In This Review

Morgan: American Financier
Morgan: American Financier
By Jean Strouse
Random House, 1999, 800 pp.

This graceful, lucid biography shows that, unlike the industrial titans, such as Rockefeller and Carnegie, as a banker Morgan made his millions by inspiring trust among investors. He stabilized economic conditions to sustain that trust. Then he created "trusts" to stabilize particular industries such as steel, electricity, railroads, and shipping. Morgan was at home in both America and Europe. Although the Anglo-American special relationship is usually defined in political and military terms, Morgan and his family's firm did more to foster that relationship than any general or admiral. In 1895 Morgan acted as a one-man International Monetary Fund, rescuing the United States government from default. He protected his investors and the status quo and kept the government on the conservative gold standard -- all while making a profit. This blurring of civic and private interests into a single, and singular, sense of duty was Morgan's great trait. And his rescues usually worked. Morgan himself was quite inarticulate in explaining his purposes and analysis, yet his advice commanded remarkable deference. Some have said the same of Robert Rubin -- who should be flattered by the comparison.