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 Financial Scams and Scandals

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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Financial Scams and Scandals   Wed 28 May 2014, 12:49

Throughout history, there have been a whole variety of frauds and scandals perpetrated by people from the naïve to the downright dishonest that have bankrupted institutions and individuals and destroyed reputations and careers.

This first one is The Marconi Scandal of 1912, in which senior Government figures were alleged to have used insider information on the awarding of a major Government contract, to buy shares;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marconi_scandal

Punch's view of the matter;

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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Wed 28 May 2014, 12:54

William "Boss" Tweed;

Corruption

After the election of 1869, Tweed took control of the New York City government. His protégé, John T. Hoffman, the former mayor of the city, won election as governor, and Tweed garnered the support of good government reformers like Peter Cooper and the Union League Club, by proposing a new city charter which returned power to City Hall at the expense of the Republican-inspired state commissions. The new charter passed, thanks in part to $600,000 in bribes Tweed paid to Republicans, and was signed into law by Hoffman in 1870. Mandated new elections allowed Tammany to take over the city's Common Council when they won all fifteen aldermanic contests.

The new charter put control of the city's finances in the hands of a Board of Audit, which consisted of Tweed, who was Commissioner of Public Works, Mayor A. Oakey Hall and Comptroller Richard "Slippery Dick" Connolly, both Tammany men. Hall also appointed other Tweed associates to high offices — such as Peter B. Sweeny, who took over the Department of Public Parks — providing the Tweed Ring with even firmer control of the New York City government and enabling them to defraud the taxpayers of many more millions of dollars. In the words of Albert Bigelow Paine, "their methods were curiously simple and primitive. There were no skilful manipulations of figures, making detection difficult ... Connolly, as Controller, had charge of the books, and declined to show them. With his fellows, he also 'controlled' the courts and most of the bar." Contractors working for the city – "Ring favorites, most of them – were told to multiply the amount of each bill by five, or ten, or a hundred, after which, with Mayor Hall's 'O. K.' and Connolly's indorsement, it was paid ... through a go-between, who cashed the check, settled the original bill and divided the remainder ... between Tweed, Sweeny, Connolly and Hall".

For example, the construction cost of the New York County Courthouse, begun in 1861, grew to nearly $13 million – about $178 million in today's dollars, and nearly twice the cost of the Alaska Purchase in 1867. "A carpenter was paid $360,751 (roughly $4.9 million today) for one month's labor in a building with very little woodwork ... a plasterer got $133,187 ($1.82 million) for two days' work".
Tweed and his friends also garnered huge profits from the development of the Upper East Side, especially Yorkville and Harlem. They would buy up undeveloped property, then use the resources of the city to improve the area – for instance by installing pipes to bring in water from the Croton Aqueduct – thus increasing the value of the land, after which they sold and took their profits. The focus on the east side also slowed down the development of the west side, the topography of which made it more expensive to improve. The ring also took their usual percentage of padded contracts, as well as raking off money from property taxes. Despite the corruption of Tweed and Tammany Hall, they did accomplish the development of upper Manhattan, though at the cost of tripling the city's bond debt to almost $90 million.

During the Tweed era, the proposal to build a suspension bridge between New York and Brooklyn, then an independent city, was floated by Brooklyn-boosters, who saw the ferry connections as a bottleneck to Brooklyn's further development. In order to ensure that the Brooklyn Bridge project would go forward, State Senator Henry Cruse Murphy approached Tweed to find out whether New York's aldermen would approve the proposal. Tweed's response was that $60,000 for the aldermen would close the deal, and contractor William C. Kingsley put up the cash, which was delivered in a carpet bag. Tweed and two others from Tammany also received over half the private stock of the Bridge Company, the charter of which specified that only private stockholders had voting rights, so that even though the cities of Brooklyn and Manhattan put up most of the money, they essentially had no control over the project.

