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The Last Time a Republican Reigned in Big Business - 1903

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

TWO MANY GOVERNORS


I am surprised that nobody in Nebraska during the winter of 1890-91 got lynched. In fact, a few people may have been shot, but the newspapers buried the details. Tempers were a little tense on the prairie that winter and the newspapers all had a dog in the hunt, so to speak, and they could not be trusted to be either fair or accurate. In the election on November 4, 1890, the Republicans and Democrats spilt seven seats in the state senate and forty-six seats in the house between them. But every other seat, eighteen in the senate and fifty-four in the house, gave a clear majority to an upstart third party, the so called “hogs in the parlor”, the People’s Independent Party. And to those who dream about the transforming- log-jam busting magic of a third party in Congress, let the experiences of the PIPs be a lesson in reality.

Cornhusker politics have often been a lot more colorful than the reticent citizens are wont to admit to outsiders. What other state’s tourism motto could boast with a straight face “We go both ways”? Either they don’t think anybody else is bright enough to get that joke, or they aren’t. And either possibility is not a compliment for Nebraska.

Even before Nebraska was admitted to the union, on January 7, 1859, a fracas of fisticuffs fractured the Nebraska territorial legislature, between those who lived north and those who lived south of the Platte River. It may seem pointless to be divided by the stream famously described as “too thick to drink, and too thin to plow”, a river which, in the late summer, resembles more plain than flood plain, but politics is rarely about reality and doubly so in Nebraska, where reality is so flat and peppered with cow poo. After the brawl the South Platte faction removed themselves across the river to the hamlet of Florence, which had, according to the newspaper “Nebraskian”, “…been, for months, laboring assiduously to delude strangers that it was a city”.

The entire place only became a state over President Andrew Johnson’s veto in 1867. And in the 1870 Supreme Court decision “Baker V. Morton” the justices had to slap down the state’s power structure for stealing land from a poor sod buster and using it to bribe state legislators in the infamous “Skriptown scandal”. But all of this would prove a mere foretaste to the bounty of bovine pie hurling offered up after the election of 1890.

To the farmers living on the Nebraska prairie in the 1880’s it seemed the railroads were standing on their throats. And to those concerned that Health Care Reform and Energy Policy are not moving fast enough, I urge you to study the century long struggle against the railroad monopolies. All across the American west, farmers had bought their land from the railroads. The banks which held their mortgages were owned by the railroads. The only way to get their wheat and corn to market was via the railroads. The only silos to store their harvested crops while awaiting shipment were owned by the railroads. The railroad monopolies set the shipping rates and the silo rates and there was no appeal to their heartless bookkeeping.

Try and start a bank to break the railroad monopoly, and the state legislators would make it illegal. Try and build your own silo, and the state legislators would make it illegal. Politics in Nebraska were so rotten it was said the Union Pacific Railroad picked one of the States’ two Senators, while the other was chosen by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

Theoretically the American two-party system would offer the oppressed a choice. But by 1890 the Democrats supported a laissez faire approach to capitalism, while the Republicans were tied to an activist government in favor of the Capitalists. The oppressed majority were cow pied out to luck.

Thus was born the Farmer’s Alliance, which morphed into the People’s Independent Party. It was forged in response to decades of railroad corruption, railroad influence selling, and political stagnation. And on top of that, a drought not equaled again until the dust bowl of the 1930’s reduced many Nebraska farmers to poverty. According to one Republican observer the ideal world envisioned by these “hayseeds” was a combination of a Victor Hugo plot and a Baptist revival meeting. But the truth was all that all most of these farmers wanted, was for somebody to acknowledge the injustice of their treatment. That cry for justice had produced the results of November 1890. But when the Nebraska legislature convened in joint session in January of 1891 things very quickly developed into that Victor Hugo melodrama.

To begin with, the new speaker of the House, Independent Sam Elder, decided he was going to bypass the acting President of the Senate, Republican George Meiklejohn (who was also the lieutenant-governor) and preside over both houses of the legislature all by himself. That was plainly illegal and extra-constitutional but Sam figured that desperate times called for desperate measures.

However, Elder’s plans for a grand investigation of election fraud and a remaking of state government were derailed when Meiklejohn grabbed the gavel off the podium and refused to return it. There was a shoving, grasping cat fight for the precious totem, which Meiklejohn eventually won. From this point the business of government in Nebraska got very noisy and ground to a complete halt, all over the issue of the certification of the new governor.

