|...Starting with first principles|
|America First Trust services|
|Education, analysis, and advice for uncertain times|
What are some characteristics of early Americans that may have some relevance to today’s investment environment? Perhaps we can adapt the following themes: scientific skepticism and free inquiry, republican virtue, and pioneer culture. My own interpretation and reasons are as follows:
Scientific skepticism and free inquiry
The Founding Fathers spent considerable time researching and analyzing the history of republican and democratic governments. A number of them wrote voluminous and detailed histories before creating the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. The Federalist Papers take a pro vs. con analytical approach in surveying the history of government. Its writers held the attitude that there was no such thing as a perfect form of government. All systems of government (and I might add approaches to economics, corporate governance, and business strategy) have flaws and vulnerabilities, and tend to be cyclical and corruptible. Obviously the right approach is not all “bottom up” instead of “top down,” or “bootstrap” instead of “charity,” but a balancing act between opposing perspectives based on the peculiarities of each situation.
A major ideological point of the American War of Independence was the concept that over the long run, unchecked government tends to act like a territorial aggressor and a monopolizer of power and becomes more part of the problem than the solution to mankind’s problems. “Liberty,” a key word in American Revolutionary rhetoric, originally meant freedom from government. George Washington commented that one should have an “unawed” attitude towards the Constitution. In fact, a number of delegates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were so unawed with the Constitution that they demanded the addition of the Bill of Rights before they would ratify it.
Speaking of skepticism, Patrick Henry, who gave the famous “Give me liberty or give me death" speech, felt that the proposed Constitution was a bogus form of federalism and a wrong step towards centrism and imperial presidency compared to the Articles of Confederation. His opening speech “A Wrong Step and the Republic Will Be Lost Forever” on June 4, 1788 led to a vote that almost defeated the proposed Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson also leaned heavily in the anti-Federalist camp. When a proponent of the new Constitution told Jefferson that it would help bring about more energetic government, Jefferson responded that energetic government is exactly what he did not want.
Patrick Henry observed that Americans had already had many decades of successful experience running their colonial legislatures and that the Articles of Confederation had held up reasonably well during and after the Revolution. He did not see anything so broke that it needed to be fixed. According to a Mises Institute audio lecture on the anti-Federalists, Henry felt that the proposed Constitution was too agreeable to a military-authoritarian mentality and correctly predicted that it would likely lead to an invasion of Virginia by troops from Northern States roughly sixty years later. I invite the reader to consider how much of his warning has become that much more of a reality today.
A number of America’s founders showed skepticism and free inquiry in other ways, such as the scientific experiments that almost got Benjamin Franklin electrocuted, or Thomas Jefferson’s exercise in secular inquiry when he went through the Gospels, crossed out all the supernatural events, and published the results as the Jefferson Bible.
This bent towards research and analysis ties in with my later discussion of “republican virtue.” In my opinion, republicanism is nothing more than an effort to adapt elements of the scientific method to the process of governance to achieve wiser and more rational decisions. Representatives are supposed to stay in touch with their constituents just like scientists are supposed to gather field data and conduct experiments. Legislative debate should resemble scientific debate in terms of emphasizing substance and logic over personal attack.
Vigilance is the price of investment success as well as political liberty. Since the 1995-2000 stock market bubble Americans have been exposed to an unusually high level of disinformation by their government, media, and financial leaders. The Saturday Night Live parody of Wall Street in my Humor/Satire section is almost too true to be funny. In early 2003 leading Wall Street firms agreed to pay a $1.4 billion fine for misleading investors. Important questions remain unanswered on a different level involving 9-11, America’s Middle Eastern interventions, and the new invasiveness of Homeland Security according to such critics on the left and right as Nat Hentoff, Gore Vidal, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, and Joseph Sobran.
The highly skeptical and wary attitude of the Founding Fathers is clearly every bit as important in managing capital as in governing a country.
Let me start by saying that this is what companies fail to show when corporate officers engage in self-dealing, or when they arbitrarily change rules or ignore obligations, or when they dilute their stock out from underneath shareholders, or when they lie about about their products and earnings prospects, or when they promote political correctness poster boys and girls as corporate officers over more qualified people, and finally when they try to intimidate their critics into silence. In the last decade the steady drum beat of accounting scandals and fraud cases, to include the $1.4 billlion fraud settlement by major Wall Street firms in 2003, suggests that a lack of virtue is a major issue on Wall Street.
