The Banker and the Parrot
Number of pages
This historical novel, inspired by the true story of Stephen Girard, witnesses the life of the merchant, banker, philanthropist, and patriot who lived the American dream from its beginning.
July 4, 1776: The American ports are blockaded by the English Crown. Etienne Girard, a French sea captain, is chased away from the port of New York and steers his boat up the Delaware River to Philadelphia. There, making friends with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, who, like him, were motivated by the principles of the Enlightenment, he found himself in the midst of a revolution. On October 27, 1778, as George Washington is taking the presidential oath in New York, Girard swears fidelity to the state of Pennsylvania and becomes citizen Stephen Girard.
As the United States grew and prospered, so did Girard who became a merchant, using his maritime abilities to increase his profits. When, in 1791, the Congress of the United States sanctioned a national bank and permitted the public to buy shares, Girard invested heavily. By 1811, he was the bank’s largest stockholder and was later able to buy out the government. When the U.S. Treasury failed at the start of the War of 1812, it was Girard’s bank, which provided a loan of $8 million, that made victory possible.
Girard was both a visionary and a philanthropist. During the terrible 1793 outbreak of yellow fever, he established a hospital in Philadelphia for patients with the disease, and unlike other well-to-do citizens, he stayed in the city to care for the sick and dying. His young wife became increasingly insane, so Girard led a life that was often solitary except for the company of his parrot, Macao. At the time of his death, Girard, one of the wealthiest men in America, bequeathed nearly his entire fortune to charitable and city institutions in Philadelphia and New Orleans, including an endowment for a boarding school for orphans, now Philadelphia’s Girard College.
Combining his talents of novelist and historian, Simiot gives life once again to the long-gone man who became the first American millionaire. Written in the style of a journal, this historical novel gives us an intimate vision of the birth of America.
Philippe Simiot : Philippe Simiot is the son of Bernard Simiot, a famous French historical novelist. At his father’s death, he undertook the editorship of the new adventures of the Carbec family saga in the novels Carbec, mon empereur (Albin Michel, 1999) and Carbec l’américain (Albin Michel, 2002). Le banquier et le perroquet is his third novel.