34-WILDCAT BANKING

Mayer created the Bank of North America in 1781, and when he sent his son, Nathan, to take over the Bank of England in 1798, the two banks necessarily merged under one roof. The City was henceforth the head office of world finance, and it was directed by Nathan. In 1810, he was already setting the price of gold for the whole world. As of that moment, the American monetary system and that of England were controlled by one man and his dynasty, and it remains so to this day.

There were, however, a few bumps in the road. When the 20-year charter for the 1st Bank of the United States was about to run out in 1811, hostility to private banking in the US was at a peak. Under the influence of hot-heads like Andrew Jackson, James Madison, the President, agreed not to renew the bank’s charter. A year before, in 1810, Nathan had seen the problem coming and had issued an ultimatum: “Either the application for the renewal of the charter is granted, or the United States will find itself involved in a most disastrous war.” Madison and Jackson did not realize that the ‘international moneylenders’ had that kind of power, and they didn’t alter course. After declaring that he would teach the impudent Americans a lesson and bring them back to colonial status if they didn’t renew the bank charter, he proceeded to do just that.

In early 1812, the English Navy started harassing the American merchant marine by impressing 10000 American sailors into her Majesty’s service. It was an intolerable situation, and President James Madison was forced to declare war on the English, a war he could ill afford, especially since the bank created by Nathan’s father, the Bank of North America-cum-1st Bank of the United States, no longer officially existed. Nathan’s plan was to force the United States to fight a war and sink them deeply into debt. After the US declared war against England on June 18, 1812, English troops moved into Canada.

The English kept close to the waterways. They went up the St. Lawrence and the great lakes right up to Fort Erie and Detroit. They went up the Richelieu River to Lake Champlain, and blockaded all the ports they could along the Atlantic coast. All in all, it was a small war of attrition that cost the Americans dearly. When the English burned down Washington DC on August 24, 1814, it was a determining moment. The Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814, and the US Senate ratified it on February 16, 1815. All territory went back to its original owners, and there wasn’t much mention of anything else of importance. The real results were unofficial and never linked with that treaty. The 20-year charter for the 2nd Bank of the United States was signed on April 10, 1816. And since the President’s residence in Washington DC had been burned down, it would now be known as the White House because of the white paint used to cover the traces of the recent fire. Lastly, the people of Upper and Lower Canada had a new sense of identity.

When the second charter for the 1st Bank of the United States came up for renewal in 1836, President Andrew Jackson vetoed it, of course. If the dynasty of bankers in the City, contrary to 1812, didn’t insist on getting the charter renewed at this time, it was because of the possibility of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. After completing the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the West had naturally opened up. Now, in 1836, thirty years later, the City bankers decided it was time to let America expand at breakneck speed, a period that would become known as the Wildcat Banking Years.

The modus operandi was simple. During the period of 1836 to 1863, they would let ambitious men open banks, claim land, prospect for gold, drill for oil, and do all the ground work so to speak. The frenetic development that ensued was like riding a bronco, it was definitely wild, but it was OK because the rodeo was taking place in a controlled corral. In other words, the dollar used by the defunct but still operating 1st Bank of the United States and its affiliates on the east coast was tied to the English pound which was tied to gold, and all the funny money being printed in the emerging American States had to be more or less pegged to the dollar. The shinplasters, as the state currencies were called, were meant to fail just like the Continental currency had during the War of Independence. When the time came and everybody cried for more financial stability, the dollar would again be officially re-instated throughout the country.

In 1863, Congress passed the Banking Laws Act, and the dollar became the official currency in all the States. Key industries working in the US dollar financial zone had prospered, and their tentacles reached across the entire nation. The oil industry, the railroads, the steel industry and industrial America generally, were run by men like Westinghouse, Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller, while the Lehmans, the Kuhns, the Loebs, etc. ran the branches of the defunct 2nd Bank of the United States. The Federal Reserve Board would have to wait until 1913.

During the Wildcat banking years, from 1836 onwards, Lionel, Nathan’s son, who had become head of the family dynasty in the City, was satisfied to let the American West open up in a free-wheeling manner. He had three other worldly matters that required his attention. The most pressing one was getting the Spanish-Mexicans to move south of the Rio Grande in order to establish a permanent southern US border. The French administration along with its military had left America in 1763, that of England in 1783, and now it was the Spaniards’ turn. Once that was accomplished, the Manifest Destiny concept would be realized. Lionel would then populate California with Americans, and he already had an idea on how to do it.

The other two matters were opening Japan and getting it to help unite China by invading it and getting rid of the Chinese warlords, and the other was to give France political stability by bulldozing its center of power, Paris, and transforming it into the City of Lights. The building of democracies in the ancient lands of Europe with old political regimes would not happen overnight, and it was best to get started as soon as possible. The Chinese and Indian democracies would be easy enough to establish, but Europe would take a very long time. To be sure, globalization was very much on Nathan’s mind when he officially established the family dynasty in the City, in 1810, and took control of international finance, but it didn’t get going until Lionel took charge in 1836.

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