Tweed bought a mansion on Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street, and stabled his horses, carriages and sleighs on 40th Street. By 1871, he was a member of the board of directors of not only the Erie Railroad and the Brooklyn Bridge Company, but also the Third Avenue Railway Company and the Harlem Gas Light Company. He was president of the Guardian Savings Banks and he and his confederates set up the Tenth National Bank to better control their fortunes.
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Wed 28 May 2014, 12:59

Reports of the Emperor's demise proved to be exaggerated;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Stock_Exchange_Fraud_of_1814
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Thu 29 May 2014, 10:14

A scandal which involved the French Court in the run up to the Revolution;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affair_of_the_Diamond_Necklace
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Sat 04 Aug 2018, 18:01

Sweden’s Riksbank (the world’s oldest central bank) celebrates its 350th anniversary this year. Sveriges Riksbank was founded in 1668 following the collapse of Stockholms Banco. That bank had been founded 12 years earlier by Johan Palmstruch who had also brought in the novel idea of issuing banknotes. A financial boom followed this innovation which soon developed into a bubble. Too many notes were issued and when it became known that everyone and his brother was now in possession of these notes their value plummeted and predictably this caused a run on the bank.
 
So the first bank in Europe to issue notes ended in failure but a precedent had been set. The newly established Sveriges Riksbank would also issue notes as would many other banks around the world. You can read more about the founding of Sveriges Riksbank here:

1668 – Sveriges Riksbank is founded
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Mon 06 Aug 2018, 19:02

I've never been sure whether the pension fund was deliberately plundered or money was taken out though intended to be put back but the person concerned was unable to do so.  I remember the Robert Maxwell disappearance early in the 1990s.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Maxwell
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Tue 07 Aug 2018, 23:36

@Vizzer wrote:
Sweden’s Riksbank (the world’s oldest central bank) celebrates its 350th anniversary this year. Sveriges Riksbank was founded in 1668 following the collapse of Stockholms Banco. That bank had been founded 12 years earlier by Johan Palmstruch who had also brought in the novel idea of issuing banknotes. A financial boom followed this innovation which soon developed into a bubble. Too many notes were issued and when it became known that everyone and his brother was now in possession of these notes their value plummeted and predictably this caused a run on the bank.
 
So the first bank in Europe to issue notes ended in failure but a precedent had been set. The newly established Sveriges Riksbank would also issue notes as would many other banks around the world. You can read more about the founding of Sveriges Riksbank here:

1668 – Sveriges Riksbank is founded

Vizzer,

perhaps the Law system in France was something similar?
https://www.nbbmuseum.be/en/2012/01/ohn-law-financial-genius-or-charlatan.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_Company
from the wiki:
Louis XIV's long reign and wars had nearly bankrupted the French monarchy. Rather than reduce spending, the Regency of Louis XV of France endorsed the monetary theories of Scottish financier John Law. In 1716, Law was given a charter for the Banque Royale under which the national debt was assigned to the bank in return for extraordinary privileges. The key to the Banque Royale agreement was that the national debt would be paid from revenues derived from opening the Mississippi Valley. The Bank was tied to other ventures of Law—the Company of the West and the Companies of the Indies. All were known as the Mississippi Company. The Mississippi Company had a monopoly on trade and mineral wealth. The Company boomed on paper. Law was given the title Duc d'Arkansas. Bernard de la Harpe and his party left New Orleans in 1719 to explore the Red River. In 1721, he explored the Arkansas River. At the Yazoo settlements in Mississippi he was joined by Jean Benjamin who became the scientist for the expedition.
In 1718, there were only 700 Europeans in Louisiana. The Mississippi Company arranged ships to move 800 more, who landed in Louisiana in 1718, doubling the European population. John Law encouraged Germans, particularly Germans of the Alsatian region who had recently fallen under French rule, and the Swiss to emigrate. They give their name to the regions of the Côte des Allemands and the Lac des Allemands in Louisiana.
Prisoners were set free in Paris in September 1719 onwards, under the condition that they marry prostitutes and go with them to Louisiana. The newly married couples were chained together and taken to the port of embarkation. In May 1720, after complaints from the Mississippi Company and the concessioners about this class of French immigrants, the French government prohibited such deportations. However, there was a third shipment of prisoners in 1721.[7]

Some economists say that the method was sane, but that there was mismanagement...
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/John_Law_(economist)
http://www.mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov/articles/70/john-law-and-the-mississippi-bubble-1718-1720


Kind regards from Paul.
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Nielsen
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Wed 08 Aug 2018, 04:43

Re the population of the Louisiana territory, as mentioned above by Paul Ryckier, I seem to recall reading of French poor girls that were given a box - a cache or cachette and nominally by the King - containing the means which a respectable girl or young woman could be expected to have when getting married - a trousseau(sp?). This given along with transport in expectation of the girl/woman going to Louisiana and marrying respectably there.

