14-LETTER FROM NYC 1772

Dear Mayer,

I’m writing from New York City. If I didn’t write sooner, it’s because the sea voyage really weakened me, and because I wanted to have a better understanding of the city before putting pen to paper.

Let me start by saying that I arrived in Rotterdam as planned after an uneventful five-day coach ride. Since you had sent the five chests of pennies ahead with Thurn and Taxis, I didn’t have anything to worry about, and it allowed me to better enjoy the company of the people I met in the relay inns. Upon reaching Rotterdam, I went directly to David and Hannah’s place, and it was a moment of great conviviality. I’d missed them, they’d missed me, and I wanted to know everything about them, and they wanted to know everything about me. I can only say that I’m very impressed with what they’ve done. They have a beautiful home, the counting house is well-appointed, and they seem to have contacted everyone worth knowing with Montefiore’s help, a truly great gentleman. There’s no doubt in my mind that your decision to send David to Rotterdam was the right one, and I can only hope to do as well for you in New York

I left Rotterdam, and I crossed the channel to London where I waited for a ship that took on passengers for New York. I soon found what I was looking for, and I booked passage on a good looking ship about to lift anchor. The ocean crossing took more than three months and was very unpleasant. The captain told us it was the worst weather he’d seen in years. I spent a lot of time turning green and wondering if life was worth living, and when it got too bad, I stayed in my hammock, and that, I’m sure, was what saved my life.

I did, however, have a few days of relief during which time I managed to get my hands on some moldy dry bread and barely drinkable water laced with rum, and having digested this doubtful ration, I was able to observe the world around me with some degree of lucidity. Most of the crew members were of the unrefined variety, but they were competent and helpful. There were several gentlemen who were going to the colonies to strike it rich, but my most interesting encounter was with a fellow named Ephraim Hart. He was especially interesting because he was returning to New York to resume his business activities, and he provided me with much information concerning the ins and outs of life in the colonies. When we arrived, I was in a pitiful state, and Ephraim was kind enough to introduce me to that fine landlady with the big house who has a fireplace in each bedroom, the same one I had fantasized about, remember? Well, it isn’t quite so, but it is a fine house. And Gretel, you’ll be happy to know she’s Ashkenazi and feeds me schmaltzy food, American style, and my ribs are no longer showing.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve arrived, and it’s the first day I feel disposed to write. On the day of my arrival, I managed to get my personal affairs transported to the boarding house, and you’ll be happy to know the five chests containing the thousand pounds of pennies are safe and sound. New York is a garrison town like Hanau, and there are hundreds of English soldiers and sailors roaming the wide avenues. Therefore, you need not worry about me or the money.

There are around fifteen thousand people living here. The city is located on the tip of an island that’s hidden behind a much bigger one that protects it completely from the onslaught of the ocean. The military installations are on the southern tip of the island, and the port facilities are built along the Hudson River on the west side and the East River on the other. One couldn’t dream of a more accessible and well-protected deep-sea water port.

The city is traversed north and south by a main artery called Broadway that runs from the Battery, the British military fortifications at the southern tip, to a fresh water reservoir called Collect Pond, and is approximately one mile long in English units. The city covers an area approximately one mile by one half mile. There are three main streets, Broad, William and Queen, running in a north-south direction. All streets run north-south and east-west, and are therefore perpendicular to each other. Most streets are pebbled and have paved walkways on either side, so one can easily access all parts of the city on foot or on horseback. Community life revolves around houses of worship, and there are many, including an imposing synagogue on Mill Street not far from Broad Street.

On my first outing, I walked to Collect Pond and I was encouraged to follow Boston Road north because of the beautiful colors of autumn. There’s a native tree called the maple that turns all colors this time of year, and it makes for a most spectacular sight. However, as I walked the streets, I couldn’t help but notice that people leave much of their waste on the roadways. They even leave dead horses to rot, and although pigs and wild animals act as scavengers, they only clean up so much. There are pigs, cows and many other animals roaming about because as the city expanded northward from Wall Street, many people used their large plots of land to grow food and raise animals.

Another downside is that one can smell human waste just about everywhere one goes. It would seem that the more responsible home owners dig a hole in the back of their house and build what is called an outhouse, and when the hole is filled, they cover it with earth, dig another hole and move the outhouse accordingly. Others use a simple pail toilet and empty it in out of the way places when people aren’t looking. There are many stories concerning chamber pots and how carelessly they’re emptied. For instance, I’m told it’s wise to hug the walls of buildings when walking in the city at night, for one never knows what can fall from the heavens.

Since there is so much waste being added to the soil, much of the water from the privately dug surface wells tastes bad and smells. A proud Philadelphian once wrote that here in New York ‘people drink a proportion of their own evacuations, as well as that of their horses, cows, pigs, dogs, cats, and other putrid liquids so plentifully dispensed.’ In all fairness, in comparing the two cities, that gentleman didn’t take in consideration the fact that Philadelphia has two rivers bringing it plenty of fresh drinking water, giving it a decided advantage. As for waste disposal in Philadelphia, I’m told it’s not much better than it is here. Its narrow unpaved streets crammed with poorly built houses are strewn with dejections, and the large deep wells dug in strategic parts of the city to accommodate waste produce a pervasive foul odor.

As a way of combating the scarcity of good drinking water, just about everybody, young and old, drinks beer. From the very first days of the colony, the Dutch drank beer and the English followed suite by bringing their brewers and beer making equipment with them. Everybody lives by an old European adage that says one doesn’t get sick if one drinks ale. However, many of the more fortunate English families tend to drink tea and buy their water from water peddlers who go door-to-door with horse drawn wagons laden with huge wooden casks. Obviously, these solutions are out of reach for the working poor. When all is said and done, as a community, New York doesn’t seem to consider having good drinking water to be a priority. When one compares the conditions here with the Judengasse ghetto and its superb sewers and abundant pristine drinking water, one can only wonder.

