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

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....

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blueprint for the Federal Reserve

Membership by Inheritance Only
© 2005 by Linda Minor
     On the night of November 22, 1910, a group of newspaper reporters stood disconsolately in the railway station at Hoboken, New Jersey. They had just watched a delegation of the nation's leading financiers leave the station on a secret mission. It would be years before they discovered what that mission was, and even then they would not understand that the history of the United States underwent a drastic change after that night in Hoboken. The delegation had left in a sealed railway car, with blinds drawn, for an undisclosed destination.... Aldrich's private car, which had left Hoboken station with its shades drawn, had taken the financiers to Jekyll Island, Georgia.
Club House at Jekyll Island, Georgia
     Some years earlier [1886 to be exact], a very exclusive group of millionaires, led by J.P. Morgan, had purchased the island as a winter retreat. They called themselves the Jekyll Island Hunt Club, and, at first, the island was used only for hunting expeditions, until the millionaires realized that its pleasant climate offered a warm retreat from the rigors of winters in New York, and began to build splendid mansions, which they called "cottages," for their families' winter vacations.... The Jekyll Island Club was chosen as the place to draft the plan for control of the money and credit of the people of the United States, not only because of its isolation, but also because it was the private preserve of the people who were drafting the plan (emphasis added)....

One-sixth of the total wealth of the world was represented by the members of the Jekyll Island Club. Membership was by inheritance only.”
Eustace Mullins, The Secrets of the Federal Reserve:  
The London Connection (1993)

Sen. Nelson Aldrich
The primary plan of Senator Nelson Aldrich and his guests who departed from Hoboken in 1910 was the setting up a government-sponsored central bank owned by private banking interests.  The plan’s success turned upon whether the bank would have a monopoly of the Government’s business.  Thus a second plan—to put in motion the first war of global proportions—would create instant profits for shareholders of existing central banks, which would purchase shares in America’s Federal Reserve Bank.  These banks would make loans to finance the purchase of weapons, to feed impoverished victims of the war, and to reconstruct destroyed cities.

This model for banking consolidation and war profiteering is one that has resurfaced repeatedly in the century since that ominous day in 1910 that led to America’s bloodless banking coup.  War is a dual-edged sword, used by creditors both to collect their unpaid debts and to deprive wayward debtor nations of any hope of independent action.  In this sense the motive behind today’s war in Iraq is thoroughly transparent—a transparency revealing the real beneficiaries of George W. Bush’s insane war in Iraq. All doubt is removed when we peer back in time to those men hiding behind drawn blinds in that plush private railroad car, the destination of which was  Jekyll Island, Georgia. 
Who was Nelson W. Aldrich, the owner of that railroad car, and who financed Aldrich’s rise to power?
G. Edward Griffin, The Creature from Jekyll Island
The purpose of this meeting on Jekyll Island come to an agreement on the structure and operation of a banking cartel. The goal of the cartel, as is true with all of them, was to maximize profits by minimizing competition between members, to make it difficult for new competitors to enter the field, and to utilize the police power of government to enforce the cartel agreement. In more specific terms, the purpose and, indeed, the actual outcome of this meeting was to create the blueprint for the Federal Reserve System.

The Rhode Island Elite
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and Jr.
It was the mission in life of Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich (1841-1915), a life-long resident of Rhode Island, to enact a centralized banking law in the United States—a law that would place control of a monetary system in the hands of a private consortium.  Not born to wealth, Aldrich acquired accoutrements thereof when he rose from the status of retail clerk to ownership of a wholesale establishment in Providence, Rhode Island.  Gaining support from powerful constituents who remained virtually anonymous, he was first elected United States Senator in a special election in 1881 and rose to the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee in 1899.  

