By Stephen Mihm
Hearken to a brief interview with Stephen Mihm Host: Chris Gondek | manufacturer: Heron & Crane Few folks query the slips of eco-friendly paper that come and move in our handbags, wallet, and wallets. but self assurance within the funds offer is a contemporary phenomenon: sooner than the Civil struggle, the U.S. didn't have a unmarried, nationwide forex. as a substitute, numerous banks issued paper funds in a bewildering number of denominations and designs--more than 10000 other forms by way of 1860. Counterfeiters flourished amid this anarchy, placing immense amounts of bogus debts into movement. Their good fortune, Stephen Mihm finds, is greater than an unique story of felony company: it's the tale of the increase of a rustic outlined via a freewheeling model of capitalism over which the government exercised little regulate. It was once an period while accountability for the country's forex remained within the palms of capitalists for whom "making cash" used to be as a lot a literal as a figurative project. Mihm's witty story brims with colourful characters: shady bankers, corrupt police officers, charismatic criminals, and really good engravers. according to prodigious study, it levels all over the place, from long island City's legal underworld to the gold fields of California and the battlefields of the Civil battle. We learn the way the government issued dollars for the 1st time and started dismantling the older financial process and the counterfeit economic system it sustained. A country of Counterfeiters is a trailblazing paintings of background, one who casts the country's capitalist roots in a startling new gentle. Readers will realize an identical get-rich-quick spirit that lives on within the speculative bubbles and self belief video games of the twenty-first century. (20070921)
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Extra info for A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States
Anything else might answer the same purpose, equally with silver and gold, should mankind only agree to consider it as such, and carry that agreement into execution in their dealings with each other. ”25 Lysander based his observations on practical experience, for the colonists had embraced paper money far earlier and more enthusiastically than their counterparts in Europe. The lesson of all this paper money was obvious—at least to Lysander. ” Counterfeiting was an extension of this logic: it likewise required others to deem something valuable that had no intrinsic, objective value.
Forged notes, wherever they appeared, were attributed to him, and he soon became in many minds the fountainhead of the counterfeit economy. That he never documented his doings in Canada in the detail that he related his earlier life only encouraged further speculation, and Burroughs soon found that his reputation outstripped his actual exploits. It helped that the region to which he relocated appealed to romantic sensibilities. “Stephen Burroughs was supposed to have his manufactory of counterfeit money somewhere in the recesses of those mountains,” recalled one novelist some years later.
Counterfeiters, after all, did a public service by increasing the amount of money in circulation in a part of the world where the demand for money invariably outstripped the supply. 19 A host of other factors contributed to the impunity with which counterfeiters operated, and foreshadowed many of the same problems that would plague law enforcement ofﬁcials by the time Burroughs and his ilk commenced operations. One, organized gangs of counterfeiters often operated beyond the geographical boundaries of the colonies.