The Jew in Character and Business
By Henry Ford
(Reprinted from the 22 May 1920 Issue of the house journal of the Ford Motor Co., the Dearborn Independent and slightly edited by Raymond Bray to eliminate the numerous uses of "which" for "that" in the original.)
The Jew is again being singled out for critical attention throughout the world. His emergence in the financial, political and social spheres has been so complete and spectacular since the war, that his place, power and purpose in the world are being given a new scrutiny, much of it unfriendly. Persecution is not a new experience to the Jew, but intensive scrutiny of his nature and super-nationality is. He has suffered for more than 2,000 years from what may be called instinctive anti-Semitism of the other races, but this antagonism has never been intelligent nor has it been able to make itself intelligible. Nowadays, however, the Jew is being placed, as it were, under the microscope of economic observation that the reasons for his power, the reasons for his separateness, the reasons for his suffering may be defined and understood.
In Russia he is charged with being the source of Bolshevism, an accusation that is serious or not according to the circle in which it is made; we in America, hearing the fervid eloquence and perceiving the prophetic ardor of young Jewish apostles of social and industrial reform, can calmly estimate how it may be. In Germany he is charged with being the cause of the Empire's collapse and a very considerable literature has sprung up, bearing with it a mass of circumstantial evidence that gives the thinker pause. In England he is charged with being the real world ruler, who rules as a super-nation over the nations, rules by the power of gold, and who plays nation against nation for his own purposes, remaining himself discreetly in the background. In America it is pointed out to what extent the elder Jews of wealth and the younger Jews of ambition swarmed through the war organizations - principally those departments that dealt with the commercial and industrial business of war, and also the extent to which they have clung to the advantage that their experience s agents of the government gave them.
In simple words, the question of the Jews has come to the fore, but like other questions that lend themselves to prejudice, efforts will be made to hush it up as impolitic for open discussion. If, however, experience has taught us anything it is that questions thus suppressed will sooner or later break out in undesirable and unprofitable forms.
The Jew is the world's enigma. Poor in his masses, he yet controls the world's finances. Scattered abroad without country or government, he yet presents a unity of race continuity that no other people has achieved. Living under legal disabilities in almost every land, he has become the power behind many a throne. There are ancient prophecies to the effect that the Jew will return to his own land and from that center rule the world, though not until he has undergone an assault by the united nations of mankind.
The single description that will include a larger percentage of Jews than members of any other race is this: he is in business. It may be only gathering rags and selling them, but he is in business. From the sale of old clothes to the control of international trade and finance, the Jew is supremely gifted for business. More than any other race he exhibits a decided aversion to industrial employment, which he balances by an equally decided adaptability to trade. The Gentile boy works his way up, taking employment in the productive or technical departments; but the Jewish boy prefers to begin as messenger, salesman or clerk - anything - so long as it is connected with the commercial side of the business. An early Prussian census illustrates this characteristic: of a total population of 269,400, the Jews comprised six per cent or 16,164. Of these , 12,000 were traders and 4,164 were workmen. Of the Gentile population, the other 94 per cent, or 153,236 people, there were only 17,000 traders.
A modern census would show a large professional and literary class added to the traders, but no diminution of the percentage of traders and not much if any increase in the number of wage toilers. In America alone most of the big business, the trusts and the banks, the natural resources and the chief agricultural products, especially tobacco, cotton and sugar, are in the control of Jewish financiers or their agents. Jewish journalists are a large and powerful group here. "Large numbers of department stores are held by Jewish firms," says the Jewish Encyclopedia, and many if not most of them are run under Gentile names. Jews are the largest and most numerous landlords of residence property in the country. They are supreme in the theatrical world. They absolutely control the circulation of publications throughout the country. Fewer than any race whose presence among us is noticeable, they receive daily an amount of favorable publicity that would be impossible did they not have the facilities for creating and distributing it themselves. Werner Sombart, in his "Jew and Modern Capitalism" says, "If the conditions in America continue to develop along the same lines as in the last generation, if the immigration statistics and the proportion of births among all the nationalities remain the same, our imagination may picture the United States of fifty or a hundred years hence as a land inhabited only by Slavs, Negroes and Jews, wherein the Jews will naturally occupy the position of economic leadership." Sombart is a pro-Jewish writer.
The question is, If the Jew is in control, how did it happen? This is a free country. The Jew comprises only about three per cent of the population; to every Jew there are 97 Gentiles; to the 3,000,000 Jews in the United States there are 97,000,000 Gentiles. If the Jew is in control, is it because of his superior ability, or is it because of the inferiority and don't-care attitude of the Gentiles?
