Showing posts with label China trade. Show all posts
Showing posts with label China trade. Show all posts

Monday, August 19, 2013

Conception of National Interest with Disastrous Implications

The Americans were marvelously ingenious in their exploitation of the commerce. They managed to circumvent both the East India Company's franchise and the Chinese Government's prohibition and carried on a very lucrative, if antisocial and ultimately ruinous trade. Finally, the fact of American participation in the [opium] traffic fundamentally altered the American posture in the Far East. It grew like the Southern view of slavery -- what began as an economic necessity ultimately developed into a conception of national interest with disastrous implications for the future.
Quoted from an article by Professor Jacques M. Downs, "American Merchants and the China Opium Trade, 1800-1840," published in The Business History Review, Vol. 42, No. 4 (Winter, 1968), pp. 418-442. Downs was professor of history at St. Francis College in Biddeford, Maine. (See his obituary in the September 17, 2006 Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.)

The entire 26-page research article (available for purchase at various websites or free from JSTOR in libraries which subscribe), from which the above quote is taken, appeared in print the same year that the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy ripped apart the United States. I remember that year with both horror and awe, as my own life suffered a violent philosophical wrenching so alien to what was occurring all around me. As a sophomore in high school when President Kennedy had died from assassins' bullets, I had almost completed my college courses as a major in history and government in my West Texas home by 1968. While friends and family carried on as though nothing had occurred, my life was changed forever.
Courtesy of Gnostic Center

The previous year my English lit class had studied Plato's Republic, and I felt as though I were living the scene where Socrates describes the cave-like prison where inhabitants face a wall where they view only the shadows of what is going on behind them, created by a light behind the events being played out in reality.

It was not unlike the mirror image of a world into which Alice had climbed--almost real, but not quite real. And the sound track was being provided for us daily to describe the events, that we couldn't quite trust as truth. My education was only just beginning, but it was interrupted for quite a few years of angry cynicism that kept me off-track. I did not know where to turn. I began to distrust everyone and everything. Finding my way back was a long, hard road. I watched as many of my contemporaries were sucked into Vietnam, either as war or anti-war participants. Little did we know at the time that the history about which Professor Downs had written was coming to pass.

Excerpts from "American Merchants and the China Opium Trade, 1800-1840," by Jacques M. Downs

An Existing Business Model
Most of our knowledge comes from the accounts of Europeans visiting or residing in Smyrna in the late century. More complete information apparently must await the systematic exploitation of Turkish records. [See - By far the best sources I have found to date are Salaheddin Bey, La Turquie a l'exposition universelle de 1867 (Paris, 1867) 48-56, and Carl von Scherzer, Smyrna (Vienna, 1873), 136-140. Scherzer was Austrian Consul at Smyrna for many years and should know his subject. See also O. Blau, "Etwas fiber das Opium" in the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenliindischen Gesellschaft (1869), 280-281. The latter article, though very brief, cites several earlier sources in German and French. Unfortunately, neither Blau nor many of his references are readily available in this country.]
Opium was planted in late October and November and began to grow during the winter. Although the cold weather kept the plants small, the root-system developed considerably. Thus with the coming of spring, the plants would grow rapidly, each sending up from one to four stalks three or four feet high. At the end of April the poppies bloomed, and about two weeks after the petals fell, the poppy-head was fully developed and ready for harvesting....

Map of Ottoman Empire, circa 1792
The crop began arriving in Smyrna toward the end of July or the first of August and continued until the following spring. [See a letter from Thomas H. Perkins to John P. Cushing, January 15, 1825, Samuel Cabot Collection, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.]  Merchants resident at Smyrna purchased the raw opium for shipment overseas, most importantly to the Orient, though one-quarter to one-half seems generally to have gone to Europe and elsewhere.

