CHAPTER XXII. The beginning and the end of my operations.
[figure description] Page 210.[end figure description]
On opening my instructions, I found that Mr.
Marisett had given me positive directions for the
purchase and disposition of cotton, and had left almost
nothing for the exercise of my judgment. I
was not displeased that it was so; for he had given
me abundant proof of his confidence, by placing
at my disposal an almost unlimited amount of
available funds, with which I was to pay for the
purchases I might make. He had also given me
letters to some of the principal houses in New
Orleans, but had enjoined me not to deliver them
unless I should have particular occasion to call on
the merchants to whom they were addressed.
When I left New York, many prudent merchants, -- 211 --
far-seeing or fearful, had already began to throw
out dark and ominous hints of an approaching
catastrophe in the mercantile world; croakers
there always are, who, in the brightest sunshine
can see a black cloud rising in the horizon; but
there was good cause at that time to anticipate a
fearful winding up in the affairs of the trading and
speculating world. Mr. Marisett, however, had
[figure description] Page 211.[end figure description]
no fears for himself; he had stood the shocks of a
great many revulsions in the commercial world,
and it was not a matter of especial wonder that he
deemed himself invincible. But an extraordinary
course of action in a quarter which hitherto had
produced only healthful influences, was surely
working to overwhelm thousands in inevitable ruin,
because they could not guard against evils which
precedent had given them no cause to anticipate.
Already had the anticipated crisis began to give
sigus of its nearness, which could not be misunderstood
when I arrived at New Orleans. There
seemed to be a dread of some overhanging calamity
in the minds of all with whom I conversed.
Men would meet together in the Exchange or on
the Levée, and shake their heads, or regard each
other with looks of suspicion or concern, and after
making some vague surmise, they would part to
encounter the same looks of distrust, and the same
surmises, in the next with whom they conversed.
But there was a strange, daring recklessness, mixed
up with all this despondency and apprehension.
They rushed into the wildest speculations, while
they were even looking for an unfavorable termination
of those in which they had already engaged.
It was impossible that I should mix long with -- 212 --
men whose looks, and acts, and talk, were all
[figure description] Page 212.[end figure description]
tinged with the dingy hue of despair, without becoming
in some measure similarly affected myself.
I continued to make purchases and new contracts
for cotton; but I wished that my orders had
not been so peremptory, for I was afraid that I
was bringing ruin upon my employer, and upon
myself, by acting up to the letter of his instructions.
But I knew that in matters of business,
success must depend upon implicit obedience of
orders; and I had no alternative. I was anxiously
expecting letters from New York, but none
came. Affairs, however, soon assumed such an
aspect, that I was compelled, of necessity, to
suspend all business operations. My funds consisted
of blank acceptances of Marisett & Co.,
which I had negociated without difficulty, as I had
occasion. One morning it was announced that
two or three of the most prominent houses had
suspended, and suddenly a panic seized upon the
minds of the whole people, such as had never
been known before, except when sudden fear has
struck upon the hearts of a city, from a convulsion
of nature, or the approach to its gates of a
The banks closed their doors with one accord, -- 213 --
and a simultaneous suspension followed among
all the merchants. Feeling the want of an
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adviser in this emergency, I called at the house of an
old merchant, a particular friend of Mr. Marisett's,
to whom he had given me a letter; but I encountered
there nothing but wailing and wo; he had,
but a few minutes before, nearly severed his
head from his body with a razor, and his gory
corpse lay stretched upon the floor, with his
distracted children weeping over him. This was
not a solitary case; many similar occurred almost
At last, the anxiously expected advices arrived
from New York, bringing with them accounts of
overturnings, failures, and distresses immeasurable.
The letter which I received was in Mr.
Marisett's own hand; it ran thus:
“New York,— —.
“Mr. H. Franco, New Orleans.
“Immediately on the receipt of this, you
will destroy all the blank acceptances of Marisett
and Co., which may remain in your hands.
Make no farther contracts of any description,
for account of our house, but hold yourself in
readiness to return to New York.
“Yours, &c.,Marisett & Co.”
This letter relieved my anxiety, in some -- 214 --
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degree, but I looked anxiously for further advices;
I was in a hurry to leave New Orleans. I was
not left many days in suspense, for I soon after
received the following letter from Mr. Bargin:
“Mr. H. Franco, New Orleans.
“Since our last, of the 28th ult., we have
come to the determination of stopping payment.
It may be necessary for us to make an assignment;
if so, we will advise you farther, and remain,
“Your obedient servants,
“Marisett & Co.”
I had never dreamed of the possibility of the
house of Marisett & Co. stopping payment; the
intelligence, therefore, of the fact, came upon me
with the suddenness and severity of a thunder
stroke; it stunned my faculties, and it was a long
while before I could fully comprehend that it was
real. My affection for Mr. Marisett alone, would
have roused all my sympathies; but in the fall of
the firm, my own towering hopes were all brought
to the ground. Love, ambition, and revenge,
were all laid low.
To be on the ground is nothing; but to fall
-- 215 --
there from a great height, is sometimes fatal.
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The next letter that I received was as follows:
“We are without any of your valued favors
since we acknowledged yours of the 14th.
You have already been informed of the stoppage
of our house; and I have now to inform you, that
in consequence of our Mr. Garvey having used
the name of the firm to a very great extent, in
his private land operations, our liabilities are
found greatly to exceed our assets. Our senior
partner, I am concerned to add, is completely
prostrated by this event, and unable to afford me
the aid which I require in adjusting the affairs of
the concern. All the circumstances considered, I
think it will be advisable for you to return to
New York as soon as you can bring matters to a
close at New Orleans.
“Cotton, I think, is now down to the lowest point
of depression, and a beautiful thing might be made
out of it if we had the means to go into an operation.
“Referring to copy of our last respects, enclosed,
“I remain, yours, &c.,
My worst fears were all realized; I could hope -- 216 --
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for nothing by returning to New York, but to encounter
the haughty scorn of my cousin in my altered
circumstances, and to be tortured by the
sight of Georgiana De Lancey; to know that she
loved me, and that an incurable fanaticism prevented
her from ever becoming mine.
The suddenness of the change which had taken
place in my prospects unsettled the fixed purpose
of my soul. The time had passed when I could
find relief in tears; the bitterness of my disappointments
was too great for grief. I began to
think of death. The recklessness of life, and the
daring of dissipation, which surrounded me on
every side, were infectious. It was an easy thing
to die; but to sustain the burden of life was a weary
I had a considerable sum of money still in my -- 217 --
possession, the proceeds of a draft which I had
discounted before receiving the advices from Mr.
Marisett, and I determined to take it with me to
the gambling house where I had seen Mr. Lummucks,
and try my fortune at the pharo table; if
I should be successful, then I would return to New
York, fearless of my cousin, and with at least one
of my desires gratified; and if I should lose, why
then I would rid myself at once of all my troubles.
I furnished myself with a pistol and ball, and
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-- 218 --
putting them in my pocket, took my money in my
hand, and left my hotel in search of the gambling
house in the Rue St. Louis.
Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 , The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 2 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v2].