Senator Aldrich’s daughter, Abby Greene Aldrich (1874-1948) ) in 1901 married John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960), who first met his bride-to-be in 1894 while he was a student at Brown University in Providence—formerly known as the College of Rhode Island.  The college’s name was changed to honor its largest donor, Nicholas Brown, Jr., some of whose family were “unapologetic slave traders,” according to the University’s own website.  Other members of the family had helped to charter the college, along with religious leaders like Ezra Stiles from Yale. [1]

Devout Baptists, the Rockefellers would have been drawn to this Baptist University.  Eliza Davison, who married William Rockefeller in Niles, Cayuga County, New York, inculcated her own religious precepts into her son John Davison Rockefeller. [2] When he chose Laura Spelman Rockefeller as his wife, she converted to the Baptist Church, though some of the Massachusetts Spelmans had been Baptists. [3] 

A History of Religious Tolerance
Rhode Island had, of course, been founded by Roger Williams, who also established the Baptist Church in America. Williams—a dissenter’s dissenter—after having been exiled from Massachusetts, led several other disenchanted malcontents to Providence.  He eventually secured a land grant from Charles II and a patent granting to "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," certain privileges and providing that no one be molested "for any difference in opinion in matters of religion."

By the 1750’s Newport, because of its religious tolerance, had attracted many of the descendants the twenty-three Sephardic Jews who had arrived in New Amsterdam from Brazil in 1654, and its citizens were primarily engaged in a flourishing “triangular trade,” mirrored after the commerce begun previously in South America. [4]  

Surplus capital came from slave trade in West Indies.
The Dutch West India Company (chartered in 1621), of which a number of Jews in the Netherlands were shareholders,  had been in charge of granting patroonships to settle Dutch colonies in America—what would become New York and New Jersey.  The term “West India trade” was a euphemism emphasizing only one leg of the trading triangle.  Merchants preferred not to refer to themselves as “slave traders,” a term that called greater attention to the African leg of the triangle, where human cargoes were purchased with proceeds from the sale of rum and other products in Africa.  The enslaved Africans were then transported to sugar plantations in the Caribbean, where the ships took on cargoes of raw sugar cane destined for refineries in New York and Newport.  There the cane was turned into either refined sugar or rum.  The typical trade route is shown on the map below.

Triangular trade

Roots in West India Company
The West India trade was one of the first historical bases for American global networking that has survived to the present day. In fact, we can trace the current shareholders of the Bank for International Settlements back to those days when “merchant adventurers roamed the high seas. It should be kept in mind that the Company began its colony in America around 1630 for the sole purpose of making a profit for the investing shareholders. Most of the merchants who settled in the colony of New Netherland were employed as agents or suppliers for the major Dutch trading firms, and they often worked together, dividing up the trade into regions to control most of the profit that was sent back to Holland. As stated by historian Oliver A. Rink:
Unlike New England, the individuals largely responsible for exploiting New Netherland's resources were merchants of the home country. Secure in their Amsterdam countinghouses, the merchants grasped control of the colony's lifeline to Holland and held fast. Profits from their enterprises flowed into coffers in Amsterdam, thus depriving New Netherland of capital and the opportunity to develop a viable, colony-based merchant community.[5]
It is good to keep in mind in this regard what was then occurring in Europe, particularly in England. [6] It was the period following the height of the Protestant Reformation.  Religious and trade wars had devastated the English treasury, and a loan had to be obtained from Amsterdam, where Levant traders had transplanted their bank following the collapse of the Empire of Venice (where they had first founded a bank in the 12th century).  

During this same time the Dutch and English were engaged in fighting over trade routes, not only in America but the Far East as well.  The New York territory was divided up after the third Anglo-Dutch war by the Treaty of Westminster in 1674.  As a result, New York and New Jersey were ceded to England; however, the loan that sealed the treaty allowing the English to purchase the land came from wealthy bankers in Holland. Since the investors in the West India company were only interested in profit, they cared little who owned the land, as long as the payment of their loan was adequately secured.  To ensure obtaining the payments owed them, many Dutch bankers during this time immigrated to England, just as William of Orange of Holland was placed on the English throne alongside his British Queen. [7]

Merchants in Rhode Island established a private banking network for the trade in slaves, sugar and rum—the most notable of which was called the Four Browns of Providence, who built ships and made pig iron in Rhode Island as well as spermaceti candles from whale oil.  The Brown family also had strong ties to the southern part of the Eastern seaboard where the Browns’ ships unloaded their cargoes of slaves for auction.  Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia—which, incidentally, happened to have the largest population of Jewish immigrants, many of whom were related by blood to the Sephardic families in Rhode Island—were the primary southern ports affiliated with the Rhode Island businessmen.

