Mayer went to meet with Benjamin who had just arrived in Philadelphia. Though Mayer was much younger, they had become the best of friends, and they greeted each other enthusiastically. They had enjoyed the time spent together before Benjamin left for France, and again when they had met in Paris. They couldn’t wait to have a tête-à-tête which they arranged to have the day after the official welcoming ceremonies that were planned for Benjamin.
Benjamin’s german hadn’t improved much, but Mayer had since picked up an English word here and there, and they managed to communicate quite well. Mayer congratulated Benjamin on his masterful use of Morris Notes sent to him in Paris in order to pay for the French arms supplied by Vergennes and sent to Schiff in Rotterdam. Thanks to him, David had channelled vast quantities of surplus French arms to the Colonies. In other words, Mayer wanted to let Franklin know that without him, the victory at Yorktown, the founding of the Bank of North America and the about-to-be-signed Constitution would have been impossible.
Benjamin thanked him for his kind words, but he was more interested in knowing how Robert Morris had used the French gold to capitalize the Bank of North America. So, Mayer started by saying that the French gold was intact and had been used to back up the Morris notes. Morris had become the Bank of North America’s main shareholder, and the bank was on the verge of obtaining a 20-year charter from Congress. Mayer admitted that he now controlled America’s monetary system and that it was making him very rich but was quick to add that past a certain point being rich is of no consequence. The only thing that mattered was accumulating more gold bullion in order to create more credit and strengthen the burgeoning economy. There were, however, two main concerns. Getting more gold out of the ground was limited by current technology, and it was hard to maintain anonymity while controlling the monetary system. When Benjamin learned that Mayer had financed the creation of the recently-opened École des Mines in Paris with gold extraction in mind, he was in full of admiration of the man.
The subject then turned to France. Benjamin had much to say, and Mayer was all ears. Benjamin felt that France was a kettle ready to boil over. Masonic Lodges were mushrooming throughout France since the Congress of Wilhelmsbad, for members no longer had to swear on the Catholic bible in order to become freemasons. The change had opened the door to the Huguenots who were infiltrating France from England, Holland and Germany. Somebody was pushing for change in France, and that initiative seemed to be originating in the City, in London. Benjamin was quite sure the English bankers were out to destroy the Ancien Regime of France. People like Mirabeau and many others were already talking about France having a Constitutional Monarchy like that of England.
It seemed that Versailles was creating a problem. The King was completely isolated and surrounded by his aristocratic cronies in a lush setting while a starving Paris grumbled. Benjamin had personally felt this unrest in Paris in spite of the fact that Versailles was now occupied by Louis XVI and his young wife, a rather congenial couple.
The news was no surprise to Mayer. It was now his turn to give Benjamin some bad news concerning the Treaty of Alliance of 1778 that had unofficially made France America’s major trading partner. Since then, America’s economy had grown tremendously and now needed a stronger trading partner. Because of turmoil in France, Mayer thought that a formal trade agreement with England had to supersede the treaty that Benjamin had ratified in Paris in 1778. He knew that the French and the American citizenry would be very upset with what they would deem treachery, which, in fact, it was. Nonetheless, Mayer wondered if Benjamin could accept to work with him if such a trade agreement were signed. Mayer saw it as an urgent matter as well as a logical thing to do. America was mainly English-speaking and Protestant just like England, and the merchants in both countries were familiar with each other’s ways, for they had been trading with each other for a long time.
Benjamin was truly taken aback by this suggestion and remained quiet for the longest time. His natural inclination was to mistrust any man who dealt in betrayal. But because he knew Mayer was right in that they had no control over what was happening in France, and because he truly admired this man, he dismissed his gut reaction. He knew that Mayer felt the same way he did about France, and that he felt very bad about not honoring the Treaty of Alliance, even though it hadn’t been an official trade agreement. Reluctantly, he agreed with Mayer. Mayer added that he would make it up to France by always giving it top consideration in all future economic and cultural matters and would do everything in his power to give France a Constitutional Monarchy like that of England.
In the meantime, if Congress was to be receptive to the idea, Mayer told Benjamin his help was sorely needed. Although he was thinking of retirement, he urged him to accept the seat he was being offered in the Senate. With him sitting in the Senate, and Alexander Hamilton controlling finances under Morris’ leadership, they could easily steer the ship of state. It was the only way to successfully address the pressing matters facing the 13 Colonies. Getting the constitution signed, a President elected, permanent residences built for both the President and Congress, and a trade agreement signed with England would require all their attention.
So far, Hamilton had written newspaper articles that had led to the ratification of the Declaration of Independence by New York, and he was now in the process of drafting the constitution with Madison. With regards to the ceded lands by England, since the individual Colonies had claims on them, Mayer had asked Robert Morris to forgive their war debts on condition that they sign over their rights to Congress, and it seemed to be working. There wasn’t much doubt that all would accept, and in so doing, they would be accepting the authority of Congress. That in turn would open the door to their accepting a residence for both the President and Congress up the Potomac River, and thus, a federal state.
Because Mayer thought things were going well and in the right direction, he added that it was probably now time to start thinking about the territorial boundaries of this great nation in the making. After the signing of the Paris Treaty in 1763, when the French had repatriated their administration and military leaving America to the English, and the signing of the Paris Treaty of 1783, when the English had left the 13 Colonies to the Americans, it was now time to start thinking of expansion westward.
Mayer was thinking of a way to repay France for coming to America’s aid in 1778. America would buy its vast land possessions that stretched from New Orleans to Hudson Bay and to the west right up to and including the great prairies for a substantial amount of money. His bank would advance the money, and the loan would be added to the federal debt. For France, the windfall would be a compensation for aiding America in 1768, as well as for its loss regarding the upcoming trade agreement with England. Mayer would find a way to arrange a mindboggling deal that both France and Congress would be only too happy to agree to. Then, a huge buffer zone north of the 49th parallel could be created, and the USA would be free to expand westward in an orderly fashion along that parallel. Once the West was opened, the Spanish-Mexican problem to the south would be addressed. Congress would first help Mexico gain its independence from Spain, and down the road, offer to purchase the Mexican lands north of the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande would then become the southern boundary line. The American states west of the Mississippi would be incorporated as warranted by population growth, and the USA would become a coast-to-coast nation, with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. Unlike Europe, the USA would be a coast-to-coast homogeneous country, with a mainly white, English-speaking, Protestant population. It was the ‘manifest destiny’ of the USA to become the greatest country the world had ever seen.
The Jew and the goy looked at each other in total agreement and embraced. In that instant, they took full measure of the situation, and the long silence that followed, steeped in humility and mutual respect, spoke volumes about what they had and would accomplish.