As these things were normally counted, the clear loser was the Republican candidate L.D. Richards, who received just 68,878 votes. The Democrat, James Boyd, had received 71,331 votes, and was, according to county election officials from across the state (who were all Democrats or Republicans, of course), the winner. But Speaker Elder was certain the actually winner had been John Powers, the candidate of Elder's People’s Independent Party. Officially Powers had received 70,187 votes, making him second by 1,144 votes. But Elder believed with good reason that 2,000 fraudulent votes had been cast for Boyd in Douglas County, centered on Omaha. And Speaker Elder was demanding an immediate investigation.

With the Republicans siding with the Democrats against the Independents, neither side dared to adjourn. Elder presided from the podium, calling on speakers and announcing votes, while Meiklejohn sat at the clerk’s desk, doing the same. Nobody got anything done because nobody could hear anybody else. Sometime after midnight, with the Republicans caucusing with their Democratic allies in an anteroom, Speaker Elder ordered the doors locked and told the sergeant-at-arms to admit no one without a written pass from him; check.

Meanwhile, the presumed victor, James Boyd, had requested and received an immediate hearing before the State Supreme Court. Boyd was asking for a writ of mandamus (“…a court order that required another court, government official, public body, corporation or individual, to perform a certain legally required act”). Boyd’s attorney argued his case before three judges of the Nebraska state Supreme Court, in a hearing room crowded with armed angry spectators from various political factions. After the hearing it was expected that the judges would retire to consider the arguments. Instead the justices held an immediate huddle and after a few moments Chief Justice Cobb announced that the weighty issues of freedom of speech, suffrage, democracy, public order and good government were all irrelevant. The court had decided that certifying election results was simply a clerical duty and not a matter of choice. Cobb signed the writ of mandamus on the spot and then ran for the exit; checkmate.

The spectators were so stunned they were frozen. And that was probably the only reason none of freshly disenfranchised voters in the room started shooting. The sheriff of Lancaster County (a Democrat), surrounded by deputies (more Democrats), smashed down the locked doors of the legislative chamber, charged to the front of the room and forcefully served the writ upon Speaker Elder. They practically threw it in his face.

And to everyone’s surprise, Speaker Elder did as he was ordered to do. John Boyd was officially declared the official governor of the state of Nebraska. “Thus”, said Judge Bayard Paine forty-five years later, “tragedy was averted in Nebraska statecraft.” Instead, tragedy was converted into low comedy.

At that point in time the most hated man in Nebraska was probably the outgoing governor, Republican John Thayer. It was Thayer’s open kowtowing to the railroads over the previous year which been most responsible for the defeat of the Republican Party in the past election. And he now refused to surrender his office, saying he would “hold on to the chair, the seat, and the office of Governor until the cows come home.” Whatever happens in Nebraskan politics, one way or the other, it always seems to come down to cows.

While the legislature bickered downstairs, Thayer barricaded himself in the governor’s offices upstairs. He called up 25 men of the State militia under the appropriately named Captain Rhody, and the Omaha Police Department, to stand guard over his self. Having finally taken the oath, Boyd moved into other offices in the State House and dispatched the Lincoln County sheriff (again) to take procession of the executive suites. But this time the sheriff ran up against an armed militia which refused to surrender. Fist fights again broke out, until Boyd ordered his side to retire.

On January 10th it finally occurred to the Captain Rhody that he and his little band of men had been maneuvered out on a limb, and if that limb collapsed he was the one most likely to be lynched from it. Rhody announced to Thayer that “I have saluted you for the last time”, and then marched his little army back to their barracks. Abandoned, Thayer surrendered the Governor’s offices, and Boyd moved in.

But Thayer was far from ready to give up. He hired his own attorney and on January 13th 1891, appealed to the state Supreme Court. His argument was inventive; John Boyd was not qualified to be governor because he was not an American citizen because he had not been born in America. And that made John Thayer the original “birther”.

Indeed Boyd had been born in Ireland in 1834. His family had immigrated to America when he was 14. His father had begun the naturalization paperwork in 1849 but events, both personal and political, had intervened. In 1856 the Boyd family had moved to Nebraska territory and had become involved in business and local politics. They were still residents in 1867 when Nebraska had been admitted to the union over President Johnson’s objection. But Boyd’s father had never completed the naturalization paperwork. Ergo, argued ex-Governor Thayer, John Boyd was not qualified to be governor of Nebraska.

