Sunday, April 22, 2012

Safety First, Before Honor

Part One
 © 2005 by Linda Minor, all rights reserved
CUSINS. Excuse me: is there any place in your religion for honor, justice, truth, love, mercy and so forth?
UNDERSHAFT. Yes: they are the graces and luxuries of a rich, strong, and safe life.
CUSINS. Suppose one is forced to choose between them and money or gunpowder?
UNDERSHAFT. Choose money and gunpowder; for without enough of both you cannot afford the others.
--George Bernard Shaw, “Major Barbara”[1]
Gunpowder and money. Cannons and cash. These unholy ingredients are the foundation upon which a purely American political religion—claiming to offer the world “honor, justice, truth, love and mercy”—is based. 

George Bernard Shaw
Bernard Shaw, who helped found Britain’s socialist Fabian Society in 1884 with the aim of declaring “war on poverty,” wrote in 1941 that “what Barbara finds out is that the ancient Greek (whoever he was) who said ‘First make sure of an income and then practise virtue’ was rightly preaching natural morality.” It was this conundrum of life that serves so well as a metaphor for capitalistic society—”the central theme of Major Barbara – that ‘the way of life lies through the factory of death’.”[2]

Two Sources of Wealth

With those two words—money and gunpowder—George Bernard Shaw summed up what would become the heritage passed down to former President George Herbert Walker Bush. When his father, Prescott Sheldon Bush, married Dorothy Walker in 1921, the wealth accumulated in only one generation by his own father, Samuel P. Bush—literally “a man of steel”—was married to a more ephemeral type of wealth created by George Herbert Walker in merchant banking and corporate securities. 

Samuel’s before-the-turn-of-the-century education in mechanical engineering at Hoboken, New Jersey’s Stevens Institute—where he learned to design and build steam engines and locomotives—would become useful to America in building its “gunpowder” and other weapons so necessary in World War I’s mission to “save the world for democracy”. At about that same time, G.H. Walker (to be profiled more fully in a subsequent article) was busily engaged with esoteric money matters, that is, with transferring financial assets of German shipping lines—the physical assets of which were seized by the U.S. Government at the lines’ Hoboken terminal on the Hudson River—into accounts set up by a new merchant bank Walker set up for W.A. Harriman & Co. This first segment on the Bush ancestry will focus on the Bush side of the family, whose most striking characteristic seems, on first glance, to be its dissimilarity from the “untitled aristocracy” that we saw throughout the ancestry of  John Kerry. Deeper research, however, promises a few surprises.

Westward Ho

Rochester, New York, founder
George Walker Bush’s great-great-great-grandfather, Obadiah Newcomb Bush, who reared his family in western New York State, moved there from Vermont during the War of 1812. As one of the founders of Rochester, New York, in 1834, Bush had served as one of the city’s fire wardens while attorney Samuel Miller was a justice of the peace. [3] Miller’s son George Douglas Miller (Yale, Skull & Bones 1870) donated the family’s secluded 50-acre Deer Island retreat—located in the center of the St. Lawrence River, on the boundary between New York and Canada—to the Yale secret society many years later.[4]  
Almost two hundred years after global trading networks had been well established in Massachusetts seaports such as Boston, Salem and Newburyport, Obadiah Bush and other new settlers chartered what was then a “frontier” city in western New York. Serving as one of the first trustees of Rochester High School, incorporated in 1827,[5] he was succeeded in that capacity by attorney Fletcher M. Haight, who in 1854 relocated his family further west to San Francisco. Fletcher Haight’s son, Henry Haight, and Obadiah’s son, James Smith Bush—both born in 1825—grew up in Rochester and attended Yale together one decade after creation of Skull and Bones; it was a decade in which most Bonesmen chose careers either as clergymen or lawyers.[6] 

After completing Yale, then studying for the law in St. Louis, Henry Haight moved to California to practice law with his father, who would be appointed by President Lincoln in 1861 as a Federal Judge in the Southern District of California, where he served until his death in 1866.[7] A year later Henry, as a War Democrat, was elected governor of the young state just in time to sign the bill which created the University of California.[8]

Obadiah Bush had heard the call of the West five years before Fletcher Haight, almost as soon as gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. He left his family behind in Rochester while he was “off panning for gold,” as we are informed by author Mickey Herskowitz, who gives Obadiah’s absence as the reason for James’ decision to practice law in Rochester instead of following his calling into the ministry.[9] The census of 1850 indicates, somewhat contradictorily, that while James Smith Bush was indeed practicing law in Rochester that year, his father, O. N. Bush, a “land agent,” was residing there as well, as head of the household.  Possibly the census taker had merely misunderstood that the elder Mr. Bush was off in California. Most sources consulted state that Obadiah did not begin his return to New York until 1851 and that he died at sea en route back to his family.