This from the back of my memory, so it may be true or not, and certainly should be verifyable, even when google didn't want to recognize the term 'box girl/woman'. 
The term 'cache' or 'cachette' seem to me related to this story so it might well be in French?
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Sun 19 Aug 2018, 23:13

@Nielsen wrote:
Re the population of the Louisiana territory, as mentioned above by Paul Ryckier, I seem to recall reading of French poor girls that were given a box - a cache or cachette and nominally by the King - containing the means which a respectable girl or young woman could be expected to have when getting married - a trousseau(sp?). This given along with transport in expectation of the girl/woman going to Louisiana and marrying respectably there.

This from the back of my memory, so it may be true or not, and certainly should be verifyable, even when google didn't want to recognize the term 'box girl/woman'. 
The term 'cache' or 'cachette' seem to me related to this story so it might well be in French?


Nielsen,

"un trousseau" (we call it in Dutch 'n uitzet) and it seems to be in English the same word ( a bride's outfit) and indeed it was put in a chest or a box...

"This from the back of my memory, so it may be true or not, and certainly should be verifyable, even when google didn't want to recognize the term 'box girl/woman'. 
The term 'cache' or 'cachette' seem to me related to this story so it might well be in French?"
As you I don't find anything about it on the "internet".

I met it first in a discussion with a Canadian/American discussing the first French settlements in Canada...and later in the discussions why the English and not the French in America...I said it was a question of numbers...when the French had 60,000 in Canada/ English colonies, the English had already 800,000...and it didn't help to sent: les filles du roi...but nevertheless out of these 800 "filles" the whole French speaking Canadian population...
https://www.cbc.ca/2017/canadathestoryofus/most-french-canadians-are-descended-from-these-800-women-1.4029699
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_Daughters
But the French wiki is better stuffed:
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filles_du_Roi

And I read a historical novel about the same practices in English Canada, girls sent from Europe not by the King but "sold" on the bride's market for some tabac and all that...if I have time I will seek for the novel again, that I read during my kidney dialysis year...

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Wed 22 Aug 2018, 23:15

Nielsen,

"And I read a historical novel about the same practices in English Canada, girls sent from Europe not by the King but "sold" on the bride's market for some tabac and all that...if I have time I will seek for the novel again, that I read during my kidney dialysis year..."

Have the book in my hand now in Dutch translation...
And for the first time in 60 years I see now that the novel is from 1900
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Johnston
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Have_and_to_Hold

I read it in Dutch as "De gekochte bruid" (the bought bride) and reading it some 55 years after the first edition I didn't find it not that old fashioned...those were the days of "the ten commandments", the egyptian, fort alamo, and all that...
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0978755936/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

As I read it now, in my copy, sadly the third chapter with the buying of the bride is not available in the look inside from Amazon...
But as I understand it now from reading that particular paragraph in "my" book, it wasn't really buying against their will...it was a kind of a "marriage market?" (huwelijksmarkt) with the officials of the municipality Jamestown in this case...and the girls (the virgins) had to consent to the deal...and then there was a kind of "tax?" in the case of the leading figure 100 pound and a quantity of tabac... have to seek it further how it really was...

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Thu 23 Aug 2018, 06:29

Paul,

Thank you for this very interesting description.

I must say that the Dutch title, "De gekochte bruid" was a sharp reminder to me not to over estimate what I thought of as a beginning of an ability to read and somewhat comprehend the Dutch language. I would have thought the word "gekochte" - as in English and German - related to cookery, which is ridiculous giving no meaning, where "bruid" is the same as "bride", German "Braut", and the Danish "brud".

The price mentioned - 100 £ - seems extremely high when comparing with wages of the time and later.
In 1800 - some 200 years later, though - an agricultural labourer in South Western England would expect some 20 £ a year, and at the same time the wages of an ordinary army soldier or a seaman in the Royal Navy about 1 shilling a day, which was more or less unchanged from the days of Charles II 'till the mutinies in the early 1800'es [Spithead and Nore].
Perhaps what was meant was a 100 pounds of tobacco which was locally grown with export in mind?

Kind regards to you, too.


