21-BANK OF NORTH AMERICA

Mayer may have been busy in Frankfurt supervising the construction of Grunenburg Schloss, but American Independence and French aid to America was what foremost on his mind. After the Trenton defection of nearly 900 Hessians in 1776, and especially after the capture of Burgoyne’s army in Saratoga, in 1777, Louis XVI, impressed with Benjamin Franklin as a man and in awe of the American victories, had seized the moment and signed the Treaty of Alliance with the 13 Colonies, thus declaring war on England in the process. As of that moment, thanks to Benjamin Franklin’s diplomatic skills, France had decided to come to America’s aid.

The English High Command retaliated by attacking the French fleet which was in the Caribbean. Clinton, the new commander of the British forces, then sent Cornwallis to re-establish control over the southern colonies. Cornwallis’ army won major victories in Charlestown and Camden, but the English Navy had a bad time of it in the Caribbean. To make matters worse for the English, the American general, Nathaniel Greene, started hit and run tactics against Cornwallis, forcing the latter to chase him throughout the Carolinas. Eventually, Clinton had Cornwallis rest his demoralized army in the ice-free port of Yorktown in Chesapeake Bay. Clinton intended to resupply him as needed, and Cornwallis was to go back on the offensive after a much needed rest. But they hadn’t taken into account General Rochambeau, Commander-in-Chief of the French forces, and a great military strategist.

Rochambeau was a professional soldier trained in the art of warfare, and he singlehandedly coordinated the military operations that would lead to the Yorktown victory. He marched his very well rested and disciplined army out of Newport towards New York City, and as planned, he met up with Washington’s army at Wethersfield, Connecticut, in late May. When Rochambeau saw Washington’s army in tatters, he realized there was mutiny in the air. The troops had had it with Washington’s leadership and his ‘military family’, a group of young aides-de-camp who rode well bred horses with fine saddlery and spent a lot of time feasting with the General. So, Rochambeau proceeded to pay the American troops what was owed them, gave them food, proper uniforms and much needed military supplies. The allies then got ready to attack New York City. But when Rochambeau got word that Admiral de Grasse had defeated the English in the Caribbean, he had a change of plan.

He knew Cornwallis’ army was recovering in Yorktown and realized how vulnerable it was. It was obvious that defeating Cornwallis’ army would be easier and have a greater impact than facing Clinton’s well-entrenched and well-supplied army in New York City. After convincing Washington, he sent word to Admiral de Grasse in the Caribbean and Admiral de Barras in Newport informing them of his change of plans. Luckily for everybody, the two admirals agreed to go along with Rochambeau, and both headed for Chesapeake Bay. Admiral de Grasse got there first and easily defeated the English fleet off the Virginia coast, while Admiral de Barras arrived from Newport and blockaded Cornwallis’ army by positioning his fleet at the mouth of the York River. Having joined forces, the two French fleets easily outnumbered anything the British were able to muster. When Rochambeau and Washington arrived at Yorktown, they had the troops dig a siege line behind Cornwallis’ position, thus entrapping his army. The allies then tightened their stranglehold, digging a second siege line closer to Cornwallis’ army. As the naval and land artillery kept pounding away from both front and rear, Cornwallis didn’t have a chance. The English redoubts were taken one by one, forcing Cornwallis to surrender. When the English Parliamentarians learned they had lost another army, they decided to put an end to the war, but it wasn’t to be made official for another two years.

Meanwhile, in Frankfurt, Mayer was telling Gretel, his only confidante, how Haym had convinced a lot of Hessians to defect while he was under house arrest, and how Haym had later been named broker to the French Consul, and Treasurer of the French Army when he arrived in Philadelphia. Haym had then made sure the French army, as well as Washington’s army, the 13 militias, and the politicians had everything they needed. But now that the politicians were about to take over, Mayer hated to tell Gretel that he had chosen Robert Morris instead of Haym as the one to deal with Congress. Because America was no more ready than Europe to accept Jews in a leadership role, it was Robert Morris, a goy, who would look after Mayer’s finances in 1781. The continental currency that Congress had issued at the start of the war and that had somewhat helped to finance the war had by now completely depreciated. Fortunately for Congress and for Mayer, the ‘Morris Notes’ backed by the French gold had replaced the worthless currency.

When Gretel asked if Mayer has stolen the French gold, Mayer gives her a long homily on the magic of gold. He starts by telling her that it was officially all spent but that it remained stockpiled in his vaults. He continues by saying there are two ways of looking at gold bullion. The first is where the owner uses it to further his personal ambition in order to gain influence, and the second is where it is used to establish a credit system and to build a monetary system like Mayer was doing. The gold provided by France was doing what it was supposed to do. It was helping America win the war like Louis XVI had wanted, but it would do much more than that, it would help create a government, a country and an economy. When gold bullion is used to make more credit available, it becomes the cornerstone of the economic structure, whereas it accomplishes nothing if used as currency. Gold bullion is meant to be gathered in a pile, as huge as possible, and the pile is meant to remain inviolate and observable. The notes and the bills are issued and spent, but the gold stays in a neat pile. The banker who possesses the gold can issue bills of exchange in which everybody has the highest confidence, and as the pile of gold grows, it acts as a starter or mother for more notes and more bills. Confidence in the bills issued is what makes it all possible. Of course, the process of creating credit makes the gold holder richer, but beyond a certain point, getting rich is no longer the point, amassing more bullion and shoring up the monetary system is.

Creating credit is akin to controlling the monetary system, and controlling the monetary system isn’t about increasing the wealth of one individual, for that’s already a given in Mayer’s case, it’s about pointing the economy or the country in the desired direction and creating more credit and more wealth, and buying more gold. Elected individuals can’t possibly control a monetary system, for they are too subjective and think too short-term, and the monetary system is sure to founder under the weight of their greed, corruption and short-sightedness. Only objective private interests totally intent on building thriving market economies can succeed. However, because the privately owned Bank of England was myopic and parochial in nature, contrary to Mayer’s bank that was international in nature, his bank would one day take over the prestigious Bank of England.

He continued by giving a brief account of what had been accomplished so far. The Bank of North America had been created on May 26, 1781 by the Confederation Congress, at which time, Alexander Hamilton had recommended Morris for the position of Superintendent of Finance. The constitution for the Bank of North America had been drafted by Alexander and was modeled after the Bank of England. Morris had then submitted his legislative proposal based on that draft, and that’s how Mayer’s bank became the first private commercial bank in the USA.

