Interlude: America, The Venetian Republic – Part I

Republic of Venice

Republic of Venice

America had always been somewhat modeled after the Republic of Venice. The Founding Fathers initially saw a two class society under the Articles of Confederation, with 13 states to be ruled by their own respective landed gentry and merchant class oligarchy. The Articles of Confederation system was modeled much like the Greek city-states of the ancient world with a large slave population for manual labor, an indentured servant class to manage the slave population, a freeman class for administration and merchant labor, and the oligarchical rulers themselves owners of vast swaths of land and vast swaths of people. However the uniqueness of the American Revolution in its alliance of class against a foreign monarchy and foreign gentry left a desire for freedom and culture that forced the oligarchical rulers to accept a Constitution that was modeled similarly to that of the ancient Republic of Venice. Venice itself being an oligarchical republic of cheques and balances; with a President, a Congress and a council of judges who would all be placed in constant struggle over who would rule the economic juggernaut.

American’s often forget that America was founded as a penal labor colony for England and that many white Englishmen were originally sent to the America’s to work as indentured servants or to fulfill the obligations of their criminal convictions. The first signs of a potential Middle Class, embodied with the values of God, country and freedom, emerged from the Puritan separatists that had sought religious liberty from the machinations of the Anglican and Catholic churches.

America’s history is the embodiment of class warfare; since America’s founding class struggle has emanated and ended with the United States of America. Our founding is embedded in the historical fight for freedom, the serf against the monarch, the slave against the pharaoh; American citizens from when they are born find themselves immediately fighting this struggle and they continue to do so throughout their days, bringing about their own lot to open up yet another front against the old oligarchy and the greed of aristocracy.   It is lamented upon well by many Greek scholars of old, how a republic struggles to stand between the desires of its money class and the desires for democracy from its people.

Freedom of Worship

The Puritans

The Puritans

The 13 colonies began as an overseas farming plantation for hemp, cannabis, and tobacco. In the early 1600s religious strife had wreaked havoc across Europe as the Reformation swept the continent. New interpretations of biblical law surfaced challenging the class structures of the day; the Puritans in particular demanded unlimited access to the Jewish Torah, something the Catholic Church had long forbade without strict priestly interpretation and something, James the First the King of England, was not going to simply allow without his own interpretation involved in the matter. As a result many Puritans, separatist and Calvinist-based religions fled Europe to the ‘New World’ of the 13 colonies to practice their interpretations of the bible in their daily life. Europe in their eyes had become to depraved, religion was openly mocked by the aristocracy and greed warped state institutions into a permanent societal existence of corruption that had simply crushed the faith of the peasantry.

James the First had come to fear the political power of the Puritans. The new interpretations of the Old Testament called for the abolishment of ‘inequity’ and at many times called for the death of corrupt ancient kings for bringing God’s wrath or evil, onto their lands. The religious warfare and strife was widely viewed as a consequence of God’s wrath and thus the King was for the first time in many centuries held to blame for the downfall of the kingdom. James the First however was not one to be taken as a fool; in order to secure control of the colonies in 1604 he ordered that each farmer set aside a mandatory plot of land for the production of hemp and cannabis. The order would carry out two functions: it would expand the hemp production capability necessary to stimulate a naval buildup, for England desperately needed to combat the power of the Spanish Armada and the Spanish Empire which had been at the apex of its power; and the proliferation of cannabis throughout the colonies would stave off rebellion from the growing number of Puritan colonists. James, however would make a mistake in specifying growing Cannabis Sativa in his edict, unaware of the various psychoactive suggestive properties of the ancient remedy. Exposure to Sativa would bring about revolutionary ideas on the relations between the citizen, the government and the crown.

King James I

King James I

The Puritans became a major political power within the English parliament by 1625. Charles The First, heir to the throne viewed the challenge to his powers as a monarch with contempt and further persecuted the Puritan religions using the state apparatus. John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts led a large contingent of Puritan colonists to the New World to escape Charles rule. Between the 1620s and 1640s, England became very religiously oppressive with King Charles and the Church of England censoring the Bible and issuing edicts restricting religious freedom. The Puritan colonists, finding wealth from freedom in the colonies were able to send back their gains to their brethren in England to support a revolution against the crown. The English Civil War broke out in 1642 between the Royalist oligarchy and the Puritan Republican Oligarchy led by Oliver Cromwell; the Royalists were composed primarily of the landed gentry upper class and were thus required to import German mercenaries to counter Cromwell who led the lower bourgeoisie and the Puritan/Presbyterian peasantry.