In my opinion, on an abstract philosophical level, corporate corruption undermines public trust and social and economic efficiency the same way as government corruption. Admittedly, government corruption tends to be the more dangerous of the two because governments by definition monopolize the use of violence within their territory and hence can "legally" kill you, whereas in most cases the worst thing a malevolent company can do is completely destroy your investment.
Although "republican" systems probably go back to indigenous tribal ways in prehistory, particularly among various Northern European groups, the specific term "republican virtue" was first expounded by philosophers of the early era of the Roman Republic and the ancient Greek city state democracies. Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers believed that in order to be viable, republican government requires that the overwhelming majority of its citizens have a certain level of moral character, chivalry, self-restraint, initiative, commitment to volunteer service, devotion to civic duty, accountability, basic education, and native intelligence. It focuses on the “bottom up” fundamentals of human behavior that add real value for society.
“Republic” comes from “res publica” in Latin, in which “res” means “wealth,” hence combined with “publica” means “public wealth” or “common wealth” as opposed to privately-owned government, which typically comes in such forms as monarchy, oligarchy, and aristocracy. (Later I will connect “common wealth” with publicly owned companies). One of the prime characteristics of ancient republican systems was the requirement that no leader ever ruled for life, but served only limited terms. This implied that if citizens were to share power on a rotating basis, they would need to be able to discipline, inform, motivate, and lead themselves on a grass roots level in order to adequately scrutinize and periodically replace their supreme leaders.
Publicly traded corporations are also supposed to be concerned with enhancing the "public wealth." This is another way that I make the "republican" connection, even though many corporate presidents and CEO's effectively rule for life with certain companies.
Republican leaders in government with the power of taxation show “republican virtue” by resisting the tremendous temptation to plunder the public trough under the guise of pro-democratic demagoguery in order to enrich themselves or to try to get themselves re-elected through wasteful pork barrel spending and the endless creation of superfluous legislation and regulations designed to make a name for themselves without adding any real value.
Without “republican virtue,” republics have historically tended to degenerate and collapse under the weight of runaway government spending and stifling regulation. Very early Americans such as the Cromwellian founders of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts thought republican virtue could be derived from Puritan rectitude and frugality. Later Americans of the Enlightenment era such as Thomas Jefferson saw it in the qualities of reason, education, and the hardy self-reliance of the Anglo-Saxon yeoman farmer. Other Founding Father's were infatuated with the ancient Greek and Roman societies. This actually had a linkage to Jefferson's idolization of Anglo-Saxon yeoman farmers, since the Sabian and Oscian tribes originally from northern Germany that created the Roman Republic, and Ionians and Dorians that created the Grecian city states that developed science and democracy in the 5th century B.C., were all, like the Anglo-Saxons, essentially Nordic peoples originally from the glaciated fringes of prehistoric northern Eurasia.
As an aside, I know that my use of the word "Nordic" may be confusing and even disturbing to certain people, since Adolf Hitler supposedly admired Nordics and tried to stack his S.S. units with them. To clear this up, the term applies to the northern branch of the Caucasian peoples. Other Caucasian groups include the Celts to the west, Mediterranean peoples to the south, and Alpine peoples in the center and east. Up until the Thirty Years War in the early 1600's, Germany was mostly "Nordic." Its social and political institutions were highly decentralized throughout the Middle Ages. After the war wiped out over half the population, Germany became mostly Alpine and its institutions became increasingly centralized over time, underneath the thin veneer of residual "Nordic" culture. According to my 1957 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, fascism never took root in Nordic Scandinavia during the 1930's, but was more of a southern and central European phenomenon. Also, during the Renaissance, most areas of Europe that had a majority Nordic population went Protestant, whose central "idea" reflected rebellion against centralized religious authority, whereas most areas with majority non-Nordic populations remained "Catholic" and obedient to centralized Vatican authority. So contrary to World War II anti-Axis propaganda, "Nordic" does not mean "totalitarian." In fact, highly Nordic societies have tended to be almost the opposite, as exemplified by Iceland which has had long historical periods in which it was been both semi-anarchistic and thoroughly republican in character. In fact, pagan Norsemen originally created in Iceland one of the longest enduring republican systems in world history.
As another aside to help address some other usual political correctness knee-jerk reactions, a discussion of "Nordics" does not necessarily imply "supremacism" or a desire to oppress and injure other races. As I will touch upon again towards the end of this paper, it is hardly a sign of Nordic "superiority" that Nordic populations are currently in demographic decline everywhere in the world.