Corner the Market and Control Supply
What is most fascinating from reading the papers of these merchant families is that they were making agreements among themselves to divide the commerce into territories to eliminate competition at least a century before the Rockefeller family instituted the same practice in railroads and the oil industry.  One account published in 1910, pertaining to the dividing up of the commerce in tobacco, states:
Rhode Island now raised tobacco in large quantities, and it was an important factor in the West Indian trade. Sept. 30, 1766, there appeared to be an over supply. An agreement was made that Nicholas Brown & Co. might ship 75000 lbs., D. Jenckes & Son with E. Hopkins might ship 45,000 lbs., N. Angell and Job Smith 35,000 in three or more vessels consigned to Esek Hopkins. Sales to be made jointly, and any tobacco lost at sea was to be treated pro rata. The matter was to be kept secret and the West Indian price maintained until February 1, following. They hoped to buy all the tobacco in the colony. October 19, it was further agreed between the Browns, Jenckes and Angell, not to give directly or indirectly more than 5s. O.T. at six months for the whole quantity raised. If payment should be anticipated, ten per cent. should be deducted. February 2, 1767, there was too much tobacco on hand for Surinam, for a twelve months’ shipment; Jenckes & Son having 116,000 lbs., N. Brown & Co. 120,000 lbs., Angell and Smith 30,000 lbs. The parties were to ship pro rata for 12 months. If more should be bought ‘than is now grown’ the same rule was to apply (emphasis added). [8]
This model, used a decade prior to the American revolution, would be dusted off and adopted by John D. Rockefeller and his associates when Rhode Island whale oil (spermaceti) was replaced with what would for a time be called “rock oil,” coming as it did from the ground. Through the Rhode Island ancestors and associates of Senator Nelson Aldrich, we can detect this thread of knowledge being passed from one generation to another.  We can also see the pre-civil war trading network still in action a generation after Lincoln’s assassination, when the new Senator from Rhode Island and his daughter’s in-laws, together with banker J. Pierpont Morgan, found isolated refuge from prying eyes in one of the South’s favorite islands for unloading human cargo. 

Jekyll Island's exclusivity
Jekyll Island, Georgia
Jekyll Island, a small island east of Brunswick, Georgia, was purchased by an entity called the “Jekyll Island Hunt Club” in 1886, with final closing of the transaction in February 1888.  The following year—1889—J.P. Morgan hosted a group of railroad men, representing the interests of many of the members of the hunt club, at his residence at 219 Madison Avenue in New York City.  The purpose of that meeting, following the model used in Rhode Island in 1766, was to “make a strict compact which would efface competition among certain railroads, and unite those interests in an agreement by which the people of the United States could be bled even more effectively than before,” as Gustavus Myers so eloquently relates in his classic work. [9]   Myers goes on to say:  “But the magnates realized that the old indiscriminate system of competition was rapidly becoming archaic, and that the time was ripe for a more systematic organization of industry.”

The millionaire industrialists purchased the island from the last purchaser’s descendants—who were being represented by John Eugene du Bignon and the husband of his sister Josephine, Newton S. Finney.  The last recorded deed had named Captain Christophe Poulain du Bignon as the purchaser in 1800.  Captain Poulain du Bignon, born in Saint Malo, Brittany, had first arrived in Georgia in 1791—the year Toussaint L'Ouverture led the slave insurrection in St. Domingo (now Haiti), having spent his military career in the French East India Company.  Joined by four French royalists, three of whom came from St. Domingo, he had bought both Jekyll and Sapeloe Islands in partnership but later acquired sole ownership of Jekyll as a home for his family, whom he brought to America when the French Revolution reached its peak. 

