David Parish as young man, n.d.

David Parish as young man, n.d.

His Father’s Favored Son: David Parish


Born into a rich Scottish merchant family based in Hamburg and in the neighboring formerly-Danish village of Nienstedten, David Parish was a merchant, financier, and entrepreneur who acquired riches, fame, and professional success in Europe and the United States between 1802 and 1823. Parish embodied the possibilities of his era: He used his personal abilities and social networks to become one of the most influential players in the international financial community; he was honored by his peers as well as by politicians like Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, Friedrich von Gentz, and President James Madison. His downfall, however, resulted from a mixture of hubris, miscalculations, and general problems connected with the banking crisis of 1826.


“The pearl of the merchant classes in all of Christendom on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean” [“Die Perle des Handelsstandes in der ganzen Christenheit dieß- und jenseits des atlantischen Meeres….”], thus an enthusiastic observer described David Parish (born December 4, 1778 in the Free Imperial City of Hamburg; died April 27, 1826 in Vienna, Austrian Empire), an eminent merchant from the city of Hamburg who started a spectacularly successful business career in the New World.[1] Born into a rich Scottish merchant family based in Hamburg and in the neighboring formerly-Danish village of Nienstedten, the merchant, financier, and entrepreneur acquired riches, fame, and professional success in Europe and the United States between 1802 and 1823. He met an untimely death in 1826 at age 48 when he committed suicide in Vienna, Austria. Parish embodied the possibilities of his era: He used his personal abilities and social networks to become one of the most influential players in the international financial community; he was honored by his peers as well as by politicians like Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, Friedrich von Gentz, and President James Madison. His success resulted from business skills, personal charm, courage, and luck that allowed him to confront and overcome many challenges. His downfall, however, resulted from a mixture of hubris, miscalculations, and general problems connected with the banking crisis of 1826.

Family Background

The Parish family hailed from Scotland. George Parish (born 1710 in Leith, Scotland; died 1762 in the Free Imperial City of Hamburg), David Parish’s grandfather, migrated in the early 1750s from the Scottish port community of Leith on the Firth of Forth (today part of Edinburgh) to the busy North Sea port of Hamburg. Initially he was employed by the Merchant Adventurers in Hamburg as a captain, ship-owner, and merchant. His English colleagues behaved arrogantly towards the Scotsman, a fact that annoyed his bright son John Parish (born March 5, 1742 in Leith, Scotland; died February 4, 1829 in Bath, England). George Parish participated in the smuggling trade on behalf of the Merchant Adventurer Anthony Simpson, but he eventually established his own smuggling trade with contacts in French ports. At the same time he began transporting indentured servants from Hamburg to the British colonies in North America with his own vessel Queen of Denmark.[2] At the beginning of the Seven Years’ War (1754-1863), his wife Isabella (née Smith) Parish, a cousin of economist Adam Smith, and their children, among them John Parish, joined him in Hamburg. Young John was soon apprenticed to his father, although the elder Parish lacked business acumen. His son, however, soon rose to become one of the wealthiest merchants of Hamburg. Fueled by wounded pride resulting from the shabby treatment he and his father had suffered from the English merchants in Hamburg, John Parish amassed a fortune through trade with the rebellious British North American colonies during the American War of Independence and later with the independent United States.

John Parish: Building a Mercantile Dynasty through Conflict

Two years before relations between the British colonies in North America and their mother country reached the breaking point, colonial ships began to enter the river Elbe and tidal tributary Stöhr in November 1774 in search of military goods assembled in the Danish and German territories. The owners of these ships clearly anticipated that the colonists’ dispute with Great Britain might turn into a military conflict for which they were determined to prepare themselves. On November 12, 1774, the British consul in Hamburg, Emanuel Matthies, suggested in a letter to his superiors in London that he attributed a brief lull in this armament trade to bad, wintertime sailing conditions. Once winter was over, however, he expected these illegal transatlantic trading activities to resume, a “renewal of that dangerous kind of commerce with our colonies.”[3] He spared no efforts in pressuring the Hamburg Senate to stop the illegal activities. In February 1775 the Hamburg Senate reluctantly issued a halfhearted declaration that the city would not tolerate any illegal trading activities “with or to the British American colonies.”[4]

The declaration of the Hamburg Senate rather nicely demonstrated the difference between political declarations and commercial law, on the one hand, and the persuasive powers of political opportunism, commerce, and profit-focused pragmatism on the other. An appalled Matthies reported to London the arrival of an increasing number of American ships freighted with rice from South Carolina to be traded for armaments and for tea imported to Hamburg from the Netherlands. The latter, in particular, was, as the British consul eagerly declared, in clear violation of the British tax laws, especially the Tea Act that had recently granted the British East India Company the exclusive right to export tea to the Colonies. Matthies tried everything in his power to stop this trade.[5]

By March of 1776, John Parish in Hamburg had made the acquaintance of his “first friend” in “America,” Robert Morris (1734-1806) of Philadelphia.[6] Morris knew that Parish was sympathetic to the needs of colonists determined to defend themselves against British encroachments. Correspondingly Morris directed ever more of his ships to Hamburg, which had to be done surreptitiously by sailing via Bermuda.[7] The Second Continental Congress (May 5, 1775, to March 2, 1789) eventually appointed John Parish as the principal agent for the United States in Hamburg.

Once the United States had declared their independence on July 4, 1776, all need to disguise the trade in European armaments from British authorities ceased. Nevertheless, John Parish and his fellow merchants in Hamburg continued to play a cat and mouse game with the British consul Matthies due to British pressure aimed at European merchants doing business with the colonists:

Last night there arrived another American vessel, called the Patty… but before she came, I hear, so far as to reach the pales of this port, Mr Parish and Messrs Klefecker and Paschen… having previous advice of her sailing up, hurried with the utmost expedition a dozen of people down to meet her, who… made it their business to tow her back to Altona, where she now lies, a proof that a trade and correspondence is carrying on by the said merchants, in opposition to His Majesty proclamation, prohibiting his loyal subjects and others from having any connection, or carrying on any trade and correspondence with the rebels in America.[8]

Parish demonstrated not only speed and agility in handling American imports to the Danish port of Altona, just down the Elbe from Hamburg, he also energetically procured military hardware the Americans desperately needed. Early in the War for Independence, while British consul Matthies was busy organizing transportation for German troops from Brunswick and Hanover (the so-called Hessian mercenaries) to North America to serve as reinforcements for the British Army, Count Heinrich Carl von Schimmelmann (1724-1782) purchased and assembled large amounts of military goods for the American rebels in British King George III’s Electorate of Hanover. Schimmelmann’s agents bought saddles, gunpowder pouches, guns, ammunition, and textiles for George Washington’s Continental army. Soon a number of Hamburg merchants began to imitate Schimmelmann’s much-envied and highly-profitable, yet risky, mercantile activities. Among these imitators were the companies of Paschen & Klefeker, Caspar Voght, and John Parish.[9]

Parish travelled into Prussian territories in search of textiles for tents, uniforms, and blankets for Washington’s soldiers. Probably the linen he exported was acquired from the heirs of Abraham Dürninger (1706-1773), the company entrusted by the Renewed Moravian Church with the distribution of their textiles in Europe.[10] The irony, of course, was that the Moravian Church in North America under the influence of Bishop John Ettwein had adopted pacifist principles and declared themselves neutral in the conflict between Great Britain and her colonies. Parish also traveled through the northern German lands and offered as much as £30,000 and £40,000 Sterling, according to British consul Emanuel Matthies, for arms and gunpowder.[11] These military purchases were financed, in part, by proceeds from colonial goods transported by Robert Morris’s ships. Years later, however, Parish was still trying to secure payments for the remaining balance owed to him for these purchases, and his son, David, had to pursue the matter through legal channels to reclaim payments owed to his father. Despite these obstacles John Parish profited from the trade and established important contacts in the Atlantic trading community. He provided bills of exchange or lent money from Hamburg and international banks to the American government. Soon the French bank Le Grand acquired particular importance in these financial deals as, in Matthies’ words, “the Congress’s Banker” in Paris.[12] The French banker administered the French government’s large loan to the United States and thus was able to meet large drafts on behalf of the American government.