And on May 5th, 1891 the State Supreme Court agreed with Thayer. Of course most of the judges had been appointed by Thayer, but Boyd chose not to call the Lincoln County Sheriff again. Boyd was out and ex-governor Thayer was Governor again. The Nebraska governor's office was beginning to resemble the prize in a game of musical chairs, but without the music. But what Thayer had done was a desperate power grab and doomed to failure in the long run, if for no other reason than it assured that any Irish Republicans in Nebraska were not likely to vote Republican again in the near future.

More immediately, Boyd appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Their decision was announced by Chief Justice Fuller: “Manifestly the nationality of the inhabitants of territory acquired by conquest or cession becomes that of the government under whose dominion they pass…The judgment of the supreme court of Nebraska is reversed…” It was an 8 to 1 judgment, issued on January 2nd, 1892. And thus the election of 1890 was finally decided, over a year later. Boyd resumed his office on February 3. But, since the Governor of Nebraska served just a two year term, the antics of Governor Thayer and Speaker Elder, had effectively cut Boyd’s term in half.

And that is the kind of political victory that only makes sense when figured by the quarterly profit and loss statements of a corporate boardroom. Politically, the Republicans were still out on that limb, in strong disfavor in Nebraska, and the Democrats made the smart move of courting the Independents.

The frustrated farmers and their leaders had come to the realization that to fight the large railroads would take a national political movement, and the Nebraska Independents joined similar groups around the nation. They found themselves drawn toward the Democratic Party, and in the Presidential election of 1896 they aligned themselves behind Nebraska Democratic Senator William Jennings Bryant, for President. He lost.

And that defeat deflated the Independents nationally. They never gave up. But they never completely beat the railroads, which retained a great influence over national politics well into the 1950’s. But rather than the Democrats absorbing the Independents, in fact the Independents absorbed the Democratic Party. What came out of their joining was a populist Democratic party, a party that saw government as a force to redress grievances, a party which, for all its numerous failings, was a people’s party. And in that small way, the Nebraska populists won.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A (VERY) SHORT HISTORY OF FRAUD IN AMERICA


I have come to the conclusion that no one should be handed a masters or Phd in economics or business from any American university without an intimate understanding of the history of fraud in America. We have buried this knowledge, as if afraid of teaching our best and brightest how to cheat, despite there being clear evidence that no such primer is required. The energetic, the ambitious and the greedy have always found a way to cheat the public. And the mantra of deregulation is another proof that a good education in cheating might at least warn the suckers. For example, did you know that one of the men who did the most to advance the greatest fraud upon the American people in the 19th Century was “Honest” Abe Lincoln?

Lincoln’s break through case as a lawyer involved the May 6, 1856 destruction of the “Government Bridge”, the first bridge over the Mississippi River, between Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa. Just two weeks after the bridge was opened to trains a steamboat, the “Effie Afton”, ran into one of the bridge piers which caused a fire that destroyed the boat and one span of the bridge. The owners of the Effie sued the owners of the bridge, The Mississippi and Missouri Railroad, claiming that bridges were a navigational hazard to river commerce.

The mercurial Charles Durant, one of the railroad’s officers, hired Lincoln to defend the bridge. In lieu of payment, Lincoln accepted $3,000 in railroad stock (the equivalent of about $66,000 today). After winning the case (he got a hung jury) Lincoln traveled all the way to Kansas to inspect the intended route of the future transcontinental railroad, which would be built by corporations that Durant ran and manipulated. And then, one of the first bills signed into law by President Lincoln was “The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862” which officially authorized the Central Pacific railroad to build east from California and the Union Pacific (whose vice president was Charles Durant) to build west from Council Bluffs, Iowa. This meant that Lincoln now owned some very valuable stock.

To pay for the construction across all those hundreds of empty miles, the railroad company was to be re-reimbursed for the total cost of building the line. That was intended to allow the railroads to break even. They were expected to make their profits from the grants of land they were awarded on either side of the rails. The completed rail line would make the land accessible, which would make it valuable. But the fact that Lincoln traveled all the way to Kansas to see the route and the property with his own eyes, showed that Lincoln knew enough not to trust the word of Charles Durant. And yet he had just turned this rapacious wolf loose upon the American taxpayers. Well, Lincoln had an excuse; he was a little distracted by the outbreak of the Civil War.

