Whatever is not nailed down is mine. Whatever I can pry loose is not nailed down.
— Collis P. Huntington, 19th century railroad tycoon (By Stephen W. Shaw; Public domain)
…We can laugh at this Huntington quote now, and he certainly was one of the four instrumental players in building the American rail network we still use today, but he truly lived by these dark words. After his death, his personal collection of notes revealed a tale of political bribes and payoffs, and the sort of arrogance that often comes with being one of the privileged elites. Yet, on the other hand, Huntington was born dirt poor, working his way up from the gutter to gain incredible wealth.
Certain members of our society try to point to the misdeeds of people like Collis P. Huntington as evidence that the American system has been broken and corrupt from the start. Actually, nothing is further from the truth. The American system, designed by great Americans like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, is a meritocracy. Any American, like Huntington, can start with nothing and create the life of their dreams while providing a great benefit to society. Anyone claiming otherwise is either looking for an excuse for their position or using their condemnations as a club to build hate and promote other, far less desirable, forms of government.
Yes, we can simultaneously praise Collis P. Huntington for what he built, and condemn him for his nefarious actions. The fact that he was able to do both good and bad is not a negative reflection on our American system; it is further evidence of the incredible freedom we have, and the need to weed out career politicians and civil authorities at all levels who would feel more at home in a politburo than in the congress of a republic.
Still, the quote is pretty funny.
MSH, Penn Wealth