When Robert Morris became superintendent of finance the continental currency had ceased to be issued. On April 30, 1781, Alexander Hamilton was advised to tell Morris that the bank’s capital would consist of 1,000 shares priced at $400 each. When Mayer offered Benjamin Franklin, who was still in France, a symbolic share in order to show the great American’s faith in the Federalists and his confidence in the new bank, he readily accepted. Thomas Willing, the original President of the bank of Philadelphia, and William Bingham, were both given shares as well. But Robert Morris held more than 90% of the shares, thanks to the French gold in his possession.

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20-WORKING FOR INDEPENDENCE

Franklin left Philadelphia on the 26th of October, accompanied by his son, William Temple Franklin, and his grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache, son of Sarah. Sarah was the daughter he had with Deborah Read, his common-law wife.

They sailed on board the Continental sloop-of-war Reprisal which carried sixteen guns. He had to be protected, for if Franklin had been captured by the English on the high seas he would have been hanged for treason. The 70-year-old American, widely referred to by the English as ‘chief of the rebels’ or as ‘General Franklin’, was deemed dangerous. The British Ambassador to France expressed his regrets that some English frigate had not met and dispensed with him on the high seas. However, he landed at Auray on the Loire River and made his way to Nantes with great difficulty. From there, the 250-mile trip into Paris was like a triumphal procession. He was wined and dined by scientific and literary notables on the way, and his entry into Paris caused a sensation.

Franklin’s fame was due not only to his scientific reputation, but also to the French rage for what philosopher Rousseau called ‘the natural man’. There was a vogue for things American in France at this time. Many French intellectuals looked to America as a new world, a fresh world, a world where human nature was closer to its natural origins. And Franklin, of course, was more than pleased to cater to French expectations. When he arrived in Paris, he was wearing a little fur cap to keep his bald head warm. To the French, the hat was the embodiment of the rugged American frontiersman and proof that Franklin was a true ‘natural man’. Even though no one knew what exactly he was doing in France, the French welcomed him with open arms, and he became a pop culture icon. Images of Franklin, wearing a fur cap instead of a wig, were depicted in paintings, engravings, medallions, rings, and snuffboxes.

After the Battle of Saratoga and the humiliating defeat of the British army commanded by General Burgoyne, Franklin, in spite of his struggling with the French language, used his charm, wit, and knowledge, to parlay this English defeat at the hands of American militias into a gigantic diplomatic victory. The French foreign minister, Count of Vergennes, wasted no time in officially acknowledging that the United States was an independent country. A formal treaty with France followed in 1778.

When he first arrived in Paris, Benjamin settled in Passy, a very affluent part of the city. It was necessary to seek out the French elite in order to achieve his goal. He had no direct access to the King, but he could influence those around him in order to get financial and military aid for America. He decided to do this in two ways. He would seek out the most select salon he could find, and since he was a freemason, he would frequent a local lodge, where the great men of the day, the enlightened ones, were members.

Upon his arrival he was introduced to the salon of Mme Helvetius in Auteuil. At the relatively late age of 29, Mme Helvetius had married the French philosopher and poet, Claude Adrien Helvétius, who had amassed a fortune as a Farmers General tax collector. The couple settled in the Paris suburb of Auteuil, and Minette, as she was called, opened a salon where she entertained some of the greatest figures of the Age of Enlightenment. Among them were Suzanne Necker, Diderot, Duclos, André Chénier, Condorcet, l’Abbé Sieyès, Buffon, Condillac, d’Alembert, Lavoisier, and such politicians as Malesherbes, Talleyrand, Madame Roland, Mirabeau, just to name a few.

Twenty years into her marriage, her husband died, and in 1776, she and Jérôme de Lalande opened the ‘Loge des Neuf Sœurs’, a masonic lodge that was affiliated to the Grand Orient of France. Freemasonry was incontestably one of the factors of the great changes that were taking place in the west. It was where new ideas were expressed, and from where men influenced the course of events. Of course, Benjamin frequented that French lodge from the very start. Two years later, in 1778, he was initiated as a member, and, in 1779, he was made Worshipful Master. A few weeks before his death, Voltaire was initiated as a member, and Benjamin was greatly impressed with the man. They became good friends, and when asked by Benjamin, he even gave his blessings to his grandson. Needless to say, the lodge was an excellent way for Benjamin to meet great men who had influence in the highest levels of society.

But Benjamin was also a ladies’ man. His wife had died in 1774, and in spite of his age, while in France, he was treated like a rock star, and he couldn’t help being a flirt. One lady whom he considered his equal was Mme Helvetius, and he may have even proposed to her. One thing for sure, he wanted to share her bed. He called her Notre Dame, and in one of his notes to her, he writes: ‘if Notre Dame is pleased to spend her days with Franklin, he would be just as pleased to spend his nights with her; and since he has already given her so many of his days, although he has so few left to give, she seems ungrateful in never giving him one of her nights’.

Franklin frequented the upper classes and the aristocrats, for they were the ones he had to convince in order for them to convince the king. The salon of Mme Helvetius and the Lodge of the Nine Sisters served his purpose well, but that was not his only activity. He was in constant communication with Robert Morris in Philadelphia, because, as arranged by Mayer, he depended on his financial help. There was a four-way communication between Mayer, David Schiff, Robert Morris and Benjamin because arms, clothing and war material shipments to America had to be organized as well. Because Benjamin had so many important contacts in Paris, and because he was such a hit with the French, he had been able to convince Minister Vergennes to replace the outdated arms in France’s numerous arsenals and send them to America. The arms then found their way to Rotterdam from where David shipped them to America through St. Eustatius. So, from 1776 to 1778 ever more arms and powder made their way to America.

Back in NYC, in 1776, after being arrested by the English for helping the Sons of Freedom, Haym had started interpreting for the Hessians. That’s when he befriended Colonel Johann Rall, a Hessian, and by pulling all the right strings, he managed to have him command the Hessian troops sent to hold the Trenton position opposite Philadelphia. Haym had explained to Rall that Philadelphia was a community made up of Germans who had come from the Frankfurt region just like them, and if they were to defect, not only would they feel at home but they would be given large parcels of land and enough money to start a new life. The Trenton Hessian soldier pickup was a total success, more than 900 Hessians crossed the Delaware with Washington’s help. More importantly, it was construed as a major American victory over the English, and it gave quite a boost to American morale.

Later, on July 12th, 1778, when the French Ambassador sailed up the Delaware, Mayer had been forewarned and had sent word to Haym who was in NYC. Haym escaped without too much difficulty, and though the English sentenced him to death in absentia, he arrived safely in Philadelphia ahead of the French Ambassador.

