The other Charles Lindbergh: the father of the famous aviator, like his son, was an authentic American hero. As a congressman, he championed America's independence and battled the Money Trust. (History - Struggle for Freedom).
The father of the "Lone Eagle" could not join Charles' mother in earthly tribute, having died three years earlier. Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. (known as C.A.) had been a prominent Congressman from Minnesota, and like his son an authentic American hero. Commenting on a grueling trip that C.A. and his own father had made by foot, the Congressman had remarked in 1914: "I wonder if my boy and his associates would be able to stand up under such a grilling experience. They probably could, but life is so shaped at the present time that they will probably never be put to the test."
The test was put to both the senior and junior Lindbergh, and each made his individualistic mark -- the son in the sky and the father representing men of the soil in Congress. The aviator's father, wrote the younger Charles, was rooted in wilderness and soil. "He never severed himself from these roots, for they seemed to him universal.... My earliest memories hold stories about my father's Minnesota frontier days, stories of fishing in the lakes and rivers, of hunting in the forests, of breakplowing virgin land. They formed the warp through which an increasingly complicated culture wove -- a schoolhouse, a sawmill, a railroad slashing across the territory. His father, August Lindbergh, welcomed that railroad, my father told me, for it moved civilization closer and eased the heavy burdens of frontier life."
And grandfather August, who changed his name to Lindbergh after immigrating to America from Sweden, where he was a member of the Riksdag and a friend of King Charles XV, had borne his burden as well. A St. Cloud newspaper in 1861 reported that when his arm was mangled in a sawmill accident the mill hands claimed his beating heart was visible through the terrible wound. (*) August recovered to do regular work with a special axe shaped for his remaining arm. That axe once had to be recovered by grandmother Louisa from a band of Sioux who had stolen it while drunk. "My grandmother," wrote Charles Jr., "took time to change her clothes before she ran after those Indians! She put on a silk dress which she had brought from Sweden, and guarded carefully through hard years of frontier life. She knew the importance of dignity in dealing with Indians...."
Swift is the passage of history. It was only a little more than 50 years from the necessity of facing down hostile Indians, in the 1860s, through the career of Charles Sr., who was a political ally of Teddy Roosevelt and advised in the construction of the Panama Canal, to the Atlantic crossing of young Lindbergh who later would help America to reach the moon! Meanwhile, the Lindbergh males were expected to be men. Charles Sr., for example, was responsible for seeing that meat was on the family table, having owned his first gun at age six. "Ammunition was so expensive," writes Bruce L. Larson in Lindbergh of Minnesota, "that when he missed a bird he tried to get two birds with the next shot. Shots were counted against birds when he returned home, although there were no questions asked when he brought in a deer."
It was appropriate that C.A.'s boy also received a rifle at age six, though "Father thought six was young for a rifle." Nonetheless, remembered Charles, "the next year he gave me a Savage repeater; and the year after that, a Winchester 12-gauge automatic shotgun; and he loaned me the Smith and Wesson revolver that he'd shot a burglar with. He'd let me walk behind him with a loaded gun at seven, use an axe as soon as I had the strength enough to swing it, drive his Ford car anywhere at twelve. Age seemed to make no difference to him. My freedom was complete. All he asked was for responsibility in return...."
It had been necessary for C.A., himself, to grow up rapidly; that was the way of the Minnesota frontier. As a youth he ran his own successful business marketing game birds, especially in Chicago, until a law was passed prohibiting such out-of-state sales. So C.A. took his profits and departed for law school at the University of Michigan. In his subsequent law practice in the 1880s he specialized in real estate, and he became a local leader in the economic development of the community.
One friend of C.A.'s later recalled that the lawyer could be both a strict businessman and sympathetic neighbor. The friend remembered an instance where C.A. became angry with his partner for accepting from a poor farmer a payment that was 35 cents short. He then personally went out and gathered clothing and food from the townspeople to help that same farmer. Said the partner of C.A. Lindbergh: "There you have the man -- worried over a missing thirty-five cents in a business deal -- but giving time, labor, thought, to a needy man who had no other claim than his need." Apparently C.A. was always a champion of the farmer, since he thought "agriculturists are the fountain-head of the world's energy. All that exists in a social way has grown from the soil and centers upon it...."
