Tag Archives: Commentary

Stock & Money Market Speculation Today and in the 1790s

STOCK & MONEY MARKET SPECULATION TODAY

AND IN THE 1790s

Question: What do Bernie Madoff and William Duer have in common?

Answer: Both were once respected investors forced into insolvency resulting in stock market (money) deterioration and the collapse of dozens of their investors.

Question: What does Timothy Geithner have in common with Alexander Hamilton?

Answer: Geithner is the current Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. Hamilton was the first Treasury secretary.

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Before continuing I must make a disclaimer: I’m not an economist nor do understand the fine points—or even the non-fine points—of the issue under discussion. I’m writing this post to increase my understanding of William Duer’s role in the first Wall Street crash. This issue is core to the writing of my historic romance novel, in which I must present the issues in a basic manor that can be understood by my future readers. If any of you can add clarification to these issues, feel free to comment in the comment box at the end of this post.

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History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it is often said to rhyme.

Or does it echo?

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Duer and Madoff reflect the root problems of two sudden and dramatic declines in the value of bank stocks: excessive greed.

While Madoff’s name has been sufficiently newsworthy that most Americans recognize his name, Duer is relatively unknown to many of today’s citizens.

I came in contact with him because of his land speculation in Ohio and Maine. The Ohio speculation was done under the guise of the Scioto Associates, a group of military and political personages hoping to make money off the post-Revolution land in Ohio. Duer managed to help a “secret” group purchase a huge tract of land along the Ohio River. Ultimately, Duer, along with Gen. Henry Knox, were responsible for the original French settlement at Gallipolis by a group of French émigrés.

When the Scioto land speculation went foul (another story) Duer and Knox managed to purchase two million acres of land in Downeast Maine. In the midst of all this Duer was involved in manufacturing and banking speculations. All the speculations went far beyond his means and resources.

The multiple speculations he was involved with brought his downfall and, had it not been for Alexander Hamilton’s intervention, it could have destroyed the new country that had yet to reach its toddler age.

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William Duer was a prominent patriot who served as a member of the Continental Congress, a New York judge, and a signer to the Articles of Confederation. After the Revolution, Alexander Hamilton appointed Duer as assistant secretary of the treasury.

In December 1790 Hamilton proposed the establishment of the Bank of the United States, a federally chartered but essentially private corporation. The charter was passed by Congress in February 1791, and on February 25th was signed into law by President George Washington.

In July of 1791 the bank’s stock subscriptions (scrips) went on sale. They sold out within hours, so quickly that many would-be investors could only try to bid them away from those persons who were fortunate enough to have obtained them. The demand was so high for scrips that a frenzied borrowing and buying  occurred. Soon the scrips’ selling price doubled, then went even higher, and people borrowed money to purchase them.

In October 1791, the stock holders of the Bank of the United States held an organizational meeting, which Duer attended. He was elected to a committee to prepare the bank’s by-laws.

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When Duer learned that federal law prohibited Treasury officials from speculating in federal securities he quit the position as assistant secretary  of the treasury—he did this because he sensed an opportunity to Continue reading

British Guiana (Guyana): A Red Thread Weaves Through My Life

QUESTION: What do the following things have in common?

College paper

Jim Jones

Madame Rosalie de Leval

Tikwis Begbie

C. J.

Pittsburgh woman

Rien at Mt. Washington, N. H.

USA Today, June 22, 2012, pp 4D

Silver Green Turtle Soup Ladle

ANSWER: They are all part of a continuous Chinese red thread that is woven through the tapestry of my life. You know—that red thread of Asian myth that has been reinterpreted to mean that relationships between people are meant to be, and if thwarted, the proverbial thread would not, could not, be broken. The persons would eventually come together.

Each event and/or person is connects the tiny country of British Guiana/Guyana to me by an invisible thread that I never could have foreseen when I began my journey of writing a historic romance novel.

COLLEGE PAPER

The surprise journey began with the writing of a paper on race relations in Surinam, the immediate neighbor of British Guiana (Guyana).

It was a paper that my professor graded shorter than I felt it was worth, about a country next to Guyana, the country that was brought into a discussion nearly fifty years later.

JIM JONES

The next time British Guiana passed by was the horror of Jim Jones, which I won’t go into that except to say that

America’s perception of Guyana is colored by cult leader Jones, who in 1978, incited more than nine hundred followers to commit suicide by drinking a cyanide-laced beverage. Today, this small country is utterly lacking in Kool-aid irony…Ask random people here what “drinking the Kool-Aid” means, and they mostly just shrug. Jones’s dark legacy barely resonates here.

