WASHINGTON, DC—Citing the need for cheaper and faster shipping to the Western Territories, the need to unite the Republic after the long and bitter War Between The States, and the recent discovery of gold in the California region, U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) urged Congress Monday to support funding for the construction of a transcontinental railroad.
"My friends, we stand at the threshold of the Age Of Steam—a glorious new age for the Republic," Thurmond said. "And the mighty steam locomotive is the new Steam Age's most powerful expression. I propose that the Union grant me the sum of 50 thousands of dollars, that I may work in concert with our beloved Captains of Industry to forge an iron road of rails across the untamed, unexplored wilderness of the Western Territories."
According to Thurmond, the proposed Great Western Trans-Continental Steam Rail-Road would stretch from already-established tracks in St. Louis to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, ending "near the white settlement at Sacramento Town."
Once operational, Thurmond told members of Congress, the railroad would move upwards of 24 tons of cargo a day at speeds approaching 30 miles an hour. "My claims may seem preposterous, but mighty steam is more than ample for this endeavor," Thurmond said. "A locomotive may someday leave New York at Thanksgiving and arrive at the Pacific Sea by Christmas-tide. Gentlemen of the press, take note: Such progress is more rapid than even the vaunted clipper ships of the East India Trading Company!"
Despite the enormous scale of the transcontinental railroad, Thurmond said that it could be built at a remarkably low cost, primarily through the use of cheap foreign labor. "Seeing as that slavery has recently fallen from favor," he said, "I propose the importation of the Chinee, through relations with a procurer of labor in the Orient."
The senator went on to point out that the Chinaman has the naturally industrious and servile nature of the ant, is as clever with tools as the common monkey, and will eat nearly anything he can find.
Reaction to the Thurmond proposal on Capitol Hill was overwhelmingly negative, with a majority of legislators—both Republican and Democrat—dismissing it before even hearing its details. Stung by the lukewarm reaction among his colleagues, an angry Thurmond lashed back Tuesday.
"I hear my Whig detractors mutter, 'Preposterous!' and, 'Who shall build this foul rail-road, and where?'" Thurmond said. "Well it is no mere Opium-dream, and I propose to build it in the great Western Desert, which will be ideal once the Great Canyon is filled in and its hellish mesas and cacti are destroyed by dynamite. The region is home to no one, save the Red Indian, and these heathen savages may be either exterminated or relocated to less valuable land, such as the so-called oil-fields of Oklahoma, where noisome substances bubble out of the Earth."
When questioned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) about the necessity of the railroad, considering the existence of a fully functional Federal Interstate Highway System, Thurmond alerted the Senate Sergeant-At-Arms to the presence of a woman on the congressional floor and ordered her immediate removal.
"There is an individual of the female persuasion in the Senatorial chamber—with the facial cast of a Jewess, no less!" Thurmond said. "Guards, seize her!"