COMPANION TO CANTO XLI
Annotations in the List of Works Cited:
Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of the Article or Individual Page.” Title of the Website, Name of the Publisher [if different from website name], Date of Publication in Day Month Year format, URL. [MLA 8 format].
Example: Preda, Roxana. “Companion to Canto IV.” The Cantos Project, 5 August 2016. thecantosproject.ed.ac.uk/index.php/a-draft-of-xvi-cantos-overview/canto-iv/companion-to-canto-iv
OCCEP – The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound
(Contributor name, OCCEP IV: n.no).
Example: (Bressan, OCCEP IV: n.3). If no name is indicated, the gloss was written by Roxana Preda. In this case, the citation will have this format: (OCCEP IV: n.13).
References to The Cantos
As The Cantos Project is numbering the lines of The Cantos, references to cantos already glossed will be by canto number and line number(s), as standard with classical works. Example: III: ll.7–17.
For cantos that are not yet glossed within the project, the references will be by canto number slash page number, as standard in the research on the poem. Example: III/12. The page number refers to the American edition of The Cantos by Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1998.
©Roxana Preda. Canto XLI, 26 October 2019
Updated 16 November 2020
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
|C||Terrell, Carroll F. “Canto XLI.” A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: California UP, 1993. 166-69.|
|EPEC||Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound’s Economic Correspondence 1933-1940. Ed. Roxana Preda. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2007.|
|J/M||Pound, Ezra. Jefferson and/or Mussolini. London: Stanley Nott, 1935.|
|OCCEP||Preda, Roxana. The Online Companion to the Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Cantos Project.|
|P&P||Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose. Contributions to Periodicals. 11 vols. Eds Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz, and James Longenbach. New York: Garland, 1991.|
Ma questo… divertente – It. “but this … is amusing.” This is the comment that Mussolini made about A Draft of XXX Cantos (1930) that he was browsing when Pound came for an audience on 31 January 1933.
Vada – small maritime town in Tuscany, south of Livorno. The town is part of the marshy Upper Maremma region and was subject to land reclamation projects since the 18th century. The permanent solution was reached only during the 1930s, when pumps and canal works drained the wetlands and channelled the surplus water to the sea (Magrini “Reclamation of Vada”).
The marshes of Tuscany are a significant subterranean hub of links in the Cantos. We know that Guido Cavalcanti was sent into the Maremma in exile, where he caught a fever and died; Dante himself mentions a noble lady of Siena, Pia dei Tolomei, who was banished to perish in the region: “Siena made/ Maremma unmade me” she said to him in Purgatorio V: 134. First attempts at correcting the situation were made by Duke Pietro Leopoldo, whose benevolent reforms Pound delineates in canto XLIV/227-8. The present canto implicitly presents Mussolini as a saviour, not only of the Pontine marshes (which are in the Lazio region, south-west of Rome and end with Mount Circeo and the shore at Terracina), but also of the Tuscan ones, carrying out projects that had been partially and unsuccessfully tackled by illustrious forbears like the Medici or Pietro Leopoldo.
Circeo – Mountain south-west of Rome, at the southern tip of the Pontine marshes which were drained under the Fascist government in the bonifica project. See OCCEP XXXVIII: n. 25.
Pound conflates Vada and Circeo to show that they were part of the same overall project of land reclamation. The two places belong to two different regions, Tuscany and Lazio respectively, and have some 380 km between them along the shore route.Pound visited Circeo and the nearby town of Terracina twice in 1930, once in January and once in October. After the second visit, he sent Olga Rudge a postcard with a romantic view of its Porta napoletana (Gate of Naples). YCAL 54 9/231. (See Canto XXXIX: Calendar). Both Circeo and Terracina are landmarks of the mythical geography of canto XXXIX.
Waited 2000 years – Here, as in J/M, Pound presents Mussolini as a man who intuited what Italy needed but was too inert to accomplish because of an entrenched conservatism. The achievement of the present age was thus something worthy of comparison with the construction projects of ancient Rome:
“There are in Volterra houses 2,ooo years old, and there are in those houses families who have BEEN IN those houses, father to son to grandson, from the time of Caesar Augustus.
And there are Italian intellectuals, and from the time of Tiberius the Italian intelligentzia has been talking about draining the swamps” (J/M 23).
