History of America’s One Percent – Episode #4

hogaf-logo-wip2In this podcast series we dive into the long and shadowy history of America’s ruling elite through the works of authors who were either silenced, suppressed, or forgotten, to discover the origins of the 1% and from where their power and wealth was, and still is, extracted.

Each recording will be approx. 1 hour in length to allow for easy consumption of the material. The narrator will only interrupt the reading to provide insight, spell names, read informative footnotes, or provide definitions for archaic words.

 In this episode – Continued reading of History of Great American Fortunes by Gustavus Myers. Includes Part I, Chapter V: The Shippers and Their Times.  Shippers and Traders Dominate After Revolution.  Snatching Up Control of the New Government.  Chinese Knockoffs and Health Hazards Infest Markets.  Tax Breaks For the Rich.  Poverty a Crime In America.  Imprisoned Indefinitely for Debt.  75,000 Thrown In Debtors Prison In 1829.  Too Rich To Jail.  Astor and Girard Fortunes Tower Above All Others.

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[1] “The Astor Fortune,” McClure’s Magazine, April, 1905.

[2] Innumerable were the sermons and addresses poured forth, all to the same end. To cite one: The Rev. Daniel Sharp of the Third Baptist Meeting House, Boston, delivered a sermon in 1828 on “The Tendency of Evil Speaking Against Rulers.” It was considered so powerful an argument in favor of obedience that it was printed in pamphlet form (Beals, Homer & Co., Printers), and was widely distributed to press and public.

[3] Various writers assert that twenty dollars was the average minimum. In many places, however, the great majority of debts were for less than ten dollars. Thus, for the year ending November 26, 1831, nearly one thousand citizens had been imprisoned for debt in Baltimore. Of this number more than half owed less than ten dollars, and of the whole number. only thirty-four individually had debts exceeding one hundred dollars.— Reports of Committees, First Session, Twenty-fourth Congress, Vol. II, Report No. 732 : 3.

[4] In his series of published articles, “The History of the Prosecution of Bankrupt Frauds,” the author has brought out comprehensive facts on this point.

[5] The eminent merchants who sat on this committee had their own conclusive opinion of what produced poverty. In commenting on the growth of paupers they ascribed pauperism to seven sources. (1) Ignorance, (2) Intemperance, (3) Pawnbrokers, (4) Lotteries, (5) Charitable Institutions, (6) Houses of Ill-Fame, (7) Gambling. No documents more wonderfully illustrate the bourgeois type of temperament and reasoning than their reports. The people of the city were ignorant because 15,000 of the 25,000 families did not attend church. Pawnbrokers were an incentive to theft, cunning and lack of honest industry, etc., etc. Thus their explanations ran. In’ referring to mechanics and paupers, the committee described them as “the middling and inferior classes.” Is it any wonder that the working class justly views “charitable” societies, and the spirit behind them with intense suspicion and deep execration?

[6] Documents of the Board of Assistant Aldermen of New York City, 1831-32, Doc. No. 45 : 1.

[7] House Executive Document, No. 13, Twenty-fifth Congress, Third Session; also, House Report, No. 313.

[8] Report for 1821 of the ” Society for the Prevention of Pauperism.”

[9] “New York Gazette and General Advertiser,” Aug. 5, 1797. The rewards offered for the apprehension of fugitive apprentices varied. An advertisement in the same newspaper, issue of July 3, 1797, held out an offer of five dollars reward for an indented German boy who had “absconded.” The fear was expressed that he would attempt to board some ship, and all persons were notified not to harbor or conceal him as they would be “proceeded against as the law directs.” That old apprentice law has never been repealed in New York State.

[10] The Government reports bear out Barrett’s statements, although in saying this it must be with qualifications. The shippers engaged in the East India and China trade were more favored, it seems, than other classes of shippers, which discrimination engendered much antagonism. “Why,” wrote the Mercantile Society of New York to the House Committee on Manufactures in 1821, “should the merchant engaged in the East
India trade, who is the overgrown capitalist, have the extended credit of twelve months in his duties, the amount of which on one cargo furnishes nearly a sufficient capital for completing another voyage, before his bonds are payable?” The Mercantile Society recommended that credits on duties be reduced to three and six months on merchandise imported from all quarters of the globe. — Reports of Committees, Second Session, Sixteenth Congress, 1820-21, Vol. I, Document No. 34.

[11] “The Old Merchants of New York,” 1 : 31-33. Barrett was a great admirer of Astor. He inscribed Vol. lii, published in 1864, to Astor’s memory.

[12] The movement to abolish imprisonment for debt was a protracted one lasting more than a quarter of a century, and was acrimoniously opposed by the propertied classes, as a whole. By 1836, however, many State legislatures had been induced to repeal or modify the provisions of the various debtors’ imprisonment acts. In response to a recommendation by President Andrew Jackson that the practise be abolished in the District of Columbia, a House Select Committee reported on January 17, 1833, that “the system originated in cupidity. It is a confirmation of power in the few against the many ; the Patrician against the Plebeian.” On May 31, 1836, the House Committee for the District of Columbia, in reporting on the debtors’ imprisonment acts, said: “They are disgraceful evidences of the ingenious subtlety by which they were woven into the leeal system we adopted from England, and were obviously intended to increase and confirm the power of a wealthy aristocracy by rendering poverty a crime, and subjecting the liberty of the poor to the capricious will of the rich.” — Reports of Committees, Second Session, Twenty-second Congress, 1832-33, Report No. 5, and Reports of Committees, First Session, Twenty-fourth Congress, 1836, Report No. 732, ii: 2.

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