New York has a great middle class, composed chiefly of tradesmen and merchants. They are all housed in splendid residences, and most, including lawyers and doctors, have built their mansions on William, Broad and Queen Streets. On the other hand, the more humble folk who work for these prosperous citizens are parked along the East River in an area called the flats. It consists of an agglomeration of shacks and lean-to’s built on either side of a street appropriately called Water Street, and even though they can throw their waste directly into the East River, these poor people don’t have access to clean drinking water and don’t always have the pennies needed to buy beer. Their lot isn’t at all enviable.

The mansions and office buildings are built of stone or brick, and the Governor’s House, Trinity Church, St. Paul’s Church, Columbia College and the hospital are all within one block of Broadway. There’s a lot of wealth generated here irrespective of the sanitary conditions that I’ve described, and, not surprisingly, the population is said to double every ten years or so. For the time being, my boarding house located on Broad Street just south of Wall Street will serve me well, for I have access to all manner of businesses in the financial and port districts. It’ll be very easy to rent or buy office space, and you’ll be glad to know, that everything costs a fraction of what it does in Frankfurt. For instance, you can build a large two-story stone building on Broad Street for slightly more than five hundred pounds. According to Ephraim, you could have a five hundred ton capacity ocean-going vessel, all rigged and made of oak that can withstand thirty years of rot, built right here in New York for about the same price. This got me thinking as a banker, and I’m sure you’ll be interested in the suggestions I make further on in this letter.

First, let me tell you more about Philadelphia. It’s bigger than New York and it lies far up the Delaware River. A religious group from England called Quakers, a people known for their peaceful ways and tolerance, settled there. Since they were not tolerated in England, they’re not as loyal to the English crown as their counterparts in New York, and this could be worth remembering as the political storm builds over what is considered unfair taxation by the Mother Country. A large population of Swedes and many Germans from Frankfurt have settled there as well. However, because the tolerant Quakers are intolerant when it comes to language and want everybody to learn English, the three groups tend to stand apart.

The Delaware River being a more modest river than the Hudson, and Philadelphia being far upstream, the English have naturally built the bulk of their military facilities in New York City where they have ocean access to the whole coast. Another noteworthy fact is that Philadelphia though a long distance from New York City by sea is quite close by land. After crossing the Hudson River from New York City by ferry, it’s a mere two-day stagecoach ride to Philadelphia, and the service has been in operation for years. This situation is unique in the colonies, for all the other capitals remain quite isolated from each other.

Both the Delaware and Hudson River basins are very fertile and have been developed along the same pattern. Following the early Dutch East India Company guidelines, both valleys developed using the patroon system. The idea probably came from the Huguenot refugees who first settled in Rotterdam and later in New Rotterdam. In wanting to encourage settlements, the Dutch granted patroonships that spanned 16 miles in length on one side of the river, or 8 miles if spanning both sides. Later the plot sizes were cut in half in order to accommodate more Dutch Americans in good standing. The title of patroon derived from the word patron and meaning boss in French, grants powers and privileges just like they do to our princes in Europe. The patroon creates civil and criminal courts, appoints local officials, and holds land in perpetuity. In return, he is commissioned by the Governor to establish a settlement of at least fifty families within four years. As tenants working for the patroon, the settlers don’t pay public taxes for the first ten years, but they do compensate the patroon in money, goods, or services as agreed to by all parties. The patroon lives in a luxurious, well-built house of brick or stone, has a retinue of servants, large barns, orchards and gardens, and broad pasture lands. A patroonship has its own village infrastructure that includes a church which records births, baptisms, and marriages. On the one hand, the English encourage this system because the large tracts of land are very productive. On the other hand, they forbid the patroons from manufacturing goods for resale. As can be expected, the patroons disregard the interdiction, and continue to operate their foundries and other small industries that produce iron goods, furniture, and cloth. They then float all their excess production, along with all the furs they can get from the natives, downriver to New York where they sell the lot to the citizens and merchants totally disregarding the English interdictions.

The patroons and the merchants have developed a bartering system. They exchange local goods for manufactured goods coming from England, and keep track of how much one owes the other. No matter, there’s a real money problem here, and it lies in the fact there isn’t much silver specie to buy and sell the little things that ordinary people need in everyday life. When Ephraim told me that the Bank of England completely ignored the needs of colonials by refusing to inject silver specie in the colonies, I didn’t quite believe him, but it’s even worse than that. Not only do colonials have little sterling, but the English refuse to accept the plentiful Spanish dollars at par with the Pound, in spite of the fact they both contain the same amount of silver. By establishing an exchange rate of 4 to 1 in favor of the Pound, they are strangling the local economy. That combined with the fact that they ban the importation of non-English goods and discourage the locals from manufacturing their own very much foments ill feelings towards the Mother Country. This doesn’t make for a healthy political situation, and there’s even a growing dissident movement called Sons of Liberty that’s present throughout the colonies, especially in Boston where the English have massacred a number of their sympathizers last year. The Boston Massacre, as it’s decried on the street, has even enflamed the very loyalist Southern Colonies.

I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say about these tensions at a future date, but for now, here are some of my views regarding facilitating trade with Europe. I’ve talked to Ephraim about this, and he thinks that our services are highly needed here in the colonies because although trade is increasing at a rapid rate, credit is hard to get, there’s very little specie and England is maintaining very unjust exchange rates in favor of the pound. But if we were disposed to finance a shipment of tobacco to Rotterdam, here’s how it could be done. I would ask a fellow I met, Robert Morris, or someone of his stature, to buy and deliver a load of tobacco consisting of a thousand hogsheads to Rotterdam. A hogshead contains a thousand pounds of tobacco worth a penny per pound and costs around £4. Morris would receive a bill of exchange reflecting a guaranteed price of, let’s say, five pennies per pound payable to him when David took possession of the tobacco in Rotterdam. Morris would then issue his own bill of exchange to the producer in Williamsburg payable when the tobacco is delivered in Rotterdam, and he would also give him written proof that taxes are paid and that the cargo is fully insured. In this scenario the seller in Williamsburg is guaranteed a full penny per pound for his tobacco payable in six months’ time with interest if required, and the merchant Robert Morris is guaranteed five pennies per pound when the shipment arrives in Rotterdam. David in Rotterdam will have by then sold the tobacco well below its market price if need be, let’s say, ten pennies per pound. In a worst case scenario, the producer gets £4000, the shipper makes £16000 (£20000 less £4000), minus expenses, and our counting house make £20000 (£40000 less £20000), minus expenses. All parties make a handsome profit, and since we have such a huge profit margin to play with, since tobacco is in such high demand, and since it would be sold ahead of time, it could be said there’s no risk at all.