Doctor Charles Durant (Medicine had been his formal training), immediately showed his true genius by first buying out Union Pacific stockholder Herbert Hoxie for $10,000. This, in addition to stock he had already owned, gave Durant majority control of the railroad, even though the “Railroad Act” had limited individual stock ownership to avoid just the kind of manipulation Durant had in mind. Then Durant bought stock in competing railroads (on margin, of course), and spread rumors that they would soon be joined to the Union Pacific line, thus giving them a piece of the projected profits from the transcontinental trade.

When those railroad stocks then went up, Durant sold them out. Eventually the suckers realized there would be no joining, and the stocks fell to below their original value. With the Civil War raging Durant had just cleared $5 million from those scams (the equivalent of about $100 million today), and he had yet to lay an inch of rail.

Durant was hot tempered, erratic and prone to manic depression. But he had a genius at making money this way. And what he had done so far was just the prologue. Doctor Durant now came up with an idea he had learned from the French construction of the Seuz Canal.


In early 1864 the good Doctor Durant sent his director of publicity, George Francis Train, on a search for just the right corporate vehicle. Train found what he was looking for in the Pennsylvania Fiscal Agency, one of the innumerable stock schemes chartered by the states to fund "The American people’s railroad to the Western Sea.” None of these shell companies ever laid a single length of rail, but this one still had an effective charter and it was cheap. Train bought the company and renamed it Credit Mobilier, a name vague enough to leave you unsure just what they did. Then he sold shares in this new company for nominal amounts (often even on credit) to the principle stockholders of the Union Pacific Railroad - the majority going, of course, to Doctor Durant.

As the completion in this little of slight-of-hand, the Union Pacific signed an exclusive “no bid” contract with Credit Moblier (meaning themselves) to supply the Union Pacific with all labor, grading, rails, ties, spikes, bridges, abutments, rolling stock and engines needed to actually build and run the railroad; let the fleecing begin

The original engineer of the Union Pacific had calculated that the first 100 miles of track would cost $30,000 per mile to build. But Credit Moblier billed the railroad $60,000 per mile, which was taken directly from the pocket of the federal government. The route also began to meander across the landscape, like a druken sparrow in flight. Each twist and turn added miles to the bill presented to the Federal government. By the end of construction in 1869, the profit from this padding of the construction bills produced a profit for the stockholders of Credit Mobilier of $50 million (equal to about $800 million today). Remember this was not the side of the equation that was supposed to provide a profit for the builders.

Better yet, for the principle investors, the Union Pacific Railroad was something new on the American scene, a “limited liability corporation”. Under the old rules stockholders were liable for any debts the company ran up. A bankrupt company meant bankrupt investors. But investors in the Union Pacific Railroad Limited, including Doctor Durant, Mr. Train and several members of Congress who had been given Union Pacific stock (because they would control any investigations into Credit Moblier) were liable only for the amount they had invested in the U.P. And in many cases that was nothing.  And what little they did have invested, they sold out before the public found out what shoddy work had been done.

By 1869 when the “the people’s railroad to the western Sea”, was completed, it was also bankrupt. It had been looted by Credit Mobilier. The U.P. stock wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. And, of course, by then, the principle investors in Credit Mobilier were off looking for other railroads to loot.

Only after literally thousands of more scams just like this one would congress close the loophole in this particular invitation to fraud, making shell companies like Credit Mobilier illegal, allowing for the seizure of all profits made from them, and assessing fines for even setting them up. This is called regulation. And by regulating the stock market the government atttempts to limit the profits made on Wall Street to the actual profits from the real companies the suckers think they are investing in.

It’s enough to make you realize that if Lincoln had not been murdered in 1865, his reputation might have been more closely tied to that of Doctor Durant. But it is not as if any of the truly powerful in this nation have ever been caught red handed; otherwise the bank executives called before Congress in 2008 to explain the mortgage bubble, would never have had the guts to blame working class citizens for taking on home loans they could not afford after the bubble burst. In the area of economic crime, experience and history makes me want to blame the people with college degrees in finance and business who drew up thousands of those contracts, long before I blame the high school graduates who signed just one of them. And if you don’t agree, you just don’t know your American history like you should.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

THE AXIS OF EGO


I urge those who still adhere to the “Great Man” theory of history, to consider what historian T.H. Watkins has called the “low comedy…” of the American conquest of California. There wasn’t a “Great” man in the entire performance, despite having three chances at one. In fact, the second act was almost reduced to slapstick, thanks largely to Marine Lieutenant Archibald Gillespie.

