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Chapter IV.: WISE MEN AT SUPPER - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2) 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 6.
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WISE MEN AT SUPPER
In such a country as Holland was at the time of our story, the prime subject of interest to persons engaged in commerce was the state of the Exchange. By this, the merchants not only found their own affairs determined, but were furnished with an indication of the general condition of trade at home and abroad. As by the Exchange, the debts of individuals residing at a distance from their creditors are cancelled without the transmission of money, the state of the Exchange marks out clearly in which country there has been the greatest amount of purchase, and in which of sale. It affords no indication of the positive amount of purchase and sale, because when this is nearly balanced between different countries, the exchange nearly preserves its level: or, to use technical language, is nearly at par. But the relative amount is infallibly shown by the exchange of any country being above or below par; and this circumstance serves to guide individuals in the conduct of their transactions.
Instead of discharging debts to foreigners in the manner taken for granted by Christian,—viz., by transmitting money to a foreign land, as they would to the grocer's or the wine-merchant's in the next street, exporters and importers were early obliged, by an absurd enactment against the exportation of money, to devise some expedient for paying each other without using gold and silver. The most obvious way was to set against one another the values of things bought and sold, so that the balance was all that remained to be discharged. When it did not happen that the same firm at home had bought of the same firm abroad to whom it had sold, it was only necessary to find another firm at home which had bought in the same market abroad, and to exchange acknowledgments of debt, up to the amount at which the respective debts balanced one another; and these acknowledgments of debt served as money, in the same way as the promissory notes of bankers. In 1190, (which is the earliest recorded date of the practice of exchanging debts,) if an English merchant sold 100l. worth of cider into Holland, and his Dutch connexion had sold to another London merchant 90l. worth of fat cattle, the readiest way of paying the greater part of the debt was for the Dutchman to refer his cider selling correspondent to his neighbour, the importer of cattle, for 90l.: 10l. would still remain due; and as the Dutchman was prohibited from sending it in gold and silver, he would look about for some neighbour who had 10l. owing to him from England, and would say, “I will pay you 10l., if you will desire your debtor to pay the same sum to my correspondent on the other side the water.” By this simple mutual accommodation, the expense and risk of sending large sums of money are avoided; the postage, and the stamp charged by government upon such transactions, are the only cost incurred; and the whole process of buying and selling is simplified to all parties.
The convenience of this method being found great, it was improved as commerce increased, till a market was established where merchants might meet and make their exchanges without loss of time, instead of having to run after one another in search of what each wanted. The next thing was to institute a class of persons whose express business should be to manage these transactions. These persons, the bill-brokers, can tell how nearly the debts of different countries balance each other; and it is they who first purchase, and then provide merchants with these acknowledgments of debt, which circulate instead of money. These disposable acknowledgments, called bills of exchange, bear a very small proportion to the bargains between any two trading countries; because, where there is considerable intercourse, the sales of one party generally nearly balance those of the other. The nearness of their approach to a balance determines the price of those bills which remain to be sold, or which are desired to be bought. When bills are scarce, and merchants have difficulty in procuring these ready means of discharging their debts, they are anxious to pay a price for them, in order to be spared the inconvenience of transmitting money. A competition ensues, and it becomes generally known that the country where the bills are scarce has bought more than it has sold; that it owes more money than it has to receive; that (to use the technical term) the exchange is unfavourable to that country. The reverse is known to be the case when there is a superabundance of bills in the market; so that the merchants of a great trading country anxiously watch the exchange-market, not only to get their own debts settled, but to learn the general condition of commerce.