Influential as well as less prominent politicians on the American side participated in this Atlantic exchange: Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Gouverneur Morris were as much involved, as was the little-known John Ross (1726-1800) who, in the decade before the Declaration of Independence, had come to North America. Serving the best of their own interests, as well as the common cause, they worked hard to meet the needs of the Continental Army. In this process John Parish and John Ross made life difficult for British consul Matthies in Hamburg. Ross like Parish was a native Scotsman. He hailed from Tain, County Ross. In Philadelphia, Ross had established himself as a successful merchant who joined the “rebellious side” early in the evolving controversy between the American mainland colonies and Great Britain. John Ross was related to two of Parish’s close associates, Dr. Collin Ross, who practiced medicine in Hamburg, and Parish’s later son-in-law Hercules Ross (1745-1816), a Scottish merchant and exporter of military goods, who had acquired considerable riches as owner of a Jamaican sugar plantation.

In May 1776, a sub-committee of the Continental Congress appointed John Ross as principal agent for European military shipments for the Continental Army. As a committed “rebel” and friend of the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), Ross invested heavily in the American independence cause. On behalf of the secret committee of the Continental Congress, he travelled to Amsterdam, Nantes, and Paris for negotiations with financiers and suppliers of military goods. In the autumn of 1776, Ross arrived at Hamburg for an extended visit. Matthies tried hard to hinder the close cooperation between Parish and Ross. One time he succeeded in having the Jamaica Packet and the Clementine, which belonged to the partners, confiscated. The charges were based on depositions by bribed crewmembers from the two ships.Contradictory depositions by the captains of the ships, coupled with a barrage of declarations and denials of the charges of fraud, smuggling, and infringement of the British Acts of Trade and Navigation, not only discredited the crewmembers’ depositions but caused such a stir that the Hamburg Senate decreed the release of the ships.[13] They hurriedly left Hamburg en route to North America. An infuriated Matthies claimed, in vain, that the submitted proofs were fakes and falsified.[14] He was convinced that Parish and his “accomplices” had rigged evidence and that the freight of the two ships in question was not designed for Nantes, Cadiz, Madeira, or the Canaries but for the hated rebels in North America. Matthies was correct in his assertion, but his problem was that he had no proof for his charges that the two merchants, John Parish and John Ross, were shipping military goods from Europe to North America in violation of British trading laws.[15]

John Parish invested a portion of the large profits from his trade with the rebellious British colonies and later the United States in real estate in Hamburg and the surrounding region. In 1779 he purchased a palatial estate in nearby Nienstedten, then under Danish control. By 1798 he had invested 75,000 Mark Banco (the unit of currency in Hamburg) to renovate and improve the property.[16] These investments testify to his eagerness to provide an ostentatious public residence for his large and growing family. As a host, John Parish was known for his exquisite splendor. He pampered his guests with opulent dinners. His sons later adopted similarly costly habits to impress their business partners with their French cooks, fine food, and elegant wines.

John Parish owed his excellent reputation in the United States to his decidedly anti-British trading practices in the early 1770s and 1780s, and for these deeds he was rewarded with an appointment as the first American vice-consul at Hamburg in 1790, then as American consul at Hamburg in 1793. Yet in 1794 he suddenly switched sides politically and began to support the British. This somewhat odd behavior makes sense only if one recalls that Parish had not supported the American rebels for ideological reasons but because he was frustrated by being marginalized by the English factory at Hamburg, which had refused to accept him as a British merchant and denied him the trading privileges due to British members of the factory. His rationale for changing sides politically was, as he later confided with some sarcasm to his daughter Henriette Ross, motivated by his need to secure “an honest livelihood for my family as a Hambro merchant.”[17] By 1794-1795 the situation had changed for Parish. The British courted his favor and asked for his cooperation in the growing conflict against the revolutionary French government. His finely developed sense for profit induced him to support the British cause, which angered Americans since France was still an ally of the United States. At the same time he proved how a sudden surge of British patriotism could camouflage mercantile egoism. The Americans took offense not only because he funded and organized British troop movements in the conflict, which employed more than ninety transport ships in European and Caribbean waters, but also because he was involved in securing British-Prussian war loans in 1794. For the Americans, Parish’s behavior amounted to a betrayal of trust and loyalty. The French agreed with this assessment and complained to the United States. On highest orders, Parish was removed from his post as U.S. consul.[18] In his memoirs the merchant somewhat cryptically commented on the affair:

Was this patriotism, Henny, or self-interest which moved me forward? I fancy it was something of a mixture of both – my services had been required at a time, when not a man on the spot was either able or willing to undertake such business… I began to feel myself… the Government agent.[19]

Parish was driven by ambition and greed, as he himself somewhat slyly noted and defended himself, vis à vis his daughter. His pro-British feelings increased along with his growing hate of Napoleon.[20] His pleasant experiences during his long stays in London, his close contacts and relations with British trading partners and friendships with British bankers, merchants, influential politicians and military officers, and finally his son George’s friendly yet professional ties to the East India Company in India account for his support of the British. Not least, Parish was flattered by the visit of Admiral Horatio Nelson to Nienstedten during the British-French conflict, a visit that had been arranged by his son-in-law Hercules Ross, a close friend of Nelson.[21]

In later years John Parish acted as a skeptical observer of the United States. He energetically refused any thought of either visiting or living permanently in the “amerikanische Wildnis” (American wilderness) after his flight from Hamburg first to Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1807 and later to Bath, England, from 1807 until 1829.[22] His wife quarreled with her future American in-laws; yet she eventually conceded that she would tolerate one as a daughter-in-law.[23] Increasingly in his old age John Parish, the Scot, began to perceive himself as a British subject who admired John Bull, the English navy, and the British nobility. He craved British company and copied the British lifestyle during his exile in Bath. His residence in Bath at 40 Pulteney Street became one of the meeting places for fashionable society. His yearly entertainment bills there amounted to £4,000. Like their father, his sons, too, played with their multiple identities, nationalities and loyalties — although their economic interests held pride of place and national interests were usually invoked as alibis. Whenever they faced a conflict of interest, John Parish, as well as his sons, always opted either for their own or for their family’s interests.

