« AnteriorContinuar »
Account of the Rise of the Misisippi Scheme ; from « a Sketch of the Life and
Projects of John Law of Lauriston :" By I. P. W. AFTER the establishment of the and the subscription for them was or
General Bank, Mr Law began to dered to he paid in billets d'etat, at develope the plan of that great and ftu- that time so much discredited, by reapendous project he had long medita- son of the bad payment of their interted, known by the name of the Mililip- est, that soo livres nominal value in pi System, which, for a while, turned them would not have sold upon 'change the heads of the French, and attracted for more than 150 or 160 livres. In the attention of all Europe; a project the subscription they were taken at the that, if carried into full execution, full value, so this was effectually a loan would, in all probability, have exalted from the Company to the King of 100 France to a vafi fuperiority of power and millions. The interest of that sum, to wealth over every other state. The be paid by his Majesty to the Compascheme was no less than the vesting the ny, was fixed at the rate of 4 per cent. whole privileges, effects, and possessions the first year's interest to be employof all the foreigotrading companies, the ed for commercial purposes, and the great farms, the profits of the mint, annual-rents of the following years to the general receipt of the king's reve- be allotted for paying regularly the dinue, and the management and proper- vidend on the actions, which was fixa ty of the bank, in one great Company; ed at 20 livres per annum on each, exwho thus having in their hands all the clusive of the profits of the trade. trade, taxes, and royal revenues, might Of this Company of the West, Mr be enabled to multiply the notes of the Law (who had now advanced so high bank to any extent they pleased, doub- in the Regent's favour, that the whole ling or even trebling at will the circu- minifterial power was reckoned to be lating cash of the kingdom; and, by divided betwixt him, the Abbe du the greataess of their funds, poffefied Bois, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and of a power to carry the foreign trade, M. D'Argenson, Keeper of the seals), and the culture of the colonies, to a was named Director General. The height altogether impracticable by any actions were eagerly fought after, other means. The outlines of the Luisiana having been represented as plan being laid before the regent, met a region abounding in gold and silver, with the approbation of that prince ; of a fertile foil, capable of every fort measures were taken for the establish- of cultivation. The unimproved parls ment of the proposed company, and die of that country were sold for 30,000 rections issued for making the requifite livres the square league, at which magrants to enable them to begin their o. ny purchased to the extent of 600,000 perations.
livres; and vigorous preparations Accordingly, by letters patent, da were made for firting out vessels to ted in August 1717, a commercial transport thither labourers and workcompany was erected, under the name
kind. The demand for of the Company of the West, to whom Billets d'etat, for the purchase of acwas granted the whole province of Loui- tions, occasioned their immediately rifiana, or the country on the river Misi- ling to their full nominal value. fippi; from which last circumstance, On the 4th of September 1718, its sabsequent proceedings came to the Company of the Weft undertook be included under the general name the Farm of Tobacco, for which they of the Mililippi System. Of this paid 2,020,000liv. advanced rent to the Company 200,000 actions (or fares) King; and on the 15th of December were crea:cd, rared at goo livros cach; following, they acquired the charter 3 E2
and effects of the Senegal Company: 50,000 with such eagerness, that nex But by far the most important grant ly double the requifite sum was fub was that made in May 1719, when an scribed for, and the greatest intrigues ediet was published transferring to this and quarrels were employed to secure Company the exclusive privilege of a place in that subscription. It was trading to the East Indies, China, and some weeks before the names of the the South Seas, with all the poffeffions actioners were declared, during which and eifcets which had belonged to the time Mr Law's door was hut, and all China and India Companies, on con the people of quality in France apdition of their paying the lawful debts peared on foot in hundreds, before of ihes: Companies now diffolved. his house in the Place Vendome. The Conspany of the West aftiged The company now came under an on this occafion, the title of the Com- obligation to lend the king, that he pany of the Indies; 50,000 rew ac- might pay off his creditors, the lanı tions were ordered to be created, of 1500 million of livres, at the rate ted at 550 liv. cach, payable in coin, of 3 per cent per annum, to which to be employed partly in fatisfying the rate the interest of the 100 milions creditors of the old Companics, and formerly lent to his majely, (on the parily in building of vefiels, and other first creation of actions *t 4 per cent) preparations for carrying on the trade. was also reduced; the king conseThe price of Actions quickly rise to quently had to pay them, in all 43 1000 liv. the hopes of the public le millions a-year. To raise this fum of ing raised by the farourable prospects 1500 millions, there were, in the of a moft lucrative commerce. months of September and October
