In 1798, the French Republicans, feeling betrayed by the USA, wanted the latter to return the French aid package that had helped them win their independence in 1781. Since Congress was in no position to do that, there was no telling what the disorganized French government of the times would do. It was quite a threat, and if Mayer was to defuse the situation, he needed to have a strong presence in the City. That same year, he sent his very able 21-year-old son Nathan to England. Mayer’s plan was to get the American Congress to send diplomats to France and offer to compensate France by having the USA buy the unoccupied French lands west of the Mississippi, while Nathan worked on a plan to have the English Navy destroy the very royalist and redundant French Navy.
The Quasi-War, as it became known, had to do with the signing of Jay’s Treaty in 1793, a trade agreement that Mayer and Benjamin had deemed indispensable to the growth of the American economy. America and France had signed the Treaty of Alliance in 1778, and Jay’s Treaty was superseding that agreement. The French and many Americans had been incensed, for it had been seen as a treacherous act by both the US Congress and the Directorate in France. Naturally, the French revolutionaries insisted on the return of the 500 tons of French gold given to America in 1778.
When Mayer asked Robert Morris to get Congress to send an American delegation to Paris to offer compensation by putting the Louisiana Purchase on the table, he was sure it would work. If America bought the Louisiana lands from France, the latter would receive a huge sum of money and the Quasi-War would stop. But first, France had to reclaim the port of New Orleans that they had ceded to the Spanish when they left America after the Treaty of Paris, in 1763. Barras was to get Talleyrand to have the Spanish sign a treaty. He was to promise the Spanish that the half of San Domingo that belonged to them and was presently occupied by France would be returned to them in exchange for New Orleans. Once this was done, he would get the Americans to buy the whole of Louisiana from the French, and it would more than compensate for France’s generosity in 1778.
However, when the American delegation, consisting of three diplomats, arrived in Paris, they were treated very poorly by the Marquis of Talleyrand who had the gall to request personal compensation in order to intervene on their behalf. The American diplomats were so shocked by this turn of events that they returned immediately to America to report to Congress. Both parties in Congress spoke with one voice in condemning the French response to their genuine peace overture. Meanwhile, the French Navy continued seizing and sinking American merchant ships in the Caribbean, while the fledgling US Navy retaliated as best it could. That’s where things stood in 1798, and from Mayer’s point of view, the Quasi-War had to be stopped before it escalated.
Mayer especially didn’t want the English Navy getting involved in the Quasi-War. He controlled the American monetary system, that of England, and indirectly that of France, and he didn’t want the three countries who were now under his financial control to be fighting each other. France was definitely not an enemy, and because America, England and France were unofficially trading partners, one navy was all that was needed, the English Navy.
Nathan was to use Bonaparte in order to get part of the French Navy destroyed, stopping the Quasi-War in the process, and it had to be done without his knowledge. Since Bonaparte was being groomed as France’s soon-to-be strongman, he had to be handled with care. Nathan would tell Ouvrard to do whatever was necessary to get Talleyrand and Barras to send young Bonaparte on his Egyptian campaign, and we know what happened to the French Navy in that campaign.
The French Navy would be completely destroyed at Trafalgar a few years later, but for now, the important thing was to put an end to the Quasi-War. Finally, in 1800, when Bonaparte became 1st Consul, a deal was struck regarding the Louisiana Purchase, and the non-existent French-American naval war stopped. The Louisiana Purchase would be finalized in 1803 and it would give Bonaparte the wherewithal to declare himself Emperor Napoleon.
In London, Nathan was doing very well. By 1810, he had taken over from the Goldsmid Bros. and created his own bank, making him the most powerful banker in the City. His bank had immediately started setting the daily price of gold for the whole world. However, because Mayer had wanted to make sure Nathan didn’t have any official ties with him or the First Bank of the United States, Nathan opened his bank in the City, using his own name. That way, all possible ties to a father who lived in a ghetto, to the First Bank of the United States, and to the French real estate scam disappeared. Nobody would ever know where all that power and gold came from. Anonymity was the key to success.
Other than wanting to do a good job and making his father proud, Nathan had another pressing personal matter. He had been introduced to two families in London, and though it had been Moses Elias Montefiore’s family that had taken him in, Nathan had closer ties to the Levy-Barent Cohen family from when he was 18. In 1795, on a trip to America with his father and brothers, they had stopped over in London, and that’s when Nathan had met Hannah Cohen who was 12 at the time. When he arrived in London in 1798, he was quite anxious to see the girl he had dreamt about during all those years.
He lost no time in founding a family. In 1806 he married Hannah Cohen, in 1808 Lionel was born, and in 1809 he moved to St. Swithin’s Lane in New Court, where he proceeded to set up the official home of his banking dynasty. But first, Nathan had to take over from the Goldsmid Bros.
In taking over from the Goldsmid Bros., he was helped by destiny. Benjamin Goldsmid committed suicide in 1808 just prior to Nathan’s moving to Swithin’s Lane. It was said that Benjamin had been depressed for some time. When his 19-year old son converted to Anglicanism, it had shaken him up, and when his wife and daughters followed suite, it appeared to do him in. At that time, he had expressed the thought that he was saddened by the thought of being the last Jew in his family, and no doubt, that had led him to be further depressed, enough to take his life. One morning, he was found in his bedroom dangling at the end of his bathrobe chord.
Abraham was troubled by his brother’s suicide, and doubly so because he was now alone in facing his firm’s business obligations. He had bought £14,000,000 of Government Consols, and in order to do so he had contracted a sizeable loan with the East India Company in Amsterdam. In 1810, for reasons unknown to the public, the East India Company called in Abraham’s loan. That of course forced him to sell the Consols at below market, thus making him suffer a huge loss that resulted in the insolvency of the firm. Abraham honorably used the whole of his personal assets to pay back what he owed, and that left him penniless. He committed suicide in 1810. A handgun was found near his body lying in a wooded area not far from his home.
While Nathan was in the process of creating his bank in the City, Napoleon had turned France into an orderly centralist state. Napoleon had then been encouraged to go and defeat what was left of the Holy Roman Empire in Eastern Europe, which was achieved at the Battle of Austerlitz. By 1810, Napoleon had served his purpose by destroying most of the Ancien regimes, and it was time to get rid of him. But Nathan thought he could use him one last time by sending him to Russia in order to force the Tsar to open the country to private gold mining, and perhaps to let the Tsar know that there was an international power much bigger than Russia. There would always be time to get rid of Napoleon later.