Political Career Takes Off
It was in the summer of 1906 that C.A. Lindbergh abruptly announced for the U.S. Congress and entered the Republican primary. "He had never meddled in politics," recalled a surprised friend, "nor expressed any desire to hold office." Furthermore, emphasized Lynn and Dora Haines, his personal friends and biographers: "It is well to remember here that Lindbergh had a large law practice, owned many farms and had many income-bearing investments. Financially, it was a sacrifice to go to Congress."
This was a time of bank panic, tight money, and abuses by conspirators who ran the great banks, railroads, and Money Trust. Like the President, C.A. was a "progressive," and he called Theodore Roosevelt "the champion proclaimer and supporter of the will of the people." Which was good politics in Minnesota -- where Teddy had in 1904 swept the state by a four-to-one margin. Winning the primary and general election handily, C.A. Lindbergh set off in 1907 for a 10-year career in the Congress.
On his first day in the House, this father and his five-year-old son sat together in the same hail where Charles Jr. would receive the Congressional Medal of Honor 21 years later.
Charles Sr. took his rural living habits with him to Washington, where he arose at four each morning and usually was in the office an hour later. "A large part of my father's political career was devoted to the study of money and its misuses," reported Charles Jr. In Minnesota, the new railroads brought in investment interests. "Land values went up, and taxes with them. Farm income was low while bank loans were expensive. 'A man can't pay off a mortgage at twelve percent no matter how hard he works,' my father said. 'Taxes ought not to be raised because of farm improvements.'"
A populist, C.A. asked many of the right questions about monetary chicanery even though he did not always understand the proper solution. The Money Trust was not his only political interest. He also hit out at a related issue, the nearly dictatorial power of House Speaker Joe Cannon, noting: "It is to the interests of the trusts and monopolies to keep the politicians so organized as to create a dominant central power, and bind up a mutuality of interests with it; for, to achieve their ends and prevent legislation for the people, all that is necessary is to reach those in control." Such a "comfortable condition," observed Professor Bruce Larson, "was a virtual conspiracy against the public interest."
Then there was the Rockefeller-owned Standard Oil Company, which Lindbergh claimed had undue influence on tariff legislation. The Rockefeller interests, he declared, had "an iron grip on the people's earning, and we now require protection against it rather than for it." At the time the U.S. was purchasing some 1.5 billion gallons of oil from Standard, while the company sold the same amount to England, France and Germany at a reduced price. "The difference," according to Bruce Larson, "amounted to an additional tax of more than $30,000,000 on the American people." And the cause was a tariff that protected the Rockefellers from foreign competition only in the domestic market.
President Roosevelt's Panama Canal project had the strong support of C.A. Lindbergh, who was one of a group of Congressmen to visit the site in 1908. He later reported: "Our people have really started a great job - a job that when completed will in no small degree change the transportation and commercial relations of the world.... The burden is on us and the benefit, commercially, is to all the world equal to us. The government will charge the same toll to all, designed ultimately to cover interest charge and cost of maintenance. In a military sense we will secure an advantage."
One doesn't have to wonder what Lindbergh and his friend Teddy Roosevelt would say, if they could, about Jimmy Carter's efforts to give away the Canal to a Communist dictator.
Proud of their Representative, the voters of the Sixth District kept sending C.A. back to Washington, where, Larson reports, he "was the first congressman to demand a congressional investigation of the Money Trust during the Sixty-second Congress of 1911 and 1912." Lindbergh led the unsuccessful fight in the House against the Aldrich-Vreeland Emergency Currency Bill, which provided for creation of the Aldrich Monetary Commission (named for Senator Nelson Aldrich, maternal grandfather of Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller). Indeed, according to one veteran Capitol Hill reporter at the time, "In all the years I have been in Washington he is the only man I have ever known who had read the entire twenty volumes of the Aldrich Monetary Commission."
Targeting the Banking Cartel
Exhaustive study of banking led C.A. to believe there was a powerful conspiracy working to centralize financial control in the hands of a few, and he did his best to expose it. "The remedy for our social evils," he said, "does not so much consist in changing the system of government as it does in increasing the general intelligence of the people so that they may know how to govern.... If they do not learn how to govern themselves intelligently, Socialism will be the result."
Lindbergh found secret collusion between Southern and English bankers at the time of the Civil War, citing proofs in his 1913 book, Banking and Currency and the Money Trust. He published there the text of the 1862 "Hazard Circular," which revealed how labor would henceforth be controlled by the amount of currency the bankers permitted in the market, since chattel slavery would be abolished by the war.
