1919, John Dos Passos.
When the guns started booming at Fort Sumter, young [John Pierpont] Morgan turned some money over reselling condemned muskets to the U.S. army and began to make himself felt in the gold room in downtown New York; there was more in trading in gold than in trading in muskets; so much for the Civil War.
During the Franco-Prussian war Junius Morgan [father of J.P.] floated a huge bond issue for the French government of Tours.
At the same time young Morgan was fighting Jay Cooke and the German Jew bankers in Frankfort over the funding of the American war debt (he never did like the Germans or the Jews).
In the panic of '93
at no inconsiderable profit to himself
Morgan saved the US Treasury; gold was draining out, the country was ruined, the farmers were howling for a silver standard, Grover Cleveland and his cabinet were walking up and down in the blue room at the White House without being able to come to a decision, in Congress they were making speeches while the gold reserves melted in the Subtreasuries; poor people were starving; Coxey's army was marching to Washington; for a long time Grover Cleveland couldn't bring himself to call in the representative of the Wall Street money-masters; Morgan sat in his suite at the Arlington smoking cigars and quietly playing solitaire until at last the president sent for him;
he had a plan all ready for stopping the gold hemorrhage.
By 1917 the Allies had borrowed one billion, ninehundred million dollars through the House of Morgan; we went overseas for democracy and the flag;
and by the end of the Peace Conference the phrase J.P. Morgan suggests had compulsion over seventyfour billion dollars.
J.P. Morgan is a silent man, not given to public utterances, but during the great steel strike, he wrote Gary: Heartfelt congratulations on your stand for the open shop, with which I am, as you know, absolutely in accord. I believe American principles of liberty are deeply involved and must win if we stand firm.(Wars and panics on the stock exchange,
machinegunfire and arson,
bankruptcies, war loans,
starvation, lice, cholera and typhus;
good growing weather for the House of Morgan.)
I had this prepared as a different post, and had that never-published post in mind when I wrote this one. So now I have to push it out of the nest, but first, some explanation.
Tom Perkins is a street punk. Bill Gates is a piker Andrew Carnegie would have hired as a bootblack; Warren Buffet is small beer.
They didn't call them "Robber Barons" for nothing. It was in the context of 1919 (albeit 13 years earlier), more than the context of a modern fear of "Kristallnacht" among the undeserving rich of our day, that Teddy Roosevelt told Congress in a State of the Union letter (with thanks to NTodd):
The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the State, because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government. Not only should he recognize this obligation in the way he leads his daily life and in the way he earns and spends his money, but it should also be recognized by the way in which he pays for the protection the State gives him.And yet if there was a drinking word in Barack Obama's SOTU recently, it was "opportunity." The boldest thing Obama said was to mock the GOP for 40 votes to repeal Obamacare; which is about as bold as pointing out he won the last Presidential election, so Mitt Romney should get over it. The takeaway was that employers need to be a little less piggy and American citizens need to do something bold for themselves because, after all, Obama is only the President, he's not a dictator. I almost expected him to ask the American people to help him Whip Inflation Now.
Where are the power centers of yesteryear?
Sure, Tom Perkins and company have far too much influence on American politics; for all the talk of "small donors," the bulk of political spending is still capitalized by big money donors with very deep pockets; and money still talks. What has intervened since 1919 is the income tax and the estate tax (championed, in his old age, by Andrew Carnegie). (Yes, the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913, but the financing of World War I obviously still rested on the House of Morgan. Can we imagine anything similar today?) What has been is not likely to be again; at least not in that guise.
And what do we learn? Perhaps that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Except no one today has the power J.P. Morgan wielded in 1893. And that while in some ways we've taken irrevocable steps forward, in other ways (T.R. v. Obama, say), we've taken giant steps backward.
Those who do not learn from history are perhaps fated to see significant parts of it repealed.
And the irony? There was scene in "48 Hours" where Eddie Murphy brings a bar full of San Francisco cowboys by saying: "I'm your worst nightmare! I'm a n----- with a badge!" That's how Perkins and Zell and Langone and Wynn see Barack Obama: their worst nightmare, but not because he's a socialist.
He represents what they fear most: that the oppressed and repressed and excluded, can sit in the seats of power. And if they can do that, can Mary's song be far behind?