However, it’s the first thing many Americans think of when they hear of the country formerly named British Guiana. Through the years I’ve read the articles, listened to the news stories, and watched the movies about Jim Jones. It wasn’t a pretty story!

MADAME ROSALIE DE LEVAL

Sometime around year 2000 Madame Rosalie de Leval brought British Guiana back into my life. She was a French émigré who, to escape the French Revolution, came to the United States. Almost immediately she became involved an unsuccessful land speculation deal in Maine (with General Henry Knox and William Duer), married a Netherlands ambassador, and ended up on a plantation in British Guiana. She was introduced into my life because she allegedly gave my ancestors, Louis and Mary Googins des Isles, the land they lived on.  Since then I’ve been working on a historic romance novel on this story.

TIKWIS BEGBIE

Which leads me to the next person on my list, Tikwis Begbie, who was discovered by a friend who helped me with research for my novel. Tikwis focus was saving historical British Guiana records from destruction. In her files she had records of van Berckle adn Madame, which she sent to me. Another strange thread emanating from a distant land. I owe her a debt of gratitude for her contribution to my  work.

MY NEIGHBOR’S GUEST, C. J.

The Guyana Flag. Also known as “The Golden Arrowhead”, the national flag of Guyana was adopted in May 1966 when the country achieved independence from the United Kingdom

The thread next wove from lands afar to my nextdoor neighbor, where I attended  party.

One of the guests, C. J., offered to help prepare a photograph on my laptop. While doing so, he asked me about my novel, which I stated went around the world—Boston, Philadelphia, France, Ohio, Maine, British Guiana…

When I mentioned British Guiana he jumped at me.

“It’s not Gi-ana,” he snapped. “It’s Continue reading

Correcting Historical Data

CORRECTING HISTORICAL DATA

     A slim steel object that resembles a rusty bayonet is the center of a debate in Charlston, West Virginia.

     Part of an exhibit meant to portray the history of coal mining in that state, it represents a “Stickin’ Tommy:” it holds a stubby candle in a loop at its midpoint…Long before the days of carbide lanterns and helmet lamps, miners jabbed these into the seams they were working to light their way as they dug coal… Miners would hang the shared wick of homemade candles on the hook as spares…*

     The problem is a hook that rises up above the candle loop should…be facing downward. However, the hook is placed in the display upside down.*
      This error was discovered by labor historian Wess Harris.*

       I am not a trained historian, although a history professor I spoke with while I was doing research for a historical journal article and my historic romance novel** dubbed me an “independent historian.”

     During my research I’ve discovered numerous errors in historical books, documents, and local histories. My “lowest” experience occurred at an event during Ligonier, Pennsylvania’s, 250th anniversary.

     The speaker was an expert in the George Washington papers. I attended his talk because I wanted to know if he was familiar with Continue reading

Enoch Arden and Louis des Isles: Story Plots

Enoch Arden

     As I explored the background on Louis Des Isles, I came across the description of his relationship with Mary Googins as being “Enoch Arden.” I finally went to the computer to look up Enoch Arden, and discovered a twenty-two page poem, which I read.* Then I proceeded to compare Enoch Arden’s story with Louis Des Isle’s life.

     Point by point, the stories virtually matched. I wondered if perhaps some people will conclude that I stole the plot in my novel from Lord Alfred Tennyson. But then, that was impossible. After all, Louis’ story occurred during and after the War of 1812. Enoch Arden was published in 1864.

Louis des Isles

     I wonder if Tennyson knew Louis’s story, and used it as a basis for Enoch Arden.

     It is said there are only seven story plots—in researching, I cannot place which plot these two stories fit (I am so not a literary studies person…). There are three possibilities.

  • Are they TRAGEDIES, where a character, through some flaw or lack of self-understanding, is increasingly drawn into a fatal course of action which leads inexorably to disaster?
  • Are they Continue reading

Dock Creek in Philadelphia, PA

 

A water treatment operator from (Green Lane) Montgomery County (PA) has been charged with dumping raw sewage into an area creek (Perkiomen Creek) for as long as five years…*

The EPA alleged in 1991 that the municipality (Penn Hills, PA) dumped raw sewage into creeks. Penn Hills pleaded guilty in 1994 to three criminal counts…*****

    I read the above “blurbs” as I was writing about Madame de Leval’s** first exploration of Philadelphia. It is a reminder that dumping sewage into creeks existed in the pre-Revolutionary years of the United States.