XI of our era – The Fascist era was started in October 1922 with the Fascist March on Rome and Mussolini’s accession to power. Year XI (11) was thus October 1933-September 1934.
- mezzo-yit – half-Jew.
- the Boss – Benito Mussolini.
confine – It. “confino,” pl. “colonie di confino.” Sites of forced detention of political undesirables in a network of isolated islands: Ustica, Favignana, Lipari, Pantelleria, Lampedusa, San Nicola and San Domino (Ebner 105). These were not prisons, or concentration camps, as detainees could circulate freely in an assigned village or island within a so-called “zona di confino.” The detainees were perceived as a social threat and they were arrested and confined without actually having committed a crime. Their living conditions varied wildly according to social status and money: the poor lived in squalid, stinking, disease-infested barracks, whereas the rich could afford rented accommodation in a house.
The practice of sending suspect Italians to colonies of forced detention had been initiated before Mussolini came to power, but it languished until revived by his National Security Act of 1926. The system lasted and continued to be developed until he fell from power in 1943. The number of people sent to the confino grew steadily until it exploded around 1934-35. Thus, in time, villages on the Southern mainland began to be used for forced detention, in addition to the islands.
“Police officials rejected all proposals to construct a physical barrier around the zona di confino. As the vice-questore of Messina explained, ‘The construction. . . of barracks grouped together and enclosed by iron gates’ would turn the institution into ‘true detention. . . which is decidedly contrary to the spirit and letter of the new public security law.’ He explained, ‘The coercive system is a measure of prevention and social defense; it is neither a punishment nor a penalty against the confinati.’ […] Surveillance and control were thus limited to guarding the perimeter, enforcing the curfew, convening a morning roll call, and conducting nocturnal house checks. Communal barracks were simply locked down at night” (Ebner 115).
Pound assumes that the plural of “confino” is “confine.” This however is not the case: in Italian, “confine” means “borders, limits”; the plural form of “confino,” as Mussolini understood it, is “colonie di confino.” (MB)
Noi ci facciam sgannar per Mussolini – It. “we would let ourselves be butchered for Mussolini.”
Pound recalled the phrase from personal experience: in the spring of 1923 he went to Rimini to do a stint of archival research on Sigismondo Malatesta and found the local library closed. His hotelkeeper was also commandante della piazza – for his guest, who had come from faraway to do research on Rimini, he roused the librarian from bed:
“‘NOI CI FACCIAMO SCANNAR PER MUSSOLINI,’ said my hotel-keeper in Rimini years ago, thinking I knew nothing about the revolution and wanting to get it into my head. Nothing happens without efficient cause. My hotel-keeper was also Comandante della Piazza,  we had got better acquainted by reason of his sense of responsibility, or his interest in what I was doing. The local librarian had shut up the library, and the Comandante had damn well decided that if I had taken the trouble to come to Romagna to look at a manuscript, the library would cut the red tape.
‘Scannar’ is a very colloquial word meaning to get scragged. It has none of the oratorical quality of ‘we will die for,’ but that’s what it means. And my friend M. was expressing a simple fact” (J/M 26-27).
commandante della piazza – It. “commander of the fort.” Piazza is an abridgement of “piazzaforte” – fortress, or port armed with arsenals and capable of controlling strategic positions. In times of war, the commandante assumed both civil and military powers and took on the title of “governor.” He imposed security measures on the population, closing hours for shops, and general curfew; he organised military defence and controlled weapons arsenals. The role ended during WWII.
- Popolo … donna – It. “The people [is] ignorant and the worst of them is my nurse.”
“FOR several years the general lack of mental coherence in the anti-fascists, all every and any anti-fascist I encountered, increased my respect for the fascio. Apart from the Rimini man, I don’t think I knew any fascists.
One year the son of the proprietor in Cesena gave me the usual Colà da Rienzi oration, at the end of which he drew a picture of Mazzini from his pocket and ecstatically kissed it.
The Comandante della Piazza considered this act due to ignorance. Gigi aged two used to stand up on his chair after lunch and say ‘Popolo ignorante!’ as a sort of benediction, one day he added the personal note ‘And the worst of all is my nurse’” (J/M 53).
Where the Pope goes – Pound’s source, Giovanni Uzzano, describes the difficulties of money transactions in 15th century Florence: these were bound by seasons, times of markets or fairs and sudden crises like the Pope’s visits to town. See Rota 73 and Kimpel and Eaves 449-50.
