Charpter - I - The House of Bush: Born in a Bank
Who is George Bush? How did he become the 41st U.S. President?
He is said to be a man of the "old establishment," who "chose to seek his fortune as an independent oilman...." @s1
In fact, Bush was never "independent." Every career step in his upward climb relied on his family's powerful associations. The Bush family joined the Eastern Establishment comparatively recently, and only as servitors. Their wealth and influence resulted from their loyalty to another, more powerful family, and their willingness to do anything to get ahead.
For what they did, Bush's forebears should have become very famous, or infamous. They remained obscure figures, managers from behind the scenes. But their actions--including his father's role as banker for Adolf Hitler--had tragic effects for the whole planet.
It was these services to his family's benefactors, which propelled George Bush to the top.
President George Herbert Walker Bush was born in 1924, the son of Prescott S. Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. We will begin the George Bush story about a decade before his birth, on the eve of World War I. We will follow the career of his father, Prescott Bush, through his marriage with Dorothy Walker, on the path to fortune, elegance and power.
Prescott Bush entered Yale University in 1913. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Prescott had spent the last five years before college in St. George's Episcopal preparatory school in Newport, Rhode Island.
Prescott Bush's first college year, 1913, was also the freshman year at Yale for E. Roland ( "Bunny" ) Harriman, whose older brother (Wm.) Averell Harriman had just graduated from Yale. This is the Averell Harriman who went on to fame as the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union during World War II, as a governor of New York State, and as a presidential advisor who was greatly responsible for starting the Vietnam War.
The Harrimans would become the sponsors of the Bushes, to lift them onto the stage of world history.
In the spring of 1916, Prescott Bush and "Bunny" Harriman were chosen for membership in an elite Yale senior-year secret society known as Skull and Bones. This unusually morbid, death-celebrating group helped Wall Street financiers find active young men of "good birth" to form a kind of imitation British aristocracy in America.
World War I was then raging in Europe. With the prospect that the U.S.A. would soon join the war, two Skull and Bones "Patriarchs" , Averell Harriman (class of 1913) and Percy A. Rockefeller (class of 1900), paid special attention to Prescott's class of 1917. They wanted reliable cadres to help them play the Great Game, in the lucrative new imperial era that the war was opening up for London and New York moneycrats. Prescott Bush, by then a close friend of "Bunny" Harriman, and several other Bonesmen from their class of 1917 would later comprise the core partners in Brown Brothers Harriman, the world's largest private investment bank.
World War I did make an immense amount of money for the clan of stock speculators and British bankers who had just taken over U.S. industry. The Harrimans were stars of this new Anglo-American elite.
Averell's father, stock broker E.H. Harriman, had gained control of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1898 with credit arranged by William Rockefeller, Percy's father, and by Kuhn Loeb & Co.'s British-affiliated private bankers, Otto Kahn, Jacob Schiff and Felix Warburg.
William Rockefeller, treasurer of Standard Oil and brother of Standard founder John D. Rockefeller, owned National City Bank (later "Citibank" ) together with Texas-based James Stillman. In return for their backing, E.H. Harriman deposited in City Bank the vast receipts from his railroad lines. When he issued tens of millions of dollars of "watered" (fraudulent) railroad stock, Harriman sold most of the shares through the Kuhn Loeb company.
The First World War elevated Prescott Bush and his father, Samuel P. Bush, into the lower ranks of the Eastern Establishment.
As war loomed in 1914, National City Bank began reorganizing the U.S. arms industry. Percy A. Rockefeller took direct control of the Remington Arms company, appointing his own man, Samuel F. Pryor, as the new chief executive of Remington.
The U.S entered World War I in 1917. In the spring of 1918, Prescott's father, Samuel P. Bush, became chief of the Ordnance, Small Arms and Ammunition Section of the War Industries Board.@s2 The senior Bush took national responsibility for government assistance to and relations with Remington and other weapons companies.
This was an unusual appointment, as Prescott's father seemed to have no background in munitions. Samuel Bush had been president of the Buckeye Steel Castings Co. in Columbus, Ohio, makers of railcar parts. His entire career had been in the railroad business-- supplying equipment to the Wall Street-owned railroad systems.
