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The Slave Power and The Money Power – voice from 1893

November 3, 2011

NOTE: This is a curious essay. It shows the historical and economic literacy of a Midwest doctor in the late 19th century, a literacy sorely missing from much of the current American professional class. This literacy used to be called “common sense”, a sense that has been smeared and reviled as “conspiracy theory” or “extremism” by the Money Powers and their various media outlets through much of the 20th century.

Many writers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were quick to speak an obvious truth that we’re only now re-awakening to: the Slave Power and the Money Power are one and the same. Can we now take back the earth from those few that claim it all for themselves?

We erased all law that welded property to human flesh, but have we, since that time, taught men their rights and how to maintain them? Have we increased the intelligence, elevated good morals, diffused happiness, crowned labor, and banished poverty? No. We have simply made a change of riders. We deposed the limited slave power, to install in its place the unlimited money power, which has for ages been the God-defying tyrant of the world.

The Slave Power and The Money Power
C.W. Cram, MD

THE ARENA
No. XLVIII
NOVEMBER, 1893

PDF – The Slave Power and The MoneyPower, Arena, 1893

That the present condition of our country, industrially and politically, is decidedly alarming, all good citizens must admit. And they must desire, as clearly as possible, to understand the difficulties in the way between us and a general diffusion of happiness and prosperity. To achieve this purpose we must think for ourselves, and study the cold facts of impartial political history. Subsidized editors or other interested persons should not be allowed to warp or shape our opinions or prejudice our views.

“One man may aver one thing, and another another,” said Lord Coke, “but the proof of the verity is the record.” With this great truth in view, I propose looking backward for as close a view of the political history of our republic as the limits of this article will allow. We will appeal to the record for guidance.

During the administration of President Jackson, two questions of grave import were presented for adjustment, and the directness and vigor with which he decided them attracted much attention. These were the nullification and bank questions. And they were incidents of the slave power and the money power, to which I will now call attention.

As early in the colonial history of our country as the year 1619, slaves were landed at Jamestown, Va. Subsequently others were landed there, and at other ports, by British slave traders. The colonists, in many instances, opposed this introduction of slaves, and passed laws to prevent it. But in the time of Queen Anne, Parliament reversed the colonial laws, and opened every American port to slave merchants, and the slave trade thereby received a strong stimulus. Oglethorpe for awhile appears to have succeeded in keeping slaves out of Georgia; but upon his departure all barriers were broken down, and Georgia became a slave colony.

In the constitutional convention there was a strong desire to liberate all the slaves. To uphold and propagate a system of servitude was abhorrent to the noble men who were framing a new government and dedicating it to freedom. Yet the poverty of the planters was such at the close of the war that abolition of slavery seemed impracticable. However, they decided that it must ultimately be abolished, and to expedite this consummation they provided for the extinction of the African slave trade.

Then the new ship of state was launched, with a supposed cargo of equal rights for all men. Washington was in command, and the young republic started out to find a better and broader way for human progress.

In consonance with this design, Virginia not only voted to accept the Constitution, but prohibited the importation of slaves. And in 1787, when Congress organized the Northwest Territory, the vote to prohibit slavery was unanimous.

But here a marked hiatus intervened, followed by the germination of a desire to infuse new life into the vile institution. This disposition of slavery to recuperate seems to have been simultaneous with the establishment of the first national bank, in 1791. This moneyed institution opened a national jmrse, and gave a strong impulse to speculation; and as ownership of black labor was the only monopoly outside of the bank interest, it appeared to offer the capitalist the most lucrative Avay of investment. So slavery, that had been ebbing its life away, felt the spur of the speculative tendency the bank had roused, and stoutly mounted upon the flow of the tide. From that time the cupidity of the planter tightened its hold on an institution that gave him the ease of leisure as well as profit. Virginia became a slave-producing state. Mississippi and Alabama were admitted as new slave states, and then came Missouri asking for admission, and was finally admitted upon the compromise agreement that slavery should never exist north of 36° 30′ north latitude.