In the early days of this commerce most Americans employed the good offices of the British Levant Company, since it was customary to use "the flag and the protection" of a nation which had a trade agreement with the Sublime Porte. [fn. - The United States had no formal agreement with the Porte until the Rhind Treaty of 1830. For further information, see Samuel Eliot Morison, "Forcing the Dardanelles in 1810," New England Quarterly, I (April, 1928), 208-225.] For this service, they paid "a light consulage and dragomange duty, roughly about one per cent on the value of goods imported and exported." Although the British Consul-General in Constantinople reported as late as 1809 that Americans still preferred to consign their goods to the Levant Company, the trading pattern soon began to change.

As early as the late 1790's, American vessels were calling at Smyrna but it was not until 1804 that Philadelphia and Baltimore ships began the trade in earnest. [See Charles C. Stelle, "American Opium Trade to China prior to 1820," Pacific Historical Review, IX (Dec., 1940), 430-431. See also letter from R. Wilkinson to James Madison, January 15, 1806, U.S. Department of State, Despatches from Consuls in Smyrna, I, National Archives, Washington, D.C.] Probably the first figures of any consequence in the American drug trade from Smyrna to China were James and Benjamin C. Wilcocks. The former arrived in Smyrna in 1804 as supercargo of the brig Pennsylvania. They cleared for Batavia, but both were in China by the following October. Benjamin remained, but James appears to have gone home with the ship, to return via Smyrna on the Sylph the following year with more opium. [Note:  The Wilcockses sailed for their kinsmen, William Waln and R. H. Wilcocks of Philadelphia, who continued to send ships to Canton consigned to the brothers. See letter from Wilkinson to Madison, January 15, 1806; Despatches from Consuls in Smyrna. Benjamin Wilcocks remained in Canton until 1807 or 1808. He then returned home and established a business in Philadelphia but "was obliged to return . . . in 1811." See letter from John R. Latimer to Mary R. Latimer, March 30, 1830, John R. Latimer Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]

Apparently the commerce paid, for several other American China merchants immediately showed an interest. Willings & Francis sent opium aboard the Bingham in the spring of 1805, [See letters from the supercargo, William Read, in the Willings & Francis Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

The brig Eutaw, Captain Christopher Gantt, of Baltimore was in Smyrna from July to November, 1805, and then sailed for Canton with 26 chests and 53 boxes of opium aboard, and in January of the following year, Stephen Girard seems to have become excited by the possibilities of the trade. He wrote two of his supercargoes in the Mediterranean:
"I am very much in favor of investing heavily in opium. While the war lasts, opium will support a good price in China .... " [See letter from Girard to Mahlon Hutchinson, Jr., & Myles McLeveen, January 2, 1805, Stephen Girard Papers, Girard College Library, Philadelphia, Pa. on microfilm at the American Philosophical Society Library, Philadelphia.]
James & Thomas H. Perkins of Boston, who had relatives in Smyrna, had inquired of their nephew at Canton as to the market for Turkish opium in China. [Note: Extracts from two letters from J. & T. H. Perkins to John P. Cushing June 19, September 23, 1805, quoted in J[ames] E[lliott] C[abot], "Extracts from the Letterbooks of J. & T. H. Perkins..." (See typewritten Manuscript, Massachusetts Historical Society, n.d.] John Cushing [See Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders by John N. Ingham] had gone to Canton as clerk to Ephraim Bumstead, a former apprentice in the Perkins house. Bumstead fell ill and died, and Cushing, age 16, took over. When he came of age, he was made a partner in the firm, Perkins & Company, which he had organized and run since his arrival. He proved to be a merchant of rare ability and amassed a fortune of nearly one million dollars before he finally sailed for home in 1831. Others soon joined them, and the first of a series of "opium rushes" was reported at Smyrna by Girard's disappointed agents. [See letter from Mahlon Hutchinson, Jr., & Myles McLeveen to Girard, March 30, 1806, Girard Papers.] In 1807, another Philadelphian, George Blight, reported from China that while opium "at times paid very well," it had "disappointed many the past season" because the trade had been far overdone. [See letter from Blight to Girard, March 4, November 21, 1807, Girard Papers.]
Opium As a Specie Substitute
Here was a pattern which was typical in the American China trade. Precisely the same configuration had appeared in the commerce in ginseng, sealskins, sandalwood, and just about every other specie-substitute American merchants discovered. The first ships would make a killing, the scent of which would draw others into the trade until the market was saturated, and the trade ceased to pay. Thereafter, periodic gluts would occur until the supply became exhausted (as with sandalwood and fur) or until a few of the stronger firms established some sort of loose organization of the market. In the Turkish opium trade, the organizers were Perkins & Company and its allied concerns in Boston.