The War Industries Board was run by Bernard Baruch, a Wall Street speculator with close personal and business ties to old E.H. Harriman. Baruch's brokerage firm had handled Harriman speculations of all kinds.@s3
In 1918, Samuel Bush became director of the Facilities Division of the War Industries Board. Prescott's father reported to the Board's Chairman, Bernard Baruch, and to Baruch's assistant, Wall Street private banker Clarence Dillon.
Robert S. Lovett, President of Union Pacific Railroad, chief counsel to E.H. Harriman and executor of his will, was in charge of national production and purchase "priorities" for Baruch's board.
With the war mobilization conducted under the supervision of the War Industries Board, U.S. consumers and taxpayers showered unprecedented fortunes on war producers and certain holders of raw materials and patents. Hearings in 1934 by the committee of U.S. Senator Gerald Nye attacked the "Merchants of Death" -- war profiteers such as Remington Arms and the British Vickers company --whose salesmen had manipulated many nations into wars, and then supplied all sides with the weapons to fight them.
Percy Rockefeller and Samuel Pryor's Remington Arms supplied machine guns and Colt automatic pistols; millions of rifles to Czarist Russia; over half of the small-arms ammunition used by the Anglo-American allies in World War I; and 69 percent of the rifles used by the United States in that conflict.@s4
Samuel Bush's wartime relationship to these businessmen would continue after the war, and would especially aid his son Prescott's career of service to the Harrimans.
Most of the records and correspondence of Samuel Bush's arms- related section of the government have been burned, "to save space" in the National Archives. This matter of destroyed or misplaced records should be of concern to citizens of a constitutional republic. Unfortunately, it is a rather constant impediment with regard to researching George Bush's background: He is certainly the most "covert" American chief executive.
Now, arms production in wartime is by necessity carried on with great security precautions. The public need not know details of the private lives of the government or industry executives involved, and a broad interrelationship between government and private-sector personnel is normal and useful.
But during the period preceding World War I, and in the war years 1914-1917 when the U.S. was still neutral, interlocking Wall Street financiers subservient to British strategy lobbied heavily, and twisted U.S. government and domestic police functions. Led by the J.P. Morgan concern, Britain's overall purchasing agent in America, these financiers wanted a world war and they wanted the United States in it as Britain's ally. The U.S. and British arms companies, owned by these international financiers, poured out weapons abroad in deals not subject to the scrutiny of any electorate back home. The same gentlemen, as we shall see, later supplied weapons and money to Hitler's Nazis.
That this problem persists today, is in some respect due to the "control" over the documentation and the history of the arms traffickers.
World War I was a disaster for civilized humanity. It had terrible, unprecedented casualties, and shattering effects on the moral philosophy of Europeans and Americans.
But for a brief period, the war treated Prescott Bush rather well.
In June, 1918, just as his father took over responsibility for relations of the government with the private arms producers, Prescott went to Europe with the U.S. Army. His unit did not come near any fire until September. But on August 8, 1918, the following item appeared on the front page of Bush's home-town newspaper:
For Notable Gallantry, When Leading Allied Commanders Were Endangered, Local Man is Awarded French, English and U.S. Crosses.
International Honors, perhaps unprecedented in the life of an American soldier, have been conferred upon Captain Prescott Sheldon Bush, son of Mr. and Mrs. S.P. Bush of Columbus.
Upon young Bush ... were conferred: Cross of the Legion of Honor, ... Victoria Cross, ... Distinguished Service Cross....
Conferring of the three decorations upon one man at one time implies recognition of a deed of rare valor and probably of great military importance as well.
From word which has reached Columbus during the last few days, it appears as if the achievement of Captain Bush well measures up to these requirements.
The incident occurred on the western front about the time the Germans were launching their great offensive of July 15.... The history of the remarkable victory scored later by the allies might have been written in another vein, but for the heroic and quick action of Captain Bush.
The ... three allied leaders, Gen. [Ferdinand] Foch, Sir Douglas Haig and Gen. [John J.] Pershing ... were making an inspection of American positions. Gen. Pershing had sent for Captain Bush to guide them about one sector.... Suddenly Captain Bush noticed a shell coming directly for them. He shouted a warning, suddenly drew his bolo knife, stuck it up as he would a ball bat, and parried the blow, causing the shell to glance off to the right....
