Temple of the Thirteen Suns

Robert Hemphill

Published in:
The Technocrat, No. 196, Dec. 1960

This story was told by Mr. Robert Hemphill, former credit manager of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Georgia, when he was called to testify at Congressional hearings on the cause of depressions in America. Who should know better?

Once upon a time, to the Temple of the Thirteen Suns came the rich and powerful chief Oomah the Third, who said to the goldsmith of the temple, Hansen L. Roschab . . . "I have much gold and am about to depart for a far country. Wilt keep this gold safely for me against my return a year hence? I will pay thee well."

The wily Hansen coughed loudly and covered his countenance with a cloth lest the rich Oomah the Third observe his joy to have this treasure in his possession. When he was calm and could look serious he said to Oomah . . . "It is a very great responsibility and risk, but I will undertake it for a tithe that will be one shekel in every ten."

Then said Oomah . . . "It is a deal." And forthwith his slaves delivered many bags containing in all a thousand shekels of gold for which Hansen L. Roschab, the goldsmith, gave the chief a parchment receipt acknowledging this deposit, which contained the writing, "payable to whomsoever." Thereupon the chief departed happily on his journey.

As soon as he was well out of the country, the shrewd Hansen called his confidential scribe and bade him thus . . . "Go thee now to the merchants whom I will tell thee of and secretly say to each that thy master hath a little gold for hire upon good security." And the servant departed swiftly.

Soon there came to him a great merchant who said . . . "Hansen, you old crook, I am in a jam for a few shekels of gold. Wilt lend me?" And Hansen replied . . . "Money is very tight these days, but it might be so arranged. What is thy need?" The merchant answered . . . "Two hundred shekels."

Then said Hansen . . . "It is much money. What security couldst thou pledge for so great a sum?"

Then the merchant showed Hansen a writing of his possessions of merchandise to the amount of a thousand shekels. Hansen said . . . "It is not enough. Thou must also pledge thy dwelling and thy slaves and thy raiment." Whereupon the merchant, after much protest, pledged all his possessions, even to his innermost raiment. (So Hansen loaned him the money.)

Then said he to Hansen . . . "I have no place to store so much gold. Keep it safe for me and give me a writing that I may deliver to whomsoever I will." And Hansen did even so.

The next day came another merchant, and another, and still another, and to each Hansen loaned a portion of the gold of chief Oomah the Third, taking from each as security his entire possessions, including his innermost personal raiment, and gave to each a writing upon a parchment showing that each had on deposit the gold he had borrowed. And it came to pass that on the tenth day he had given parchment deposit writings for the whole of the thousand shekels; but he sill had all the gold.

Hansen reflected much upon this curious state of affairs, and said to himself . . . "These birds know not how much gold I possess. They do not want the actual gold itself. What they rally want is credit, some deposit writing that they may pass from hand to hand as money. I have one grand idea!"

On the next day came another merchant, and another, and still another, and to each Hansen showed the great store of gold of Oomah the Third, and to each he pretended to loan a portion, although he had previously loaned it all to the first ones who came.

And it came to pass that at the end of another ten days Hansen had pretended to loan to many more merchants and had given writings of deposit for a second thousand shekels, making 2000 shekels in all, although he had only 1000 shekels of Oomah the Third. And still he had all the gold.

Whereupon Hansen reflected to himself . . . "What a leaden-pipe cinch. I wonder I did not think of this before. I can collect just as much usury from the phony deposit writings as for the genuine. Verily, I am a financial wizard."

Thereupon Hansen caused it to be noised about that he possessed a vast store of gold for hire, and many more merchants came to borrow, and to each Hansen delivered writings of deposit and collected generous usury and demanded pledges of all his possessions even unto his innermost raiment, until he had issued writings of deposit for 10,000 shekels and held mortgages on substantially the whole city.

Then went Hansen to the wise man of the city and said unto him . . . "Verily I have discovered the greatest racket of all time. I have learned the magic of making gold out of baloney; and if I can keep the formula secret for a few years I will collect a fortune that will make Solomon's treasury look like a second hand store. Tell me how I may keep secret this bonanza of mine for mine own profit."

Then said the wise man . . . "Look wise and say little and only upon matters afar off. Obtain the ear of the town crier. Engage him to spread the impression that money is a mysterious subject that no one understands but thee alone. Be friendly with the king's councilors and grant their favors that the king may smile upon thee."

And Hansen did as he was bid and collected much usury from his phony loan deposits that circulated as money. He built for himself a mansion, collected works of art, and clothed his wives and concubines with fine linen and jewels.

When his business had grown to many times its humble beginnings, he took over the entire temple and by way of a sly joke called it the First National Bank, the same being from an obscure language and meaning "place of imaginary money."

And that is the reason that all banks today have great marble pillars and bronze doors, so that they may resemble outwardly as well as internally the "place of imaginary money" that Hansen L. Roschab builded upon the gold of Oomah the Third in the Temple of the Thirteen Suns.