On the 25th of July 1719, the 1719. 300,000 new actions created, Mint was made over to the Company of subscription for which was fixed as the Indies, for a confideration of 505000 livres each. The actions wer: millions of livres, to be paid to the thus brought to their full number of King within fificen months; and 600,000, (for it is needless to take 50.000 new Actions, rated at icools. any notice of 24,000 more created on each, were directed to be creater, in the 4th of Odober by the private ororder to raise that fum. On the 27th ders of the Regent, but afterwards of Avgust following, the Regent took fupprefied;) to anfwer the dividends the great farms vat of the hands of the upon which the Company had, acFermers General, and made over the cording to fome, the following angual lease to the Company of the Indies, revenue, viz. who agreed to pay 3,500,000 liv. ad.
livres. vanced sent for them; and on the 31st Interest paid by the of the same nuonth, the Conspany ob King to the Company,
48,000,000 tained the general receist of other Profits upon the Great branches of the King's revenue. Farms,
15,cco,cor When they had acquired all these Dirto upon the Midt, 4,000,CCO. grants, and had thus corcentered in Ditio upon the Farm
2,000,000. themselves the whole foreign trade of Tobacco, and posfellic ns of France, and the col- Ditto upon the general
1,500,coo. lection and management of all the receipt of taxes, &c. royal revenues, they promised an an- Ditto upon the trade, 10,000,000. nual dividend of 200 livres on every Share, ibe consequence of which was, making a roval of 80,500,000 fr. that the price of Actions inftantly rofe open to be improved by the extension in the market ro 5oco livres; the pub. of their commerce abroad, and by a pun upon the last creation of good administraciod at home. Other
writers on this subject, however, com- taking into the account the discredit puted the annual revenue of this of the Billets d'etat. great Company at no less than 131 So much indeed were the people millions of livres, viz. 48 millions in- intereited in this business, that noterest from the King, 39 millions pro- thing was talked of but Actions, and fts upoa the farms, the mint, and the every place echoed with Missisippi and receipt of taxes, and 44 millions pro- Quinquempoix *. All claffes appearfits upon their trade, in which case ed to have but onc object, the acquifithey could well afförd a dividend of tion of shares of the India Company; even more than 200 livres on every mechanics laid by their work, tradesAlion.
men forsook their shops, all degrees The covetoufnefs which these fair entirely neglected their employments prospects of profit, and the prodigi- to embark in this new occupation; ous gains of the first proprietors, ex and the few that did not proceed to cited among all ranks, was such as that extreme, conducted themselves in no nation had ever beheld before. An a manner which manifested the little universal infatuation for the acquisic concern they took in any thing foreign tion of Mares in the India Company to the Mililippi t. The courtiers, acfeemed to occupy the whole kingdom, cording to their ufual custom of folfrom the loweit of the people up to lowing implicitely the royal example, Magistrates, Prelates, and Princes. engaged so deeply in this business, that This infatuation, of which, at the it was said only five perfons of that present day, we can scarcely form a description (the Marechals de Vil conception, increased in proportion to leroi and de Villars, the Dukes de the difficulty of obraining faccess; for Sc Simon and de la Rochefoucault, the whole 300,000 Actions last creat and the Chancellor) had kepe free from ed, being, by a particular agreement, the contagion. kept up in order to be fuld to the Re The negociations for Adions were gent, who had also got poffeffion of at first carried on in the Rue Quin100,000 of former creations, no more quempoix, to the great emolument of than 200,000 remained in the hands the occupiers of houfcs in that street, aof the public, of which only a part, partments letting at the moft enormous quite inadequate to the demand, was fates. At length it becoming impof. no'y brought to market. The frenzy fible for all to procure the accommodaprevailed so far, that the whole nation, , tion of a room, most of the stock job. clergy and laity, peers and plebeians bers tranfacted their business in the ftatesmen and princes, nay even ladies, open air. So great was the concourse, who had or could procure money for that the (treet was quite chracked up that purpofe, turned stock-jobbers, out. by break of day, and the crowd ftill bidding each other with luch avidiiy, continued to increase till the evening that in November 1719, after some bell was rung, when they were obliHluctuations, the price of Adions rose ged to be driven away by force. to about 10,000 liv. mo:e than fiziy It now became necessary to thift the times the sum they originally fuid for, business to a more commodious licua.
