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.The Eternal American Battle - Humans V Money

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Friday, February 27, 2015

A FOREGON CONCLUSION

I think Thomas Gage (above)  should have called the whole thing off, once the secret was out. And Lord knows it was out almost before General Gage ordered it be kept secret. Maybe the leak was his New Jersey born wife, and maybe it was the government's opponents back in London, and maybe it was just impossible to keep any secrets in a city of 6,700 civilians, occupied by 6,000 soldiers and sailors and their dependents. And maybe the truth is, Britain had already lost the war for American independence before the first shot was fired on 19 April, 1775.
Seven months earlier, on 1 September 1774, General Gage had sent 260 lobster backs 3 miles up the Mystic River to Winter Hill, where they seized the largest supply of gunpowder in the colonies (above). The audacity of Gage's preemptive strike had infuriated thousands of colonists who gathered in Cambridge with their weapons. It was weeks before things calmed down. Since then, Gage had canceled a number of similar expeditions, and pulled all his men back into Boston, abandoning the countryside except for occasional reconnaissance missions. He had warned his London bosses, “if you think ten thousand men sufficient, send twenty; if one million is thought enough, give two; you save both blood and treasure in the end.” What he got, in late February, were orders to get on with disarming the colonists.
Gage's plan was to send out a lightning strike to capture another large supply of powder he'd heard about, 30 miles to the northwest, in Concord. It was a full day's march to get there, giving colonists time to resist, but the expedition could succeed if security was tight and if the rebels were slow to react. So first, Gage wanted to arrest the colonial leaders. He would release them after the powder was safely in Boston, to give him someone to negotiate with. But on Saturday, 8 April, 1775, the two highest value leaders of the Committee of Safety still in Boston, smuggler John Hancock and his cousin, lawyer John Adams, slipped out of the city. Gage heard they had fled to Lexington, 25 miles out the Concord road. Hancock had been born in Lexington, and still owned his family's house there, which was currently occupied by his cousin Lucy and her husband, Jonas Clarke, who was the village pastor. So the first round went to the colonists
The following Monday, 10 April, Gage informed his senior officer, Lieutenant Colonel “Fat Francis” Smith (above), of his plan. Smith suggested a personal reconnaissance, and Gage agreed. So disguised as common travelers 42 year old Colonel Smith and 22 year old Sargent John Howe, who had made a previous reconnaissance, rowed across the Charles River to Cambridge, and started west on foot. After only six miles they stopped at a tavern for breakfast and information. But when Smith claimed to be looking for work, a black servant girl identified Smith by name, and told him he would find plenty of work up the road. Smith retreated back to Boston, but Sergeant Howe continued on. He returned on Wednesday, 12 April, telling Gage the country was so alert it would take 10,000 men to reach Concord and capture the powder and arms the Sargent now confirmed were in Concord.
Three days later, on Saturday 15 April, several companies of grenadiers and light infantry were relieved of their regular duties so they could resole their shoes, change out their canteens, mend their uniforms, and have their muskets serviced. About noon, Royal Navy row boats were seen being gathered in the harbor. At the Green Dragon Tavern on Union Street, one of the rebel leaders remaining in Boston, silversmith Paul Revere, kept the Committee of Safety fully informed of all these preparations..
At nine in the morning, Tuesday, 18 April, patriots in Concord moved their cannon and powder out of town. They already knew the British were coming, and that they were coming soon. About noon John Ballard, a stable boy on Milk Street, reported that a British officer had said there “would be hell to pay, tomorrow”. About two that afternoon, British sailors sent ashore to purchase stores, were heard talking of preparations to row infantry across the Charles River to Cambridge after dark. Doctor Joseph Warren was told by a British officer patient that Hancock and Adams were the intended targets of the movement. 
Around seven that night twenty mounted British officers and sergeants, under the command of Major Edward Mitchell, rode out of Boston, across the Roxbury neck, and headed north. Their mission was to intercept any warning coming from Boston, and to confirm the location of Hancock and Adams. The timing was telling, since most mounted patrols left after dawn and returned by dark. Just an hour later, in Lexington, militia posted a guard at the the Reverend Clarke's house, to protect Adams and Hancock.
