Tag Archives: Musings

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

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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

The French Travel to Ohio 1: Vestal’s Gap Road, Virginia

     A road along the Potomac River was, in its beginning, probably an animal trail along a natural ridge that ran parallel to the Potomac River. It developed into an Indian trail prior to the invasion of explorers and settlers. The road, opened after 1722 when the Iroquois signed a treaty with Virginia Governor, went from Alexandria to present day Leesburg, through Vestal’s (now William’s) Gap, and on to Winchester, a total of about ninety miles. It was probably named after John Vestal, a ferry driver in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and has been referred to, at various times, as the Eastern Ridge Road, Keys Gap Road, and, by George Washington, the Great Road, and the new Church road.

     Between the 1720s and the early 1820s Vestal’s Gap Road was a principal route from Northern Virginia through the Blue Ridge via Vestal’s Gap to the Ohio country beyond, serving as an east-west corridor for commerce, emigration, and troop movement  in Northern Virginia.

     It was initially developed and used by planters to transport tobacco to the port at Alexandria.

     George Washington’s military missions over the road between, 1753-1755, are well documented. Between 1753-1799, Washington traveled along Vestal Road on various military, business and personal journeys.***** In 1754 and 1755 George Washington pushed to the west from Alexandria, taking a road that led across the Blue Ridge Mountains at Vestal’s Gap from which he looked down on the sweeping curves of the Shenandoah and the valley beyond. Jogging down the steep road to the river, Washington set off through the fertile countryside to Winchester.* In 1770, Washington traveled to Ohio via Vestal’s Gap.****

     An unidentified party crossed the Shenandoah River via John Vestal’s ferry and stayed that night at Gersham Keyes, “a fine Plantation…**

     General Braddock’s brigade under Sir Peter Halket marched from Alexandria towards Fort Duquesne  on the Vestal Gap Road.****

     And Vestal Gap Road was the first leg of the French émigrés journey from Alexandria, Virginia, to 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

Eyes in shades of purple

 

     There are no photographs of Madame Rosalie de la Val, an émigré to America during the French Revolution and a major character in my historic romance novel. This fact leaves me free to create her physical characteristics in my image.

     Madame is a very strong, very unusual, woman. I visualize her being petite, with black flowing hair and violet eyes that change shades, or colors, according to her mood.

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     Within three months of her 1791 emigratioon to the United States she became an independent land speculator, participating in a playing field that included General Henry Knox, Colonel William Duer, General Henry Jackson, and William Bingham. They themselves were involved in the whirlwind of land speculation following the American Revolution, which included large tracts of land in Hancock and Washington counties, Maine.

     She skillfully, artfully, and very business-like, maneuvered through this field, in spite of the fact that Continue reading

From the Bastille to Cinderella

THE FALL OF THE BASTILLE, Paris: July 14, 1789

In writing my historic romance novel, circa 1790s, I struggled to determine a starting point. After doing much research, I realized that all the characters appearing in the beginning of the novel had witnessed the Fall of the Bastille in France on July 14, 1789. I decided to have them sharing their experiences several weeks later as they imbibed in chocolate coffee, a popular drink in Paris at that time.

     I researched eyewitness and news accounts of the event in preparation for writing their conversation. One comment intrigued me. It referred to the days of the warring as The Night and Orcus. What did this mean?

     I typed “Orcus” into the computer search engine and learned that Orcus is an alternative name for Continue reading