It would be very simple to answer that the Jews came to America, took their chances like other people and proved more successful in the competitive struggle. But that would not include all the facts. And before a more adequate answer can be given, two points should be made clear. This first is this: all Jews are not rich controllers of wealth. There are poor Jews aplenty, though most of them even in their poverty are their own masters. While it may be true that the chief financial controllers of the country are Jews, it is not true that every Jew is one of the financial controllers of the country. The classes must be kept distinct for a reason that will appear when the methods of the rich Jews and the methods of the poor Jews to gain power are differentiated. Secondly; the fact of Jewish solidarity renders it difficult to measure Gentile and Jewish achievements by the same standard. When a great block of wealth in America was made possible by the lavish use of another block of wealth from across the seas; that is to say, when certain Jewish immigrants came to the United States with the financial backing of European Jewry behind them, it would be unfair to explain the rise of that class of immigration by the same rules that account for the rise of, say, the Germans or the Poles who came here with no resource but their ambition and strength. To be sure, many individual Jews come in that way, too, with no dependence but themselves, but it would not be true to say that the massive control of affairs that is exercised by Jewish wealth was won by individual initiative; it was rather the extension of financial control across the sea.
That, indeed, is where any explanation of Jewish control must begin. Here is a race whose entire period of national history saw them peasants on the land, whose ancient genius was spiritual rather than material, bucolic rather than commercial, yet today, when they have no country, no government, and are persecuted in one way or another everywhere they go, they are declared to be the principal though unofficial rulers of the earth. How does so strange a charge arise, and why do so many circumstances seem to justify it?
Begin at the beginning. During the formative period of their national character the Jews lived under a law that made plutocracy and pauperism equally impossible among them. Modern reformers who are construction model social systems on paper would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized. The Law of Moses made a "money aristocracy," such as Jewish financiers form today, impossible because it forbade the taking of interest. It made impossible also the continuous enjoyment of profit wrung out of another's distress. Profiteering and sheer speculation were not favored under the Jewish system. There could be no land-hogging; the land was apportioned among the people, and though it might be lost by debt or sold under stress, it was returned every 50 years to its original family ownership, at which time, called "The Year of Jubilee," there was practically a new social beginning. The rise of great landlords and a moneyed class was impossible under such a system, although the interim of 50 years gave ample scope for individual initiative to assert itself under fair competitive conditions.
If, therefore, the Jews had retained their status as a nation, and had remained in Palestine under the Law of Moses, they would hardly have achieved the financial distinction that they have since won. Jews never got rich out of one another. Even in modern times they have not become rich out of each other but out of the nations among whom they dwelt. Jewish law permitted the Jew to do business with a Gentile on a different basis than that on which he did business with a brother Jew. What is called "the Law of the Stranger" was defined thus: "unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury." Being dispersed among the nations, but never merging themselves with the nations and never losing a very distinctive identity, the Jew has had the opportunity to practice "the ethics of the stranger" for many centuries. Being strangers among strangers, and often among cruelly hostile strangers, they have found this law a compensating advantage. Still, this alone would not account for the Jew's preeminence in finance. The explanation of that must be sought in the Jew himself, his vigor, resourcefulness and special proclivities.
Very early in the Jewish story we discover the tendency of Israel to be a master nation, with other nations as vassals. Notwithstanding the fact that the whole prophetic purpose with reference to Israel seems to have been the moral enlightenment of the world through its agency, Israel's "will to mastery" apparently hindered that purpose. At least such would seem to be the tone of the Old Testament. Divinely ordered to drive out the Canaanites that their corrupt ideas might not contaminate Israel, the Jews did not obey, according to the old record. They looked over the Canaanitish people and perceived what great amount of man-power would be wasted if they were expelled, and so Israel enslaved them - "And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out." It was this form of disobedience, this preference of material mastery over spiritual leadership, that marked the beginning of Israel's age-long disciplinary distress.
The Jews' dispersion among the nations temporarily (that is, for more than 25 centuries now) changed the program that their scriptures declare was divinely planned, and that dispersion continues until today. There are spiritual leaders in modern Judaism who still claim that Israel's mission to the nations is spiritual, but their assertions that Israel is today fulfilling that mission are not as convincing as they might be if accompanied by more evidence. Israel, throughout the modern centuries is still looking at the Gentile world and estimating what its man-power can be made to yield. But the discipline upon Israel still holds; he is an exile from his own land, condemned to be discriminated against wherever he goes, until the time when exile and homelessness shall end in a re-established Palestine, and Jerusalem again the moral center of the earth, even as the elder prophets have declared.