Execution of Charles I

Execution of Charles I

Cromwell invented a new military concept called the New Model Army, the first non-militia based national army of its kind which allowed for greater organizational and tactical advantage over the traditional militia based regiments of the English nobility. The Army was composed of an uneasy alliance between the Presbyterian Parliamentarians and a set of semi-royalist and uneasy nobility. After several years of brutal civil war, in 1646 Cromwell drove Charles into the highlands of Scotland which followed with a two year peace of two-state Republican rule. In 1648, the King counterattacked leading to the second stage of the civil war which was largely a series of noble revolts around England as the New Model Army had been able to consolidate its grip on England. In 1649, Cromwell overthrew the monarchy of Charles I, had him tried for war crimes and executed; establishing a new Republic under the control of the English puritanical oligarchy. The return on war loans to colonial Puritan planters would enrich them beyond expectation.

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell

The English Interregnum was a period of rapid economic growth for the colonies and a time of great religious diversity for England and its protectorates. The Anglican Church was decentralized and independent church establishment was widely proliferated. The diversity of religion eventually led to political rivalries within just a few short years; parliament was dominated by the officers of the New Model Army and eventually in 1653 a permanent oligarchy was established under the officer corps, eliminating the prior parliamentarian promises of Cromwell. A pseudo parliament of the oligarchy was adopted for two more years until a military junta under Cromwell was established in 1655. Austere life was imposed upon the English citizenry to conform to the Puritan standards for social conduct; this had actually been a major goal of the revolution given that many felt England under the monarchy had descended into godlessness. Many left wing parliamentarian groups persisted after the war like the levelers and the diggers, seeking to bring about greater social equality as one of the pillars of the religious revolution.

The Puritan/Presbyterian oligarchy, following Cromwell’s death in 1859 saw a large power vacuum that was quickly being filled by a new religious bourgeoisie class that was calling for greater social equality and representation in parliamentary affairs. The oligarchy had attempted to impose one Puritan standard throughout the country but had failed to do so and thus began to believe that a restoration of the monarchy would be required to retain power. Charles the Second was restored in 1660, immediately executing 50 of the rebel leaders and imposing royal control over all aspects of government. Royal views of the colonies would never be forgiven as the purge of Puritan power throughout England commenced with the restoration of the monarchy. A series of subsequent parliamentary acts and royal decrees would restore the Anglican and royalist supporters of the monarchy and all but abolish Puritanical power from the English isles.

Issues in the thirteen colonies continued between the upper class families that believed in religious predestination and the concept of divine election versus middle and lower class families that believed in equality, judgment and divine forgiveness. Religious competition and bids by the Puritan authority to consolidate power had much to do with colonial management:

Those who created the colonies were the most fervent in their religious beliefs, and as their numbers began to decline, so did the membership of churches. The demographics of the churches changed because fewer men were joining. The resulting decrease in male religious participation was a problem for the established church (that is, the colony’s official church for which people were taxed and which they were expected to attend), since men were the ones with secular power. If the men who wielded secular power in the colony were absent from the church, its legitimacy would be undermined.”

Slavery was widely promoted by the Protestant upper class, citing that it was permitted in the Old Testament and thus not a sin against God. The Slave-Rum-Tobacco trade between Africa, the English Colonies and England came into formation during this time and formed a political and economic cartel that primarily functioned out of the Southern United States. Divides between the Northern and Southern United States would also begin in the late 1600s to early 1700s:

Puritan oppression, including torture and imprisonment of many leaders of non-Puritan Christian sects, led to the (voluntary or involuntary) “banishment” of many Christian leaders and their followers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This impact of Puritanism on many new colonists led or contributed to the founding of new colonies—Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New Hampshire, and others—as religious havens that were created for those who wanted to live outside the oppressive reach of the existing theocracy. The power and influence of Puritan leaders in New England declined further after the Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1690s. Beginning as a trial of one or several self-avowed witches who admitted to practicing voodoo-type rituals with malicious intent, the trials ended with a number of innocent people being falsely accused, found guilty, and executed. “

Freedom of Speech

American Plantation

American Plantation

 

The Thirteen Colonies became the richest European entity by the early 1700s. Europe had been bankrupted by several expensive wars of religion that lasted for almost the span of a century. The Thirteen Colonies had become dominated by enterprising Puritan interests who often defied English trade laws through local smuggling. During the English currency crises that followed the Restoration of the Monarchy, Great Britain imposed stricter mercantilist policies to stem the smuggling in the Americas, but religious conflicts at home made these policies impossible to enforce. The colonies had resorted to utilizing their own local fiat currencies over the British pound, and the secondary economy had become widely accepted and very profitable as a covert means of making transactions with other nations like France and Spain.

