« PreviousContinue »
country, for I considered myself as another Danae, into whose lap another Jupiter in the disguise of a lame devil, was showering inexhaustible gold.
But alas! as one of our figurative prize poets saith, what are all the towering hopes of man, but
“Bubbles fill'd with empty air.” Before my palace was half finished, one of those whispers which come abroad, whence and from whom no one knows, but which seem to be the voice of fate itself, crept forth to our discredit
, and gradually gained upon the public credulity, My lame devil and his directory, with the infallible instinct of rats, began to prepare for the falling of the edifice-their motions were watched by knowing ones, as knowing as themselves—the other banks began to refuse our notes—a run commenced upon our bank—and the lame devil ran away, leaving me to pay the piper. He became a lame duck, which is ten times worse than a lame devil. My directors indeed stood their ground resolutely—having nothing left for their creditors but their wits, which are not in great request on change. They had nothing to lose, and as the proverb says, “ The beggar sings before the robber.” It is pretty well understood, by all, except the true believers in the “companies” notes, that of nothing, nothing can come.
It became necessary to "wind up our affairs," and a pretty winding up it was, I assure you, Mr. Editor. I never could find out in what consisted the stock of our bank and insurance company, nor what became of it, not I. If it ever had an existence, my lame devil had flown away with it; and what was worse than all, they had so managed it, that I was left alone to bear all the losses of our institutions, being the only person connected with them, that had any property, real or unreal, visible or invisible.
" Away went Gilpin, and away
Went Gilpin's hat and wig ;" And away went my lands, houses, lots, wharves, together with my half finished palace in the country, and worse than all this, away went I to the limits, as lame a duck as ever hobbled out of Wall-street-as completely lost to the money making world as if I had died of a cotton speculation. Here I have remained nearly six months; for, as I have plenty of room in the limits, and know not what to do if I were out of them, I may just as well stay where I am, and ponder on the monstrous fatality that forced a Dutchman, the descendant of a long line of Vol. I.
Lubbersen's, renowned for sticking to their lands, " like Death to an old negro," as they say in Wall-street, to turn speculator, and enlist under a lame devil. I have nothing to do, and know not what to do with myself, having been brought up a gentleman. I am more bilious than ever, and have no doubt, I should fall into a jaundice or liver complaint, if I could only afford to employ a doctor. I have not wit enough to live by my wits; nor sufficient experience to turn my misfortunes, as some people do, into the philosopher's stone. I want the art of my lame devil, who returned to town lately, and set up his carriage. He came near running over me the other day, as I was crossing Broadway.
In this forlorn state, I have thought I might while away the tedium of a rainy day, and perhaps do some little service to my cotemporaries, who inherit a sufticiency, which they are tempted to increase, by entering upon a course for which neither education or habit has qualified them, by detailing my history. People that deal in bubbles, must stand their bursting as well as they can. I make no particular reference, but nothing ought to be more evident, than that a stock, which is one day up, and another down--which varies fifteen or twenty per cent, without any rational cause for such transitions, must be a bubble, or something very like a bubble. There is no species of real property, which can be thus played upon by speculators. Yet in the delusive expectation of getting a small advance of interest for a few years, or obtaining a premium of some small per centage, by taking advantage of the credulity of fools more credulous than themselves, do rational people not only risk their all, but the property of widows and orphans, deposited in their hands as a sacred trust, by the last act of the dying. The whole course of human events establishes the position, that in all the operations of speculation, the risk is in proportion to the prospect of gain. To gain thousands, thousands must be put in jeopardy. It is little else than the cast of the die--it is legalized gambling; and he who adventures in the bubble of speculation, is like the player at the E. O. table; where, although he may
rise a winner once in his life, the chances are always regularly against him. Speculation is a thing of calculation upon the future ; and unless a man be wiser than all the rest of the speculating world, which is also calculating upon the future, he will certainly be taken in at last. The most watchful vigil. ance, the prudence that never slept, will be caught napping at some time or other; and the speculator who sleeps once on his post, is ever sure to be surprised by some wakeful spy, who pounces upon him to his ruin.
