The Money Men: Capitalism, Democracy, and the Hundred Years' War Over the American Dollar (Enterprise)
H. W. Brands
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An "insightful" (Publishers Weekly) history of the development of American capitalism and the men who made it great.
Most Americans are familiar with the political history of the United States, but there is another history woven all through it, a largely forgotten history―the story of the money men. Acclaimed historian H. W. Brands brings them back to life: J. P. Morgan, who stabilized a foundering U.S. Treasury in 1907; Alexander Hamilton, who founded the first national bank, and Nicholas Biddle, under whose directorship it failed; Jay Cooke, who helped to finance the Union war effort through his then-innovative strategy of selling bonds to ordinary Americans; and Jay Gould, who tried to corner the market on gold in 1869 and as a result brought about Black Friday and fled for his life.
explaining. Banks were relatively new to America. The first, the Bank of Pennsylvania, hadn’t been founded till 1780, and at the time of Hamilton’s writing, only three banks existed. Banks were mysterious institutions that swallowed specie and regurgitated paper. This by itself made them objects of popular suspicion. The fact that bankers got rich in the process, without doing anything that looked like work to the large majority of Americans who bent and sweated for their living, made the banks
the potent more powerful, the humble members of society—the farmers, mechanics, and laborers—who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing.
admitted had backfired against the Bank. “From that time they resolved that as they could not bend it they would break it.” Biddle prepared a new approach. “In half an hour, I can remove all the constitutional scruples in the District of Columbia. Half a dozen Presidencies”—of Bank branches—“a dozen cashierships, fifty clerkships, a hundred directorships to worthy friends who have no character and no money.” While deciding which public officials to bribe, Biddle braced himself for whatever
overextend; when the mining bubble burst it flattened San Francisco and sent gale winds over the Sierra Nevada and across the continent. New York might have withstood the tempest had a real hurricane off Cape Hatteras not sunk a ship, the Central America, carrying California gold that was to have bolstered the spirits of the Wall Street bankers. When the ship went down, so did the hopes of averting a panic. Banks and brokers with decades of experience crumbled. “Money is not tight,” Edward Clark
be aroused, the consequences were too serious to contemplate.” Satterlee checked on Morgan, and discovered to his relief that it was merely the cold, worsened overnight, that had kept him abed. Morgan drove to his office, where beleaguered bank presidents were already lined up. One by one he heard them out, reckoning their strengths and weaknesses. He changed venue in the afternoon, to the Morgan Library, where the audiences continued. He fell asleep during one session, and snored for half an