After settling in the counting house run by Bernard Gratz, Washington backed Haym’s candidacy as broker of the French aid package. But the French Ambassador was already looking for Haym, thanks to the recommendations of Benjamin in Paris. That’s how, with Benjamin’s help and the support of influential members of the Continental Congress, Haym was chosen by the anti-Semite French to be their treasurer. Haym was not only named broker to the French Consul, but also Treasurer of the French Army, and Fiscal Agent of the French Minister to the United States. Most important of all, some 500 tons of gold were added to the bullion already in his Philadelphia vault.

However, working within Congress was another matter. Both Haym and Robert worked for Mayer, but Robert Morris was the one chosen to become a member of Congress because he was a goy. Not only that, but he was, as far as the colonials were concerned, a rich merchant who had supplied them arms and ammunitions since 1774. David had sent on the arm shipments to America as directed by Mayer, but it was Morris’ arms importing company that had fronted the operations. Congress and the militias had gotten arms and powder, and they had been too grateful to ask questions. Mayer had total confidence in Robert Morris, and since Americans, like Europeans, were not yet ready to accept Jews in the inner sanctum of political leadership, Robert worked inside Congress, and Haym outside. Mayer was quite satisfied with this arrangement.

19-MAYER RECRUITS BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

After Haym wrote Mayer telling him that the meeting had gone well, that the Fairfax Resolves had been accepted by all the Colonies except Georgia, that war was inevitable and that Boston was ready to explode, Mayer left for America by way of St.Eustatius in early 1776 aboard a Robert Morris ship carrying arms and powder. He was quite impressed with all the commercial activity such a small island generated, but he was especially pleased to meet Heyliger. Since all merchandise was moving so well, thanks in part to Heyliger’s efficient running of Mayer’s counting house, there wasn’t much to talk about. After the necessary formalities and the well-deserved congratulations, the two men enjoyed a great seafood dinner, and the next morning, Mayer was off to Boston.

When Morris’ ship arrived at the drop-off site in a cove south of Boston in late March, Mayer learned that the English had evacuated Boston earlier in the month and asked the captain to carry on directly to Boston. The whole cargo was unloaded while Mayer went to meet with Moses Hayes. He learned that George Washington had marched his army to Cambridge after the Battle of Bunker Hill, and had sent young Henry Knox to fetch the canons captured by Benedict Arnold at Fort Ticonderoga. The young librarian had accomplished a miracle by transporting the canons overland by oxen to Boston in the dead of winter without losing a single one. Washington had then positioned them on Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston harbor. Moses went on to say that, thanks to the arms and powder shipments received from St. Eustatius, not only had the canons been readied for action, but that thousands of New England militiamen had been recruited.

With the heavy canons bearing down on his fleet, General Howe had thought it best to evacuate Boston and take the loyalists with him. When Moses added that the merchants, the patriots and the politicians were more determined than ever to gain their economic freedom from England, Mayer was pleased that so much had been accomplished with so little blood being spilled. When the British left Boston, Washington thought the British had gone to NYC, and that’s where he headed for with his newly recruited army. This meant Mayer would not meet with Washington in Boston, and that suited him just fine, for he would have a chance to speak with Haym before talking to the General at his NYC headquarters.

Mayer told Moses that the British had sent some twenty thousand Hessians to fight in America and that the first contingent would be arriving soon. Mayer had learned that the Hanau contingent was to be dropped off in Quebec City which meant the British were planning to send troops down the Richelieu River in order to take control of the Lake Champlain-Hudson River waterway in the spring. There was no longer any doubt the British were planning to split the Colonies in two just like General von Estorff had predicted.

The next day he went to see John Adams, and although the man wasn’t a die-hard patriot, he congratulated him on the successful siege of Boston. But what Mayer really wanted was to acquaint Adams with the fact the Hessians were coming and to ask him to send couriers to spread the news to the other Colonies. If independence was to be achieved, the wavering loyalists and the moderate patriots had to know that the Mother Country was sending mercenaries to fight them, news that would surely influence them and consolidate the patriot movement. Adams agreed and couriers were dispatched on the hour.

When Mayer got to NYC, he immediately went to see Haym. The first thing Haym told him was that the 2nd Continental Congress had voted in favor of the Declaration of Independence. Copies had been sent to the different Colonies and Congress was expecting them to ratify the document. According to Haym, because everybody now knew the German mercenaries were coming, the more moderate members of the New York Provincial Congress, and even some of the die-hard loyalists, were likely to come on board.

NYC had always been a loyalist stronghold, but with recent developments in Boston the less moderate elements of the population were being swayed. After the Boston evacuation, the British had, the month before, sent a warship in NYC harbor in order to protect the loyalists, and that encouraged the rebels to foment fear, and that led to the more moderate Provincial Assembly being replaced by the Provincial Congress. A Committee of Safety whose main task was to raise and equip troops for the defense of NYC and spy on the loyalists suspected of assisting the British was created. The situation had reached a point of no return.

Mayer lost no time in arranging a meeting with Washington who had set up his headquarters in upper Manhattan. Upon reaching Washington’s headquarters Mayer and Haym were not surprised to see that he had requisitioned an elaborate mansion for his staff. The luxurious surroundings and his many young aides-de-camp prancing around in sharp uniforms contrasted sharply with the rag tag troops encamped in helter-skelter fashion in the fields adjacent to the command post. However, what mattered was having a Commander-in-Chief who held the Continental Army together and showed the colors as much as possible. How he conducted his private life, or how good a military commander he was, was of no concern to Mayer. All that was expected of him was to harass the enemy with his company of Virginia riflemen and whatever canons he had, and retreat inland as the British retaliated.

With Haym as translator, Mayer greeted the General and made a point of congratulating him on the successful siege of Boston. He then asked him how Mrs. Washington was and if the renovation and expansion of Mount Vernon was completed to his satisfaction. Washington answered that Martha was very well, and that thanks to Mayer and his collaborators, nodding in Haym’s direction, Mount Vernon was finished and was indeed a sight to behold. Mayer said that he was delighted for him and added that if he needed anything, all he had to do was ask Haym.

Washington then told Mayer he was planning to have the Declaration of Independence document read to the troops assembled on the common the next day, and that it would be an honor to have him attend. If the Provincial Congress signed the document as expected, George would then give young Alexander Hamilton, a very promising King’s College student who had formed a group of patriots called Hearts of Oak, the go-ahead to raid the battery in Manhattan. Then, he would point the seized canons in the direction of the English fleet, and wait for the English to land their troops. Once that happened, George would put up a barrage of canon fire and get the Virginia rifle company to hold them off as long as possible. When the inevitable came, the Continental Army would simply retreat towards the interior, leaving Manhattan to the English. He was sure Cornwallis, not wanting to put too much distance between his army and the English fleet in NYC, wouldn’t pursue them too far inland.

