J. Pierpont Morgan, America’s first ‘God of money’


That tactical shift towards at least some of the demands of the miners won for the Republican Roosevelt major blue-collar support from ordinary working Americans whose vote was becoming increasingly significant. 

The rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for, not by the labor agitators, but by the Christian men to whom God in His infinite wisdom has given control of the property interests of the country.– George ‘Divine Right’ Baer, JP Morgan railroad executive in 1902

As the vast British Empire went into a prolonged and seemingly irreversible decline following a major economic Depression beginning in 1873, a challenge began to emerge from across the Atlantic. Powerful American industrial and banking families grouped around J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller concentrated the wealth and control of American industry into their own hands.

In their rise to unprecedented heights of power, the Morgan and Rockefeller interests deployed fraud, deceit, violence, and bribery — and they deliberately manipulated financial panics. Each financial panic, brought about through their calculated control of financial markets and banking credit, allowed them and their closest allies to consolidate ever more power into fewer and fewer hands. It was this concentration of financial power within an elite few wealthy families that created an American plutocracy or, more accurately, an American oligarchy.

Aristotle used the term “oligarchy” to describe rule by the wealthiest families, where voting power in the state was related to the size of a family’s fortune. Whether it was called an oligarchy or a plutocracy—government by a wealthy “class”—the real power in the spectacular rise of the American Century at the end of the 1890s did not rest democratically in the hands of the majority of citizens. It did not even lie in the hands of a broad, educated and growing middle class. Power, together with control over the nation’s economy, was being ruthlessly centralized in the hands of the wealthy few, every bit as much as it had been in the days of Imperial Rome.

The more centralized that power became in the hands of an aristocracy of wealth, the more it wrapped itself in the rhetorical garb of American “democracy.” In one respect, and one respect only, the new American oligarchy was democratic: it did not restrict entry to those of noble birth and bloodline, as had been the case with the decadent nobility of ancient Rome or pre-revolutionary France.

The American Constitution prohibited inherited titles of nobility and aristocracy. It did not, however, prohibit an aristocracy of wealth—either inherited or created. Like Britain around the time of the founding of the private Bank of England in 1694, this “open admissions” aristocracy would turn out to be a key factor in the dynamism of the emerging American empire—the “American Century” as Henry Luce was later to name it.

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