A Full and Impartial Account of the Company of Mississippi, Otherwise called the French East-India Company. Projected and Settled by Mister Law


John Law was a Scottish financier and adventurer who was also an authority on banking and the circulation of money. He convinced the regent of France, Philippe d’Orléans, that he could liquidate the French government’s debt by a system of credit based on paper money. In 1716 he launched the Banque générale, which had the authority to issue notes. The following year he founded the Compagnie d’Occident (Company of the West), the capital for which was raised by the sale of 500-livre shares, payable only in government notes. The first shares were called “mothers,” then, aided by the initial success, came the “daughters” and the “granddaughters.” Using advertisements and public relations in which he presented the Mississippi as a land of plenty, Law generated extraordinary enthusiasm for his scheme. In exchange for obtaining the trade monopoly for Louisiana, the Company of the West had to provide for the colony’s defense—the upkeep of fortifications and troops and gifts to the Indians. It also had to transport to the colony, over the next 25 years, 6,000 colonists and 3,000 African slaves. In 1719, the Company of the West acquired several other overseas companies (including the Senegal, East Indies, and China companies) to form the Compagnie des Indes (Company of the Indies). The issue of excessive quantities of bank notes weakened confidence, however, and Law’s system collapsed. Law was ruined and fled to Brussels in December 1720. This small, bilingual volume, with French and English texts on facing pages, was published in London in 1720, just before the collapse of Law’s economic system. The volume emphasized the spectacular rise of the Company of the West and the effect of its stocks on the economy of the entire Kingdom of France. The work includes a description of the Mississippi Country and an account of the discoveries by Louis Jolliet (1645‒1700) and Robert Cavelier de La Salle (1643‒87).

Last updated: November 20, 2015