Knowing the Hanau Hessians had been dropped off in Quebec, the General was convinced the English would be sending an army to Ft. Ticonderoga from Quebec and another up the Hudson to meet up with it. The two armies would no doubt get moving in early spring, and it was imperative that he send whatever militias he could muster to cut them off. As for the Continental Army, he needed more French muskets, more Pennsylvania rifles, more powder, more boots and clothing, more horses and saddlery, in short, more of everything.

Mayer answered that muskets, powder and boots were being sent in ever greater number. European military uniforms were also being sent to Pennsylvania along with hundreds of bolts of fine woolen red and blue cloth. An army of seamstresses would tailor the uniforms to the General’s liking. Furthermore, the Pennsylvania gunsmiths were being financially encouraged to produce as many rifles as possible and as quickly as possible. The General would soon be able to form more rifle companies. Mayer told the General all he had to do was ask Haym if he needed anything. For now, the important thing was to prevent the two British armies from joining up at Fort Ticonderoga.

Moreover, since over the winter months there wouldn’t be much action, Mayer told George that he had asked Haym to work on getting the Hessians to defect when they landed in New York. Mayer thought that if they were promised parcels of land and money in order to settle down in Pennsylvania where there already was a big population of Germans, the Hessians would readily accept the offer. If Haym succeeded in getting some Hessians to defect, Mayer wondered if the General wouldn’t mind picking them up and conveying them to Pennsylvania.

The General, happy to be getting his horses and saddlery, the promised Burgundy wine along with his guns and powder, said he would be more than willing to assist Haym in the defection of the Hessians. When Haym was ready, all he had to do was tell the General when and where to pick them up. He could also count on the General for transporting his family and capital to Pennsylvania if and when it became necessary.

The next day, Mayer witnessed a very moving ceremony on the common as the Declaration of Independence was solemnly read to the troops. A group of citizens listening on the fringes were so moved that they proceeded to tear down the newly-erected statue of the King. When it was confirmed that the Provincial Congress had signed the Declaration of Independence document earlier that day, Mayer left for Philadelphia in a good frame of mind. With New York in the American camp, the British didn’t have much of a chance.

Mayer was a judicious man who never let himself be unduly impressed by people upon meeting them, he preferred to treat everyone politely and with respect, and not prejudge them. He knew what pushed people to do the things they did, and was never disappointed one way or the other. Culturally, he was an Ashkenazi, a people that had survived thanks to the solidarity of the group, a group of people he could trust with his life. He trusted Sephardim like Haym, and a few goys like Prince William in Hanau and Robert Morris in Philadelphia, but it was a case by case affair.

When Mayer met Bernard Gratz and Robert Morris in the Philadelphia counting house, they exchanged heartfelt greetings, and Mayer asked if Benjamin Franklin had been invited. He had, and when Franklin arrived, Morris explained who Mayer was, and Franklin bluntly told him he was most anxious to meet the mystery man who had made the meeting of the 1st Continental Congress possible. When Mayer met Americans he had to use an interpreter, but this time, he was quite relieved to learn that Franklin spoke some German.

Mayer knew of Franklin’s reputation, and as they made eye contact for the first time, he was convinced that it wasn’t overstated. This man exuded humility, strength of character, and sharpness of mind, a combination of qualities that he had not seen in any of the other goy leaders. Patrick Henry, George Washington, John Adams, John Jay, and other American leaders he had met, were all talented men in their own right, but they were politically motivated. They were indispensable in the nation building process, but they weren’t men of vision. In order to achieve a monetary union and a united America, he needed an American counterpart who shared his dream, a man who wanted to establish a monetary system and who wasn’t primarily motivated by self-interest. He needed a man like Franklin.

Mayer and Franklin engaged in small talk which had to do with ocean travel and Europe. Mayer being of the strong silent type variety, Franklin was the one who kept the exchange going by asking Mayer why he had come to America. Mayer had anticipated this moment, and told him he had come to meet with the directors of his counting houses, but also to find a way to help the patriot cause. He didn’t tell Franklin outright that he was the one who had financed the 1st Continental Congress and supplied arms and ammunition to the militias in the 13 Colonies, but Franklin had already put two and two together.

When Mayer asked him if they could meet privately, saying that it was a matter of great importance for America, Franklin accepted and suggested they meet the following day in his modest manor. And since he had just hired a great cook, he insisted that they have lunch. Mayer accepted on the condition he supply the wine.

The house was quite spacious and very comfortable, but Benjamin’s wife having died the year before in 1774 while he was in England, the drawing and engraving paraphernalia he was using to produce the Continental Dollar plates was slowly invading the whole house. Since his return, he had produced four fractional dollar bills for Congress and he was working on several others. Congress had reconvened in May following the Battle of Bunker Hill, and had declared war on England. The dollar bills were to be used to pay for the war. Franklin wanted the bills to convey strong messages, for he hoped that the Continental currency would help unify the 13 Colonies. He wanted plants and animals instead of people on the face of the bills, and he had made hundreds of sketches and drawings that were strewn about. They kept company to the many books from which he got his ideas for symbols and sayings that he intended to translate into Latin. As each bill was printed bearing a message of resilience, strength, frugality, industry and such, he would publish an article in the Philadelphia Gazette in order to explain the meanings of the symbols, the emblems and the Latin. Mayer thought the man was brilliant but had doubts about the long term success of his bills.

No matter, Mayer couldn’t help but scrutinize Benjamin’s work and marvel at his great talent and energy. Mayer knew a lot about printing bills thanks to all the knowledge he had gained from the printers at the goldsmith house in Hanau, and he knew that the man before him was indeed a genius.

Likewise Benjamin was quite impressed by Mayer. It was obvious that Mayer wasn’t a rich pompous merchant, but rather a quiet powerful man who wanted to make the world a better place. When Benjamin told him that he was aware of what he had done for the patriot cause, Mayer added that it was only natural for a man such as himself, a man who was making a fortune financing trade between the Colonies and Europe, to want to help. As a matter of fact, he added, that’s what he wanted to talk to Benjamin about.

It was obvious that Benjamin knew a lot about money, for he had published a lot of treatises concerning paper currency, and over the years he had done a superb job printing bills for the Colonies and now for Congress. Mayer and Franklin both wanted the Colonies to gain their economic independence and become united, and they both knew that a common strong currency was the way to do it, and that was the topic of discussion.