In order to the immediate detection of an alteration in the course of exchange, it was desirable to have a certain fixed point of calculation to which all variations might be referred. This fixed point was called the par of the exchange, and denoted, when it was first instituted, a perfect equality of exchange, both of goods and money, between the trading parties. The exchange between Holland and Great Britain was at par when the two countries sent exactly the same amount of wealth to each other. Supposing ten guilders to go to a pound, the exchange would be at par when the Dutch exported to England one thousand guilders' worth of commodities, and imported from England one hundred pounds' worth of commodities. So that, so long as ten guilders go to a pound, and Holland and England exchange the same quantity of goods, the exchange will not vary, really or seemingly, from the fixed point of calculation. It is only the one country exporting more goods than the other which can really make the amount of value due greater from one than the other: but, because ten guilders have not always gone to a pound, more money has sometimes appeared to be due from one than the other, even while the quantity of goods exchanged has been precisely the same, as computed in anything but the altered money. When eleven guilders go to the pound, while the par of exchange is still called ten, more money will appear to be due from Holland to England for the same quantity of goods as before; and consequently, while the actual state of trade will be exactly the same as before, it will be declared on 'Change that the exchange has turned against Holland; i. e., that Holland owes more money to England than she has to receive. However, merchants whose interest it is to watch the course of exchange, easily distinguish the real from tire nominal variation, and learn to make use of the fixed point of calculation with due allowance for the difference caused by the alterations in the value of money. They can ascertain what they want to know of the general state of commerce, in the midst of what would be, to an inexperienced person, a deception; and a merchant who has, by any rare accident, been prevented from going on 'Change, only wants to know the nominal variation from par, and to compare it with his knowledge of the respective currencies of the two countries, to satisfy himself as to which ought to push its exports, and which its imports.
The first question asked by one Dutch merchant of another, in Heins's time, usually related to the exchange. It was that which his old friend Jakob greeted him with this evening, as, punctual to the appointed moment, he entered the apartment where Francesca and supper were waiting to honour and be honoured by him.—Heins saw at a glance that better entertainment was provided for him than his wealthy parents had ever thought fit to indulge him with. It shad been their method to surround themselves with whatever was essential to comfort, and whatever served as a good investment for their money; but, in all articles of mere consumption, they had been frugal in a way which Slyk and his daughter seemed little disposed to imitate. While the Snoeks' cellars were full of choice French wines and brandies, they drank beer only. While preparing the richest butter and cheese which their fat meadows could produce, their servants and children must be content with an inferior kind, imported salt. Not thus was Jakob's table furnished by his fair daughter. On the present occasion, it looked very tempting. Placed between the windows, so that the eaters might enjoy the amusement of observing the passers by, without the table itself being seen from without, one source of entertainment, always acceptable to a Dutchman, was secure. There was no lack of odoriferous foreign fruits, of flasks whose aspect was, not to be mistaken, or of more substantial delicacies from the native pastures and decoys. This array was reflected from each corner of the apartment by mirrors, so placed as to exhibit every object within ken, from the train of passengers on the bridge at the bottom of the street, and the slow-moving barge advancing in an opposite direction, to the beau-pots filled with tulips which stood on the floor in corresponding angles of the apartment. What made the aspect of the place the most dazzling to Heins was, that there were four Francescas, each differing from the other according to the direction in which the gazer looked. Here, the profile of the pretty face and the jewelled arm were most conspicuous; there, the closely fitting jacket, and the knot of hair fastened behind with a silver pin. Now, the bright eyes looked out from between the two ringlets which curled exactly to the same turn on the foreheads of all Dutchwomen; and again, the yellow slipper was seen to rest on the chauife-pied, whose constant use must infallibly spoil the form of the most beautiful foot that ever trod the quays of Amsterdam. At the further end of this radiant apartment leaned old Jakob, prepared with questions about how matters looked on 'Change: in the middle sat Franeesca, deeming it no affront that such affairs were considered of the first importance, even in her presence; and between them stood Heins, commercial con amore one moment, and awkwardly gallant the next, till the familiarity of the evening meal enabled him to make his attentions to the father and the daughter more compatible than it had at first appeared possible to render them.
“They may talk of our commerce having declined,” said Slyk, “but there is no nation like the Dutch after all. Our refugee divines preach to more purpose to us than they did in France, about the wisdom of Solomon in his traffic with Hiram, king of Tyre, and all the riches that he gained thereby. We are a people obedient to the Divine word, Mr. Heins; and it pleases Heaven to prosper our industry, in spite of seeming obstacles. Even Solomon's wisdom was not taxed to procure cedar and shittim wood in the face of king Hiram's prohibitions; but we have done as much in getting the exchange with England turned in our favour, notwithstanding her late jealous enactments.”