Messire Uzzano – Pound did not read Giovanni di Antonio Uzzano’s book, La pratica della mercatura (1442), directly, but found it quoted in Pietro Rota, Storia delle banche 73. See also Kimpel and Eaves.
Shortage … overlord – In these lines, Pound translates the following passage from Uzzano:
“‘La buona regola del cambiare,’ scrive Uzzano, ‘vuole essere questa: guardarsi dal non si trovare debito nella terra ne’ tempi, che di ragione i denari vi debbano essere buoni o per cagione di fiere o partimento di navilio, o per inciettare di mercanti, o per pagamenti si abbiano a fare a Soldati, o Signori, o Communi, o simili cose’” (quoted by Rota 73).
(“‘The good rule of exchange’ writes Uzzano ‘should be this: take care there is no deficiency either in place or time, so that the money is good for fairs, or sailing of ships, or incentives for merchants, or payments to be made to soldiers, lords, communes, or similar things.’”)
The passage may be the source of Pound’s realisation that banks have a positive role to play, providing a smooth, universal circulation of money, irrespective of time and place. This prepares the way for his next cantos, 42 and 43, devoted to a “good” bank, the Monte dei Paschi in Siena. It is Pound’s departure from the Social Credit dogma that banks are per definition usurious institutions and from C. H. Douglas’s instruction to him in a letter of 4 July 1933 to “strangle the bankers.” See also n.47.
Eleven hours – Anecdote from Margherita Sarfatti’s biography of Mussolini, Dux (58-9). In a personal letter to a friend, Mussolini recounted his experience of capitalist exploitation. See detailed story in Sources.
“Blending original private documents, newspaper articles, and personal memories, and more often than not manipulating the historical facts, Sarfatti succeeded in creating the legend of Mussolini. Because the biography was aimed to promote the cult of Mussolini’s personality, the Fascist doctrine and the movement itself were depicted as exclusive creations of Mussolini. The contribution of others to the raising of Fascism was therefore intentionally omitted, thus creating the illusion that Mussolini had done everything by himself. What’s more, the construction of the Mussolini legend was achieved by constant reference to the Roman past, with Mussolini being portrayed as a second Caesar, so that he was established as something of a myth” (Zanotti 70).
Orbe – Town in Switzerland where Mussolini sought work as a manual labourer. Sarfatti 58-9.
They sent him back – This is another anecdote about Mussolini recounted in Sarfatti’s Dux, this time about his participation in WWI. He belonged to the 11th bersaglieri [riflemen] regiment and was sent to officer training school on 6 November 1915. After six days he was ordered to return to the front with no promotion (Sarfatti 174).
documento – Mussolini was permitted to use the grade of sergeant only in May 1918, according to a certificate he published in his memoirs (Diario 145).
Geschichte und Lebensbilder… Baur – G. History and Pictures of Life [from] the Renewal of Religious Life in the German Wars of Liberation by Wilhelm Baur. The book was originally published in 1864 but Unruh’s copy was a 1908 edition.
As an informed reader can expect, Baur’s book is printed in the Gothic font that Pound openly deplored in canto 38. (See XXXVIII ll.66-72 and Baur title page.) In view of his presentation of Austria as an empire in decline in cantos 35 and 38, Pound’s introduction of Baur here suggests that Austria’s conservatism and its national culture harking back to premodern practices lost it the war with Italy in 1915-18, in spite of its superior military preparation, favourable position in the mountains, as well as greater general wealth and resources. See also next note.
Temperature … warfare – Pound interlaces the title of Baur’s book with a statement by Mussolini, made in his Diary: “In guerra, poi, l’elemento temperatura ha enorme importanza; e nella guerra d’alta montagna, importanza assoluta, anche agli effetti pratici” (quoted in Sarfatti 178).
(“In warfare, then, the element of weather has enormous weight; in high mountain warfare, it is of absolute importance, also in practical effects.”)
Uhlan officer – An Uhlan officer is commander of a regiment of light cavalry armed with lances and/or sabres. The traditional Uhlan uniform is blue, with a high, decorated cap.