Mayer proceeded to say that the only lasting monetary system that the world had ever seen was the one England had, and that was the system he wanted to duplicate. The Bank of England was made up of a group of private bankers who were the sole lenders to Parliament, and after almost a century, that arrangement was still working superbly. Above all, the Bank of England had succeeded because it was a private bank. A monetary system based on a government printing bills and minting coins for its own use, though quite morally appealing, was doomed to failure. Politicians weren’t equipped to run a monetary system, for they would always tend to print too much and for the wrong reasons. The Chinese and many others had tried to print paper money in the past, but no currency except the Pound had ever passed the test of time. A strong central government and a strong private central bank were what was needed if America was to become the great nation that it was meant to be.

Benjamin had spent enough time in England to know that Mayer was right, but he had no idea how it could be done. How does one create a central bank like the one in England out of nothing?

Mayer went on to explain how he had established his bills of exchange on both sides of the Atlantic, how he had accumulated considerable wealth, and how he had been able to organize the 1st Continental Congress and supply the various Colonies with arms and powder. He was continuing to supply war materials on credit, for he was sure the Colonies would win their independence and pay him later. However, uniting the 13 Colonies was another matter. A strong federal power had to be created, and a strong private central bank was needed to accomplish that. Mayer had enough gold and silver to redeem all the bills he issued on demand, but he explained that more gold bullion would be needed in order to create a central bank like the one in England.

Benjamin trusted that Mayer would know what to do if he had more bullion, and so he asked him outright how it could be done. To Benjamin’s astonishment, Mayer answered it all depended on Benjamin. Benjamin had invented a lot of things, and he was curious about everything, but he wasn’t a magician, and he told Mayer so. However, he was relieved when he heard what Mayer had to say on the subject. Mayer reminded him he was the most influential diplomat America had, and that his many years of representing the 13 Colonies in London were invaluable. Since Benjamin spoke French, Mayer told him if he were to go to France and seek France’s help, given his personality, experience and fame as an inventor, he would have a great chance of succeeding. Success would mean getting aid from France and, more importantly, getting French gold. The French King would certainly welcome the opportunity to give England a bloody nose by chasing it out of America.

After a short pause, Benjamin said he had some contacts in France, but that he wouldn’t know where to start. Mayer replied that Congress would be only too happy to send him over as an official ambassador, especially if Robert Morris was to arrange to pay all his personal expenses and make sure he had all the credit needed to accomplish his mission with no questions asked. France was the country with the most gold bullion, and if it was to put an aid package together, it would necessarily involve gold. He and Mayer would then make sure Haym Salomon became France’s treasurer in America. Mayer had never defaulted on an exchange bill, and his bills were as good as gold. Haym would continue doing what he was already doing, and make sure that the bills backed by the French gold would be spread around generously to the politicians, the various militias, Washington’s Army, and needless to say, France’s armed forces. The continental dollar was bound to depreciate, but his bills of exchange backed by French gold would more than make up for that loss.

By the time they had put the guinea hens down their gullet and washed them down with the excellent Burgundy wine that Mayer had brought along, both men were in total agreement. They both knew they formed a great team, two men of vision who were in the process of designing the framework of a great nation. Franklin would go to France, and they would succeed.

Benjamin left for France on Oct. 26, 1776. A month earlier, the British accused Haym of aiding the Sons of Liberty, and they arrested him. Having foreseen this development, Haym had asked Washington to convoy his family and treasury to Philadelphia for safekeeping, which he did as he retreated to Pennsylvania. Haym was sentenced to house arrest after agreeing to interpret for the Hessians. That was precisely what he had hoped for. The great defection of Hessians that was about to take place at Trenton would be a simple matter of getting to the right Hessian officer, Johann Rall.

18-1st CONTINENTAL CONGRESS

When he arrived in St. Eustatius, Haym introduced himself to Heyliger with a letter of introduction from Mayer. Heyliger said he was most happy to do more to help the American cause. In order to devote all his time to his new occupation and avoid any conflicts of interest, Abraham suggested it would be best if he handed over the post of Commander to his son-in-law at the first opportunity. Haym left a considerable amount of silver specie with him to make absolutely sure any bills of exchange that came his way in St. Eustatius would be honored, although that was quite unlikely. Mayer’s bills were so widely accepted that merchants simply signed them over to second and third parties who would eventually redeem them in the 13 Colonies or in Europe.

When he arrived in Boston harbor, Haym sent a runner to the home of Moses Hayes, a prominent member of the Sephardi community who ran Mayer’s local counting house. Moses had presold most of the cargo and the balance of wine and denim was promised to waiting buyers in New York and Philadelphia.

Haym acquainted Hayes with his plan to help the patriots achieve independence, and asked him for the name of a goy politician won over to the cause, preferably one who was very ambitious. Once he was told what kind of man Mayer was looking for, Hayes mentioned one John Adams, a very motivated lawyer who was willing to espouse any cause for a price. Since he and Adams were practically neighbors, Hayes added he could arrange a meeting at Haym’s convenience.

The next day, Haym was sitting in front of John Adams telling him of his plans to finance a meeting of the patriots in Philadelphia in September. He asked him if he would be interested in attending, and if he would be willing to recruit five members from each of the New England colonies which included Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Haym told him the 13 Colonies were making him very rich, and the least he could do was finance a meeting to help the colonials gain their independence. When Adams realized how much money was involved, and seeing what was in it for him, he offered to leave everything he was doing and give the matter his full attention, saying the welfare of the colonies was what mattered most. Haym added that Hayes was to take care of expenses and compensation for the men chosen by Adams, and to show how serious he was, he handed him £300 in silver, a small fortune in badly needed specie. Adams was thrilled to be chosen, and the two men shook hands.

Haym sailed on to New York City with the remaining merchandise and the many chests of pennies to be stored in his vault. Once the presold merchandise was unloaded and the specie deposited in a safe place, the empty ship sailed back to Boston to pick up a rum shipment for David in Rotterdam. Haym then went to meet with John Jay who was flattered to be chosen to recruit the New York delegates. Haym told him he would get all the required funding and gave him an advance of £300 in silver like he had done with John Adams.

The next morning, Haym crossed the Hudson River and took a stage coach to Philadelphia. Mayer’s counting house run by Bernard Gratz was doing almost as well as the one in NYC. Before leaving for Williamsburg, Robert Morris assured Haym that he would be very happy to recruit the representatives for the Mid-Atlantic colonies. It was his way of saying that he was grateful for everything that Mayer was doing for him and the Colonies. Haym then asked Bernard to build or buy the best meeting hall possible along with all the necessary housing for the representatives of the 13 Colonies, estimated to be around sixty members in all, and again Morris volunteered to help. Bernard’s superb mansion could accommodate many delegates, but since he was a Jew, it was best to have Morris, a goy, organize the housing arrangements.

