22-RECRUITING 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 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 by way of Lake Champlain 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 want to pay him back after they won their independence. The debt incurred would serve as collateral for Mayer’s bank down the road. 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 where the citizenry had 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 his 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 had accused Haym of aiding the Sons of Liberty and had 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 and his army 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.

20-UNION OF 13 COLONIES

Upon receiving Mayer’s letter, Haym left Ephraim Hart, his business associate and friend, in charge of the counting house in New York and went to Williamsburg by way of Philadelphia. He planned to sail out of Williamsburg aboard a Robert Morris ship transporting tobacco intended for David in Rotterdam. Because going from New York City to Williamsburg by land would take about the same time as going by sea, he decided to go to Philadelphia by land and visit with Robert Morris and Bernard Gratz. And since Philadelphia was a mere two-day road trip to the mouth of the Elk River on the Chesapeake, he didn’t have to rush. He could still have a long visit with Michael Gratz in Williamsburg before sailing to Europe.

In Philadelphia, Bernard and Robert told him what he already knew regarding the political climate in Pennsylvania, and he was happy to hear there was ever more grumbling in Virginia. This showed the Sons of Liberty in Boston weren’t alone in wanting the British Government out of their lives. Haym had found that even though they were poorly financed and had few weapons, the Sons of Liberty were a determined lot and a thorn in the New York Governor’s backside. He was convinced they were a viable group, one determined enough to fight the English in a systematic way, if given the chance. The anti-English feelings were definitely spreading throughout the colonies, and Mayer would be happy to hear that.

When he reached Williamsburg, Michael Gratz was waiting for him. Haym had written ahead asking him if he knew members of the House of Burgesses that would be of interest to Mayer. Michael couldn’t wait to tell him that the political climate in Virginia was deteriorating at a rapid rate, and that two men stood out in their opposition to the Mother Country. When, in 1770, the British shot into a mob of colonials, in what became known as the Boston Massacre, the southerners began to oppose the ongoing ‘intolerable acts’ of the English Parliament just like the people in the colonies up north did. Here in Virginia, Patrick Henry and George Washington were trying to make a name for themselves by pushing to have a resolution drawn up condemning England’s treatment of the colonials and demanding parliamentary representation.

Patrick Henry was a lawyer, a great orator and a member of the Burgesses, and he was down on his luck. His small plantation was no longer producing, and his wife was very ill. Because he was a frustrated man, a little too hot under the collar, Michael suggested George Washington might be a better man for what Haym and his sponsor had in mind. Haym answered he didn’t know precisely what Mayer in Frankfurt wanted, but agreed it was a good idea to at least meet this fellow.

Washington was a tall imposing dour figure who worked very hard at giving the impression of being a strong silent type, and the fact he was an important landowner gave credence to the image he tried to project. After her husband’s death in 1752 followed by that of their only son in 1754, Anne Fairfax, his brother’s widow, had remarried, and George Washington had become custodian of Mt. Vernon. When George married Martha Custis in 1758, he received a dowry of 6000 acres of prime land that happened to be adjacent to Mt. Vernon. In 1761, when Anne Fairfax died George inherited Mt. Vernon. Although the buildings on the estate were in a rather poor state of repair and the farm revenue modest, the man did his best to lead the life of an English country squire.

There was a lot of talk about this gentleman, and it wasn’t all flattering. He had married rather late in life, had no children, and people wondered about his motives for marrying and his exaggerated military career claims during the French Indian War. As Commander of the Virginia Militia, he had participated in two of what could be called skirmishes during that war. In the one, he was said to have killed a French officer needlessly, and in the other, his militia unit had been captured, and he had been taken prisoner. His inexperience and impetuosity were blamed for those lackluster military achievements when later, having tried to get a commission in the British Army, he was turned down. No doubt feeling slighted, he got married to a rich widow, settled down at Mt. Vernon, and went into politics.

When Haym and Michael arrived at Mt. Vernon, Haym took one look at the imposing figure welcoming them, and he just knew Mayer would be interested in this fellow. Once done with the usual formalities and seated in the living room, Washington, in wanting to impress this very rich merchant from New York, was quick to tell Haym he had personally seen to the decoration and the furnishings of the mansion, and Mary, his wife, agreed. She was a charming no-nonsense kind of lady, and Haym knew that the shades of pink used on the walls, the rococo draperies, the overflowing array of glitzy furniture and the paintings representing biblical scenes of nude men wasn’t her doing.

