Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Panic of 1819 (6)

Wall street, has always been the great financial centre of America, as well as the heart of Society's wealth. The most costly parties, and display of elegance at New York, Saratoga and Newport were all connected with stock operations. In Wall street you would find the most daring and shrewd intellect of the nation who could produce a panic in an instant and shake the world's foundation. It has been remarked that the men who did business in Wall street had a prematurely old look, and that they died at a comparatively early age. This was not strange. They lived too fast. Their bodies and minds were taxed too severely to last long. No man can tell one week whether he would be a beggar or a millionaire the next. While one man made a fortune by a sudden rise in stocks or gold, one thousand would be ruined. Even the soundest and best established firms fell with a crash under these sudden reverses.

The image of the once powerful, self-confident, successful men walking briskly to and fro is obviously replaced by one of nervous pacing, distress and cries of despair as they witness the crumbling of their world. "Once they had palatial mansions on Fifth avenue, and were the favorites of fortune." Now they have no future, no hope. They have fallen never to rise again. Persons who were once bankers, stock brokers and wealthy merchants, had suffered staggering losses during the numerous panics that affected our nation repeatedly leaving them completely penniless. Much of their failure was attributed to stock speculations, business deals gone wrong and extravagant living. Once known and respected among the world of prominent society, there were very few that would extend help or express sympathy for the ruined businessmen and their families. For these men and women who had only known wealth and comfort; the life of poverty was indeed an extremely devastating experience which they looked upon with an aversion. Unable to cope with their losses, there were those that suffered nervous breakdowns, heart attacks, or committed suicide, leaving their families financially unprotected and homeless.

Since 1819 the United States has experienced time after time, financial and industrial depressions more widespread and serious than the ones preceding it. Usually these would follow periods of speculation and abnormally inflated values. Banks, businesses, manufacturing plants and factories failing in large numbers. Money becoming extremely scarce. Farm and home foreclosures at an all time high. Unemployment? Inevitable for millions in the work force.

The fact is that each crisis with its unpleasant consequences culminates in "Hard Times" for the American people, and after a brief or long interval, the country manages to resume its former prosperity, ignoring the lessons of the past.............

Miriam Medina is the author of this article. If you would like to leave a comment, please contact:

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