Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/385

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of physics and mathematics might not open their courses by conceding the insecurity of the fundamental principles of their sciences with just as much propriety as the professor of biology.




Recent writers upon the subject of commercial manias usually indulge in congratulations over the fact that the world is grown more wise; that the mental aberrations of our day are less marked than those of earlier times; that, for example, the absurd Dutch tulip-mania, Law's wild Mississippi scheme in France, and the South-Sea bubble in England, find no parallel in these days of greater intelligence and self-control; that the time has gone by when a sharper could clear $10,000 in five hours by selling shares in "a company for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is!"

It is probably true that our tendencies are not quite so rabid as those of our fathers, but we hold on bravely to some of their worst follies. It was only at the last session of Congress that the advocates of an unlimited issue of irredeemable paper were strong enough to prevent any steps being taken toward resumption. It was but the other day that the progressive Commonwealth of Massachusetts chose as a representative B. F. Butler, who declares that the "progressive" dollar is a paper dollar so issued that it can never be redeemed. The absorbing interest of a presidential election has hushed somewhat the clamor for the interconvertible note scheme—which is to pay all debts, public and private, and make everybody easy without costing anybody anything but, had all those who still fully sympathize with the financial imbecility of Mr. Peter Cooper voted for him, the old gentleman would have had a very different showing in the official count. Nor are there lacking concrete examples of credulity which rival any of the exhibitions of former generations. A case in point is now running its course in Spain.

A woman has opened a bank in Madrid for deposits in sums of a hundred dollars and upward, on which she pays interest as follows: twenty per cent. on receiving the deposit, twenty per cent. at the end of the first, second, and third months, and then at the expiration of the fourth month, when eighty per cent. has been already paid, she reimburses the entire sum lent. The payments thus far have been regularly made, and the public are flocking in crowds with their money, the deposits now amounting to several millions of francs. The bankers and savings banks are being drained of their deposits by this extraordinary traffic. Hours before the bank opens in the morning hundreds of depositors collect, and the presence of the police is necessary to preserve order. In this case "nobody is to know" how the money is employed, and on that point contrary rumors prevail; some assert that the capital is used in working mines of fabulous wealth; others, that the woman is an agent of the Government, adding that it is thus procuring money on more advantageous terms than with its regular bankers! The true explanation will not be long withheld, unless the police interfere to prevent her running off with her plunder. This is almost a precise repetition of a case which took place in enlightened Germany four years ago—the Spitzeder affair of Munich. In this case enormous sums were confided to a woman banker, who lived in opulence, squandering the money of her depositors, and, as she could not repay them, she was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. Her time expired some months ago, and the likeness of the transactions at Madrid to her operations at Munich is strong enough to suggest a common origin.

These cases appear still more re-