America's War on Drugs

What we had begun to see by 1968 was a phony war against drugs. We were being told that marijuana was a gateway drug, not only highly addictive, but which would lead to even worse opiate addictions--primarily heroin. A war was necessary. Not only should all these narcotics be "controlled," but anyone who used or possessed them should be prosecuted as criminals. I was rebellious only in mind and spirit but quite conservative where behavior was concerned. I avoided all drugs, including tobacco, and had never even tasted beer or wine until after graduating college in 1970.

I lived and operated within a strange world of half-life, where I did what a good girl would do, while at the same time held those who would try to control my beliefs or actions in total and utter contempt. I knew in my gut that Lee Harvey Oswald, for example, had not killed President Kennedy, that Sirhan Sirhan was also a mind-controlled patsy, and that there was something much bigger and uglier than James Earl Ray who was responsible for killing Martin Luther King. I could not explain how I knew, but I did.

I had completed law school by 1975, while maintaining a deprecatory  opinion of lawyers and a fear of being co-opted if hired by a firm of them. I shunned the adversary system which I saw as a sham that required sophistry of the highest register. I refused to argue on behalf of or support people or principles with which I disagreed. Thus I eventually found a niche within the land title and abstract industry, which seemed so close to my love of history. In time, I prospered, grew ever confident within myself, and began to meet others who shared my point of view--thanks, of course, to the internet.

It was only after meeting such folks as Kris Millegan and Catherine Austin Fitts, hearing their stories, reading and researching with them in the mid-1990's, that I was able to free the restraints that kept me from changing my position in the cave. Only with their helpful insight did I begin to look at reality head on. I can never thank them enough for allowing me to step into the world of truth where we now reside together.

We had started to realize by that time that the drug war was being fought to benefit a secret intelligence group who wanted to eliminate their competition and thus effectively create a price support floor under the commodity which paid for America's "national security" infrastructure.

So many of our research community referred to this phenomenon as "CIA Drugs," but I knew it began much earlier than the year 1947, when the CIA was born. Little did I know that Professor Downs had already discovered in 1968 that elements within our government had conceived of this use of opium as a substitute specie as being in the "national interest," or national security interest as it became to be called, and that conception would have ever more disastrous  implications for us and our world.

Friday, August 16, 2013

From Oyster Bed to Walrus in One Fell Swoop

In "Seeing the World Whole," I tried to emphasize what two English men, prime minister Disraeli in 1844 and Lewis Carroll in 1871, had discovered about the world in which they lived, during the same era in which the Forbes family came to prominence in the early years of self-government in the United States. We live simultaneously within alternative universes. THE WORLD IS NOT AS IT SEEMS.

Hedging Bets

Hartford Convention or LEAP NO LEAP, ca. 1814
As we ended the previous segment in 1776, we were struck by the number of colonists, such as James Murray, who bet all they had on the wrong side. Loyal to the British Crown to the end, Murray went with others who opposed the revolution to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and forfeited all his interest in properties he owned within the newly declared nation.

His sister and two daughters, nevertheless, remained behind in Massachusetts and fought to retain title to the land and businesses they had worked for. The collected letters of James Murray, Loyalist, published in 1902, tell us that his these women were near Cambridge when they heard the guns from the battle at nearby Bunker Hill, and they fled from the Inman estate, taken over by patriot general, Israel Putnam, for his camp. They ended up at the Brush Hill mansion near Milton. Scroll down to the map inset below for these locations.