As the Uhlans were completely inadequate to a war fought with cannons, trenches and gas masks, and even more so to a front in the mountains, as that between Austria and Italy, their character was modified to adapt to the new conditions. They became “dismounted cavalry,” their uniform became grey, but the officers kept their sabres. The German Uhlans were disbanded at the end of WWI. Wikipedia.
The situation of the privileged German officer of excellent military family fighting in WWI is in stark contrast with the disorder and lack of training in the Italian army, as Pound was gathering out of Sarfatti’s book: though Mussolini’s companions perceived his leadership qualities, he was not allowed to acquire even minimal sergeant training in a cadet school.
Pound’s model of Uhlan officers was his acquaintance Fritz von Unruh, a German writer and pacifist who had been an Uhlan in his youth and seen action at Verdun. Baumann 44-7. Von Unruh is the author of an account of Verdun called Opfergang (1919), which was translated into English as The Way of Sacrifice in 1928.
Augusta Victoria – Auguste Victoria von Schleswig Holstein (1858-1921), German Empress and Queen of Prussia by marriage with Wilhelm II.
She may have given Baur’s book as a gift to Fritz von Unruh because he was from an important military family and went to school with her sons at the Kadettakademie in Plön, where he graduated as Uhlan second lieutenant (Beaupré, 2017). See also Baumann 44-7.
in mountain warfare – As Italy aimed to gain territory from the Austro-Hungarian empire, it entered the war later, in May 1915, on the side of the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia). The frontline was in the alpine region of Northern Italy, mainly along the Isonzo river. See Resources. Sarfatti 178.
ordine, contrordine e disordine – It. “order, counterorder, disorder.” Sarfatti quoted a remark from Mussolini’s Diary (27 January 1917 in Sarfatti 187).
“Despite being superior in numbers, the Italian army was poorly equipped, lacked strategic leadership and was unable to move equipment and supply lines quickly. Moreover, the Austrians owned the higher ground and after several quick Italian successes on the Isonzo front, combat settled into stalemate. As in the Western Front, it became trench warfare with the Italian army repeatedly attacking Austria, making little or no progress and suffering heavy losses. However, unlike the Western Front, the main difference was the fact that the trenches had to be dug in the Alpine rocks and glaciers often up to 3,000m of altitude instead of in the mud” (Italy in WWI).
una pace qualunque – It. “some peace or other.” Sarfatti 187.
San Casciano – San Cassiano in original. Entry in Mussolini’s Diary of 25 December 1916, quoted by Sarfatti 178. Diario 197. San Cassiano is a village at the foot of the Dolomite Mountains in South Tyrol.
20 metres – Mussolini remarked that there was no other place in Europe where the trench was as near to the enemy. Sarfatti 184.
hospital where Mussolini – During the winter of 1916-17, Mussolini was fighting in the trenches at Doberdó, participating in the Italian military effort to open the way to Trieste, 30 km. away. On 23 February 1917, he was severely wounded and brought to a small hospital nearby. While he was recovering, on 18 March 1917, the Austrians bombarded the building. The medical personnel managed to move the patients away, but Mussolini’s state was too grave for transport, so he remained in the hospital alone with the doctors, nurses and chaplain. Diario 217-220. Dux 184-6.
Corriere di Domenica – It. “La Domenica del Corriere” [“Courier’s Sunday”] was an illustrated weekly which ran as a supplement to the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera [Evening Courier].
In recounting the bombing of the hospital where Mussolini was lying wounded, Sarfatti suggested that the attack was due to a photo which appeared there, identifying it as “Mussolini’s Hospital.” She included four photos of the hospital in her book, see them in Sources.
Feldmarshall Hindenburg – Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934), German general and statesman. He fought in the Austro-German War (1864-66) and in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). At 66, he was called to command the German army in WWI and distinguished himself at the Battle of Tannenberg, where his troops completely routed the Russian army in August 1914. As the war progressed, the general command of the war effort was entrusted to him and to General Erich Ludendorff.
As he was the idol of the nation, Hindenburg became President of Germany during the Weimar Republic (1925-1934). He played a key role in allowing Hitler to become Chancellor in January 1933, despite the fact that the Nazis were a minority party in the cabinet and parliament. He was 85 years old at the time. After his death in 1934, Hitler conflated the roles of Chancellor and President and established absolute dictatorship in Germany. Paul von Hindenburg.
asked what the noise was – Pound may have included this detail to suggest a contrast between Hindenburg and Mussolini’s cultural interests (see Wilhelm 71-2). It was generally known that Mussolini’s played the violin and his favourite composer was Mozart.