David Parish: His Early Years

As a young man, David Parish left Hamburg for Antwerp and very soon reached the peak of the international finance realm. By 1803 thanks to contacts with his father’s friends at Hope & Co. in Amsterdam, the international Baring Bank in London, and leading politicians like Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand in Paris, Parish was able to very quickly amass a large fortune. Unimpressed, his brother-in-law, Hercules Ross, also a successful businessman, showered him with advice about how he should run his business.[24] From the start of his professional dealings, Parish’s economic activities focused on the North American market. The 1803 Louisiana Purchase boosted his profile in the international business community and earned him significant profits. The purchase had been engineered by Baring Brothers & Co. and Hope & Co. together with President Thomas Jefferson.[25] Another source for substantial profits was Parish’s business deals for silver from Mexico, in which European governments and large banking houses were involved. In 1805 the directors of Baring Brothers and Hope & Co commissioned David Parish to travel to the United States to supervise the sensitive transfer of large sums of money as well as goods and silver.Vincent Nolte, who at the behest of Parish, and under his instructions, had supervised some of the deal left a concise but also biased description of David’s commission and the tasks it involved. His report Fifty years in both hemispheres: or reminiscences of the Life of a former merchant, however, has to be read with some caution because Nolte was envious of his young master’s successes.[26] Obviously David Parish was something of a rising star among John Parish’s sons. He was intelligent, ambitious, and loved to take risks. He was also charming, fashionable, and a bonvivant. In short, David Parish was the pride of his father who saw himself in his dynamic and attractive son. He clearly preferred and favored David over his other sons: John Jr. (1774-1858), Richard (1776-1860), George (1780-1839), and Charles (1781-1856).[27]

Little is known about David Parish’s youth and early adulthood. David, like his brothers, attended the well-reputed Hamburg secondary school Johanneum where he became friends with Peter A. Grotjahn (1774-1850), whom he met again in later years in Philadelphia as a successful merchant.[28] Among his peers he was obviously quite popular; in 1797, together with this brother Richard, he joined the exclusive and elegant gentlemen’s club Harmonie, which was modeled on English social clubs when it had been founded in 1789. We know little about his religious beliefs. There are some indications that he leaned toward Church of England Protestantism. Like his brothers he seems to have loved to travel the world. After his brother, George, moved to India in the service of the British East India Company, David, too, left home and his concerned parents for Antwerp, where between 1803 and 1805 he first worked for one of his father’s business partners before he started his own trading enterprise. In 1805 he left Antwerp and sojourned via England to the United States of America, where he intended to stay for a year or so at least. David wrote in a letter to his father’s friend in the U.S., Gouverneur Morris, that he hoped his stay would benefit his newly-founded company, David Parish, Agie & Co, and that the firm would profit. One important reason for his journey to North America was to establish personal contacts and relationships with actual and potential business partners within the Atlantic mercantile community, for David knew that such confidence-building personal relations would establish his credibility much more effectively than letters, or the intercession of friends and business partners, could ever achieve:

I have not had the pleasure of hearing from you, my dear Sir, since my letter of the 17th Oct 1803 when I owned receipt of your esteemed favor of the 6th July proceeding & thanked you for the very kind wishes & expressions contained therein; as also for the list of New York houses which you had the goodness to transmit. It is with much pleasure that I come now to inform you of the execution of a project of mine which I have long had in contemplation – it is namely my intention to embark in the course of a very few weeks for that United States & to spend about a twelve month there in visiting your different commercial towns, in order to cultivate & extend the connections of my house. The trade of your country in general & its intercourse with our maritime ports in particular becoming every day more extensive, has of late attracted my whole attention. I think that my stay there & the personal acquaintance with your first commercial characters cannot but prove highly adventurous to my Establishment here, which will be managed during my absence by Mr Agie who is become my partner in that 1 June. I intend setting off for Holland next week…I shall embark in the beginning of September either for New York or Philadelphia….[29]

Between Philadelphia and Ogdensburg, 1806–1816

David Parish imitated his father’s way of doing business, used his father’s business contacts, and with a passion and fortune inherited from his father pursued his own economic interests. During the first phase of his American business career, between 1806 and 1808, in addition to his silver transfer deals with Baring Brothers, Rothschild Brothers, and Hope & Co, his firm entered the Atlantic linen trade in cooperation with another close business partner of his father, the Hamburg company of Matthiessen & Sillem. From Silesia he transported linen via Hamburg to New Orleans. In return he shipped tea from Canton (southern China) via the United States to Hamburg. Putting his recently acquired expertise in the U.S. to good use, he helped his brothers Richard, John, and Charles secure trading advantages in the declining Hamburg Atlantic trade during the continental blockade from 1807 to 1814. To aid them in their efforts to do business deals in Hamburg, Heligoland (Helgoland), and London, Parish convinced his business friends in Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia to convey goods to his brothers in Hamburg and to use their brokerage services. At the same time he not only dispensed sound business advices to his charming but fairly incompetent brother-in-law, Thomas Hamilton, in Glasgow, Scotland, but he also described the business potential and personal attitudes of promising trading partners in the American port towns along the East Coast in glowing terms to his brothers. By pointing out individual skills and shortcomings to his present and future colleagues, Parish demonstrated the importance of trust, loyalty, and reliability in the Atlantic World mercantile community:

The following is a list of some of my most intimate connections in this country. I have reason to suppose, that for the most part they are not particularly attached to any house in Hamburg altho[ugh] they have all Correspondents there with whom they have occasionally done business. I would advise you to tell them that it is at my desire and in consequence of the personal Acquaintance I have had the pleasure of making that you address them, that if their interest should lead them your way & they had no regular or intimate Connections, with which it was by no means your wish to interfere, you should be glad to pay attention to any concerns they might commit to your care. & giving them at the same time some commercial advice. I don’t send you the names of many other correspondents of ours, as I know that some of them have regular connections at Hamburg with which they are perfectly satisfied & that others having been disgusted with sales made in your place, have come to the determination of sending no more property to Hamburg.

New York
1) Jas Lenox & Wm Maitland
2) William Renwick you are already acquainted with
3) Arch Gracie our most confidential friend & a very worthy man enjoying the first credit
4) George M. Woolsey very good Ct and doing a great deal of business-he has made some valuable shipment lately to Hope & Co
5) LeRoy Bayard & Mr Evers may be considered as the first house in this city they are intimate connections of W & I.Wellinck
6) Levi Coit a very worthy man, enjoying a very good ct & intimately connected with Hope & co
7) Gen Ebenezer Stevens an old militia general to whom you may give title in your letters, he does a good deal of business & enjoys a fair credit
8) Low & Wallace intimate friends of Gouv Morris very first Credit
9) Jos:Howland & Son I gave them a letter of Introduction to you the other day, they are very respectable people, but don’t do much business
10) Robt Dickey a young man who is active, has very good connections and is doing much business
11) Robert Lenox enjoys the very first Credit is largely in the EI trade, he is an intimate Connect with Barings who have the greatest Confid: in him
12) Willings & Francis our most confidential friends most intimate with Hope & Barings relations of the Latter doing a great deal of business enjoying the first Ct
13) Joseph Sims also connected with H&B [Hope & Baring] very first Ct, he was formerly in correspondence with myself &seemed much pleased with the manner his business was transacted, I dare say he will again be brought round to your house I don’t believe he has done anything with Hamburg of late.
14) Nicklin & Griffith correspondents of H&B of the first respect
15) John Craig corresp of H&B enjoying a very good Ct
16) Savage & Dugan also connected with H&B doing a great deal of business they have been in correspondence with Buck & Co who sold a large cargo of Tea for them last year
17) Stephen Girard is considered the richest man here, he is in intimate connection with H&B he has formerly been in correspondence with Prevost Schwartz & co but has done nothing with Hamburg for some years-his concerns now enter at Antwerp & Amst you will do well to write him in french
18) Robrt & John Oliver Mr RO is now here & I have made his personal acquaintance he is in intimate connection with B&H & his house enjoys the first Ct
19) Robrt Gilmore & Sons, you are already acquainted with by correspondence they are in close connection with Barings & likely to come so with my house….[30]

Some of this valuable insider information, for example about Stephen Girard (1750-1831), one of the richest merchants in Philadelphia, was read with interest by his honest and dedicated brother Richard, yet even he did not exhaust the full potential of this information. On the whole Parish & Co in Hamburg adopted some pieces of Parish’s sage advice to escape the worst of the trading miseries of the continental blockage. Thus the Parish brothers in Hamburg gained a competitive edge over their colleagues in Hamburg for example by servicing their American partners as brokers and agents in efforts to smuggle sugar, tea, tobacco, and rice via Denmark to the northern German market.