What should have been the final curtain came down grandly on Act One on August 11, 1847, when the United States captured Los Angeles with little more than a band playing “Yankee Doodle”. Sacramento, Monterey and San Diego had already succumbed to the Americans. After decades of intermittent and ineffective government from Mexico, the 3,000 citizens of the pueblo were optimistic about joining the “Norteamericanos”. But the gringo conquistadors were stretched too thin. And after just three weeks they had to abandon the largest town in California to the oversight of Lt. Gillespie and his forty volunteers, whereupon “Archie” proved to be a far better Lieutenant than he was an Alcalde.

Gillespie was arrogant and not very bright, and had never had an independent command before. Instead of trying to bond with the community leaders, this popinjay bullied and blustered and placed the town under martial law. His curfew starved the stores and cantinas surrounding the plaza until their cash flow resembled the usually anemic L.A. River. Homes were searched and personal belongings were confiscated. Anyone who tried to reason with Gillespie was arrested. Finally, on the night of September 23, when a group of drunken Angelinos got into a fight with some drunken soldiers, the Lieutenant panicked and retreated to a hill top fort overlooking the town.

Unfortunately the fort had no water supply. And this combination of American arrogance and stupidity swelled the Californian rebels’ with self confidence. Their numbers rose to 400. On October 8, 1847 Gillespie was forced to quit the waterless “Fort Monroe”. He retreated to San Pedro, where he recruited seamen and marines from a naval sloop. But 150 picadors drove him off again. (The “greasers” were short on guns and powder, but not brains.) Towns all across southern California now staged their own revolts, and suddenly the American conquest of California, an accomplished fact in mid-August, was in doubt all over again.

Two men rode to Gillespie’s rescue. One was a dull, journeyman soldier with a real talent for carrying a grudge, Brigadier General Stephen Kearny (pronounced 'Karney'),  known as the Father of American Cavalry. He was marching west with 300 dragons after having conquered New Mexico. The other was man was Colonel John C. Fremont, who had an actor’s sense of direction and a soldier’s sense of subtly, and would prove to be one of the luckiest idiots in American history. Fremont was currently in Monterey, commanding the 500 barflies and adventurers of the “California Battalion”, right now the single largest land force West of the Colorado River. Informed of Gillespie’s retreat, Fremont marched south with about 150 of his more sober warriors.

Meanwhile out in the parched, wind swept California high desert, the exhausted General Kearny had run into Kit Carson, who informed him that California was already conquered. Relieved, Kearny sent 200 of his dragoons back to Santa Fe, and resumed his march with just 100 men. But then he ran into Gillespie, with the story of the uprising in Los Angeles.

Gillespie assured Kearny that the Californians had almost no guns, were disorganized and could be easily bullied by real soldiers. What followed was the battle of San Pasqual, which ended with a half dozen American dead and both Kearny and Gillespie wounded, (Kearny losing an arm) and the Americans trapped atop a waterless Mesa. They were rescued only when Kit Carson made a daring escape under fire and returned with navy reinforcements from San Diego. Needless to say, after that everybody stopped taking advice from Gillespie.

Meanwhile Fremont had been marching down the coast, reasserting American dominance like an avenging angel, sort of. There was no fighting. There was no shooting. There were no flaming haciendas.

And most important of all, after peacefully occupying San Luis Obispo on December 14, 1847, Fremont was met not by an opposing army but by the lovely Dona Ruiz, married to the cousin of Andres Pico, the commander of the Californians. She was the perfect weapon of choice. Lovely, smart and sophisticated, she seduced Fremont into considering the possibility of a peace treaty with the rebellious natives who had just violated an earlier surrender.

Three weeks later Kearney was approaching the San Gabriel River, marching northward towards Los Angeles. He was now leading a force of 550 sailors and his surviving dragoons. He found his route blocked by about 300 Californian picadors. Kearney ordered his cannon to unlimber, when he as countermanded by Commodore Stockton, who commanded the U.S. Navy in these parts. Technically, Kearney was in command of all land forces while Stockton was just as an observer. But all the gunners were sailors, and rather than argue the point Kearney waded his infantry across the knee deep river. After Kearney got his guns to the other side and fired off a few rounds, the Californians retreated.

