Exhibition: George White, Barings' Troubleshooter

4: Return to Argentina

On 7 January 1857 White received his formal instructions to proceed to Buenos Aires in on the ship Tamar. White was being sent to grapple again with that vexed 25-year old problem of the still unpaid 1824 Buenos Aires bonds.

You must exercise your discretion in urging upon the minister such improvements in the original proposals as may be put forward with hopes of success and without endangering the chance of a definite conclusion - Barings to White, August 1857

Following an eventful voyage to Argentina White arrived in Buenos Aires to find that more formal diplomacy had already been completed and a solution seemed at hand. The country’s financial position had been transformed since his 1852/53 visit and was now ‘very favourable’ with a ‘handsome balance in the treasury’ and the revenue for 1857 ‘likely to be very large’.

For White, Buenos Aires was a brilliant success. He threw himself in to the negotiations taking a low profile as possible as the Buenos Aires government would have preferred to have sorted out matters by correspondence. By October, he was triumphant: "I have come to an arrangement which is certainly better than I had expected to make and which certainly ought to satisfy all parties interested. The government were certainly pleased that the improvement of the terms should appear to come spontaneously from themselves and take the form of a graceful concession rather than of a constrained compliance with demands from the bondholders…". White returned a hero and was rewarded with a £1,000 bonus, ten times his usual bonus amount.

The first inkling of White's next adventure came in a letter from David Robertson, chairman of the Spanish American bondholders to Thomas Baring. Robertson had been hugely impressed by White's performance in Buenos Aires. He hoped White's "so very modest and unassuming" manner would not have stood in the way of him recounting to the partners their recent conversation "about a very important point. Could we not have him appointed English commissioner in Mexico for the statement of British claims?" Of course Barings' partners were happy to oblige and White was off on his travels again.

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