Previous to the administration of President Jackson, the South had thoroughly amalgamated all its interests with slavery. John C. Calhoun, the leading exponent of the institution, responding to the fulness of the fact that slavery was capitalized labor, espoused the cause of the bank in the financial legislation of Congress. This action was consistent with his ultra slave propagandism, for whenever the banks expanded the currency, and speculation was rife, the influx of slaves into the new Southern states was by the thousand. In Mississippi alone, from 1830 to 1837, the slave population increased ninety-seven thousand. In the one year of 1836, a time of enormous inflation and speculation, it was estimated that over forty million dollars was invested in slaves to be worked in the new cotton states.

Mr. Calhoun, in furtherance of his schemes, had urged South Carolina to the verge of treason by nullification of the revenue laws. The president promptly suppressed him, and the rebellious state remained in the Union.

Crushing nullification with an iron heel did not in the least retard the growth of slavery. It dominated party politics with extreme arrogance. The public conscience was seared, and liberty put to shame. Domestic purity was discounted, and duelling made honorable.

The high-handed methods pursued by the advocates of the institution did not, however, go unchallenged. William Lloyd Garrison and others took up the gauntlet for liberty and human rights. But to obtain the public ear and rouse the public conscience, was to move a mountain. While the moral sentiment of the North was dormant, the interest of the slaveholder was intensifying. The human chattels were increasing. Slave pens were inhumanly crowded, the auction block was in constant use, and the interstate traffic in human flesh was said to involve fifty thousand slaves a year.

Then southern members of Congress became more aggressive than before. The bludgeon became an active factor in legislation. The party leaders plied the party lash. Social ostracism glared upon the individual recalcitrant. Meantime the so-called Omnibus bill, the Fugitive Slave bill, the Nebraska bill, and other iniquitous measures were formulated in law.

The bloody trail of this “system of abominations” was now rousing strong resistance to its progress. The murder of Lovejoy, the assault upon Sumner, the deadly raids upon Kansas, — all called loudly for reactionary measures. In response to this call Giddings and his coadjutors were reinforced in the House, while Hale and Sumner found increased support in the Senate. A political revolution was in progress, and the evolved force of new ideas burst asunder the old Whig party, and from its dSbris came the nucleus of the present Republican party.

In 1856 the Republicans of Maine elected their candidate for governor. Later, in the presidental campaign, the Democrats held a great meeting in Portland, at which Howell Cobb of Georgia and Pierre Soule of Louisiana were present as orators. At an entertainment given in honor of the distinguished visitors the following sentiment was broached: —

Poor old Maine
Has submitted again
To the fanatic’s chain
And the liquor laws reign,
AVith its murderous stain.

She missed stays last Monday at top of the tide,
Went stern on to Wells beach, knocked a hole in her side,
And strained every timber;
But fourth of November
Old Buck and Breck
Will examine the wreck
And fit her and float her and sail her anew,
Discharging two thirds of her lubberly crew;
Replacing the milk-sops with trustworthy tars
Who will never abandon the stripes and the stars.

The superb effrontery with which those men posed as the special champions of the flag of their country is well disclosed in the above lines. All who opposed them were “fanatics” or “disunionists.” Yet at that time military companies were drilling all over the South in order to destroy the republic if they failed to control it.

As history repeats itself, we may find the same dangerously masked elements today — bold conspirators charging conspiracy on others. But slavery fell. With political blindness it resolved to rule or ruin. It could do neither, and went down forever as a result of its criminal folly, carrying with it the dead bodies of a million brave men.

We erased all law that welded property to human flesh, but have we, since that time, taught men their rights and how to maintain them? Have we increased the intelligence, elevated good morals, diffused happiness, crowned labor, and banished poverty? No. We have simply made a change of riders. We deposed the limited slave power, to install in its place the unlimited money power, which has for ages been the God-defying tyrant of the world.

This money power, with its malign influence in our republic, is as old as our Constitution. “If America adopts our system of finance,” said Pitt at the close of the Revolution of 1776, “her boasted liberties will be but a phantom.” The founders of our Constitution did not adopt it directly, but Hamilton, as the leader of the Federalists, fastened it upon the people through unconstitutional legislation, and we now see the voracious plant in the vigor of its full bloom, with British influence dominating social and political as well as financial interests.

What is this system of finance? It is the specie basis system that had its origin with the Bank of England in 1694. It is the pretended use of money with the legal quality of money left out, the bank holding one dollar in gold for the redemption of about twenty dollars of the “promise to pay” paper that it loans to the people. This paper, not a full legal tender by law for debt, which the banker puts out for money, is practically his note of hand—an evidence of indebtedness on his part; yet he draws interest upon it, and gets rich upon his debts.

