August Belmont

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August Belmont
Born 8 December 1813
Alzey, Hesse
Died 24 November 1890
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting place Island Cemetery
Occupation Financier, Racehorse owner/breeder
Spouse Caroline Slidell Perry
Children Perry (12/28/1850-5/26/1947) m. Jessie Robbins Sloane
August II (2/18/1853-12/10/1924) - m. 1st Bessie Hamilton Morgan / m. 2nd Eleanor Robson
Oliver H. P. (11/12/1858-6/10/1908) m. 1st Sarah Swan Whiting / m. 2nd Alva Erskine Smith
Raymond Rodgers (7/19/1863-1/30/1887)
Jennie (died age 10)
Fredericka (9/27/1854-5/31/1902) m. Samuel Shaw Howland
Parents Simon & Frederika Elsass Schönberg

August Belmont, Sr. (8 December 1813–24 November 1890) was born in Alzey, Hesse, to a Jewish family. He emigrated to New York City in 1837 when he became the American representative of the Rothschild family's banking house in Frankfurt. Later he became an American citizen, and married Caroline Slidell Perry, daughter of Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry.

Early life[change | change source]

August Belmont was born on December 8, 1813—some sources say 1816—to Simon and Frederika Elsass Schönberg. His mother died when he was seven, and he went live with his uncle and grandmother in Frankfurt.[1] He attended the Jewish Junior and Senior High School until he began his first job as an apprentice to the Rothschilds.[1] He would sweep floors, polish furniture, and run errands while studying English, arithmetic, and writing.[2] He was then given a confidential clerkship in 1832 and promoted to private secretary before travelling to Naples, Paris, and Rome.[2] In 1837, Belmont travelled to Havana to manage the Rothschild's Cuban interests. On his way to Havana, however, Belmont stopped in New York. He arrived there during the Panic of 1837 and stayed to look afte Rothschild's interests there instead of continuing on to Havana.[1] After he emigrated to the United States, he changed his surname, Schönberg (German for "beautiful mountain"), to Belmont (French for "beautiful mountain").

August Belmont and Company[change | change source]

In the Panic of 1837, hundreds of American businesses, including the Rothschild's American agents, went bankrupt. As a result, Belmont postponed his departure to Havana and began August Belmont & Company, believing that he could supplant the recently bankrupt firm, the American Agency.[2] August Belmont and Company was an instant success, and Belmont restored health to the Rothschild's US interests over the next five years.[1] In 1844, Belmont was named the Consul-General of Austria at New York. He resigned in 1850 because he thought Austria was cruel in the way it treated Hungary.[1]

Entrance into Politics[change | change source]

Belmont married Caroline Slidell Perry, the daughter of Matthew Calbraith Perry, on 7 November 1849. Soon, John Slidell, his wife's uncle, starting helping Belmont.[1] Belmont's first task was to campaign for James Buchanan in New York. In June, 1851, Belmont wrote letters to the New York Herald and the New York National-Democrat, insisting that they do justice to Buchanan's presidential run.[1] But Franklin Pierce won the nomination instead, and Belmont made large contributions to the Democratic Party.[2] After his victory, Pierce in 1853 appointed Belmont chargé d'affaires and minister to The Hague. While in Holland, Belmont urged American annexation of Cuba as a new slave state in what became known as the Ostend Manifesto.[3]

Though Belmont lobbied hard for it, Buchanan denied him the ambassadorship to Spain after his election in 1856, thanks to the Ostend Manifesto.[4] As a delegate to the 1860 Democratic National Convention, Belmont supported Stephen A. Douglas, who subsequently named Belmont chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Belmont energetically supported the Union cause during the Civil War as a War Democrat, helping Missouri congressman Francis P. Blair raise and equip the Union army's first mainly German-American regiment.[5] Belmont also used his influence with European business and political leaders to support the Union cause in the American civil war, stopping the Rothschilds and other bankers from lending to the Confederacy and meeting personally with the British prime minister, Lord Palmerston, and members of Napoleon III’s government.[6]

Postwar Political Career[change | change source]

Belmont stayed as chairman of the Democratic National Committee after the war, but he thought it was the worst ever time for the party.[7] As early as 1862, Belmont and Samuel Tilden bought stock in the New York World in order to make it publish stories supporting the Democrats, with the help of Manton M. Marble, its editor-in-chief.[8].

The Republican party was divided at the war’s end, so Belmont organized new party gatherings and tried to get Salmon Chase elected president in 1868. He thought Chase was least vulnerable to charges of disloyalty to the party during the Republican Lincoln-Johnson administrations.[9]

Horatio Seymour’s became the democratic candidate instead, and lost to Ulysses S. Grant by a lot of Electoral College votes, although the popular vote was much closer. In 1872 the Democrats supported liberal Republican Horace Greeley's disastrous presidential campaign. The election of 1872 prompted Belmont to resign as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, but he stayed interested in politics as a champion of US Senator Thomas F. Bayard of Delaware for the presidency, and as a fierce critic of the process granting Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency in 1877, and as an advocate of “hard money.”[10]

Death[change | change source]

Belmont died in New York in 1890. The Letters, Speeches and Addresses of August Belmont was published at New York in 1890. Belmont left an estate valued at more than ten million dollars. He is buried in Newport, Rhode Island.[2]

Belmont's sons were Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, Perry Belmont, and August Belmont, Jr..

August Belmont in culture[change | change source]

August Belmont threw lavish balls and dinner parties, receiving from New York's high society mixed reviews. He was an avid sportsman, and the famed Belmont Stakes thoroughbred horse race is named in his honour. It debuted at Jerome Park Racetrack, owned by Belmont's friend, Leonard Jerome. Today The Belmont Stakes is part of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown and takes place at Belmont Racetrack in New York.

Also named in Belmont's honor is the town of Belmont, New Hampshire, an honor Mr. Belmont never acknowledged. Edith Wharton reputedly modeled the character of Julius Beaufort in The Age of Innocence on Belmont.[11]

Ham mousseline à la Belmont was created in his honour by Charles Ranhofer at Delmonico's.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Katz, Irving (1968). August Belmont; a political biography. New York and London: Columbia University Press.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Biography of August Belmont". Archived from the original on 2006-10-10. http://web.archive.org/web/20061010140922/http://www.belcourtcastle.com/history/august_belmont.html. Retrieved 2007-01-28.
  3. Katz, 42-45.
  4. Katz, 58-61; John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, Vol. II (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 534
  5. Katz, 90. For more on Belmont’s public contributions to the war effort, see August Belmont, A Few Letters and Speeches of the Late Civil War, New York, [Private Printing], 1870.
  6. Allen Johnson, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. II (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929), 170.
  7. Quoted in Katz, 91.
  8. Garraty and Carnes, 534.
  9. Garraty and Carnes, 534; Katz, 167-8.
  10. Katz, 210-276.
  11. "The Edith Wharton Society". http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/wharton/queries03.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-27.

Other websites[change | change source]