He spent the night in Wilmington, and the next day he arrived early at Elk River from where he sailed to Williamsburg on the other side of Chesapeake Bay. The winds were favorable and he reached Williamsburg by nightfall. He had written ahead to Michael Gratz who was waiting for him. Michael showed Haym to his room where he freshened up before sitting down to a very welcome meal.

Haym made plans to meet with Patrick Henry and George Washington separately. Michael told him he had met Patrick Henry on several occasions and had had a good rapport with him. He didn’t think Henry would mind coming to his home, the home of a Jew. Since they would need someone like Henry to recruit delegates in the southern colonies, he thought it best to first invite him and see if he was truly won over to the cause. The next step would be to meet with George Washington. If all went well, he could then have a meeting that would include Haym, Michael, Patrick and George. A meal washed down with fine Burgundy wine brought along for the occasion, and the promise of unlimited funding, would certainly be helpful in forging a solid bond.

Patrick accepted Haym’s invitation and arrived at Michael’s mansion the following evening. It was quite obvious this sharp-witted individual was distraught with the way the English Parliament was behaving. As a matter of fact, since the Boston Massacre, all he could think about was finding a way to have the colonies meet and devise a plan to achieve independence. It was precisely what Haym wanted to hear, agreeing with Patrick that it was the best thing for trade, and necessarily, for the people. Haym was quick to add he was a rich merchant profiting from trade with the colonies and it was to his great advantage to have representatives from the colonies meet and form some kind of government. What the English Parliament allowed or didn’t allow to go in or out of the colonies and the abusive exchange rate they forced upon the merchants was insane. Free and just trade had to be the colonies’ main goal, and credit had to flow if America was to thrive.

Haym continued by saying he was willing to finance such a meeting and that he had already recruited John Adams in Boston, John Jay in New York, and that Robert Morris had volunteered to do the same out of Philadelphia. If Patrick agreed to recruit representatives from Georgia, South and North Carolina and Virginia for a September meeting in Philadelphia, Haym was willing to give him unlimited funding through Michael Gratz. He told him Michael ran his counting house in Williamsburg and was authorized to finance the meeting. He went on to say, if Patrick accepted, he would get all the necessary funding to give him the necessary status and power in order to get the job done. If Patrick needed to expand his mansion in order to accommodate the American leaders when he met with them, Mayer was more than willing to finance such an undertaking. Giving the impression of authority and power was important. Haym added he was quite impressed with Patrick’s initiative to have George Mason draft a complaint intended for the English Government, and that it would be a great idea to present such a document in Philadelphia when the representatives met. Patrick answered he also had a young prodigy working for him by the name of Thomas Jefferson, and together, George and Thomas were bound to come up with an impressive document. Patrick shook Haym’s hand and promised to get the job done. Since Haym was fulfilling his every wish, and since there were no conditions attached, Patrick was indeed motivated.

When George Washington came to meet Haym in Williamsburg a few days later, Haym acquainted him with the offer he had already made Patrick Henry, but added he had something else in mind for him. Saying he was quite impressed with George’s natural leadership qualities, he added he was not only willing to finance his military career as head of the revolutionary army if it came down to that, but also his political career which, if all went well, would likely include his election as head of the new government. In anticipation of the meeting, and in order to make sure he was chosen as Commander-in-Chief, he was to offer to personally finance the confederate army and forego his own salary. He would submit his expense account to Congress after the war was won. Haym would give him unlimited funding and make sure George received everything he needed. Haym was doing it for free trade. What was good for the colonials was good for him.

Since many prestigious residences would be needed to house out-of-state leaders and hold meetings, Haym was allowing as much credit as needed to have them built. If George wanted to expand and renovate his mansion, all he had to do was ask Michael. As a matter of fact, George could immediately hire an architect, and if he wanted, he could even start ordering materials from England through Michael. With the help of his people in Rotterdam and London, building materials and furnishings could easily be ordered and shipped to him in Virginia.

This offer was beyond George’s wildest dreams, but keeping his excitement in check, he simply told Haym he accepted his offer, promising if he ever became leader of the new government, everybody would know where the funding came from. He couldn’t help asking, however, if Haym had a strategy regarding what had to be done next. Haym simply repeated he wanted the Philadelphia meeting to be a success, and was depending on him, Patrick Henry, and Robert Morris to make it happen. Michael and his brother Bernard would supply all the credit needed. Haym would study the maps of the colonies along with English troop and ship movement, and after consulting with General Von Estorff in Germany, he would make the general’s views known to George as soon as possible. Lastly, as the men shook hands, Haym told George that the most important thing he could do for now was make sure the wording of the resolves presently being drafted by George Mason and Thomas Jefferson reflected the mood of the representatives when they met in Philadelphia.

 

Post-scriptum

Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia was finished on time and the 1st Continental Congress met there from Sept. 5, 1774 to Oct. 26 1774. There were 56 delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies, Georgia being the exception. John Jay, John and Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington were some of the more prominent participants. The Fairfax Resolves whose content is briefly referred to below were used as a template during the meeting.

 

Synopsis of Fairfax Resolves

  1. Resolved that our ancestors, when they left their native land and settled in America, brought with them the form of government of the country they came from and were entitled to all its privileges, immunities and advantages which ought to be as fully enjoyed as if we had still continued within the Realm of England.
  2. Resolved that the most important and valuable part of the British Constitution, upon which its very existence depends, is the fundamental right of the people not to be governed by laws to which they have not given their consent.
  3. Resolved that the inhabitants of the American Colonies are not represented in the British Parliament, and that the legislative power can only be exercised by its own Provincial Assemblies or Parliaments, and that the Colonies should be allowed to trade with countries other than England
  4. Resolved that it is the duty of the Colonies to proportionally contribute to the defense of the British Empire as long as they are treated on an equal footing
  5. Resolved that to extort money from the Colonies without the consent of the people is not only diametrically contrary to the first principles of the Constitution, but is totally incompatible with the privileges of a free people.
  6. Resolved that Taxation and Representation are in their nature inseparable.
  7. Resolved that the powers over the people of America now claimed by the British House of Commons are contrary to the interests of the colonies and are most grievous and intolerable forms of tyranny and oppression.

16-WINE AND DENIM

By the end of June, 1773, David in Rotterdam had received and sold several shipments of tobacco and realized a bigger return than anticipated, Jean-Baptiste Willermoz and François Johannot and their wives had come back from the south of France with interesting information along with several bottles of Burgundy wine and several meters of ‘de Nîmes’ cloth.

After debriefing Jean and François in his Farhgasse office, Mayer decided to give Gretel, his one and only confident, a full account of their trip. They sat down at the kitchen table, and Mayer started relating the great news Jean-Baptiste Willermoz and François Johannot were bringing back from France.