Getting back to my discussion of government theory, the great majority of citizens must not only practice “republican virtue,” but must also show the initiative to support fellow citizens who share the same values against predatory alien groups. In fact, I believe that on an innate, temperamental level one requires a certain critical mass level of people who are actually allergic to tyranny and dishonesty.
In this day and age, one can get almost any one around the globe to pay lip service to "science" and "republicanism," and one can find myriad politicians who promote counterfeit versions to camouflage their intrigues, but one can find precious few people who have the independent analytical intelligence and who are instinctively motivated to stick their necks out to fight for the real thing.
The Anglo-Saxon jury system, designed to be a check against state and judicial tyranny, is very vulnerable to mafia groups that can ruthlessly eliminate all potential witnesses and bribe policemen without violating group secrecy. It is also vulnerable to societies that become so strife-ridden and corrupt that they can no longer afford the relative slowness and extra costs of a jury system.
Libertarian economic and political systems are also very vulnerable to alien or criminal groups that use stealth tactics, and exploit the relative lack of unity among individualized libertarians, to seize and retain control of the strategic choke points of a society, such as banking and the media. Edmund Burke summed it up when he said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” a saying that not only applies to society in general, but also to the willful blindness shown by the disgraced accounting firm Arthur Anderson towards the now defunct Enron.
The libertarian, laissez faire, “bottom up” view of the capabilities of individual Americans was in fact practiced on an economic and political level throughout the early 1800s. At that time America was a much more homogeneous society, of overwhelmingly English and to a lessor extent related Northern European backgrounds (such as Scottish, Dutch, Swedish, Scots-Irish, Irish, French, and German), and it was easier to unite behind libertarian leaders.
Today early American ideas may sound naively idealistic or even the stuff of sanitized children’s history books compared to the much meaner, more insincere, and more universalistic standards of America’s contemporary leaders in politics, the media, and business. The problem is not that libertarian principles are obsolete, but rather that the public has been led to believe that they are, and in the short run perceptions become reality. In addition, libertarian principles do not work unless a society has an overwhelming critical mass level of people who mean business about practicing "republican virtue."
“Bottom up” economists today have been more prescient than the “top down” economists in explaining the nature of the 1995-2000 market bubble and the duration of the secular bear market that began in 2000. “Top down” economists include the Keynesian, Monetarist, and “Supply Side” theorists who all defend the need for interventionist Big Government and a Big Central Bank and the very powerful special interests allied with them. They represent the consensus views of most Wall Street analysts. The “bottom up” laissez faire economists include the “Austrian” school whose viewpoint is very similar to what most Americans practiced up until the 20th century.
In the long run, the “bottom up” fundamentals of markets tend to win over “top down” interventions. The fundamentals provide a guidepost for where things may ultimately wind up after “top down” interventions have run their course, just like momentum stocks and momentum markets always return to value. Eventually the fruits of artificial stimulation, fraud, corruption, and self-dealing whither away and we get back to substance.
The concept of “republican virtue” can also be applied to the character of the management teams whose public companies tend to make the best long term stock investments. As two examples, billionaire ace investor Warren Buffet has commented that he prefers management teams that are very open and accountable regarding their problems, because that can be a strong indication that problems will be identified and fixed. He invests in sound businesses that happen to issue stock, and not the other way around.
In his classic book One Up On Wall Street, legendary mutual fund manager Peter Lynch mentioned the importance of seeing evidence of corporate frugality and closeness to the production floor whenever he would visit a corporate headquarters.
It should not surprise us that publicly-owned companies and their common stock should be managed as if for the “res publica” or the “common wealth” of shareholders. The same basic republican principles that apply to running good government also apply to running a good public company, and vice versa. When government and business leaders claim that they are “different,” they are usually lying, and are often really asking for some kind of special privilege, monopoly power, and free ride at the public’s expense.
Pioneer culture was ultimately about courage, enterprise, foresight, and self-sufficiency. It was also, frankly, often a hard and brutal culture reflecting almost Spartan-like values.
Most Americans are familiar with the poem “The New Colossus” enshrined at the base of the Statue of Liberty. This has been set to music that has the lines “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teaming shore…” The lyrics were penned by a Marxist named Emma Lazarus in 1883.
In fact, according to American population expert Dr. Elmer Pendell, in his landmark book “ Why Civilizations Self-Destruct,” the reality of early America was usually quite the opposite. The winters were much harder than back in England, and Indian attacks added to the dangers. It took bold people to settle in the Wilderness in the first place, and the first groups of settlers in the 1600s often lost over half their people in the first few years.