Murray's sister, Elizabeth Inman, remained in Massachusetts throughout the war and until her death in 1785. The property of Ralph Inman in Cambridge, though confiscated for a time, was returned to his family, all Tories as well, and sold in 1792; it is now part of the community northeast of Harvard. Elizabeth somehow reconciled with the old curmudgeon, and he survived her by three years, though his avarice and envy continued even as his wife lay dying. Dolly Forbes was present to witness this, while her sons were coming to adulthood.

Unlike her father and husband, Dolly was a realist who was able to cast aside any preference for British rule from a distance and take her chances with the new self-government. She did so completely alone, after her father's evacuation in 1776, her husband's departure in 1783, and her beloved aunt's death in 1785, living on her own there in Boston and its surrounding communities of Milton and Cambridge until her own death in 1811.

John Forbes, you may recall, had spent his adult years in East Florida while it, too, was British-owned, and we are told by E.L. Pennington in an article in "Florida History Quarterly," VIII, 164-68, January 1930 that he had:
received his education at King's College in old Aberdeen, where he passed through the ordinary course of Greek, mathematics, and philosophy, and attended lectures in divinity. The University of Aberdeen conferred on him the degree of M.A. in the spring of 1763, and he was then recommended to the bishops of the Church of England for ordination to the ministry.... In 1783, after nearly twenty years in the province, he returned to England on leave of absence, in bad health. He died in England, September 17, 1783, leaving a widow [Dolly] and three sons:
  • James Grant Forbes (1769-1826),
  • John Murray Forbes (1771-1831), and
  • Ralph Bennet Forbes (1773-1824).

It's Whom You Know...

The first Forbes son, James, took his ill father back to Scotland in 1783, and remained to be educated (see footnote in link) before pursuing the same career as his grandfather and many of his Murray relatives had chosen--trade in the West Indies--as he attempted to recoup his father's land at St. Augustine, East Florida, which had been part of that ceded to Spain in 1783. Some have called the term "West India trade" to be a mere euphemism for the slave trade, but by any definition, the region of Santo Domingo (today's Haiti). where they lived for a time was the center in the Caribbean islands for the triangular trade that did include slaves as one of its legs.
Santo Domingo in the West Indies
John Murray "Jack" Forbes, Dolly's second son, entered Harvard that year at the age of only 15; in 1787, he graduated in the same class with future U.S. President, John Quincy Adams (hereafter J.Q.). Still operating under the articles of confederation, the new country had not yet adopted the current Constitution. J.Q.'s father, John Adams, a diplomat as well as vice president in George Washington's administration before he himself was elected the second U.S. President in 1796, worked hard to see the new country succeed, despite all attempts from opponents to ensure its collapse.

Four years older and more mature than his younger classmate, J.Q. on occasion dined at the Forbes home in Boston. James had returned from Scotland by then, as the two brothers are mentioned in the diary J.Q. kept. Selected excerpts from that diary indicate that most of J.Q.'s youth had been spent abroad with his father, both of whom were born in Braintree, later called Quincy, Massachusetts. A map of the colony, showing the area reveals how closely woven the Adams family's roots were with those of the Murray and Forbes haunts, labeled for convenience below.
Click to enlarge.

Showing the closeness of Forbes and Adams is the following whimsical verse they wrote together during their last year at Harvard. It first appeared in print in the Harvard Graduates' Magazine in 1917:

J.Q.'s diary relates that, after Harvard, he studied law under Theophilus Parsons (author of pamphlet, The Essex Result) in Newburyport before setting up a law practice in Boston in 1790. During this time, in the fall of 1788, J.Q.'s health suffered, and he found himself somewhat dependent upon opiates for sleep, the diary revealed, but whether the dependence continued we do not know.

