In the early 1800s, America underwent a campaign of infrastructure building. The building of new roads, bridges, and canals were done in a spirit of “national grandeur and individual convenience.” Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty, 730 quoting Charles G. Haines, Considerations on the Great Western Canal (Brooklyn, 1818), 11.
In 1806, Samuel Blodgett, an economist and architect, concluded that commerce held together the Americans. Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty, 730. Blodgett believed that commerce was “the most sublime gift of heaven, wherewith to harmonize and enlarge society.” Id. quoting Samuel Blodgett, Economica: A Statistical Manual for the United States of America (Washington, DC, 1806), 102.
Blodgett believed that if America were to surpass Europe, it could not be done with the policies of Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists. Id. Instead, it had to be done with the Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson. Id. Blodgett believed that only the Republican policies had the “capacity to further the material welfare of” America’s citizens. Id. citing Samuel Blodgett, Economica: A Statistical Manual for the United States of America (Washington, DC, 1806), 102.
If commerce is the “most sublime gift of heaven,” as Blodgett said, then the manifestation of commerce in the United States as being carried out with the spirit of “national grandeur and individual convenience” is the reason that America has economically surpassed the individual states of Europe. Since the days of the early Republic, Americans have taken actions that both contributed to their individual benefit and have had the aggregate effect of creating national grandeur.
In this sense, America has distinguished itself both historically and currently from other countries. Many countries, for example the Soviet Union in the past and China currently, have attempted to create national grandeur not through individual innovation but through government involvement. In doing so, those other countries have created the facade of success and grandeur that they hope to achieve. That is not to say that those countries have not developed sophisticated, successful economies. But the sustainability of those countries’ economies is debatable.
One of America’s best qualities is that it has had prolonged economic success. Of course, there have been tumultuous times, like the Great Depression, and the so-called “Great Recession” and the panics and scares that are all but forgotten in modern times.
However, America from the earliest days has encouraged individual success through its institutions, its culture, and its laws. The American people have believed in that opportunity and have taken risks, worked hard, and created an economy characterized by its national grandeur. Preserving the institutions, culture, and laws that foster such grandeur is crucial for America’s continued success.