Vincent Otto Nolte.

Fifty years in both hemispheres; [microform] or, Reminiscences of the life of a former merchant. Translated from the German online

. (page 31 of 47)
Online LibraryVincent Otto NolteFifty years in both hemispheres; [microform] or, Reminiscences of the life of a former merchant. Translated from the German → online text (page 31 of 47)
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my own impatience, I sent our clerk, Ferriday, who was accus-
tomed to make all our purchases wiUi zealous dUigenoe, to the
suburbs, where the cotton market is always held, and instructed
him not to return with empty hands, nor without having purchased
at least 1500 bales for our house, at the current prices. My last
words were, " Do not stand upon trifles, but buy." He fulfilled
the commission, and bought 2000 bales.

Two days later, on February 14th, at noon, a neat, fiist sailhig
sdiooner brought me, firom the two Quaker houses, Francis
Thompson & Nephews, and Jeremiah Thompson, in New York,
the news of the close of the Liverpool market, on December 21,
1824. and the commission to purchase 10,000 bales for them and
for Cropper, Benson & Co., of Liverpool, at the current prices.
The stock of American cotton in Liverpool Was exactly as I had
anticipated — ^there were but 100,000 bales there— and the conse-
quence of so unusually small a supply was precisely the fulfilment

the knowing people's prophecies. There was a sudden rise of
y. The first re-action on our market at New Orleans was

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316 BBT 18S5,

ariseof three oeots. Whosoever was engaged in the oottcm trade
and was a ootemporarj of that remarkable year,- 1825, will
remember the frenzy that seized all q>eculators, £rst in England,
and then, by infidHble consequence, in. the United States. In spite
of the disposition of my adopted countrymen to take fire easily,
the rise in American shipment prices did not move so rapidly as
the spirit of speculation in England, for there the prices rose 110
per cent, but in the United States not more than 85. We turned
most of our own local stock into money, gaining thei*eby $60,000 ;
and from the first cargo sent to Liverpool, in the brig Ocean, Cap-
tain Bond, 950 bales, we received a return from the house of
Qropper, with the unexampled gain of £11,460. Besides a share
in die cargoes shipped in union with the Messrs. Cropper and
Thompson, we had two others, whidi arrived in Liverpool about
ten days after the 950 bales, but costing about ten per cent more,
<m wluch the Croppers oould have gained quite as mudi, had they
chosen. 13iey, however, thought it judicious to throw away the
enormous profit of eighty per cent., because they would not, by
" 01-1imed sales," interfere with their own pre-conceived views of
the fiiture of the cotton market, nor stop the revolution; but the con
sumers, the spinners, would force them to withdraw thdr extortion
ate dunuk With very few exceptions, all the cotton traders became
quiet participants in this coalition. The higher the article rose,
ao rose also the resolution of the spinners not to pay the unheard
of price which was demanded — they scarcely bought at aU. But
the leaders of the countless troop of speculators, Messrs. &opper,
Benson ^ Co., with their fellow-quakers, Rathbone, Hodgson &
Co., in union with the brokers, Cooke & Comer, were enabled to
Avcdd, what under usual drcumstances would have been the
inevitable result of this opposition, to wit, a fall of prices, by
always permittii^ underhand sales, or by supporting new buyen^
who found means to come into the market, who in the end only
gave out their own names. The Manchester spinners, thoii^^
pressed by necessity to accept the high prices, had as yet bought
as little as possible, and finally came to the resolution not to buy
at alL The whole month of May passed over without one
important sale havmg taken jdaoe.


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Hie letters of the Quaker firm« to their correspondents contained
the words, " Nothing can equal the firmness of our holders." The
words should have been, '* Nothing can equal the firmness of our
holders but the unb^iding obstinacy of the consumers, to econo-
mize their stock as much as possible, and to buy no more than
positive necessity demands." Hie ground upon wfaidi the super-
structure of this mighty speculation rested was hollow, and must
inevitably give way, and carry the whole &bric with it to destruc-
tion. The expectation that the spinners, at the si^t of the rising
prices, must necessarily provide themselves with the raw material
at any cost, was the groundwork, and the belief in the insufficiency
of the expected importations was the foundation, of the whole
^)eculation. Both of these calculations were ill made. The sphi-
ners knew too well that they could find no buyers for their &brio8
at prices commensurate wilJi those of the raw material, and liiat,
coQBBequently, they could only manu&oture at great loss to them-
selves ; and the importers, allured from all the markets and cor-
ners of the eardi, surpassed all and every calculation that had
be^ made. From Brazil, of which the exportaUe cotton carop
for five years had been reckoned at 175,000 bales, came suddenly
just twice that quantity, 850,000 bales. Stifl^necked, well-to-do
planters had annually kept back a portion of their crops when the
prices did not suit them. This no one knew ; and it may serve
as a Universal proof of the assertion that, in "vdiolesale specula-
lions, particularly in those whidi take their rise hi a view to
monopoly, that human foresight is never sufficiently great to cal-
culate upon all the drcumstances which may b^ong to, or result
from its actions.

