POITOU, FRANCE – George Washington: What an imbecile!
He owned 317 slaves. Couldn’t he see that slavery was bad?
Jefferson, too. And Madison. And Monroe. Jackson. Van Buren. Tyler. Harrison. Polk. Taylor. Johnson. And Ulysses S. Grant.
Didn’t they smell the squalor of the slave quarters and hear Simon Legree’s whip in the fields? Didn’t they see the gentle hearts yearning for liberty?
What a bunch of blind idiots!
We interrupt the finale of our look at gods, heroes, and statues only to note that the Dow dropped 274 points yesterday.
In a brief conversation with colleague David Stockman, a Wall Street veteran who watches the market more closely than we do, he told us he thought it was “ready to collapse at any moment.”
We’ll check our “Doom Index” on Monday. In the meantime…
The Killing of “Little Nellie”
Even the slaves must have been numbskulls.
Here’s what Robert E. Lee’s wartime servant, William Mack Lee – who had been freed 10 years before the war started – said of his master:
I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater than General Robert E. Lee, according to my judgment.
William Lee accompanied General Lee – or “Marse Robert,” as he called him – throughout the entire war.
He was with him at Cheat Mountain, the Seven Days, Manassas, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Deep Bottom… and finally the Appomattox Court House – practically all the blood-soaked disasters of the War Between the States.
He cooked. He cleaned. He brought Marse Robert his horse. He served visiting Confederate generals. He was wounded in the head and in the hip and walked with a limp the rest of his life.
In his memoirs, he recalled only one incident in which General Lee was angry with him – on July 3, 1863.
A group of generals was coming for a meeting. They had to be fed. But there was no food other than Lee’s favorite laying hen. Seeing no alternative, the cook put the hen in the pot.
A 19th-century scribe recorded a tear in William Lee’s eye as he recounted the incident 30 years later:
I jes’ had to go out and cotch little Nellie. I picked her good; and stuffed her with breod stuffin’, mixed wid butter. Nellie had be gwine wid us two years, and I hated fer to lose her. We had been gettin’ all our eggs from Nellie.
Well, sir, when I brung Nellie inter de commissary tent and set her fo’ Marse Robert he turned to me right fo’ all dem gimmin and he says: “William, now you have killed Nellie. What are we going to do for eggs?”
“I jes’ had ter do it, Marse Robert,” says I.
“No, you didn’t, William; I’m going to write Miss Mary about you. I’m going to tell her you have killed Nellie.”
Cranes and Dynamite
What did William Lee know of Robert E. Lee?
He worked for him closely throughout the four years of the bloodiest war in America’s history.
They lived in tents through bitter cold winters, muddy springs, and stifling summers. They saw men die… thousands of them… with no medicines to save them and no morphine to ease the pain.
William Lee saw his master up close and under pressure. He knew him well, but only as a man, not a god.
But like all the people who lived before us, William Lee must have been a fool. We are all so much wiser… so much smarter… so much better now.
We know now that his master deserved no honors, no praise, and no fond remembrance.
All the statues of Robert E. Lee will have to come down. So will practically all those of America’s antebellum presidents.
And while we are rooting out symbols of slavery, let’s take the cranes and dynamite to those slave-built monuments in Europe and North Africa, too. The pyramids in Egypt. The Parthenon and the Acropolis in Greece. The Colosseum in Italy.
And why stop there?
What about the Kaaba in Mecca, the Taj Mahal in India, the Mayan pyramids, the Great Wall of China, and Angkor Wat?
And what about the works of Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, Marcus Aurelius, Sun Tzu, Dante, and Virgil?
Who brought them tea? Who cleaned their houses? Surely their books – monuments to these dumbbells (didn’t they know better?) – should be burned.
All vestiges of the evil past should be razed to the ground.
Yes, that’s it. We will rid the world of every trace of slavery once and for all… and finally live in the perfection that we – practically gods ourselves, all-knowing, never erring – deserve.
Gods and Devils
We began the week bowing to our gods but bending to our bricks.
We end with our head hanging low… looking at our feet – there, the ground on which we stand, is the hell into which we have fallen.
Donald Trump – for all his balderdash and flimflam – is right: The news is fake. But that is the way it always is.
