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The Great Swindle : The Story of the South Sea Bubble
The Great Swindle The Story of the South Sea Bubble Author:Virginia Cowles "The Great Swindle" of this fascinating book originated two hundred and fifty years ago, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer pushed through Parliament a bill setting up the "Company of Merchants of Great Britain trading to the South Seas and other parts of America." This nefarious scheme (the invention of Daniel "Crusoe" Defoe) was primarily in... more »tended to take care of the national debt: the private creditors to whom the Government owed 10,000,000 pounds were to accept shares in the Company as payment, and the Government would then have to find only enough money to pay them interest.
But there was no trading with South America. And even though King George I became Governor of the Company, and his mistress one of its most substantial investors, the project floundered for some half dozen years.
Then, from across the Channel the wind rose that floated the South Sea Bubble to dizzying heights. There, a bizarre Scot named John Law had hypnotized the bankrupt and debauched French court into creating a vast monopoly for developing the Mississippi valley, and had sold the public shares to the tune of 300,000,000 pounds. Inspired by John Law, the South Sea Company offered shares to the English public, requiring only a small down payment. England mad. Aristocrats, country gentry, intellectuals, servants joined in the orgy of speculation. The Company lent money to keep people buying stock. Everyone had millions in his grasp. And then, on September 28, 1721, ten years after Defoe's "Company of Merchants" had been created, the South Sea Bubble burst, and thousands upon thousands faced the fact of ruin.« less