He first showed her a sample of the cloth. It had one weave of blue thread crossed with a weave of white thread, and the double-weave not only made for an interesting design, but gave it extra durability. Gretel thought the indigo colored cloth was beyond belief and wondered if poor people could afford it.

Mayer answered that it would sell for the same price as Indian or English cotton and last many times longer, so people would flock to buy it. And before Gretel had a chance to make a comment, Mayer reached for a bottle of burgundy wine, one of the many samples brought back by François. He picked up a funny curly piece of metal, drove it into the cork with a screwing motion and pulled the cork out of the bottle neck. He took two glasses, half-filled them, and they drank to their growing family.

Gretel thought the wine was too good to be true, but her mouth dropped upon learning how much money the wine and cloth was going to bring in. Mayer started by explaining that Bouchard in Beaune was to receive a letter of exchange in the amount of £2500, or 1 shilling per bottle of wine once delivered in Rotterdam where David would presell it for 1/6 per bottle. David would give the new willing owners a letter of exchange guaranteeing them 3 shillings per bottle if delivered in New York where Haym would presell it for 4 shillings per bottle. 250000 bottles, or half a shipload, would thus generate a profit of £6000 in Rotterdam and another £12500 in New York City.

With regards to cloth, Dollfus was to receive a letter of exchange in the amount of £12000, or £10 per bolt of denim once delivered in Rotterdam where David would presell it for £12 per bolt. David would then give the new willing owners a letter of exchange guaranteeing them £15 per bolt if delivered in America where Haym would presell it for £17 per bolt. 6000 bolts of cotton, or half a shipload, would generate a profit of £12000 in Rotterdam and another £12000 in New York.

He concludes by repeating that since a work outfit made with denim cloth in America will cost less than one made with English or Indian cotton but last ten times longer, everybody will be fighting to buy it. Likewise, since the best wine in the world will only keep getting better in a bottle, all the bourgeois in America and England will want to fill their cellars with it. He then adds that though the profits appear to be huge, the price for these superb new products is well below what people will be willing to pay.

To help Gretel get over her choc, he starts relating the adventures of François’ party to France. They had started off by taking a river coach to Mainz. After spending a delightful night in a well-appointed inn, they set off the next day for Basel. River coaches were much more comfortable and a faster means of transportation, but only when going downriver, the rest of the time it was best to travel by stage coach. It took them five days by stage coach to reach Basel where friends were waiting for them.

After a day’s rest, they travelled by stage coach to Montbeliard , and from there they continued on by river coach to Chalon-sur-Saone, a town south of Beaune. Having made prior arrangements, a local winemaker whom they hadn’t seen in years welcomed them in his beautiful country estate. The next day, their host introduced Jean-Baptiste and François to Joseph Bouchard, a wine merchant from Beaune. They were told the Givors factory on the outskirts of Lyon was making glass using ovens fired by ground coal. And because glass made with coal as a fuel instead of charcoal was much stronger, and because the glassblowers had started using handheld molds, they now made less fragile and more uniformly shaped bottles more quickly. Because the bottle necks were thickened and had a standard diameter, it was now possible to use a one-size-fits-all cork stopper. Bouchard told them there was plenty of wine available, but getting fifty thousand glass bottles at a time might be a problem. He told them it was best to check with Michel Robichon who was the glassmaker in Givors. As for the corks, the cork slabs could be bought in quantity in Arles, transported to Beaune where they could be suitably shaped. All in all, he thought it was quite a feasible operation, and it would be no problem to fill the bottles with the best wine of the region and cork the bottles in a matter of days. Bouchard was already experimenting with the bottles, and he promised to give them wine samples on their return trip home. If Givors supplied bottles in sufficient quantity and at the expected price, he stated he could get the wine to Rotterdam via Basel for around nine pennies a bottle.

Jean-Baptiste and François were quite excited and were anxious to go to Givors to visit the glass factory and interview Michel Robichon, the owner. They left their wives with family in Lyon and continued on to Givors the following day when they reached the glass factory, they acquainted Robichon with Mayer’s idea of financing regular shipments of bottled wine using the services of Joseph Bouchard in Beaune. They told Michel they had talked to Joseph, and that his only concern was having enough bottles. Naturally, they wanted to see if his factory could supply lots of fifty thousand bottles on an ongoing basis.

Jean-Baptiste and François were happy to hear Michel say that he had just put in a second oven and that a third was on the way. Since one oven supplied enough glass to accommodate four glass masters, and since each master could turn out five hundred bottles a day, it meant that the production would soon be six thousand bottles a day, thirty-six thousand a week or some two million a year.

Michel added one cautionary note. The factory was presently getting its high quality ground coal from Rive-de-Gier, a mine situated fifteen kilometers from Givors. The canal that was meant to transport the coal by barge was not yet completed, and the mine owners had to use mules to bring the coal to Givors. They had some twelve hundred mules in all, with two trains of four hundred mules making a daily turnaround while the remainder rested. With each mule carrying eighty kilograms of coal, it averaged out to a daily supply of around sixty tons. But since most of the coal was destined for the south of France, if he was to add extra ovens, he might not be able to get enough coal. However, he would put a little pressure on the coal mine owners by reminding them that his factory was operating under the Royal Seal, and was to be supplied in priority. But that was down the road. For now, there was more than enough coal to fire up the second oven, and it would take less than two weeks to produce the fifty thousand bottles. He could have molds made with logo indentations in order to identify the wine, and before shipping the bottles to Joseph Bouchard in Chalon-sur-Saone, he would package them in fifty bottle capacity wicker baskets.

Jean-Baptiste and François were happy and wasted no time getting back to Lyon where their wives were waiting. They spent a few days visiting family and friends, but they couldn’t wait to carry on downriver to Arles by water coach. It took them only three days to reach Arles under very comfortable conditions, and from there, it was a very short day trip by land coach to Nîmes where they had written ahead to Jean André, the owner of the cloth factory in Genoa, Italy.

When they finally met with Jean, Jean-Baptiste and François were pleasantly surprised to hear that he had every intention of going ahead with the production of the double-weave indigo cloth. They couldn’t believe it when Jean added that he was planning to move the production of this very promising cloth from Genoa to Mulhouse which was not far from Basel on the Rhine. It was a Huguenot city-state bordering France and the thousands of jobs being created were needed to help the growing economy. It didn’t cost much more to bring the raw cotton and indigo from the Americas up the Rhone instead of to Genoa, and because one of the two rivers that ran through Mulhouse had soft water and was perfect for dyeing cloth, the savings would more than offset the added transportation cost.