William Lee knew his master as a mason knows a granite rock – as a real man. We know him only as a cartoon character, a fake man, a god or a devil… depending on which way the media winds are blowing.
And today blows a gale of self-congratulation. For now, finally, after so many centuries, we have reached some peak of moral and intellectual superiority. We know the Truth.
Now we know that yesterday’s heroes were traitors and terrorists. Yesterday’s gods were mere devils. And yesterday’s great thinkers were morons.
But wait… What will tomorrow’s saints and geniuses think of us?
What will they think of the 2.2 million people in our prisons? That’s more than anywhere else on Earth; only the Soviet-era gulags and Nazi concentration camps had more.
What will they think of our murderous wars – more than 2 million dead in the Middle East in America’s “War on Terror”? “What was that all about?” they will ask.
What will they think of our phony-baloney money system – leading to the biggest debt bubble in world history… sure to be followed by the biggest blow-up ever?
What will they think of robbing our middle-class producers to make Wall Street and Deep State insiders richer?
And what will they think of the hubris… the intolerance… the gall… of people who judge their fathers and grandfathers so harshly and earnestly believe they are smarter and better than the 10,000 generations that preceded them?
As always… more to come…
Market Insight: Amazon Borrows More Cheaply Than Major Countries
BY CHRIS LOWE, EDITOR AT LARGE, Bonner & partners
Cheap financing continues to flow on Wall Street…
Online retail giant Amazon just borrowed $16 billion to fund its acquisition of supermarket chain Whole Foods.
Amazon issued bonds carrying different maturity dates. But for the 10-year bonds Amazon issued, it will pay just 3.2% in annual interest.
That’s one percentage point higher than the supposedly risk-free 10-year U.S. Treasury note, which yields 2.2%.
But Amazon can borrow more cheaply than some major countries, including China, Mexico, and Russia.
As you can see, for a 10-year loan, it costs the Chinese government 3.6% a year… Mexico 6.8% a year… and Russia 7.8% a year.
– Chris Lowe
How Markets React to Terrorist Attacks
On Thursday, a terrorist attack in Barcelona left 14 people dead. The violence, the worst to hit Spain in more than a decade, is rattling European investors…
Hedge Funds Are Missing the Party
This year, the stock market has been hitting record highs. But many hedge fund firms, including the world’s largest, are falling short.
The Next Major Crime Wave Is Here
Violent protests and terrorist attacks are plastering the news. But behind this is a different criminal threat, and it could prove more damaging than anything else.
In today’s mailbag, readers consider if Confederates were traitors…
Your analysis of Johnny Reb is spot on. The so-called “War of Northern Aggression” has managed to smolder softly in many hearts lo these many years. Are tribalism and xenophobia so limbic in the human heart that they cannot be tamed?
– Christine C.
Johnny Reb was most certainly NO TERRORIST. He was an extremely patriotic, hardworking farmer that saw the northern government attempting to ruin what he considered to be his very existence, his livelihood.
People are too lazy to search for the truth of the Civil War. Denigration of the amazing leaders of the South and all things Confederate is merely another phase in the dumbing down of our erstwhile fantastic country. I am a lifelong northerner but I love the South, particularly Texas, and most assuredly I love this country. The denigration and destruction of all things Confederate is merely one more step in the rewriting of history.
– Greg S.
I recently saw a cartoon with a picture of the Great Pyramids. Caption – slavery and anti-Semitism, when will these be torn down? Seems we are going to revise history so as to achieve safe spaces.
– Wes W.
There are too many people on this planet, and notwithstanding our many gods commanding us to love one another, too many of us don’t. Some act out their hate by performing atrocities on others. Was it never thus?
– Jim R.
Your recent Diary reminded me of something… When I was a child in Paraguay, we stumbled on to a local celebration. My parents asked a local “What is this holiday for?” They replied “Some Hero or other disgraced person.”
– Ian M.
In Case You Missed It…
Recently, Ted Benna – the man Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Barron’s called the “father of the 401(k)” – sat down with our colleague for an interview. His message: “I’ve created a monster.” If you hope to retire in the next few years, you need to hear what this man has to say. Watch the interview