If you wanted to finance shipments going from Rotterdam to New York or London, I have two suggestions, and they have to do with two French products. As you know, before I met you I had been travelling in France, and that’s when I became aware of them. I’m talking about two products the English in England, and especially in the colonies, aren’t familiar with. It has to do with a cloth from Nimes in the south, and an extraordinary wine from the Burgundy area further north.

If Burgundy wines became known, the demand for them would explode, I’m sure. The English are already very fond of Bordeaux clarets, and once they taste these delightful wines from Bourgogne, they’ll surely be overwhelmed. I personally tasted them and know how good they are. But here’s why I think they’re worth investigating further. I’ve heard that wines can now be shipped in bottles instead of casks, an innovation that not only guarantees the original quality of the wines, but allows them to age to their sublime potential before they reach the palates of connoisseurs. In a word, if we found a way to have Burgundy wine bottled, corked and packaged before sending a shipment of it to Rotterdam and London, it would surely become an overnight sensation, and its price would increase exponentially.

As for the cloth, it’s an ingeniously woven cotton fabric manufactured in Genoa, Italy. The cloth got its French name when a Huguenot silk manufacturer from Nîmes bought the Genoa business during the religious persecutions. The cloth had been used for making sails, but in wanting to expand the business, the Frenchman thought of selling the fabric for the making of work clothes. There was much talk about this white-blue ‘de Nîmes’ cloth when I was in Lyon. In spite of cotton being outlawed by the King, people kept asking for it, claiming it could outlast Indian cotton ten to one. Judging from that experience, I can say with assurance that if you financed a shipment of that fabric to America you would make a mindboggling profit. The cost of working clothes is so high and disproportionate to income in the Colonies that the demand for a cheap, attractive and tough cloth would surely be overwhelming.

Unfortunately, I have no way of looking into those products at this end. It would be necessary for someone to go to France and see about their availability. As far as I know, there are three key cities involved: Nîmes for the cloth and information regarding the bottle corks, Lyon for the bottles, and Beaune for the wine. The three cities are in a north-south axis along the Rhone-Saone River corridor. The corks, the bottles and the wine would come together in Beaune, and from there, the ‘de Nîmes’ cloth and the now-bottled wine would be transported over an excellent old Roman road that goes from Beaune to Basel on the Rhine, and from there the merchandise could be shipped down the Rhine River to Rotterdam or anywhere in between.

I hope you don’t think I’m being bold in making these suggestions. I’m just trying to give you useful information. There are many other possibilities, and I’m sure you’ll advise me. But I’m convinced that indigo, rum and tobacco from the Americas, Burgundy wine and ‘de Nîmes’ cloth from France, and colorful cotton fabrics from England are the sort of exotic merchandises that would generate extremely high profits.

There’s something else I have to tell you, and it has to do with a discovery that I’ll refer to as the Atlantic ‘stream’. Don’t fret if you’ve never heard of it, hardly anyone has. It’s an ocean phenomenon that’s been confirmed by a very ingenious fellow called Benjamin Franklin, a Philadelphian who has become the Colonies’ emissary to England. For some time now, merchants have been wondering why it takes longer to sail to New York than it does to the southern colonies even though they’re much farther, and this fellow Benjamin figured it out by paying attention to the New England whalers. The whalers kept saying that in order to catch more whales they followed what seemed to be a big river of warm water that flowed right through the Atlantic Ocean. This river was full of plankton, whale food for the uninitiated, and it flowed in an easterly direction. If they followed this river, they were sure to bring back all the whale oil their ships could hold.

Benjamin was paying attention, and on one of his trips to Europe, he got the captain to agree to zigzag his way across the ocean, thus going in and out of the alleged river of warm water. As he did so, he recorded water temperatures and latitudes, and the result was very convincing. He was able to chart this ‘stream’ of warm water and show that it flowed at a speed of around four knots. He published his findings in England, but since mighty English captains have nothing to learn from lowly colonial whalers, this discovery is still not being exploited by the English. But the fact remains, if one were to sail north or south of it on the westward leg, one could shorten the journey by as much as two weeks, and if one were to sail in it on the eastward leg, there would be much time gained as well. I thought you might find this information useful because I remember you telling me in your tongue-in-cheek way that having a good communications network and knowing things ahead of everybody else could be very profitable.

In closing, let me say that I intend to proceed with the rental of office space on Broad Street. I also took the liberty of having a small quantity of bills of exchange printed. I’m enclosing a sample for your perusal.

As I await your answer which will probably arrive in four or five months from now, I’ll get acquainted with merchants and find out what merchandises are the most profitable to finance. I’ll also make a point of going to Philadelphia and meet with a fellow called Bernard Kratz who’s trying hard to have a synagogue built over there. I’m sure I’ll find out everything there is to know about Philadelphia through him. As I await your reply, regardless of the financial activity I pursue, it won’t involve big sums. When I get your letter, if you’ve decided to go with tobacco, I’ll be ready. Needless to say, a four or five month correspondence delay doesn’t simplify matters, but once I know exactly how you want to proceed, things will get sorted out. Rest assured that I don’t see any major impediments at this end, at this time.