Pound’s mistress, Olga Rudge, gave a private performance at Mussolini’s residence in February 1927. She played Beethoven, Mozart and Veracini, together with the pianist Daniele Amfitheatrof. The Herald reported:
“Mussolini complimented Miss Rudge on her technique and musical feeling […]. He showed his guests the large assortment of violin music on his desk, including many classical compositions. Five violins were on the table in the center of the room, on the best of which the Duce himself plays every evening” (quoted in Conover 71).
Fritz’ father – Karl von Unruh (1843-1912), Lieutenant General of the Kingdom of Prussia and father of Fritz von Unruh, a German pacifist writer whom Pound knew in Rapallo. Baumann 45. Hessian Biography. See also nn.20-1.
Herr Nvon so Forth – parody of Karl von Unruh’s name.
Battle of Waffenschlag – Waffenschlag does not exist – it is a parody Pound made up out of two German words, “Waffen” (weapons, guns) and “Schlag” (strike, hit).
Paul von Hindenburg was wounded in the battle of Königsgrätz (It. Sadowa) in 1866.
Udine – city in NE Italy that was used as a military base for Italian operations in WWI.
wd. have called that eagle a portent – At Udine, on 20 September 1922, on the day of Mussolini’s visit to town for a speech, people witnessed the flight of a black eagle, which they interpreted as an augury of the impending political takeover of the fascists in the March on Rome a month later. The bird was shot, stuffed and gifted to Mussolini as a souvenir. Sarfatti 268. Drafts of the canto suggest that Pound intended here a link with Sigismondo Malatesta, who saw a similar portent align on his tent before his victory over the papal forces at Nidastore in 1462. See OCCEP X: n.48 and OCCEP XI: n.1. See also Rainey 103 and Zanotti 76.
Hun ultimatum – A probable reference to the German ultimatum to Belgium, on 2 August 1914. In polite terms, the German army command assured Belgium that it has no hostile intentions toward the country but was pre-empting a French military attack. The Germans were requesting free passage through Belgium to France, promising compensation in case of compliance, but threatening attack in the event of refusal. National archives UK.
French vacation – French leave, AWOL, absent without permission.
he had the fleet out – between 1911 and 1915, Winston Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty. On 19 August 1914, he proposed a plan to occupy an island in the Baltic (Helgoland, Sylt or Borkum) and plant a barrier of mines to prevent the German navy leaving port or getting supplies on sea. His plan was not accepted by the Naval War Staff (McLaughlin 2017).
Winston’s mama – Lady Randolph Churchill (1854-1921) American heiress and Winston Churchill’s mother.
“Yeats, who was personally impressed by Churchill as a table companion, and who found him so much more interesting than Lloyd George or the other British politicians, was puzzled, at least for a number of years, because Winston didn’t somehow get to the top; and has more or less faded out of the picture, even though Winston’s charming mother used to tell people that Winston had got out the fleet (August 1914)” (J/M 64-5).
Winston to his cousin – Pound expounded on Winston Churchill’s remark to his cousin, Shane Leslie:
“Jefferson was denounced as vacillating. A man who plugs after a main purpose for sixty years is no more vacillating than a general who wins a campaign by keeping his light troops mobile. Opportunist? Rightly opportunist!
The bad, or in the deeper sense, the silly opportunism is that of Churchill.
Shane Leslie was greatly bedazzled by his stout cousin Winston. He wrote a book to tell it to dh’ woild. Winston once said to Leslie apropos of thinking and having ideas (in the sense of making ideas for oneself): ‘Don’t waste your time making munitions, be a GUN and shoot off other people’s munitions.’
Leslie, as a journalist, of sorts, was overwhelmed by this brilliance. Both cousins are half-breed Americans, determined to succeed, just like the cheapest of Mr. Lorimer’s heroes. […]
In short a GUN, a BIG GUN pointed at nothing” J/M 64-5.
M Crevel – Monsieur René Crevel (1900-1935), French surrealist writer, author of Les Pieds dans le plat [“Putting My Foot in It”] (1933). Pound met him at the Hours Press in 1930 and wrote about him in the Criterion in January 1939 (P&PVII:405-13). A French translation of this essay is now the introduction of the current edition of the novel, published in 1974.