About ten that night, under an almost full moon, 700 infantry were formed up in their encampment on the Boston Common, and then marched to the edge of the Back Bay. Boats rowed them across to the Cambridge farm of David Phipps, sheriff for Middlesex County.. The soldiers had to wade ashore through knee high water. Then, Lieutenant John Baker noted “we were halted in a dirty road and stood...waiting for provisions to be brought from the boats...” As the British infantry were stalled on the Concord road, Paul Revere was rowed across Boston Harbor to Charlestown (above), where he had stabled a horse. At about the same time tanner William Dawes managed to slip out of Boston via the Roxbury neck.
About 30 minutes after midnight on Wednesday, 19 April 1775, Paul Revere arrived at Reverend Clarke's house in Lexington. When the guards told him he was making too much noise, the volatile Revere yelled “Noise?! You'll have enough noise before long. The Regulars are out!” At that moment window shutters flew open and a very awake John Hancock invited Revere inside. Within the hour, Revere, joined by William Dawes, and local doctor, 34 year old Samuel Prescott, rode out together to spread the alarm to Concord and beyond. Just north of Lexington the three rebel riders ran into a detachment of Major Mitchell's scouts. Dawes and Revere were captured, but Prescott managed to jump his horse over a roadside fence and escape, taking the alert to Concord. Questioned, Revere told the British there were 500 armed men waiting for them on Lexington Green.

Meanwhile, back on the Phipps farm in the dark, Col. Smith's frustration was growing. It had taken the better part of an hour to get the march restarted, so Smith ordered 53 year old Major John Pitcairn to take the lead with 300 light infantry and marines, and force march until he had seized the bridges north of Concord. Smith would follow with 400 Grenadiers. By the time Pitcairn started it was after after two in the morning. There were only about 2 hours of darkness left. Musket shots and bell alarms were ringing all along the Concord road. Col. Smith sent a messenger back to Boston, requesting reinforcements be dispatched.
In Lexington, about 80 militiamen answered the alarm bell, reporting to 45 year old militia Captain John Parker, a veteran of the famous Roger's Rangers. Parker sent scouts down the road to Cambridge, then, as militiaman Ebenerer Monoe, recalled, “The weather being rather chilly, after calling the roll, we were dismissed, but ordered to remain within call of the drum. The men generally went into (Buckman's) tavern adjoining the common.” (above)  There, most fell asleep in chairs.
The sky had begun to lighten at about 4:15 that Wednesday morning when young Thaddeus Bowman galloped up to the tavern (above). He had been trapped behind Pitcairn's rapid advance, three miles down the road at “Foot of the Rocks.” opposite Pierce's Hill, but had managed to pass the British regulars by crossing fields. Bowman told Parker the regulars were just minutes out of Lexington, and Parker ordered his drummer, William Diman, to sound the “long roll” call to arms. 
 Some 70 militiamen formed a line across the northwest corner of Lexington Green, with Bowman the last man on the right. It is claimed later that Parker told his men, “Stand your ground; don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” But because he suffered from tuberculosis, Parker's voice was raspy and thin, and few of the militia would have been able to hear Parker, if he said it.
In a soft half light, with a crisp chill in the air, it was approaching five in the morning. The sun has not yet risen over the horizon. But Pitcairn can see militia moving parallel to his march, and periodically even see muskets being fired to track his movements. In the past Major Pitcairn has said, “I have so despicable an opinion of the people of this country...I am satisfied they will never attack Regular troops.” But he now halted his men and ordered them to load their weapons and then fix bayonets. As Pitcairn dropped back to check the rear units of his command, forty year old Irishman Lieutenant Jesse Adair, ordered the 100 men in his command to “double step march” into Lexington.
Lexington Green is a triangle formed by the junction of the west trending Boston and Concord road, and the north trending Bedford road. At the apex of the triangle, where the Bedford Road meets the main road, and on the green, stands the village meeting house. The line of Captain Parker's 70 militiamen were anchored on the Bedford Road, about 75 feet from the northwest base of the triangle. This put them well off the Concord Road, so as not to threaten the British regulars marching to Concord. Parker means his little command as a statement of resolve, and nothing more. It makes the last part of Parker's supposed statement suspect at best.