They talked about the House of Burgesses and the state of affairs in Virginia, and before leaving, Haym told Washington that his sponsor in Germany wanted to help the colonials gain their independence. He asked Washington if he would be interested in meeting with him in order to discuss the matter. Washington, sensing a great opportunity, agreed while making sure not to show too much eagerness.

Michael and Haym took their leave, and as their carriage headed back to Williamsburg, Michael couldn’t wait to tell Haym about the rumors that were circulating in town. Apparently, Mary and her husband slept in separate bedrooms on different floors while George and the estate’s handsome overseer who lived with them had adjoining bedrooms. They both agreed he was probably leading a secret life that could very well explain his choice of colors and furnishings, and they both roared with laughter.

Haym duly left for Rotterdam, and since American captains now made a point of taking advantage of the Gulf Stream, he arrived in under two months. He spent two days with David and his wife, and thoroughly enjoyed their warm hospitality. After promising to stop by on his way back to America, he took a stage coach to Frankfurt, and five days later, he was at Mayer’s house in the Judengasse ghetto.

Both Gutle and Mayer had sworn on their wedding day they would never leave Judengasse. They were a happy couple, madly in love, and they both knew what was important in life. It was hard for Haym to determine whether this tall gentle man was happy because he was the richest men in the world or because he lived in the ghetto with his wife Gutle who was about to give him a second child. Regardless, the house was in a festive mood, and exquisite Burgundy wine was flowing.

They spent the next few days exchanging information, and when the subject of Washington came up, they had a good laugh. However, it was a serious matter, and they both agreed that since Washington had the aura of a leader and military experience of sorts, and since he was apparently a gentle megalomaniac living a secret life, he would be perfect for the job. Given the right financial incentives, he would do whatever was asked of him. It was one thing to give a man power, but it was best to keep a Damocles’ sword dangling over his head.

After hearing what Haym had to say about the Sons of Liberty, Mayer knew he had the leader and the movement, and above all, he knew it wouldn’t cost very much to get them operational. The first thing he would do is make sure his New York counting house had all the necessary specie. With a fortune that he no longer could count multiplying at a rapid rate, Mayer could easily get the colonials talking with one voice by having Haym finance a meeting of the 13 Colonies. Haym was to pay for all travelling expenses incurred by the chosen representatives and compensate them handsomely for their time. He was to finance their political undertakings and provide a meeting hall and adequate housing for them while in Philadelphia. From what Mayer knew, Philadelphia was the perfect city for the meeting, and Haym agreed. If the meeting went as expected, the delegates would probably want to recruit a military leader from the south, and Washington’s candidacy would be encouraged. He estimated a man like Washington would cost around £2000 the first year and £1000 thereafter, and the politicians around £300 each per year, an amount equivalent to six times the salary of a skilled tradesman. £100,000 would be more than enough to pay for the politicians’ salaries and expenses, and to house them. Getting Washington looking like a genuine military leader and supplying his army as well as the local militias would not be a big financial drain either.

Philadelphia was the largest city in the colonies and stood midway between New England and the South. Since the idea was to bring the southern gentry and the northern merchants together, it was ideal middle ground. The fact that Philadelphia wasn’t easily accessible by sea, especially for the big English naval vessels, and had an important non-English and non-royalist population was also a consideration. And because Philadelphia was close to New York City, it would make it easier for Haym to control things.

Eager to supply more arms and powder to the American militias, Mayer told Haym he had looked for a way to circumvent the English authorities. David in Rotterdam had suggested that the best way to do that was through the Dutch duty free port of St. Eustatius in the Caribbean. The Commander of the island, Abraham Heyliger, happened to be an avowed American patriot sympathizer. After confirming that information with Isaac Moses in NYC, a merchant familiar with the Caribbean, Mayer had given David the go-ahead to buy arms.

Talleyrand, the diplomat turned arms merchant working for David, agreed that sending French muskets and powder to America via St. Eustatius was a good idea and he promised that he could supply all the weapons needed. St. Eustatius was nothing more than a big rock in the Caribbean on which were built hundreds of warehouses full of American, West Indian and European goods. Each year, thousands of captains stopped at this duty free Caribbean port in order to exchange merchandise.

That Caribbean free port was extremely successful because merchants from Europe and the New World could buy and sell goods at established and just exchange rates. The Bank of England’s exchange rate between the Spanish dollar and the Pound was unwarranted and to be avoided at all cost. Based on their silver content, the two currencies should have been at par, and that’s what Mayer’s counting houses offered. Necessarily, merchants who already did everything in their power to circumvent Britain as a trading partner and buy manufactured goods from other European countries out of St. Eustatius would be quite motivated to use Mayer’s letters of exchange.

