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Echoes of the Week

The Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1184, p. 77.

January 17, 1863


It is not often that people make us pecuniary presents; but happening to be the other day in Paris with a Northern-American friend--a "Black Republican," pur sang--he made us a New-Year's gift of a bank-note. It bore neither the honoured signature of the cashiers of the Bank of England nor France; but it was, nevertheless, a legitimate public security, immediately convertible--in its native land bien entendu--for the amount stated on its face We should have very much liked to engrave this note for the Illustrated London News, but, failing the burin, the pen must serve out turn. Imagine, then, a diminutive parallelogram of yellow, gritty paper two inches long, by an inch and a quarter broad, containing in the centre a medallion portrait of George Washington, with the numeral "5," on either side, and the initials "U.S." beneath. Within an elaborately-executed border, the following inscription appeared:--"Postage currency. Furnished only by the assistant-treasurers and designated depositories of the United States. Receivable for postage-stamps at any post office." The back bore a larger medallion, with a fat "5," surrounded by twelve smaller ones. The value of this bank or governmental postage note was five cents, or twopence halfpenny sterling.

As we fingered the queer little coupon our thoughts reverted to the revolutionary assignats current during the Reign of Terror, and which were sold until recently, as curiosities, by the old man who kept the printstall beneath the portcullised arch at the Bibliothèque Impérial, in the Rue Richelieu. And then we recalled to mind the fourpenny and sixpenny notes which were issued in Austria in the troublous days of '48, to say nothing of the innumerable "shinplasters," "bogus," and "wild-cat" notes emitted in the various American crises, and our own tradesman's tokens, one-pound notes. Likewise did a certain Russian rouble note present itself to our memory--a note given us in change by an hotel-keeper, and so greasy, or rotten, and so tattered that it was ensconced in a pasteboard frame for safety. After all, we thought, "money is money;" and so long as the Federal Government forbears to apply the sponge to its obligations a pocket-book full of these little postage parallelograms is as valuable in degree as a bundle of the crispest "fivers" that Mr. Ferraby or Mr. Gattie ever signed, or as a portemonnaie overflowing with napoleons and gold eagles.

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