In 1688, King James the Second was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution by an alliance between the Parliamentarians and William of Orange-Nassau, the King of Holland. This war was funded by Puritan and Calvinist groups from both the Americas and Holland. William of Orange had seized power following the end of the Eighty Year’s War and had been behind two rebellions with England following the ascent of James II to the throne just three years prior. James II began expanding military buildup to counteract William’s already large standing army coming out of the Eighty Years War; he disbanded parliament completely and passed laws allowing complete religious freedom, even for Catholics. The appointments of Catholics to high political positions immediately triggered hatred among the Protestant oligarchical elite and another parliamentarian coup plot was hatched. The birth of the King’s son as a Catholic triggered immediate call for a coup d’etat to prevent Papal control of the English throne and an alliance with France. William of Orange invaded England, defeating the English Army and displacing the House of Stuart from the throne, becoming William III of England or William the Conqueror. Anti-Catholic riots wiped out what was left of the emerging Catholic power base and English parliament was restored under its new Dutch masters.

William of Orange

William of Orange

A new Bill of Rights was created promoting more social freedoms that had ever been allowed before. Difficulties in maintaining colonial government necessitated that voting be permitted among the white male land owning class in the colonies to make general legislative decisions; this led to the foundation of independent governance in the American colonies. Land ownership was widespread and half of all men who were not slaves were eligible to vote. The Seven Years War, also known as the French and Indian War, started in 1754 brought the colonies to the peak of their prosperity, becoming both the frontline supplier and economic middleman of another war between the imperial powers. Domination by the rich southern planters in American politics had given impetus for the northern merchant class to expand their lands into the Ohio River Valley, this led to promotion of a colonial war with the French by the American aristocracy in collusion with the British military who was already leading a series of colonial conflicts against the French. The French were outnumbered and forged an alliance with the Indian tribes to fight against the British, a rivalry which has already existed since the arrival of British colonists. The American British aristocracy, which included George Washington, the largest landowner in the entire Thirteen colonies to lead failed attacks against the French Forts in the Ohio River Valley provoking a wider war. Ironically many of the leaders of the revolutionary war would lead side by side with their soon to be mortal enemies within the high command of the British military.

Seven Years War

Seven Years War

The British would continue to suffer military defeats until 1757, when the British adopted spreading smallpox into the Indian villages. The British military blockade, which was built on premium American hemp, was successful at limiting French shipments, causing the French military to rely on shady American smugglers who often double-dealed the French transports. The Treaty of Paris in 1763, ceded Eastern Canada and the territory to the Mississippi River to the British. The presence of the British military began to heavily impact colonial life as British military officers began to commandeer homes. Lands that had been sought for expansion were restricted by the crowns as “Indian Territories” and taxes and levy’s on goods and services were increased. The crown and British Parliament had become indignant towards colonial smuggling; it had proven to be a military detriment during the Seven Years War and the British intended to stamp out the problem.  It’s highly questionable as to whether or not the Founding Fathers smoked hemp, George Washington was known to have intense gum disease and false teeth from tobacco use. Hemp was however widely used as the number one cash crop in the colonial period with the Ohio River Valley and Kentucky regions being the most prosperous.

British Parliament established the first direct tax known as the Stamp Act to stem the currency problems in the colonies; this required a British stamp on all legal documents including medications like medical cannabis, contracts, mortgages, titles, newspapers and many other official items. This allowed Britain to collect the colonial currency and take it out of monetary circulation. “In 1764 the British Parliament enacted the Sugar Act and the Currency Act, further vexing the colonists. The following year, the British enacted the Quartering Acts, which required British soldiers to be quartered at the expense of residents in certain areas.” Colonists objected to this as well. The British were turning the colonies into a de facto military colony. Britain would impose the debts of the Seven Years Wars on the colonies as an excuse for the military expansion.