The second phase of David Parish’s American business career, from 1808 to 1816, was initiated and shaped by advice Parish received from Gouverneur Morris, the owner of large estates in New York state, financier, and rentier (landlord), who resided in grand style in Morrristown, New York. Following the examples of his brother-in-law, Hercules Ross, in Montrose, Scotland, and fellow merchants in Hamburg, David Parish began to invest excess capital from his trade in land purchases. Like his colleagues from Hamburg living in the German lands, Venezuela, and the West Indies, the young Hamburg merchant began to adopt the lifestyle of a lord of the manor.

In 1808 Parish began to acquire land from Gouverneur Morris, Judge Nathan Ford, and LeRoy de Chaumont in St. Lawrence and Jefferson County in upstate New York. By 1816 he had amassed some 127,415 acres for which he paid $ 375,000 (approximately $6.2 million in 2010$). At first his brother Richard was skeptical and probably a bit jealous about the lofty plans of his brother, David, their father’s darling.[31] Yet David was not content with simply viewing his newly acquired estates, or waiting for better economic times to speculate with his land. Instead, he energetically began to develop and implement plans for settling and exploiting his newly acquired assets. He personally supervised the construction of roads to improve the infrastructure of the estates. He publicized his conditions for attracting and settling farming families in order to exploit the natural resources of his estate. He introduced new agricultural plants, pushed merino sheep farming and dog breeding, and preached the virtues of home textile manufacturing to his tenants and farmers. In addition, he established foundries and built and sold ships and boats for use on the northern lakes in the economically and militarily contested border region between the United States and Canada. Finally he started mining iron ore deposits on his lands in order to turn them into military armaments. In doing so, the Hamburg-born investor followed a contemporary trend: The Industrial Revolution was beginning to have an impact on the economies of the older, long-settled states along the East Coast. In bringing the Industrial Revolution to upstate New York, David Parish, supposedly “sovereign lord” over his villages Parishville, Rossie (named after the castle of his much-loved elder sister Henriette Ross), and Antwerp (named after the city of his first mercantile exploits), all situated in St. Lawrence County on the St. Lawrence River about 370 miles north of the economically-booming New York City, contributed to the economic takeoff of the United States.

By 1810 David Parish’s assets had grown from the $50,000 his father had given him in 1803 as an advance to the sensational sum of $800,000, which amounted to £180,000 Sterling (approximately $15 million in 2010$). His investments in his lands were truly impressive. They demonstrate his confidence in his economic plans, his faith in the economic possibilities that lay ahead, and his trust in the pace of development of his landed estate and the people who worked on it. His investments in the ironworks amounted to $107,000, he purchased additional real estate valued at $67,000, he invested $71,000 in turnpike building, he used $5,500 to build sawmills and another $5,000 to build churches, and kept about $1,000 cash in hand. He also convinced skilled craftsmen and workers from Schleswig, Holstein, Hamburg, Wales, and Flanders to immigrate to his estate. Among them was his trusted, longtime foreman Joseph Rosseel from Gent, Belgium.[32]

Together with his initiatives for the improvement of upstate New York’s infrastructure, trade, and industry, David Parish’s many activities also extended to cultural initiatives, of which his contemporaries in Philadelphia and Ogdensburg were to brag about for years to come. According to Charles Buck, another successful Hamburg merchant who had settled in Philadelphia, David Parish refined the table manners of the upper class of Philadelphia, the city he chose for his urban residence:

I must not forget my townsman David Parish, Esq, who was here a great favorite, and famous for his particularly splendid entertainments. He was the first in Philadelphia who introduced different courses served up on a table service of great elegance. His attendants were in livery and his butler in full dress like the great people in London. At one time Mr. Parish gave a great ball at the Hotel, corner 2nd and Union Streets. It had spacious rooms at the time… particularly decorated for the occasion, with variegated lamps and evergreens. The decorations were by a celebrated artist, Mr Rome, who had been formerly established at Hamburg and was here introduced by Mr. Parish….[33]

David Parish resided in the aforementioned hotel before he moved to a new residence at 80 Walnut Street and finally settled down in a posh house on Washington Square designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

Following the example set by his father, David Parish favored art, landscaping, and introduced new and unknown plants like asparagus and apricots to Ogdensburg’s high society. By bringing leading Hamburg architect Joseph Ramée (1764-1842), “Mr. Rome” as Charles Buck referred to him, to Ogdensburg, he introduced new architectural styles into that region. Ramée likely designed David Parish’s fancy residence at Ogdensburg; similarities with other designs of Ramée, his association with Caspar Voght, a close friend of John Parish, and the fact that Ramée personally supervised the interior furnishing of the new residence all suggest Ramée’s decisive architectural input into the stately residence on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Parish, on the other hand, claimed Ramée’s accomplishments as his own since he had brought the architect from Hamburg to provincial Ogdensburg, after all. He felt that Ramée’s valuable contracts in New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, as well as Ramée’s successes with his newly founded company, Ramée & Virchaux, which David Parish supported, owed much to Parish’s influence.[34]

David Parish’s success in luring the French painter Charles Hénard to New York represented another effort to enrich America’s cultural ambiente. Hénard had most likely painted the well-known portrait of John Parish Sr. He first went to Ogdensburg, where he produced sketches of various possessions and scenes of David Parish’s estates, before he moved on to New York City where he died suddenly soon after his arrival. Parish tried to recoup some of the money Hénard owed him by selling the few belongings of the deceased.[35] These contributions of David Parish to the culture of New York have thus far not received the scholarly attention they deserve.

