Driven out of the office by the extraordinary work pressure of downtown Manhattan, I was pleasantly surprised by a pleasant cool summer Friday afternoon. The ferries were leaving from Pier 11 or Wall Street, in regular sailings and awaited my departure to NJ, this evening. The Hudson River was full of traffic and the helicopters from the heliport were also busy, as the helicopters came and left, with their Wall street clients. I was reminded of the recent pair of the huge green machines, which had ferried our President and the PM of Australia; some time back for a historic joint outing, to the Intrepid Aircraft carrier. New York has always had a mercantile culture, from its early founding by the intrepid Dutch; who settled permanently on this great harbor, at the mouth of the mighty Hudson River.
I was at the old slip near the First Precinct Police Museum and walking on Water Street towards Wall Street. I passed Governor Lane and found myself at the intersection of Wall and Water and gazed at all the magnificent temples to commerce and finance, all around me. It is truly a great time to be living in this land and have the honor to live and work in one of the most vibrant cities on this planet. The big banks were back after Dodd Frank, much stronger than ever, recapitalized to a great extent, and far less dangerous for the public. Risky leverage and irrational exuberance had been largely controlled, as the PEs of Large corporations and Banks have improved since our Great Recession. A Large hearted President and government, had bailed out, numerous large private institutions; in Finance, Industry, and Insurance. Our deficits soared in the greatest expansion, of our nation’s balance sheet in history. Worried working class Americans voted for Trump in droves, hoping a new self-made capitalist; will finally turn the tide, in favor of the distressed middle class.
Nobody can deny that Wall Street will greatly participate in the remaking of America. A New New York Bridge is being built, after over 6 decades of use of the old bridge. The Bayonne Bridge has been raised, to allow the new bigger container ships, and other giants, that can cross the enlarged Panama Canal, from across the Pacific, to sail right into Port Elizabeth. The port is expected to get even busier in the coming years, to feed the demands of the citizens, settled in the great valleys of the Hudson and the Empire and Garden States. New York City is poised for a recovery of mammoth proportions, if we just use the abundant resources of nature and manpower available in the United States of America. Wisdom is the need of the hour and public policy and private enterprise must work together, to bring about the digital age and the new economic revolution, based on better technology, logistics, communications and research..
As I stood in the middle of Wall Street I read the plaque posted for us residents and tourists. I was at a historic site I noticed. Between Water and Pearl Street a slave market flourished in this very place in the 18th century. Before all the other markets there was this slave market, that thrived and became the hub for the residents of New York, to traffic in humans. The population of the new colony under British rule was growing rapidly and they needed slaves from Africa, to tame this hostile land. Forests and land had to be cleared to make the new roads and homes for the colonialists and clear the fields for agriculture and animal rearing. In fact the wall that had to be constructed to protect the city was built by slave labor. This road along this wall came to be known as Wall Street and today is the symbol of American capitalism. 40% of New Yorkers owned slaves and almost a third of the working population, was represented by them, making New York the biggest slave owner at the time, in proportion to its population.
The Anglicans had come to supremacy in the town and the original Dutch houses, had to coexist with the new arrivals. The Anglicans needed a new Cathedral to pray to their Lord and Trinity Church was built using slave labor, to rise to the heavens. The small settlement continued to grow into a large town, at the tip of Manhattan, then known commonly as New Amsterdam. Without the slaves most of the progress in the growing city would not have been possible. It would take almost a century to finally abolish slavery and another century, to bury their contributions into history. The construction growth and the agriculture boom that followed in the upper regions, would not have been possible without able bodied men and women from Western Africa toiling in the fields and homes. The slave market was eventually replaced by the growing trade in Grains, Meats and other commodities, which the rich land produced with the help of slave labor. The market, housed between Pine and Water Street became a center of commerce for New Yorkers. America was well on its way to prosperity built on the backs, of these forgotten people.
Today as I walk down Wall Street I see the great houses of the large Banks, Bank of New York and others from around the world, housed in the towers on both sides of the street. Trump’s major source of wealth is housed here in the Iconic tower at 937 feet the tallest at that time, built by the Manhattan Company which grew wealthy supplying water to the new city. JP Morgan’s original office from where his house financed modern capitalism and governments, stands across from the Federal building, where George Washington became the first president of the new Republic. I walk past 1 Wall Street near which the first reputable journal of commerce was published, and lives on today as the Wall Street Journal. Modern journalist and accurate reporting for a new era of mass communication of financial health of companies was born here. The New York Stock Exchange stands in all its neo classical façade of Grecian columns rising to the heavens, and traders walk in and out, as machines have slowly taken on more of their roles, as market makers to the world.
The New York stock exchange has a sculpture of ‘Integrity Protecting the works of men’ carved on its face. Mercury the God of Commerce presides over toiling men and women on her left, representations of mining and agriculture and on her right, symbols of industry, science and invention, all sources of American prosperity. We owe a great gratitude to the men who worked so hard, to leave us a nation today, which continues to be the beacon on the hill for the rest of the world. On this father’s day I wandered the streets and took in the sights and paid my remembrances, to those who had come before me.
I cross Broadway and enter the quiet dignity of the Trinity church. I sit in the front pew and look at the hymnals and Holy Bible. I stare mesmerized at the stained glass windows depicting Jesus and his disciples. I close my eyes to meditate and am troubled by the thoughts, that if I could look through them, I will see the ghosts of the twin towers rising, even higher than this great church. I close my eyes and pray to “Our Father..” My thoughts rise up to the heavens for all the slaves, who helped to build this church and this great land. I think of the fathers who saw the advertisements, selling their daughters to slavery, and am deeply troubled. History may have forgotten them, but on this Father’s day, I say they were as much a founding father of this nation, as George Washington who owned them. The remains of Alexander Hamilton the father of modern Banking and Commerce and many other foundational breakthroughs, for our new nation, lies in these hallowed grounds. While we remember George and Alexander in our history as founding fathers, let us also pray for the forgotten fathers of American black citizens, who died and are lost in unmarked graves of this great city.
Happy Father’s Day to everyone – the weary, the tired and the forgotten, and remember to be grateful and joyful for all that we have!
The longest day must have its close — the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning. An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments is ever hurrying the day of the evil to an eternal night, and the night of the just to an eternal day. -Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and novelist (14 Jun 1811-1896)