Captain Christophe died in 1814, and between that date and 1888 the island was owned and managed by his heirs.  According to one historian of the island:
During slavery days, the slave ships were wont to land their cargoes on the islands along the coast where the negroes were hidden until they could be disposed of.  On the lawn in front of Faith Chapel on Jekyll is a large iron pot which bears the following inscription:
“Mess kettle from slave yacht Wanderer, Captain Corry, used for feeding the slaves landed on Jekyl Island November 28, 1858.  Yacht owned by Charles A .L. Lamar of Savannah, Ga.” [10]

Importing slaves had been outlawed in Georgia more than fifty years prior to secession, but still the trade persisted, aided greatly by shipping families in the northern and New England who had long made their living in the trade.  For example, the T.H. Perkins family with all its branches, had also fled St. Domingo in 1791, only a few years before beginning to replenish their wealth in the opium trade. [11]  The same can be said of another French emigre, Stephen Girard, who became Philadelphia’s wealthiest banker after years in the West India trade.  Slaves and opium were the steppingstones to his fortune, though he never admitted that fact.

It is, therefore, only fitting that America’s central bank was born on Jekyll Island.  The industrialists who joined the Jekyll Island Hunt Club in 1886 and later years were no different from the island’s previous dwellers who had profited from illicit commerce and secret cargoes.  After all, business is business.  And business secrets are much easier to keep when membership in the club is by inheritance only.


[1] According to an article visible in 2005 at Brown’swebsite, but since removed: “More than sixty signatories are registered on the charter, including the Reverends [James] Manning and [Ezra] Stiles, John and Nicholas Brown of the Providence merchant family, and several former or future governors of the colony.... It is often suggested that the University was established by and named for John Brown, who centuries later attained modest notoriety for his involvement in and support of the African slave trade. However, Rhode Island College was renamed Brown University some forty years after its founding and a year after John’s death, and the renaming honored John Brown’s nephew, Nicholas Brown Jr., a 1786 alumnus of the College.  In September of 1804, Nicholas Brown Jr. contributed five thousand dollars ($5,000) toward the endowment of a professorship at the College. In recognition of his gift, the Corporation voted that henceforth the College would be known as Brown University.”

[2] They moved from here after burying one child in 1847, according to gravestones in the Niles cemetery.

[3] The Spelmans’ first American ancestor took root in Granville, Massachusetts after arriving from Danbury, Essex County, England.  Many remained in that state, though one branch of the family had helped found the town of Granville, Ohio as early as 1805, while another had settled in Providence, Rhode Island in 1738, working in the shipping of grain and other commodities.   

[4] Encyclopedia Judaica. An entertaining source of information about these elite families is Stephen Birmingham, The Grandees:  The Story of America’s Sephardic Elite (New York:  Dell, 1971).  An online source of Jewish History with many photographs is also available.  The following passages are from Marc Lee Raphael, Jews and Judaism in the United States, a Documentary History (New York: Behrman House, Inc., Pub, 1983), pp. 14:
"Jews also took an active part in the Dutch colonial slave trade; indeed, the bylaws of the Recife and Mauricia congregations (1648) included an imposta (Jewish tax) of five soldos for each Negro slave a Brazilian Jew purchased from the West Indies Company. Slave auctions were postponed if they fell on a Jewish holiday. In Curacao in the seventeenth century, as well as in the British colonies of Barbados and Jamaica in the eighteenth century, Jewish merchants played a major role in the slave trade. In fact, in all the American colonies, whether French (Martinique), British, or Dutch, Jewish merchants frequently dominated.
"This was no less true on the North American mainland, where during the eighteenth century Jews participated in the 'triangular trade' that brought slaves from Africa to the West Indies and there exchanged them for molasses, which in turn was taken to New England and converted into rum for sale in Africa. Isaac Da Costa of Charleston in the 1750's, David Franks of Philadelphia in the 1760's, and Aaron Lopez of Newport in the late 1760's and early 1770's dominated Jewish slave trading on the American continent."
[Author, Rabbi Marc Lee Raphael, is the Nathan and Sophia Gumenick Professor of Judaic Studies, Professor of Religion, and Chair, Department of Religion, The College of William and Mary, and a Visiting Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford University. He has been the editor of the quarterly journal, American Jewish History, for 20 years, and a visiting professor at Brown University, the University of Pittsburgh, HUC-JIR, UCLA, and Case Western Reserve University.]