Franeesca was of opinion that Holland was now under a special divine blessing for having received and cherished the Huguenots who had been driven from France. Heins thought that this opinion was countenanced by the fact that a considerable part of the prosperity of the States was derived from the industry of these very refugees. On the other hand, England was also open to the Huguenots, and it was against England that the exchange had turned.
This was a difficulty easily answered, Jakob said. England was punished for her jealousy; for her unneighbourly conduct towards the States. Was it not Heins's belief that a vast importation of brandies, velvets, and jewellery from Dutch vessels had been going on in England of late?
“Certainly,” replied Heins. “While we can gain no more than two, or, at most, three per cent, on our capital at home, we must invest it abroad, even at some risk; and this has been done in England to such an extent that the government there must be a little surprised at the present course of the exchange. Visscher has put but a small percentage in his pocket today, I rather think; for there is such an abundance of bills on England in the market, and so few are present to buy, that the business has been very languid.”
“There will soon be an end of that,” replied Slyk. “A flood of this kind of money is presently absorbed. It is not like our hard gold, or our bank money, which rests at the disposal of one nation instead of two.”
Heins suggested that bank money was like a ball sent up by a solitary player, which might return or be lost according to the skill or awkwardness with which it was thrown; whereas exchange money was a shuttlecock played between two nations, which was sure to visit each in turn, as long as both were interested in keeping up the game. This flight of fancy, so much more French than Dutch, enhanced Francesca's admiration of the accomplishments of the young merchant. She was not aware, however, that bills of exchange could be exactly called money. She knew that they might, in one sense, be so considered, as “they discharged debts; but debts might also be discharged by barter, where no money was present.—Heins explained that bills of exchange form an actual currency, temporary in its, nature, like bank paper, but possessing all the requisites of a medium of exchange.
“I have been using one as money this very day,” he continued. “You must know,—(I do not hesitate to speak openly before friends)—I have been trying my fortune, while others did, in a venture to England. I am not in the habit of exporting, as you know; but I shipped a snug package of velvets, which certain great folks are at this moment wearing, perhaps in the king of England's own presence. I was paid in a bill drawn on a timber merchant here, payable at usance;———you know what that means?”
Familiar as the term was, the young lady did not know what it meant. Heins explained that bills are paid either at sight, or at a certain specified time after date, or at the period which is pointed out by the custom or law of the place on which the bill is drawn; which period is called the usance of the place. At Amsterdam this was one month after date. Heins went on,
“I was, at the same time, desirous of purchasing some powder and ball, which I had a fine opportunity of disposing of. I therefore offered this bill,—not to the owner of the powder, (who would leave Amsterdam before the bill became due, and would have charged me whatever it might cost him to have it changed for a different kind of money,)—but to my friend Visscher, the bill-broker, who sold me a bill on Copenhagen, which suited my powder-merchant's convenience, and put a profit into Visscher's pocket, and saved me the necessity of calling any money out of the Bank. So you see this bill was real money in my hands, is so now in Visscher's, and may be again in a hundred other hands before the month is up.”
Slyk thought commerce would slacken grievously if bills did not serve as a circulating medium, as well as being the means of liquidating debts. If people were obliged to depend on their individual stock of money for the prosecution of all their undertakings, they would be stopped short at the outset of many a fine speculation: whereas by having access to the credit-bank (viz. the exchange market), and thus being able to exchange their credit for cash, at a small sacrifice, facilities were afforded, and an equalization of demand was established which was highly favourable to an extensive and beneficial employment of capital. This was the advantage of bills bearing date, instead of being, in all instances, payable at sight. When payable at sight, they were not of course money; and every protraction of date was equivalent to an increase in the quantity of money; as the bill passed through more hands, the longer it had a separate existence from the cash it represented.
“I suppose, then,” said Francesca, “that your new undertaking is to be carried on by the help of this kind of money. But perhaps bills of exchange do not circulate so far inland.”