Esperanza, Primrose and Augusta – Esperanza (Duchess of Monte Putina), Lady Primrose (Marquise of Sussex) and Augusta (Austrian Archduchess) are the three main characters of Crevel’s novel, Les Pieds dans le plat (C n. 36). See also the parallel with Jammes’ novel Clara Ellebeuse, to which Pound refers in canto XXVII ll.35-9.
“Crevel is of the sons of the Sottisier, that is of the Great Flaubert, going on after Bouvard, and L’Encyclopedie. In Les Pieds dans le Plat we had the utterly convincing proof of his, call it, genius, or whatever term you use to define the born writer. The abundance, the sense, general and inclusive, of the utterly blithering frumpery, post-war, of Paris, of the conglomerate of countries that hadn’t had the sphincter strength for revolution. The utterly god blithering mess of Madame de Thebes, Roehm, Leon Blum. The world wherein the faits divers of the morning paper were possible” (P&P VII: 411).
Bill Yeats – William Butler Yeats (1865-1948), Irish poet and Pound’s friend. Pound spent three winters with Yeats at the Stone Cottage in Sussex during WWI (1913-16).
Cosimo first guaranteed it – Cosimo I de Medici (1519-74), Grand Duke of Tuscany. Cosimo I may be said to have guaranteed the foundation of the Monte dei Paschi in Siena because he conquered the city in 1554 and subjected it to the Medici rule within the larger duchy of Tuscany. Siena could thus benefit from the political, social and financial power of the Medici family, who in 1622 allowed the establishment of the Monte based on their tax revenue from grasslands outside the city.
Monte dei Paschi – It. “Mount of Pastures.” Bank in Siena, which Pound would present at length in cantos 42 and 43. The Monte’s capital was based on tax revenue on the pastures outside Siena; it paid moderate dividends on its stock at 5% and channelled its profits in civil projects for the city – this is why Pound saw it as a “good bank” compatible with Jefferson’s views, Social Credit ideals and the Wörgl experiment.
As long as the Monte stuck to its first principles, it weathered every storm of history since its foundation in 1624. But in 1995, its charter was changed and the Monte was split into a normal bank and a foundation. In 1999, it was listed on the Italian Stock Exchange for the first time and began to expand. By 2017 it was facing bankruptcy and had to be bailed out by the state. The foundation, which started out as owner of 55% of the shares, has now lost them completely.Wikipedia.
C. H. – Clifford Hugh Douglas, the inventor of Social Credit. Pound is referring to Douglas’s letter of 4 July 1933:
“The real trouble about the Woergl scheme is what has happened to the Woergl scheme, which is another way of saying that the problem of reforming the financial system is not how to reform the financial system, but how to strangle the bankers. Any sermons on this text will be appreciated” (quoted in Redman 127).
Woergl – Wörgl, small town in Austria that put into practice Silvio Gesell’s theory of Schwundgeld(“vanishing money”). The experiment was tried out in the U.S. as well, where it was used as an auxiliary currency and bore the name of “stamp scrip.” Pound saw the Wörgl experiment as a corrective of and valid supplement to Social Credit theory. In his letters to C. H. Douglas and A. R. Orage, Pound argued in favour of it, but his correspondents did not agree and stuck to their own propaganda. “Schwundgeld was ‘a type of currency that constantly depreciated at an established rate: possessors had to stick a stamp on it every week to preserve its original value. It had been tried out in Wörgl, an Austrian village of 5,000 inhabitants between July 1932 and September 1933. The notes in Wörgl were issued by the town council and called Arbeitsbestätigungen (certificates of work). The rate of devaluation (that is, the cost of the stamps) was set at 1 percent monthly; the notes were used to pay salaries, taxes, and goods locally. In the next six months, out of the revenues coming in from these notes, the council was able to start a program of civil works (street lighting, road improvement, sewage system) and reduce unemployment by 25 percent’ (Onken, Modellversuche 35–66).
