Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/238

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230 Snilnrii Historical Society P<i/ rs.

[From the Raleigh Ne-vs and Observer, February, 1896.]

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN.

An Incident in the Financial History of the Confederate States.

The success which the government has met in negotiating its recent loan brings to mind an incident in the financial history of the late Confederacy not generally known, and which may be interesting and instructive to recall. In the winter of 1862-' 63 the Confederate Congress decided to place a loan of $10,000,000 on the European market. The French financier who came over here to confer with the authorities at Richmond, Va., in the matter strongly urged upon Mr. Memminger, the Secretary of the Treasury, and upon the joint committee of the Congress the advisability of making the loan one or two or five hundred millions stating that it would be entirely practicable to negotiate such a loan ; and gave as a reason that it would be most desirable to get his country and other European States financially interested in the Confederate cause.

As the payment of the loan was to be contingent upon the success of the South, those thus financially interested could be expected to exert an influence favorable to the Confederacy, and might force their respective governments to recognize the independence of the Southern States and lend them valuable aid as a means of securing the repayment of their money thus subscribed.

It appears that Secretary Memminger favored the suggestion of the French banker, but that Congress decided to adhere to its first determination; and in February, 1863, the loan was placed on the Paris Bourse.

When the result was announced it astonished Europe, and con- victed the Confederate authorities of a failure in statesmanship. Bids amounting to more than $400,000,000 were made.

It is idle now to speculate as to what effect on the prosecution of the war the investment of so large a sum of money by the people of France in the fortunes of the Confederacy would have had; but it is entirely possible that the Emperor Napoleon III would have been obliged to recognize the political authority of the Southern States when his countrymen evinced in a way so remarkable their supreme confidence in the ability of the Confederacy to obtain their independence. Recognized by one of the great Powers of Europe,