For Isaac Hayes and Robert Morris who already shipped rum, tobacco and indigo, and manufactured goods presold by David in Rotterdam and Haym in NYC, shipping arms through St. Eustatius would be a welcome proposition. As for Mayer the clandestine shipments of arms and military supplies delivered to the various colonial militias on credit would become part of the nation’s debt after the war and would be useful in the creation of a national bank.

The American captains were experts at delivering goods undetected by the British authorities because they knew the coast so well. The long rugged coast had many inlets, and it was impossible for the British to stop contraband and arms shipments. Ships from St. Eustatius dropping off cargo in some cove in Chesapeake Bay, up the Delaware, in Long Island Sound, or some small bay along the New England shoreline were almost never intercepted.

Before Haym left for America, Mayer asked him to go by way of St. Eustatius and make arrangements with Heyliger. From there he was to stop in all the major American ports in order to recruit goy political leaders who would in turn select representatives to represent the individual colonies at a meeting in Philadelphia planned for September. He was to explain that he was very interested in their march to independence and financing a meeting in Philadelphia was the least a rich merchant like himself could do. He was to be overly generous in all his endeavors. The specie in Haym’s vault in NYC was more than adequate to finance a meeting in Philadelphia and anything else that needed doing.

Although Haym was sad to leave Gutle and Mayer, he was anxious to return to America and get the meeting organized. It was time for new experiences and adventures. Travelling to Rotterdam aboard a barge transporting wine, and then sailing to the Caribbean were welcome indeed.

19-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 Gutle, 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. Gutle 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 before Gutle 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.

Gutle 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 had 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 Gutle get over her choc, he starts relating the adventures of François’ trip to France. His party 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 instead of charcoal as a fuel 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 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 short 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 Gutle 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 and would willingly give him a down payment if he so wished. 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’s leaders had always been stalwart supporters of the Crown. However, some 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 had the same value as the Spanish dollar, and 1oz of gold was worth 15 oz. of silver. And since the British insisted on a colonial conversion rate of 4 Spanish dollars to the Pound, it gave Mayer’s American 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 Spanish 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. Once the Americans gained their independence, 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

18-INTERNATIONAL TRADE

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. Mayer 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 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 Gutle and his precious little Yochana. He told Gutle 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 Gutle, 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 weren’t providing it, he would. Everybody trusted his bills of exchange, and they were already 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, the Spanish pound and the sterling pound 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 regarding all sales. As more of his bills circulated, more species would accumulate and both counting houses could then issue more bills of exchange. As he waited for the sale of the first shipment of tobacco in Rotterdam, he was already making plans to send Jean-Baptiste and François to France to look into the wine and denim possibilities.
As Gutle grasped the huge sums of money that were involved, 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. The only things that mattered were his family and his extended family, and what he wanted above all else 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 didn’t officially answer to him, like Haym and David. Because each counting house had to interact with the others, they would be independent and 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 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.
Gutle 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.

15-DAVID TO ROTTERDAM

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 would be 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 projecting an 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 a fine 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.

14-MAYER AMSCHEL ROTHSCHILD

Mayer Amschel Rothschild, the greatest man who ever lived, though almost completely unknown to most of us, was born in 1744 in the Frankfurt Jewish ghetto of Judengasse. In August, 1770, when he married, he was already wealthy enough to have the open street sewer replaced by state of the art sewers running behind the rows of high narrow houses on either side of the street, making sure plenty of fresh water from the Main River flowed through them.

When he was eleven, his parents, who lived in Judengasse, had sent him off to a yeshiva near Nuremberg to study the Torah in the hope of his becoming a rabbi. Unfortunately, they died during a smallpox epidemic, and he was orphaned at twelve. That’s when his future father-in-law, Wolf Salomon Schnapper, contacted Wolf Jacob Oppenheimer in Hanover and asked him if he would take in the young man as an apprentice in his bank.

At the Oppenheimer Bank, everybody thought very highly of him because he had developed, thanks to his father, a very quick mind when it came to handling money and buying and selling rare coins. Then, he got his first big break. Frederic II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, needed a favor. His court Jew was Jacob Oppenheimer, and he had sent for him because he was worried about his son William. Frederic had converted to Catholicism, and his Protestant wife had divorced him. When his father, the previous landgrave, died in 1760, he had sent Frederic to Kassel and given the principality of Hanau to his grandson William. William had been raised a Calvinist, and the thriving Calvinist community in Hanau wanted nothing to do with Frederic and Catholics.

