[C6] "Our Talisman, No. 6," Spirit of the Times, Jan. 26, 1842: A Rich Scene in the Board of Discounts

Our Talisman, No. 6


            Flib came in yesterday at noon in a hurry.

            "I've been to bank, sir, I have."

            "Well sir."

            "The poor young gentleman in black, sir, was used all up to a grease spot.  Pooh!  What a beautiful fuss was kicked up.  They're going to kill you sir, and boil me down, and make red ink of me, sir, they are."

            "Indeed! Why they are sanguinary."

            "Oh! yes, the gentleman in black had Portly, Big Nose, Anti-loco, Sharp-face, the Great Warrior, Pale-face, Benignant, and the Tailor, all on him at once; and even that tother quiet gentleman what the Legislature sent, gave him a sly dig."

            "You don't say so?"

            "Don't I! but here's the document, sir," and he handed us two or three pages full of pot-hooks, which he averred contained an accurate account of the proceedings of the Board of Directors of the — Bank, as they took place on Monday morning last.  We translate them for the benefit of the unlearned reader.

            "I rubbed the ring and became invisible, entered the chamber, and took a seat facile for observation.  The table was surrounded by the Board as usual.  Benignant was in a profound reverie, and I quietly wrote out his reflections.

            "There," thought he, "is that note for $3500, that I should have offered to-day.  Let me see.  That will make about thirty thousand dollars I have borrowed on 200 shares of stock.  Good!  That's a devilish neat transaction.  If I had to sell the stock—let me see—200 times 40 is 8000; yes, it would only bring eight thousand dollars.  By and by the stock may get lower—then I can borrow more, and if I can borrow in the same proportion on it, why the whole concern may go to the dickens, and it will prove a very snug transaction for me.  But I must watch that young gentleman in black, for he is so infernally officious I'm afraid he will protest against my note, as well as other people's.

            "By-the-bye," he added, "I must not forget my relations.  Little Charley must have $1500, and Bill $1000.  They must be pretty lively about it too, for that Locofoco paper the Times is making such a noise about us, the Directors won't be able to get a dollar for themselves before long.  They'll have to give it all to the nasty dirty mechanics and tradesmen."

            Here I saw that copies of the Times were scattered about the room in all directions, and to judge from the way in which the Directors first looked at them, and then at the young gentleman in black, it was evident that some juvenile thunder was in preparation for his especial benefit.

            "Come to order, gentlemen," said the President.

            The usual routine of discounting now commenced.  Big-Nose whispered to a companion, "We must do a number of small notes to-day.  The 'Times' has exposed us to the Legislature.  The members are writing down to us about it.  You understand."

            His companion put his dexter thumb significantly to his sinister optic, as much as to say "green cheese is ridiculous," and was silent.

            Note after note was passed of moderate amount.  Some large ones then came up.  The gentleman in black "protested."  He said he didn't honestly consider them entitled to consideration.  I peeped over his shoulders to se what notes they were.  I read—10mo 5th—6mo's                   HJ&Co, H&B.  H&B,            $1752 00

Nov. 12—5mo's          LJ&Son, FA&Co, BP,            2741 17

July 24—9mo's           P&B, LC&P, WDF&Co, 1     580 66

Dec. 13—4mo's          HC&Co, NC, RC,                   1715 00


$7788 83

            I perceived that some other large notes that were handed out were motioned back by the Cashier, he observing that the gentleman in black had his eye upon him, and was bent upon Protesting against the discount of paper for shaving purposes.  These large notes no doubt went back for consideration at some select "Wistar party."

            The notes once removed, debate began.  The Protest I gave in my last account, was handed in, and such a scene followed!

            "It can't go on the minutes," one said.

            "It shan't, by the bones of my grandmother!" said another.

            Anti-loco arose, and said the protest in its first reason, contained a falsehood, and he quibbled like vengeance to prove it, because the copy of it in the "Times," differed in two words from the original.

            "Go it my boy!" cheered Portly.