The month of May, with its enforced activity in the cotton-
market, was scarcely gone, when the Scottish hous^ of James and
Alexander Denistoun & Co., of Glasgow, received in Liverpool
5000 bales, from New Orleans ; and under the direction of the
clever head of the firm, Mr. James Denistoun, tlien president of
the bank of Scotland, in Glasgow, determined to offer the whole
importation for sale. The Quaker confederation implored them
to keep up the price, which was for Creorgia cotton, 15f to 16
pence, but in vain. The 5000 bales were sold at from 2^ to 2}

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betow &e standing price ; and wlieD it is recollected that a m of
one &rthing, under the ordinary price of cotton, will prevent anj
one in Liverpool from buying, it wUl easily be toid^vteod tfant a
sale at from 15 to 16 per cent under current prices offered a dear
proof that all the calculations were shown to be fklse, tila^ the
elasticity of the market had beeai unnaturally tried, and tbat sfns-
ners had perfectly understood the whole combination. Hie dHer-
minatidn of the Scottish firm arose from the simple observation
of the fitct that the extraordinary importations allured by the hi^
prices had already, in the beginnii^ of June, collected more cotton
in Great Britain than th# greatest possible eonsumptkm of tlM
whc^ year could demand ; and hence, that every pound of the
raw material, which might arrive fh>m diat time forth, must be
seen by every dear-sighted importer to be simply superfluous, and
to add to an already unnecessary stock. In another five months
the new American orc^ would be ready, and it was promisnig to
be very abundant

In the beginning of April, precisely when the wildest spirit of
speculation was at work in New Orieans, and was occupying our
almost entire attention, came General La&yette, an arrival which
alone could have created a Aversion. Although in the whole pop^
ulation of tbe dty and its environs not one comrade in the warof
independence, nor even one personal acquaintance, except myseH^
was there to greet him, still the enthusiasm with which he had
been received everywhere was intense in Louisiana, from the &ct
<^ most of the inhabitants being of French extraction ; and men
were more antious to venerate the historic importance of the actor
in the Frendi revolution, than of the then young but now gray-
haired hero of the American. The general had arrived, before the
opening of the Congress of December 8, 18^ in Wasld^ton, and
had employed the intervening time in visiting the states of New
York, Connecticut^ Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. He passed
through New Jersey, Pennsylviuiia, Delaware, and Maryland, oo
his way to Washington, and it was there that the then speaker q(
the House, the late Henry Clay, introduced him, on the 10th De-
cember, into the Hall of Representatives, and presented him to
both houses therem assembled^ The roomy and richly-decorated

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kdl held on this oocadcm 2,000 persons, with all the fbreign min-
isters, except the French ambassador of the Bourbons. The Mar-
quis afterwards tohi me, that although he had witnessed verj
many assemblies in his own ooimtrj, never had he receired sudi
SB impteseion as from this one ; and that he had never been so
thoroiigUj moved by tiie eloquence of any man, not even by that
of Mimbeao, as by the dear and spirited ring of the voice of
Hemry day. ^ It was," he said, " ^ voice of a nation, making
ksslf heard by the mouth of a great man." The whole house, as
if stridLen by the wand of an endianter, had risen to Iheir feet as
Qay ent^'ed, leading Lafayette by the hand. They sat down at
the conclusion of the welcoming speech, but arose again at the
first signs <^ a reply. They expected him to take his spectacles
and a written answer from his pocket; but aiter a moment's
pause he ^poke, extemporaneously, and in English. To Clay's re-
mark, that he was the witsiess of his own fbture, he replied, that
when be there found, in the sons 43i£ his former and now departed
friends, iJtub same spirit for the general weal, as well as the same
personal fri^mbhip for him, no frrt^re spread itself before him.
The Congress, as is well known, voted to the general, as a testi-
monial of the national gratitude, $800,000, and 300,000 acres of
land, which the general chose in the newly-received state of
Florida, which had just been purdiased frt>m Spain, it having heea
flowed him, as a condition of the present, to choose fW>m any
moccupkd public lands in the United States. After this present,
the general resolved to visit all the States, if only for a couple of
days, which, in the session of Congress, had voted for the present
TheiWore he left Washington, and passed through Virginia, Nortli
and South Carolina, Geoi^ and Alabama, to Mobile, ^^ere he
found a deputatibn from New Orleans, headed by the governor,
who had eome to welcome him, and conduct him to their dty . As
I learned fVom the governor, his first question about New Orleans
was whether I were there, and he seemed pleased at receiving an
affirmative answer. The legislature of the state had arranged his
reception with the common council of the city. The residence of
the common cound), the Mayory, was entirely refitted, admirably
adorned, and newly and luxuriously fbmished. A table, with