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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Thu 23 Aug 2018, 11:58

I'm not familiar with the practice of "selling" the brides - I remember reading something pertaining to Louis XIV's (of France) where one of his ministers (I think Colbert - I'm going from memory) commanded that a certain number of men and women be sent from France to what was then New France and be married and hopefully reproducing within a year.  There was a TV show on British TV Jamestown which included a plot point about women being sent from England to marry the settlers.  One actor in the series, Max Beesley, was at one point suing the people behind the series about a stunt which went wrong - I don't know how that worked out.  (This is a factually based history site not a gossip site but a bit of trivia but Mr Beesley's name was linked with Mel (Spice Girl) B at one point and there was also talk at some time about his name and someone who got married earlier this year and is now a duchess). I also read a novel but it's more than 20 years ago by Norah Lofts - this was set in Holland - or should I say The Netherlands (I often forget that Holland is only one of the provinces in that country, strictly speaking).  The book was called Scent of Cloves.  At one point the heroine fetches up in a Dutch orphanage and is married off to somebody she doesn't know in the Dutch East Indies - I think it is referred to as a "gloved marriage" in the book.

I don't have the knowledge to hazard even a semi-educated guess about the figure of £100 being quoted above but I will anyway.  Was that the top figure for just one person and the other participators in the scheme received less?  Oh yes, making mistakes when trying to deduce what a word means in a foreign language if one doesn't have access to one's trusty dictionary (or computer).  I've already mentioned here somewhere my faux-pas when the teacher from the Spanish class gave us some homework (it was near Christmas time) to write out a recipe in Spanish.  I used the phrase "Cocinar los hijos" instead of "Cocinar los higos" - "hijos" being boys, sons or kids and "higos" being figs.
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Thu 23 Aug 2018, 20:21

Nielsen,

"The price mentioned - 100 £ - seems extremely high when comparing with wages of the time and later.
In 1800 - some 200 years later, though - an agricultural labourer in South Western England would expect some 20 £ a year, and at the same time the wages of an ordinary army soldier or a seaman in the Royal Navy about 1 shilling a day, which was more or less unchanged from the days of Charles II 'till the mutinies in the early 1800'es [Spithead and Nore].
Perhaps what was meant was a 100 pounds of tobacco which was locally grown with export in mind?"

Of course you are right. Embarassed  For my "exoneration"  I have the escape that I read the sentence in a hurry at midnight and that after 60 years my memory was still, as I said before, on the money and some tobacco to buy the bride...

But indeed on page 22 from the Dutch book
Piersey, de schatmeester van de kolonie, achtergebleven om te zorgen dat the Londense Compagnie, tot het laatste tabaksblad schadeloos werd gesteld
Piersey, the treasurer of the colony, stayed behind to see that the London Company, would be compensated to the last tobacco leaf.

"Hoe hoog ben ik getaxeerd?" riep zij uit. Tien pond-vijftig-?
"Op één honderd en twintig pond tabak" zei ik droog. 
How high am I taxed? she exclaimed. Ten pound-fifty-?
On one hundred twenty pound tobacco, I said drily (and why is it now not "dryly"? For eloquence? I know dry, drier, driest...)

And Nielsen and LiR, "dri-est" if you read it in Dutch as "driest", (the "ie" as in "peat") it means "bold" in English...

(I think here the translator made a fault. It is definitely in Dutch, even in the Fifties, "honderd twintig" and not "een honderd twintig" as the literal translation of English)

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Thu 23 Aug 2018, 20:47

Lobola or bride's wealth, bride's price  in other words selling women ( or even young girls) in marriage is still  happening in Southern African countries.



Google the word lobola


Dirk
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Thu 23 Aug 2018, 23:05

@Dirk Marinus wrote:
Lobola or bride's wealth, bride's price  in other words selling women ( or even young girls) in marriage is still  happening in Southern African countries.



Google the word lobola


Dirk


Dirk,

indeed it still exists, but it seems to be remnants of a primitive society, which had its societal advantages and was adapted to the tribal life.
I started to read this thesis from South-Africa about the bridewealth, starting from page 10:
https://goo.gl/eRnUcK
It's from 1948!
and it seems all quite consistent to me if you go out from their tribal society...of course I suppose that all these tribal traditions are now gone in the modern South Africa...I read a study about the perception of the youngsters to these customs and they mostly see it as an enslaving of the women...

