Author Judith Freeman wants candidate to honor 130-year-old debt
Mitt Romney might think the most he has to deal with this week is the approach of tropical storm Isaac and his upcoming convention speech, but the Republican presidential candidate has also just been landed with a 130-year-old bill for $25,000 (£16,000) from the author Judith Freeman.
Freeman, author of a well-received biography of Raymond Chandler and four novels, has traced her family history back to the 1870s, when her great-grandfather William Jordan Flake and Romney’s great grandfather Miles P Romney “were patriarchs of adjoining Mormon communities in the high, cold, hard country of northern Arizona, a region known as Apache County”. Although both men ran into trouble with local communities over their “scandalous practice of polygamy”, Flake was a “deeply respected man”, according to Freeman. Romney, on the other hand, was described by one newspaper editor as “a mass of putrid pus and rotten goose pimples; a skunk, with the face of a baboon, the character of a louse, the breath of a buzzard and the record of a perjurer and common drunkard.”
US marshals were rounding up polygamists and arresting them at the time, and both men became targets and were eventually arrested. Flake posted bail of $1,000 for Romney, who had no money, Freeman writes in the Los Angeles Review of Books, and “now we come to the matter I’d like to bring up with Mitt”.
Miles P Romney, she says, then fled to Mexico, where Mitt’s father George was born, while Flake served a six-month sentence for polygamy.
“The point is Miles P Romney never bothered to repay my great-grandfather Flake the thousand dollars he owed him for posting his bail. Since it’s never too late to make a situation right, and since Mitt Romney seems to have sufficient funds now to cover his ancestor’s old debt, I’d like to call upon him to do so,” writes Freeman. Since the younger Romney’s estimated fortune is some $230m, the bill should not be too much of a stretch.
She has worked out that $1,000 from the 1880s would be worth about $25,000 today – she’s willing to let the interest slide. “Because William Jordan Flake has about 15,000 descendants living at the moment, I realize I’ll have to divide up the money should Romney do the right thing and write out that check,” she says. “However, I want to assure Mitt that I’m more than happy to be the disburser of the funds and I guarantee that all the Flakes of the world will get their fair share the moment he does the right thing.”