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tJurty ooT^rs, was set evoy day daring tbe generai's stay, in
order that he might become aoquainted with the principal inhal»t»
ants and planters. I will iiot apeak of othw festivities — balls, the-
aitres, dca Finally, one of the best a^eamers was proom^ and
kept ready for a vi^t to Natchez and the state oi Mississippi,
wiA a deputation, consisting of the governor, a member of the
k^slatore, a member of the eommoH council, and m delegate from
all the most important dasses in the country — planters, htwyers,
merchants, &o.— diosen by the general hitnaelC When ke looked
over the list, and came to the names of the merchants, he des^
nated rae as the person who, as an old acquaintance^ would be
most agreeable to him. By his wish I visited him every morn-
ing tA&t breakftst, on which occasions he questioned me freely
about men and things m Louisiana. One moromg he acksoid-
edged to me that his purse was but meagrely fhmished. ^Cer-
trady,*' he said, ^ Congress has granted me money enov^ but i
have not as yet received one cent of the $200,000, because the
treanuy was not at the moment prepared to pay it; therefore, 1
am in need of money ; can you give it me ?" My answer tmj
be divined. I placed my casb-box at his disposal ; but he oo\j
wanted (15^, which Ibroogfat him the same day. I asked fw
ido receipt, but b^^ed him merely, when he should return to the
Nortlv and visit Boston, at his convenience to give the sum to
my friend there, Mr. Jdm Ridiairds^ The general insisted on
giving a receipt, and put one into my hand the next momii^ which
I have retained) although the debt has been paid.

The voyage to Natchez gave me better opportunities of seeing
the general, and of enjoying his conversation, than would ot^er-
ivise have been possible. Hie whole of tile great cabin of the
steamboat was for the general's conv^ienca Above this, on. the
^•ck, was erected a large convenient saloon, wherein the eatiiig
was caoried on, and where people passed the time as well as they
eould. In it were so&s, play-tables, cards, and books* The ger-
etnor of Louisiana, by name Johnson — a most ordinary kind of
man, ill-instructed, and of most unpolished manners, in many re-
wpedtB a tarue child of nature— sat on the general's right hand
The seat at the left hand was reserved for me ; «id a* l^-eak&st

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VOTAQE UP THE maftifliyy ipy j^l

the general was wont to saj, ^ If you have anything to talk abont^
let us go down to my room and talk." Such invitations were the
more welcome because I could not accept them as often as I
wished, and I had avoided them^as &r as the resting-pointo of the
trip were concerned. As the dwellers on the banks of the Mis-
sissippi had expected the arrival and voyage of the gen^ral^
wherever the steamer that carried the nation's guest wa^ recog-
nized, by the numerous decorative flags, they hastened, so soon as
it was seen in the distance, to assemble in scone house, and to
make the welkin ring with, their shouts of welcome. Where tha
houses were numerous, or in the immediate neighborhood of a
village — like Baton Rouge, for instance — ^tbe boat would stop, and
the general would receive the deputations that came on board to
greet him, or the single personages who desired to be presented
to faim. The deputatbns usually came with their speaker at the
head. Of course, in most instances, the speaker was more oceu-
pied in exhibiting hw devemess and oratorical talent, than with
the object of his mission, or a desire to give pleasure to the
hearer. And the good goieral had no remedy for this evil, but ■
was compelled to listen attentively to the longest, stupidest,
w<»diest discourses possiUe. I never saw a mark <^ impatience
xcpon his countenance. So soon as the infliction was brou^ to
an end, he always had ready a few suitable and flattering words. *
The ease with whidi he performed this task greatly astonished
me. I could not refrain one day from asking him how he man*
aged always to reply to the most silly and idealess speeches.
*^ My friend," he answered, *^ it is not hard. I listen with great
attention until the speaker drops something that pleases me, or
that gives opportunity for a repartee, and then I think about my
reply, and arrange it; but of all the rest I do not hear a eyllablft
— it all blows over me."