A Cowled Portrait

Rev. James S. Bush
Also in 1851 James married Sarah Freeman, daughter of physician Samuel Freeman of Saratoga Springs, New York, a city then noted for its mineral baths rather than its horse-racing and polo. Perhaps it was her father’s wealth which enabled the young bridegroom to abandon his law practice to return to his original desire to become a minister, though we are told it was her death early in 1853 which turned his thoughts back to religion. 

Nevertheless, by the time he had married the former Harriet Fay in 1859, James had been ordained and was pastor of the Grace Episcopal Church in Orange, New Jersey (a city located about twelve miles west of Hoboken). His mother and brothers—Harriet Bush, fifteen-year-old Sanford and William M. Bush, a 24-year-old married bookkeeper, and his wife Euphemia—followed him there, though they had a separate residence. 

Marines on USS Vanderbilt
Only two years after his marriage, Rev. Bush found himself involved with other ministers in the city in supporting the Union cause during the civil war and, by 1864, he was presiding at a vigil Grace Church hosted in memory of assassinated President Lincoln and the slain soldiers from Essex County.[10] Immediately after the war’s conclusion, James retraced the course his father had followed sixteen years earlier. In the fall of 1865 he left his own young family—James Freeman was born in 1860 and Samuel Prescott in October 1863—in order serve as chaplain and secretary for Commodore John Rodgers and the American naval fleet making a cruise to San Francisco via Cape Horn. Proving the fleet to be capable of circumnavigating South America, the USS Vanderbilt, carrying Chaplain Bush, arrived in California the following June.[11]  

James became the rector at Grace Church in San Francisco, then on its way to becoming an extremely fashionable parish in Nob Hill.[12]  Mansions of the rich and famous first began going up in the years that the Bush family lived there.[13] Herskowitz states that, while in California, James  renewed his acquaintance with his old friend Henry Haight, who was then governor of the state, the man whose signature would create the University of California at Berkeley. In so doing, federal land grants of 150,000 acres were bestowed into the keeping of the university’s regents, Chairman of which was then Dr. Horatio Stebbins.[14]  

It was this same Dr. Stebbins whom we are told “met often enough” with Rev. James Bush in San Francisco to sense that Bush’s “theological garments were outgrown.”[15] Stebbins was a Unitarian minister who arrived in San Francisco in 1864 from Portland, Maine, where he had been pastor since 1855. It may have been Massachusetts-born Dr. Stebbins whose influence turned James in the last decade of his life to retreat to nature in Concord, Massachusetts. Or it may have been another Unitarian, George W. Curtis, a writer for Harper’s Weekly, who introduced James to Emerson’s poem “Problem,” prompting him to abandon the cowl.[16] At any rate, it appears James' interest in theology lasted no longer than his career in law.

It is possible, however, that James decided to return to New Jersey in order to be nearer the Fay family. As we are told by historian Ira K. Morris, in July 1872 “Rev. James Bush, of San Francisco, became the rector” of Church of the Ascension on Staten Island, where he would remain until 1885.[17] According to Kitty Kelley’s biography, The Family,
Harriet Fay Bush was born in Savannah, Georgia, of illustrious ancestors who fertilized the family tree with connections to British royalty. On occasion Mrs. Bush could be as starchy as Queen Victoria.[18]
Harriet had one brother and two remaining sisters, one of whom, Clara Montfort Fay, would be married at the Bush’s new church on Staten Island in 1874 to noted artist Frank Hill Smith.