Credit and Home Improvements

David Parish also played an important role in securing the finances of the American federal government in the early nineteenth century, when during the War of 1812 the federal budget became unbalanced due to heavy, war-related expenditures. The topic has been repeatedly discussed by American and German scholars who celebrate and praise Parish’s contributions as expressions of national solidarity by an immigrant who wished to represent himself as a committed patriot and thus expose xenophobic prejudices.[36] Most scholars ignore the international context of Parish’s actions, as well as the realities of the international financial markets of the era. Without taking the personal (patriotic or otherwise) motives of David Parish, Stephen Girard, and German immigrant John Jacob Astor into consideration, as well as the motives of the underwriting group of American merchants and bankers based in East Coast mercantile centers, it is clear that they all individually and collectively contributed toward guaranteeing the financial survival of the American federal government in a time of crisis by securing funds to pay for the war effort. Parish’s father’s trade in arms and armaments from Hamburg to the rebellious colonies and the struggling young republic had contributed toward the survival of the rebellious confederated states. The contributions by his son, David Parish, to the finances of the Republic represented a considerably higher risk, as well as investment, and involved some thirteen to sixteen million U.S. dollars. This large sum consisted, in part, of David Parish’s own money, of capital contributions by American bankers and merchants whom Parish had convinced of the soundness of the financial scheme, and finally and ironically of financial contributions of English banks who supported the efforts of the Parish-Girard-Astor consortium to stabilize American federal finances in the war with Great Britain. In a letter to his brother Richard, David Parish described the profitable deal with his typical cool elegance: He opened the letter by noting the activities of common friends before he rather casually mentioned that “I was lately induced into an extensive financial operation with the government….”[37] His younger brother Charles, informed through the family grapevine, responded to this information with equal noblesse and coolness: “I see you have entered into an extensive concern with Girard… your name was blazoned forth in the papers here, along with Girards & Astor, as the three opulent individuals who had taken the loan of 11 million dollars.”[38]

Parish and his partners publicly praised their deal as an act of patriotism; yet it is quite clear that David Parish’s main reason for involvement in the transaction was his desire to see peace restored in the border region between Canada and the United States where his estates, into which he had invested so much, were situated, because peace and stability were vital for his estates’ further economic development.[39] In one of his countless epistles to his father in Bath, England, he openly discussed his ideas and the consequences that the unfortunate war might entail for him:

… by my example in encouraging our inhabitants not to forsake their farms & to prove them that I considered the fear they intertained [sic.]! of being scalped by the Indians as utterly groundless I am glad to say that the result has answered my expectations…. I have it is true not sold much land, or augmented the number of my settlers but I am now carrying on various works which promise to be of very material advantage at no distant period. That which has engrossed most of my attention is the subject of Iron. I have had the good luck of discovering in my townships of Somerville & Antwerp some of the richest & best ore that has ever been found in this country. After trying the quality & satisfying myself as to the quantity of this ore, which is inexhaustible, I have set about & am now erecting very extensive works, consisting of two furnaces & four forgehammers at a place which I have named Rossie, situated in Somerville, 25 miles from hence at the head of the Black lake which communicate by the River Oswegatchie with this place The manufacture of iron can be carried on to greater advantage in this part of the United States than in any other we are so far in the interior that foreign importations can not interfere with us, & the water communication from this place with the shores of the St Lawrence take Ontario & by a Portage of 14 Miles round the falls of Niagara with Lake Erie, will enable me to supply a most intensive range of country with this article of which the consumption is great in new countries which are settling. [T]he price of bar iron is generally ten a twelve cents a pound, whereas I can furnish it at six p make a very great profit, an English gentleman Mr Benbow who is perfectly acquainted with iron works superintends the building & will have the direction of the whole business. I consider him a very great acquisition as there are few men, if any in this country, possessed of his knowledge of this subject. This establishment will be surrounded by about sixty thousand acres of my lands the value of which will be much inhanced [sic.] by these works, as well as by a turnpike of which I procured a grant from our legislation last winter, & which will go about 19 miles thro [sic.] my lands in Antwerp & Somersville, down to this place. This road will probably be completed this autumn. In another part of our county to the eastward, a turnpike which is already made, goes 8 miles thro [sic.] a very fine tract of my lands in Crokham, which township will be incorpareted [sic.] during the next session of the legislature by the name of Parishville, as it is there I intend forming an Establishment for myself. I have some of the most romantic situations in that town you can possibly imagine & Ramee who made an excursion with me the other day to view them, declares he never saw anything so fine; the situation I have chosen is on the St Regis River, the whole of which falls down 80 feet perpendicular & forms a most beautiful cascade, which will be close to & in full view of my house. I don’t intend to be in a hurry to compleat [sic.] this Establishment as I have a very comfortable one here, where I propose spending the next three or four three summers. Altho [sic.] my family is pretty large, consisting generally of four or five Gentl & seven Servants, I have half a dozen of spare beds besides, so that you will perceive the house is pretty spacious. I am now going on with several improvements … building a tavern, a stone house & small houses for mechanics in a village where there are already Grid & sawmills & a distillery. This place on the return of peace has every prospect of becoming a flourishing one. I shall now proceed to tell you something about my domestic arrangements here, I have already mentioned that I should bring on with me all my servants except Tabrez the Butler who remains in Philadelphia to take care of my house there. Mrs. Lee behaves very well during the bombardement [sic.] & althou [sic.] most of the women of the village left it, she never proposes to move, but said she would remain as long as I did… the cook & the two [E]nglish lads are also with me here, I have every reason to be satisfied with their conduct, my table is as well supplied here, as it is in Phila[delphia] I have plenty of excellent Beef, Mutton, Poultry & vegetables on my farm five miles from here, the rivers & lakes furnish salmon with many other excellent fish & I receive from Rossie more fat deer than we can consume, I have besides a stock of excellent old Madeira & Claret so that you see we contrive to live pretty well in this new Country….[40]

In 1816 David Parish returned to Europe for good, although at first he still harbored the notion that he would return to the U.S., where he had acquired American citizenship on May 7, 1816. Eventually, he handed over responsibility for his Ogdenburg estates to his brother, George, who due to a severe illness had had to return from India and resign from the service of the East India Company. George bought a partnership in his brother’s company and John Parish Sr. bathed in the future glory of his sons’ enterprise. Being an experienced merchant he took stock of his sons’ enterprises and their efforts between 1810, when David returned to Europe for a holiday, and 1817, when George and David joined their fortunes. The proud father calculated his sons’ financial power at 500,000 Marc Banco for John Jr., 700,000 Marc Banco for Richard, 300,000 for Charles, and in the lead approximately 788,620 Marc Banco for his beloved David.[41]

David began looking for new challenges in Europe after he returned to the continent. Once more, the American federal government thanked a Parish from Hamburg for his noble support in deals of national importance. Between 1819 and 1823, David functioned as newly-appointed American consul in his old domain of Antwerp, where once more he personally took charge of his company D. Parish, Agie & Co.[42] His contributions, however, to loans granted to the Habsburg emperor Francis to support the latter’s efforts to crush the Italian fight for independence from the Habsburg Empire again infuriated the American federal government. Like his father, David Parish lost his appointment as American consul because he dabbled in European politics in a way that contradicted official American foreign policy positions.[43]

Meanwhile, David Parish travelled tirelessly from one European financial hotspot to the next, from London to Paris, from Berlin to Hamburg and onwards to Vienna, spending time in luxurious European spas before finally deciding to settle permanently in Vienna after consulting with the Austrian chancellor Klemens von Metternich, the Rothschild Brothers, and the closely connected bank of Fries & Co. Once more David Parish was praised, as he had been in the United States, as a celebrated star of the financial world. Austrian statesman Friedrich von Gentz, after cooperating successfully with Parish during the international postwar conference at Aix-la-Chapelle, described Parish in a 1818 letter to his friend Adam Heinrich Müller (1779-1829) as a “Perle des Handelsstandes in der ganzen Christenheit dieß- und jenseits des atlantischen Meeres; einer der vollendetsten Menschen, die ich je sah….”[44] This was rather fulsome praise from one of the most influential advisers of Chancellor Metternich, who himself was always open for compliments as well as bribes.