This anomalous situation represents only a portion of his advantage. It is a law of finance that in proportion to the amount of money circulating will be the amount of business transacted and the rate of prices paid. In view of this the banks, having a monopoly of the right to issue paper money, can increase the issue and expand the currency to an extent that makes speculators wild in the promotion of illegitimate business schemes. Then they can call in their loans and refuse to make new ones, and, by greatly contracting the currency, wreck enterprise and create a widespread panic in all business pursuits save that of banking. With business at a standstill, the bankers can foreclose their mortgages and make purchases at low prices; then they can again put out more money, inflate prices, and sell their purchases at a large profit. Wages, the demand for labor, the price of farm products, the condition of trade, the spirit of enterprise — all are directly or indirectly at the mercy of the coterie of men who issue the currency and direct the finances of the country.

That the founders of our republic, fresh from the bloody field where they had buried the political dominion of King George III., should look with complacency upon this kingly monster of coin-credit finance, invite it here and submit to its soulless domination, is without parallel as an act of egregious folly and stultification.

While the word slave, so offensive to free men, was excluded from the Constitution, the earnest advocates of slavery advanced their standard till it imperilled the life of the nation. So, while the preamble to the Constitution, and the delegated powers that appear on its face, have not one word of authority for grant of charter to a corporation, the adherents of this vicious relic of barbarism and spoliation, this feudal coin-credit finance, were vigilant and powerful, and, as already intimated, the sod was scarce formed on the colonial grave of British power when the charter for the first national bank was granted by Congress.

The upas of the money power had taken root in the rich soil of the new republic. The slave power was one of its branches. In the North capital controlled labor. In the South capital owned labor. The East India merchant, like the slave trader, had been actuated by an unholy desire for lucre. The banker, like the slaveholder, desired to live at other men’s expense, and this poisonous tree grew apace. Its towering body confronted all enterprise and all industry in the North, while its southern branch cast a dismal shadow wide from gulf to main.

That the evils of this branch, that the chains and unrequited toil of the slave, should arouse the indignation of the northern people, was because slavery had become local and appealed to sectional prejudices. The political wrongs begotten of money through organized capital were general, were deeply masked, were incidents of every-day life, and went almost unchallenged up to the administration of President Jackson when the charter of the second national bank expired.

At that time the bank influence had made much progress at Washington. It was the only powerful moneyed monopoly. Congress was its pliant tool, a subsidized press was eager to do its work, and a cursory glance gave it credit for complete control of the situation. This view did not include the measurement of Andrew Jackson. Congress had passed an act to recharter the bank, but he had not signed it. Would he do so? His cabinet advised him to do so. Could he take such a course and not violate his oath to support the Constitution? Was not the bank an insidious enemy of the people? British in habitat, it was originally pampered into opulence by official duplicity and corruption. And had it not sought America to accomplish by covert intrigue what British arms had failed to do in the arena of war? True, the Whigs had adopted it in its foreign guise and had nursed it into vigorous life on the bosom of the republic. Were not the Whigs the custodians of the principles of the old Tories? Though the president had been deserted by a majority of congressmen and by a majority of his cabinet, and was harassed by a bitter and relentless press, would he weaken and quail in the presence of this gigantic but domesticated enemy of liberty? Instead of this, it was in proportion to opposition and the perils that surrounded him that he arose to the full mastery of the bank position. Danger could not turn him from the pathway of duty, or corruption undermine and thwart his purpose.

Sir Robert Walpole was an eminent advocate of corrupt practices. He lived best and thrived most in an atmosphere of political rottenness. With him “Every man has his price” was a choice maxim. This rascally principle, when put to a test, sometimes fails. It was so in the case before us. Had the bank put every dollar of its thirty-five million dollars of capital stock at the feet of the president as a bribe, it would not have purchased his signature to a renewal of its lease of life.

In searching for the means by which the bank had influenced Congress to vote for a renewal of its charter, it was discovered that the bank had loaned to congressmen the following sums: —

In 1830, to fifty-two members   $192,161
In 1831, to fifty-nine members  $322,199
In 1832, to forty-four members  $478,069
In 1833, to fifty-eight members $374,766
In 1834, to fifty-two members   $238,586
TOTAL                           $1,605,781

This is a total greater than the aggregate salaries of all the members of both houses of Congress during those five years.