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Thu 23 Aug 2018, 23:16

Nielsen,

from a former message:
"I met it first in a discussion with a Canadian/American discussing the first French settlements in Canada...and later in the discussions why the English and not the French in America...I said it was a question of numbers...when the French had 60,000 in Canada/ English colonies, the English had already 800,000...and it didn't help to sent: les filles du roi...but nevertheless out of these 800 "filles" the whole French speaking Canadian population..."

As I remember from that discussion there were a lot of other ways to populate the 13 colonies...the name escaped me...but with looking on the internet I came to the name again: the "indentured" one's, who were even many times more contributing to the growth of the population than the brides...and that system New France didn't have...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indentured_servitude

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Thu 23 Aug 2018, 23:24

I don't know how widespead or common the practice was, but wife sales (or wife auctions as they were often called), are well recorded in England from throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In many cases it was probably just a practical way to end an unsatisfctory marriage at a time when formal divorce was an impossibility. I don't think it ever had any legal standing but I gather the authorities and sometimes even the church would often turn a blind eye to the practice, at least when it remained solely amongst 'the lower orders'. And remember that until the 1753 Marriage Act, a formal ceremony before a clergyman was not a legal requirement and marriages were often unregistered (or were only formally registered years later after the birth of children). All that was required for a marriage was that both parties be of legal age (12 for girls, 14 for boys) and that they both agreed to the union. Separation often seems to have been treated in an equally casual manner, hence it seems a wife auction might often be done by mutual agreement between the couple.

Such seems to be the case in Thomas Rowlandson's painting, "Selling a Wife", (c.1814) which appears to depict the wife as a cheerful and willing party to the sale, perhaps glad to be getting away from the ugly brute in the bowler hat and maybe hoping she'll be bought by the handsome young soldier:



The practice is also the background to Thomas Hardy's novel 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' (published 1886) in which the central character, Michael Henchard, sells his wife at the beginning of the story - an act that comes back to haunt him years later when he has become the respectable mayor of the town.


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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Fri 24 Aug 2018, 10:05

How could I have forgotten "The Mayor of Casterbridge", MM?  There was a folk song about wife selling - it ended up something like "She's got another husband now on the banks of far Virginie" (rough rather than exact remembering) but I can't find it on the internet. I remember reading in Henry Mayhew's London's Poor that a lot of poor people didn't formally marry but it was not that they wanted to be "Bohemian" particularly but that the cost of a licence or other costs of a marriage ceremony may have deterred them.
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Fri 24 Aug 2018, 10:10

Out of interest, I remember at school learning (in what would have been Stuart times I think - though we did study as far as the reform act of 1832) about two forms of debasement of the coinage which had become extremely common (and may have partly inspired the founding of the Bank of England) - one was clipping - cutting bits off coins but I can't remember the other form of debasement.  Anybody from Res Hist have their thinking cap(s) on and can tell me what it was?
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Fri 24 Aug 2018, 11:41

Debasement of coinage usually means increasing the base metal content of the coinage alloy so that the new coins are the same size or weight as the old coins but each now contains less precious metal, and so while each coin is intrinsically worth a bit less, you now have more of them. It might of course be done illegally but the problem then is that you still have to counterfeit the appearance of the new coin by making your own stamp or mould. More usually debasement was done officially by the state to get some extra gold/silver for overseas payments, while maintaining the same number of coins in circulation within the realm.

For example the value of the Roman denarius was gradually reduced, first under the Julio-Claudian emperors but the practice continued, always towards ever less silver, for centuries. Originally a denarius was about 95% silver with about 5% copper, the copper was there simply to impart some strength and give resistance to wear, but over successive debasement programs a denarius eventually ended containing less than 10% silver, at which point I think they finally decided to just replace it with a different coin entirely, the Argentius (which, despite its name, actually contained very little real silver).

I think Henry VIII also debased the silver content of English shillings and groats at some point in his reign (possibly, I can't remember the details, in about 1545 in order to raise funds to buy foreign mercenaries and equip ships for his latest war with France*). And on that occasion I seem to remember that this bit of official sleight-of-hand didn't go un-noticed by the population, in that the old pre-debased coins still in circulation were preferred over the newer-issued ones to such an extent that people valued the old coins more and so the prices for goods were higher if you could only pay in the new coinage, which of course caused inflation as well as a host of other problems.