Within 24 hours young Bush was notified ... [that] the three allied commanders had recommended him for practically the highest honors within their gift.... Captain Bush is 23 years old, a graduate of Yale in the class of 1917. He was one of Yale's best- known athletes ... was leader of the glee club ... and in his senior year was elected to the famous Skull and Bones Society....@s5
The day after this astonishing story appeared, there was a large cartoon on the editorial page. It depicted Prescott Bush as a small boy, reading a story-book about military heroism, and saying: "Gee! I wonder if anything like that could ever truly happen to a boy." The caption below was a rehash of the batting- away- the-deadly-shell exploit, written in storybook style.@s6
Local excitement about the military "Babe Ruth" lasted just four weeks. Then this somber little box appeared on the front page:
A cable received from my son, Prescott S. Bush, brings word that he has not been decorated, as published in the papers a month ago. He feels dreadfully troubled that a letter, written in a spirit of fun, should have been misinterpreted. He says he is no hero and asks me to make explanations. I will appreciate your kindness in publishing this letter....
Flora Sheldon Bush.
Columbus, Sept. 5.@s7
Prescott Bush later claimed that he spent "about 10 or 11 weeks" in the area of combat in France. "We were under fire there.... It was quite exciting, and of course a wonderful experience." @s8
Prescott Bush was discharged in mid-1919, and returned for a short time to Columbus, Ohio. But his humiliation in his home town was so intense that he could no longer live there. The "war hero" story was henceforth not spoken of in his presence. Decades later, when he was an important, rich U.S. Senator, the story was whispered and puzzled over among the Congressmen.
Looking to be rescued from this ugly situation, Captain Bush went to the 1919 reunion of his Yale class in New Haven, Connecticut. Skull and Bones Patriarch Wallace Simmons, closely tied to the arms manufacturers, offered Prescott Bush a job in his St. Louis railroad equipment company. Bush took the offer and moved to St. Louis--and his destiny.
Prescott Bush went to St. Louis to repair his troubled life. Sometime that same year, Averell Harriman made a trip there on a project which would have great consequences for Prescott. The 28- year-old Harriman, until then something of a playboy, wanted to bring his inherited money and contacts into action in the arena of world affairs.
President Theodore Roosevelt had denounced Harriman's father for "cynicism and deep-seated corruption" and called him an "undesirable citizen." @s9 For the still- smarting Averell to take his place among the makers and breakers of nations, he needed a financial and intelligence-gathering organization of his own. The man Harriman sought to create such an institution for him was Bert Walker, a Missouri stock broker and corporate wheeler- dealer.
George Herbert ( "Bert" ) Walker, for whom President George H.W. Bush was named, did not immediately accept Harriman's proposal. Would Walker leave his little St. Louis empire, to try his influence in New York and Europe?
Bert was the son of a dry goods wholesaler who had thrived on imports from England.@s1@s0 The British connection had paid for Walker summer houses in Santa Barbara, California, and in Maine-- "Walker's Point" at Kennebunkport. Bert Walker had been sent to England for his prep school and college education.
By 1919 Bert Walker had strong ties to the Guaranty Trust Company in New York and to the British-American banking house J.P. Morgan and Co. These Wall Street concerns represented all the important owners of American railroads: the Morgan partners and their associates or cousins in the intermarried Rockefeller, Whitney, Harriman and Vanderbilt families.
Bert Walker was known as the midwest's premier deal-arranger, awarding the investment capital of his international-banker contacts to the many railroads, utilities and other midwestern industries of which he and his St. Louis friends were executives or board members.
Walker's operations were always quiet, or mysterious, whether in local or global affairs. He had long been the "power behind the throne" in the St. Louis Democratic Party, along with his crony, former Missouri Governor David R. Francis. Walker and Francis together had sufficient influence to select the party's candidates.@s1@s1
Back in 1904, Bert Walker, David Francis, Washington University President Robert Brookings and their banker/broker circle had organized a world's fair in St. Louis, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. In line with the old Southern Confederacy family backgrounds of many of these sponsors, the fair featured a "Human Zoo" : live natives from backward jungle regions were exhibited in special cages under the supervision of anthropologist William J. McGee.
