THE MONEY MEN by H.W. Brands
Kirkus Star

THE MONEY MEN

Capitalism, Democracy, and the Hundred Years’ War Over the American Dollar
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A lively and accessible history of a once-dominant issue in American life.

The Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which governs US monetary policy, was a compromise solution to a long and fierce brawl between capitalists and democrats over money—what it is, who should control it and how it shapes the economy. And what a brawl it was. Brands (History/Univ. of Texas; Andrew Jackson, 2005, etc.) recounts the machinations of figures from Alexander Hamilton and Nicholas Biddle to William Jennings Bryan and J.P. Morgan as they engaged in a wildly careening struggle marked by much oratory, some bribery and motives ranging from noble to nefarious. Beginning with Hamilton’s arguments for a national bank, Brands shows how the two camps developed. The capitalists argued for the stability and unity conferred by a centralized, well-managed money supply, while the democrats feared a strong central government as a threat to democracy. Tracing the shifting debate as the nation grew into an industrial power, Brands brings these men to life. We see one-third of the members of Congress profiting as charter shareholders of Hamilton’s first Bank of the United States; Philadelphia mobs rioting against the second Bank of the United States, with Biddle, its director, barricading himself at home; and Jay Gould and James Fisk fleeing the financial district for their lives (to an opera house) after cornering the gold market and precipitating Black Friday, in 1869. Hounded but also feted—100,000 people watched Fisk’s New York City funeral procession in 1872, while a brass band played—the 19th-century financiers played key roles in the rise of the rail and steel industries, battled Theodore Roosevelt and other progressives and saw their heyday pass (even as J.P. Morgan died) in 1913, when President Wilson convinced Congress to create 12 privately capitalized Federal Reserve Banks with government oversight.

Right on the money.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-393-06184-1
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2006




BOOKS ON MONEY:

NonfictionTHE END OF MONEY by David Wolman
by David Wolman
NonfictionTHE BEHAVIOR GAP by Carl Richards
by Carl Richards
NonfictionBORROW by Louis Hyman
by Louis Hyman
NonfictionCURRENCY WARS by James Rickards
by James Rickards
Kirkus Interview
H.W. Brands
October 11, 2016

As noted historian H.W. Brands reveals in his new book The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War, at the height of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman committed a gaffe that sent shock waves around the world. When asked by a reporter about the possible use of atomic weapons in response to China's entry into the war, Truman replied testily, "The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has." This suggested that General Douglas MacArthur, the willful, fearless, and highly decorated commander of the American and U.N. forces, had his finger on the nuclear trigger. A correction quickly followed, but the damage was done; two visions for America's path forward were clearly in opposition, and one man would have to make way. Truman was one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. General MacArthur, by contrast, was incredibly popular, as untouchable as any officer has ever been in America. The contest of wills between these two titanic characters unfolds against the turbulent backdrop of a faraway war and terrors conjured at home by Joseph McCarthy. “An exciting, well-written comparison study of two American leaders at loggerheads during the Korean War crisis,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >

MORE BY H.W. BRANDS

NonfictionTHE GENERAL VS. THE PRESIDENT by H.W. Brands
by H.W. Brands
NonfictionREAGAN by H.W. Brands
by H.W. Brands
NonfictionTHE MAN WHO SAVED THE UNION by H.W. Brands
by H.W. Brands

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndieHARVESTING GOLD by David L. Hammes
by David L. Hammes