tion • The street where the flock-jobbing was carried on.
+ it is related of a physician cálied Chirac, that on his way to visit : female pacient, having heard the price of Actions was falling, he was so much affected by that piece of news he could think of nothing else; and accordingly, when feeling the lady's pulse, he kept crying out, O good God, it falls, it it falls, falls! The invalid, naturally alarmid, began co ring the bell with all her force, crying out that she was a dead woman, and had almost expired with apprehension, till the doctor assured her that her pulse was in a very good itate, but that his mind ran so much upon Actions, he came to witor the expresion Wat terrified her, in reference :o the fall of their value.
tion, and the stock-jobbing was ac- price, as is said, of 1,400,000 liv. cordingly transferred to the Place and in the spacious gardens of that Vendome *, from whence it was in a edifice caused about 100 pavilions to short time removed, on account of the be erected, each of which was rated complaints made by the Chancellor, at soo liv. a month. To oblige the that the noise prevented him from at- brokers to make use of them, an ortending to the causes in the chan- dondance was issued prohibiting any cery. Mr Law thereupon agreed with bargains for stock to be concluded exthe Prince of Carignan to purchase cept in these pavilions f. his Hotel of Soissons, at the enormous
Account of the Deftruction of the Misisippi Scheme; from the Same.
high offices of state, Mr Law had the great designs of the Comptroller Ge. misfortune to experience; and in his neral, by putting an end to his plans case it was hieghtened in a fuperlative of public credit and national affludegree, from the circumstances of his ence. being a foreigner. He was hated by It has been before mentioned, that almost all the Ministry, and obnoxi- at the ift of May 1720, Bank notes ous to all the old retainers of the court. had been fabricated to the amount of Cardinal Du Bois in particular, for- 2600 millions of livres. The specie merly the Regent's tutor, one of the in the kingdom, at the rate of 65 liv. most profligate of mankind, could not, to the marc, was estimated at 1300 without the greatest pain, observe his millions. Cardinal Du Bois, M. wonted influence over the mind of his D'Argenfon, and others of the Miniold pupil quite destroyed by the fupe- ftry, now represented to the Regent rior powers of the Comptroller Gener- that it was become absolutely neceffary al, who, he had reason to suspect, was to form an equal proportion betwixt determined to have him dismissed from the notes and ihe coin, by either rais his office. This made him attemptsing the denomination of the latter to all methods to injure Mr Law in the 130 liv. the marc, by which the 1300 opinion of the Regent, in which he millions of specie would have been was joined by several of bis colleagues. avgmented to 2600 millions; or redu
A favourable opportunity foon after cing the value of the notes one half, occurred, and was eagerly embraced that is, to 1300 millions. This point
was The memoirs of the Regency take notice of a hump-backed man, who acquired in the course of a few days 150,000 livres by letting out his hump as a writing-deik to the bro. kers in the Rue Quinquempoix.-A plan of Paris being about this time laid before Louis XV. then only ten years of age, the young monarch sound fault with it because that fireet was not distinguished from the others by being gilded.