13 Colonies w/ Ohio Rivery Valley

13 Colonies w/ Ohio Rivery Valley

In 1765 the Sons of Liberty formed. They used public demonstrations, violence and threats of violence to ensure that the British tax laws were unenforceable. While openly hostile to what they considered an oppressive Parliament acting illegally, colonists persisted in sending numerous petitions and pleas for intervention from a monarch to whom they still claimed loyalty. The Sons of Liberty were middle class unionists and tradesmen, lawyers, and political thugs; a small minority that had come to benefit from guild like organizations that played off the competition between the industrialist and the plantation class. They would recruit members of the lower classes to brutalize, tar and feather, lynch and publically execute British tax officials to encourage colonial violence against the authorities. The colonists felt they were being punished for being British citizens and the American oligarchy did not like what they viewed as attempts by the crown to lean on their hard earned wealth. The Townshend Acts would impose tariffs on all supplies from Britain, a move of economic subjugation in the mercantilist system. Boycotts of British goods became the colonial response including a restriction on the production of hemp, a very severe detriment to the health of the British navy which had come to rely on American hemp for ships and sails.

Duties were repealed except the one on British Tea because the British East India Company needed a bailout; Britain subsidized the tea price well below the American price and this was met with hostility by the American public. The economic warfare instigated by British parliament along with the colonial violence led to events like the Boston Tea Party and various militia revolts throughout the colonies. British parliament was split between the Tory (Conservative) and Whig (Liberal) parties who were split on the issue of the colonies; the Tories wanted direct control over the colonies while the Whigs favored subordinate but independent government. Whig party leaders however were from the British military and they had interest in establishing colonial America firmly in the military interests of Britain; the Tories were led by Lord Frederick North, The Earl of Guilford. North had ridden the success of Tory influence in the victory of the Seven Years War and had good relationship with King George III. North had experience in handling colonial wars with the first Falklands War over the South American island group with Spain. North was able to obtain French allegiance in the matter and the threat of war forced Spain to retreat from the Falklands and estranged them from France.

North viewed the colonies with contempt, as a Tory he was a royalist and had come to blame the Puritans, which now represented the colonies to most Britons, for the problems of the British Empire during the period following the Eighty Years War. In response to the Tea Party and the various American rebellions, North abolished the Massachusetts government and imposed a military dictatorship under General Thomas Gage in 1774. Gage began a campaign of disarmament throughout Massachusetts, provoking an event known as the Powder Alarm when dozens of American patriots sprang into action to ambush British troops and move supplies to new locations. This would eventually lead to the Paul Revere Incident and the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

Lexington and Concord

Lexington and Concord

The final insult would come with the Quebec Act that extended Canada’s boundaries to the much desired Ohio River Valley to the oligarchy this was the last straw. The American War of Independence would begin, as American oligarchs from both the planter and merchant class aligned to separate themselves from England. They knew that the conflicts with the British military could only increase from here, they had become far wealthier than their British counterparts abroad and did not see eye to eye religiously or politically with them. They had all descended from families that had wished to establish a new world of societal and religious freedom and that chance had finally come; the economic blockades had been effective in keeping supplies balanced, winning the war was a matter of strategy and overcoming the British military experience.  They had attempted to convince the Quebecois to join them during the First Continental Congress but they had turned down the new American oligarchy. The Second Continental Congress would convene in 1775 with representative plantation and merchant oligarchs from all 13 colonies being present.

Freedom From Want

Articles of Confederation

Articles of Confederation

 

The Articles of Confederation were the law of the land by 1777, however the period of the Articles was very different than how most Americans believe the founding of the country occurred. Many Americans believe following the revolution, the United States was an immediate democracy, but this is very far from the truth; the United States was originally established as an oligarchical republic under the rule of wealthy landlords descended from English nobility. American nationalists led by Samuel Adams would come to reject the Articles of Confederation as a period of oligarchical tyranny and unrest. The oligarchy had intended to formalize an administration over the inter-colonial currency system Benjamin Franklin had created. Governmental developments occurred throughout the revolutionary war and to look at the politics of the provisional government of the Second Continental Congress is key to understanding the ideologies of the upper class during this period.