 

Regards,

 

Haym

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13-HAYM SALOMON

America kept popping up in Mayer’s mind because he saw the New World as a place offering a fantastic banking opportunity. Mayer knew the English were having trouble over there because he had learned through General von Estorff that they were seriously thinking about sending Hessian soldiers to the colonies. It seemed the colonials weren’t happy because the mother country wasn’t providing enough credit while gauging them with taxes. He just had to find a way to get firsthand information on what was really going on over there.

Mayer automatically thought of Haym Salomon who was presently working for him in Hanau. He invited him to Judengasse for a good schmaltzy dinner because he wanted to know what his wife Gretel thought of him before asking him to go to America. Haym was an extraordinary young man whom Mayer had befriended in Hanover. He was a Sephardi whose family had fled Portugal and settled in Poland. He had left what family he had in Poland, traveled through Europe, and had learned eight languages. While helping Mayer in Hanau, he had learned all there was to know about how to buy and sell bills of exchange, and was getting ready to move on.

As they approached the north gate of Judengasse, they dismounted and left their horses at the blacksmith’s barn where Mayer kept his mounts and carriage. The guard at the gate recognized Mayer readily and saluted the two men as they entered. When they entered the ghetto, Haym couldn’t help but notice a crude drawing depicting Jews doing unnatural things to a sow, which included eating her excrement. Haym, a Sephardi, was taken aback, and he couldn’t help thinking that Ashkenazim must be spineless to let goys treat them that way.

Mayer knew what he was thinking, and told him there was no use spending energy fighting such vulgarities. Since the Frankfurt Council turned a blind eye on such abuses, and thereby encouraged the lowlifes that perpetrated hate crimes, wiping the wall clean would only make things worse. He continued by saying that the age of enlightenment would soon reach the Hesse region, and the walls would come down. Mayer preferred becoming rich and powerful, and taking down the walls stone by stone with his bare hands when the time came. One engaged in battle only when one was sure of victory.

As they went down Judengasse, Haym wondered how people could live in such crammed conditions, with so much noise, so little light, and so many strange odors, while Mayer saluted everybody, addressing most of them by name, inquiring about their families, and wishing them well.

They reached the tall narrow house where Mayer lived, and where his wife was waiting for them. They sat down for dinner, and Mayer started the conversation by asking Haym what he thought of America. Haym answered that there seemed to be a lot of fertile land to be had, that the winters were harsh, and that there was a well-established Sephardi community in New York City. He had also heard that it was a good place for an ambitious young man who wanted to get rich. Mayer replied that he was getting a good feeling for the colonies from the newspapers he read, but that he’d really like to have first-hand knowledge. Then he asked directly if Haym would be interested in going to America. Mayer was willing to pay his passage and set him up as a shipping broker in New York City. Haym was to open a New York counting house that would work with the Rotterdam one run by David. The Sephardi community in New York would surely welcome him, and since Haym was a smart good-looking young man, he would have no problem finding a wife.

Mayer continued by saying Haym could count on his unqualified support, and that he would have all the money he needed. In the first instance, all he had to do was keep Mayer informed. If everything turned out to be like Mayer expected, Haym would then come back to Frankfurt to be debriefed, and they’d both decide what to do next. If Haym disliked New York City to the point of wanting to come back to Europe early, Mayer would not hold a grudge. All he asked was for Haym to give him fair warning if he so decided.

When Haym asked when Mayer expected him to leave, Mayer answered that winter crossings were very rough, and that it would be wise to leave as soon as possible. He hoped that Haym didn’t suffer from seasickness, for a westward crossing could take anywhere from three to four months.

Haym said he was more worried about New York’s cold winter, and that all he hoped for was to find a rich widow who had a well-built boarding house with a fireplace in each room.

12-DAVID TO ROTTERDAM

Mayer lived near the waterfront and often walked down to the river’s edge to listen to the hustle and bustle of ships being loaded and unloaded. This was a good place to think. Mayer was very interested in trade generally, and he was mesmerized by all the exotic merchandise coming from unheard-of parts of the world, but he saw it with the eyes of a banker, not those of a merchant.

The only bank in existence was the Bank of England, and it was a bank model Mayer wanted to duplicate. It was made up of a group of private bankers who had the exclusive right to lend money to the English Government. If the people’s representatives wanted to launch a government project before taxes were collected, as was always the case, they went to the bankers for a loan. It was a bankers’ heaven, for not only were they sure of being repaid, but they could choose what loans were to be made. And by having the sole right to issue bank notes, they controlled the monetary system of England.

Mayer was already a banker of sorts for Prince William, and he took his commitment to the Principality of Hanau very seriously. However, it didn’t stop him from planning to bankroll his own operations. His plan had to do with the Hessian troops being recruited for England. William was spending much too much money outfitting and arming those troops. Military supplies came mainly from France and England and were shipped through Bremerhaven up north. Because William didn’t buy directly from the suppliers, and because the route was long and crossed many German states, everything cost much more than it should. If Mayer had someone in Rotterdam buy everything directly from the suppliers, and if he then transported everything in his own barges up the Rhine River, he would make a handsome profit while lowering his benefactor’s costs. Even though this meant doing business, the risk was almost nonexistent, and it was a way of seriously increasing his capital.

For a hundred years now, since the Treaty of Westphalia, the Rhine River had been open to free trade. It was forbidden for local lords to collect tolls, and most of the castles along the Rhine River had been put out of commission prior to the treaty. Nonetheless, renegade lords still collected tolls, and that hampered inland commerce. But Mayer knew that if his barges flew the Hesse-Kassel colors, no one would dare stop them and make them pay, for everybody knew that the State of Hesse had a lot of troops at the ready.