A debased gold coin, even an officially-minted one, would usually be fairly readily apparent by its lighter weight and/or greater size (this was of course exactly the royal problem that Archimedes supposedly solved in the bath when he had his Eureka! moment). Gold coinage is therefore fairly immune to illegal debasement as there is nothing else of much the same density as gold to replace it without changing either the weight or volume. When I was working in precious metals refining we did occasionally come across fake cast gold ingots which were made from gold with a lump of cheaper tungsten (typically a few big industrial arc-furnace rods) in the middle, but tungsten metal was unknown before the nineteenth century and even though it certainly is heavy, tungsten still isn't quite as dense as gold. It is/was much easier to get away with debasing silver coins as silver has much the same density as copper, however if you reduce the silver to copper ratio too much the colour becomes noticeably redder. These days it is possible to largely correct the colour imparted by the copper by adding nickel and zinc to the mix (that's how you can now get very cheap 'silver' jewellery which in fact contains very little actual silver) but again these options were not readily available to either Tudor mint-masters or Tudor crooks.

*Edit - From the wiki entry on Henry VIII:

Quote: "... The Crown had profited a small amount in 1526 when Wolsey had put England onto a gold, rather than silver, standard**, and had debased the currency slightly. Cromwell debased the currency more significantly, starting in Ireland in 1540. The English pound halved in value against the Flemish pound between 1540 and 1551 as a result. The nominal profit made was significant, helping to bring income and expenditure together, but it had a catastrophic effect on the overall economy of the country. In part, it helped to bring about a period of very high inflation from 1544 onwards."

** Medieval English coinage was based on the 'pound', ie the value of a monetary English pound (£) - sub-divided into 20 shillings or 240 pennies - was fixed to the international value of a pound weight (lb) of pure silver metal.
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Fri 24 Aug 2018, 23:10

@Meles meles wrote:
Debasement of coinage usually means increasing the base metal content of the coinage alloy so that the new coins are the same size or weight as the old coins but each now contains less precious metal, and so while each coin is intrinsically worth a bit less, you now have more of them. It might of course be done illegally but the problem then is that you still have to counterfeit the appearance of the new coin by making your own stamp or mould. More usually debasement was done officially by the state to get some extra gold/silver for overseas payments, while maintaining the same number of coins in circulation within the realm.

For example the value of the Roman denarius was gradually reduced, first under the Julio-Claudian emperors but the practice continued, always towards ever less silver, for centuries. Originally a denarius was about 95% silver with about 5% copper, the copper was there simply to impart some strength and give resistance to wear, but over successive debasement programs a denarius eventually ended containing less than 10% silver, at which point I think they finally decided to just replace it with a different coin entirely, the Argentius (which, despite its name, actually contained very little real silver).

I think Henry VIII also debased the silver content of English shillings and groats at some point in his reign (possibly, I can't remember the details, in about 1545 in order to raise funds to buy foreign mercenaries and equip ships for his latest war with France*). And on that occasion I seem to remember that this bit of official sleight-of-hand didn't go un-noticed by the population, in that the old pre-debased coins still in circulation were preferred over the newer-issued ones to such an extent that people valued the old coins more and so the prices for goods were higher if you could only pay in the new coinage, which of course caused inflation as well as a host of other problems.

A debased gold coin, even an officially-minted one, would usually be fairly readily apparent by its lighter weight and/or greater size (this was of course exactly the royal problem that Archimedes supposedly solved in the bath when he had his Eureka! moment). Gold coinage is therefore fairly immune to illegal debasement as there is nothing else of much the same density as gold to replace it without changing either the weight or volume. When I was working in precious metals refining we did occasionally come across fake cast gold ingots which were made from gold with a lump of cheaper tungsten (typically a few big industrial arc-furnace rods) in the middle, but tungsten metal was unknown before the nineteenth century and even though it certainly is heavy, tungsten still isn't quite as dense as gold. It is/was much easier to get away with debasing silver coins as silver has much the same density as copper, however if you reduce the silver to copper ratio too much the colour becomes noticeably redder. These days it is possible to largely correct the colour imparted by the copper by adding nickel and zinc to the mix (that's how you can now get very cheap 'silver' jewellery which in fact contains very little actual silver) but again these options were not readily available to either Tudor mint-masters or Tudor crooks.

