay for this new canal.
That plan was approved by Congress on June 17, 1812. One day later, Congress did something a bit more historic, as lawmakers voted to declare war on the British - what we would call the War of 1812.
Another big debate in 1812 was on extending what we now call the "National Road" from Cumberland, Maryland into Ohio, with a further appropriation of $30,000.
You don't think that debate was tinged a bit by the concerns of lawmakers for where the road should go? It was, as residents of Pennsylvania urged the Congress to foot the bill for a bridge over a river near Pittsburgh.
Thumbing through that same book, I found another debate where location mattered as well, from April 24, 1812 about where to locate the U.S. Military Academy.
"The discussion principally involved the respective merits of West Point and Washington City...as proper sites for a Military Academy," read the report on the debate in the Annals of Congress, the early forerunner to today's Congressional Record.
An amendment was then offered to move the academy to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which was argued to be "more eligible, in point of economy, convenience and comfort, than West Point."
Rep. John Baker of Virginia then suggested moving the Academy to his home state. With those instincts, Baker might have done well in the modern-day Congress as well.
In the end, the House voted 67-36 against the idea of moving the U.S. Military Academy away from West Point, and there it stayed.
The bottom line here - don't tell me that pork barrel spending was somehow invented only in recent years.
We know what a big deal it is to bring home the bacon in the 21st century in terms of road money and more. It was just as important in the early years of our country.
So don't be surprised when you see lamwakers trying to send some benefits back home, even as they decry home state budget earmarks.