Of Consuls, Spies and Sealing Wax

Dolly Forbes' son Jack also began the study of law at the same time, but under different men and locations in Massachusetts--in Lancaster under John Sprague and in Brookfield under Pliny Merrick. Intriguingly, however, he began a nonexistent practice in 1794 with Charles Porter Phelps (Harvard 1791), who married Theophilus Parsons' niece in 1800; after her death in 1817, he married Parsons' 27-year-old daughter, Charlotte in 1820. Phelps, like J.Q., studied law under Theophilus Parsons in Newburyport, but a few years later. The same year Phelps moved to Boston to begin his law practice, coincidentally, was the only year Forbes claimed to have been in practice, and it was the same year J.Q. Adams was named Minister to the The Hague, Netherlands by President George Washington.

Jack Forbes, really only a boy when they first met at Harvard, was described by Adams in an almost intimate March 1787 entry in his diary, shown in the inset below:

John Quincy Adams' description of John Bennet "Jack" Forbes I
J.Q.'s reference to Jack's older brother, James Grant Forbes, supplemented by footnote 3 which begins at page 343, gives sufficient details about Dolly's eldest son to discern that he was a soldier during the war of 1812, both under Gen. Andrew Jackson and under Gregor MacGregor, where he served as a spy for Secretary of State Adams in 1818 and subsequently.

During this same time the spy's younger brother Jack was serving in the new diplomatic corps being created for the United States by their friend J.Q., Secretary of State for President Monroe. About John Murray Forbes, footnote 2, which begins at page 343, in J.Q.'s diary states:
From J.Q. Adams' diaries about John Murray Forbes (1771-1831)

Commercial Agent for U.S. Gov't?

One month before leaving office in 1801, Pres. John Adams included as part of his "midnight appointments" a place for Jack as commercial agent in Le Havre. 
Although confirmed by the Senate, the papers were not delivered to him before Thomas Jefferson's inauguration, and Jefferson, suspecting these appointees would not be loyal to him, named his own man for the post.
It took some lobbying before he agreed to name Forbes as consul in Hamburg--"a Situation of the highest Commercial importance and responsibility," as Jack Forbes termed it in a thank-you letter to the new President in 1802. 
At this consulate, Jack soon began to operate a "commercial partnership" with younger brother, Ralph Bennet Forbes, now at loose ends after the slave rebellion in Santo Domingo ended his prospects there. (The papers from Jack's days as U.S. Consul at Hamburg and Copenhagen, 1801-19, and U.S. Agent at Buenos Aires, 1819-31 are deposited at the Baker Library at Harvard.)

In a previously published version of this research it was stated:
The youngest son, Ralph Bennet Forbes, who learned the shipping business as an apprentice to his uncle, John Murray, in Virginia, made his first journey to the Bordeaux wine region of France in 1795 with a shipload of rice and tobacco, which he traded for brandy, a product which his ship then transported to Hamburg, the center of the old Hanseatic merchant associations, before making the return voyage, possibly loaded with salt and other commodities from that port. In this triangular fashion he spent much of his life, at times making his home in France, where two of his three sons were born. He was one member of a large family of adventuring merchants who had traveled the world in such fashion for many generations. [See The History of Milton, Mass.: 1640 to 1887 written by Rev. Albert Kendall Teele, (Boston: Press of Rockwell & Churchill), 1887, which mentions John B. Murray of Alexandria, Va., stating that Ralph was apprenticed to him in 1787, but it did not identify Murray as Ralph's uncle; that was an incorrect assumption on my part at the time of writing.]
Of Slaves and Drugs and Sailing Ships

Ralph was in fact an apprentice to Dolly Forbes' first cousin, John Boyles Murray, whose father was Dr. John Murray, her uncle, a physician in Norwich, England. All of the Murrays seem to have been trained for trade with the West Indies, probably the British island of Jamaica, as well as British colonies in America before the revolution. James Murray had chosen to settle in North Carolina where many Scots were situated. At the end of Ralph's training period in 1791, he went to Port-au-Prince, St. Domingo now (Haiti) where his eldest brother, James Grant Forbes, was then engaged in the trade, most likely as an employee of James and Thomas Handasyd Perkins.
Slave revolts begin in 1792.

