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for our greenbacks. I remember well the scared look that came over the face of one banker when I made the demand. At first he didn't understand.
“Oh, yes,” said he, after I had made my request; "you wish to withdraw your deposits from our bank? ' Of course, we can accomodate you. We shall take measures to get your account straightened up in the next few days."
“The next few days won't do,” said I; "we must have it right away.'
“Right away!” he said. “What do you mean?” “I mean,” said I,“within the next fifteen minutes.',
He began to turn white. “Do you understand that a sudden demand of this kind was altogether unlooked for, and will occasion a great deal of needless hardship? A wait on your part of only a very short time would permit us to straighten out the whole affair without injustice to our other depositors and clients.”
"I'm not in business," I said, "for the benefit of
your other depositors and clients. I've got to look out for number one."
“So I perceive,” he said; "and I suspect that you are willing to look out for that person quite regardless of other ‘number ones' that are scattered somewhat thickly through human society. However, we will probably have to do your bidding. I will see what help we can get from some of the other banks."
As soon as he began to communicate with the other banks, his alarm increased. Because he found that their funds were being called on in the same way as his own (we were calling in the greenbacks from our chain of banks all to once). Then he got to work in good earnest. Because our fourteen millions (through the working of that law of a twenty-five per cent. reserve), meant a contracting of the currency to four times that amount, or fiftysix millions in all, besides the certifications. He called a hasty council of the officers of the bank. He ordered them to make up my greenbacks into a bundle, for me to take out to the carriage which I had brought along with me for that purpose.
I started to thank him, but he seemed too busy to notice me. Messengers were being sent out on the double-quick to all the brokers who were customers of the bank, notifying them they were to return their borrowings to the bank at once.
As each of these brokers found his loans being suddenly called by the banks, he sent word in turn to his clients that they must put up the money themselves to carry their holdings of stock. Because the public in buying shares don't pay for them outright; they only pay a margin, say of ten per cent. The broker, therefore, has to put up the other ninety per cent., which he borrows from the banks, and charges his customers the interest.
The customers immediately sent back word to
the brokers: “We haven't anywheres near the cash to pay for our stocks outright. Borrow from the banks, even though you have to pay ten per cent. interest."
“But we can't get money at ten per cent.,” answered the brokers.
“Then pay fifteen,” said the customers. “But can't
it at fifteen,” came the answer. “The rates for money have gone up to 160 per cent. There's a terrible tightening. No one was looking for it. We've got to have the cash, or we can't carry your stocks a moment longer.” ”
“Then let the stocks go," came back the last answer; “throw them on the market, and do it before anybody else begins.”
You can imagine, when a thousand people begin to sell, what a slump takes place. The money market is the key to the stock market. They who control the money rate control also the stock rate. Stocks began to tumble right and left. Many stop-loss orders were uncovered. Prices sagged point after point — thirty points in all. And every point meant one dollar in our pockets for every share we were dealing in.
People everywhere began to curse us. The air round about us three men was fire and sulphur. Men couldn't get money to carry on their business. Merchant princes, who had inherited the business from their fathers through several generations, lost
it now in a night. This was the time of the year when ordinarily money would flow out to the South and West to pay the farmers for the crops which they had been working all spring and summer to bring to harvest. But now that money couldn't flow, and so these farmers in a dozen states also began to hurl their curses at us. Many of them had been counting on the money from their crops to pay off mortgages. Some were driven from their
. homes, and their houses sold.
In fact, the curses got so loud after a while that I kind of got scared. I hadn't thought the thing would kick up such a rumpus. It almost looked as though our lives weren't safe. They might burn down my house over my head, or stab me on a
So I got out of the thing. My shirt fits close, but my skin fits closer. I told Gould and Fisk that I wasn't going to be with them in this lock-up deal any longer my life was too precious. If they chose to be dare-devils and stand out against a whole country rising up in wrath against them, they could do it. But for my part I was going to make my peace with my fellow men. So I released the money I was hoarding, and was glad to be out of the thing at last.
VEN though I drew out of this lock-up
deal, I got a good share of the blame.
In fact, people seemed to more than they did Gould and Fisk; because they said these other two were younger — were pupils of mine. And that I was chargeable for getting them into these plundersome habits, as they called it. If I had ever cared much for the speech of people, I suppose I'd have taken the thing to heart.
But I never cared what people were saying, so long as they didn't do anything but talk. Talking doesn't hurt. You can pass it by. This lockingup of greenbacks had netted us so fine a penny that we could afford to stand a lot of abuse. Besides, the people whose money we had got were not able to get back at us. We were protected from lawsuits by means of our standing in with Tweed and his crowd. We were also able, because of this political influence, to show the people who were all the time reviling us that we were pretty powerful in New York City and were not to be abused.
There, for instance, was that man Bowles, who owned a sheet up in Springfield. He had been