Furthermore, C.A. Lindbergh told his colleagues at the time the Glass Currency Bill was before the House:
In 1877 there was another circular [issued by the Associated Bankers of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston] sent out to confidential friends -- bankers -- that carried the same idea, and it was for the same purpose with the determination that they should control absolutely the currency circulation of this country. And in 1893 another circular [the famous Panic Circular] was sent out, that I saw myself, advising the banks of this country, those to whom they dared send it, to bring on a stringency in order to produce a general request on the part of the business men all over the country to appeal to Congress for certain legislation that should favor the bankers.
Lindbergh accused Members of Congress of meeting in secret to determine which currency bill would pass and what type of Federal Reserve System should be established to please the Establishment. "The correct name for a caucus," contended the Congressman, "is 'conspiracy.' The conspiracy here is to usurp the powers of Congress, and do as little for the people as it is thought the people will accept. I have been fighting the caucus system and the secret meeting of committees ever since I came to Congress." Time and again the plans of the money manipulators had to be revised because of exposure by Congressman Lindbergh and his associates. Indeed, according to The Lindberghs by Lynn and Dora Haines, the Congressman was himself offered a bribe of two million dollars -- big money today, but then an astronomical sum -- to stop the circulation of his book, Banking and Currency and the Money Trust.
A question arises. Why didn't the Insiders of the banking establishment, as it is put in The Lindberghs, "go out and defeat him? They tried repeatedly. I once asked an Old Guarder why they didn't succeed: His explanation was interesting, and possibly had some significance. 'We spent so much money,' he said, 'trying to lick Lindbergh that the district became too prosperous to care about a change.'"
Discussing the Glass-Owen Bill, now known as the Federal Reserve Act, Representative Lindbergh and a few others noted on December 22, 1913, that it was nothing more than a resurrection of the repudiated Aldrich plan. "This act establishes the most gigantic trust on earth.... When the President signs this act the invisible government by the money powers, proven to exist by the Money Trust investigation, will be legalized."
The citation of the Money Trust investigation refers to the inquiries of the Pujo Committee, which many of his colleagues felt should have been headed by Lindbergh. In any event, the committee found evidence that there was a conspiracy it called the Money Trust: "An established and well-defined identity and community of interest between a few leaders of finance which has been created and is held together through stock holdings, interlocking directorates, and other forms of domination over banks, trust companies, railroads, public service and industrial corporations, and which resulted in a vast and growing concentration of control of money and credit in the hands of a comparatively few men...."
Named as "the most active agents in forwarding and bringing about" this concentration were: J.P. Morgan & Company; First National Bank of New York; National City Bank of New York; Lee, Higginson & Company of Boston and New York; Kidder, Peabody & Company of Boston and New York; and, Kuhn, Loeb & Company.
Lindbergh explained that this "Money Trust caused the 1907 panic, and thereby forced Congress to create a National Monetary Commission, which drew a bill in the interests of the Money Trust, but Congress did not dare to pass the bill as coming from that Commission. The main features of that bill, however, were copied into this [Glass-Owen] bill. In 1912 I made a speech predicting that that would be done, and, further, that the Money Trust would cause a money stringency in order to force its bill through Congress. All this has now taken place. This bill is passed by Congress as a Christmas present to the Money Trust."
The invisible government, Lindbergh said, had come up with a new scheme "to make the people believe that the trusts are opposed to the very thing that the trusts favor. It is assumed that the people will favor what the trusts openly claim to be against. Smoothly the Money Trust has played a game of fake opposition...." And Congress obligingly tossed the conspirators into their favorite briar patch.
The bill that created the Federal Reserve System was nothing more than the Aldrich plan in disguise, which Lindbergh opposed because "Wall Street, backed by Morgan, Rockefeller, and others would control the Reserve Association, and those again, backed by all the deposits and disbursements of the United States, and again backed by the deposits of the national banks holding the private funds of the people, which is provided in the Aldrich plan, would be the most wonderful financial machinery that finite beings could invent to take control of the world." In fact, shortly before the end of his congressional career, C.A. Lindbergh formally moved to impeach the members of the Federal Reserve Board and offered a 15-count indictment of their conspiracy. The motion was buried in the Judiciary Committee.