That such a moneyed institution — a bank corporation without soul, with twenty-five branches and tremendous powers for evil — should be able to buy its way to the verge of regal power in a free government where equal rights are guaranteed to all, was enough to make a patriot sick at heart. It seemed within reach of unlimited power, but a Jackson was in its way. The bank was a Louis Grayle seeking renewed life, and the president was a Haroun of Aleppo. Unlike the latter, the president resolved to act upon the aggressive. Refusing all overtures for personal profit, he defied malice and trampled upon policy. Then with the club of the veto he struck down the bank without mercy. He followed with the removal of the government deposits, and the rights of the people, for a time at least, were comparatively safe.

But the vile system from which this national institution sprung was still alive, and state banks became more numerous than before. These state banks, however, were not associated, and their power for evil was thereby vastly less. Of the second national bank Senator Benton said: —
Jackson has not killed the bank. She is a wounded tigress, and has escaped to her jungles. By and by she will return and bring her whelps with her.

The truth of this prediction was verified at the commencement of our late civil war. To meet the need of money for purchase of war supplies and the payment of the soldiers, the administration, with Mr. Lincoln president, issued government notes directty to the people with whom they were dealing. This was by law of Congress, and the notes were made a full legal tender.

This was true American policy. It was the only course contemplated by the Constitution. The power to make and issue money had been bestowed upon Congress alone, and it had no given right to excercise this power save in the interests of the whole people. Congress saw and did its duty promptly, and all the machinery of the government was clearly running with constitutional precision in the suppression of the Rebellion.

Bankers and capitalists did not so regard the political situation. Other men’s necessity is simply their opportunity. War, with its most direful carnage, has always opened up to them a pecuniary feast. The horrors incident to mangled flesh and bodies dead, that appall a brave but sensitive and conscientious manhood, are to them only mental stimulants — harbingers of the golden millions they hope to reap as war’s ungodly taxes. So as soon as the bankers could formulate their plan, they pressed upon the administration a demand for a complete change in financial methods. To them the Constitution was null. Their demand was the scream of the tigress.

Those men wanted a national banking system and a funding system adopted. The two would dovetail together wonderfully well to their advantage. That this scheme might sparkle in its brilliancy from their standpoint, they demanded the demonetization of the greenback. This effected, they would immediately have a double opportunity for speculation; and as years rolled by, their chances for accumulating wealth would multiply like the stars at eventide. There would be hundreds of millions, aye, billions upon billions in the scheme. Yet the gain of the banker would be the loss of the people. It was a plan, the most colossal ever known, for public robbery. More than this, it was a plan to obliterate the fundamental principles of the Constitution and practically enslave all the people save the capitalistic class. Did President Lincoln, sworn to support the Constitution, arouse all his energies for that purpose? No. In the presence of those despoilers of human rights he exhibited the simplicity of a child rather than the towering strength of a political Hercules. Yet his executive duty was as clear as the sunlight.

There is no basis in the Constitution for a charter for special privileges. The spirit of a private corporation is alien to its whole purpose. If this is questioned, the doubt can be settled by recurrence to the debate upon the subject in the constitutional convention. When the original draft of the Constitution was presented to that body for consideration, it contained, among its enumerated powers, one for the erection of corporations. This clause was debated and stricken out. It was then proposed to insert the power to establish specified corporations, among them a national bank. This was opposed and rejected, and there the subject remained.

This is history, and Mr. Lincoln was, or should have been, cognizant of it. Be this as it may, he seems to have acceded to all the demands of the bankers, practically abdicating in their favor as far as the finances were concerned. Then their full scheme was elaborated and consummated with all possible despatch. This necessitated a prolongation of the war, for Wall Street and its minions, through future years, could only fatten upon its proceeds in proportion to the mountain of debt that the mighty contest would force upon the people.