“I have nothing to do but to exchange them for inland bills, or for cash,” observed her father. “Snoek, you say that foreign bills superabound on 'Change. What say you to some of the spare capital which is afloat being lent to me for a grand and beneficial design which I have in hand some way up the country?”
“I have little or no money to spare just at this time,” replied Heins: “for the present state of the exchange, you see, is just that which makes it desirable for us to import to the utmost. I must invest in British produce as much as I can gather together while bills on Britain are cheap. But there must be many exporters who are slackening their business till the exchange turns. They will be ready enough to let you have money at little or nothing above the common rate of interest. What is your object?”
“I told you that I might give you news of your mother this evening. I saw her yesterday morning, and all the children; and I may see her again once or twice a week, if I am enabled to carry on my design. In that case, I shall settle in her near neighbourhood.”
“And Fransje,”—inquired Hems, looking with an appearance of anxiety towards the lady,—“Fransje, will you leave us too?”
“I shall delight in being so near your mother,” replied Fransje. “And. those dear children, I could sit; by Christian's couch from morning till night. He is so interesting! It is so soothing too, to one's heart, to be able to cheer such a sufferer!”
Heins knew that Fransje's presence did not usually cheer Christian's spirits, but quite the reverse. He remembered also that Fransje never could sit beside the invalid for half an hour together, unless there was some one present to admire her assiduity; while Gertrude, who said nothing about the pleasure, had frequently held the boy in her arms for hours during his agony, and kept her seat through a long summer's day when Christian could not, with all his endeavours, keep his temper with anybody else. Heins smiled vaguely, however, upon Fransje's protestations: and when talk of business was resumed, her fancy wandered on into the days when she might enact the applauded sister-in-law, in return for the desirable establishment she should have obtained as the lady of the rising merchant, Heins Snoek.
“You remember,” said Jakob, “the fine vein of turf that runs from the dyke at Winkel to the lake twenty miles inland. I have often said, as I suppose many others have, that it is a shame that vein is not worked.”
Heins had heard that there were many doubts whether it would be worth while to excavate this turf till labour should be cheaper in the north, and more fuel required for the increasing population. Slyk, however, had an answer to every objection.
If it was merely to dig up a single cargo of turf,” said he, “I grant you it would not be worth while to transport labourers from the South. But mine is a very extensive plan indeed. In the first place, this turf lies only two feet below the surface, and it is seven feet deep. It will be some time before we exhaust such a vein, twenty miles in length. O, I assure you, the breaks are nothing; merely caused by the intersecting dykes. We have only to cross over, and begin again at the distance of a few feet.—Permission! can you suppose we shall be refused permission to improve the land as we proceed, to the great advantage of the owners? Yes; to their great advantage; as you will say when you have heard the whole of my scheme. We shall not make a swamp of the excavation. No, no. We will leave the honour of making inland lakes to our ancestors. I do not wonder that you take fright at the idea of a new lake, twenty miles long. I mean, instead of a lake, to have a fat green meadow, stretching from Winkel to nearly the opposite coast.”
Did not water always rise where turf was cut? Heins asked, Would not the proprietors of the soil object that no share of the fuel procured would compensate to them for having their fields turned into a bog? Slyk assured him that nothing was further from his thoughts than parting with the turf so near home. At Winkel, Heins was reminded, there was a strand, backed by a line of sand-hills, where the accumulated cockleshells of a million of tides were heaped. On these hills a range of kilns was to be erected to convert the cockle-shells into lime to manure the wet soil by filling up the spaces from which the turf was dug. From this strand was the fuel to be shifted, in order to command a sale in every town and village on the Zuyder Zee, and the coasts with which it communicated. The next thing would be to import lean Danish cattle, to fatten on the meadows enriched by the produce of the lime-kilns. From these arose visions, in Heine's fancy, of unfathomable depths of butter, innumerable multitudes of cheeses, of dairy farms rising-on the slope of every dyke, and vessels entering each creek and bay along the shore. Slyk had succeeded in captivating his mercantile imagination far better than Francesca the nobler part of the faculty. While turf was the only object in the picture, Heins doubted and weighed as a Dutchman should; but when above the turf there were meadows, and on the meadows cattle, with dairy farms in the fore-ground, lime-kilns in the distance, and shipping on the horizon, Heins was carried away by a vehement desire to have a share in all this enterprise; to be in part master of this grand new creation. He was little aware on what a shaking bog all this superstructure of hopes was built.