Now, according to The Lindberghs, there were "detectives shadowing him much of the time, and he was given to understand that it would be safer for him if he was to change his tactics. In speaking of this to a friend, he said: 'They ought to know by this time they can't scare me that way, but they may get me yet.' "In a subsequent campaign, when shots were fired at the Lindbergh car, a companion declared that "C.A. sat up straight" and directed the driver not to drive so fast lest "they will think we are scared."
Faithful to the End
In the end it was Lindbergh's anti-conspiracy foreign policy that helped the conspirators to "get" him. A proponent of neutrality in World War I, he wondered how America could, on the one hand, follow the Monroe Doctrine and, on the other, involve itself in a foreign war outside our hemisphere. But he was strongly for military preparedness and certainly no pacifist. "Convinced that an inner circle,' composed chiefly of financial interests, was promoting American intervention, Lindbergh became clearly identified as an opponent of war throughout the neutrality period," reports Bruce Larson. Lindbergh warned: "It is my belief that we are going in as soon as the country can be sufficiently propagandized into the war mania."
Congressman Lindbergh had never been one to vote the Party Line. Indeed, he came to realize "the plain truth is that neither of these great parties, as at present led and manipulated by an 'invisible government,' is fit to manage the destinies of a great people, and this fact is well understood by all who have had the time and have used it to investigate." Seeking to increase his influence by going directly to the people, Lindbergh announced he was stepping down from Congress. He would never again hold public office, though he later ran for both Governor of Minnesota and U.S. Senator, the former campaign (in 1918) being one of the dirtiest in American history.
Once the U.S. joined the war, Lindbergh supported the effort: "the thing has been done, and however foolish it has been, we must all be foolish and unwise together, and fight for our country." He offered his services to the Governor and the President, and was asked to serve on the War Industries Board. That is, until his political enemies questioned his loyalty and used war hysteria to force C.A. to resign. One of the points of contention in the 1918 gubernatorial race centered on a little-circulated book Lindbergh published in July of 1917, entitled Why Is Your Country at War, written, C.A. said, "to emphasize independence." It was widely, and falsely, labeled as seditious.
A national campaign was launched to destroy C.A. and be rid of his conspiracy theories forever. The Non-Partisan League, with which he was then associated, was frequently denied the right to assembly; and mobs raged against Lindbergh, who was stoned and hanged in effigy. Plates of his book, and the even more important earlier one on the banking conspiracy, were destroyed. Lindbergh supporters were often arrested without warrants. The New York Times called the distinguished C.A. Lindbergh "a sort of Gopher Bolshevik," and the Duluth Herald titled one of their typical anti-C.A. editorials "Traitor or Ass."
Judge John F. McGee, chairman of the State Safety Commission, led the Minnesota fight to crush Lindbergh and the Non-Partisan League. McGee was a fanatic who wanted to place the entire country under martial law, and so testified before Congress at the same time declaring that every League "lecturer is a traitor every time. In other words, no matter what he says or does, a League worker is a traitor. Where we made a mistake was in not establishing a firing squad in the first days of the war. We should now get busy and have that firing squad working overtime."
Lindbergh, meanwhile, was doing his best on behalf of the Red Cross, the Liberty Loan, and other war efforts. To no avail; the well-funded forces of "loyalty" won.
After the war, C.A. Lindbergh was rightfully critical of the Versailles Treaty, noting that President Wilson "has his pay now for trying to tie us to a world war machine." A losing race for Senator in 1923, running on the Farmer-Labor ticket with young Charles flying him about in an airplane, was C.A.'s last campaign. A year later, he was dead. From a plane above the Lindbergh homestead, his son returned the ashes of C.A. Lindbergh's cremated body to the land he loved.
* Charles Jr. would, in telling adventure stories to his own children, relate how grandfather August had reached down and shook hands with his severed arm and wished his "good friend" goodbye.
"The Other Charles Lindbergh" is taken from an article that originally appeared in the May 1977 issue of American Opinion, a precursor to THE NEW AMERICAN. The original article, entitled 'Lindbergh: Two Generations of Heroism," covered the lives of both the elder Lindbergh and his famous aviator son; the article as it appears here focuses on C.A. Lindbergh Sr.
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|Title Annotation:||Charles A. Lindbergh, Sr.|
|Author:||Hoar, William P.|
|Publication:||The New American|
|Date:||Mar 24, 2003|
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