The London Stock Exchange – Principal Stock

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We had a ‘dig’ around in our library on the history of the London Stock Exchange and discovered this interesting article which we will publish in several parts over the next few days – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Stock Exchange

Read other posts in the London series

The London Stock Exchange – Principal Stock

In the Stock Exchange great pains are taken to exclude improper persons, and no one is allowed to transact business there unless admitted a member by ballot. Four days a week the commissioners for the redemption of the national debt attend to purchase stock.

The principal stock is the three per cent, consols, which amount to upwards of 365 millions. The  price of this stock has fluctuated in a singular manner during the last ninety years. In the month of July 1736, it was at 113; in February 1746, at 75; in 1752, at 106; and it continued at various prices, from 70 to 100, until the year 1778. The greatest and most sudden depression that the stocks ever experienced was in the early period of the French revolutionary war. In the month of March [1792] the three per cents, were at 96, and in 1797 they were as low as 48, which is the minimum. Although they had gradually declined every year from the commencement of the war, yet this great depression was owing to the Bank suspending its cash-payments.

As the funds are necessarily much affected by political events, individuals who possess prior or exclusive intelligence will at any time be enabled to speculate with great success. A broker, who, by means of an intelligent Frenchman, with whom he became casually acquainted, obtained the first information of the failure of Lord Macartney’s negotiation with the French Directory, made £16,000 while breakfasting at Batson’s coffee-house, and had he not been timid might have gained half a million; so great was the fluctuation owing to the intelligence being quite unexpected. As real events affect the funds, many efforts have been made to produce the same result by false rumours, and that with great success. The most memorable instance of this was on the 21st of Feb 1815, when a Mr. Random de Berenger, in concert with some stock-jobbing gentlemen, played a singular hoax on the Stock Exchange. Mr. De Berenger had gone to Dover, and personated a French officer just landed with despatches, announcing that in a late action Bonaparte had been killed. After writing to Admiral Foley at Deal, who would have telegraphed the Admiralty had not the foggy weather prevented it, De Berenger set off in a post-chaise to town, drove rapidly past the Royal Exchange spreading the news, which had such an effect that Omnium rose nearly five per cent. The trick was afterwards discovered, and Lord Cochrane, Mr. Butt, and De Berenger were indicted for a conspiracy. They were found guilty; when Lord Cochrane and Mr. Butt were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, and to pay a fine of £1000 each. De Berenger and some others were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment, and the Hon. Cochrane Johnstone, who was also indicted, quitted the country. This severe example has not been without benefit, as it is the last great attempt at fabricating false news that has been made, though minor rumours are circulated daily.

A singular custom, worthy only of the cupidity and intolerance of a barbarous age, is connected with the Stock Exchange. The number of Jew brokers admitted is limited to twelve, and these only on condition of purchasing the privilege by a liberal gratuity to the lord mayor for the time being. During the mayoralty of Wilkes, one of the Jew brokers was taken seriously ill, and his lordship is said to have calculated pretty openly on the advantage he would derive from filling up the expected vacancy. The son of the broker meeting the lord mayor, reproached him with wishing his father’s death. “My dear fellow” said Wilkes, with that sarcastic humour which was peculiar to him, “you are completely in error, for I would rather all the Jew-brokers were dead? than your father.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The London Stock Exchange on Wikipedia

The London Stock Exchange Website