But as Lt. Adair “quick marched” his command into Lexington the meeting house blocked his view of the militia. And he failed to follow the left curve of the Concord road, but angled to the right, up the Bedford road.  After a few yards the militia, almost equal in size to his own command, was suddenly revealed on his left flank. Startled, Lt. Adair ordered his men onto the green and into a “firing line”. As they did so the regulars let off a self confidence inducing cry of “”Huzzah!”, as they had been trained to do. It took, probably from first sight to the regular battle line, less than a minute.
Major Pitcairn was leading the next three regular companies in line, and guided them in quick step, correctly, angling to the left - west on the Concord road. But as he cleared the meeting house, Pitcairn suddenly saw the militia, and also Adair's company, spreading quickly out onto the green in a line 30 feet in front of the militia. It looked as if a battle was about to begin. Pitcairn ordered his column to halt, and galloped across the green directly toward the American militia. As he came up behind their line, the Major drew his sword and began shouting desperately,  “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels! Disperse! Lay down your arms!” 
Captain Parker, seeing his men outnumbered, and likewise not wanting to start a war, ordered his men to disperse. Few heard him, but those that did turned and begin walking away. But it was at this instant that somebody fired yet another musket, which set off first a hundred others, and then five thousand and then fifty thousand more, over 8 bloody years of war. It was the famous or infamous “Shot heard 'round the world”.
Of the approximately 200 muskets actually on the Green that morning, almost every loaded weapon was British. The regulars had far better discipline than the militia, but were exhausted, having not slept for 24 hours, and were strangers in a strange land. Everybody was on edge, frightened and caught in a rush of an unanticipated crises So, was the first shot intended to kill fired by a colonists or a British regular? In the end it does not really matter. Both sides had been playing with fire for a decade. It was inevitable a flint would spark a conflagration. And in the almost light before dawn on Wednesday, 19 April, 1775, Lexington Green was as good a place as any for that
It took, probably, from first sight to first shot less than 90 seconds. After that it was over, probably, in less than another minute. The regulars fired a ragged volley and then because they could not reload with bayonets on their muskets, charged the colonists. 
They stabbed at least two to death before Pitcairn had the drum beat to quarters, bringing Adair's company back into formation, and ending the melee. There were eight American – from this instant we can call them that - eight American dead. One British regular wounded, but by which side it is not clear. Major Pitcairn's horse was also wounded twice, but he was behind the American line, and those wounds were probably made by British lead.
Pitcairn had never intended on stopping in Lexington, and even now did not pause here for long. He had the entire command give a cheer and fire a volley into the air, but that was more to empty their weapons than anything else. In his mind the Major must have been feeling the weight of the reports he would have to write, and the endless second guessing by his superiors, as after the “Boston Massacare” five years before.But his orders were to seize the bridges north of Concord, so as quickly as he could, and without more than a perfunctory search for Hancock and Adams, who had fled before the shooting started, Pitcairn put his men back on the road, marching for Concord, now in the full light of the morning sun.
What Lexington made as clear as daylight was that America was too big to be controlled by any outside force. And by 1775, that is just what Britain was. What followed was 8 years of warfare, that killed 50,000 Americans and 25,000 Brits and their hired soldiers. But if he could have divorced himself from his obedience to orders, Thomas Gage knew Britain already lost her colonies, before the first Red Coat had crossed the Charles River in the early hours of 19 April, 1775.  So the American Revolution, was a foregone conclusion.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

THE GIANT KILLER Part Two

I think the greatest insight into the black heart and soul of George Hull, a “confirmed scoundrel”, in the words of a one critic, came when he put his giant plan into action. In the summer of 1867, several months before George's alleged epiphany with the Reverend Turk in Ackley, a blacksmith from 35 miles south of Ackley,  in Marshalltown,   named H.B.. Martin, signed into room 11 at the St Charles Hotel in the tiny outpost of Fort Dodge, Iowa. The village had only 700 souls or so, so Martin's behavior stood out.