David Parish moved as easily in the circles of high nobility as he did in the realm of high finance and the haute bourgeoisie. During the ugly, anti-Jewish demonstrations in most large German cities in 1819, he enjoyed the waters in the elegant Czech spa of Karlsbad and recharged his energies without losing contact with his many business partners, a significant number of whom were Jewish. Banker James Rothschild informed him from Paris about his anxieties for his family, as well as for his business in which David Parish together with the banking houses of Baring Brothers, Hottinguer & Co, Jacques Laffitte, and Fries & Co were much concerned.[45] Surrounded by his family and pursuing busily his interests in art and culture, David Parish seemed blessed by lady fortune (Dame Fortune) — until the fatal day on 26 April 1826, when his lucky streak broke. His heartrending letters to his brother, John Parish Jr., Baron of Senfftenberg, to Samuel von Rothschild, and to Metternich clearly show in their brutal honesty that David, faced with his own failure and threatened with bankruptcy due to a sudden, worldwide financial crisis, capitulated.

In order to shield his family from his burdensome debts, Parish decided to commit suicide. He hoped that his American estates would survive the crash and would suffice to indemnify his family for his losses in Europe.[46]

I wrote on Monday my dear John & am since then without anything from you. I now come to bid you a last farewell – it is impossible for me to bear up against the horror of my situation or to survive the fall of the house. I am about committing an act for which I dare not claim your forgiving but which your brotherly affection will make you judge with indulgence – pity me my good John, for my head is totally bewildered & the distraction of my mind has attained the highest pitch to involve the name of the family in this stigma is what adds very much to the poignancy of my feelings.

I have this morning send [sic.] a sealed box with your address to Schindlers office with directions to forward it by the next conveyance to Senfftenberg – it contains various letters & papers which you will occassionally [sic.] send to Richard – some interesting communications from George to the 8th of March which reached me yesterday will also be found in the box… you will have the goodness to cause to be delivered. It may be well for you to write to Schindler stating this box to be your property so that it may not get into wrong hands. I write to Richard by todays mail & send him copies of two letters which I have just addressed to Prince M[etternich] & to S.R[othschild], they contain an undisguised exposition of my sentiments & I have requested my friend Geym[üller] to deliver them after funeral.

The accounts from George have afforded me the greatest consolation as they justify me in believing that my [A]merican property will, at no very distant day, more then cover my debt to the family – I include therein of course the Balance due you by my house.

Let me still before we part, ask one more favor of you – pray do not abandon my friend Fanny Botta- she has been a true & faithfull [sic.] friend compagnion [sic.] to me for five years & is now left almost destitute. I have also recommended her very particulary [sic.] to Richard in my letter of today & I hope you will both do something for her if she should apply to you for assistance.

Make my most affectionate love to our dear Kitty & pray my good John don’t refuse a tear of compassion to the memory of your most unfortunate brother. D.P.[47]

In total desperation David Parish left his elegant house near the imperial Hofburg (Bräunerstrasse 11 at the corner of Stallburggasse 3) and drowned himself in the Danube. The Coroner’s death certificate of 29 April 1826 laconically concluded David Parish’s exciting life with the dry words: “Parish, Herr David, unmarried, partner in a trading house, residing at Nr. 1128 in the city, was found drowned and inspected in the city hospital… Jr. NB he took his life on the 27.D.M” [“Parish, Herr David, lediger Großhandlungs-Compagnon, Nr. 1128 in der Stadt wohnhaft, wurde ertrunken gefunden und im Allgemeinen Krankenhaus beschaut … Jr. NB hat sich den 27. D. M. selbst entleibt”].[48] Despite his suicide, David Parish was buried with Christian rites. Until the Allgemeine Währinger Cemetery in Vienna was closed in 1874 and converted into a park, his grave could be viewed among the burial plots of other well-known personalities and prominent figures like Friedrich von Gentz from Vienna.


David Parish’s brother, George, continued to conduct business from his office in New York City and from Ogdensburg until 1839, when he handed over responsibility to his nephew, George Parish (1807-1881), the son of Richard Parish and Suzette (née Godeffroy) Parish. The elder George Parish represented the type of the elegant and demanding cosmopolitan, who never travelled without a large entourage of servants and with a portable toilette privée, and whose expeditions in Europe and Asia had excited gossips and rumors among high society. Fittingly and in tune with his lifestyle, George Parish died in Paris, where he had retired in his old age, after a lively and sumptuous dinner party. His nephew George Parish, too, was less concerned about his uncle’s estates in upstate New York and more interested in his own pleasures. He was considered a foppish dandy, whose amours amused Hamburg’s prudish bourgeoisie and made the rounds among the Atlantic mercantile community.[49] Instead of making his impact with important business deals as his father and his uncles had done, young, elegant George became famous for his social cracks and on dits. His liaison with the eccentric Florentine Lady Elena Vespucci (1804-ca.1864) caused a scandal. The lady later produced herself in the United States as the scandalous America Vespucci. This liaison became the subject of the novel Parish’s Fancy authored by Walter Guest Kellogg in 1929. The story interwove the fates of Martin van Buren, Daniel Webster, America Vespucci, and George Parish in romantic entanglements. David Parish, too, became the subject of a novel; his life inspired Hervey Allen (1889-1949) in 1933 to write the novel Anthony Adverse. In real life Oscar Parish (1864-1925), grandson of Richard Parish, inherited all the land in upstate New York, the property of his relatives in Hamburg and Mecklenburg, as well as the estates in Bohemia together with the noble title “Baron of Senfftenberg” of his great uncle John Parish Jr.

The death of his most beloved son, David Parish, shook his father even more than the death of his wife, Henriette Todd (1745-1810), and their daughter, Henriette (née Parish) Ross (1769-1811). John Parish’s signature on the power of attorney document for the administration of the heritage of his son was written with an exceptionally jittery hand that bespoke the sudden weakness of an old man shaken to the core. Besides his deep emotional tragedy his financial support was threatened: his dead son still owed him nearly £40,000 Sterling and his other sons tried to fulfill his demands.

Aside from the many memories of David Parish’s friends and contemporaries and the faint echo of his career and achievements in scholarly research, a large number of sources on both sides of the Atlantic attest to his activities and achievements, as do the places he founded in upstate New York, in particular his residence built in the European classicist style of architecture in the center of Ogdensburg that today houses the Frederic Remington Museum.[50] His brother, John, Baron of Senfftenberg, too, has left traces of his activities in his castle in Zamberk, Czech Republic. John Parish Jr. had purchased the castle in 1815 after he had ended his business career as a successful merchant and banker to European monarchs and spent time with his hobbies and political pleasures. The Bohemian manor has survived the rigors of time and between 1990 and 2004 was reacquired by the family. The Hamburg trading house Parish & Co. was dissolved in 1858. In Hamburg, the family heritage is recalled in various features: the proverb ‘Parish speelen’, the spatial outlay of the noble suburb of Nienstedten on the Elbchaussee, and a portrait of John Parish Sr. in the entry hall of the American general consulate at the Alsterufer recall the life and work of the Parish family and their relations to the United States of America. [51]


[1] Article translated from the original German by Hermann Wellenreuther, Göttingen. Friedrich von Gentz to Adam Heinrich Müller, Munich December 15, 1818, in Briefwechsel zwischen Friedrich von Gentz und Adam Heinrich Müller, 1800-1829 (Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta’scher Verlag, 1857), 169, (accessed October 17, 2011).

