Sam Adams, George Wythe and Francis Lewis: Colonial Leaders with Something to Say about America’s Financial Trust Deficit

Robert R. Livingston

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Imagine what the founding fathers of the United States would say about the tyranny and bondage of excessive debt on Americans and American business today!

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about the “trust deficit’ that is widening in the mortgage industry.  According to David Stevens, the commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration, at a mortgage banker’s conference in Atlanta he said the mortgage industry and the country “continue to pay a steep price for nearly a decade of abuses and bad behavior.”

If you’ve been following my posts you know that I just got back from a vacation to New England including Boston.  I imagine the statements from the patriots  of 1776 addressing our national debt crisis would go something like this:

Samuel Adams, Massachusetts: “My dear American citizens, as we wrote in the Declaration of Independence, ‘a prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.’  The prince I speak of today is your unwieldy debt burden.  It rules over you with an iron fist of fear and trepidation.  We worked so hard to free us from the bonds of the tyrannical reign of Great Britain but you have subjected this great nation again to slavery through debt.  Your voracious appetite for consuming today at the expense of tomorrow’s blessing has shackled this great nation with an insufferable weight.  And your lenders are equally culpable in the amplification of this tyranny.  You may not hide behind the façade of securitized loan pools or unscrupulous mortgage brokers.  Americans, I beg you to work with what you have today, not what you hope for tomorrow.  Now, if you don’t mind, please direct me to the nearest tavern where I heard they are serving my namesake brew in ice-cold glass bottles!”

George Wythe, Virginia: “We wrote the phrase ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’  However, we did not intend this to mean all men have an equal right to borrow money.  We intended to promote industry and ingenuity by which some men will make much success and some will fail.  In doing so, the country will rise on the backs of the successful and create great national prosperity.  Those who succeed will have the resources to borrow great sums of money and the lenders will have confidence that it will be repaid in a timely manner.  Those who pursue happiness but suffer haplessness have no inherent right to consume what they could not produce nor profit from borrowed money they have no reasonable ability to repay.  We did not intend an equal outcome for all who wish to borrow money.  As the first professor of law in America at the College of William and Mary, I have much I’d like to say to your elected representatives, judges and lawyers about the degree to which their bailout actions have created a moral hazard in America unimaginable in my day.”

Francis Lewis, New York: “The framers of our Declaration of Independence closed with the statement ‘with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’  Where is the honor in America today?  Where is the golden bond of your word?  I dare say your word is a tarnished piece of scrap metal condemned to the heap by repeated unwillingness on a personal and national level to fulfill your financial commitments.  I see a country where everyman is out for their own interests at the expense of their neighbor.  Do you realize that the debt that goes unpaid must by its nature become the monetary burden of your countrymen?  Why do you make financial promises you have no intention of keeping?  Where is your honor when you use today’s bankruptcy laws as a financial planning strategy instead of the safety net it was intended?  I was a successful businessman in the 1700’s but lost it all in my support for this nation’s independence.  I shudder to think it is the rare man or woman today who would selflessly give their fortune much less their life for their fellow countryman.  You’ve fallen a very long way indeed America.

Wow, that is some brutally honest criticism from some very esteemed men who wore powdered wigs in their day.  Regardless of their fashion sense, their words are excellent mirrors of self-evaluation for America.

What would you add to the framers’ critique about America and its lending and borrowing habits?


About Michael Shelton

Your Business Coach Facilitating Delegation and Work Group Engagement Michael Shelton has over twenty-five years of business and military accomplishments, including extensive experience with one of the largest, publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REIT). He is a qualified business coach with assignments in cross-functional work group management, strategic planning, unit leadership, joint venture acquisitions, executive education, mentoring, training and merger integration. Michael has accumulated best practices for building committed work groups from more than $4 billion of capital markets transactions and commercial property development. He served as a commissioned officer and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army, and earned his MBA from The University of Arizona. Michael has served as a major conference panelist and is the author of Cash Flow Rich, Winning Ways to Evaluate and Finance Real Estate. Today, he helps business owners get more work group engagement as President and CEO of Shelton Business Services, LLC in Scottsdale, Arizona. Disclaimer: I don't offer investment, legal or tax advice. Talk to your broker, accountant or lawyer for investment, tax and legal help. I might own stock in the companies I mention on-line. My posts, tweets and other on-line activity are my personal thoughts and don't represent my employer or company.
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