Martin closely examined buildings clad in the local gypsum, and was seen walking outside of town, pausing to visit those places where the Des Moines River and its tributaries had sliced open the glacial loess and revealed the beds of gypsum (above)  below. Seventy million years earlier a tongue of an inland sea had invaded this land, advancing again and again, leaving behind after each evaporate retreat a dry chalky precipitate, layered beds of gypsum, up to 300 feet thick. Martin asked few questions, and avoided sharing his own concerns with the locals. And after a few days, Mr. Martin checked out of the St. Charles Hotel, and disappeared
One year later, on Saturday, 6 June, 1868, Mr Martin returned to the St. Charles Hotel, this time registering as a resident of Boston, Massachusetts. And he was accompanied by a tall, broad shouldered, fellow dressed well but all in black,  named George Hull, who gave his address as Birminham, New York. On Monday, 8 June, the two visited Mr. C.B. Cummings, who owned an outcrop along Soldier Creek, north of town. The pair explained they were looking for a sample of the geologic wonders of Fort Dodge, to be displayed in New York City. How much, they asked, would the old man charge to supply a single block of his gypsum, 12 feet long, 3 or 4 feet wide and 2 or 3 feet thick.
Cummings assumed he was dealing with idiots. He explained that besides being expensive, such a block would weigh three tons. There were no wagons in Iowa that could carry that weight to a rail head on the abysmal Iowa roads. Hull and Martin assured Mr. Cummings that price was no object. Cummings smelled trouble and told the pair to buy their giant block from somebody else.
Hull and Martin doggedly shifted their activities to the south of Fort Dodge, where they leased a small “improved” one acre lot and hired a man to cut a 12 foot block by 4 feet by 3 feet off the a gypsum ledge hanging over Gypsum Creek. The quarry man, Mike Foley, took their money and offered no suggestions on the practicality of their scheme. He split $15 with his friend, George Webber, and two other men to help him load the three ton block onto a heavy duty wagon. It took four horses to pull the block, and on Sunday, 14 June, 1868 they started toward the nearest rail head, 40 miles to the south, at Boone, Iowa, then called Montana, Iowa.
It would take them 43 days to get there, at an average speed of of less than a mile a day. First the wagon broke down, just as Mr. Cummings had warned it would. Hull and Martin, with the assistance of Foley, managed to fashion repairs and strengthen the wagon. But the first bridge they came to collapsed under the load, damaging the wagon again. It took a few days to make those repairs, after which the three men struggled to muscle the wagon and its three ton block across the stream, and up the opposite bank. Once on solid ground, Hull allowed Foley to shorten the block, shaving its weight by over a ton. I'm willing to bet the poor horses, if they could have spoken, would have thanked Mr. Hull.
The entire journey was a test of endurance,   a “Fitzcarraldo” trial of sweat and blood and determination, a journey  to Hull and back, and no less admirable because it was not being suffered in an humanitarian effort. Perhaps never in human history was so much been suffered by so few for so long,  just to cheat so many out of so much. But on Monday, 27 July 1868, the exhausted horses staggered into Boone/Montana, Iowa and dragged the wagon and block and the exhausted pair of would-be crooks up to the Northwestern Railroad station. Freight charges were paid, and the block was loaded into box car number 447. The next day it started its journey east.
Mike Foley left the party in Boone. He used his payment to invest in a livery stable in Fort Dodge, which he ran for several years. H.B. Martin disembarked as the train passed through his hometown of Marshalltown. That little berg had wanted to call itself Marshall, but Henry County beat Marshall county to the municipal moniker, and the 1862 fix of Marshalltown was the best the town fathers could conceive. In that same spirit, the exhausted Martin paused to recover, while the black hearted George Hull accompanied their precocious cargo on to Chicago.
Literally on the shore of Lake Michigan, George Hull had found a sculpture who was willing to create his giant. German immigrant Eduard Gustave Burkhardt had made a good living cutting headstones and carving angels and figureheads, working in a barn in the center of the Old City Cemetery, between North Clark Street and the lake, in what is today Lincoln Park. 
But in 1866, with cholera killing 5% of the population of Chicago every year because bodies were decomposing in soggy ground adjacent to the source of the city's drinking water, (Lake Michigan) Cook County banned any new burials in the old cemetery, and Eduard found his business moving out to the private suburban cemeteries. He was glad to get the assignment from Hull, grateful he and his two apprentices , Henry Salle and Fred Mohrman, had paying work for another month. None of them ask many questions.
