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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 funds provide is a up to date phenomenon: sooner than the Civil struggle, the U.S. didn't have a unmarried, nationwide foreign money. as an alternative, numerous banks issued paper cash in a bewildering number of denominations and designs--more than 10000 other kinds via 1860. Counterfeiters flourished amid this anarchy, placing great amounts of bogus money owed into circulate. Their good fortune, Stephen Mihm unearths, 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" was once 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 marvelous engravers. in response to prodigious examine, it levels everywhere, from ny City's legal underworld to the gold fields of California and the battlefields of the Civil struggle. We learn the way the government issued dollars for the 1st time and started dismantling the older financial procedure and the counterfeit economic system it sustained. A country 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 a similar 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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Morris,” wrote Burroughs, “by a concatenation of the most astounding incidents, became embarrassed, notwithstanding his immense property and unequaled fiscal abilities,” and confidence in the scheme collapsed. Morris ended up in debtors’ prison thanks to his speculative investments in land; Burroughs, who had lent the financier money, lost it all when a crooked lawyer sold his property without his consent, pocketed the money, and fled the country. Laid b o r d e r i n g o n a l c h e m y 45 low by someone more conniving than himself, he returned home to his father’s house.

41 b o r d e r i n g o n a l c h e m y 49 The conviction of Spring, as well as others associated with Burroughs, did not stem the tide of counterfeits that now began to flow from Burroughs’s twin manufactories: one in Stanstead and another in the township of Shipton to the north. As news of Burroughs’s doings spread, a number of state-chartered banks—most prominently the Coos Bank of Haverhill, New Hampshire—banded together to underwrite Barron’s well-publicized raid across the Vermont border. Notably, private “citizens,” not official government representatives, initiated this movement to arrest Burroughs.

In contrast to bullionist thinking, an emergent liberal tradition saw money as a commodity, responsive to economic supply and demand, as well as to the interventions of banks and governments. In other words, because the value of money derived from extrinsic forces, a surrogate for gold and silver such as paper could do the job just as well. While Locke’s belief in the intrinsic value of money continued to attract adherents well into the nineteenth and even twentieth centuries, the future belonged to paper currency.

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