Frankfurt was a port on the Main River, a river that flowed into the great Rhine River a few kilometers to the west. Mayer had talked with the shipbuilders in Hanau about getting large barges built, proposing a model like that once used by the Romans to bring in wheat from Gaul. It was a large barge about thirty-five meters long, six meters wide, with a draught of one meter, which could carry around twenty tons. It had a cabin in the back for cooking and sleeping, a square sail in the middle, and it allowed for ten oarsmen. The local mariners all agreed such a barge was ideal for travelling upstream on the Rhine. Upon leaving Rotterdam, it could run with the tide, and then the sail could be used to run with the prevailing west wind while the rowers pulled and steered as needed. Of course, sailing downstream from Frankfurt would be a lot easier.

Such a barge was affordable to build and a cost-effective way to transport goods, even with a ten-man crew. Mayer would start with one barge, and have more built as needed. He would establish a counting house in Rotterdam where his broker would fill orders and have the goods waiting for the next barge. When the barge arrived, the goods coming from Frankfurt would be unloaded and stored in a warehouse, and the military supplies waiting in another warehouse would be loaded unto the barge headed for Frankfurt. All special orders for exotic products purchased from the East India Company would be unloaded in Frankfurt, Hanau or some port on the Rhine, while the military supplies would go to Hanau.

The Huguenots who had settled in the Hesse region more than a hundred years before were great entrepreneurs, and among other things, they set up foundries that produced high quality iron. They also made stylish furniture, glassware, tin ware, leather products, fine silks, and clocks. They even manufactured artillery pieces, called serpentines, known for their precision and durability. In Hanau, the Goldsmiths’ House was actually an art center for the training of goldsmiths and silversmiths. Lithographers, engravers and artisans developed and used the latest techniques in the making of jewelry, in printing and in the minting of very attractive coins. Mayer knew that the manufactured products coming out of Hesse would be sure to sell easily in Rotterdam.

All goods at both ends would be bought at the lowest cost and sold at the highest price, making sure that the highest price was the price that everybody was willing and ready to pay. The considerable profits thus realized would remain in the counting houses at either end, and would be used to buy ever more merchandise going in both directions. There would be a considerable buildup of specie at both ends, and the counting houses could then start printing their own bills of exchange. Since both counting houses would always adhere to a strict code of ethics imposed by Mayer, where the bills are redeemed on demand at all times, they would gain the confidence of the local business community and become widely accepted. The increased credit would allow more businessmen to do more business, and profits would increase. Bills of exchange had a multiplier effect, and that was what banking was all about.

All he needed was to find a man who would want to go and settle in Rotterdam. As for the amount of money needed to build the barges and fill the initial orders at both ends, it was insignificant, considering his already considerable wealth. The first name that crossed his mind for the job in Rotterdam was that of young David Schiff. Since David and his wife Hannah lived upstairs in the same house, Mayer knew them well, and he had taken the young man under his wing. David had proven to be brilliant in the bills of exchange business.

Of late, David had been showing signs of unrest. He didn’t like the idea of his family growing up in the Judengasse ghetto, and Mayer could understand why. David didn’t come right out and say it, but Mayer knew. David had spoken of Rotterdam as being an attractive place to live, but what he didn’t know was that it had many drawbacks for an Ashkenazi Jew. The Sephardi Jews, who ran the East India Company and ruled the oceans of the world, were wealthy Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. They were rich, proud and even arrogant. Those Jews didn’t think very highly of Ashkenazim coming from Eastern Europe. However, if David accepted, Mayer would give him enough money to settle in properly, for image was very important. But there was another problem in that the Sephardim didn’t worship the way Ashkenazim did, and David wouldn’t be welcome in their synagogue. No matter, he would make David an offer while making it very clear what problems his family was going to face.

The ghetto was flourishing. The people were vibrant and united, and their faith made them strong. Judengasse had a fine stone synagogue, plenty of good clean water, good sewers, a fine hospital, its own kosher slaughterhouse, a yeshiva and a rabbi who was a prince of knowledge. Though the inhabitants were often harassed and humiliated when they left the ghetto and were not free to move about at night and on Sundays, in many ways they were better off than the goys living outside the ghetto.

David agreed that the community was one big family, but he was overcome by feelings of hate and revenge when a goy treated his wife Hannah like a whore. One day he would retaliate, and his life and that of Hannah would be compromised. When Mayer offered to set him up in the finest counting house with all the money needed to hire a professional staff, purchase warehouse space, build a house for his family, and have all the necessary expense money to look like a successful businessman, he couldn’t believe his good fortune.

David readily accepted the generous offer but wondered how he could ever repay Mayer. Mayer told him that he would be making his weight in thalers many times over, and repayment didn’t enter the picture. He told David that though Ashkenazim in Rotterdam were poor and were assisted by the community, and that the Sephardim wouldn’t be happy welcoming another Jewish rag dealer, another mouth to feed, things would be different for David. Mayer would introduce him to an Italian Jew named Moses Montefiore, a well-connected Sephardi who would help him get established.

11-MAYER AMSCHEL

Mayer Amschel, the greatest man who ever lived, though almost completely unknown to most of us, was born in 1744 in the Frankfurt Jewish ghetto of Judengasse. In August, 1770, when he married Gretel, he was already important enough to have the open street sewer replaced by state of the art sewers running behind the rows of high narrow houses on either side of the street, making sure plenty of fresh water from the Main River flowed through them.

When he was eleven, his parents, who lived in Judengasse, had sent him off to a yeshiva near Nuremberg to study the Torah in the hope of his becoming a rabbi. Unfortunately, they died during a smallpox epidemic, and he was orphaned at twelve. That’s when his future father-in-law, Wolf Salomon Schnapper, contacted Wolf Jacob Oppenheimer in Hanover and asked him if he would take in the young man as an apprentice in his bank.

