It’s a nice spring day in 1782. Gretel is sitting on the grass in front of the newly-built Green Castle watching a gentle brook trickling down into a pond. The grazing deer, and the swans paddling around the water lilies, completes the idyllic landscape. Mayer is by her side, her boisterous children are running around chasing the strange creatures that populate the marvelous gardens, and she is as happy as can be. However, even though Mayer owns the property, it is part of the goy world, a world that threatens her family with its artificial values.

Peter Heinrich von Bethmann, who fronts Mayer’s financial operations in Frankfurt, is the official resident and lives in the east wing with his family. The west wing is reserved for Mayer’s private use. The many offices needed for the considerable office staff along with the reception areas are located in the central area. With young Carl Friedrich Buderus, his assistant, in the counting house in Hanau, and a very able Moses Kuhn running his Fahrgasse office in Frankfurt, Mayer is able to spend ever more time at Green Castle, the headquarters of his fast developing international banking network.

Mayer is forever trying to reassure his worried wife. He tells her that though their children will know a different kind of world, the family’s roots are so deep, its values so time-honoured and its commitment to honesty so true, that the children will never forget their upbringing. The boys will become powerful men and live with goys, but they will always remember who they are and where they come from.

Gretel knows Mayer is right. Judengasse may be a narrow sunless street but it is the artery that has brought life, love, and joy of living to them all. Nobody who has lived there can ever forget the bonds that holds the community together. But now that Mayer’s bank, the Bank of North America, had been accepted as the official bank of the United States of America, Gretel has reason to worry.

Mayer is more concerned with what is about to take place in Hanau. Prince William is hosting a meeting in Wilhelmsbad, and the participants are coming from all over Europe. The Illuminati, or Enlightened Ones as they like to call themselves, are preparing to free Europe from the yoke of the Holy Roman Empire. The Huguenots and the Sephardim in the City are apparently planning the destruction of the Ancien Regime of France, the cornerstone of that Empire.

After the Huguenots and Sephardim created the East India Company in 1600, they had immediately started undermining their enemy’s stronghold. In early 17th century, they decided to isolate the French King from Paris, the center of French political power, by financing the construction of the Chateau de Versailles. Now, a century later, they were getting ready to topple Louis XVI, and they needed a communications network on French soil. Since 1773, many Masonic Lodges had opened throughout France, and the City bankers had even recruited the king’s cousin, Louis Philippe d’Orléans, as Grand Master of the Grand Orient of France. At the Congress of Wilhelmsbad, the Illuminati’s intention was to have the French lodges break away from the Scottish rite in order to make them available to all faiths. Members had always been required to swear on the Roman Catholic bible in order to become a freemason, and they wanted to do away with that requirement. Prince William, a Calvinist, had embraced the idea, and had allowed them to hold a meeting in Wilhelmsbad, a spa near Hanau.

Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, a very prominent and well-respected French Freemason, organized the meeting, but violent men like Adam Weishaupt also participated. Weishaupt was heard to say that his only hope was to one day see the last priest strangled with the guts of the last king left standing. This did not augur well for France who was the main target.

With the Scottish rite gone, the Illuminati would then start undermining the French political structures, and force the absentee King in Versailles to agree to a Constitutional Monarchy like they had done in England a hundred years earlier. In order to separate Church and State, they would confiscate all Church property and sell it at auction instead of doing what Henry VIII had done in England. They had already recruited a very powerful individual by the name of Mirabeau, who just happened to be a physiocrat. Mirabeau believed like many French economists of the times that the wealth of nations was derived from the value of land. Benjamin Franklin had held similar ideas when Mayer had first met him, but his thinking had since changed.

Notes backed by Church property would be a huge success at the outset, but the bankers in the City as well as Mayer knew that human nature being what it is, the people’s representatives would be inclined to print ever more notes based on that success. The Bank of England would then surely take advantage of the situation by dumping a gigantic amount of counterfeit notes into the French economy in order to have the currency depreciate. The bankers would then facilitate the creation of a Constitutional Monarchy with Louis Philippe d’Orléans as king, and Mirabeau as Prime Minister.