But on other less important occasions his readiness and power
in answering was really remarkable. At Batcm Bouge, two
young men were presented to him. The inevitable hand-«haking
was the usual prelude to a short dialogue; but the young men stood
mute before Uie general and gazed at him silently. At leKtgth he
asked one of them, " Are you married 1" "Yes, air," was the


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s^ BflMiinsawrcnsB op fbjjtok

answer. ^Ha^j man," quoth die general. He tben put tlv
same question to the oUier, " and you, sir, are you married f '
" No, sir," was the answer ; ^* I am a bachdor." " Lucky dog !"
said the general. In these words whidi fell from the gei^ra], and
which I cannot render lumpily into German, both reoeired,
married man and bachelor^ a witty compliment on his social

On my fvnt visit to the general's room, I begged pennisaion to
be allowed to addresa any questions that might come into, my
head, to him who had a workUfuU of eipOTenoe* Tha oeour-
renoes whidi took place in the first days of the Freoek Berohi-
tk>n, the scenes at Versailles, the leading out of the unfortunate
queen, Marie Antoinette, upon the balcony of the palace, wh^e
he had kissed her hand, as a proof of peace and good understand-
mg between them, before the thousands who were gathered in
die palace court and in the Avenue de Versailles, and many of
whom had come dmre with ill-intent ; the joy that fbUowed his
assurance to the people that die royal fiimily would go to Paris.
To hear all these circumstances described by his own lips, and
with the greatest modesty and simpleness, was a genuma treat to
me. Great as was his modesty, however, he could not oonoeal
the {Measure caused by these reeoUecdcms of his earlier popularity
and mfluence. Popularity was the god that ruled him, and to
which on no occasion of his life had he ever revised his ser^ce.
I had already seen this durii^ his stay in New Orieana, and on
our trip up die Mississippi, and some years later during the July
revolution in Paris, these convictions increased. To be the idol
of the people was the dewiest desire of his heart, and die fulfill-
ment of dus desire he could only attain to in a republic That
he knew — ^but I would do him injustice were I to ascribe his
republicanism to this source alone. He was a r^ublican by
conviction, and from die centre of his soul out The leascHis diat
he had received at die side of Washmgton, and imder die viotcmoui
banners of the Union, he faithfiilly followed dirou^ut his life^
and the idea diat this form of government and none other conld
make his country hi^py was guarded in his iHreast as a hofy tluBgi
in this he found the only panacea for the cure of the many evils

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mder which Fnmoe wm 8u£^ng. On one of our momitig «ott*
veraatioiw he spoke about the Bourbons, on whose political and
moral animportanoe he looked with pity, and from whom he
wished that France were freed so soon as possible. The well-
known remark of TaUeyrand, that thej had forgotten nothings
and leaoked nothing, he thought described them better than all
that other men had said about them. " France," said Lafayette^
"^ canaot be happy under the Bourbons, and we must send them
adrift It would have been done ere now but for Lafitte."
"" Indeed," I said ; '' how so^' ''It ia not too long ago," said the
general^ ^£or you to remember that two regiments of g^iarda^
ordered to Spain, under the Duo d'Angouleme^ stopped al>
TottlouBd, and began to show aymptoms of reydt. The matter
was qui^ied howerer, and kept as still as possible. But all waa
ready, as i know by my private oorresp<mdenoe with some of the
offioers — all that was wanting to make a revolution succeed- was
money. I went to Lafitte ; but he was full of doubts, and dilly-
dallied with the matter. Then I offered to do it without his help ;
said I, ' On the first interview that you and I have without wit-
nesses, juat put a million of fhmca in bank notes on the mantel-
pieee, whidi I will pocket, unseen by you. Then leave the reat
with me.' Lafitte still £>ught shy of it, deliberated, hesitated, and
at last declared that he would have nothmg at all to do with it"

I could not conceal my surprise, and said, '' Had I heard this
story firom any lips but yours, general, I could not have believed
a word of it." Lafiiyette merely answered, " (Titait pouriant
ainsi,^ This may serve as a testimony how hotly the revolu-
tionary fire still burned in the old man, in spite of all his exterior
coolness and repoae.