Had the Jew become an employee, a worker for other men, his dispersion would not probably have been so wide. But becoming a trader, his instincts drew him round the habitable earth. There were Jews in China at an early date. They appeared as traders in England at the time of the Saxons. Jewish traders were in South America 100 years before the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth Rock. Jews established the sugar industry in the Island of St. Thomas in 1492. They were well established in Brazil when only a few villages dotted the eastern coast of what is now the United States. And how far they penetrated when once they came here is indicated by the fact that the first white child born in Georgia was a Jew - Isaac Minis. The Jew's presence round the earth, his clannishness with his own people, made him a nation scattered among the nations, a corporation with agents everywhere.
Another talent, however, contributed greatly to his rise in financial power - his ability to invent new devices for doing business. Until the Jew was pitted against the world, business was very crudely done. And when we trace the origins of many of the business methods that simplify and facilitate trade today, more likely than not we find a Jewish name at the end of the clue. Many of the indispensable instruments of credit and exchange were thought out by Jewish merchants, not only for use between themselves, but to check and hold the Gentiles with whom they dealt. The oldest bill of exchange extant was drawn by a Jew - one Simon Rubens. The promissory note was a Jewish invention, as was also the check "payable to bearer."
An interesting bit of history attaches to the "payable to bearer" instrument. The Jews; enemies were always stripping them of their last ounce of wealth, yet strangely, the Jews recovered very quickly and were soon rich again. How this sudden recovery from looting and poverty? Their assets were concealed under "bearer" and so a goodly portion was always saved. In an age with it was lawful for any pirate to seize goods consigned to Jews, the Jews were able to protect themselves by consigning goods on policies that bore no names.
The influence of the Jew was to center business around goods instead of persons. Previously all claims had been against persons; the Jew knew that the goods were more reliable than the persons with whom he dealt, and so he contrived to have claims laid against goods. Besides, this device enabled him to keep himself out of sight as much as possible. This introduced an element of hardness into business, inasmuch as it was goods that were being dealt in rather than men being dealt with, and this hardness remains. Another tendency that survives and that is of advantage in veiling the very large control that Jews have attained, is of the same origin as "bearer" bills; it permits a business dominated by Jewish capital to appear under a name that gives no hint of Jewish control
The Jew is the only and original international capitalist, but as a rule he prefers not to emblazon that fact upon the skies; he prefers to use Gentile banks and trust companies as his agents and instruments. The suggestive term "Gentile front" often appears in connection with this practice.
The invention of the stock exchange is also credited to Jewish financial talent. In Berlin, Paris, London, Frankfort, and Hamburg, Jews were in control of the first stock exchanges, while Venice and Genoa were openly referred to in the talk of the day as "Jew cities" where great trading and banking facilities might be found. The Bank of England was established upon the counsel and assistance of Jewish emigrants from Holland. The Bank of Amsterdam and the Bank of Hamburg both arose through Jewish influence.
There is a curious fact to be noted in connection with the persecution and consequent wanderings of the Jews about Europe and that is: wherever they wandered, the center of business seemed to go with them. When the Jews were free in Spain, there was the world's gold center. When Spain drove out the Jews, Spain lost financial leadership and has never regained it. Students of the economic history of Europe have always been puzzled to discover why the center of trade should have shifted from Spain, Portugal and Italy, up to the northern countries of Holland, Germany, and England. They have sought for the cause in many things, but none has proved completely explanatory. When, however, it is known that the change was coincident with the expulsion of the Jews from the South and their flight to the North, when it is known that upon the Jews' arrival the northern countries began a commercial life that has flourished until our day, the explanation does not seem difficult. Time and again it has proved to be the fact that when the Jews were forced to move, the center of the world's precious metals moved with them.
This distribution of the Jews over Europe and the world, each Jewish community linked in a fellowship of blood, faith and suffering with every other group, made it possible for the Jew to be international in the sense that no other race or group of merchants could be at the time. Not only were they everywhere (Americans and Russians are everywhere, too) but they were in touch. They were organized before the days of conscious international commercial organizations, they were bound together by the sinews of a common life. It was observed by many writers in the Middle Ages that the Jews knew more of what was transpiring in Europe than the governments did. They also had better knowledge of what was likely to occur. They knew more about conditions than the statesmen did. This information they imparted by letter from group to group, country to country. Indeed, they may be said thus to have originated unconsciously the financial news-letter. Certainly the information they were able to obtain and thus distribute was invaluable to them in their speculative enterprises. Advance knowledge was an immense advantage in the days when news was scarce, slow and unreliable.