The efficacy of Gesell’s type of money relied on a psychological effect. Knowing that the notes would depreciate, no one wanted to keep them. Payments were made much more quickly and the velocity of circulation was approximately three or four times higher than with normal money. In such times as the Great Depression, when the turnover of money was especially slow, Schwundgeld circulated approximately twelve times more quickly (Fisher 14). As a Social Crediter, Pound realized that in times when the money supply was not adequately adjusted to production because it was straitjacketed by the gold standard, Gesell’s money would act as a kind of substitute for a greater monetary supply. If one could not have more money, as the Social Creditors demanded, one could have approximately the same quantity, which by circulating faster would be used in more cycles of payments. Moreover, Schwundgeld was issued by the community, not by the banks—its interest was channelled by the town council into work and real wealth, thus benefiting the consumer. Since the notes constantly lost a part of their value, they were unhoardable and radically undermined the very idea of interest. Pound came to see them as the supreme anti-usury mechanism. “WOERGL functioned. Gesell needs honour,” he declared in his letter to Arthur Kitson on November 28, 1933” (EPEC 26-7).
Count de Vergennes – Charles Gravier, Count de Vergennes (1719-1787), French diplomat and statesman. Starting from 1774, he was Foreign Minister to King Louis XVI. Vergennes’ foreign policy was to weaken Great Britain, which had defeated France in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). That meant using French state funds to secretly support insurgencies in America and India. Pound mentioned these in canto XXXII.
Consumption of tobacco … assume – Pound returns to an economic analysis made by Thomas Jefferson to Count de Vergennes, which he had introduced in canto XXXI: ll.35-43. Jefferson was American Ambassador to France at the time and the export of tobacco was essential to his home state, Virginia. Through his own research, Jefferson had found that the King of France had disproportionate expenses in collecting the royal duties on his monopoly of tobacco in France. These expenses raised its price to the consumer and implicitly lowered consumption. In his letter, Jefferson wrote a plea for free commerce and a plan for a streamlined collection of duties on tobacco which would make it possible to lower the price, so as to make tobacco less of a luxury. TJ to Count of Vergennes 15 August 1785 WTJ V: 69.
Mrs Trist – Eliza House, friend of Jefferson’s who cared for his daughter at home while he was in Paris. He wrote to her three days after his letter to Vergennes:
“Indeed, it is difficult to conceive how so good a people, with so good a King, so well-disposed rulers in general, so genial a climate, so fertile a soil, should be rendered so ineffectual for producing human happiness by one single curse, —that of a bad form of government. But it is a fact, in spite of the mildness of their governors, the people are ground to powder by the vices of the form of government. Of twenty millions of people supposed to be in France, I am of opinion there are nineteen millions more wretched, more accursed in every circumstance of human existence than the most conspicuously wretched individual of the whole United States” TJ to EH 18 August 1785 WTJ V: 81.
Public debt … Monroe – Fragment from one of Jefferson’s letters to James Monroe in 1796. It shows Jefferson’s resentment against the measures taken by the First Bank of the United States founded by Alexander Hamilton five years before. Jefferson argued that the nation is being ruled by the bank, not by the government. He reviewed the inflationary measures the bank was taking and showed them to be artificial, not backed by facts. See TJ to James Monroe, 12 June 1796 WTJ IX 337-8. See also Jefferson’s letter to John W. Eppes, from which Pound quotes in canto XXXI: ll. 77-81.
Gallatin – Abraham Alfonse Albert Gallatin (1761-1849), American financier and statesman of Swiss descent. Gallatin was only a member of the House of Representatives at the time of Jefferson’s letter to Monroe, but his financial acumen made him the chief economic adviser of the Republican party and the opponent to federalism in fiscal matters. He served as Secretary of the Treasury during Jefferson’s and Madison’s presidencies (1801-1814). See also canto XXXI.
Independent use of our money – the phrase is taken from one of Jefferson’s letters to Gallatin in 1803, which Pound considered at more length in canto XL: ll.5-7. See WTJ X 437-9. In that letter, Jefferson argued for a public bank that should issue state money on the basis of tax revenue. However, the phrase is a good conclusion to what Jefferson had told Monroe about the power competition between central bank and government seven years before.
