History of America’s One Percent – Episode #8

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 II, Chapter III:  The Growth of the Astor Fortune.  Astor’s Living Conditions.  Astor Above the Law.  Astor and the China Trade.  His Ships Unmolested During the War of 1812.  Fraud Permeating All Sectors of Business.  Astor Purchases the Morris Estate.  Public Uproar Over His Land-Grabbing.  Sells Land to Government At Five Times Its Price.  Land Grants From Corrupt Government Officials.  The Plunder of the New York Treasury.  The City Gives Away Land.  Huge Favors From New York City to His Benefit.  Astor Preys On Others Misfortune.

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[1] Doc. No. 13, State Papers, Second Session, 18th Congress, Vol. ii.

[2] ” Stole on a monstrous scale.” The land frauds, by which many of the Southern planters obtained estates in Louisiana, Mississippi and other States were a national scandal. Benjamin F. Linton, United States Attorney for Western Louisiana, reported
to President Andrew Jackson on August 27, 1835, that in seizing possession of Government land in that region “the most shameful
frauds, impositions and perjuries had been committed in Louisiana.” Sent to investigate, V. M. Garesche, an agent of the Government Land Office, complained that he could get no one to testify. “Is it surprising,” he wrote to the Secretary of the
Treasury, “when you consider that those engaged in this business belong to every class of society from the member of the Legislature (if I am informed correctly) down to the quarter quarter-section settler!” Up to that time the Government held
title to immense tracts of land in the South and had thrown it open to settlers. Few of these were able to get it, however. Southern plantation men and Northern capitalists and speculators obtained possession by fraud. “A large company,” Garesche reported, “was formed in New York for the purpose, and have an agent who is continually scouring the country.” The final report was a whitewashing one ; hence, none of the frauds was sent to jail. — Doc. No. 168, Twenty- fourth Congress, 2d Session, ii : 4-25, also Doc. No. 213, Ibid.

[3] “America,” admits Houghton, “never presented a more shameful spectacle than was exhibited when the courts of the cotton-growing regions united with the piratical infringers of Whitney’s rights in robbing their greatest benefactor. . . . In spite of the far-reaching benefits of his invention, he had not realized one dollar above his expenses. He had given millions upon millions of dollars to the cotton-growing states, he had opened the way for the establishment of the vast cotton-spinning interests of his own country and Europe, and yet, after fourteen years of hard labor, he was a poor man, the victim of wealthy, powerful, and, in his case, a dishonest class.” — “Kings of Fortune” : 337. All other of Whitney’s biographers relate likewise.

[4] See Senate Documents, First Session, 24th Congress, 1835, Vol. vi, Doc. No. 425.  A few extracts from the great mass of correspondence will lucidly show the nature of the fraudulent methods. Writing from Columbus, Georgia, on July 15, 1833, Col. John Milton informed the War Department. . . “Many of them [the Indians] are almost starved, and suffer immensely for the things necessary to the support of life, and are sinking in moral degradation. They have been much corrupted by white men who live among them, who induce them to sell to as many different individuals as they can, and then cheat them out of the proceeds.” . . . (p. 81.)  Luther Blake wrote to the War Department from Fort Mitchell, Alabama, on September 11, 1833 . . . “Many, from motives of speculation, have bought Indian reserves fraudulently in this way — take their bonds for trifles, pay them ten or twenty dollars in something they do not want, and take their receipts for five times the amount . . . (p. 86). On February 1, 1834, J- H. Howard, of Pole-Cat Springs, Creek Nation, sent a communication, by request, to President Jackson in which he said, . . . “From my own observation, I am induced to believe that a number of reservations have been paid for at some nominal price, and the principal consideration has been whisky and homespun” . . . (p. 104). Gen. J. W. A, Sandford, sent by President Jackson to the Creek country to investigate the charges of fraud, wrote, on March I, 1834, to the War Department, . . . “It is but very recently that the Indian has been invested with an individual interest in land, and the great majority of them appear neither to appreciate its possession, nor to economize the money for which it is sold; the consequence is, that the white man rarely suffers an opportunity to pass by without swindling him out of both” … (p. 110).
The records show that the principal beneficiaries of these swindles were some of the most conspicuous planters, mercantile firms and politicians in the South. Frequently, they employed dummies in their operations.

[5] Reports of House Committees, Second Session, 26th Congress, 1840-41, Report No. 1.

[6] Ibid., 1 and 2.

[7] Executive Documents, First Session, 23rd Congress, 1833-34, Doc. No. 132.

[8] Senate Documents, First Session, 22nd Congress, 1831-33, Vol. iii, Doc. No. 139.

[9] “No inventor,” reported the United States Commissioner of Patents in 1858, “probably has ever been so harassed, so trampled
upon, so plundered by that sordid and licentious class of infringers known in the parlance of the world, with no exaggeration of phrase as ‘pirates.’  The spoliation of their incessant guerilla upon his defenseless rights have unquestionably amounted to millions.”

[10] Doc. No. 134, Twenty-fourth Congress, 2d Session, Vol. ii.

[11] Doc. 129, State Papers, 1819-21, Vol. ii.

[12] See Part I, Chapter II. (History of America’s 1% – Episode #2)

[13] “Allowed itself.” The various New York legislatures from the end of the eighteenth century on were hotbeds of corruption. Time after time members were bribed to pass bills granting charters for corporations or other special privileges. (See the numerous specific instances cited in the author’s “History of Tammany Hall,” and subsequently in this work.) The Legislature of 1827 was notoriously corrupt.

[14] Journal of the [New York] Senate, 1815 : 216 — Journal of the [New York] Assembly, 1818 : 261 : Journal of the Assembly, 1819. Also “A Statement and Exposition of The Title of John Jacob Astor to the Lands Purchased by him from the surviving
children of Roger Morris and Mary, his Wife; New York, 1827.”

[14a] MSS. Minutes of the (New York City) Common Council, xvi : 239-40 and 405.

[15] Ibid., xx : 355-356.

[16] MSS. Minutes of the Common Council, xiii : 118 and 185.

[17] MSS. Minutes of the Common Council, xvii : 141-144. See also Annual Report of Controller for 1849, Appendix A.

[18] MSS. Minutes of the Common Council, xviii : 411-414.

[19] Doc. No. 33, Documents of the Board of Aldermen, xxii : 26.

[20] Proceedings of the Board of Aldermen, 1832-33, iv : 416-418.

[21] Controller’s Reports for 1831 : 7. Also Ibid. for 1841 : 28.

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