Slyk had many requisites for the conduct of a speculation. He had enterprise; he had experience; and he had not the restraint of a conscience; but he had also no money: at least, he had what in Holland at that time was called no money. He had enough in house, furniture, clothes, and jewels to have sold for what would comfortably maintain himself and his daughter; but this was poverty, in the eyes of the Dutch merchants of 1696. To have no disposable funds, was a degree of poverty at which many a boor would have been alarmed; and it was so extraordinary a case, that Slyk's whole endeavour was to keep his plight a secret, and to get out of it as soon as he could. As he was rather changeable in his employments, it was not very easy to track him; and his manner was of that imposing kind which commonly bespeaks conscious wealth; so that Heins was excusable for concluding, with the rest of the world of Amsterdam, that old Jakob Slyk was rich. So rapidly did his supposition rise, this day, to conviction, that he was presently conscious of lamenting that he had destined so much of his disposable capital to investments in foreign produce; and pondering how much he could extricate, to be applied in Slyk's speculation.
“You mean to conduct the whole yourself,” he said. “You speak of settling on the spot.”
“Certainly, and you must visit your mother frequently, to see how the work proceeds. You will go with us to-morrow, if you really think of taking a share. You will go over the ground with me.”
Heins thought of the business which required his attention at home; of the cargoes to be unloaded; the foreign letters to be looked for in the present condition of the exchange; and the necessary observation of commercial affairs, for which his partner could scarcely find time for some days after his entrance upon his new office. Heins feared he could not go.
Francesca intimated that she was to accompany her father, and spoke of the family party at Winkel. Heins hesitated, but feared he must delay. Slyk let drop that Gertrude was to go in the same boat to pay her promised visit to Mrs. Snoek; and then, after much talk about hesitation and difficulty, Heins found, at last, that he could contrive to get away for a few days. There were certain signs of vexation in her countenance which her father endeavoured to screen from observation by fixing Heins's attention on himself. He expatiated on his own fitness for the undertaking, from the experience he had had in the management of all conceivable affairs that can come within the province of a money-maker. To judge by his own intimations, he must be the richest man in the States. He instanced all the occasions of his gains, and none of his losses.
“Trust me to manage labourers' said he.” I shall scarcely have such trouble with another set as I had with my fourteen boatmen, once upon a time, at the outset of the herring-fishery. Fransje, you remember that stormy 24th of June?”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Fransje. “The sea lashed the dyke as if it had been mid-winter, as the fishermen went to church. Their wives followed trembling, and said it was blasphemy to ask a blessing on the fishery, if their husbands tempted Providence by going out in such a storm. By midnight, most of the men thought so too; and the moment of sailing passed away while they stood on the dyke, each boat's company looking at the rest, to see what they meant to do. I well remember the flashes of lightning disclosing the tossing row of empty boats.”
“Not all empty, however,” observed Slyk.” I led the way, and it was not ten minutes after midnight when the last of my crew stepped on board. I had the advantage of their being Catholics, however. There was only one Calvinist; and he was nearly enough to spoil the whole, till I took him on the side of predestination. Then he was quiet enough; and the Catholics set up one saint against another, so as to leave a balance of probabilities that we should get safe home.”
Heins laughed, though in some constraint, through wonder that the sanctimonious Jakob should thus come out in the new character of a joking adventurer. Did the party get safe home? he asked.
“Safe! yes; and much more than safe. We ran for the Brill; and had the luck to get in first; as was very just, since we were the first to go out,—only five minutes after the legal time, remember, in a midsummer tempest. We brought in a fine cargo, and sold every fish at a ducat. That was equally agreeable to Catholic and Calvinist.”
