A sad tale of corruption and naivete: A young man of 28, Ferdinand Ward proposes opening a brokerage and banking firm Grant & Ward with $100,000 investments from President Grant and his son Ulysses “Buck” Grant, Jr. The father/son team assumes that profits earned with the investments taken in from veterans and millionaires will be shared 50/50.
You know what happens when you assume, don’t you? People do it all the time. There’s no evil in money. It’s just paper, gold or cattle being traded for man hours of work or goods you have a hankering for. Is there evil in stupidity? Not sure.
Do we assume there’s enough money in our bank accounts to cover us in a run? Is it possible for the FDIC to cover all the money printed? Do we believe there’s real gold backing paper gold? Do we shake our heads at President Grant’s silly trust in Wall Street scoundrel Ferdinand Ward’s Ponzi scheme that left the military hero (dying of cancer) broke and unable to support his family?
Maybe we shouldn’t. I often wonder how people do evil things un-apologetically. They must rationalize their actions, right? Someone who believes in survival of the fittest actually has a better chance at convincing himself that there’s no such thing as evil, but many Christians, Jews, new-agers and Muslims commit acts of evil and many more of us are just plain ignorant of finance (myself included). People used to say I was foolish to keep my money in my Levi’s pocket–I didn’t have enough to open an account anyway. But maybe I wasn’t so misguided.
Young Mr. Ward must have had some charm. He convinced big bugs to finance his scheme and made some money for himself. He got caught, however and landed himself in jail–over 6 years in Sing Sing. He was called the best hated man in the US.
Who do we bother to hate now? Justin Beiber for being a spoiled, rich-kid who got that way using a talent people loved until last week? A kid with crappy parents? What about hating Jon Corzine who “lost” a billion dollars of customer money? He’s a pretty good candidate if you like your villains reckless, inept (supposedly), unrepentant and free as a bird. That’s how I like mine. An evil jerk usually remains free and sometimes admired these days and probably always. We live vicariously through them (though we probably hate to admit it) and they happen to be the easiest characters to write about.