[2] Andreas Brinck, Die deutsche Auswanderungswelle in die britischen Kolonien Nordamerikas um die Mitte des 18. Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag,1993), 39ff, 76, 198ff, 206; Marianne S. Wokeck, Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America (State College, PA: Penn State Press, 1999), 81.

[3] The National Archive UK (hereafter TNA) State Papers (hereafter SP) 82/93 1774 No. 72+74 Emanuel Matthies to Lord Suffolk, Hamburg November 22, 1774 and December 9, 1774.

[4] TNA SP 82/94 1775 No 8, Emanuel Matthies to Lord Suffolk, Hamburg February 24, 1775.

[5] In order to obtain information, Matthies hired spies, bribed sailors and captains unsatisfied with their employers, and depended on British subjects loyal to their sovereign. He listened to the rumors in port pubs, marketplaces, and in the streets, and noted carefully who walked the streets during the day and night. He feared the worst, for he had heard rumors that, for example, one ship had loaded 400 boxes with armaments to be shipped to Virginia via the Dutch West Indian island of St. Eustatius (also known as Statia).

[6] Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, Revolutionary Financier. With an analysis of his earlier Career (originally published1954, reprinted New York: Octagon Books, 1976). Robert Morris was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and at the time probably the wealthiest and certainly the most influential merchant in Philadelphia, chairman of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, most important advisor of the Continental Congress in financial and economic matters, and George Washington’s chief supplier of provisions for the Army.

[7] Library of Congress, American Memory, Letters of Delegates to Congress, vol. 3 January 1,1776-May 15,1776, Robert Morris to Silas Deane, Philadelphia March 30, 1776, 467f, (accessed September 15, 2011).

[8] TNA SP 82/95 1776 No. 44 Emanuel Matthies to Lord Suffolk, Hamburg September 9, 1776.

[9] Until 1762, John Parish had traded in partnership with his father; from 1762 until 1773 he was joined in partnership with his brother George; from 1773 until 1779 John Parish conducted business on his own. In the latter year he once more entered into a partnership, this time with the somewhat overly anxious George Thompson in the company of Parish & Thompson. Eighteen years later, in 1797, John Parish Sr. officially retired from the company; his successors were his sons Richard, John Jr. and Charles.

[10] See Unitaetsarchiv/Moravian Archives Herrnhut, Dürninger Archiv 502/2, VI, Circulare Deutschland Hamburg K-M, 17 Stk.

[11] TNA SP 82/96, 1777, No. 21, Emanuel Matthies to Lord Suffolk, Hamburg July 15, 1777.

[12] Ibid.

[13] TNA SP 82/95, 1776, No. 45, Emanuel Matthies to Lord Suffolk, Hamburg September 10, 1776.

[14] Richard Ehrenberg, Das Haus Parish in Hamburg (Hamburg: G. Fischer, 1925), 23; Ernst Baasch, “Beiträge zur Geschichte der Handelsbeziehungen zwischen Hamburg und Amerika,” in Hamburgische Festschrift zur Erinnerung an die Entdeckung Amerikas, vol.1 (Hamburg: L. Friederichsen & Co., 1892), 37.

[15] Claudia Schnurmann, “A Scotsman in Hamburg: John Parish and his commercial contribution to the American War of Independence, 1776-1783,” in Small is beautiful? Interlopers and smaller trading nations in the pre-industrial period. Proceedings of the XVth World Economic History Congress in Utrecht (Netherlands) 2009, eds. Markus A. Denzel, Jan de Vries and Philipp Robinson Rössner (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2011), 157-176. Five ships were used for the profitable trade with the former colonies: Clementine/Henrietta, Jamaica Packet, Patty, Young Mary, The five brothers, and The Andalusia.

[16] Otto Beneke, “John Parish” in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, vol. 25, ed. Historische Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, (1887), 172-173, (accessed October 21, 2011); Ehrenberg, Das Haus Parish; Claus Gossler, “John Parish” in Hamburgische Biografie Personenlexikon, vol. 4, ed. by Franklin Kopitzsch and Dirk Brietzke (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2008), 263-264; Peter Boué, “Parish” in Hamburgisches Geschlechterbuch, vol. 15 (Deutsches Geschlechterbuch. Genealogisches Handbuch Bürgerlicher Familien, vol. 209) (Limburg an der Lahn: C. A. Starke Verlag, 1999), 117-218.

[17] Staatsarchiv der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg (herafter StaHH) 622-1/138 Familie Parish B 1 John Parish (1742—1829) Lebenserinnerungen 1756-1826, Band 1, fol. 29f.

[18] Timothy Pickering to James Monroe, November 23, 1795; Charles Delacroix to James Monroe, Paris, December 5, 1795; James Monroe to Charles Delacroix, October 12, 1796, in Daniel Preston, A Comprehensive Catalogue of the Correspondence and Papers of James Monroe (Westport, CT: 2001), vol. 1, passim (accessed November 27, 2011).

[19] StaHH 622-1/138 Familie Parish B 1 Band 1 John Parish (1742—1829) Lebenserinnerungen 1756-1826, Band 1, fol. 99.

[20] St. Lawrence University Libraries, Special Collections & University Archives Parish-Rosseel Papers (hereafter StLUL) John Parish Sr. to David Parish, Bath November 1, 1813: “…the tyrannt [sic.] & oppressor of mankind… and as an Englishman I glory in John Bull’s race being none of those crestfallen being I have been speaking of – and my David, as a part of the old trunk, will share in this proud glory of our nation….”

[21] British Library (hereafter BL) Add 34903 Nelson Papers vol. 2, correspondence Nelson-Hercules Ross, 1780-1800; BL Add. 34917 Nelson to Hercules Ross, London November 21, 1800: “Mrs Parish [Henriette (née Todd) Parish] and her Sons [Richard, John and Charles] were truly kind to us and we regretting leaving our friends at Hamburgh [sic.]….” BL Add. 34930 Hercules Ross to Horatio Nelson, Rossie Castle, Montrose, August 26, 1805.

[22] StaHH 622-1/138 Parish D 1 John Parish to David Parish, Table Bay near Copenhagen June 1, 1807.

[23] StLUL Henriette Parish to David Parish, Nienstedten, June 5, 1806 “I do here declare that I have no objection to an American daughter – in –law & since you have crossed the Atlantick [sic.], it might have a favourable [sic.] effect to cross the breed….”

[24] StLUL Hercules Ross to David Parish in Philadelphia, Welbeck Street, London, December 25, 1808 “…were the British Empire reduced to the miserable state of the other powers of Europe, how long pray would America continue uninslaved [sic.]? There is positively on your side of the water, a very considerable portion of derangement – the people are puffed up with extravagant ideas of their consequence & they are grossly deceived by publication from this side. I by no means my dear fellow, officiously propose, to intrude upon your concerns, but I cannot help offering, a few words of recommendation. You have at an early period of life, been launched prosperously into business & I must readily subscribe to your abilities, still let me advise you to act with great circumspection. Be not dazzled by the reputed consequences of this or that commercial House; but do you make a point to keep sufficient in hand for the commission, on all your mighty transactions; & if they are not already regulated; by explicit stipulations? That is to say the rates of commission by all means make your fair & reasonable Charges & by no means trust for the liberality of any house- I need say no more – than that too often the most faithful services are apt to be forgotten. I wish, I wish, that the speculations of some of our dearest & nearest friends may succeed, but there are times of great risqué….”