*Edit - From the wiki entry on Henry VIII:

Quote: "... The Crown had profited a small amount in 1526 when Wolsey had put England onto a gold, rather than silver, standard**, and had debased the currency slightly. Cromwell debased the currency more significantly, starting in Ireland in 1540. The English pound halved in value against the Flemish pound between 1540 and 1551 as a result. The nominal profit made was significant, helping to bring income and expenditure together, but it had a catastrophic effect on the overall economy of the country. In part, it helped to bring about a period of very high inflation from 1544 onwards."

** Medieval English coinage was based on the 'pound', ie the value of a monetary English pound (£) - sub-divided into 20 shillings or 240 pennies - was fixed to the international value of a pound weight (lb) of pure silver metal.

Meles meles,

it is a pleasure to read you. Although I know already a lot about all what you said, I nevertheless was happely surprized to read your last paragraph, where there was much new to me. And thanks for your story from your professional career.

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Fri 24 Aug 2018, 23:52

@Meles meles wrote:
I don't know how widespead or common the practice was, but wife sales (or wife auctions as they were was often called), are well recorded in England from throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In many cases it was probably just a practical way to end an unsatisfctory marriage at a time when formal divorce was an impossibility. I don't think it ever had any legal standing but I gather the authorities and sometimes even the church would often turn a blind eye to the practice, at least when it remained solely amongst 'the lower orders'. And remember that until the 1753 Marriage Act, a formal ceremony before a clergyman was not a legal requirement and marriages were often unregistered (or were only formally registered years later after the birth of children). All that was required for a marriage was that both parties be of legal age (12 for girls, 14 for boys) and that they both agreed to the union. Separation often seems to have been treated in an equally casual manner, hence it seems a wife auction might often be done by mutual agreement between the couple.

Such seems to be the case in Thomas Rowlandson's painting, "Selling a Wife", (c.1814) which appears to depict the wife as a cheerful and willing party to the sale, perhaps glad to be getting away from the ugly brute in the bowler hat and maybe hoping she'll be bought by the handsome young soldier:

The practice is also the background to Thomas Hardy's novel 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' (published 1886) in which the central character, Michael Henchard, sells his wife at the beginning of the story - an act that comes back to haunt him years later when he has become the respectable mayor of the town.
 
Meles meles,

this was completely new to me. I wanted to search something similar in the Low Countries, but didn't find anything.
Some one and a half hour, including the reading of bits about the history of the divorce in the Low Countries from the Austrian Netherlands with the enlightened Josef II, which did a lot for the equality of man and woman and a civil marriage independent from whatever belief. And then the French revolution a nearly modern divorce right, equality of men and women, all base on the liberal ideas and the enlightenment. But then the code Napoleon, again to square one, even more an incarceration of the woman. The man was again "heer en meester" (they translate it in my Collins with "hold absolute sway?")...and after Napoleon there was a discussion in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and mostly due to the Catholics there came nothing of it. And in the independent Belgium again the Catholics even with a strong Liberal presence still the code Napoleon in some way...and as the voting for women in Belgium only in 1948!, the change for women in divorce started only in 1935!

I read it all in a master proof of the university of Ghent:
https://lib.ugent.be/fulltxt/RUG01/001/458/353/RUG01-001458353_2011_0001_AC.pdf


Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Financial Scams and Scandals   Sat 25 Aug 2018, 13:40

Re: wife selling - a link to a thread (from about 20 years ago) on a folk song site mudcat.org with this thread being to songs about wife-selling.  https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=1682  

MM, is correct to give a proper explanation of "debasement" as applied to coinage.  I looked at Wikipedia and it mentions clipping as being a "grass roots" method of debasement.  I've put the link to the full Wikipedia article at the foot of my post.  I had put  a smaller direct quote from Wikipedia which described "sweating" - which may have been the second method of which I couldn't recall the name yesterday - sweating was putting some coins in a bag and shaking them up and then shaking any bits of coin which had rubbed of each other out of the bag but the direct quote I took from Wikipedia was greyed out (though it was within quotation marks) -  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methods_of_coin_debasement
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