It was a savage, Darwinian environment. Musket and hatchet in hand, it was the enterprising, smart, tough, self-reliant individuals who carved their place in the wilderness and had big families, and it was the tired poor wretched refuse masses who got killed off in greater numbers or stayed behind.
Pendell claims that a highly disproportionate number of individuals who received patents in the early 1800s were descended from the first waves of settlers in the 1600’s who suffered brutal attrition. He believed that a Darwinian process had sculptured them into a more innately intelligent, self-sufficient, and enterprising group. That might in fact have contributed to their willingness to take on the Brits in 1775, who many early Americans viewed as being relatively effete.
Later on humbled masses were imported to crowd the already crowded cities or provide cheap labor for the industrialists and plantation owners, but they weren’t the ones who originally set the tone for early America’s laissez faire economic and political institutions.
Early America reflected a pioneer culture, willing to adapt, improvise, reinvent from the ground up, endure hardships, be self-reliant, take risks, be pragmatic, and maintain broad horizons. Thomas Jefferson was an interesting example of a pioneer on both an intellectual as well as a physical level. He drafted the Declaration of Independence, founded the University of Virginia, and resupplied the Library of Congress with twice the number of books that got burned by the British in 1814 from his own personal library. As a U.S. President, he hired expert backwoodsman Merriwether Lewis as his secretary for a year before launching Lewis and Clark’s “Corps of Discovery” that made the first recorded journey across the continent by white men.
An obvious application of the pioneer theme for investment purposes involves finding the next “new thing” in technology. It can also mean going beyond the herd by digging deeper into fundamentals or having a longer time horizon. Market prices often discount the outlook six months to a year ahead, so one often has to look further over the horizon to stay ahead. (That is, unless the herd is also looking over the horizon, in which case one has to figure out something else!) Finding sound investments has become especially difficult because there is currently too much liquidity chasing too few quality business situations, and a high level of fraud and deception still saturates the markets.
A less obvious application of this theme involves adapting and improvising in the face of the rising risks of calamity posed by America’s rapidly escalating personal, corporate, and government debt and rising trade deficits.
The pioneers frequently entered hostile and unfamiliar territory. Famous examples include the creation of Boonesborough in the Kentucky wilderness, the first American settlers in Texas-Mexican-Comanche country, and the Oregon Trail immigrants to the British-American Pacific Northwest. American pioneers had to build their communities from the ground up, to include providing their own government and social and economic institutions.
The recent Russian experience might foreshadow what lies ahead for us here in America. In the early 1990’s the Russian people basically got the following message: “For the last seventy years what you were told about Marxism-Leninism was a lie. Your government is now bankrupt. You are on your own. Use what ever resources you have to try to survive as new capitalists.”
The next shocker may come on a broader social, political and economic level if foreigners finally pull the credit plug on the US Government. It may become questionable within ten years whether the government can pay even a small fraction of its future obligations for not only Social Security, but also most military and other government-related retirement pay.
Americans may get a big let down just like the Russian people. They may be surprised by the extent to which their government, liberal national media, and central bank have all misled them in the last seventy years. They may be forced to reinvent government, economics, and ideology on a local level. The microcomputer and Internet revolutions may support a return towards decentralization.
The pioneer ethic also had its weakness...
The longer I live, the more I come to appreciate that fact that the better part of wisdom usually involves understanding how social policy typically involves not black and white, but trade-offs. This is analogous to how the process of engineering new equipment always entails sacrificing something positive in one area to achieve a better feature in another area. Part of the downside of America's pioneer culture is that most Americans from northern Europe ended up throwing away virtually all their Old World roots, ethnic cohesion, and local self-sufficiency without understanding the good things that were getting thrown away along with the bad.
In his book The End of Kings: A History of Republics and Republicans, William Everdell pointed out that at the time of the American Revolution, virtually the entire right hand spectrum of British society was totally missing in the Thirteen Colonies. He claims that one major reason is that America became a refuge and power center of extremely radical, anti-monarchial Cromwellians and other utopian Puritans who held an underlying fanatical conviction that they could create a new "City on the Hill" in the New World that could forever defy all laws of natural instinct and social gravity. (This doctrine is also known as "American exceptionalism"). Cromwellian attitudes continued to grow, flourish, and morph into new forms in America long after they died out in England.