Thomas Handasyd Perkins was slightly older than James and had decided at a young age to be a merchant servicing as apprentice to the Shattucks in Boston until 1785, at which time he and his brothers entered into trade together between Santo Domingo and New England. That trade consisted of acquiring slaves from Africa with rum and iron taken there from New England. Their ships would then leave the West Indies with raw sugar and molasses produced by slave labor and delivered to New England to make rum.

The marriages that occurred in the Perkins family reveal much about the business climate in eastern Massachusetts at that time. This is the family into which the youngest Forbes son would marry in 1799. His wife's older siblings and their spouses welcomed him into their homes and took him into business with them. Together they would be numbered among the wealthiest families in the entire state.
Children of James and Elizabeth (Peck) Perkins:
  • Elizabeth in 1773 married Russell Sturgis;
  • James Perkins, Jr. in 1786 married Sarah Paine, daughter of Timothy Paine, a Tory-sympathizing judge, forced to publicly recant his views and resign his judgeship;
  • Thomas H. Perkins in 1788 married Sarah Elliott, daughter of Simon Elliott, a tobacco merchant in Boston, from whom they inherited some valuable mill property;
  • Samuel Gardner Perkins in 1795 married Barbara Higginson, daughter of Stephen Higginson of Salem, Mass.;
  • Ann Maynard Perkins in 1785 married Captain Robert Cushing, and their son John Perkins Cushing was taken into Thomas Perkins' home upon Ann's death.
James and Ralph Forbes remained in Haiti only until about 1795. The slave insurrections devastated any investments they may have made, as well as those of Ralph's in-laws, the Perkins family.
See ebook segment and footnote below*
*(See page 568, in The History of Milton). At one time a firm of distillers called "Loring and Snelling" of which Caleb Loring of Hingham, Massachusetts, was a partner, owned a ship called Rising States; it was seized by the British during the war. Whether or not it was the same ship, one with the same name is mentioned in "Papers of the American Slave Trade." The Perkins family had also started their West Indies trade after starting life in Hingham.
Time to Speak of Commerce, of Cabbages and Kings

What we learn from reading the diaries of various officials in the new U.S. government is that the consular appointments seemed to be rewards granted to men willing to engage in their own commercial business abroad and in turn send intelligence back to the President and his cabinet officials. To illustrate this point, read the biography of James Murray Robbins, son of Dolly Forbes' sister Elizabeth. Robbins was born and reared in Milton and actually moved into the Brush Hill mansion in 1805, where the Forbes girls had lived with their aunt before the revolution. The details were filled in by the Appendix to the Letters of James Murray, Loyalist (p. 310):
James Murray Robbins ... was born June 30, 1796, in the old Gooch house on Milton Hill. When he was nine years old his father removed from Milton Hill to Brush Hill, within the same town, making his residence in the Smith house, which had become the property of his wife; and here, eighty years later, the son died. He received his school education at the Milton Academy, which his father [Edward Hutchison Robbins] had been largely instrumental in founding, and of whose board of trustees the father and son filled the office of president for seventy-six years. At the age of fifteen [1811] he entered the counting-room of the prominent Boston merchants, James and Thomas Handasyd Perkins, and there acquired a thorough training in business habits. But the time was not propitious for commercial enterprise or success; the widespread stagnation of business, consequent upon the blockade maintained by the British fleet, and the hardly less oppressive acts of our own government, seemed to bar the way to entering upon the career of a merchant. In 1814 his cousin, John Murray Forbes, who was consul-general at Hamburg, invited him to accept official employment at the consulate; and it is not difficult to imagine how gladly the boy of eighteen must have exchanged the round of dull and apathetic duty in the counting-room for the excitement of the voyage and of foreign travel.
By 1811 Ralph had already been married to Margaret Perkins 12 years, and the brothers had given up trade in the West Indies for the East Indies, with China. In the meantime the young Robbins cousin went to Europe to replace Ralph Forbes. The editor of The Letters reports that President Monroe, through his secretary of state, Jack's old friend J.Q. Adams, called Forbes home and entrusted him with negotiations following Napoleon's defeat at the hands of the British, while the teenage Robbins was sent to Elsinore [Helsingor], Denmark, not far from Jack's 1813 post in Copenhagen. Was he merely there to keep his eyes and ears open and courier intelligence back?