     As I wrote about Madame’s arrival in early Philadelphia, I realized I had to research the city situation in that time. That’s when I learned about Dock Creek.

     Once upon a time, a tidal creek flowed through the oldest part of the Philadelphia…its name was Coocaconoon *** It was originally surrounded by marshes…and culminated in a pond …that was deep and uninviting****

     This creek was Continue reading

Immigration is Negative for the USA

 

     I have no intention to invite immigrants, even if there are no restrictive acts against it. I am opposed to it, altogether...from a letter written by the first president of the United States, and written to Sir John St. Clair of England.*

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Replica of a boat that arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620

    “I want to thank the governor of Arizona because she’s awakened a sleeping giant,” according to labor organizer John Delgado, one of 6,500 persons who attended a New York rally protesting an Arizona immigration law.  This rally was one of many gatherings held across the United States on May 1, 2010. The rallies were organized to support “rights for immigrants.” The protesters demanded “that President Obama tackle immigration reform immediately.” ** 

      Delgado’s statement reached cliché proportion by May 2, after my husband Monte and I had traveled the 500-or so miles between our Southwestern Pennsylvania home and northern New York to celebrate his brother’s 90th birthday. While traveling, I began writing a two-part post on immigration pros and cons. My interest developed while researching material for a historic romance novel. During its time setting, between 1791 and 1824, land availability stimulated a land speculation similar to the housing speculation in today’s world—with similar disastrous results.

     Many of the characters in my novel—including Gen. Henry Knox, Col. William Duer, Gen. Henry Jackson, Pres. Thomas Jefferson, even Pres. George Washington—were land speculators. Except for Washington, they favored immigration, wanting to supply the settlers to fulfill their land purchase contracts.

     In Roy L. Garis’s book on immigration I discovered the “great immigration” controversy that existed in the decades immediately following the American Revolution. This volume provides the opinions of persons opposing immigration—Washington, Jefferson, and James Jackson.

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     My intention is not to indicate any personal preference or bias in the immigration issue. It is to present both sides of the issue as found in early United States documents. This post offers opinions of those who oppose immigration. To read opposing viewpoints, click on Immigration is Positive for the USA

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     Washington made his viewpoints clear. In a letter to J. Q. Adams dated Jan 20, 1790: You know, my good sir, that it is not the policy of this government  to employ foreigners when it can well be Continue reading

Immigration is Positive for the USA

 

I observe with regret that the law for the admission of foreigners was not passed during this session (of the legislature), as it is an important moment to press the sale and settlement of our lands. From a letter written by William Bingham to Gen Henry Jackson, April 9, 1793*

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     From the birth of the United States into the present time, immigration has had advocates. In the 1790s, immigration was supported by land speculators, who hoped to make it rich by settling their lands with immigrants.

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     My interest in immigration issues was piqued during my research for a historic journal paper and a historic romance novel, both set in the 1790s. Many of the characters in my novel—including Gen. Henry Knox, Col. William Duer, Gen. Henry Jackson, Madame Rosalie de Leval, even Pres. George Washington—were land speculators. Except for Washington, they favored immigration to supply the settlers to fulfill their land purchase contracts.

     In Roy L. Garis’s book on immigration** I discovered the “great immigration” controversy that existed in the decades immediately following the American Revolution.

     My intention is not to indicate any personal preference or bias in the immigration issue. It is to present both sides of the issue as found in early United States documents. This post offers immigration pros. To read arguments against immigration, click on: Immigration is Negative for the USA .

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     In Penn’s time (starting 1682), all immigrants, regardless of their religious or ethnic background were welcomed. Quaker immigrants arriving in need of financial assistance were given or lent money interest free, but the others (who were not Quakers) became the responsibility of the city. The Friends established the first alms house in the city in 1713…Poor of all faiths lived there in cottages and were encouraged to work. In 1717 the Assembly ordered that a “workhouse” for the colony be built in Philadelphia within three years. With the Friends’ alms house meeting much of the need, public officials continuously delayed construction. The first public alms house finally opened in 1732…it had separate facilities for the indigent and the insane, and also an infirmary…#

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Marker for 1620 Immigrants

     As early the 1730s, Samuel Waldo encouraged immigration: (due to) certain difficulties having arisen in regard to the Muscongus Patent (Maine)…thirty miles square—about a million acres…between the Penobscot and Muscongus Rivers…one-half the patent…set off in 1762…was bestowed on (Samuel Waldo)…he subsequently became proprietor of five-sixths of the entire patent…thereafter known as the Waldo Patent…he planned and executed measures for peopling (this land)…(he) invited immigration Continue reading