The Calvinists, also called Huguenots, came from France. They were the great businessmen of the day. The French kings, had always enforced the ‘one God, one king, one nation’ concept, and for centuries the Catholic Church had persecuted and massacred those who didn’t agree. After repeated atrocities committed against them, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots migrated to more clement lands, places like the Netherlands, Hesse-Hanau, England, America and South Africa. Having endured unspeakable ills at the hands of the papist kings, Huguenots developed a deep hatred for Catholics, and by the same token, became more tolerant towards Jews.

Because of William’s young age, Frederic’s English ex-wife, Mary, was made regent. In wanting to protect William, in spite of his feelings for his ex-wife, Frederic decided to provide him with a financial advisor. He had hoped that Jacob Oppenheimer would personally take on the job. But because Hanau was five days by stagecoach from Hanover, Jacob told him it wasn’t practical for him to do so and recommended Mayer instead.

Frederic knew that Mayer lived in Frankfurt which was near Hanau. He also knew that Mayer had met his son William when they were boys. When Frederic had been Prince of Hanau, Mayer had accompanied his father Moses on one of his trips to the principality. His father had rare coins to offer Frederic who happened to be an avid coin collector. Young William had been curious about Mayer’s clothes and had wanted to have a yellow star like the one stitched to his coat. William never forgot the boy with the funny clothes.

Frederic remembered him as well, but because he was still only nineteen, he wondered how much wisdom and experience that young man could have. After being assured by Jacob that the Oppenheimer Bank would stand behind him and advise him, Frederic agreed to meet with him, and was satisfied with what he saw. Mayer then went to Hanau to meet with William and his mother who were quite pleased with him as well. So, Mayer started putting the principality’s finances in order, and unavoidably, he met General von Estorff who had been sent by Frederic to take charge of the principality’s troops. Hanau was a garrison city, but Mayer didn’t yet know what that implied.

He was becoming a sort of a one-man branch of the Oppenheimer Bank, and things were going smoothly when he found out why Frederic had sent the general to Hanau. For years, Hesse-Kassel had been receiving huge annual retainer fees from England in order to keep an army of Hessian soldiers at the ready. Up until then, the soldiers had been mainly recruited in Kassel. However, in wanting to improve Prince William’s finances, Frederic, who was now Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, figured that more soldiers could be recruited in Hanau. Huge sums of money representing that portion of retainer fees due Hanau were sent to William, and Mayer suddenly had the responsibility of managing millions of thalers. He had taken it in stride and had made sound investments. With the help of the court Jews in the ghetto, he got the highest return on the investments, and he gave Prince William useful advice regarding expenditures. He was much appreciated and was given the official title of court Jew which allowed him to get married.

Frederic was related to the English King who was thinking of using Hessian soldiers in America. In an armed conflict, the English Parliament could intervene more quickly without having to explain everything to taxpayers, thereby avoiding arousing passions. The English parliamentarians preferred having German troops fighting English settlers, and by paying a retainer fee to Hesse-Kassel, they could have troops on the ground at a very short notice and at a much lesser cost.

Prince William used the huge retainer fees to improve the infrastructure of the Principality of Hanau. He always paid Mayer well, and the recruits received their pay whether in training or on active duty. When they were required to go and fight, they did so for a specified amount of time, and Mayer made sure their families were properly compensated.

William’s father, Frederic, maintained around ten thousand troops in Kassel, and William, with the help of General von Estorff, maintained around two thousand in Hanau. The Oppenheimer Bank had always invested the retainer fees for Frederic, but in wanting to help his son, it was now Mayer who was investing the huge sums handed over to William in Hanau. Mayer made huge commissions, and after convincing the Prince that Hanau should have its own mint, it was set up in the Walloon House, also called the Goldsmiths’ House, a building adjacent to the castle.

The silver bullion coming in from Kassel represented millions of thalers, and most of it had to be minted and invested by Mayer, and his personal fortune increased dramatically. Court Jews invested money for the princes, but also lent them money, and very often commissions weren’t paid and loans not repaid. On a whim, the princes would even do away with the court Jew altogether. The horrible execution of Joseph Suss Oppenheimer just a few years back in Stuttgart was still fresh in everybody’s mind. But although Prince William was an honorable man, Mayer decided to be secretive and keep his personal business to himself, just in case. He was not at all interested in flaunting his talents or his wares, he just wanted to be the best he could be at what he was doing. Nobody knew how much money he had, they just knew he wasn’t poor. Humility was a better route in reaching one’s goals anyway. As far as Mayer was concerned, the most important thing in the world was to have a family, and to live among a trusting caring people, for if one didn’t have that, he had nothing.

