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

By Stephen Mihm

Hearken to a quick 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 cash offer is a contemporary phenomenon: ahead of the Civil struggle, the U.S. didn't have a unmarried, nationwide forex. as an alternative, numerous banks issued paper cash in a bewildering number of denominations and designs--more than 10000 other forms via 1860. Counterfeiters flourished amid this anarchy, placing massive amounts of bogus money owed into movement. Their luck, Stephen Mihm finds, is greater than an pleasing story of legal firm: it's the tale of the increase of a rustic outlined by means of a freewheeling model of capitalism over which the government exercised little keep watch over. It used to be an period while accountability for the country's forex remained within the fingers of capitalists for whom "making cash" used to be as a lot a literal as a figurative venture. Mihm's witty story brims with colourful characters: shady bankers, corrupt police officers, charismatic criminals, and exceptional engravers. in keeping with prodigious learn, it levels in all places, from long island City's felony underworld to the gold fields of California and the battlefields of the Civil warfare. We find out how the government issued bucks for the 1st time and commenced dismantling the older financial procedure and the counterfeit economic climate it sustained. A kingdom of Counterfeiters is a trailblazing paintings of historical past, 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 assurance 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

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This made finding fugitives, much less bringing them to trial, extraordinarily difficult. That most criminal cases had to be tried before the Court of King’s Bench in distant Montreal did not help matters, nor did the absence of any kind of police force, a scarcity of magistrates and justices of the peace, a continual clash between competing legal systems, and a number of Loyalists who had little love or respect for the laws of the United States. The federal government could do little to control criminal activity originating in the townships, for it possessed minimal authority over the region.

The counterfeiter pulled the trigger, but according to one source, “no report followed. ” Wresting the gun from him, Barron asked Burroughs what he had meant to do. 2 Did events unfold in such dramatic fashion? Possibly, though this was neither the first nor the last time that Burroughs had pulled the trigger of a pistol, only to have it mysteriously misfire. He may have 22 b o r d e r i n g o n a l c h e m y been a criminal, but as this same account conceded, he was “skilled not in . . ” Tales of cold-blooded attempted murder collide with the reality that he never wounded or killed another person.

Should the nation control the currency, or should the right to print and mint money belong to the very capitalists who wanted it most? Those questions originated in the 18 p r o l o g u e eighteenth century, when the individual colonies first flouted imperial authority by printing their own money. And while the federal constitution attempted to reassert centralized control, matters turned out otherwise. Consequently, every note of a state-chartered bank struck economic nationalists as a nagging reminder of the federal government’s abdication of its right to regulate; every counterfeit seemed to flout the authority of the nation-state.

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