The murder and robbery of a rich sock-jobber, by a young Flemish nobleman, Count Horn, and two associates, who, under pretence of bargaining for Actions, conducted the unfortunate man to a private room in a tavern in the Rue de Venife, and there difparebe ed him with a poignard 22d March 1720, was one of the reasons for this restriction. The Count, who was only 22 years of age, being taken the same day, was condemned to be broken alive upon the wheel; and this sentence was put in execution, notwithstanding he was allied to several fovereign houses and t«lated to the Duke of Orleans himself. 'The greatest interest was made for his life, but all folicitations on that head were uovaile ing, Mr Law she wing the Regent the abiolute neceffity of making an example of him, at a time when most people carried their whole fortunes in their pockets.
was discussed in council; some of the ed upon the authority of his nephew members, among whom was the Comp- the Baron de Lauriston, who says, troller General, contended strenuoully “ On se decida, malgré l'avis de Mr for letting matters stand as they were, “ Law, et sur son rapport cependant, or if it was judged necessary to take “ puisqu'il etuit Controleur General some steps in that affair, they proposed “ des Finances, mais peu ecouté, de to raise the denomination of the specie, lancer l'arret, &c.”—and indeed it which had been frequently practised seems hardly credible that one so well before ; but the majority, who bore do versed in the principles of credit as Mr good will to Mr Law, favouring the Law was, could approve of a proceedproposition for lowering the value of ing fo diametrically oppolite io them. the paper, it was at last, after a grave, Some
go so far as to maintain, on the wise, and learned deliberation, deter- authority of a letter from a Duke and mined to issue an Arret to that pur- Peer of France to an English noblepose.
man, that the most serious apprehenAccordingly on the 21st of May fions being entertained by the other 1720, an Arret was published, stating, European states of the vast increase that the King having judged that the of the power and wealth of France in general intereit of his subjects requi. the event of the System's succeeding, red that the price, or nominal value of the Ministers of the Quadruple Allithe India Company's Actions, and of ance plotted together to occalion its Bank notes, hould be lessened, for miscarriage, and suggested the above maintaining them in a just proportion mode to the enemies of Mr Law. with the coin and other commodities Be the cause as it may, the arret was of the kingdom ; his Majesty ordained, published, and the consequence of this that the Actions of the India Compa. Inameful infraction of the royal enpy should be ieduced, beginning from gagement, which solemniy promised, the day of the publication of the pre. that whatever alterations should take sent arret, to 8000 liv, on the itt of place on the coin, the Bank notes July to 7500 liv. on the ift of August thould always remain invariable, and to 7000 liv. and so on by 500 liv. a be paid in luid, were such as migit, have month till the ift of December, when been expected. From that moment, they were to remain fixed at 5000 liv.
Oninia fatis That the Bank notes thould also be re “ In pejus ruere, ac retro fublapsa referri,” duced so as they should be received in the whole paper fabric fell at once to payments from that date at the follow the ground, the notes lost all credit, ing rates : Those of 10,000 liv. for no person would redule with them ; 8000 liv. those of 1000 liv. for 800, and, although the Bank, did not inimeof 100 for 80, and of 10 for 8; that diately itop payment, there was no on the ist of July the said notes should poffibility of getting near it, the aven. be further reduced; those of 10,cooliv. wes being, at the first aların, blocked 10 7500 liv. and so on by 500 liv. a up by foldiers, and the tellers employmonth, the lefser notes being reduced ej ia changing the pores of their in the like proportion, till the ift of friends and those of the Directors, so December, when it was declared that that u : day following, May 22d, any the said notes should remain reduced body might have starved with 100 miland fixed, those of 10,000 liv. at gooo lions in paper money in his pocket. liv. thofe of 1000 at 500, those of The coulternation which seized all 100 at 50, and those of 10 at 5. ranks of people upon the publication of
That this unjustifiable and fatal fep this fatal arrct was quickly converted was taken in opposition to the advice into rage, so that it became necessary of the Comptroller General, is affert- to station a number of ircops in the