One may argue that early European Americans never really had an effective right wing rooted in European concepts of blood, soil, folk community, natural hierarchy, and a truly indigenous European religion to help keep both corporate greed on the right and socialist redistribution on the left in check. Nor could it fend off infiltration of strategic power bases in media and banking from takeover by alien mafias. There is a joke among many American conservatives that for over a century, "conservatism" in America has merely meant the "liberalism" that once existed a decade or two before.
Leftist radicalism has grown in fits and starts since the American Revolution, resulting today in what Dr. Paul Craig Roberts likes to call "The Neo-Jacobin Welfare Warfare State." According to Roberts, our Neo-Jacobin state can no longer curb its own spending, protect its own borders against massive Third World immigration, or restrain itself from foreign military adventurism in the name of rhetorical flourishes about furthering "democracy." He senses that things have become so extreme that America is headed towards a bad end. This has huge long term implications for our economy, the stock market, and certain investment sectors such as precious metals.
Part of the pioneer spirit involves taking a good, hard, and practical fresh new look at things that go wrong, and then having the will, imagination, and resourcefulness to fix them. We definitely need to go figure here. We need to fix this, at least in our own local communities where we have some control and influence.
I have profiled three individuals below who represent three different sides of the libertarian pioneer culture of the early 1800’s. They include a philosopher-intellectual, a legendary backwoods populist dreamer and “doer,” and a successful far-frontier businessman. The accent here is on the geographic frontier and political dissidents. Sometime later I will add a fourth individual reflecting advancement in science and technology. Benjamin Franklin is an obvious candidate, but there are others I am reviewing who came a little bit later who were more “industrial” and were connected to the development of the steam engine, rail roads, telegraph, the first producing oil rig, and other decisive breakthroughs of the period from the early 1800’s leading up to the Great Darkness of the War Between the States and its terrible aftermath.
Knowing how history tends to run in cycles, often rhyming if not repeating
itself, I can see how conditions could change to where the early American
approach to life might become more relevant again.
SOME PIONEER PROFILES
“Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way” painted in 1866 by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. The term “empire” is troubling to most libertarians and probably reflects some Unionist ideological influence, but otherwise this painting, which hangs in the US Capitol Building, is an ultimate dramatization of the pioneer spirit and Manifest Destiny themes that helped to motivate one of the greatest grass root folk migrations in history. There was no Federal or State income tax in the U.S. throughout the 1800s (with the except of the Civil War era), and bands of pioneers frequently settled and prospered in areas where the only government and judicial system that existed was what they created themselves. Americans could associate with whomever they pleased, and did not have to deal with tons of regulations and various Federal and State social re-engineering programs. Despite the tragic setbacks of the Civil War era, during the last twenty years of the 1800’s the economy grew at about 5% a year, and Americans were emerging as world leaders in their standard of living and technological advancement.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). As President, he reduced the size of the Federal Government, paid down most of its debt, and opposed a central bank. Throughout his life he encouraged staunch libertarian government. He drafted a well-known declaration of independence against British authority and created with James Madison the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 that advocated the States Rights of secessionism and nullification.
Jefferson promoted scientific and technological advancement and Enlightenment skepticism, more so than any other president. He had a naturalistic viewpoint, seeing man as a part of nature and part of a decipherable and mathematically predictable cosmos rather than removed from nature in a hopelessly supernatural world. Many particularly famous examples of his Faustian search for knowledge come to mind. He assembled a vast personal library, which was later used to restock the Library of Congress after it was burned down by the British during the War of 1812. He founded the University of Virginia. He sponsored the Lewis and Clark Expedition to study the terrain, fauna, and flora of the Pacific Northwest. He devoted the last decades of his life as a man of letters to address socio-political issues besetting the young republic with an intellectual honesty that gives contemporary liberals conniptions to this day.
His attitude that "There is not a truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to mankind" extended to religion as well as politics. He created what became known as "The Jefferson Bible" that reproduces the gospels without any supernatural events. Jefferson wrote:
Jefferson’s views on human rights and equality were not simple. On the one hand, he wrote, “All men are created equal” and yet later spoke of merciless Indian "savages" in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson wrote about how the brutal Norman invasion was a set-back for Anglo-Saxon traditions of liberty and self-government. His idolization of American farmers and frontiersmen seemed to be heavily rooted in Anglo-Saxon traditions rather than intended as a one-world socio-political statement. Although he was slow to condemn the excesses of the French Revolution, later in life he became increasingly right wing on racial and ethnic issues as he aged and did not free any of his black slaves in his lifetime. He explicitly stated that he felt that races are not equal in their capabilities, and for this he is hated by many contemporary liberals.