Hull stayed at the “Garden City”, a “third rate hotel” in downtown Chicago, but spent most of his time in Burkhardt's studio, where, legend has it, he served as the model for the face of his giant (above)  - sans mustache, of course. Like a child playing with a new chemistry set, as the sculptors chipped away and then smoothed the shaped gypsum with sandpaper, Hull experimented with stains to give the emerging giant an aged appearance, and applied sulfuric acid to the back of the head to suggest immersion in water. Darning needles were even used to simulate pours in the giant's skin. The carving took seven weeks, and when finished was 10 feet, 4 ½ inches tall, 3 feet 1 ½ inches broad at the shoulders, and was down to a fighting weight of just under 1 ½ tons. On 22 September, 1868, the giant was boxed and labeled as “finished marble”, and shipped by rail to a Mr. George Olds,  in Union City, New York.
To his credit - if that is the correct term - Eduard Burkhardt never claimed his work on the fraud. But because Eduard died a few years later, and his business went bankrupt and was sold off in 1875, the shame of a failed business got mixed up with his participation in the fraud, and the Burkgardts never publicly recognized Eduad's willingness to feed his family and workers by whatever means necessary. Blaming the immigrant sculptor for the success of George Hull's fraud is no less absurd than blaming the Reverend Turk for inspiring the fraud.
On Tuesday, 13 October, 1868 the eleven foot long wooden crate arrived on the New York and Erie railroad at the tiny station of Union (now Endicott) New York, just ten miles west of Bimingham. It sat there for three weeks, until Wednesday, 4 November, when a tall man with a round face, sharp blue eyes and a black mustache, identifying himself as George Olds, arrived to claim the huge package. He and another man supervised the loading of the box into a heavy duty wagon, pulled by a team of four horses. And they immediately set off on the road north, toward Syracuse.
Experience had better prepared George Hull and H.B. Martin for this journey - the burden was half the weight and the roads of upstate New York were in far better condition than those on the Iowa frontier. The pair stopped overnight at an inn run by a Mr. Luce, and the next day continued 30 miles up the Tioughnioga River valley, passing through the village of Homer. Here, George Hull happened to run into an acquaintance, who greeted him by name and asked what he was transporting. George told him castings and cut the conversation off. 
The encounter spooked Hull, and 15 miles further north up the road, at the village of Tully, Hull checked into the hotel on the shores of Green Lake. Martin continued on alone. On the rainy Monday evening of 9 November, 1868, the giant approached its destination, ½ mile west of the tiny village of Cardiff, across Kennedy Creek, on the farm of William C. "Stub" Newell.
Mr. Newell had prepared the ground, digging a five foot deep, 12 foot long trench in a low spot behind his barn, hidden from any prying eyes. The wagon was left in a stand of woods until after nightfall, when it was backed up to the trench. Hull had arrived to help, having walked all the way from Tully. The crate protecting the giant was broken down, and the statute allowed to slide off the wagon and into the earth. Some quick work in the mud, and in the morning Martin returned the hired wagon and horses to Union, and caught the next train for Chicago. The morning of 10 November, George Hull reappeared at his hotel in Tully, soaking wet and covered in mud. He checked out and returned to his home in Birmington, New York. 
But as Sherlock Holmes would have said – “The Game was afoot.”
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HONOR AMONG THIEVES

I want to give Captain Limantour (above) the benefit of the doubt. He might have been a thief, but theft is the corner stone of California history. The Spanish stole the place from the natives, the French stole it from the Spanish, and in 1821 the Mexicans stole it from the French. So after the American armed robbery of 1848, M. Limantour should have fit right in with the Yankee power elites. Yes, he was argumentative, crude and vulgar. He spoke his native French clumsily, and managed just enough Spanish and English to curse and insult his competitors and even his partners. And he did try to steal most of the city of San Francisco. However, many of his harshest critics were bigger thieves than he was.