So Averell Harriman was a natural patron for Bert Walker. Bert shared Averell's passion for horse breeding and horse racing, and easily accommodated the Harriman family's related social philosophy. They believed that the horses and racing stables they owned showed the way toward a sharp upgrading of the human stock--just select and mate thoroughbreds, and spurn or eliminate inferior animals.
The First World War had brought the little St. Louis oligarchy into the Confederate-slaveowner-oriented administration of President Woodrow Wilson and his advisors, Col. Edward House and Bernard Baruch.
Walker's friend Robert Brookings got into Bernard Baruch's War Industries Board as director of national Price Fixing (sic). David R. Francis became U.S. ambassador to Russia in 1916. As the Bolshevik Revolution broke out, we find Bert Walker busy appointing people to Francis's staff in Petrograd.@s1@s2
Walker's earliest activities in relation to the Soviet state are of significant interest to historians, given the activist role he was to play there together with Harriman. But Walker's life is as covert as the rest of the Bush clan's, and the surviving public record is extremely thin.
The 1919 Versailles peace conference brought together British imperial strategists and their American friends to make postwar global arrangements. For his own intended international adventures, Harriman needed Bert Walker the seasoned intriguer, who quietly represented many of the British-designated rulers of American politics and finance.
After two persuasion trips west by Harriman,@s1@s3 Walker at length agreed to move to New York. But he kept his father's summer house in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Bert Walker formally organized the W.A. Harriman & Co. private bank in November 1919. Walker became the bank's president and chief executive; Averell Harriman was chairman and controlling co-owner with his brother Roland ( "Bunny" ), Prescott Bush's close friend from Yale; and Percy Rockefeller was a director and a founding financial sponsor.
In the autumn of 1919, Prescott Bush made the acquaintance of Bert Walker's daughter Dorothy. They were engaged the following year, and were married in August, 1921.@s1@s4 Among the ushers and grooms at the elaborate wedding were Ellery S. James, Knight Woolley and four other fellow Skull and Bonesmen from the Yale Class of 1917.@s1@s5 The Bush-Walker extended family has gathered each summer at the "Walker country home" in Kennebunkport, from this marriage of President Bush's parents down to the present day.
When Prescott married Dorothy, he was only a minor executive of the Simmons Co., railroad equipment suppliers, while his wife's father was building one of the most gigantic businesses in the world. The following year the couple tried to move back to Columbus, Ohio; there Prescott worked for a short time in a rubber products company owned by his father. But they soon moved again to Milton, Mass., after outsiders bought the little family business and moved it near there.
Thus Prescott Bush was going nowhere fast, when his son George Herbert Walker Bush--the future U.S. President--was born in Milton, Mass., on June 12, 1924.
Perhaps it was as a birthday gift for George, that "Bunny" Harriman stepped in to rescue his father Prescott from oblivion, bringing him into the Harriman-controlled U.S. Rubber Co. in New York City. In 1925 the young family moved to the town where George was to grow up: Greenwich, Connecticut, a suburb both of New York and of New Haven/Yale.
Then on May 1, 1926, Prescott Bush joined W.A. Harriman & Co. as its vice president, under the bank's president, Bert Walker, his father-in-law and George's maternal grandfather--the head of the family.@s1@s6
Prescott Bush would demonstrate strong loyalty to the firm he joined in 1926. And the bank, with the scope and power of many ordinary nations, could amply reward its agents. George Bush's Grandfather Walker had put the enterprise together, quietly, secretly, using all the international connections at his disposal. Let us briefly look back at the beginning of the Harriman firm--the Bush family enterprise--and follow its course into one of history's darkest projects.
The firm's first global lever was its successful arrangement to get into Germany by dominating that country's shipping. Averell Harriman announced in 1920 that he would re-start Germany's Hamburg- Amerika Line, after many months of scheming and arm-twisting. Hamburg-Amerika's commercial steamships had been confiscated by the United States at the end of the First World War. These ships had then become the property of the Harriman enterprise, by some arrangements with the U.S. authorities that were never made public.