More concerned about building his legacy as a Man of Letters and as a republican theorist than enhancing his personal wealth, he lived on debt secured by his inherited estate during the latter part of his life and died without any significant net worth. Paradoxically, his libertarian philosophy was very good for American business and helped postpone the advent of the Neo-Jacobin Welfare-Warfare State for many decades. Combined with the accelerated economic development brought on by the Louisiana Purchase, his economic influence on America as a whole was probably worth the equivalent of trillions in today’s dollars. A true republican on both a business and political level, he greatly advanced the “common wealth.” His sense of principals contributed greatly towards the tremendous prestige once enjoyed by the United States Government, which has now abandoned virtually all of them.
Some scientific and technological benchmarks...
1807. "A steamboat, Robert Fulton's (1765-1815) Clermont, made a roundtrip on the Hudson River, from New York City to Albany, at the rate of about five miles per hour. This successful outing demonstrated the commercial viability of steam navigation. The vessel used a paddlewheel powered by a Watt engine; financial support came from Robert R. Livingston...1814 "The first steam-powered warship was constructed in the United States. It was conceived by Robert Fulton and called Demologos, or Fulton the First. Fulton died 24 February 1815 and the War of 1812 was over before it was completed." (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
1824 "The Rensselaer School, the first such institution for study of science and engineering in the United States, was founded at Troy, N.Y. In 1851, it took the name Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The school was founded by Stephen Van Rensselaer, at the suggestion of Amos Eaton (1776-1842) who directed it as senior professor. A one-year course of study was offered." (Source: Chronology of Science in America)
1826. "The first railroad in the country was completed at Quincy, Massachusetts. The three-mile long metal rail, serving the granite quarry, was designed for horse-drawn vehicles." (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
1831. "Joseph Henry (1797-1878) discovered that changes in magnetic fields induce electricity. Henry made this discovery of electromagnetic induction prior to and independently of Michael Faraday. Faraday, however, won credit because he was the first to publish." (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also
big enough to take away everything you have." ~Davy Crockett
David Crockett (1786-1836). With no formal education whatsoever, he was a quick study and developed a national reputation for his folksy populism, rude eloquence, and backwoods wit and humor after being elected as Congressional representative from western Tennessee as a “Jackson man..” “Jacksonian Democracy” elevated the common man and was hostile to central banking. Crockett served as a scout under General Andrew Jackson in the Creek War. He came up with the popular slogan, “Be always sure you are right, then go ahead!” (A contemporary version of this might be “Analyze and use your head, but avoid analysis paralysis”).
Congressman Davy Crockett was very warmly received on his speaking tours in northern and eastern cities. He became the hero of pulp novels and was a major factor in consciously defining, “ideologizing,” and expanding the American pioneer legend in his own time. The cutting edge pioneer culture had moved from the East Coast to the Midwest, as thoroughly settled-in Easterners were beginning to see the rise of urban centers, the first glimmers of the industrial revolution, and increasing waves of indentured servants. The pioneer legend began to take on a more self-conscious, exaggerated, and revanchist flavor as Easterners needed more reassurance that the “fitness” of their 17th and 18th century ancestors was not ebbing away. This theme became exaggerated in a different way in the late 1800s when the New York patrician Teddy Roosevelt wrote histories about the American frontier and headed West to become a rough riding cowboy in spectacles. Teddy jumped up and down and screamed hysterically the first time he shot a buffalo. He acted the same way the first time he killed an enemy soldier in the Spanish-American War in Cuba. This is not the kind of behavior I can imagine with a real McCoy pioneer like Crockett. Many Easterners also no doubt felt nostalgia for the simpler pioneer life where success had more to do with accomplishing tangibles and direct common sense experience as opposed to mastering intrigue, paying lip service to conventions, and improving social positioning.
With a mind of his own, Crockett gave an anti-pork barrel government “Sockdolager” speech to Congress (cited in “Other Experts” section). He also turned against President Andrew Jackson’s policies. He protested his Indian removal program that included the Cherokees, and fought against what he felt were other Presidential abuses of power and principle. “King Andrew” was arguably America’s most autocratic president before “King Lincoln.” (Crockett had defied Jackson once before during the Creek War when Jackson lined up soldiers to block the ability of Crockett and other Tennessee volunteers to go home after their enlistments expired. The soldiers refused to fire when Crockett and others called their bluff by walking through them). Crockett’s Congressional defiance cost him his seat and his chance to run for President himself. Somewhat paradoxically, he later became an icon of Manifest Destiny, which was hard on other Indians besides the Cherokees.