Captain Joseph-Yves Limantour. arrived at the Golden Gate on 26 October, 1841. For the previous decade the 28 year old had lived hand to mouth aboard his 232 ton brig the “Ayucucho”, trading along the Pacific coast. But on his first visit to San Francisco Bay, he wrecked his ship in the fog. Suddenly bereft of his only source of income, he dragged her salvageable cargo onto the sand spit that now bears his name – Limantour Beach (above)  – and opened a store in the nearby village of Yerba Buena. 
The problem was that Yerba Buena, in fact everybody in California, was cash poor. So the Captain was still stuck there in December when a traveling merchant advised Captain Limantour that if he could “obtain a grant of land on the Bay of San Francisco, he would one day be as rich as a prince.” Limantour liked that idea.
A year later, Limantour engineered a swap of goods and services that got him a new ship, in which he returned down the coast. Stopping to do a little trading in Los Angeles he ran into the Mexican Governor of California, José Micheltorena. The flat broke Governor of  the flat broke Mexican state of California was happy to trade a heavily inflated $4,000 worth of real goods for a grant of empty land south of Yerba Buena, and one including all the empty islands inside and outside of the bay, and a third land grant for empty land around the beach where the “Ayucucho” had run aground. These grants were finalized on 27 February, 1843. But Captain Limantour was too busy with his shipping operations to exercise his dry land property rights. Or so he later said.
In 1848 $2 billion worth of gold was discovered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Over the next four years, Yerba Buena became San Francisco and the population mushroomed from 1,000 to 50,000, all the while suffering six major fires, assorted earthquakes, a few epidemics and uncountable bank failures. 
About the only way to go broke in San Francisco during the gold rush was to be a miner. Levi Strauss made a fortune overcharging for pants. John Studebaker made a fortune profiteering on wheel barrows. 
Henry Wells and William Fargo made a fortune gouging their banking customers. And the original “robber barons”, Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Mark Hopkins and Charles Crocker each made fortunes foreclosing on miners in debt. San Francisco was a thievery boom town. And in the midst of this capitalistic orgy, on 2 January 1853, the three man United States Land Commission began ruling on the validity of grants made under Spanish and Mexican rule.
Back in Mexico City, Captain Limantour had found a bright young Frenchman working at one of his investments, a would-be inventor named Auguste Jouan. In 1850 Limantour dispatched Jouan to San Francisco (above)  to begin title searches on properties. 
And just a month after the Commission commenced hearings in 1853, Limantour filed a claim to 17,800 acres of San Francisco, south  from “California Street”, including “The Mission district”...   
Nob Hill,  The Tenderloin,  the Sunset district,  and everything south, half way to Monterrey Bay - about $33 million worth of real estate. Referring to Joseph now as “Jose' ”,   one mocking newspaper snorted, “Can’t he also find...some papers that will permit him to establish claims to Vancouver Island?” Vancouver, Canada, that is.
In 1854, while the commission was considering Limantour's claim,. Auguste Jouan started asking for his back pay.  Limantour kept putting him off.  Jouan finally got angry enough to quit, and started hinting in public that his ex-boss was a crook. According to Limantour,  Jouan's gossip had created “such animosity and furor...that my life and property were in danger”. Belatedly the Captain agreed to pay Jouan what he was owed, tossing in a $25,000. bonus.  However, Limantour insisted they return to Mexico to close the deal, away from prying American reporters. The trusting blackmailer returned to Mexico with Limantour and was immediately arrested for forgery and attempted murder.
In January of 1856, to great public surprise, the Land Commission validated Limantour's claims. San Francisco went into panic mode. 
Half the banks in town, half the newspapers, half the bars, churches, hotels, bawdy houses and private residences, City Hall, and...
most importantly, all the mansions on Nob Hill, were now officially owned by Joseph-Yves Limantour.  The new land lord tried to put his victims- ah, tenants – at ease. 
From his suite of rooms in the Washington Hotel, the Captain offered to provide quit claims to all property for just 10% of the listed value. It became instantly known as the “Limantour Tax”. 
Many paid the tax,  just to be rid of the troublesome Frenchman. Estimates of his “take” ranged  from $100,000 to $250,000, in 1855 dollars. And then, Auguste Jouan managed to escape from his Mexican jail, and reappeared in San Francisco, still looking for his bonus. He now accused his ex-employer of framing him, and offered to provide proof that Limantour had committed fraud, for an additional $30,000.
