To Chairman Sir Alan Greenspan

Email Print

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture. Enjoy, sir, your insensibility of feeling and reflecting. It is the prerogative of animals. And no man will envy you these honors, in which a savage only can be your rival and a bear your master.

As the generosity of one country rewarded your predecessor’s services in the last Depression, with an elegant monument upon 20th & Constitution, Washington, it is consistent that another should bestow some mark of distinction upon you. You certainly deserve her notice, and a conspicuous place in the catalogue of extraordinary persons. Yet it would be a pity to pass you from the world in state, and consign you to magnificent oblivion among the tombs, without telling the future beholder why. Judas is as much known as John, yet history ascribes their fame to very different actions.

Sir Alan has undoubtedly merited a monument; but of what kind, or with what inscription, where placed or how embellished, is a question that would puzzle all the heralds of St. James’s in the profoundest mood of historical deliberation. We are at no loss, sir, to ascertain your real character, but somewhat perplexed how to perpetuate its identity, and preserve it uninjured from the transformations of time or mistake. A statuary may give a false expression to your bust, or decorate it with some equivocal emblems, by which you may happen to steal into reputation and impose upon the hereafter traditionary world. Ill nature or ridicule may conspire, or a variety of accidents combine to lessen, enlarge, or change Sir Alan’s fame; and no doubt but he who has taken so much pains to be singular in his conduct, would choose to be just as singular in his exit, his monument and his epitaph.

The usual honors of the dead, to be sure, are not sufficiently sublime to escort a character like you to the republic of dust and ashes; for however men may differ in their ideas of grandeur or of government here, the grave is nevertheless a perfect republic. Death is not the monarch of the dead, but of the dying. The moment he obtains a conquest he loses a subject, and, like the foolish president you serve, will, in the end, war himself out of all his dominions.

As a proper preliminary towards the arrangement of your funeral honors, we readily admit of your new rank of knighthood. The title is perfectly in character, and is your own, more by merit than creation. There are knights of various orders, from the knight of the windmill to the knight of the post. The former is your patron for exploits, and the latter will assist you in settling your accounts. No honorary title could be more happily applied! The ingenuity is sublime!

But how, sir, shall we dispose of you? The invention of a statuary is exhausted, and Sir Alan is yet unprovided with a monument. America is anxious to bestow her retirement favors upon you, and wishes to do it in a manner that shall distinguish you from all the departed heroes of the last war. The Egyptian method of embalming is not known to the present age, and hieroglyphical pageantry hath outlived the widespread knowledge of deciphering it. Some other method, therefore, must be thought of to immortalize the new knight of the windmill and post. Sir Alan, thanks to his stars, is not oppressed with very delicate ideas. He has no ambition of being wrapped up and handed about in myrrh, aloes and cassia. Less expensive odors will suffice; and it fortunately happens that the simple genius of America has discovered the art of preserving bodies, and embellishing them too, with much greater frugality than the ancients. In balmage, sir, of humble tar, you will be as secure as Pharaoh, and in a hieroglyphic of feathers, rival in finery all the mummies of Egypt.

As you have already made your exit from the moral world, and by numberless acts both of passionate and deliberate injustice engraved an “here lieth” on your deceased honor, it must be mere affectation in you to pretend concern at the humors or opinions of mankind respecting you. What remains of you may retire at any time. The sooner the better. For he who survives his reputation, lives out of despite of himself, like a man listening to his own reproach.

Thus ornamented, I leave you to the inspection of the curious, and return to the history of your yet surviving actions. The character of Sir Alan has undergone some extraordinary revolutions. since his arrival in Washington. It is now fixed and known; and we have never to look to you for candor or to expect from you clarity. Vanity and inability have too large a share in your composition, ever to suffer you to be anything more than the hero of this latest villainy and our unfinished misadventures. That, which to some persons appeared moderation in you at first, was not produced by any real virtue of your own, but by a contrast of intellectual distractions, dividing and holding you in perpetual irresolution. One vice will frequently expel another, without the least merit in the man; as powers in contrary directions reduce each other to rest.