[5] Oliver A. Rink, Hollandon the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Ithaca, NY: Cornell, 1986), pp. 212-213.  Other references cited at the website called A Brief Outline of Dutch History and the Province of New Netherland include: Dennis J. Maika, Commerce and Community: Manhattan Merchants in the Seventeenth Century, Ph.D. Dissertation, New York University, 1995; John Franklin Jameson, Narratives of New Netherland, 1609-1664  (New York: Scribner, 1909).

[6] A timeline of the history of banking by a writer affiliated with far-right conspiracy historian Willis Carto describes the period as follows: “Catholic king of England James II (Stuart) was overthrown through a well-organized invasion financed by the moneyed Jews of Amsterdam and led by the Prieure de Sion and the Orange Order. The king was exiled to France and in February of 1689 William of Orange, the prince of Nassau, was put upon the English throne by means of a coup d'etat, which became known as the Glorious Revolution....England at that time was in poor condition after more than 50 years of war with France and the Netherlands, and the new king, William III (of Orange), asked several powerful bankers for help. They provided the English state with a loan of 1.25 million pounds but only delivered 750,000 pounds. The terms of the loan were as follows: the names of the lenders were not to be revealed, and these were guaranteed the right to found the Bank of England, whose directors were ensured to establish a gold reserve so as to be able to issue loans to a value of 10 pounds for each pound deposited gold in the bank vault. They also were allowed to consolidate the national debt and secure payment for annuity and interest through direct taxation of the people (emphasis added.” [By Juri Lina, The Barnes Review, September/October 2004, p. 9]

[7] Almost a century after certain of the bankers and their descendants had left Amsterdam, it was discovered that a large portion of the deposits of the Bank of Amsterdam had disappeared around 1740, having been loaned by the bank to the East India Company, the Provinces of Holland and the City of Amsterdam itself—resulting in the Bank’s failure in 1790, according to  Stephen Colwell, The Ways and Means of Payment (New York:  Augustus M. Kelley, 1965), p. 180.  See also Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations concerning how the Bank of Amsterdam operated; of course Smith’s book was first published in 1776, a few years before the bank’s failure.  By the time Adam Smith was writing, the Bank of England had been controlling British colonial enterprises for almost 80 years.  After the American revolution, the bankers would send their sons to America to ensure debts were collected from the former colonies, just as the fathers had been sent out from Holland to represent previous creditors.

[8] William B. Weeden, Early Rhode Island: A Social History of the People (New York: The Grafton Press, 1910). Relating to the slave trade, Weeden states:  “Providence [in Rhode Island] dealt somewhat in slaves, though it did not equal Newport or even Bristol in the traffic....The commerce with the West Indies took out the produce of Rhode Island and such surplus merchandise as the exchanges with our own coast afforded. Candles and rum were constant staples. The Islands made rum, but the cheaper distillation of New England was wanted to send to Africa.....” 

[9] Gustavus Myers, History of the Great American Fortunes (copyright 1909, First Modern Library edition, 1936).  " A momentous gathering it was that assembled in Morgan's mansion on January 8, 1889. Who were they we note there? Apparently private citizens; in reality monarchs of the land: Jay Gould with his son George, held by the leading strings; Stickney, of the Northwest Territory; Roberts, of the Pennsylvania Railroad; sleek Depew, echoing the Vanderbilts; Sloan, of the Delaware, Lackawanna, & Western Railroad, and a half dozen more magnates or their accredited mouthpieces. The honorable legislatures could gravely discuss the advisability of this or that legislation; the noisy ‘Congress of the United States’ could solemnly meet and after wearing out mouths in rodomontade, profess to make laws; the high and mighty Courts could blink austerely and pompously hand down their decisions. But in that room in Morgan's house sat many of the actual rulers of the United States; the men who had the power in the final say of ordering what should be done."

[10] Margaret Davis Cate, Our Todays and Yesterdays: A Story of Brunswick and the Coastal Islands, Revised Edition (Brunswick, Georgia:  Glover Bros., Inc., 1930), p. 48.  A part owner of the Wanderer was Colonel Charles A.L. Lamar from the Georgia branch of the French Huguenot family from which the second President of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, also stemmed.  

[11] A colorful description of the insurrection originally printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette may be read at this website.