[25] Adrian J. Pearce, “The Hope-Barings contract: finance and trade between Europe and the Americas, 1805-1808,” in: EHR 124, 2009, 1324-1352.

[26] Vincent Nolte, Fifty years in both hemispheres or reminiscences of the life of a former merchant (Redfield, NY: 1854).

[27] StLUL John Parish Sr. to David Parish, Bath April 3, 1809, John Parish praised his son after David had been able to solve his legal problems at the Pennsylvania courts: “David! Du bist mein vortreflichster Jung! … wenn ich nun an Ihm denke, so ben! Ich stoltz, stoltz wie ein Kutschpferd!”

[28] Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Am 0708, Memoirs Peter A. Grotjahn, 1774-1850, vol. 2, fol. 41 “My principal intimates at that school was David Parish… and it is a remarkable fact, that many years after, I renewed my acquaintance and intimacy with (him)….”

[29] StLUL David Parish to Gouverneur Morris/Morrisania, Antwerp August 5, 1805.

[30] New York Historical Society (hereafter NYHS) David Parish Letterbook, fol. 276f List of correspondents, David Parish to Parish & Co, New York 1806.

[31] StLUL Richard Parish to John Parish, Hamburg, May 21, 1809: “I have no knowledge of these kind of operations & the greater part of the land speculators in America whom I have known have not in the end provd successful….”

[32] Raymond and Philip G. Walters, “David Parish. New York state land promoter,” in New York History 36 (1945): 146-161; Franklin B. Hough, A History of Jefferson County in the State of New York, from the earliest period to the present time (Albany 1854), 579-585.

[33] Charles N. Buck, Memoirs of Charles N. Buck, interspersed with private anecdotes and events of the times from 1791-1841 (Philadelphia: Walnut House, 1941), 139f.

[34] Julia Berger, “Ramée in Amerika- ‘…very busy making plans…’”, in: Joseph Ramée: Gartenkunst, Architektur und Dekoration. Ein internationaler Baukünstler des Klassizismus, Ausstellung Altonaer Museum 2003, eds. Bärbel Hedinger and Julia Berger (München and Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2003), 131-143; Paul V. Turner, Joseph Ramée, International Architect of the Revolutionary Era (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

[35] NYHS David Parish Letterbook, David Parish to Richard Parish/Hamburg, Philadelphia May 8, 1813 “Ramee and his ladies left Philad[elphia] a few days ago for Newyork [sic.], Albany & Schenectady; he will remain sometime at the latter Place, where I had procured him the building of a large College and some other Jobs. His paper hanging manufactory here with Virchaux goes on extremely well, & promises a sufficient support for their families, you will learn with grief & astonishment that I have lost my friend Henard, he died in March at Newyork [sic.]…Henard has of course died in my Debt-pray make some enquiries after the box you shipt for him containing a manequin, and some other objects which were captured by a [F]rench Privateer & carried into a Danish port- I wish these goods sold, and the amount carried to my Credit….”

[36] Raymond and Philip G. Walters, “The American Career of David Parish,” in Journal of Economic History 4 (November 1944): 149-166; Sarah Lentz, Transnational agierende Kaufleute und die Finanzierung der US-Regierung im Krieg von 1812 (unpublished Master thesis, University Hamburg, 2011); J. Mackay Hitsman, David Parish and the War of 1812, in Military Affairs 26 (Winter 1962-1963): 171-177; Ehrenberg, Haus Parish; Nolte, Both Hemispheres; Donald R. Adams, Finance and Enterprise in Early America. A Study of Stephen Girard’s Bank 1812-1831 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978).

[37] NYHS David Parish Letterbook, David Parish to Richard Parish/Hamburg, Philadelphia May 8, 1813: “I was lately Induced into an extensive financial operation with the Government, I took up the [balance] of their loan being seven million of dollars, of which I lended [sic.] 4% to my friends here & in Newyork [sic.] keeping the residue 2% for joint acct with my friend Mr Stephen Girard. My bargain with Mr Galletin was for 6pct stock at 88 pct irredecunable [sic.] for 13 years which yields an interest of 7 ½ pct for assurance. The operation promises to leave a handsome Profit, the stock is now at a Premium of 5 a 6 pct….”

[38] StLUL Charles Parish to David Parish, London June 8, 1813.

[39] Alan Taylor discusses the loan as part of Parish’s American enterprises and primarily focuses on internal American interests; only Sarah Lentz takes Parish’s international Atlantic commercial interests into consideration and judges them as crucial for his financial politics within the United States. Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels & Indian Allies (New York: Knopf, 2010); Lentz, Transnational agierende Kaufleute.

[40] NYHS David Parish Letterbook, David Parish to John Parish/Bath, Ogdensburg, December 1, 1812.

[41] StaHH 622-1/138 Familie Parish B 1 Band 1 John Parish (1742—1829) Lebenserinnerungen 1756-1826, Band 1, fol. 170.

[42] Rothschild Archive London Agie, J. & Insinger A 1823-1828 XI/38/6 Agie & Insinger to Nathan Meyer Rothschild, Antwerp February 2, 1823.

[43] See Alexander Hill Everett, Europe: or a general survey of the present situation off the principal powers, with conjectures on their future prospects, by a citizen of….Boston (1822), 34; Die Staats-Papiere der Oesterreichischen Monarchie (Wien, 1823).

[44] Gentz to Müller, December 15, 1818; Egon Caesar Corti, The Rise of the House of Rothschild (original printing 1928, reprint Breinigsville, PA: 2011), 202f.

[45] Corti, Rise of the House of Rothschild, 212; Peter E. Austin, Baring Brothers and the Birth of Modern Finance, Financial History Series, Number 3 (London: Pickering & Chatto Ltd, 2007), 13.

[46] Unfortunately the amount of his debts is unknown, however his suicide and the problems of the bank Fries & Co. created a great stir in Vienna and produced a flood of letters, see Rothschild Archive London Fries & Co, 1821-1826 XI/38/113.

[47] StaHH Film S 6655, David Parish to John Parish Jr., Vienna, April 26, 1826.

[48] Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv Totenbeschreibamt, B 1, Totenbeschauprotokoll, Band 158, 1826, fol. 33.

[49] StaHH 622-1/121 Familie Beneke J6 Otto Beneke to his brother Alfred Beneke in Havana/Cuba, Hamburg, April 9, 1843: “…George Parish u. Dr. Merck sind jetzt die ersten Modeherren….”

[50] “Mr. David Parish will long be gratefully remembered, by the citizens of St. Lawrence county, as their early benefactor, and is never mentioned by those who enjoyed an acquaintance with him, without a warm expression of esteem and respect. His wealth enabled him to extend those offices of kindness and support to those who needed, which with many would exist in intention only: the deserving poor found in him a benefactor; the man of enterprise and industry, a patron; the gentleman of cultivated mind, and enlightened views, a companion, who could appreciate and enjoy his society; and every member of the community in which he lived felt towards him a sentiment of respect and regard, which was as universal as it was deserved.” Franklin Benjamin Hough, History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, (Albany, Little & Co., 1852), 604.

[51] See for example http://german.hamburg.usconsulate.gov/hamburg-ger/geschichte.html (accessed November 27, 2011).

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title His Father’s Favored Son: David Parish
  • Coverage 1778-1826
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date June 19, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 22, 2018