After our arrival at Natchez, where we took part in the g^eral
festivities held for a couple <rf days in honor of Lafayette, we
took our leave of him, and returned to New Orleans. There I
found the apecailation fever still raging. I had instructed my two
partners not to buy during my absence one single pound of
cotton, and had received their promise to that effect. I was
therefore, the more indignant that my good but feeble friend
HoUander, had allowed himself to be talked over by my youngest

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partner, tat Wngtinhmfut, named Parker, into bnjfng at fletenteen
oents, 8#0 bales, the pick of the crop, whidi was all in tiie handi
of Reynolds, Byrne ^ Co. The vertigo of -speculation still
endured, and had attadced no man more fiercely than the seller,
Byrne. He mourned that he had sold so much, and e^>eoiaUy
bewailed their sale to us. News from LiTerpool gave still a
greater rise in TpiifxSi — and in New Orleans, Hiey mounted to
twenty-one and twenty-two cents. I met my hotheaded Byrne
in the street, who agahi began to lament over his WO bales ; thst
tliey were all of tlie best sort of whidi there was, and promised
to be very litde. ^ Tou can have them back again €yr twenty-
two cents," said I. ^Done,** cried Byrne, hastily. The trade
was regularly dosed, and the sum of $16,000 gained by the

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HzteDtiye pnrduise of ootton for iSb^ bouse of Crowder, Clough A Co^ in Liv-
erpool — Failure of that house, and the estabUshmeDtt eooneeted with it in
ITew York and Oharletton — luiloeiide of the iuhxr% oo the podtioo of my
hoQe»— Uneradaible auipeDiioB of pajmttts— The erediton vmmmomiij
iqppoiol m# /^fndic ^tkt M a B t Traiaiferral of my power of attorM^ to
mj juaior partoere — My Toy age to England — Reqeption at Barings' — The
troa position of affiiirsy in respect to the Crowder assets — First success in
the suit brooglit against the administrators of the Crowder assets — Ren-
contre in the Birmingham post-eoach, on my way back to London — A letter
from Mr. Alexander Barin^^-^Oonieqiieiiees ^ the reooootre in tbe post-
coaeh— FaronUe issue of my beavy ami in the Court of CSianoeiy— Lord
Eldoo ; the Uit deeision bat one rendered by him before leaving the Min-

I YAKcncD now that I might eahnly wait for the next ootton
crop, and leave trade for awHle alone; but as the reader will soon
• see, Heaven willed it otherwise. I widied to send to Europe my
rfdest partner, Mr. Parker, who did not know my correspondents,
in order to give him a chanee of seeing matters on the odier side ;
above all, that he might turn into money any stock of cotton oe-
longing to us there and still unsold. He arrived happily, and in*
the idle month of May, found the cotton market unflue^iatfaig, and
Ae views of our fHends unchanged. It was not easy to take the
step which the Denistouns had taken soon after his aurrival. For
in the first place, the question was not simply about the stock be-
longing to us in Liverpool, but of the rest whit^ we owned in
connection with the house of Cropper, and with Thompson, who
rendered a sale impossible, for they had the upper hand, and their <
politics, that is, their views of the future of the ootton market, as
also of the judiciousness of the measures whidi were to aid the

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accomplishment of those views, were directly opposed to a forced
sale of our share — so then nothing happened.

In the meanwhile, the state of afiairs in New Orleans had taken
another aspect. A certain^ Mr. Lazarus came in a schooner, dis-
patched from Charleston to New Orleans ; he had made purdiases
there for the Ooppers, Thompsons, and others, and he brought
me the newest and most important news from Lirerpool, as well
as a letter from Mr. Clough, partner of the Liverpool house of
Chowder, Gougfa ^ Co. This house, whidi I knew very well, was
not of the first dass, but was at the head g£ ihe second class, and
possessed very good credit Mr. Lazarus proved to me that this
firm had deserved weU in the course of the cunrent year, by tbe
compared lists of flbipments made fr>om Oiarleston for their own
account, and of the sales whidi had tdcen phice, and wlndi had
more or less to d<^ with the results of our shipment by the brig
Ocean. The object of Mr. Clough, and, with the house of Wey-
man, of Qiarlest^n, and in New York, connected with him^ was to
ky hands firmly and early upon a laige amount of ootton, in ex-
pectation of an endurance of ^ae high prieea, in order to turn it
into money ag^n, and win a lai^e profit by die operation, so as
to ship the purchase to Liverpool, if matters there should remain

Online LibraryVincent Otto NolteFifty years in both hemispheres; [microform] or, Reminiscences of the life of a former merchant. Translated from the German → online text (page 31 of 47)