The idea behind the Second Continental Congress was to form an independent government and coordinate the rebellion that had broken out at Lexington and Concord. The Continental Army was formed under the leadership of George Washington, financing from France and Holland would be provided by John Hanson, a landowner almost equal in wealth and influence to Washington. They began issuing paper money called Continentals to counter the influence of British currency and counterfeiting in the colonies. The Declaration of Independence was passed, along with the Model Treaty, a free trade agreement and the Articles of Confederation which created an oligarchical, Republic of states with a highly decentralized government composed of the reigning landed gentry. Foreign policy from the central government was impossible and state governments began to establish their own trade policies and foreign policies to suit the needs of their local oligarchies. The Second Continental Congress was highly criticized for its inability to impose taxes for military spending and were thus unable to recollect dispersed continentals to stave off inflation from over-circulation. However the Northwest Ordinance which was to establish American dominion over the Ohio River Valley was accomplished and the interests of the American oligarchy to take over the farming prospects of that area had been accomplished.

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

The mistaken perception is that many of the American oligarchs wanted the government to work during the war, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Oligarchical interests were split into three camps that competed and sabotaged processes in the interests of power. The first camp sought an independent set of nation-states based on the 13 colonies, each would be governed by its own oligarchical collective that would have a shared military interest but independent economies that would trade amongst each other favorably to retain economic advantage over Europe, who had come to depend on the colonies for trade. Another aspect of this group were the nationalists, who were primarily nobles who were military officers, who felt that their risk for independence was not only a religious duty but an ‘all or nothing’ task. The first group primarily consisted of the Northern landowners who were heavily vested in manufacturing, the middle class and small domestic plantations. The second camp sought to make war against Britain to vie for an autonomous state within the British Commonwealth that would remain in the British Empire but have nearly autonomous economic freedom and be under the rule of the landed gentry that was tied to the British aristocracy. The second group consisted of large noble landowners who feared threats to their property rights from both British parliament and the merchant class, they were largely southern planters and large Northern plantation owners. The third camp sought to ride the fence and manipulate both sides to ensure the most favorable outcomes to both their lands and loans.

The new government was highly decentralized and allowed state oligarchs to retain the most amount of power as possible. Society was stratified among the white male landowners, white merchants, white laborers and farmers, indentured servants and slaves. Taxes were not allowed to be collected and the oligarchs were content as such, believing that their position in the New World gave them strategic advantages unshared by anyone else in the world and that the civilian militias would be sufficient in repelling Indian and foreign attacks. They also believed in having a manipulative foreign policy with states having the ability to make and break treaties on their own, even at the expense of other states. The Continental Congress was supposed to retain the domain of foreign policy, but this was hardly honored by the ambitious local oligarchs who sought to use treaties to improve their financial standing.

The states themselves were viewed almost like competing oligarchical corporations operating under one confederation. They each retained their own laws, legal courts and jurisdictions that were maintained by the local oligarchs; so called ‘freemen’, which came from the English term for a man who was not bound by debt, servitude or enslavement were permitted to openly travel between the colonies and received equal treatment within each state; people considered ‘paupers, vagabonds and fugitives’ were not permitted freedom of movement and became a discriminated class, not sharing the same rights as the freemen. It was essentially a society drawn upon rigid class distinctions, much like the Republic of Venice and Greek city-states like Athens and Sparta, where being poor had been practically outlawed. The Articles outlined the collection of monies through a property tax but the sovereignty of the states allowed them to nullify the tax, disproportionate currency allotments and inter-state debts also created economic friction between the states.

In order to better control civil order, the position called The President of the Congress was enhanced, borrowing from the idea of a position in the Republic of Venice known as the ‘Doge’, with President’s only being allowed to serve one year terms. The Republic of Venice was a model for much of the American government, drawing from their congressional system known as the Gran Consiglio which was a congressional body of competing oligarchical factions; a rigorous anonymous voting process would occur to pick a member of the Consiglio to become the Doge or President and they would have the ability to administer the government and make military decisions. The Doge was almost always in constant state of political struggle against rival factions seeking to trump each other’s power within the Gran Consiglio, America’s government would be no different.

The President would be elected by the oligarchical representatives of the Second Continental Congress to make administrative decisions and settle disputes between the states; the President would also be responsible for collaborating the military generals to oversee the administrative affairs of the military. Prior to this, the position had been a congressional ceremonial role that was largely administered by John Hancock and John Jay in the First Continental Congress. The first President was Samuel Huntington who had been elected for his effective oratory and meeting skills. He regarded his position as highly ceremonial at first but soon realized the impending crisis between the cost of war debts and the increasing currency crisis that was being created between the colonies. He struggled between 1779 and 1781 to not only get the colonies to ratify the Articles but to also pay taxes and war debts to keep fighting Great Britain. Ill health forced him out of office in mid-1781 to be temporarily replaced by the lawyer Thomas MacKean who oversaw the office until the end of the Revolutionary war hostilities later that year.