Looking for a fresh start in Texas, Crockett advocated rebellion against Mexican state authority and promoted reinvention of government in the territory. The Mexicans thought they were insulting Crockett and his Alamo compatriots by cremating their remains on a big funeral pyre, but instead ended up giving them a Viking funeral that would have befitted their ancient European warrior ancestors.
While a Congressman, Crockett was unsuccessful in pushing through his favorite proposed legislation involving a new land bill that would make it easier for settlers to claim land at little or no cost. His renewed popularity following his death played an important role in getting a new land bill passed through Congress in 1841 which helped to accelerate settlement in the West. While he himself was usually poor most of life, he never felt personally inferior, and his legacy helped to create enormous tangible wealth and entrepreneurial opportunity for other folks of humble means as well as tremendous intangible psychic capital.
1837: "Samuel F.B. Morse (1791-1872) patented his ideas for a telegraph. Joseph Henry (1797-1878), who advised Morse, had worked out the basic concepts for a telegraph in 1835. (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
1839. "Vulcanization of rubber (making the state of the substance constant through changes in temperature) was discovered by Charles Goodyear (1800-1860)." (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
1839-1840. "On October 7, 1839 New York mechanic Alexander Simon Wolcott (?-1844) took the first photographic portrait. By December, John William Draper (1811-1882) also produced a daguerreotype portrait and he published an account in Philosophical Magazine (1840), the first received in Europe. During the winter, Draper produced the first photograph of the moon, which was divulged to the New York Lyceum of Natural History on 23 March 1840." (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
1842: "Colonel John Fremont (1813-1890) began an expedition to explore the Rocky Mountains in southern Wyoming. Subsequent explorations followed and in 1845 he published The Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842 and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-44 (Washington). The report had the effect of contributing to awareness and interest in the West." (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
1845: "Scientific American, a technology publication of popular interest, was founded in New York by Rufus Porter (1792-1884). In 1846, it was taken over by Orson Munn (1824-1907) and Alfred Beach (1826-1896)." (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
1846. "William Thomas Green Morton (1819-1868) at the Massachusetts General Hospital demonstrated the general anaesthetic use of sulphuric ether; John Collins Warren (1778-1856) performed the surgical operation. Morton's former teacher, Charles Thomas Jackson (1805-1880), subsequently claimed priority for the discovery. (Morton was granted a patent, on which Jackson's name also was included, on November 12, 1846.)" (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
1854: "Josiah Parsons Cooke, Jr. (1827-1894) published his widely noted first paper, "The Numerical Relation Between the Atomic Weights and Some Thoughts on the Classification of the Chemical Elements," Memoirs of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, new series 5 (1855): 235-257, 412 and American Journal of Science, 2nd series 17 (1854): 387-407. He proposed an arrangement of the elements in six series." (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
1857: "Charles Darwin wrote a letter to Asa Gray (1810-1888), relating to Darwin's ideas on evolution by natural selection. In 1858, it was presented to the Linnaean Society, along with other documents, in support of Darwin's priority over Alfred Russel Wallace." (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
Dr. John McLoughlin (1784-1857), was born in Canada and was dubbed “The White-Headed Eagle” by Indians. For twenty years his word was law in a territory stretching from California to Nebraska to Alaska. In 1816, while serving as a medical doctor for the Northwest Fur Company, he risked getting framed and convicted on homicide charges by standing in for innocent men accused of murder. According to legend, his hair turned white when his arrestor’s canoe collapsed as he was being transported across Lake Superior to go to trial, and he nearly shared the fate of others who drowned.
From 1825 to 1845 he ran Hudson Bay Company operations west of the Rockies from Ft. Vancouver, Washington, establishing about 20 trading forts. This became the most profitable HBC operation in North America. A shrewd but fair businessman, he organized general commerce and used his medical skills to help enlist the services of Indians and maintain continuous peace in the area. Fort Vancouver became the commercial hub of the northwest, with 2,500 acres of crops outside the fort and blacksmiths who produced over 50,000 beaver traps and countless axes, knives, and other metal implements. He was the closest thing to “government” in the Oregon Territory where control between Britain and the U.S. remained unresolved until an 1846 agreement.
