By Stephen Mihm
Take heed 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 cross in our handbags, wallet, and wallets. but self assurance within the funds offer is a up to date phenomenon: sooner than the Civil warfare, 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 means of 1860. Counterfeiters flourished amid this anarchy, placing sizeable amounts of bogus accounts into move. Their good fortune, Stephen Mihm unearths, is greater than an pleasing story of felony firm: 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 whilst 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 venture. Mihm's witty story brims with colourful characters: shady bankers, corrupt police officers, charismatic criminals, and fantastic engravers. in keeping with prodigious examine, it levels everywhere, from long island City's legal underworld to the gold fields of California and the battlefields of the Civil conflict. We learn the way the government issued dollars for the 1st time and started dismantling the older financial approach and the counterfeit economic climate it sustained. A kingdom of Counterfeiters is a trailblazing paintings of background, 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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Extra info for A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States
He represented himself before the court in what from all accounts was an entertaining performance, but again his reputation hurt him. As he related the story in his Memoirs, the prosecutor cited his impersonation of a minister as evidence of his iniquity. 27 Burroughs made many attempts to break out of jail, including one rather spectacular escape by boat that ended in his recapture a day later. He ﬁnally emerged several years later to a very different world than the one he had left behind. When he had passed counterfeit coin in the mid-1780s, Massachusetts was in the midst of a postwar economic slump.
One, organized gangs of counterfeiters often operated beyond the geographical boundaries of the colonies. A curious loophole in imperial laws meant that it was perfectly legal to counterfeit colonial bills of credit in Ireland as well as England itself. 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.
Tales of his exploits soon spread, and Burroughs became the real and imagined source of every counterfeit note in circulation. In the process, he embodied the common spirit animating the conventional and illicit pursuit of wealth in the post-Revolutionary era, a time when the right to “make money”—literally and ﬁguratively— went from being a privilege of the few to a franchise of the many, and the distinction between bankers and men like Burroughs became hard to discern. In Burroughs’s case, the confusing contours of the border between crime and capitalism found a corollary in the boundaries of the nation b o r d e r i n g o n a l c h e m y 25 itself.
A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States by Stephen Mihm