Two days later, on January 9, came the real fighting at the battle of La Mesa. All day the Californians rode around the Americans, looking for an opening, and finding none. They suffered 15 dead and 25 wounded, to 1 dead and 5 wounded Americans. The Californians abandoned Los Angeles and retreated to Pasadena.

On January 10, 1847 American forces entered Los Angeles for the second time. Gillespie was allowed to raise the flag over the post he had squandered, after which he was quietly kept out of sight since because, as another Lieutenant recorded, “The streets were full of desperate and drunken fellows, who…saluted us with every item of reproach.” And I think we can all imagine just what kind of salute that was. Commodore Stockton immediately sent a rider north to find Fremont with the good news. The Pathfinder was easy to find, just over the Cahuenga Pass, in the San Fernando Valley.

Because it was there that Dona Ruiz had reappeared. Dona arranged a meeting between her uncle-in-law, Californian commander Andres Pico, and General Fremont, at a humble six room adobe with the ostentatious title of Campo de Cahuenga. As Fremont explained, “The next morning (January 13, 1847) …in a conference with Don Andreas, the important features of a treaty of capitulation were agreed upon…”

The treaty, signed at a kitchen table, was what might be called “generous”. After turning over all their “artillery and public arms”, of which they had almost none, the Californian soldiers could go home, or they could go south to fight the Americans again, in Mexico. They would not be required to take an oath of allegiance to the United States until a peace treaty was officially signed with Mexico, at some time in the future. The Californians were so pleased with the treaty they threw a 3 day fiesta for Fremont and his men. Appropriately enough, the reconstructed Campo de Cahuenga sits on Lankershim Boulevard, in North Hollywood, at the foot of Universal Studios Amusement Park. And on the bottom of a drawer in that kitchen table, amongst a list of far more important signatures, is my own humble name. But I am getting ahead of myself…

General Kearney was not pleased with the treaty. As the ranking field commander he should have been the one to negotiate and sign it. His men had done all the fighting. He had lost an arm to the Californians. That must have made him a little grumpy. Nor was he happy to hear that Commodore Stockton then took it upon himself to appoint Fremont as the new governor of California; especially since he, Kearny, carried a Presidential appointment making himself governor. There was a lot of ego in the air over the next few weeks, until Kearney finally forced Fremont to acknowledge that legally Kearney was the governor.

He wasn’t governor for long, though. Kearney was ordered to return to Washington to explain what had happened. And not having much trust in the United States Navy - for some reason - he made his return overland. But remember what I said about the General knowing how to carry a grudge? He now unloaded it. One of Kearney’s last acts as governor was to order Fremont to return with him. And as soon as “The Pathfinder” reached Kansas, General Kearney had him arrested and court-martialed for insubordination. Fremont was convicted and discharged from the army.

Kearney was promoted and sent south to take part in the conquest of Mexico. Unfortunately, before he could reach the “Halls of Montezuma”, the general contracted Yellow Fever, He returned to his home in St. Louis where he died in October of 1847 at the age of 54. It had been a very busy year for the General.

And now I have to remind you about Fremont being a lucky idiot. Forced out of the army, Fremont moved with his wife to California where in 1848 he bought some land. And guess what; in 1849 about $10 million worth of gold was found on his property. But that is not yet the lucky part. Fremont became rich enough that in 1856 he could afford to be the first Republican candidate for President. He lost. And then in 1860 the second Republican candidate for president was Abraham Lincoln. He won. And Fremont certainly did not want to deal with all of Lincoln’s problems. So you see how lucky he was.

Oh, and Gillespie? After driving Los Angeles into rebellion, history pretty much dumped him like a hot potato. He retired a Captain before the civil war. He became a businessman and died in San Francisco in August of 1873. He was almost forgotten entirely, but during World War II, the U.S. navy built so many ships they decided to name one of them, a destroyer, after Lt. Gillespie. The DD-609 performed heroic service through out the war, and was then mothballed until 1971. Two years later she became a target hulk and was eventually sunk.

I think it would be a good idea for all future candidates for "Great Man" to keep in mind the ultimate fate of the U.S.S. Gillespie.
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