At the Oppenheimer Bank, everybody thought very highly of him because he had developed, thanks to his father, a very quick mind when it came to handling money and buying and selling rare coins. Then, he got his first big break. Frederic II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, needed a favor. His court Jew was Jacob Oppenheimer, and he had sent for him because he was worried about his son William. Frederic had converted to Catholicism, and his Protestant wife had divorced him. When his father, the previous landgrave, died in 1760, he had sent Frederic to Kassel and given the principality of Hanau to his grandson William. William had been raised a Calvinist, and the thriving Calvinist community in Hanau wanted nothing to do with Catholics.

The Calvinists, also called Huguenots, came from France. They were the great businessmen of the day. The French kings, had always enforced the ‘one God, one king, one nation’ concept, and for centuries the Catholic Church had persecuted and massacred those who didn’t agree. After repeated atrocities committed against them, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots immigrated to more clement lands, places like the Netherlands, Hesse-Hanau, England, America and South Africa. Having endured unspeakable ills at the hands of the papist kings, Huguenots developed a deep hatred for Catholics, and by the same token, became more tolerant towards Jews.

Because of William’s young age, Frederic’s English ex-wife, Mary, was made regent. In wanting to protect William, in spite of his feelings for his ex-wife, Frederic decided to provide him with a financial advisor. He had hoped that Jacob Oppenheimer would personally take on the job. But because Hanau was five days by stagecoach from Hanover, Jacob told him it wasn’t practical for him to do so and recommended Mayer instead.

Frederic knew that Mayer lived in Frankfurt which was near Hanau. He also knew that Mayer had met his son William when they were boys. When Frederic had been Prince of Hanau, Mayer had accompanied his father Moses on one of his trips to the principality. His father had rare coins to offer Frederic who happened to be an avid coin collector. Young William had been curious about Mayer’s clothes and had wanted to have a yellow star like the one stitched to his coat. William never forgot the boy with the funny clothes.

Frederic remembered him as well, but because he was still only nineteen, he wondered how much wisdom and experience that young man could have. After being assured by Jacob that the Oppenheimer Bank would stand behind him and advise him, Frederic agreed to meet with him, and was satisfied with what he saw. Mayer then went to Hanau to meet with William and his mother who were quite pleased with him as well. So Mayer started putting the principality’s finances in order, and unavoidably, he met a General von Estorff who had been sent by Frederic to take charge of the principality’s troops. Hanau was a garrison city, but Mayer didn’t yet know what that implied.

He was becoming a sort of a one-man branch of the Oppenheimer Bank, and things were going smoothly when he found out why Frederic had sent the general to Hanau. For years, Hesse-Kassel had been receiving huge annual retainer fees from England in order to keep an army of Hessian soldiers at the ready. Up until then, the soldiers had been mainly recruited in Kassel. However, in wanting to improve Prince William’s finances, Frederic, who was now Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, figured that more soldiers could be recruited in Hanau. Huge sums of money representing that portion of retainer fees due Hanau were sent to William, and Mayer suddenly had the responsibility of managing millions of thalers. He had taken it in stride and had made sound investments. With the help of the court Jews in the ghetto, he got the highest return on the investments, and he gave Prince William useful advice regarding expenditures. He was much appreciated, and was given the official title of court Jew which allowed him to get married.

Frederic was related to the English King who was thinking of using Hessian soldiers in America. In an armed conflict, the English Parliament could intervene more quickly without having to explain everything to taxpayers, thereby avoiding arousing passions. The English parliamentarians preferred having German troops fighting English settlers, and by paying a retainer fee to Hesse-Kassel, they could have troops on the ground at a very short notice and at a much lesser cost.

Prince William used the huge retainer fees to improve the infrastructure of the Principality of Hanau. He always paid Mayer well, and the recruits received their pay whether in training or on active duty. When they were required to go and fight, they did so for a specified amount of time, and Mayer made sure their families were properly compensated.

William’s father, Frederic, maintained around ten thousand troops in Kassel, and William, with the help of General von Estorff, maintained around two thousand in Hanau. The Oppenheimer Bank had always invested the retainer fees for Frederic, but in wanting to help his son, it was now Mayer who was investing the huge sums handed over to William in Hanau. Mayer made huge commissions, and after convincing the Prince that Hanau should have its own mint, it was set up in the Walloon House, also called the Goldsmiths’ House, a building adjacent to the castle.

The silver bullion coming in from Kassel represented millions of thalers, and most of it had to be minted and invested by Mayer, and his personal fortune increased dramatically. Court Jews invested money for the princes, but also lent them money, and very often commissions weren’t paid and loans not repaid. On a whim, the princes would even do away with the court agent altogether. The horrible execution of Joseph Suss Oppenheimer just a few years back in Stuttgart was still fresh in everybody’s mind. But although Prince William was an honorable man, Mayer decided to be secretive and keep his personal business to himself just in case. He was not at all interested in flaunting his talents or his wares, he just wanted to be the best he could be at what he was doing. Nobody knew how much money he had, they just knew he wasn’t poor. Humility was a better route in reaching ones goals anyway. As far as Mayer was concerned, the most important thing in the world was to have a family, and to live among a trusting caring people, for if one didn’t have that, he had nothing.

But he was ambitious, and since Frederic, William and Jacob had full confidence in him, he decided to make them a proposition. The German people weren’t united, and there were hundreds of principalities who did as they pleased with currency, so Mayer decided to standardize the thaler in the State of Hesse. In other words, he wanted to mint a thaler that would be accepted throughout the state and beyond. Because Frederic and William, thanks to the English, had more silver bullion than any other German prince, and because Frankfurt, one of the most important German trading center, was in Hesse, his initiative was bound to succeed.

10-INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

The Anglican religion, England’s state religion, can hardly be called protestant like the Lutheran or Calvinist religions, it’s a pseudo Catholic religion. When King Henry VIII personally replaced the Pope as head of the Church of England, he and the country remained very much Catholic. In time, that church was strongly influenced by the Puritans who had followed John Wycliffe’s teachings and had wanted to change the liturgy, but it remained true to its Roman Catholic roots. The strong anti-royalist or anti-papist feelings in England in the 17th century were a sign of the growing opposition to Church abuse, of course, but the Catholic Church’s demise was mainly due to the work of the Jews and the Huguenots who had created the English East India Company in 1600 and the Dutch East India Company in 1602. As the company dominated world trade and its owners became very powerful, they were more determined than ever to destroy their mortal enemy, the Roman Catholic Empire, or the Ancien Regimes of Europe.