John Hanson

John Hanson

Ratification of the laws would occur from 1777 to 1781, with Maryland holding out under the influence of the very powerful John Hansen who had been responsible for much of the financing of the war. Hansen was the second richest man in the colonies and controlled the decisions of the Maryland House of Delegates, its colonial government; he had competed intensely with his rival John Hancock for power within the new government. Hancock had influence within the American military for financing the armaments of the minutemen and his wealth nearly rivaled that of both Hansen and George Washington. The Continental Congress had struggled to govern and the inflation crises generated by the Revolutionary War and the lack of tax collection called for restructuring of the government. This could not be accomplished until all states had ratified the Articles of Confederation. Hansen desiring a position of power within the federal establishment bargained the President of the Congress in exchange for Maryland’s signature barring John Hancock’s ambitions for the position post-war. Hanson would dominate Congress for the following year, implementing his vision of what the Articles of Confederation meant, being a rigid oligarchical society largely built on the economy of slavery. His close relationship with George Washington was effective in spreading his influence and they often worked together politically to reach post-war goals. Hansen was known for his harsh attitude towards slaves, with slave escape attempts from his own plantation occurring even during his presidency.

Hansen’s economic policies from 1781 to the end of 1784 were exceedingly brutal for the American people. The anti-tax stance of the American oligarchy, not wanting to part with silver & gold specie payments to foreign creditors, led to decisions by the Continental Congress to allow the Continental currency to effectively devalue and default. Hansen allowed oligarchical debt to be consolidated with the national debt to stimulate competitive devaluation which led to a period of sharp food and goods inflation. The lower and middle classes, who had primarily used the continental as a means of commerce through the war suddenly found themselves with a valueless currency amidst a sharp increase in the cost of living expenses. Oligarchical entities continued their lives untouched by the economic chaos as their debts were being guilefully transferred to the state and they were able to make payments with traditional hard currency. Hansen and his influenced predecessors Boudinot and Mifflin would continue these policies by implementing austerity on the federal government as inflation increased and tax receipts continued to decline; Hansen did not believe these policies would come to affect ‘Freemen’.

At the end of his term Hansen and Washington chose Elias Boudinot, a lawyer and banker from New Jersey to succeed Hansen. Military engagement with the British had ended prior to Hansen’s term at Yorktown but the war continued on as France. America’s ally in the war, engaged in full conflict with England. Boudinot would work with the British to end the blockade and create preliminary agreements to the Treaty of Paris, his successor Thomas Mifflin would sign the Treaty the following year in 1783 but only after great difficulty in getting all of the states to ratify it.

Richard Henry Lee

Richard Henry Lee

Richard Henry Lee, a colonial aristocrat would take over the position in late 1784; his position in society was much higher and he was able to govern more independently without sponsors. Lee would attempt to resolve the economic crisis that afflicted post-war America; he tried to resolve the currency crisis by pegging the Dollar to the Spanish Dollar of the Spanish Empire. By the time Lee took office, the Continental currency had collapsed and had to be replaced by the US dollar which Lee argued could no longer be backed by collapsing public credit. Oligarchs were unwilling to adopt central banking initiatives which called for a backing by gold and silver specie. Lee negotiated the end of the British blockade and restored the American trade system to bring in more foreign currency.

Lee also denied claims by states to the Ohio River Valley, a highly contentious issue among the state American oligarchies seeking westward expansion; instead Lee claimed the land to be property of the government to be sold back to the oligarchy in a bid to reduce war debts. Lee argued the land grab was necessity because the United States had reached the limit of its foreign credit and he, like many of the oligarchs, refused to implement taxes. Lee, however found it difficult to enforce the new land ordinances without a large standing police force or frontier military to fight Indian raids and enforce laws. The economy continued to deteriorate due to foreign and domestic economic conditions despite the currency pegging agreements; mercantilist policies of both the Spanish and English empires led to price manipulation and a cabal of oligarch’s which included Lee himself used the power of Congress to transfer their own trade debts onto the state. They also nullified interstate debts using their position which led to increased financial friction and rivalry within the Union.

