William Lloyd Garrison
“So much for insisting that, both on the ground of principle and consistency, the ‘self-evident truths’ contained in the Declaration of Independence ought to be reduced to practice, and that, whatever may be the color of his skin, ‘a man’s a man for a’ that’!”
Revered by Blacks and anti-slavery activists throughout-out the United States. Hated by pro-slavery factions, both in
the North and South for his outspoken and very public opposition to “the curse – SLAVERY”. Garrison’s undying
and selfless work for the cause of freedom for all American is both sympathetically and angrily displayed in
his sentiment to an admirer in 1852
While many around the divided nation were vehemently opposed to slavery, few were as outspoken and fearless of the personal risk and consequences of his opinions, as was William Lloyd Garrison. Born into a family of modest means, his rise to the pinnacle of the American reform movement is a story of legend. Garrison’s outspoken stand in favor of immediate freedom for slaves made him and his newspaper The Liberatorunpopular with pro-slavery forces both North and South.
A man with the courage of his convictions and the commitment to a variety of causes within the reform movement, his work towards the abolition of slavery made him one of the most controversial figures of the period – and one of the beloved Civil Rights leaders in our nation’s history. Archibald Grimke said of him, “Garrison, more than any other man, embodied the moral forces of the conflict, the story of his life being essentially the history of the moral uprising against Slavery.”
William Marcy “Boss” Tweed
There is perhaps no better popular symbol of corruption in American history than that of the portly William M. “Boss” Tweed. His life history remains as one of the truly classic American success stories, though not for that which he achieved honestly, but more so for the extreme level of corruption and power he so masterfully managed. As the nation emerged from the dark days of Civil War, the Democratic party in New York City was sharply divided and in search of unifying force. Tweed, a Pro-union Tammany Hall leader rose to the occasion, marshaling the legislature to authorize a City charter which essentially granted Tweed and his cronies virtually unlimited autonomy and home rule. The ever-present problem of New York political corruption was now give the opportunity to run rampant and beyond the wildest dreams of even the most unsavory of Tweed’s predecessors. By the time Tweed’s work was complete he found himself sentenced to twelve years in prison along with a fine of $12,750. While it remains uncertain just how much the “Tweed Ring” swindled from the city, estimates range from $30,000,000 to as much as $200,000,000 – real money in the 1870’s and certainly qualifying him as one of America’s greatest swindlers.
Financial History and our Freedom
“Money is, with propriety, considered as the vital principle of the body politic; as that which sustains its life and motion, and enables it to perform its most essential functions. A supply of it, as far as the resources of the community will permit, may be regarded as an indispensable ingredient in every constitution. From a deficiency in this particular, one of two evils must ensue; either the people must be subjected to continual plunder, as a substitute for a more eligible mode of supplying the public wants, or the government must sink into a fatal atrophy, and, in short course of time, perish.”
Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist. No. XXX. December 28, 1787
While our world was being shaken apart during the recent tragic attacks on American soil, it occurred to me that never has there been a more appropriate time to discuss the inarguable and unmistakable link between the very basic freedoms we have come to cherish and our capital markets. Why has America become the “land of opportunity” for so many? Why has America, in just a relatively few short years in its existence become the global economic engine delivering so much prosperity to so many? Indeed, civilizations that have existed for thousands of years still have not even come close to delivering a quality lifestyle to their people as has the United States and the western world. The answer to these questions is, to a large degree rooted in our capital markets. It certainly could not be more obviously displayed for all to see as on Monday, September 17, 2001 while the world nervously watched the Opening of the New York Stock exchange, NASDAQ and other American financial markets.
For this, we must credit our political and financial forefathers in America. These bold individuals who held a dream for the future – a free nation with a strong political and financial system which would allow all to pursue their dreams free from persecution. While there were many astute and forward thinking Americans of the day with an interest in building a free flowing capital market, a true personification of this ideal is most certainly Alexander Hamilton. While Hamilton believed in a strong central government, he also understood the necessity for the development of a healthy capital market providing a strong incentive for those who would risk their hard won capital. He understood that a great and free nation could only prosper and develop if both the government and private citizenry had access to sufficient amounts of capital investment to fund industrial growth.
As America’s first Treasury secretary under Washington, Hamilton put forth a plan to refinance the young nation’s staggering debt remaining from the revolutionary war. In 1790, some of the earliest securities to be publicly traded in the United States were those United States stock issues created to refinance both the federal and state debts accruing from the conflict. Additionally, the formation of the first Bank of the United States offered investors what was, essentially then, the only other publicly traded security at the time. Indeed, Hamilton’s plan put forth in 1791 for The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures was one of America’s first attempts at attracting the general public to invest in private enterprise providing it with permanent capital, the shares of which could then be publicly traded. His vision for this concept fostered a new attitude throughout the young nation in terms of public investment in private enterprise.
