15-INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Mayer was becoming very, very rich, and he didn’t want to scare Gretel by telling her about the huge tract of land he had recently bought. It was a parcel of around two hundred acres of forest and marshland to the west of Frankfurt, outside the city walls. Now that Haym was more or less confirming what he already knew regarding America, it was obvious he would need more office space. As soon as the landscaping allowed it, he would go ahead with the building of a grandiose manor that would serve as his headquarters. The marshland was being transformed into a vast botanical garden, and he already had a name for the palatial structure to be built at the north end facing south. It would be called Green Castle. Officially, it would be Peter Heinrich von Bethmann’s residence, but unofficially, it’s where Peter would run Mayer’s banking operations, and where Mayer would keep his vaults and accommodate out-of-town business associates and friends, both Jewish and goy. From the terrace of Green Castle there would be a panoramic view of huge stretches of lawn, trees, ponds and many exotic plants and animals, things that were completely foreign to Judengasse. It would be a peaceful place where Gretel could go and enjoy the fresh air and the beauty with her family. He knew Gretel would find this private green paradise hard to resist once she was introduced to it. Above all, this property was not subject to the authority of the Frankfurt Council, but that of Prince Wilhelm.

Mayer sat down and wrote Haym that he was to go ahead with the tobacco shipment. He told him he would confirm it with David who would get the necessary warehouses built. Mayer would let Haym know what the wholesale price of tobacco was in Rotterdam as soon as possible. Haym was to get the best tobacco available, for high quality products attracted higher prices and could be sold more easily.

As for the wine and denim, he told him he was acquainted with two Frenchmen in Frankfurt who were in a position to help. Jean-Baptiste Willermoz had a silk factory in Lyon, France, but spent a lot of time in Frankfurt where another Frenchman, François Johannot, operated a silk factory as well. The high-end silk business wasn’t doing so well and they would certainly welcome a chance to get involved in a more lucrative business. He was certain that Jean-Baptiste, François, and their wives would welcome a chance to have a first class, fully financed voyage to the south of France while inquiring about the availability of bottled wine and denim cloth. The offer to leave winter behind them, visit family and friends in Lyon, and bask in the Mediterranean sun was a powerful enticement.

With the help of Jean-Baptiste and François he was certain he would soon be financing wine and denim shipments to Rotterdam, London and NYC. This would work out extremely well, for wine and denim shipments would go down the Rhine by barge to Rotterdam, and the same barges would come back up the Rhine with arms and military supplies for Prince William along with pre-ordered manufactured goods. In anticipation, he was arranging to have more of the Roman-type barges constructed in Hanau. So far, his barges on the Rhine were proving to be quite a success, and because they all flew the Prince’s colours, they hadn’t been harassed by the bandit lords and forced to pay tolls. He intended to continue the same modus operandi with the wine and denim shipments.

He finished his letter to Haym and took it to the Thurn and Taxis office for delivery to America. He came back in time to have supper with Gretel and his precious little Yochana. He told Gretel he was planning to go to Rotterdam to acquaint David with the latest developments, and that he would be gone at most three weeks. When prompted by Gretel, he proceeded to tell her what was on his mind

He had already told her how the Sephardi Jews had joined up with the Huguenots and created the Bank of England in 1694. He explained that it was precisely what he wanted to do in America, except that in his case it would be a one-man operation. The Americans needed credit, and since the Bank of England bankers wasn’t providing it at a decent rate, he would. Everybody trusted his bills of exchange, and they would soon be widely accepted on both sides of the Atlantic. If he helped the Americans win their independence from England, his bank would then be automatically recognized as the official bank of America when it became a nation.

For now, he was planning to finance shipments of high quality products in both directions across the Atlantic. When merchants became convinced that his bills could be redeemed for specie and on demand on both sides of the Atlantic, and that his exchange rates for Thalers and Pounds were fixed and fair, he was sure that instead of going through the trouble and cost of redeeming them they would just sign them over to third, fourth, and fifth parties. On the other hand, David and Haym would be instructed to only accept specie for the goods they sold. Specie would accumulate with each shipment, and both counting houses could then issue more bills of exchange. For now, he was waiting for the sale of the first shipment of tobacco and planning to send Jean-Baptiste and François to France to look into the wine and denim.

As Gretel grasped the huge sums of money her husband would be making, she worried about her family and told him this wasn’t what she had expected when she married him. Mayer reassured her. He had no intention of showing his wealth and letting everybody know how rich he was. He told her that his name would never be officially connected to anything he did because he didn’t want to stir up feelings of envy and hatred. He told her he was not interested in flaunting his wealth, and the only thing that mattered was for her to be proud of him.

He explained how he planned to finance the Americans in their fight for independence, and once achieved, how he would create a bank for them without their ever knowing who he was. His financial operations would be international in nature, and that would ensure his success and his anonymity. The counting houses and eventually banks, would be run by people like Haym and David, great men who don’t officially answer to Mayer. Each financial institutions would be obliged to interact with the others in order to prosper. Each would be independent, yet firmly part of the whole. This would guarantee their indestructibility without Mayer ever having to be present. He trusted Haym and David with his life, and he was prepared to give them anything they wanted. Working for Mayer was like working for oneself. Mayer intended to surround himself with Ashkenazim who would become an extended family network, and he would use goys only when he had to. Haym may have been a Sephardi, but he was like a brother. He respected and even loved David and Haym, and by giving them everything they could possibly want, he was sure of their respect and loyalty. Complete trust in them allowed Mayer to work in anonymity, and that was the key. Having anonymity, making astounding amounts of money and being magnanimous and honest in all transactions at all times made for lasting success. Business would be conducted by trusted non-family collaborators that would not be directly connected to him, and it would remain that way until his sons were old enough to assume control.

Gretel loved this man, and as he picked up Yochana and started singing from the Torah, she was the happiest woman in the world. She didn’t want to lose that. But she also knew that if Mayer didn’t follow his dream, he would cease to be the man he was, and she could not bear that.

The next morning, before leaving to meet with Jean-Baptiste and François, Mayer told her how important that meeting was. French wine was the best in the world, and there was talk that the Burgundy wine could be bottled in uniform-sized bottles. The other product had to do with cloth. The Huguenots, in wanting to have a country of their own, had emigrated to the Prince-Bishopric of Basel where they were weaving cotton cloth which was in great demand, but which was forbidden in France proper. They grew cotton in the Caribbean islands and were shipping it up the Rhone-Saone-Doubs river system to Montbéliard and then by land to Mulhouse, the industrial center near Basel. Mayer wanted Jean-Baptiste and François to really find out what was what regarding those two products.

If the news were good, he would send for Haym in order to consult with him before directly helping the Americans gain their independence. Mayer would be wealthy enough to finance a meeting of the thirteen colonies with the aim of creating some kind of parliament. He would find and finance leaders who were opposed to English rule, and since Virginia was the most sophisticated politically, that’s where he’d concentrate his efforts. But for now, he had to accumulate as much bullion and specie as he could, and the only way to achieve that goal was to be a businessman.

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