The United States, as the only republic then in existence, had been engaged in war with the British monarchy since 1812, philosophically assisted throughout by the French after their own revolution against King Louis began in 1787. (See timeline and interactive maps.) The defeat of Napoleon in 1815 by an alliance between England and Prussia did not bode well for self-government. Did Jack Forbes laugh when the American officials trusted him with America's foreign affairs? Did President Monroe, the last Founding Father to serve as chief executive of the United States, know what was about to hit the fan? Did anyone understand at the time that the cost of such intelligence to the new nation was to allow those consular officials free reign in smuggling drugs?

We can only wonder now if Jack Forbes was a serious patriot to American constitutional government or whether he was only looking out for his family's business interests. Did he smile at all the brave oyster-like young men who followed in his steps, believing in their own patriotism? Lewis Carroll would later describe such gullible patriots well in his poem of how the walrus and the carpenter tricked a few eager oysters into becoming lunch by merely inviting them for a walk.


by Lewis Carroll
from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872

The Walrus and the Carpenter
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Walrus wept as Carpenter ate the oysters.

To Be Continued....

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pecunia non olet

According to the historian Suetonius,Vespasian, who ruled the Roman Empire from AD 69 to AD 79, had a son named Titus who found fault with him for contriving a tax upon public toilets. Vespasian held a piece of money from the first payment to his son's nose, asking whether its odor was offensive to him. When Titus said "No," he replied, "Yet it comes from urine." 
The moral: Money doesn't stink.
But then any emperor would believe the same.

William Hathaway Forbes
© 2012 by Linda Minor

“By the late 1830s, opium was the basis of East-West commerce. It balanced the payments…Everyone needed it.”
 Jonathan Goldstein, Jerry Israel, Hilary Conroy, America views
China: American images of China then and now, p. 61.

Shortly after his retirement from the China trade,  John Murray bought an island off the coast of Massachusetts near Nantucket in Buzzard’s Bay called Naushon. His son William Hathaway was then a mere lad of 7 or 8 years. Then one of the wealthiest families in New England, Forbes began a concentrated effort toward his son's proper education--without much cooperation on the part of the youngster.

William Hathaway Forbes failed to graduate with his Harvard class of 1861, in which he began as a freshman in 1857.[1] To his father's great embarrassment, he was summarily expelled, as revealed in the article below, which appeared in the Pittsfield Eagle during his junior year at Harvard. One biographer linked the scandal to the secret society called “Med. Fac.” that had been operating at Harvard since at least 1820. Not unlike the Skull and Bones secret society at Yale, it had its roots much earlier among the medical faculty.

Fortunately for the Forbes family, war intervened and Will Forbes rose in the 2d Cavalry of the Union Army, eventually attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. His friend and brother-in-law, Henry Sturgis Russell (whose family had started Russell & Co.) served in the same regiment until he was promoted to brigadier general over the "colored" regiment (the Fifth). Henry married Mary Hathaway Forbes, Will’s sister, in 1863.[3]
  His father, John Murray Forbes, showed his disappointment in his son when headlines in January 1860 revealed him to be the culprit who almost killed an undercover cop who hid in Appleton Chapel hoping to catch a repeat burglar. Reminiscent of Barbara Bush when her son Neil was criticized for helping to loot Silverado Savings, Will’s mother also sped to her son’s defense. Boys will be boys, as the saying goes. But Will's father, usually called simply J.M. Forbes, didn’t want to rock the boat; he had only just begun to remove the stench of opium from his reputation.

William Hathaway’s friend and Harvard classmate from the class of 1860—Henry Sturgis Russell, son of George Robert and Sarah Russell—would join the Massachusetts Cavalry as soon as they heard the war drums. They were young and itching for excitement. Their fathers, grandfathers and uncles had all experienced that same adrenalin in the Far East decades earlier as merchant traders.