Many felt the early speculators in United States Stock, S.U. M. shares and other early financial instruments were inherently dangerous to the nation’s financial stability. Indeed, the actions of these “nerves of steel” traders through financial panics in the early stages of the market’s development set the stage for the growth and development of the public’s investment into an ever-growing variety of securities in the companies which would prove to be the springboard of our nation’s economy. To the traders in these early securities, it became almost immediately
apparent that an organized format for trading was necessary for an efficient market to provide stability and confidence in these new fangled forms of investment. To this end, a hearty group of securities dealers and auctioneers formed an alliance near city hall under the buttonwood tree trading some of America’s earliest securities in an organized fashion. Named for the tree under which these informal trading sessions took place, this alliance of an original group of 24 brokers banded together to sign the “Buttonwood Agreement” in 1792. The far-reaching importance of this agreement, a simple two sentence contract intended to formalize a trading market and provide an efficient organ for trading securities, could hardly have been realized by these pioneer brokers. A prescribed trading period and commission structure were established, the rules to be strictly followed by its members who, while working to organize the trading market, agreed to provide preferential treatment to their members. Thus, the beginnings of what we we now know as today’s New York Stock Exchange had taken root.
Lacking a formal location for their trading activities, these early traders and merchants of New York began the construction of the Tontine Coffee House in 1792, dedicating it the following year as their exchange. In 1817, the roots of this pioneer band of traders would be formed as the New York Stock and Exchange Board, its name being changed to the New York Stock Exchange in 1863. Thus, this Tontine Coffee House served as America’s first formal building for stock exchange in America.
Nearby these historic sites of America’s early securities trading center stands the Trinity Church. In a moment of incredible irony, while watching a recent news clip, an interview was being held with a witness of the tragedy in front of this important landmark located very near “ground zero” in New York. The cameras were positioned so as to show the void left by the loss of the World Trade Center. This historic house of worship stood in the shadows of the Twin Towers and is, remarkably, the burial place of Alexander Hamilton. At that moment, it struck me that his will and dreams for a strong American financial system could not be shattered by those that would strike at the heart of America and our financial system. Indeed, the aftermath has shown how resilient free people around the world can be during difficult times. While our financial markets have temporarily suffered a setback, history has shown our financial markets have only become stronger and more efficient with the passage of time. Perhaps it is best summed up by J. Pierpont Morgan in 1895 who said “The man who is a bear on the future of the U.S. will go broke”.
Yes, we have seen the excesses of free capital markets, perhaps best exemplified by the recent dot-com phenomenon. But our history has shown us time and again (ie. Railroad speculation in the 1850’s and utilities in the 1890’s) that these excesses are ultimately a natural by-product of our freedom and signify the hope and confidence in our economic future. And while those who would accuse “the West” of being greedy, materialistic, evil satans attempt to destroy the fabric of the American dream, let us remember that history is on our side. Ultimately economic development is synonymous with peace, prosperity and freedom – and economic development is best achieved through the strength of our free capital markets. History has proven this.
Alexander Graham Bell – A Hero of the Deaf
Much has been written, broadcast and spoken recently of the numerous heroes and villains who have become the stuff of legend in the wake of recent terrorist tragedies. As collectors, many of us are interested in the autographs of our personal heroes and villains, some with a conscious effort towards this end, some driven to collect through a subconscious admiration for these history making people of the past and present. Whether or not we make a conscious decision, many of us choose to collect the autographs of those characters we define as heroes. Indeed, one man’s hero is another man’s villain. While Alexander Graham Bell may have been thought a villain by Elisha Grey, the man whom he defeated in a desperate patent struggle over the invention of the telephone, he certainly remains one of our nations true heroes.
While Bell is universally known as the inventor of the telephone, he often stated his most important and cherished work was that in teaching of the deaf. In fact, his interest in the telephone was an outgrowth of his interest in speech and communicating with the deaf. In 1887, Bell formed the Volta Bureau (now know as The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, Inc.) dedicated to the education and assistance of the deaf. Much of his life’s work was dedicated to this worthy cause and it is he who introduced the parents of Helen Keller to her will-known teacher Annie Sullivan. As an activist for the cause, Bell lectured heavily and authoredThe Formation of a Deaf Variety of Human Race. The endless hours spent and the large sums of money which Alexander Graham Bell devoted to those with severe hearing disorders renders him a true American hero. A hero of the deaf.