Located almost the same distance—twelve miles—south of Hoboken, New Jersey (where son Samuel would attend Stevens Institute) as it was east of his former ministry in Orange, New Jersey, Staten Island was, however, part of New York State. It had for many years been the home of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who, born in 1794, had acquired the New York Central Railroad in 1866, the same year James Bush had disembarked from the Commodore’s former steamship bearing his name onto California soil. Consolidation of all major railroads on both sides of the Hudson River, from Staten Island and north to Albany, was a project Vanderbilt began when he was 72 years old, and those transportation lines would prove to play a strategic role in the Bush family’s future.

Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal

James Bush had been born the same year the Erie Canal, a technological marvel, was completed. This canal spurred industrialization all along the corridor of inland waterways from Buffalo, New York, west through Rochester and beyond. Along the south shore of Lake Erie the Ohio cities of Cleveland and Toledo, as well as the inland cities of Columbus and Cincinnati, industry boomed. It was during that era that the Rockefeller family had left their birthplace in Richford, just a few miles southeast of Rochester, to move to Cleveland. 

But the canal era was to be short-lived. In 1823, only two years before the canal’s operations began, the most eminent authority on transportation technology, John Stevens (1749-1838), joined with a group of men in Pennsylvania to charter the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, though he failed to attract necessary capital for the project until some 20 years later. Stevens predicted as early as 1812 that steam locomotives would quickly out-perform canals, and by 1855 this prediction was becoming true. Floods of 1913 would devastate the canal’s locks, ending its commercial use. Rail and steam were the technology of the future.  

Edwin A. Stevens (1795-1868), John’s youngest son, was of the same generation as Samuel Prescott Bush’s grandfather Obadiah. With his brother Robert L. (1787-1858), Edwin Stevens had worked with their father in building the Camden and Amboy Railroad in New Jersey, as well as other rail and canal operations between New York and Philadelphia. The family had designed innumerable inventions used on their own steamboats, many of which were eventually adopted by the U.S. Navy. Family papers reveal the closeness between John Stevens and the Founding Fathers in equipping the military forces during the Revolutionary War and in the country’s subsequent defense.[19] The sons also contracted to design weapons and ship technology for the government. In 1843 they were awarded a U.S. Government contract to produce a steam warship called “the Ironclad Battery” to defend New York Harbor, though the prototype was never completed.[20]  

Samuel P. Bush
When Edwin died in 1868, he left money in his will not only to complete the warship but also to establish a school for mechanical engineering in Hoboken. Stevens Institute of Technology opened in 1870, and it was to this school that Samuel Bush turned his gaze in 1880. When James retired to Concord in 1885, Samuel had successfully completed his studies in mechanical engineering and had begun to establish his career in railroading. But as we will see, Samuel’s new job with a Stevens family military-industrial enterprise—a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad—harked only the beginning for Bush family involvement with canons and gunpowder.