This enabled Jewish financiers to become the agents of national loans, a form of business that they encouraged wherever possible. The Jew has always desired to have nations for his customers. National loans were facilitated by the presence of members of the same family of financiers in various countries, thus making an interlocking directorate by which king could be played against king, government against government, and the shrewdest use made of national prejudices and fears, all to the no small profit of the fiscal agent.
One of the charges most commonly made against Jewish financiers today is that they still favor this larger field of finance. Indeed, in all the criticism that is heard regarding the Jew as a business man, there is comparatively little said against him as an individual merchant serving individual customers. Thousands of small Jewish merchants are highly respected by their trade, just as tens of thousands of Jewish families are respected as our neighbors. The criticism, insofar as it respects the more important financiers, is not racial at all. Unfortunately the element of race, which so easily lends itself to misinterpretation as racial prejudice, is injected into the question by the mere fact that the chain of international finance as it is traced around the world discloses at every link a Jewish capitalist, financial family, or a Jewish-controlled banking system. Many have professed to see in this circumstance a conscious organization of Jewish power for Gentile control, while others have attributed the circumstance to Jewish racial sympathies, to the continuity of their family affairs down the line of descent, and to the increase of collateral branches. In the old Scriptural phrase, Israel grows as the vine grows, ever shooting out new branches and deepening old roots, but always part of the one vine.
The Jew's aptitude for dealing with governments may also be traced to the years of his persecution. He early learned the power of gold in dealing with mercenary enemies. Wherever he went there followed him like a curse the aroused antipathy of other peoples. The Jew was never popular as a race; even the most fervid Jew will not deny that, howsoever he may explain it. Individuals have been popular, of course; many phases of Jewish nature are found to be very lovable when known; but nevertheless one of the burdens the Jews have had to bear s a race is this burden of racial unpopularity. Even in modern times, in civilized countries, in conditions that render persecution absolutely impossible, this unpopularity exists. And what is more, the Jew has not seemed to care to cultivate the friendship of the Gentile masses, due perhaps to the failures of experience, but due more likely to his inborn persuasion that he belongs to a superior race. Whatever the true reason, he has always placed his main dependence on cultivating friendship with kings and nobles. What cared the Jew if the people gnashed their teeth against him, so long as the kind and the court were his friends? Thus there was always, even through most of the severely trying times, "a court Jew," one who had bought by loans and held by the strangle-hold of debt an entrance to the king's chamber. The policy of the Jews has always been to "go to headquarters." They never tried to placate the Russian people, but they did endeavor to enlist the Russian court. They never tried to placate the German people, but they did succeed in permeating the German court. In England they shrug their shoulders at the outspoken anti-Jew reactions of the British populace - what care they? Have they not all of lorddom at their heels, do they not hold the strings of Britain's purse?
Through this ability of theirs to "go to headquarters" it is possible to account for the stronghold they got upon various governments and nations. Added to this ability was, of course, the ability to produce what the governments wanted. If a government wanted a loan, the Jew at court could arrange it through Jews at other financial centers and political capitals. If one government wanted to pay another government a debt without risking the precious metal to a mule train through a robber-infested country, the Jew at court arranged that too. He transferred a piece of paper and the debt was paid by the banking house at the foreign capital. The first time an army was ever fed in the modern commissary way, it was don by a Jew - he had the capital and he had the system; moreover he had the delight of having a nation for his customer.
And this tendency, which served the race so well throughout the troublous centuries, shows no sign of abatement. Certainly, seeing to what an extent a race numerically so unimportant influences the various governments of the world today, the Jew who reflects upon the disparity between his people's numbers and their power may be pardoned if he sees in that fact a proof of their racial superiority.
It may be said also that Jewish inventiveness in business devices continues to the present time, as well as Jewish adaptability to changing conditions. The Jew is credited with being the first to establish branch houses in foreign countries in order that responsible representatives of the home office might be on the ground taking instant advantage of every opening. During the war a great deal was said about the "peaceful penetration" that the "German Government" had effected in the United States by establishing here branch offices and factories of German firms. The fact that there were many German branch houses here is unquestionable. It should be known, however, that they were not the evidence of German enterprise but of Jewish enterprise. The old German business houses were to conservative to "run after customers" even in the hustling United States, but the Jewish firms were not, and they came straight to America and hustled. In due time the competition forced the more conservative German firms to follow suit. But the idea was Jewish in its origin, not German.
