Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of January 20th - January 26th,  2012

Financial Face

Columns Archive



Pluto is our focus this week

        At the end of the 19th century, Big Money had a face. In fact, it had many faces. Their names were daily news. They were followed and reported on by the paparazzi. It was possibly in the Spanish American War that their views first came collectively to the surface. The press had much to do with the fervor. The debate was over whether or not war would be a good thing.


John Jacob Astor IV

        The question was (and is), good for who?

        Say hello to Pluto in Capricorn.

        "There were special interests who would benefit directly from war. In Pittsburgh, center of the iron industry, the Chamber of Commerce advocated force, and the Chattanooga Tradesman said that the possibility of war "has decidedly stimulated the iron trade." It also noted that "actual war would very decidedly enlarge the business of transportation." In Washington, it was reported that a "belligerent spirit" had infected the Navy Department, encouraged "by the contractors for projectiles, ordnance, ammunition and other supplies, who have thronged the department since the destruction of the Maine."

        "Russel Sage, the banker, said that if war came, "There is no question as to where the rich men stand." A survey of businessmen said that John Jacob Astor, William Rockefeller, and Thomas Fortune Ryan were "feeling militant." And J. P. Morgan believed further talk with Spain would accomplish nothing."

        "On March 25 [1898], a telegram arrived at the White House from an adviser to McKinley, saying: "Big corporations here now believe we will have war. Believe all would welcome it as relief to suspense."

                People's History, Zinn, pp. 297-298.


Pluto in Capricorn
an iron clad combination?

        With each new industrial 'war wave' there came a clamor from industry the public began to associate with greed rather than patriotism. First it was the Spanish American War, then the drumbeat from Europe beckoned and we were pulled into two more wars at a quick march over the protests of the people. Providing a financial face whose motives and morals might be questioned provided a hot target for public opinion. So these 'bankers' developed their own counter-strategies. On January 2, 1889, as Gustavus Mayers reported,

        " . . . a circular marked "Private and Confidential" was issued by the three banking houses of Drexel, Morgan & Company, Brown Brothers & Company, and Kidder, Peabody & Company. The most painstaking care was exercised that this document should not find its way into the press or otherwise become public . . . Why this fear? Because the circular was an invitation . . . to the great railroad magnates to assemble at Morgan's house, No. 219 Madison Avenue, there to form, in the phrase of the day, an iron-clad combination . . . a compact which would efface competition among certain railroads, and unite those interests in an agreement by which the people of the United States would be bled even more effectively than before."

        This tactic was repeated and developed on November 5, 1910, as reported in the February 9, 1935 edition of the Saturday Evening Post by one of the participants, Frank Vanderlip.


Frank Vanderlip

        "Despite my views about the value to society of greater publicity for the affairs of corporations, there was an occasion, near the close of 1910, when I was as secretive- indeed, as furtive- as any conspirator . . . I do not feel it is any exaggeration to speak of our secret expedition to Jekyll Island as the occasion of the actual conception of what eventually became the Federal Reserve System . . ."

        "We were told to leave our last names behind us. We were told, further, that we should avoid dining together on the night of our departure. We were instructed to come one at a time and as unobtrusively as possible to the railroad terminal on the New Jersey littoral of the Hudson, where Senator Aldrich's private car would be in readiness, attached to the rear end of a train for the South . . ."

        "Once aboard the private car we began to observe the taboo that had been fixed on last names. We addressed one another as "Ben." "Paul." "Nelson," "Abe'- it is Abraham Piatt Andrew. Davidson and I adopted even deeper disguises, abandoning our first names. On the theory that we were always right, he became Wilbur and I became Orville, after those two aviation pioneers, the Wright brothers . . ."


Russel Sage Mausoleum
the final realm of Pluto

        "The servants and train crew may have known the identities of one or two of us, but they did not know all, and it was the names of all printed together that would have made our mysterious journey significant in Washington, in Wall Street, even in London. Discovery, we knew, simply must not happen, or else all our time and effort would be wasted. If it were to be exposed publicly that our particular group had got together and written a banking bill, that bill would have no chance whatever of passage by Congress."

        As time moved on, the faces began to fade, as they merged into the corporations that represented them.

        Pluto was learning the game. He brought out his cap of invisibility.

        It's hard to hit a target you cannot see.


The US Flag

Continue on the Freedom Trail
 Pluto in Capricorn
Peeking Through the Corporate Keyhole

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