The deal was breathtaking; it would create the world's largest private shipping line. Hamburg-Amerika Line regained its confiscated vessels, for a heavy price. The Harriman enterprise took "the right to participate in 50 percent of all business originated in Hamburg" ; and for the next twenty years (1920-1940), the Harriman enterprise had "complete control of all activities of the Hamburg line in the United States." @s1@s7
Harriman became co-owner of Hamburg-Amerika. The Harriman-Walker firm gained a tight hold on its management, with the not-so-subtle backing of the post-World War I occupation of Germany by the armies of England and America.
Just after Harriman's public statement, the St. Louis press celebrated Bert Walker's role in assembling the money to consummate the deal:
"Ex-St. Louisan Forms Giant Ship Merger"
"G. H. Walker is Moving Power Behind Harriman-Morton Shipping Combine...."
The story celebrated a "merger of two big financial houses in New York, which will place practically unlimited capital at the disposal of the new American-German shipping combine...." @s1@s8
Bert Walker had arranged a "marriage" of J.P. Morgan credit and Harriman family inherited wealth.
W.A. Harriman & Co., of which Walker was president and founder, was merging with the Morton & Co. private bank--and Walker was "[p]rominent in the affairs of Morton & Co.," which was interlocked with the Morgan-controlled Guaranty Trust Co.
The Hamburg-Amerika takeover created an effective instrument for the manipulation and fatal subversion of Germany. One of the great "merchants of death," Samuel Pryor, was in it from the beginning. Pryor, then chairman of the executive committee of Remington Arms, helped arrange the deal and served with Walker on the board of Harriman's shipping front organization, the American Ship and Commerce Co.
Walker and Harriman took the next giant step in 1922, setting up their European headquarters office in Berlin. With the aid of the Hamburg-based Warburg bank, W.A. Harriman & Co. began spreading an investment net over German industry and raw materials.
From the Berlin base, Walker and Harriman then plunged into deals with the new dictatorship of the Soviet Union. They led a select group of Wall Street and British Empire speculators who re-started the Russian oil industry, which had been devastated by the Bolshevik Revolution. They contracted to mine Soviet manganese, an element essential to modern steelmaking. These concessions were arranged directly with Leon Trotsky, then with Feliks Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet dictatorship's secret intelligence service (K.G.B), whose huge statue was finally pulled down by pro-democracy demonstrators in 1991.
These speculations created both channels of communication, and the style of accomodation, with the communist dictatorship, that have continued in the family down to President Bush.
With the bank launched, Bert Walker found New York the ideal place to satisfy his passion for sports, games and gambling. Walker was elected president of the U.S. Golf Association in 1920. He negotiated new international rules for the game with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland. After these talks he contributed the three-foot-high silver Walker Cup, for which British and American teams have since competed every two years.
Bert's son-in-law Prescott Bush was later secretary of the U.S. Golf Association, during the grave political and economic crises of the early 1930s. Prescott became USGA President in 1935, while he was otherwise embroiled in the family firm's work with Nazi Germany.
When George was one year old, in 1925, Bert Walker and Averell Harriman headed a syndicate which rebuilt Madison Square Garden as the modern Palace of Sport. Walker was at the center of New York's gambling scene in its heyday, in that Prohibition era of colorful and bloody gangsters. The Garden bloomed with million-dollar prize fights; bookies and their clients pooled more millions, trying to match the pace of the speculation-crazed stock and bond men. This was the era of "organized" crime--the national gambling and bootleg syndicate structured on the New York corporate model.
By 1930, when George was a boy of six, Grandpa Walker was New York State Racing Commissioner. The vivid colors and sounds of the racing scene must have impressed little George as much as his grandfather. Bert Walker bred race horses at his own stable, the Log Cabin Stud. He was president of the Belmont Park race track. Bert also personally managed most aspects of Averell's racing interests-- down to picking the colors and fabrics for the Harriman racing gear.@s1@s9
From 1926, George's father Prescott Bush showed a fierce loyalty to the Harrimans and a dogged determination to advance himself; he gradually came to run the day-to-day operations of W.A. Harriman & Co. After the firm's 1931 merger with the British-American banking house Brown Brothers, Prescott Bush became managing partner of the resulting company: Brown Brothers Harriman. This was ultimately the largest and politically the most important private banking house in America.