From 1843 onwards the 2,170 mile Oregon Trail was in continuous use. A married couple could claim 640 acres or one square mile at no cost, but of course the hardest part was the six month journey to reach America’s “last frontier.” McLoughlin defied Hudson Bay Company instructions to discourage the growing American presence by actively aiding weary and often needy immigrants. He sent supply boats up the Columbia River to greet them. He provisioned them for their first winter and oriented them towards the best land. In 1845 he cooperated with an American provisional government. His HBC superiors ultimately demoted him and removed his stipend. In late 1845, he retired to Oregon City, the site of the land claim office at the end of the Oregon trail.
In 1851 Dr. McLoughlin became a naturalized US citizen and was elected mayor of Oregon City. He ran a merchandising operation and developed sawmills, gristmills, and housing that provided employment for impoverished immigrants. He donated land for civic use and supported numerous charitable causes. Unfortunately he faced ranking political opponents in Oregon who never forgave his HBC career. There was residual bitterness from a time when certain British and American leaders had considered going to war over control of the Oregon Country. His opponents cheated him out of his land claims in the Oregon City area, and he died almost broke. In 1907, at a dedication to the McLoughlin Institute in Oregon City, the President of the Oregon Historical Society commented: “ I shall merely mention that conspirators against Dr. McLoughlin took for themselves parts of his land claim and, by means of malicious misstatements, caused Congress unjustly to deprive him of all the rest of his land claim, and thus humbled and humiliated and impoverished the grand, the noble, the generous Father of Oregon.” In 1957 the title “Father of Oregon” was reaffirmed by an act of the Oregon State Legislature.
Although Dr. McLoughlin had relatively little personal tangible property to show for his labor and wise leadership at the end of his life, the way in which he facilitated the peaceful, orderly, and rapid economic development of the Pacific Northwest was probably worth hundreds of millions, if not billions in value in today’s dollars.
1858: "The first Atlantic telegraph was laid but its functionality did not endure. In 1866, Cyrus W. Field (1819-1892), also involved in the earlier venture, successfully laid a telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean." (Source: Chronology of Science in America).
1859: "The first productive oil well in the world
was drilled at Titusville, Pennsylvania by Edwin Drake (1819-1880)."
of Science in America).
I have decided to stop my profiles and chronology at 1860, the great
pivot point in American history, to make a historical point. The "King
Lincoln" period destroyed forever the limited republic and
local autonomy intended by the Founding Fathers, and henceforth the
U.S. Government began its long and continuous growth pattern as an ever
encroaching adversary of individual and regional liberty, while simultaneously
having the chutzpah to call itself a champion of various freedoms. Savvy
Georgia lawyer Sam Dickson has called this fractured leadership "the
selective democratic conscience" in his brilliant article "Shattering
the Icon of Abraham Lincoln." Dr. Jeffrey Hummel also discusses
hypocrisy in his book Emancipating
Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War,
and Pat Buchanan describes grotesque distortion further in A
Republic, Not an Empire.
Today the U.S. is experiencing out of control debt growth suggesting effective bankruptcy. This country seems incapable of turning around its balance of trade deficits. The Fed shows no signs of letting up its aggressive money creation policies, and America seems destined to suffer a hyperinflationary fate similar to Argentina, as discussed in my article "Back of the Envelope Analysis for $1,000 Gold in Five Years." I also discuss America's serious economic problems three fourths the way through Part One of my Cortez Trend article, where I quote Morgan Stanley's head economist Stephen Roach who foresees a high probability of "economic armageddon."
No joke, folks. One of the main purposes of my web site is to provide plenty of links so that the reader can put together a more realistic picture compared to what he finds from conventional media. At the same time I have restrained myself from using the language of certain individuals on both the radical right and left whose explicitness often turns people off to their message, even though I may happen to agree with the cold realities identified in their underlying analyses.
Perhaps a "positive" we can see in the coming breakdown of America is the likelihood that vast numbers of American communities will return to many early American values that stressed self-sufficiency on all levels. In my opinion they never should have given up so much self-sufficiency to begin with.
...And of course I put quotations around the word "positive" because this lesson will probably be a very forced and painful one born of continuing crisis that probably will not feel very positive to most people.
Indeed, America First Trust exists to help provide investment advice for some very uncertain times ahead.
Flag carried by the 3rd Maryland Regiment at the Battle of Cowpens, S. Carolina, 1781
© Text and web design by William Fox. Sometimes William Fox offers viewpoints that are not necessarily his own to provide additional perspectives.