When Charles I was decapitated in 1649, it marked the beginning of the end for the Absolute Kings of Divine Right and the Ancien Regime. At that time, the East India Company effectively controlled the economy of the Netherlands, but it had always wanted to move its headquarters from Amsterdam to the City in London. However, because Cromwell had disappointed his sponsors by failing to establish a proper parliamentary system in England, they had had to postpone democracy for another 40 years until the circumstances were favorable for William and Mary to wear the crown.

In 1694, once established in the City at the helm of the Bank of England, investment in research and development (R&D) could start in earnest. Sure to have their loans repaid in a timely and just fashion, they invested with abandon and launched what is called the Industrial Revolution. Thanks to ready credit, the English economy became dynamic, and European know-how flowed into the country. The bankers then started financing infrastructure projects in order to facilitate tax collection, internal trade, commerce and exchange of ideas. However, developing road and canal transport didn’t happen overnight, and the Industrial Revolution had to wait for the steam engine to really get started.

Denis Papin, a Huguenot from Hesse, had developed the cylinder and piston concept as early as 1695, but the use of steam was not fully exploited until James Watt invented the condenser in 1765. The Industrial Revolution coincided with the creation of the Bank of North America and Elie Whitney’s mindboggling invention, the cotton gin with interchangeable parts, in 1781. The main industry of the times, cotton, had experienced a great leap forward with the invention of the flying shuttle in 1733, the spinning Jenny in 1764, and the spinning frame in 1769, but it was the use of steam power and the invention of the cotton gin that revolutionized the greatest industry of the times.

On the iron side of things, railroads started being built in early 19th century, but the rails were made with wrought iron and were not durable. Sir Henry Bessemer, another Huguenot, changed all that when he invented a steel making process in 1856. In his blast furnaces, air oxidized and raised the temperature of the molten pig iron, while a small quantity of molten pig iron containing manganese was added and converted the whole large mass of molten iron into steel in just minutes, without the need for any additional fuel. That’s when track started being laid non-stop across Europe and America. In 1876, limestone was added to draw out phosphorous and make the steel less brittle, turning it into the wondrous material we know today.

Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1844, Elias Howe, the sewing machine, in 1846, Graham Bell, the telephone, in 1876, Thomas Edison, the light bulb in 1879, Galileo Ferraris & Nikola Tesla, the A/C motor in 1888, and Charles Steinmetz, the AC transformer in 1893. When George Westinghouse bought Tesla’s invention and started distributing AC electrical current over long distances, the whole world lit up.

The Bank of England created in 1694 was the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution. But more was to come. Because the Bank of England was made up of dozens of private bankers, it didn’t speak with one voice, and though the bankers had become very powerful, they had also become very English, and very parochial. It wasn’t until the first genuine international banker created the Bank of North America in 1781, and officially took over the English monetary system in 1810, did the world have a financial institution that spoke with one voice. Today, two hundred years after that takeover, we are the ones who enjoy the benefits of the great market economies made possible by that man and his dynasty.

9-GLORIOUS REVOLUTION

The word revolution is a banker’s term. It was used by the owners of the East India Company when they launched their first revolution, in England, in 1688. It was called the Glorious Revolution. A revolution is a well-planned, well-financed affair that succeeds and is permanent in nature. It is always part of a bigger plan for a better world. The Glorious, Industrial, American and French revolutions are all interrelated, and they opened the door to the great world we live in today. A war, an uprising, a rebellion, a revolt, or a military coup can only be called a revolution if it succeeds and is permanent in nature, in other words, if it has the international financiers’ approval.

When the owners of the East India Company decided to finance the construction of the chateau de Versailles, they wanted to destroy the Holy Roman Empire. Naturally, they started with the most obvious target, France, its crown jewel. The construction of the chateau was the first step in a long series of events that would lead to the French Revolution. Construction of the chateau began in 1661, and by 1678, it looked like the chateau we know today. Once things were well under way in France, the owners of the East India Company started planning the Glorious Revolution, the revolution that would lead to a new form of government, democracy.

After his father’s execution in 1649, Charles II of England had fled to the Netherlands where he had lived in exile until he had been invited back in 1660. He subsequently wore the English crown from 1660 until his death in 1685. Much of England grumbled under his rule because he was for letting Catholics sit in parliament, and because he had befriended King Louis XIV of France. The owners of the East India Company, who effectively ran the Netherlands, were quite annoyed with Charles for associating with France’s king of divine right, but when, in 1672, he did Louis XIV a favor by having England declare war on the Netherlands, that was the last straw.

Since Charles II had no legitimate heir, his younger brother, James II, was next in line. While they waited for Charles’ term to run out, the financiers did their best to stoke the anti-royalist feelings among the English parliamentarians. And since James II had a daughter who was being raised as an Anglican, arranging a marriage between her and William III seemed to be the answer to their long term goal. Because James II was catholic, he would be easy to overthrow when the time came, and the crown would then be handed to his Anglican-raised daughter Mary who was next in line.

In 1677, the marriage between Mary II of England and William III of Orange was celebrated in St. James Palace, and it wasn’t a happy affair. At fifteen, an arranged marriage with a much older and repulsive William was not meant to make Mary happy, and she cried throughout the whole ceremony. She had a very unhappy life, especially while in the Netherlands, where she lived for the first eleven years of their marriage. William was a homosexual who spent most of his time leading a double life away from home, and Mary spent all that time in a big cold castle on the outskirts of The Hague. She returned to England in 1688 after the “Immortal Seven” invited her and her husband to come to England and wear the crown. William landed in England with a small army, and he marched on London without hardly firing a shot. James II took off for France, and parliament subsequently declared the crown vacant. William and Mary were then both offered the crown after signing the Bill of Rights which precluded that they submit to parliament’s authority and have no catholic descendants. That series of events is known in the history books as the Glorious Revolution.