“And which were you?”
“Oh, we were all of one faith that day;—that the first herrings of the season are special gifts of Providence to the Dutch of all persuasions, You should have seen the scramble there was for our cargo. All the sick people in the place, or their nurses, came out to get a fresh herring as an infallible cure; and those in health were almost equally eager. We were not disposed to doubt the recipe which brought in ducats as fast as if they had been stivers.”
“You make a point of having a fresh herring, the first day of the season,” remarked Francesca, looking doubtfully at her father, whom she had never before heard to question the soundness of the popular belief in the sovereign efficacy of the first-caught herrings.
“And always shall, my dear, while I have a ducat to buy one with. I am only pointing out the advantage that it was to me and my men that they had a leader over them who knew how to manage them. One quarter of an hour, later, and the Brill would have been supplied from another buss. This is not the only time, Heins, that I made a little fortune at sea in one trip. It is some years ago now,—but I remember as if it was yesterday,—a singular little expedition that I made during the war. To be sure, there was sufficient danger in it, and nicety enough required to make me remember it pretty distinctly; but really, I could fancy, (if you had not told me the course of the exchange to-day,) that the French were still before our ports. Poor fellows! a very provoking thing was near happening to two or three of their captains. They would have been obliged to refuse battle with our ships, and make the best of their way home, if it had not been for me. I helped them to some of their laurels.”
“You helped the French to their laurels” exclaimed Heins in astonishment. “How did you do that? and why?”
“I have by nature,—I should say, I owe to Providence a high sense of justice,” replied Slyk, gravely. “I could never bear to see any advantage gained, even by my own country, where there was not fair play; and I can never consider battle conducted on equal terms when one party has plenty of ammunition, and the other little or none. This was the case in the instance I speak of.”
“So you robbed the French ships of ammunition, in order to afford the Dutch fair play. Truly, the gallant French would not have cared much for laurels won from a defenceless enemy.”
“You mistake the matter quite,” replied Slyk. “If the deed you describe would have been patriotic, mine was much more so, and in a very refined way. It was the French who wanted powder and ball. But I did not rob the Dutch. What was obtained from them was by their own free will. I went to meet a vessel on its way from the Baltic with ball, and made rapid sail, so as to fall in with the French just in time to supply them with the means of keeping up the fight.”
“But the powder: the Baltic vessel did not furnish you with powder, I suppose.”
“The powder I was obliged to afford at a less advantage to myself. The Dutch commander was willing enough to furnish me, out of his superfluity, with what I wanted; but he insisted on such a price as left me small profit. I told him it was hardly worth the risk of stealing my way through the smoke to the other side of the enemy, for so small a share of the profits as I pocketed. But, between us, we carried off a pretty lump of French money; enough to console our commander for being beaten, and to compensate to me for the risk and the toil. It was hard and hot work handing up on one side the ship the ammunition which was to be fired into the Dutchman from the other; but both parties might thank me for securing them fair play.”
Heins's veneration for Dutch genius rose higher than ever. He doubted whether any country could produce a parallel to this instance of practical wisdom. But there was more for him to hear:—many a narrative of expeditions up and down the Rhine, when sugar, coffee, and woollen cloths were disposed of to unheard of advantage at every village on the way up, and enormous rafts of timber swept down the stream in return, bearing the exulting Jakob home to the country of which Heins began to think him a conspicuous ornament. Many a region had he also supplied with earthenware, and his exploits in tobacco-pipes were enough of themselves to immortalize his commercial genius. The Winkel adventure now appeared a moderate and purely rational affair, and Heins himself began to see the expediency of enlarging the speculation yet further by adding a tobacco-pipe manufactory to their establishment, if, as was expected, the right kind of earth was found to be plentiful near any spot of the twenty miles of turf soil.
“You will be ready to go with us early tomorrow to see your mother,” said Fransje, quitting the table to make her preparations for departure.
“To view the ground,” added her father.