Then law followed law for the expansion of capital and the impoverishment of the people. The first congressional act in this line was the debasement of the greenback by restricting its legal tender quality. This created a premium upon gold, and as it advanced in value the greenback of necessity depreciated, and the bankers, speculating at either end of the line, amassed hundreds of millions of dollars at the people’s expense. Then came the funding system and the national banking system as the upper and nether millstones of the money power, followed by other enactments in the same line, and thirteen yeais of currency contraction that wrecked property and led to the closing of stores and manufactories, the foreclosing of mortgages by the thousand and the turning a multitude of working men out into the street as tramps. Ruin was widespread, and poverty, like a nightmare, harassed the honest yeomanry of the whole country. We had put down slavery of one form only to offer our necks for the yoke of another.

From the close of the war the money power has had an unbroken march of conquest. If we give to Congress a close but impartial view we shall see but one purpose — to legislate to make the rich master richer and the poor worker poorer. The law of the income tax was the only exception of importance, and this was repealed as soon as the capitalists could marshal their lobby for that purpose. Year by year the centralization of power adds force to its menace, and the prospective laws contemplated by our present Congress rise above all others in their approach to imperialism.

When President Jackson struck down the second national bank it was the only powerful monopoly in the country. Now they troop before us till the whole land is blackened by their shadow — railroads, national banks, telegraph lines, telephone lines, express companies, oil companies, insurance companies, land companies, and a score of other powerful organizations, all banded together and protected by a cordon of trusts that are ironclad in their shield of privileges.

Money is the arbiter, organized capital the constitution to be consulted. Caucuses are controlled by agents of the monopolies, and “fixed” candidates are elected to office. To create wealth by legislation, the public interests are waylaid without mercy; corporations water their stocks, and mining properties and manufactories are “tied up” to freeze out their weaker holders of stock. The press is subsidized, public sentiment is debauched, our courts of justice are corrupted, and official integrity is put to shame. “Business” is the national watchword, and honor is trailed as’ a byword. Years ago our public sentiment applauded and our navy boldly maintained the announcement, “Millions for principle, but not one cent for tribute.” But since the late war our people have paid over five billion dollars as direct tribute to the money holders who have taken the place of the slaveholders.

The black slavery that was based on ownership of the person, involved support of the person. Care, food, clothing, medical attendance — all were furnished by the owner who was interested in the maintenance of the value of his slave. It was a case of property to be protected and preserved; but the white slavery of to-day does not involve the support of the unfortunate people who, lashed by necessity, toil early and late to enrich their lordly task masters.

The farmer, oppressed by the contraction of the currency and low prices for his products, crowded by the mortgage and high rates of transportation, and hampered by the board of trade, must sell as he can, while he is obliged to buy at such prices as are demanded, paying high tariff tribute. The wage-worker, obliged to sell his labor for the support of himself and family under capitalistic control, must face and contend with conditions even worse than those that surround the farmer. Professional men, and especially business men, are much restricted in their pursuits, while they are continually taxed, crowded, and in hundreds of cases ruined for the enrichment of their capitalistic plunderers. It has been estimated that the farmers of Nebraska lost ten million dollars last year. Take the farmers and laborers of the whole country, and it is safe to say that, in the aggregate, they did not save a dollar.

Against this poverty looms up the tremendous bulk and power of the fortune secured by the railroads of the country during last year, their net income, as given in their own reports, being nearly four hundred million dollars — more than the whole assessed value of the great state of Iowa, exclusive of the value of its railroads. Yet the railroad represents but one of the many forms of incorporation by which the money power is sucking up the life blood of the nation.

Now, “What will you do about it?” Civilization, honest purpose, brotherly fellowship, preservation of chartered rights, and service to God — all prompt us to heroic efforts at relief.

What is the one thing most needed? An honest and intelligent vote. Black slavery was toppled over, and its power forever erased, by red-handed war, but the ballot box is the avenue through which we should attack and overthrow the money power and free ourselves from the curse of white slavery. This purpose necessitates an amended Constitution.’ No relief can come through either of the old parties. There must be a new deal. New men must come to the front about whose shibboleth there is no uncertainty — men who cannot be bribed or palsied with a cry of alarm.

Twenty-five years ago we cut off a branch of this tree of evil. May a true Christian endeavor speed the day when its gigantic body shall be uprooted and destroyed!

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One Comment
  1. Joan Cichon permalink

    Now we just need to allow people to live and thrive without all the god mumbo jumbo and we’ll be truly free.

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