However, that was only half of what was to be democracy, England now needed a financial institution. And as it so happened, not about to throw in the towel, and wanting James II to reclaim the crown of England, the Roman Catholic Church gave the financiers the perfect opportunity to create the Bank of England. France’s absolute king of divine right and his powerful navy had just given England a good drubbing, and he was in the process of invading England by way of Ireland. Naturally, the English parliament was asked by King William to retaliate and build a strong navy. But since no public funds were available, and since the credit of William III’s government was non-existent, it was impossible for parliament to borrow the huge sums needed. To induce subscription to the loan, the private subscribers were incorporated into a company that became known as the Bank of England. The Bank was given exclusive possession of the government’s debt, and became the only corporation allowed to issue bank notes. The necessary funds were raised in matter of days, and the private financial institution known to this day as the Bank of England was created

For the first time in the history of mankind, the bankers were sure of being repaid in an orderly and just fashion. Parliament got rid of the antiquated tax collection system inherited from France, and proceeded to develop the country’s infrastructure in order to be better able to collect taxes. The owners of the East India Company had wanted an autonomous parliament because they were banking on a human foible whereby the people’s representatives, once their political campaigns, elections and salaries properly funded, would want to prove their worth and do things before taxes were collected. Since the Bank of England controlled the purse, its shareholders now established in the City could accept or refuse to finance the parliamentarians’ projects, thus indirectly controlling all important developments in the country. That was democracy then, just as it today, and it’s the owners of the East India Company who created the concept. Democracy can only work if the concerned country is indebted, and a democracy is always indebted.

If democracy has proven itself to be the best political system in the world, it’s because people representation and monetary control are separate. The people’s representatives manage things while the bankers decide what’s to be managed by increasing or decreasing the flow of credit. If the one who prints the money is the same as the one who spends it, that is, if the parliamentarians do the printing and the spending, the system can only implode.

8-VERSAILLES

France had so many indirect taxes, and they were so complex, that the king, who was forever broke, was quite happy to farm out the tax-collecting chores to accelerate cash flow. The Farmers General, as they were called, would buy a six-year lease for a price corresponding to the total amount of taxes they deemed they could collect in that period of time. Obviously, the estimates were always on the low side, but the king, forever short of money and anxious to get at these huge upfront sums of money, wasn’t inclined to negotiate to any great extent. As one would expect, and since the Farmers General kept all the taxes collected, they tended to be very aggressive towards the citizens and took advantage of them while acting in the name of the king. Their collection methods were more often than not downright reprehensible.

The Farmers General became fabulously rich, pocketing as much as half of the total taxes paid out by the citizens. They would even routinely use their position as representatives of the king to defraud the locals. Coercion and blackmail were ongoing methods to get the producers to sell them their goods at ridiculously low prices and to have the helpless city merchants at the other end pay exorbitant prices for that same merchandise. They were the most hated men of the realm and much of the bitterness was directed at the king, for they acted in his name. When a finance minister was to be named, they directly influenced the king in his choice, thus getting the most accommodating candidate. The Dutch East India Company owners seized a great opportunity when Nicolas Fouquet was named Superintendent of Finances.

Louis XIV was a born megalomaniac, and in 1661, he was humiliated by Nicolas Fouquet, suspected of having doubtful dealings with the Farmers General. Fouquet had invited the king to his magnificent château de Vaux-le-Vicomte that he had just built, and the king upon seeing the magnificence and the beauty of the domain, not only envied his achievement but wondered where all the money to build it had come from. Smelling a rat, he confiscated Fouquet’s assets and threw him in prison.

The financiers in Amsterdam and London seized the opportunity and relieved the King’s rancour by making unlimited credit available to him through third parties so that he could build the most sumptuous kingly residence in the world, the chateau de Versailles. Louis XIV immediately hired the great artisans that had created the château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, architect Louis Le Vau, painter Charles Le Brun, and garden designer André le Nôtre, and construction began.

Profit wasn’t what motivated the owners of the East India Company in wanting the chateau de Versailles built, it was more a deep desire to witness the demise of the most important monarchy in the Christian Roman Empire. By separating the seat of power from the people, Versailles was twenty kilometers from Paris, the king would become vulnerable and could more easily be brought down when the time came. The occult financing of the chateau de Versailles by the financiers in Amsterdam was the seed that would develop into the French Revolution more than a hundred years later in 1789.

In 1789, bread was by far the most important ingredient in a Frenchman’s diet, especially if he was poor. It was central to people’s lives, and because the corrupt Farmers General controlled the supply of cereal and created timely famines, bread was often difficult to get, or very costly to buy. It was the bakers, however, who were widely perceived as profiting from dearth and famine, and making huge profits by selling this vital commodity at a high price. Bakers who were suspected of hoarding stocks or other malpractices were frequently assaulted. Being lynched became the occupational hazard of the baker.

When the French Revolution officially started in 1789, one of the first organized incidents was a march on Versailles. In October of that year, a very odd crowd of transvestites went to Versailles to fetch the royal family, “the baker, the baker’s wife, and the baker’s apprentice”. The escort provided by Lafayette and his men acted very oddly in that it made no attempt to stop the ‘ladies’. How such an ungainly group of women could go to Versailles, capture and bring back the royals to Paris with Lafayette’s National Guard helplessly standing by is a mystery. The tennis court oath under the leadership of Mirabeau in June, the taking of the Bastille under the sponsorship of Louis-Phillippe d’Orléans in July, and the March on Versailles under the guard of Lafayette in October, were separate and well-planned incidents, not spontaneous street actions.