John Hancock

John Hancock

Domestic unrest began to intensify during Lee’s reign over opposition to the abuse of Congress and the oligarchy. The economic disparity between rich and poor had reached an unbearable state within just a few years of America’s infancy and fractured the class alliances which had formed the backbone of the American military during the Revolutionary War. John Hancock, a nationalist who had entertained a strong patriotic reputation along with George Washington, was brought in to be President of the Congress to attempt to resolve the deteriorating situation in the middle of 1775. Hancock, however, had come to resent the Congressional body as an oligarchical dictatorship and declined to attend despite his position due to excuses of ill health and political unrest. Hancock’s subtle but open disdain for the Congress led to organizations of groups that had come from nationalist factions of the government to overthrow the perceived oligarchical threat to their freedom. Following Hancock’s resignation, the President of Congress was assumed by Nathaniel Gorman in the summer of 1786, a member of the Massachusetts elite with close ties to the past regimes. During the same summer, currency pressures would intensify as a shortage of hard currency would prompt a bout of severe deflation, economic depression and heavy handed policies of domestic austerity by oligarchical governments of the states.

In Massachusetts, a large majority of the population were farmers and the deflation had forced them to sell their lands in order to raise money to buy goods and pay debts. The oligarchy used specie to buy these lands at cut rate prices and the currency manipulation became widely viewed as an attempt by the merchant oligarchy, who thrived on the import/export business, to conduct a land grab.  Also foreign debtors became wise to the attempts at competitive devaluation and demanded payment of debts in hard currency, new issuance of credit would not be permitted unless debts would be settled this way going forward creating an economic problem for the merchant class.

Despite the continent-wide shortage of hard currency, merchants began to demand the same from their local business partners, including those merchants operating in the market towns in the state’s interior. Many of these merchants passed on this demand to their customers, although the popular governor, John Hancock, did not impose hard currency demands on poorer borrowers and refused to actively prosecute the collection of delinquent taxes.”

Hancock viewed this problem as self-created by the merchant class for adopting economic policies that punished and ostracized the poor as well as refusing to make good on the merchant classes debts. After resigning his position in the Continental Congress he refused to take on another government position citing government and merchant class corruption; he was already engaged in a rivalry with the landed oligarchy, especially an ally of Richard Henry Lee, James Bowdoin, who had competed on behalf of the merchant class against Hancock for the governorship of Massachusetts.

Gov. James Bowdoin

Gov. James Bowdoin

New tensions also arose between the northern and southern states, as the Southern planters who depended on the value of food prices saw their profits crushed by the deflation and that the Northern merchants were beginning to dominate economic decision making via their access to foreign currency through trade.

The rural farming population was generally unable to meet the demands being made of them by merchants or the civil authorities, and individuals began to lose their land and other possessions when they were unable to fulfill their debt and tax obligations. This led to strong resentments against tax collectors and the courts, where creditors obtained and enforced judgments against debtors, and where tax collectors obtained judgments authorizing property seizures”.

Historian Howard Zinn quoted a farmer from that period as stating:

I have been greatly abused, have been obliged to do more than my part in the war, been loaded with class rates, town rates, province rates, Continental rates and all rates … been pulled and hauled by sheriffs, constables and collectors, and had my cattle sold for less than they were worth … The great men are going to get all we have and I think it is time for us to rise and put a stop to it, and have no more courts, nor sheriffs, nor collectors nor lawyers.”

Part 2: https://thegreenpulpit.com/2014/04/27/interlude-america-the-venetian-republic-part-2/

The Green Chazzan 

 

Sources:

Murrin, John M. (2008). Liberty, Equality, Power, A History of the American People: To 1877. Wadsworth Publishing Company. p. 187. ISBN 978-1-111-83086-1.

Jensen, Merrill (1959). The Articles of Confederation. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-299-00204-6.

Ketcham, Ralph (1990). Roots of the Republic: American Founding Documents Interpreted. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 383. ISBN 978-0-945612-19-3.

Burnett, Edward Cody (1941). The Continental Congress. New York: Norton.

Fowler, William M., Jr. (1980). The Baron of Beacon Hill: A Biography of John Hancock. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-27619-5.

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3 thoughts on “Interlude: America, The Venetian Republic – Part I

  1. Terry M Gresham says:

    Reblogged this on okieprogressive.

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