Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

Bain, David Howard

Penguin, 1999

p. 28

Asa Whitney was the champion of the idea of a transcontinental railroad, working tirelessly to tie the coasts together by rail. He saw it as uniting the country and as greatly easing the time and distance required to get goods from East to West and vice-versa—and then to international markets. All kinds of people called him nuts. But he was defended by the editor of the Philadelphia Public Ledger: “The project has been ridiculed as visionary by those classes of persons, unfortunately too numerous, who always denounce as humbug what they do not comprehend. But ridicule from such sources is the common lot of all who are tall enough to see over the heads of the deriders . . . Rumsey and Fitch and Fulton were ridiculed for dreaming of navigating by steam. . . . Clinton was ridiculed for undertaking to ‘cut a big ditch,’ an undertaking which has made the State and city of New York what they are. . . .And thus ever goes the world; fools laughing at what they cannot see, and wise men foreseeing what fools cannot comprehend.”