A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the by Stephen Mihm

By Stephen Mihm

Take heed to a quick interview with Stephen Mihm Host: Chris Gondek | manufacturer: Heron & Crane Few people query the slips of eco-friendly paper that come and pass in our handbags, wallet, and wallets. but self assurance within the cash offer is a contemporary phenomenon: sooner than the Civil conflict, the us 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 enormous amounts of bogus accounts into circulate. Their good fortune, Stephen Mihm unearths, is greater than an exciting story of legal company: it's the tale of the increase of a rustic outlined by way of a freewheeling model of capitalism over which the government exercised little keep an eye on. It used to be an period while accountability for the country's foreign money remained within the arms of capitalists for whom "making funds" used to be as a lot a literal as a figurative project. Mihm's witty story brims with colourful characters: shady bankers, corrupt law enforcement officials, charismatic criminals, and superb engravers. in line with prodigious study, it levels everywhere, from big apple City's felony underworld to the gold fields of California and the battlefields of the Civil struggle. We find out how the government issued bucks for the 1st time and started dismantling the older financial procedure and the counterfeit financial system it sustained. A state of Counterfeiters is a trailblazing paintings of historical past, person who casts the country's capitalist roots in a startling new gentle. Readers will realize an analogous get-rich-quick spirit that lives on within the speculative bubbles and self assurance video games of the twenty-first century. (20070921)

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Additional resources for A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States

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At times, the country seemed less a coherent whole than a collection of self-interested strivers united only in their restless ambition, their hatred of monopoly, and their love of lucre. Indeed, during this era the country itself was as much a counterfeit as the money that circulated within its borders. Like the promises to pay that adorned bank notes, there was little substance to the nation’s claims of sovereignty over the individual states. Whether or not the federal government held the upper hand over the state governments was an unresolved and bitterly contested question for at least the first seventy years of the nation’s existence.

Likewise, counterfeiters operating in one colony often enjoyed relative immunity in the event they fled to another colony, though laws passed after the mid-eighteenth century attempted to limit such evasion. Even then, the authorities in one of the future states might refuse to cooperate with another. In the unlikely event of a conviction, many counter- b o r d e r i n g o n a l c h e m y 35 feiters secured pardons from governors who recognized that responsibility for the families of these men and women would fall on already burdened local communities.

After considerable debate, they jettisoned the Articles altogether and instead drafted a blueprint for a much stronger central government: the Constitution. That document, which was debated and sent to the colonies for ratification just before Burroughs emerged from prison in 1788, reflected the hardmoney bias of the individuals who framed it. It granted to Congress the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, mint coin, and regulate the money supply. 29 The aversion to paper stemmed from the fact that both Congress and the individual state governments had printed vast quantities of worthless paper money to underwrite their debts both during and after the Revolution.

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