Round about the time the calendar was being turned from 1829 to 1830, the issue of interior improvements broke out in Congress for the first—although not the only—time. The matter for the most part addressed the use of public funds, dollars generated through taxation, for internal improvements. At the heart of the rhetoric was the sale of public land in the west and how that money would be spent. The issue itself was big enough, but the debate in Congress took on a much broader level to include slavery, states’ rights, partisanship, and presidential power. I’ve read that one of the Founder Fathers’ greatest gifts to us was a perpetual revolution (American Creation, Joseph Ellis). That is, that our nation could continually re-invent itself—evolve as the times required, without moving too far into extremist territory. The system of checks and balances along with the bicameral legislature was enough to keep the perpetual revolution slow enough as to avoid all-out calamity. The debate of 1830 was a proper demonstration of said revolution.
But that’s more than anyone wanted to know I’m sure. I include all of this in order to setup the quote of the day. This I found in Jon Meacham’s American Lion and is attributed to President Andrew Jackson. As the debate over the use of public land continued, Jackson called upon the people to reason—and he believed they would. And I believe that the alarms that are sounding today from both the right and the left will ultimately be silenced with similar sentiment:
There is too much at stake to allow pride or passion to influence your decision. Never for a moment believe that the great body of the citizens of any State or States can deliverately intend to do wrong. They may, under the influence of temporary excitement or misguided opinions, commit mistakes; they may be misled for a time by the suggestions of self-interest; but in a community so enlightened and patriotic as the people of the United States argument will soon make them sensible of their errors, and when convinced they will be ready to repair them.”
I read this recently and thought to myself, “Yeah. That’s what I think.” (So grateful for these guys that can create my words for me.) For some crazy reason I believe in America. I believe in the American Experiment. I believe we still possess the mettle that drove prior generations to carve this nation out of the trees and the dirt. And like Jackson said, we are susceptible to being misled by the suggestions of self-interest and also vulnerable to our misguided opinions—for a time. For a generation or two. But only for a time.