Financial collapse, world depression and social upheaval followed the fevered speculation of the 1920s. The 1929-31 crash of securities values wiped out the small fortune Prescott Bush had gained since 1926. But because of his devotion to the Harrimans, they "did a very generous thing," as Bush later put it. They staked him to what he had lost and put him back on his feet.
Prescott Bush described his own role, from 1931 through the 1940s, in a confidential interview:
But of the "three or four" partners in charge, Prescott was effectively at the head of the firm, because he had taken over management of the gigantic personal investment funds of Averell and E. Roland "Bunny" Harriman.
In those interwar years, Prescott Bush made the family fortune which George Bush inherited. He piled up the money from an international project which continued until a new world war, and the action of the U.S. government, intervened to stop him.
1. Washington Post, Aug. 16, 1991, p. A1.
2. Gen. Hugh S. Johnson to Major J.H.K. Davis, June 6, 1918, file no. 334.8/168 or 334.8/451 in U.S. National Archives, Suitland, Maryland.
3. Bernard M. Baruch, My Own Story (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1957), pp. 138-39. Baruch related that "our firm did a large business for Mr. Harriman.... In 1906 Harriman had [us] place heavy bets on Charles Evans Hughes in his race for Governor of New York against William Randolph Hearst. After several hundred thousand dollars had been wagered, [our firm] stopped. Hearing of this, Harriman called ... up. `Didn't I tell you to bet?' he demanded. `Now go on.'|"
4. Alden Hatch, Remington Arms: An American History, 1956, copyright by the Remington Arms Co., pp. 224-25.
5. The Ohio State Journal, Columbus, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 8, 1918.
6. The Ohio State Journal, Friday, Aug. 9, 1918.
7. The Ohio State Journal, Friday, Sept. 6, 1918.
8. Interview with Prescott Bush in the Oral History Research Project conducted by Columbia University in 1966, Eisenhower Administration Part II; pp. 5-6. The interview was supposed to be kept confidential and was never published, but Columbia later sold microfilms of the transcript to certain libraries, including Arizona State University.
9. Theodore Roosevelt to James S. Sherman, Oct. 6, 1906, made public by Roosevelt at a press conference April 2, 1907. Quoted in Henry F. Pringle, Theodore Roosevelt (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1931), p. 452. Roosevelt later confided to Harriman lawyer Robert S. Lovett that his views on Harriman were based on what J.P. Morgan had told him.
10. See The Industries of St. Louis, published 1885 by J.M. Elstner & Co., pp. 61-62 for Crow, Hagardine & Co., David Walker's first business; and p. 86 for Ely & Walker.
11. See Letter of G.H. Walker to D.R. Francis, March 20, 1905, in the Francis collection of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, Missouri, on the organization of the Republicans and Democrats to run the election of the mayor, a Democrat acceptable to the socially prominent. The next day Walker became the treasurer and Francis the president of this "Committee of 1000." See also George H. Walker obituary, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 25, 1953.
12. Letter of Perry Francis to his father, Ambassador David R. Francis, Oct. 15, 1917, Francis collection of the Missouri Historical Society. "... Joe Miller left for San Francisco last Tuesday night, where he will receive orders to continue to Petrograd. I was told by Mildred Kotany [Walker's sister-in-law] that Bert Walker got him his appointment through Breck Long. I didn't know Joe was after it, or could have helped him myself. He will be good company for you when he gets there...."
13. Private interview with a Walker family member, cousin of President Bush.
14. Prescott Bush, Columbia University, op. cit., p. 7.
15. St. Louis Globe Democrat, Aug. 7, 1921. 16. This is the sequence of events, from Simmons to U.S. Rubber, which Prescott Bush gave in his Columbia University interview, op. cit.,) pp. 7-8.
17. Public statement of Averell Harriman, New York Times, Oct. 6, 1920, p. 1.
18. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Oct. 12, 1920, p. 1.
19. Sports-as-business has continued in the family up through George Bush's adult life. Bert's son George Walker, Jr.--President Bush's uncle and financial angel in Texas--co-founded the New York Mets and was the baseball club's vice president and treasurer for 17 years until his death in 1977. The President's son, George Walker Bush, was co-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball club during his father's presidency.
20. Prescott Bush, Columbia University, op. cit., pp. 16-22.