            "That's your sort," eschewed sharp-face.

            "Give it to him—he's got no friends," thundered the Big Warrior.

            "Sir," continued Anti-loco, "I'm always willing to do what is right, and far be it from me to object to the course of the young gentleman in black, if he chooses to make a fool of himself!  Why don't he follow our example, and go in for the fat of the land, while any is left."

            "If he don't hurry there'll be none left," sighed Benignant.

            "I always take care of No. 1," said the Tailor.

            "Gentlemen," said Big-Nose, "I rise filled with the deepest emotions.  (Here he blew his nose.)  For five-and-twenty years I have had the honor of being associated with this bank.  There have been a great many State Directors sent here during that time—men of noble natures—men who scorned to betray a secret.  ALL KINDS OF STATE DIRECTORS HAVE UNITED WITH US, (one of the present Directors being the only exception,) and all have exhibited that attachment to their own and our interests, which would induce men to stand shoulder to shoulder in times of difficulty.  But gentlemen, an individual who, by boring the Legislature, has again become a State Director here, is about exhibiting those radical, diabolical, abominable, I may even say ridiculous notions, which annoyed us so three years ago.  Gentlemen, he then opposed a resolution to suspend specie payments—an offence that should ever condemn him in the eyes of all prudent bank directors."

            "Oh! oh! oh! oh!" groaned all the directors.

            "Gentlemen," continued the speaker, "havn't we all managed this bank for 20 or 30 years, and haven't we proved our ability to do it well, by reducing its stock from 120 to 40 dollars a share?   Don't we move with the times?  Ain't everything going down, and shouldn't our stock go down too?"

            "Gentlemen; within the last few days, paragraphs have appeared in that abominable, but witty, original and interesting newspaper, the 'Spirit of the Times,' which have exposed all our doings.  To be sure some of our intentions were perverted, but the statements ARE SO NEAR THE TRUTH AS TO CONVINCE AT THE FIRST GLANCE!

            "Gentlemen, if this thing goes on, if our little secrets are to be exposed this way to the public, and the modus operandi of note-discounting uncovered to the vulgar gaze, it will naturally destroy the institution—I say, gentlemen, solemnly and emphatically, destroy the institution!"

            "Oh! oh! oh!" groaned the Directors again, in concert.

            "It won't do," he continued. "A representation must be made to the Legislature; and if that won't do, we must address the Governor.  At any rate, gentlemen, the young man in black must be turned out of the bank."

            It was now moved that the observation of Anti-loco, which declared the "Protest" to be false, should go upon the minutes.

            The gentleman in black opposed it.  He was willing to withdraw the first part of the protest about the "yeas and nays," but would not withdraw the whole Protest.  The rest of the Directors vowed they would "make him out a liar," and then nobody would believe his statements.

            "The Protest is already made public," said the President.  "Where—how?" said the gentlemen.  "It is in the Times," replied the President, "and every body reads that racy paper.  Who wrote those articles?"

            "You did," said Big-Nose.

            "You know you did," wheezed Sharp-face.

            "Flib did," whispered Benignant.

            "I dare say a reward of five or six hundred dollars would find the author," said the gentleman in black.

            "Bribery and corruption," cried out somebody.

            "These articles are scandalous," said the President—and then reflecting that even Big-Nose in his speech had said that they "WERE SO NEAR THE TRUTH AS TO CONVINCE AT FIRST GLANCE," he stopped short.

            "They are very naughty," observed the other State director.

            "How much do you owe the bank?" asked his colleague.

            Here a violent discussion arose.  All spoke at once.  High words ensued.  I smelt powder, and was about to "cut stick," when a letter addressed to the "Chairman of the Committee on Banks" attracted my attention.  I looked in it.  It was the old song.

            "Mr. A, can you pay me my little bill?"

            "Why, call on Wednesday next, and then—I'll tell you when to call again."

            So the banks won't resume yet awhile.  That's all, I'll visit the bank again on Thursday.