Another modern business method whose origin is credited to Jewish financiers is that by which related industries are brought together, as for example, if an electrical power company is acquired, then the street railway company using the electricity would be acquired too, one purpose being in this way to conserve all the profit accruing along the line, from the origination of the power down to the delivery of the street car ride; but perhaps the main purpose being that, by the control of the power house the price of current could be increased to the car company, and by the control of the car company the cost of the ride could be increased to the public, the controllers thus receiving an additional profit all down the line. There is much of this going on in the world today, and in the United States particularly The portion of the business immediately next to the ultimate consumer explains that its costs have risen, but it does not explain that the costs were increased by the owners and not by outsiders who were forced to do so by economic pressure.
There is apparently in the world today a central financial force that is playing a vast and closely organized game, with the world for its table and universal control for its stakes. The people of civilize countries have lost all confidence in the explanation that "economic conditions" are responsible for all the changes that occur. Under the camouflage of "economic law" a great many phenomena have been accounted for that were not due to any law whatever except the law of the selfish human will as operated by a few men who have the purpose and the power to work on a wide scale with nations as their vassals.
Whatever else may be national, no one today believes that finance is national. Finance is international. Nobody today believes that international finance is in any way competitive. There are some independent banking houses, but few strong independent ones. The great masters, the few whose minds see clearly the entire play of the plan, control numerous banking houses and trust companies, and one is used for this while another is used for that, but there is no disharmony between them, no correction of each other's methods, no competition in the interests of the business world. There is as much unity of policy between the principal banking houses of every country as there is between the various branches of the United States Post Office - and for the same reason, namely, they are all operated from the same source and for the same purpose.
Just before the war Germany bought very heavily in American cotton and had huge quantities of it tied up here for export. When war came, the ownership of that mountainous mass of cotton wealth changed in one night from Jewish names in Hamburg to Jewish names in London. At this writing cotton is selling in England for less than it is selling in the United States, and the effect is to lower the American price. When the price lowers sufficiently, the market is cleared of cotton by buyers previously prepared, and then the price soars to high figures again. In the meantime, the same powers that have engineered the apparently causeless strengthening and weakening of the cotton market, have seized upon stricken Germany to be the sweatshop of the world. Certain groups control the cotton, lend it to Germany to be manufactured, leave a pittance of it there in payment for the labor that was used, and then profiteer the length and breadth of the world on the lie that "cotton is scarce." And when, tracing all these antisocial and colossally unfair methods to their source, it is found that the responsible parties all have a common characteristic, is it any wonder that the warning that comes across the sea - "Wait until America becomes awake to the Jew!" - has a new meaning?
Certainly, economic reasons no longer explain the condition in which the world finds itself today. Neither does the ordinary explanation of "the heartlessness of capital." Capital has endeavored as never before to meet the demands of labor, and labor has gone to extremes in leading capital to new concessions - but what has it advantaged either of them? Labor has heretofore thought that capital was the sky over it, and it made the sky yield, but behold, there was yet an higher sky that neither capital nor labor had seen in their struggles one with another. That sky is so far unyielding.
That which we call capital here in America is usually money used in production, and we mistakenly refer to the manufacturer, the manager of work, the provider of tools and jobs - we refer to him as the "capitalist." Oh, no. He is not the capitalist in the real sense. Why, he himself must go to capitalists for the money with which to finance his plans. There is a power yet above him - a power that treats him far more callously and holds him in a more ruthless hand than he would ever dare display to labor. That, indeed, is one of the tragedies of these times, that "labor" and "capital" are fighting each other, when the conditions against which each one of them protests, and from which each one of them suffers, is not within their power to remedy at all, unless they find a way to wrest world control from that group of international financiers who create and control both these conditions.
There is a super-capitalism that is supported wholly by the fiction that gold is wealth. There is a super-government that is allied to no government, that is free from them all, and yet that has its hand in them all. There is a race, a part of humanity, that has never yet been received as a welcome part, and that has succeeded in raising itself to a power that the proudest Gentile race has never claimed - not even Rome in the days of her proudest power. It is becoming more and more the conviction of men all over the world that the labor question, the wage question, the land question cannot be settled until first of all this matter of an international super-capitalistic government is settled.
"To the victor belongs the spoils" is an old saying. And in a sense it is true that if all this power of control has been gained and held by a few men of a long-despised race, then either they are super-men whom it is powerless to resist, or they are ordinary men whom the rest of the world has permitted to obtain an undue and unsafe degree of power. Unless the Jews are super-men, the Gentiles will have themselves to blame for what has transpired, and they can look for rectification in a new scrutiny of the situation and a candid examination of the experiences of other countries.
EDITORS NOTE: Mr Ford, at the time he wrote this article was obviously laboring under the delusion that the jews of modern times are the genetic descendants of Abraham, known as the seed of Abraham and the chosen people of Yahweh God. His later writings reflect his further enlightenment in this area.