22 August 2010

American History, Poetry and the Bond Market

To the Pennsylvanians

Days undefiled by luxury or sloth,
Firm self-denial, manners grave and staid,
Rights equal, laws with cheerfulness obeyed,
Words that require no sanction from an oath,
And simple honesty a common growth--
This high repute, with bounteous Nature's aid,
Won confidence, now ruthlessly betrayed
At will, your power the measure of your troth!--
All who revere the memory of Penn
Grieve for the land on whose wild woods his name
Was fondly grafted with a virtuous aim,
Renounced, abandoned by degenerate Men
For state-dishonour black as ever came
To upper air from Mammon's loathsome den.

- William Wordsworth (in response to his losses on Pennsylvania state bonds when it defaulted on them).

This isn't the first financial crisis that the United States has experienced. In the 1830s, we had a similar one that even inspired the poem above by William Wordworth. This history is spelled out here.

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