Heins rose as he replied that, in order to do so, he must hasten away to consult his partner on the whole affair, and make arrangements for diverting some of his capital from other channels in order to engage in this new object. But he would see what could be done in a few hours. Slyk assured him that there was no haste about the advance of capital, as there was abundance in hand; that he had better view the ground before he decided anything, or troubled his illustrious partner at so busy a time with an important affair, of which all the details could not yet be presented. Heins agreed not to trouble his partner further at present than to send him a note of excuse for an absence of a few days on a visit to Winkel.
Slyk told the truth when he said that he had at present abundance of money for the carrying on of his enterprise. It by no means followed that it was his own. Whose it was depended upon circumstances yet future; depended, not only on whether the speculation should terminate favourably or unfavourably, but on the length of time that it-could be carried on.
Slyk's plan was one very common among adventurers. It was to raise money by drawing and re-drawing inland bills of exchange, in combination with two men of a genius of as high an order as his own. The Dutch banks were not all like the great bank of Amsterdam. There were some in every large town in the states which were very like banks in general, and which were subject to imposition from adventurers. From the coffers of two or three of these banks Slyk's friends contrived to extract capital for his purposes, taking the chance of the enterprise turning out well enough to enable them to replace what they now borrowed on false pretences.
Slyk drew a bill upon honest Hugo Cats of Haerlem, payable two months after date. Not that Cats owed Slyk anything; but in consideration of being allowed to draw in his turn for the amount, with interest and commission, he permitted the supposition of a debt. In order to avoid suspicion, the re-drawing was done through a third party, Cats drawing his bill, before the expiration of the two months, on Geysbuk of Rotterdam; who, in his turn, was to draw on Slyk before the expiration of the further two months. The bill returned on Slyk must bear, of course, a great accumulation of interest and commission, but he trusted to his enterprise to pay off all; and his immediate object was answered in the bankers' gold being obtained which was to enable him to make his first payments to his labourers, and to the proprietors of the vein of turf from which he expected so much wealth. Interest was low, at this time: a sure sign that the profits of stock were also low? but Slyk intended that his profits should be unlike those which followed every other investment of capital, and justify, by the issue, his plan of raising money by circulation.
The bankers were rendered unsuspicious, not only by the comparative infrequency of fraudulent speculation at a time and in a country where a needy merchant was a phenomenon almost unheard of, but by the mode in which the bills were indorsed. Several names appeared on the back of each bill; and these and the shortness of the date together gave an appearance of security to the whole affair. It was scarcely likely that all these parties should fail before the expiration of the two months, even if the drawer and acceptor had been considered persons of doubtful credit. But there was no reason for questioning any part of the proceeding. The re-drawing was always done in good time to prevent any attention being fixed upon the previous bill; and the first advance of money seemed to have been gained so easily, that the parties resolved to repeat the experiment, if they failed to obtain, at a less cost, the funds they wanted, from Heins, or from some other rich merchant, young and uncontrolled enough to be made a dupe. Meantime, the speculators amused themselves with contemplating the unconscious security of all whom they had made their tools;—of the bankers from whose coffers they had abstracted their capital, and of such of the indorsers as were no worse than careless, and who therefore little dreamed of the necessity which might arise for their paying for the delinquency of the drawer. If they were disposed to complain of the hardship of each indorser being liable for the amount of a protested bill, (that is, of a bill which the acceptor cannot pay,) they should have been more careful to ascertain the soundness of the credit with which they linked their own.
There was little liability of this kind incurred with respect to foreign bills of exchange; the Dutch merchants of that period being cautious and experienced in their dealings with strangers. But, at home, suspicion was nearly laid asleep in a state of things which afforded rare occasion to a spirit of adventure, and little temptation to fraud. Where money abounded to such a degree as to bring down the rate of interest to the lowest point, and to constitute every trader a man of substance, capital was little in request, and could be had almost for the asking. Slyk had the art to make his own use of the security thus generated, and to obtain capital, at a greater cost certainly than if he had been able to prove himself a trustworthy person, but freed from the necessity of manufacturing this kind of proof. He preferred having to pay heavy interest and commission at last, to allowing attention to be fixed upon his honour and his substance; and the views of his companions were congenial with his own.