Originally posted on Thursday, September 12th, 2013

“The Golden Stool is regarded as sacred that not even the king was allowed to sit on it….”

Flag of the Ashanti

The Republic of Ghana once was known as the Gold Coast and was part of the Ashanti empire.

The Ashanti’s icon is a gold stool.  This is how the Wikipedia describes it:

The Golden Stool is sacred to the Ashanti, as it is believed that it contains the Sunsum viz, the spirit or soul of the Ashanti people. Just as man cannot live without a soul, so the Ashanti would cease to exist if the Golden Stool were to be taken from them. The Golden Stool is regarded as sacred that not even the king was allowed to sit on it, a symbol of nationhood and unity.

The Golden Stool is a curved seat 46 cm high with a platform 61 cm wide and 30 cm deep. Its entire surface is inlaid with gold, and hung with bells to warn the king of impending danger. It is an Ashanti legend and has only been seen by the tribe’s royalty. Only the king and trusted advisers know the hiding place of the stool. Replicas of the stool have been produced for the chiefs and at their funerals are ceremonially blackened with animal blood, a symbol of their power for generations.

The Ashanti have always defended their Golden Stool when it was under threat. In 1896, the Ashanti allowed their King, Prempeh I, to be exiled rather than risk losing a war and the Golden Stool in the process. The Governor of the Gold CoastSir Frederick Hodgson, demanded to sit on the stool in 1900. The Ashanti remained silent and when the assembly ended, they went home and prepared for war. Although they lost on the battle field, they claimed victory because they fought only to preserve the sanctity of the Golden Stool, and they had. Then in 1920, a group of African road builders accidentally found the Golden Stool and stripped it of its gold ornaments. They were tried by an Ashanti court, found guilty and sentenced to death, but the British intervened and their punishment was commuted to perpetual banishment.

The Ashanti have always been proud of the uniqueness of their Golden Stool, and it signified not only their independence, but a common bond between their people. When King Kwadwo Adinkra of Gyaamanmade a golden stool for himself in their early 1800s, the reigning Asantehene was so annoyed that he led a massive army against him. Adinkra’s forces were completely destroyed near Bondoukou, and he was decapitated. The Asantehene then ordered that the counterfeit golden stool be melted down and made into two masks representing Adinkra’s “ugly” face. These masks still hang today on each side of the Golden Stool as a reminder of the incident.

The Ashanti’s golden stool was held so sacred that not even the king was allowed to sit upon it.  It stood for “a common bond between their people.”

This well could stand as a splendid metaphor for the inherently populist nature of the classical gold standard, providing a monetary unit of perfect integrity, upholding the dignity of all the people.  Gold is something with sufficient inherent authenticity and integrity as to be beyond being appropriated even by royalty.

American monetary policy deserves to be something as sacrosanct as the Ashanti golden stool: a classical gold standard.  America can learn much from the noble Ashanti tradition.