Mayer had good reason to believe what he was hearing, and he came up with a plan of his own. He would ask François, the silk manufacturer, who had been a very successful printer in Lyon before coming to Frankfurt, to meet with him. A few years back, his silk mill had not been doing all that well in Frankfurt, and Mayer had asked him to run the goldsmith house in Hanau. He had since taught gold engraving while working on stereotype printing in his spare time. Printing was his first love, and since he missed France, Mayer would ask him if he would like to return to Lyon. Mayer would be willing to kick-start his printing business.

If the Bank of England could print counterfeit French notes, so could Mayer. If François returned to France and started his printing business, he would be ready to print the counterfeit notes in tandem with the government. Having perfected a wet mat method for creating matrixes for stereotype printing, and having access to the same paper as the one used by the French Government through Julien Ouvrard, he would be able to produce quality notes many times faster at a fraction of the cost.

Gretel was shocked to hear she was about to become a counterfeiter’s wife, and Mayer was quick to explain that his action wouldn’t hurt anybody. He wouldn’t be taking property from anyone, for the properties would already be confiscated. All Mayer would be doing is buying the confiscated properties at auction with counterfeit notes and selling them back to anxiously waiting Frenchmen for gold. The English bankers wanted to destroy the Ancien Regime of France and create a market economy tied to England, but what Mayer wanted was to take control of the Bank of England and have America, France, England and the rest of Europe trade fairly and freely with each other. Mayer told his wife that the only way to accomplish such a feat was by accumulating all the French gold he could while maintaining total anonymity.

Mayer calmed Gretel’s fears by telling her that he was an Ashkenazi first and a banker second, and though he was very rich, he hadn’t changed as a person. He was still Mayer, the happiest man alive, and it was not due to his business activities, but rather to his family. He admitted his ego did influence his business persona, for it was only natural to be proud. After all, he had found a way to take over the Bank of England. One thing was certain, the Bank of England would be printing counterfeit notes in order to bring down the Ancien Regime of France, and Mayer would join in, but it would be to amass huge quantities of French gold in order to overtake the Bank of England itself.

Mayer started explaining how he planned to do it. Huguenot agents recruited in England, the Netherlands and Germany would use the Masonic Lodges as drop-off points, where the counterfeit bills produced by Johannot would be delivered by Thurn and Taxis. Speaking French and having an unlimited supply of notes, the agents would easily outbid everybody as the properties came up on the auction block. The properties would be immediately flipped to waiting buyers for gold, and the law firm of Jean-Jacques Cambacérès would do the necessary title transfers. Ouvrard, a young financial wizard working in tandem with Cambacérès, would have the Thurn and Taxis immediately transport the gold bullion down the Seine to a waiting ship in Le Havre headed for London. With the properties being the choicest in the world, and the French currency depreciating at a rapid rate, the wealthy Frenchmen would want to invest in real estate directly and bypass the worthless yet very expensive government bills. Mayer expected to have accumulated several thousand tons of gold by the time it was all over. The agents, Cambacérès and Ouvrard would all be compensated beyond their wildest dreams, and the gold bullion transported by Thurn and Taxis would be sure to reach the vaults of the Goldsmid Bros. in the City in London.

Mayer would not be involved directly, and the French authorities wouldn’t know which way to turn, especially with the English bankers flooding the market with their own counterfeit notes. Within two or three years, Mayer expected to have accumulated more gold than any other individual in the world. In a few years’ time, Nathan would replace the Goldsmid Bros. and personally take charge of things in the City.

Gretel wondered what the City was, and Mayer was more than willing to explain. He told her that, in 1694, the Jewish and Huguenot bankers, in wanting to be completely independent of the English Government, had created their own state within the state. The City was a financial district on the banks of the Thames and had the status of a territory. It had its own administration and was off limits to English authority. It was unassailable financial ground from which Nathan would soon launch international banking.



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.


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.


Dear Mayer,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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