The involvement of banks in wars, a concern shared by Jefferson in 1803 and the founder of Social Credit, C.H. Douglas, in 1918, makes a transition to the last lines of the canto. This is Douglas’s indictment of banks and his conclusion:
“For every shell made and afterwards fired and destroyed, for every aeroplane built and crashed, for all the stores lost, stolen or spoilt, the financier has an entry in his books which he calls wealth, and on which he proposes to draw interest at 5 per cent, whereas that entry represents loss not gain, debt not credit, to the community, and, consequently, is only realizable by regarding the interest of the financier as directly opposite to that of the community. Now it must be perfectly obvious to anyone who seriously considers the matter that the State should lend, not borrow, and that in this respect, as in others, the financier usurps the function of the State” (Economic Democracy 121; italics in original)
Monroe – James Monroe (1758-1831) American statesman and Founding Father from Virginia who served as the fifth president of the US (1817-25). At the time of the letter, Monroe was ambassador to France (1794-6).
120 million German fuses – In Fenner Brockway’s book, The Bloody Traffic, Pound found corroboration about the international network of arms sales that he had already read about in Paolo Zappa’s I Mercanti di Cannoni (which had been his source for canto 38). Pound had received Brockway’s book by 23 September 1933, as he wrote to Olga Rudge. See Calendar. Brockway’s perspective is focused on what happens when the nations producing the arms get involved in wars: their soldiers are killed by the very arms their countrymen had produced:
“The use by the Allies of the German patent fuses for hand grenades was revealed in a legal action brought be Krupp against Vickers after the war. Krupp sued Vickers for 1s. per fuse used. The amount claimed was £6,150,000, which means that 123,000,000 fuses of the German type were used against the soldiers of Germany and her allies. A compromised was reached, under which Krupp was given a large interest in the British-owned Miers Steel and Rolling Mills in Spain.
It is difficult to characterise the callousness of these proceedings. Hundreds of thousands of German boys and men must have been done to death by these 120,000,000 fuses, each duly marked Kpz 96/04 to indicate that the patent was the property of Krupp. Yet Krupp dared to claim royalties upon them!” (Brockway 63).
British gunsights from Jena – To hide the fact that they were selling arms to the enemies of their country, gunmakers used intermediaries, sold them to firms in neutral countries which then resold them to their beneficiaries: “At the battle of Skagerrak the British fleet used gun-sights that six months earlier the Zeiss Company, Jena, and the Goerz Anschütz Company had delivered to a Dutch concern” (Brockway 68).
armed Turkey – The French armament company Schneider provided weapons and loans to Turkey and Bulgaria that were both allies of Austria and Germany in World War I (Brockway 70-4). See OCCEP XXXVIII nn.51-55; 60-70 for a more detailed account of Schneider Creusot.
Copper from England – It was not just guns or parts were travelling from producer to buyer over neutral countries, but also materials like iron, steel, coal, nickel or copper:
“Let us go from nickel to copper, a metal which enters into every phase of naval and military warfare. Until copper was made contraband in October 1914, Germany obtained enormous supplies through neutral countries. Take Sweden’s figures: Her copper exports to Germany and Austria were: 1913: 1,215 tons – 1914: 3,960 tons.
British firms largely participated in this extra traffic of copper to Germany for war purposes. The British export of copper to Sweden increased as follows: 1913: 517 tons – 1914: 710 tons – 1915: 1085 tons” (Brockway 85).
Mr Hatfield – Robert Abbott Hadfield (1858-1940), British metallurgist and owner of the Hadfield Steel Foundry in Sheffield. He was noted for his research in metallurgy and his business acumen: he had inherited the foundry from his father, yet he developed it to one of the largest in the world. Hadfield was awarded several prizes for his research in metallurgy, was knighted in 1908 and made a baronet of Sheffield in 1917. Wikipedia. Brockway pointed out that whenever a certain country made an innovation in matters of armament, it would be quickly adopted by every nation and in due course used against those who invented it.
“The British firm, Hadfield Ltd., has recently produced a new type of shell which will penetrate the finest armour-plate. Sir Robert Hadfield proudly proclaimed, at the annual meeting of the company in April 1933, that it is ‘the best in the world.’ At a distance of nine miles the shell perforates hard-faced armour-plate over one foot thick in one two-hundredth part of a second. Its large internal capacity enables it to be loaded with a very heavy charge of high explosive.
[…] But Sir Robert Hadfield said something else. His firm had taken out patents for this shell in eight countries! The British Army and Navy may enjoy the privilege of using it, but so will other Armies and Navies. In time it will become available to any Government which will pay for it” (Brockway 268-70).
- ad interim – L. “for now.”