There were already fifteen cotton factories and more than two thousand cotton workers in Mulhouse, and with the advent of the flying shuttle, the spinning carding frame powered by a water wheel, two recent inventions developed in England, the cost of producing cotton cloth had dropped while the quality and production had increased dramatically. With the added planned production, Mulhouse would become the biggest cotton manufacturing center in continental Europe, and because the city was independent of France, they weren’t affected by the embargo imposed by France on the production of cotton fabrics. Understandably, since the demand for cotton cloth was exploding, the fabric would no doubt attract high prices for years to come.

Jean told them that his cotton mills would be operational within a few months. He had already bought an existing factory on the Mulhouse riverfront, and the equipment being fabricated by local artisans was likely finished by now. Jean told them his director in Mulhouse would soon be able to deliver twelve hundred bolts of the finished indigo double-weave product to Basel on a regular basis for around £10 per bolt. They confirmed that with Jean-Henri Dollfus, the man running the Mulhouse factory, on their way back to Frankfurt. Dollfus had already received several barges of raw cotton from the French West Indies along with indigo.

Before Gretel had a chance to give vent to her unbelief, Mayer sat down at his desk to write to Joseph Bouchard in Beaune and Jean André in Nîmes telling them he was willing to buy as much product as possible at the agreed price. There was no time to lose for the letters had to be translated by François before being sent on. He was telling Joseph Bouchard to deliver all the grand cru Burgundy wine he could bottle. Mayer would give him a letter of exchange redeemable upon delivery in Rotterdam. He then addressed a letter to Jean André asking him if he would agree to the same financial conditions. Just like with the wine, Mayer would buy all the cloth that could be delivered to David in Rotterdam where the letter of exchange would be redeemed.

Soon, it would be possible to redeem Mayer’s bills of exchange, and even use them as currency, in Frankfurt, Rotterdam and the 13 Colonies, not including the counting houses that would soon open in London and Basel. He had contacted Moses Haim Montefiore in Rotterdam, the friend who had helped David Schiff get settled, asking him if he was interested in running a counting house in London. Moses had replied by return mail that he had been thinking of settling permanently in London, and running a counting house for Mayer in that city was more than he could have hoped for.

By the end of 1773, David was receiving tobacco on a regular basis and he had dispatched the first shipments of Burgundy wine and denim cloth. In both Rotterdam and New York, everything always presold at a price better than anticipated, and Mayer’s counting houses were becoming financial institutions of note. He was now ready for his next venture.

He wrote to Haym asking him to come to Frankfurt as soon as possible. Haym was to first go to Williamsburg in Virginia and introduce himself to as many members of the House of Burgesses as possible in order to see what the political climate was in that very important southern colony. Virginia was the most democratic colony, and its leaders had always been stalwart supporters of the Crown. Nonetheless, die-hard loyalists had started being upset with the English Parliament just like in the colonies up north, and Mayer wanted to confirm that. Haym was to identify any leader who stood out in his opposition to the Crown, preferably someone who was imposing, ambitious and vain.

The very powerful Bank of England, by way of the English Parliament, was treating the 13 Colonies as a parent would a child. Although the pound was the official currency, the Bank of England supplied very little sterling in order to facilitate trade. The colonials were reduced to using tobacco, wampum and the like when they couldn’t get their hands on Spanish dollars. The lack of credit, the unjust rate of exchange between the Spanish dollar and the Pound, the lack of representation in decision making, and the unjust taxes forced upon the colonials by the Mother Country was making for an explosive situation.

Mayer was honest and had enough specie to redeem all the paper he was issuing, and because his counting houses on both sides of the Atlantic used the same conversion rates, his paper was in high demand. In all his counting houses one pound was worth 1 oz. of silver or 1 Piece of Eight, and 1oz of gold was worth 15 oz. of silver. And since the British insisted on a colonial conversion rate of 4 Pieces of Eight to the Pound, it gave Mayer’s counting houses a serious edge over the English. Necessarily, all bills originating from the colonies were expressed in Spanish Dollars, whereas all merchandise coming from Rotterdam was valued in Pounds, as this greatly advantaged the American colonials. Since Mayer’s counting houses only accepted gold and silver as payment, and since Haym was instructed to never exchange Dollars for Pounds, the great disparity in the English exchange rate didn’t affect his counting house.

Mayer’s counting houses were gaining in international status, and he had more than he needed to finance a meeting of the 13 Colonies. The colonies’ representatives would not question the help of Haym Salomon, for it was only natural for a rich friend who profited so much from colonial trade to help out. The Americans would surely gain their independence, and they would look upon Mayer’s counting house as an honest, dependable source of credit, and Mayer would take control of the 13 Colonies’ monetary system just like the Bank of England bankers had done with that of England a century before, but he would do it anonymously through Haym Salomon and Robert Morris.

15-INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Mayer didn’t want to scare Gretel by telling her about the huge tract of land he had recently bought on the outskirts of Frankfurt. It was a parcel of around two hundred acres of forest and marshland to the west of the city, well beyond its 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 would be 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. 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 the Judengasse ghetto. It would be a peaceful place where Gretel could go and enjoy the fresh air and the luscious green beauty with the children. He knew Gretel would find this private green paradise hard to resist once she was introduced to it. Above all, this property was subject to the authority of Prince Wilhelm, not that of the Frankfurt Council.

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 then get the necessary warehouses built in Rotterdam. 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 to cities all along the way. 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 he saw an opportunity to do the same in America. The Americans needed credit, and since the Bank of England bankers wasn’t providing it, 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 the time came.

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 all sales. Specie would accumulate with each shipment, and both counting houses could then issue more bills of exchange. As he waited for the sale of the first shipment of tobacco that would soon be concluded in Rotterdam, he was making plans to send Jean-Baptiste and François to France to look into the wine and denim possibilities.

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. His counting houses on both sides of the Atlantic would be run by people who don’t officially answer to him, like Haym and David. Because each counting house had to interact with the others, they would be independent, yet firmly part of the whole. Notwithstanding the fact he trusted his agents with his life, the counting houses would be accountable to each other and to Mayer without his ever having to be present.

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 trusted David and Haym, and by giving them everything they could possibly want, he was sure of their respect and loyalty, and this allowed Mayer to work in total anonymity. Maintaining anonymity, making astounding amounts of money and being magnanimous and honest in all transactions at all times was the key for lasting success.

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 look into those two products. If it turned out as he expected, he would consult with Haym, authorize the shipments, and then help the Americans gain their independence. He would start by financing a meeting of the thirteen colonies with the aim of creating some kind of government. He would find and finance leaders who were opposed to English rule, and since Virginia was the most sophisticated politically, that’s where he planned to concentrate his efforts. But for now, he had to accumulate as much bullion and specie as he could, and the only way to do that was to be a businessman.