[1] An ironic comedy staged in 1905 in London, which can be read online, this play reveals much about Shaw’s feelings of how the Fabian Society had allowed its proponents to be duped. The same sellout of values is apparent in Americans living during the same period of history—Americans like the ancestors of both Presidents George Bush.
[2] Michael Holroyd, Bernard Shaw VolumeII:  1898-1918, The Pursuit of Power (New York:  Random House,  1989), p. 113.
[3] William F. Peck, History of the Police Department of Rochester, N.Y. (1903), p. 53.
[5] The Rochester schools adopted the Lancasterian system of teaching students, which was quickly discredited. Interestingly, the town’s head professor was a man named Dr. Dewey, whom we can only surmise was related to John Dewey, who would soon become so essential to Yale’s role in influencing American education along similar lines. See The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21), as well as Antony Sutton, America’s Secret Establishment. Dewey was said to be “the only American about whom has been formed a regular philosophic school. Dewey began his philosophic career under the influence of Harris, T. H. Green, and Bosanquet, and in his early writings, e.g., his Psychology, he showed himself a master of Hegelian dialectics.”   As stated in the Cambridge History of English and American Literature’s section Dewey’s later philosophy
“Dewey uses pragmatism as a means of eliminating all theologic problems. Philosophic concepts, like God, Freedom, and Immortality, he tells us bluntly, have outlived their usefulness as sanctions, and the business of philosophy henceforth is to be with those ideas which will help us to transform the empirical world.”
[6] Four Haight men have also been members of Skull and Bones.
[7] Ann Clark Hart, Lone Mountain: The Most Revered of San Francisco’s Hills (San Francisco:  The Pioneer Press, 1937), pp. 30-31.  Henry’s son Louis, also a Yale graduate, later practiced medicine in Stockton, California.
[8] Four years after the university was created, the regents appointed Daniel C. Gilman (Skull and Bones 1852) to be its president, though Gilman stayed in California only three years. Six years behind Haight and James Bush at Yale, he may not have met the older men, though the new university could boast of many other graduates from that Connecticut campus. The university’s first president, Henry Durant, for example, was a graduate of both Phillips Academy, Andover, and of Yale, and a subsequent president, Martin Kellogg, a professor in California for several years, was in the Yale class of 1850. Because Yale’s professor Benjamin Silliman was America’s most authoritative expert on mineralogy at that time, he was often consulted with regard to mining and other scientific matters.
[9] An authorized biography of Prescott Bush, written appropriately enough by sports journalist Mickey Herskowitz, recounts “some little-known family history” about the father of Samuel Prescott Bush, George W.’s great-great grandfather, from a memoir written in 1907 by William Barrett, a family friend. MickeyHerskowitz, Duty, Honor, Country:  The Life and Legacy of Prescott Bush (Nashville, TN:  Rutledge Hill Press, 2003), pp. 15-16. According to this account, James Bush “opened an office in Rochester, taking as a partner a young lawyer named Root and creating a firm called Root and Bush. This led to several terrible puns, such as: A Bush could hardly be expected to flourish without a Root.” (Herskowitz, p. 18) The 1850 census shows other siblings of James Bush also living at home to be Elizabeth, Cornelia, William and Sanford.
[10] According to Volume I of The Municipalities of Essex County, New Jersey, 1666-1924, edited by Folsom, Fitzpatrick and Conklin (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1925), p. 592:  “Rev. James Bush, first rector, served through the stormy Civil War period, and acted well the part of the patriot-clergyman. He was very popular in the community.”
[11] The steamship had been used, according to Gustavus Myers, by Commodore Vanderbilt to transport mail to Europe by U.S. Government contract. Built in the mid-1850’s the Vanderbilt was one of three vessels he built to compete in the Atlantic trade against Cunard, which he determined to be unprofitable and abandoned. During the 1865-66 journey, Commodore Rodgers and his men had witnessed a military incidentbetween Spain and its colonies of Peru and Chile but, fortunately, were kept out of harm’s way when Commodore Rodgers refused to fire on the Spanish ship, as he had been ordered to do by the American Minister to Chile—former Union General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick.
[12] According to Grace Church’s history at its former website:  “The parish vestry boasted some of the leading families of San Francisco; Tevis, Haggin, Bancroft, Stanford, Gibbs, Crocker, Gwin. Society weddings (Alexander/Crocker) and funerals (Sharon, Hearst) drew crowds of spectators up the hill.”  Years later, after the San Francisco fire of 1906 left the church in ruins, the son of Charles Crocker, who had been one of Bush’s parishioners, donated the site of the family’s once opulent mansion to rebuild Grace Cathedral. See also Sacred Destinations.
[13] US Census 1870, San Francisco, California. He should have been six or seven years old at that time. Genealogy studies say he could not have been with James Bush’s mother, who had apparently died in 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is possible Samuel was staying with a member of his mother’s family, the Fays. Rev. Bush’s second wife, born in Savannah, Georgia, was descended, on her father’s side, from a long line of Massachusetts gentry;  her mother’s ancestry were Southerners in Georgia, just a few miles from the notorious Jekyll Island—where the law to create the Federal Reserve Banking System was drafted.
[14]University of California history; History of the New California; and Excerpt from “The First Benefactors”.
[15] Herskowitz, p. 22.
[16] Read Emerson’s “Problem”  and see short biography of Curtis.
[17] Ira K. Morris, Morris’s Memorial History of Staten Island, New York Volume I (New York: Memorial Publishing Company, 1900), p. 306. Also see Charles W. Leng, Staten Island and Its People:  A History, 1609-1929 (New York:  Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1930).
[18] The Family: The Real Story Of The Bush Dynasty by Kitty Kelley.
[19] John Stevens archives.
[20] NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER article on Stevens family.