But he was ambitious, and since Frederic, William and Jacob had full confidence in him, he decided to make them a proposition. The German people weren’t united, and there were hundreds of principalities who did as they pleased with currency, so Mayer decided to standardize the thaler in the State of Hesse. In other words, he wanted to mint a thaler that would be accepted throughout the state and beyond. Because Frederic and William, thanks to the English, had more silver bullion than any other German prince, and because Frankfurt, one of the most important German trading center, was in Hesse, his initiative was bound to succeed.

13-INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

The Anglican religion, England’s state religion, can hardly be called protestant like the Lutheran or Calvinist religions, it’s a pseudo Catholic religion. When King Henry VIII personally replaced the Pope as head of the Church of England, he and the country remained very much Catholic. In time, that church was strongly influenced by the Puritans and the Lollards who had followed John Wycliffe’s teachings and wanted to change the liturgy, but it remained true to its Roman Catholic roots. The strong anti-royalist or anti-papist feelings in England in the 17th century were a sign of the growing opposition to Church abuse, of course, but the Catholic Church’s demise was mainly due to the work of the Jews and the Huguenots who had created the East India Company in Amsterdam, in 1602. As the company dominated world trade, its owners became very powerful, and they were more determined than ever to destroy their mortal enemy, the Holy Roman Empire, or the Ancien Regimes of Europe.

When Charles I was decapitated in 1649, it marked the beginning of the end for the Absolute Kings of Divine Right and the Ancien Regime of England. At that time, the East India Company effectively controlled the economy of the Netherlands, but it had always wanted to move its headquarters from Amsterdam to the City in London. However, because Cromwell had disappointed his sponsors when he failed to establish a proper parliamentary system in England, they had had to postpone democracy for another 40 years until the circumstances were favorable for William and Mary to wear the crown.

In 1694, once established in the City at the helm of the Bank of England, investment in research and development (R&D) could start in earnest. Because they were sure to have their loans repaid in a timely and just fashion, they invested with abandon and launched what became known as the Industrial Revolution. Thanks to ready credit, the English economy became dynamic, and European know-how flowed into the country. The bankers then started financing infrastructure projects in order to facilitate tax collection, internal trade, commerce and exchange of ideas. However, developing road and canal transport didn’t happen overnight, and the Industrial Revolution had to wait for the steam engine to really get started.

Denis Papin, a Huguenot from Hesse, had developed the cylinder and piston concept as early as 1695, but the use of steam was not fully exploited until James Watt invented the condenser in 1765. The Industrial Revolution coincided with the creation of the Bank of North America and Elie Whitney’s mindboggling invention, the cotton gin with interchangeable parts, in 1781. The main industry of the times, cotton, had experienced a great leap forward with the invention of the flying shuttle in 1733, the spinning Jenny in 1764, and the spinning frame in 1769, but it was the use of steam power and the invention of the cotton gin that revolutionized the greatest industry of the times.

On the iron side of things, railroads started being built in early 19th century, but the rails were made with wrought iron and were not durable. Sir Henry Bessemer, another Huguenot, changed all that when he invented a steel making process in 1856. In his blast furnaces, air oxidized and raised the temperature of the molten pig iron, while a small quantity of molten pig iron containing manganese was added and converted the whole large mass of molten iron into steel in just minutes, without the need for any additional fuel. That’s when track started being laid non-stop across Europe and America. In 1876, limestone was added to draw out phosphorous and make the steel less brittle, turning it into the wondrous material we know today.

Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1844, Elias Howe, the sewing machine, in 1846, Graham Bell, the telephone, in 1876, Thomas Edison, the light bulb in 1879, Galileo Ferraris & Nikola Tesla, the A/C motor in 1888, and Charles Steinmetz, the A/C transformer in 1893. When George Westinghouse bought Tesla’s invention and started distributing A/C electrical current over long distances, the whole world lit up.

The Bank of England created in 1694 was the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution, but it didn’t get started until steam power became a functional everyday reality. But more was to come. Because the Bank of England was made up of dozens of private bankers, it didn’t speak with one voice, and though the bankers had become very powerful, they had also become very English, and very parochial. It wasn’t until the first genuine international banker created the Bank of North America in 1781, and officially took over the English monetary system in 1810, did the world have an international financial institution that spoke with one voice. Today, two hundred years after that takeover, we are the ones who enjoy the benefits of the great market economies made possible by that man and his dynasty.