It was also war which consumed  much of the career of another descendant of Samuel Russell--William Huntington Russell--who in addition to operating a military school in New Haven also had helped to found the secret society Skull and Bones similar in many respects to the Med Fac society which operated years earlier at Harvard.

Henry’s Russell's uncle, Samuel Wadsworth Russell had started Russell & Co. at 2 Suy-Hong in Canton in 1824 in competition with the Perkins and Forbes family, with whom he merged his company in 1832. Henry’s father, George Russell was a partner in Russell, Sturgis & Co. formed in Manila in 1828.[2] They had more or less taken over the trade of the East India Company in China when the British departed.

By the time William’s own father, John Murray Forbes, first laid eyes upon the Chinese city of Canton, where his uncles (one of whom, James Sturgis, had married a Perkins girl, making him “Uncle Jimmy”) and brothers had garnered the family wealth, he was working for the larger firm which bore the Russell name. But it was all the same family business--trading mostly in opium in China and later investing profits in America for their Canton trading partner, Houqua, under the name of Russell & Co.

After his first tour in China, Will Hathaway’s father had returned to Milton, Massachusetts, married Sarah Hathaway, a friend of his sisters, and then quickly returned to China to seek his fortune. In the meantime, Russell & Co. had made him a partner of the firm, based on his close relationship with Houqua, who controlled the opium trade on the mainland. To please his new partners he stayed in China without seeing his new bride again for almost two years. Once he returned, however, he remained in Milton, working as Houqua’s agent until Canton’s importance was toppled by the rise of Hong Kong. 
After those best-forgotten days in China, where he and the Houqua hong had made fortunes working around China's leaders who wanted to keep opium out of the hands of its people, John Murray Forbes spent the remainder of his life investing those fortunes (both his and Houqua's) in what was then America's most high-tech industry. He built the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad.

Ten years after Will's Harvard class graduated  without him, the university finally awarded him a retroactive honorary 1861 Harvard degree. They had forgotten his adolescent indiscretion as well as his status as a drop-out, as soon as he struck it rich. Perhaps to celebrate this honor, Will built a summer house on the island his father had purchased with opium profits, a home which future generations of the Forbes family used as a networking base.
Harvard Crimson - October 13, 1897 
Colonel William Hathaway Forbes '61, died on Monday at his place on Naushon Island. W. H. Forbes was born on Nov. 1st, 1840. He was the son of J. M. Forbes and the brother of J. Malcolm Forbes. In college he was a classmate of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Col. N. P. Hallowell, W. P. Garrison and H. P. Bowditch. He left college during his first Junior term and entered business in Boston in '61. In December of the same year he was given a commission in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. In 1865 he married Miss Edith Emerson, daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and was engaged in active business in Boston until 1887. In 1872, by the vote of the corporation, he received the degree of A. B. 

Colonel Hallowell who was Mr. Forbes' chum in college speaks of his broad-mindedness and generosity of nature. He was always ready at college to help those who were struggling, and in later life he was never happier than when doing a generous act in behalf of some unfortunate who had appealed to him. 

With interests many and wide, for many years a prominent figure in Boston business and society, Colonel Forbes bore worthily a name that has been among the foremost and best in the life and progress of several generations.

Is it naive to question the source of the money that built the railroad? Does money somehow lose the taint when invested in good old American free enterprise? It's a question that persists until the present day.

[1] Edited by Albert K. Teele, The History of Milton, Mass.: 1640 to 1887, p. 356 (Boston: Press of Rockwell & Churchill, 1884), p. 356. Also see Massachusetts Historical Society papers of Edith Emerson Forbes and William Hathaway Forbes at the website for the Forbes Papers, accessed August 25, 2009.

[2]His partner was Henry Parkman Sturgis, later referred to euphemistically as a "merchant in the Far East," and there were three other Sturgis brothers involved in the firm—Russell, George and Samuel.

[3] Teele, History of Milton, p. 570. Also Mary Caroline Crawford, Famous families of Massachusetts Vol. I  (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1930), p. 304.