A pro-Limantour paper called Jouan “a rascal of the worst kind....he attempted to extort money by means of threats, or a pretended knowledge of secrets, which is not calculated to modify our opinion of this blackleg.” Jouan responded by hitting the paper with a million dollar libel suit. Observed another editor, “For all we know he may be justly entitled to it; but we doubt whether there is an editor in San Francisco who has that amount of loose change about him...” Evidently, somebody paid at least part of Jouan's price. In April, the inventor sailed quietly for New York, claiming he was going to exploit his patent for new paddle blades for steam ships.
Meanwhile, the thieves of San Francisco funded an investigation of M. Limantour's documents, and came up with enough inconsistencies to justify a Grand Jury. And the local U.S. Attorney filed suit in Federal Court (above, left) to the overturn the Land Commission's decision. No thieving lawyer works harder or is more effective than a thieving lawyer protecting his own “ill gotten booty”. The only problem was, for every allegation or witness who swore the obnoxious captain was a thief, there were others who swore he was not. It did not matter. The Grand Jury indicted “Jose' “Joseph-Yves Limantour for fraud and perjury, and he was promptly arrested. The captain posted $35, 000 bail, and headed back to Mexico,  swearing to return with more evidence.
When Limantour did return in July of 1857, one surprised reporter noted a vigilantly committee had threatened to lynch him. The captain replied, in French, “I should rather be hanged than to pass for a forger.” His self assurance, and his new witnesses and documents had the local thieving class nervous. The government's case was flimsy at best. The locals might provide a conviction, but an appeal would be heard in the big pond back east in Washington, where the local thieves were small fry. And then, the new U.S. Attorney General, Jeremiah Black, decided to provide $70,000 to fund the prosecution of   “the most stupendous fraud ever perpetrated since the beginning of the world.”. Barely pausing after that hyperbole, he dispatched a special prosecutor to take over the case, Edwin M, Stanton.
Stanton (above) arrived in San Francisco in March of 1858, just about the time a new box of Mexican records which cast more doubt on Limantour's claim was found. It was almost as if the prosecution had decided to play by the same rules they assumed Limantour was playing by. But the prosecution also managed to produce close up daguerreotypes taken of the document daguerreotypes introduced to support Limantour's claims.  Blowing up the images clearly showed the forgery errors. The signatures of the Mexican officials were real. But the seals applied to them were fakes. 
 Stanton made a three hour closing argument, filled with hyperbole. Limantour's lawyer gave no closing argument at all. He must have already suspected his client had cut his losses, taken his own ill gotten booty, jumped bail and returned to Mexico.
Back in San Francisco, on 19 November, 1858, Federal District Judge Ogden Hoffman, Jr.'s (above)  56 page judgment, admitted “The case...is extraordinary and surprising...astonishing if not incredible”, before claiming a “scandalous conspiracy”, adding the vast over-statement, “the proofs of fraud are as conclusive and irresistible as the attempted fraud itself has been flagrant and audacious.” Limantour was convicted, but never jailed, and never pursued. Better gone and quickly forgotten.
Edwin Stanton went back to Washington, where in 1861 he was appointed Secretary of War in the administration of Abraham Lincoln. He was eventually named a Supreme Court Justice, but died before taking his seat. The wealthy thieves of San Francisco added to their wealth, in particular the Big Four, Stanford, Huntington, Hopkins and Crocker, doubled or tripled their wealth by duping shareholders in the Southern Pacific, the western leg of the Transcontinental Railroad. 
Joseph-Yves Limantour left California with somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 in gold, which made him one of the lesser robber barons of San Francisco (above). The government even failed to collect from the bail bondsman, after the Captain's escape.  The public ended up footing the bill for the prosecution, and then shared few of  the fruits of the victory.  
Joseph-Yves first born son,  Jose' Yves Limantour (above),   added greatly to his father's fortune. But after the Captain's death in 1885, and his mother Adele's  death,  her will left the fortune to his younger son Julio. Jose's took the blow in stride, and went on to become Secretary of Finance of Mexico. However, in 1911 this son-of-a- thief was forced to leave Mexico, and died in a self imposed exile in Paris, in 1935. The Limantours had come full circle.  And there is honor in that.
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