#FromtheArchives - US Civil War Finance

This time on #FromtheArchives we are featuring a selection of documents used by one of The Baring Archive's regular researchers.

Dr David Thomson, Assistant Professor of History at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut has recently published a book "Bonds of War: How Civil War Financial Agents Sold the World on the Union." We asked David to highlight some of the sources in the Baring Archive that he found invaluable and used in his book.

David has been a regular visitor to the Baring Archive since 2013 and has consulted many volumes of Barings' House Correspondence, a series of records which begins around 1830. Each year a deed box was opened to hold letters that related to the most important transactions managed by Barings in the previous year. The letters were bundled up in the deed boxes according to their geographical area of origin.

The North American House Correspondence (HC5) was an obvious place to start for David when he first visited the archive. One memorable set of documents relates to the United States Funded Loan of 1873 - a refinancing of US Civil War debt (ref: HC5.6). The file includes a proposal for the formation of a European syndicate for this US loan. Also preserved are the draft prospectus of the loan, a draft of the contract between the members of the syndicate, calculations of fees and commission and copies of telegrams between London and New York concerning the progress of the operation.

Another significant series for David's research was Barings' correspondence relating to the Netherlands - in particular with Hope and Co (HC8.1). Hope & Co were a firm of Amsterdam bankers with whom Barings frequently formed syndicates to make bond issues simultaneously in London and Amsterdam. The papers in this series cover all aspects of the European capital markets and the entities borrowing in those markets between 1823 and 1903.

The Letter Books contain copies of letters sent out by Barings and enabled David to read the letters sent by Barings to their agents and clients. A complication was that some of these letters were removed by Dr Adam Shortt in 1926 and presented by Barings to the Canadian Government. Fortunately, the microfilm of the records, now housed at Library and Archives Canada, has been digitised and David could access the letters online.

Finally, David has accessed some records in the archive that are used much less frequently by researchers. The Securities Deposited Registers record bond certificates deposited with Barings by clients. These bond certificates were held by the bank until they were redeemed. One of the registers covers the period 1852 to 1870 (101852) and enabled David to find detailed evidence to support his thesis on the popularity of US security certificates with European investors.

The Letter Books have now been digitised and the Archive is working through the House Correspondence series with plans to digitise the North American correspondence in the near future enabling remote access to this important series of records.

Discover more:

Copy of a letter from Barings to Ward & Co regarding US Loan
Copy of a letter from Barings to Ward & Co regarding US Loan

Posted on Friday, 20th May 2022

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