You came to office under the high sounding titles of governor, then chairman; not only to suppress what you call inflation, by rigour, but to shame it out of the countenance of others by the excellence of your example. Instead of which, you have been the patron of low and vulgar frauds, the encourager of Mississippian follies; and have imported a cargo of vices blacker than those which you pretend to suppress.

Mankind are not universally agreed in their determination of right and wrong; but there are certain actions which the consent of all nations and individuals has branded with the unchangeable name of meanness. In the list of human vices we find some of such a refined constitution, they cannot be carried into practice without seducing some virtue to their assistance; but meanness has neither alliance nor apology. It is generated in the dust and sweepings of other vices, and is of such a hateful figure that all the rest conspire to disown it. Sir Alan, the commissioner of Georges the First and Second, has at last vouchsafed to give it rank and pedigree. He has placed the fugitive at the council board, and dubbed it companion of the order of knighthood.

The particular act of meanness which I allude to in this description, is forgery. You, sir, have abetted and patronized the forging and uttering counterfeit continental bills. In the same New York newspapers in which your own proclamations under your master’s authority are published, offering, or pretending to offer, security and prosperity to these states, there were repeated advertisements of counterfeit money for sale, and persons who have come officially from you, and under the sanction of your office, have been active in attempting to put them off.

A conduct so basely mean in a public character is without precedent or pretence. Every nation on earth, whether friends or enemies, will unite in despising you. ‘Tis an incendiary war upon society, which nothing can excuse or palliate — an improvement upon beggarly villainy — and shows an inbred wretchedness of heart made up between the venomous malignity of a serpent and the spiteful imbecility of an inferior reptile.

The laws of any civilized country would condemn you to the penitentiary without regard to your rank or titles, because it is an action foreign to the usage and custom of commerce; and should you fall from office, which pray God you may, it will be a doubtful matter whether we are to consider you as a misguided dilettante or a prisoner for felony.

Besides, it is exceedingly unwise and impolitic in you, or any other persons in the American service, to promote or even encourage, or wink at the crime of forgery, in any case whatever. Because, as the riches of America, as a nation, are chiefly in paper, and the far greater part of trade among individuals is carried on by the same medium, that is, by notes and drafts on one another, they, therefore, of all people in the world, ought to endeavor to keep forgery out of sight, and, if possible, not to revive the idea of it. It is dangerous to make men familiar with a crime which they may afterwards practise to much greater advantage against those who first taught them.

Several executive officers in the Corporate boardrooms have made their appearance at the bar for forgery on their agents; for we all know, who know any thing of America, that there is not a more necessitous body of men, taking them generally, than what the America executive officers and their brokers are. They contrive to make a show at the expense of the tailors, and appear clean at the charge of the washer-women.

America, has at this time, more than six hundred and fifty thousand million dollars of public money in paper, for which she has no real property: besides a large circulation of bank deposits, bank CDs, and promissory notes, derivatives, and drafts of private bankers, merchants and tradesmen. She has the greatest quantity of paper currency and the least proportionate quantity of gold and silver of any nation in the World; the real specie, which is about eighty-four thousand million dollars, serves only as collateral in large speculative trades, which are always made in paper, and no more for payment in small ones. Thus circumstanced, the nation is put to its wit’s end, and obliged to be severe almost to criminality, to prevent the practice and growth of forgery.

Scarcely a session passes at the NY Attorney General’s office, or an inquisition at the SEC, but witnesses this truth, yet you, sir, regardless of the policy which its necessity obliges it to adopt, have made your whole financial class intimate with the crime. And as all companies at the conclusion of a Boom, are too apt to carry into practice the vices of the time, it has already been discovered that America will hereafter abound in forgeries, to which art the practitioners were once again initiated under your authority. You, sir, have the honor of adding a new vice to the monetary catalogue; and the reason, perhaps, why the invention was reserved for you, is, because no Chairman before was mean enough even to think on it on such a scale.

Sean Corrigan [send him mail] writes from London on the financial markets, and edits the daily Capital Letter and the Website Capital Insight.

Sean Corrigan Archives

Email Print