It might be worth while, in reference to this mysterious unaccountable influx of capital, which has of late required so many “Companies” to give it employment, to inquire whence all this inconvenient wealth, which is so prodigious, it seems, that individuals can no longer manage or employ it, comes. Has our city become a second Danae, into whose lap some seductive Jupiter is day and night showering floods of gold? Or are these new fangled “Companies” like spiders, that spin their web out of their own bowels, to catch unwary flies, whom they devour, and then themselves die? I should be grateful, as a mere matter of curiosity, to be informed by some one of the great political economists, who go about like roaring lions, or rather like cunning foxes, or prowling wolves, buying up broken banks, and insolvent insurance companies, where is this inexhaustible hoard, that furnishes the means for these mighty speculations. Have they dealt with Satan or St. Leon, for the purchase of the philosopher's stone; or have they bargained with some munificent fairy for the purse of Fortunatus ? At one time, I was inclined to believe there was a Midas at the bottom of all this, and once went into Wall-street, to see if I could detect him by his ears. I found there was a plenty of long ears, and long faces too, but they all belonged to secondhand purchasers of stock. But quis tulerit gracchos de seditione querentes- and who can hear a speculator complain of being duped, without laughing. I am sometimes tempted to laugh at myself, and hope to be excused for laughing at my unlucky neighbours. The unfortunate may be permitted to make themselves merry with the misfortunes of others, without being stigmatized as unfeeling. To conclude: Having lost all my money, I am willing to turn my wits to some little purpose; and understanding you make a liberal allowance for communications to your Magazine, desire to become an occasional correspondent. However destitute an undone gentleman may be, there is one commodity of which he is sure to have plenty on hand, and that is time. I have heard it said, a gentleman is never good for any thing till he is ruined, for it is then that his necessities compel him to turn his talents, acquirements and accomplishments to useful purposes. I am willing to try, and this is my first essay.
With respect, I remain,
Death had marked out his victim! He was one
The withered form, pale cheek, and sunken eye,
He spoke not,
The pale thing on her heart-her heart was full-
C. A. L.
LETTERS FROM CHARLES WATTS TO WILLIAM SAMPSON.
(In continuation.) The commercial law is very much the same as in the other states, but still contains some peculiarities arising from the law of contracts. The vendor of merchandise can, in cases of insolvency, exercise the privilege of retaking his merchandise, if it remain in the hands of the debtor, has undergone no change, and can be identified. No act of assignment can give a preference of one creditor over another; and even actual sales or payments, if made in a state of insolvency with that view, are rescinded in favour of the mass of the creditors. All debts are on an equality in the settlement of estates, except such as confer a privilege by giving a lien specific or general, as mortgage or judgment. Partnerships are recognised which bind a dormant partner only to the extent of a specified sum. It is unnecessary to speak of the law of deposit, mandate, suretyship, and of which the common and chancery law contain nothing that is not borrowed from the civil law.
Aleatory contracts are legal for games tending to promote courage or skill in arms, such as in the exercise of the
gun, foot, horse, or chariot racing, wrestling, fencing, &c.; but the judge may reject the demand when it appears excessive, compared with the circumstances in life of the loser. All the privileges of debts recognised in chancery law under the name of the privilege of the vendor, of the builder, of the physician in the last sickness, of the compensation of the lawyer for settling the estate, of the baker, butcher, &c. for supplies to the family, for three months anterior to the insolvency or death, are a part of the civil law of Louisiana.
The doctrine of prescriptions is finely modified by the rule, that the bona fide purchaser of real estate is confirmed in his title by the lapse of ten years possession, against persons present in the state, while it requires thirty years to confirm the title of any one who can be proved to have acted with fraud. The law of insolvency admits either the discharge of the per