Tag Archives: Lifestyle

Stock & Money Market Speculation Today and in the 1790s


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.


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.


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

Or does it echo?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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

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

MADAME ROSALIE BACLER de la VAL: A Character Sketch


Since March is Women’s History Month, and March 8 was International (Working) Women’s Day, I developed a character sketch on Madame Rosalie Bacler, a French émigré who came to the United States during the French Revolution, and who was a “working” woman, a “noble” who planned a French refugee colony in the Massachusetts Territory of Maine. Whenever I “introduce” this historical female to people, they become fascinated. Madame is the main character in the historical romance novel that I am attempting to write.

Frederick S. Allis, Jr.* suggests that Madame played a minor chapter in the larger story of the French Revolutionary War emigration from France to the United States. I contend she plays a major role, if not in land speculation and emigration, in the fact that Madame, within two months of arriving in the United States, and minimal knowledge of the English language, was dealing in land speculation with two of the major American land speculators, Henry Knox and William Duer. In less than two years, she was negotiating with William Bingham and Alexander Baring. Although her dreams were not realized, it was not due to her ineptitude in business and skill, but due to the financial over-extension and financial irresponsibility of both Henry Knox and Henry Jackson.

     Madame Rosalie Bacler de la Val, a French émigré who came to the United States to escape the atrocities of the French revolution, was an independent land speculator/settler in what is known today as Hancock County, Maine. In the 1790s, this region was the Maine Territory of the State of Massachusetts, part of the Penobscot Land Tract purchased from the State of Massachusetts by land speculators Henry Knox and William Duer.
     Only about ten percent of the post-American Revolution land speculators worked independently, outside a company. None, as far as I have encountered, were women—much less foreign émigrés. This identifies Madame as a strong and unique woman.
     The novel I am working on is historic romance. Madame the heroine in the first half of my work, will be placed in and developed through the context of actual historic documents. It is my task to demonstrate that her identity is not an extension of the men in her life, but is a result of both her gifts and her flaws.
     The truth be known, Madame was not “into” romance, needing neither marriage nor a relationship with any man to determine her identity. Men were simply a means to an end. However, in her culture, in her times, they were also necessary evil if a strong women wanted to achieve her goals.
     Whether she was married in France or simply had a relationship with the man identified on documents as “her husband” is unclear. What is clear is that she had a relationship with Jean Antoine Gontran Marzel de Leval, one that provided her with a power of attorney which enabled her to purchase land in the United States and may have provided her with an ultimately worthless deed for twelve hundred acres of Scioto (Ohio) land.
     He was also likely the father of her daughter, Saraphine.
     In the United States, the persons Madame connected with were necessarily male, since that was the gender of the land speculators. Within three months of arriving in the country, she had developed a relationship with William Duer, Henry Knox and Henry Jackson, all major players in the Scioto Land grant fiasco and the Penobscot Tract purchase. She was also involved with the Netherlands ambassadors to the United States, father Herre Van Berckle and his son and Franco Van Berckle.
     That she had plans to enter land speculation prior to her leaving France is implied by her intelligence, business acumen, and the speed with which she entered the playing field. After inspecting the land with her partner, Jean Baptiste de la Roche , she completed a contract to purchase land they had viewed from atop Schoodic Mountain, laid out the plans for a colony where French émigrés find refuge, and successfully sought settlers. All her actions awaited her receipt of the deeds. These actions were outside the images and ideas of what women were expected to be in the 1790s.
     Throughout the material available on Madame, little reference is made of her Continue reading

The French Military in America During the American Revolution: Pt. II


French relations with women in America

de Verger Journal

Newport, Rhode Island, played an important part in the American Revolution by housing military personnel who arrived from France to help the Americans. Excerpts from three journals, kept by Jean Francois Louis Clermont-Crèvecœur, comte de; Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, and Louis Alexandre Berthier, provide material for this second post on Newport, Rhode Island and American women. To read Part 1, click on The French Military in America During The American Revolution: Pt. 1.

      In 1780 women in America were very pale and seemingly frail. The men were “tall and well-built,” although some were big, fat and lacked vigor.

     This was according to diarist Jean Francois Louis Clermont-Crevecœur, one three French military officers in M. le Comte de Rochambeau’s army who kept journals which extensively described their observations and thoughts about Revolutionary America. The army spent the winter of 1780 in Newport, Rhode Island. Along with the other two diarists, Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger and Louis Alexandre Berthier, Clermont-Crevecoeur recorded his keen observations about Americans and their dating/marriage habits. Observations from two other diarists, Prince de Broglie (in 1782) and Comte de Segure, add to the word picture painted by Clermont-Crevecoeur, Verger and Berthier.

     Americans had a lifespan of sixty years, Clermont-Crevecoeur wrote. Some rare residents lived to be seventy, and occasionally even eighty, “…but it is exceedingly uncommon for them to reach that age. I knew one man who was ninety and still rode horseback with ease, was possessed of all his faculties, and enjoyed perfect health.” However, most American men “look as though they had grown while convalescing from an illness,”


     The French journal-keepers recorded apt descriptions about Newport and/or American women. Clermont-Crevecoeur wrote that he must admit “that nowhere have I seen a more beautiful strain.” In spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that the women had little color, nothing could “compare with the whiteness and texture of their skin.” They also had “charming figures, and in general one can say they are all pretty, even beautiful, in the regularity of their features and in what one can imagine to be a woman’s loveliest attribute.”

     Several of the names listed in Verger’s journal described particular belles whom the French greatly admired, including Mr. Champlin’s daughter. He was known for his wealth, “but even more so in our army for the lovely face of his daughter…,” who, when she appeared in the parlor, was examined “with attention, which was to treat her handsomely…” The French men observed that “she had beautiful Continue reading

The French Military in America During The American Revolution: Pt. 1



Newport, Rhode Island, played an important part in the American Revolution by housing military personnel who arrived from France to help the Americans. Excerpts from three journals, kept by Jean Francois Louis Clermont-Crèvecœur, comte de; Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, and Louis Alexandre Berthier, provide material for this post on Newport, Rhode Island. This is Part 1 of a continuing discussion of the French in Rhode Island. To read the next segment click on: The French Military in America During the American Revolution: Pt. II

     During the night of October 30/31, 1780, a snowfall blanketed the navy ships that were transporting M. le Comte de Rochambau’s army to their winter quarters in Newport, Rhode Island. On the morning of the 31st, a thick mist enveloped the ship’s sails. “There was great activity as they hoisted their anchors to proceed to moor broadside,” according to Verger’s journal. The harbor they entered to moor at Newport was “rather difficult to enter,” but was “one of the best in the world. Easily a hundred vessels can winter there. It extends all the way to Providence, which is accessible to frigates… At the harbor entrance there is a lighthouse.”
     To view photos click on:
     Verger noted that Newport was “situated on a small island (known today as Acquidneck Island) about 12 leagues long by 6 wide” which “lies between 41 degrees and 42 degrees north latitude and 72 and 73 degrees west longitude.” 
     Berthier, in contrast, described the island as being “4 leagues long and 1 ½ wide” and “traversed by 9 superb roads.”
     “Like the province to which it gave its name, it is called Rhode Island. It is the capital of the province,” Verger wrote, noting that it was “occupied by 6,000-7,000 inhabitants.”
     The province of Rhode Island had “the healthiest climate of North America.” While the winters were quite cold, the summers were very pleasant, since the “excessive heat common in America is cooled by the sea breezes.” The land is generally quite fertile, though stony; its normal crop is corn.
     Clermont-Crevecroeur wrote that the “town of Newport could pass for Continue reading