The Men Who United The States- Simon Winchester
Leave it to an Englishman to point out to us the importance that was early on placed in uniting the American citizens into one nation, the idea always being to connect. Simon Winchester’s new book, “The Men Who United the States” praises the uniqueness of Americans to persevere in establishing a united country across the continent, unlike what happened in Europe and South America. It wasn’t an easy road to follow, nor was it always understood that it would be accomplished.
But familiar names like the explorers Lewis and Clark and men like John Wesley Powell, who surveyed the Grand Canyon proved to Americans what a rich heritage in the land they had and encouraged appreciation and pride in holding it together.
Some of the more interesting chapters in the book shed light on lesser known names who were equally important in the work they did to bind the nation together. There were men like Ferdinand Hayden, who led a team of scientists and artists in doing the first geological survey of Yellowstone National Park, showing us the true value of the land on which we lived. There was Theodore Judah, who dedicated himself to the construction of a transcontinental railroad. Thomas MacDonald was an interstate highway visionary. Inventions like the telegraph, the telephone, radio, and TV similarly brought us together. Then, of course, there was the internet.
These were inventions that couldn’t have been done without the tremendous role played by the government, financing of the projects and seeing them through to competion. The government always stepped in as the unifier, with the intention of establishing a commonality that assured our identity.
Winchester has eclectic interests, choosing subjects for his books that most of us would overlook. We’re fortunate in these fractured times to be reminded of one of the qualities that has sustained us over the years, that of choosing unification over balkanization, and remembering that without government help and guidance, few of our successes would have been accomplished. Winchester lauds a people and a government that work together, and does so in a convincing fashion.