By in Books

Bidwell's Travels The Stolen Bonds

Bidwell is on the Primrose Path

I have skipped a fair bit of the story now and have summarised this below.

Bidwell has now lost all his money from his first venture into commerce. He owes a lot of money and his creditors are pressing for payment. He has fallen in with a corrupt police force in New York and they want him to do an illegal job for them, selling bonds in Europe. He doesn't want to sink into poverty and although he doesn't want to do anything illegal, he also doesn't want to be poor. At this point he says to the corrupt police officers "By Heaven I want money". This is the illustration. At this point, the police know they have got him into corruption.

There is some discussion of how bonds came into being (to pay for the war of 1861) and the first robbery (The Lord Bonds) and the corrupt police trying to get the bonds taken to Europe to be sold. Bonds were labelled "pay to bearer" and were the equivalent of cash in hand.

Now Continue the story

They told me many amusing lies as to how the securities came into their
possession, and as to who were the rightful owners. The truth was, as I
afterward learned, they were a part of the stolen Lord bonds.

Bonds issued by our Government and held in Europe, chiefly in Holland
and Germany, were so enormous in volume and passed so freely from hand
to hand, that it was easy for a well-dressed, business-appearing man
to sell any quantity, even if stolen, as by law the innocent holder could
not be deprived of them. One great advantage a dishonest man had at that
date in Europe, especially an American, was that if he dressed well they
considered he must be a gentleman, and if he had money that was a proof
of respectability--one they never thought of questioning, nor how he
came by it; then, again, it was an article of their creed that all
Americans are rich.

The next morning (Tuesday), Irving met me near the Exchange, and, with
some trepidation, drew from an inner pocket an envelope containing the
thousand-dollar bond. Without waiting to examine it, I walked off,
saying: "I'll be back in ten minutes." He was evidently alarmed, and,
like all rogues, suspicious of every one. He probably had some wild idea
that I was laying a trap for him. In his ignorance of money methods
he thought it would be a long, perhaps difficult, negotiation to borrow
money on the bond, but, of course, I made short work of it; and "Jimmy"
was more than delighted when within the ten minutes I walked in with ten
one hundreds in my hand. A trifle like this made a great impression upon
Irving, and from that time on I had his entire confidence. Tuesday
evening I said good-bye to my mother, merely remarking in explanation of
my journey that I had a commission given me to execute in Europe.

Leaving her, I went to our rendezvous, near Broadway and Astor place,
where I found Irving, who handed me over his "boodle" (as he termed
it), remarking confidentially that I was to give him on my return his
share into his own hands; and, singularly enough, each of the others did
precisely the same thing. About 11 o'clock the other two came in, and
after some parley White handed over his bonds, and Stanley informed me
he would give me his on board before the steamer sailed the next
morning. I had already paid my bill and sent my baggage over to Jersey
City, so about midnight I set out, they accompanying me as far
as the ferry, and there, after shaking hands a half dozen times, we said
good-bye. Having bought my ticket and engaged my cabin, I went direct to
the steamer and went to bed. In the morning Stanley appeared and gave me
his bonds. Ten minutes later the hawsers were cast off and we were
steaming down the bay. Two hours later Fire Island sank beneath the
horizon, and we were alone on the sea.

Alone on the sea!

Image Credit » This is in the public domain

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VinceSummers wrote on August 19, 2022, 8:08 PM

At first, it seems like a simple thing to do something wrong. But after a while, the nature of the wrong can increase in frequency and severity. After a while, that person can see his behavior as the correct choice.

Today, some think certain crimes do not harm any particular person. They no longer see the wrong as being all that wrong. Wrong conduct can be enticing, later, intoxicating.

MegL wrote on August 20, 2022, 3:51 AM

Yes, it seems to be that first step, from knowing something is wrong and choosing not to do it, to actually doing it. Once that first step has been "overcome", the next step down the primrose path is much easier.