|Date(s):||July 30, 1897|
|Tag(s):||Economy, Government, Law|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
Bristol County seemed to be up in arms in late July of 1897. A systematic counterfeiting scheme had been unearthed, occurring for almost five years. The scheme got its start in Scott County, Virginia five years prior when Clion Berry of Tennessee was arrested for counterfeiting money. He was subsequently released, changed his name and moved to Duffield. While in this location, Berry spent time with a young man that he introduced as his son answering to the name of Canady. Berry spent about two weeks at this location and then fled to which his whereabouts were unknown. Canady, on the other hand, moved to Bristol County where he soon married one of Doc Clendenen's daughters and became a striker in the Doc's blacksmith shop. Soon after he began working with Doc Clendenen, the materials for counterfeiting money were found in his possession. Subsequently, he skipped town moving to Tennessee. Clendenen and other members of his family were arrested and charged. Detectives and police were still looking for Canady. The money that was being counterfeited by Canady was almost an exact replica of the legitimate money used at the time. It had the exact same appearance and weight as the real currency, but the only thing missing was the correct ring around the coin.
The occurrences of counterfeit money in the South highlights the even greater banking issue that arose during the Reconstruction period. At the conclusion of the Civil War, each bank of issue and currency developed under the Confederacy was made worthless. The North, in order to unify the country, began to create a national banking system and specifically set aside national bank charters specifically for the South. However, many of the people in charge at the time allowed for the New England capitalist to not only take their share of the national banking system, but the South's as well, leaving the South without any charters for national banks and an authorized money circulation that was exhausted. As a result of the move towards national banks, the South was unable to use their state banks as a channel of relief. Also, because of the unequal distribution of the national charters, the South was left without the benefits of the nationalized banking system. For Hugh McClulloch, the secretary of the treasury, the South needed to be given proper national banking systems. He believed that this was an essential step towards a sound and stable financial program for the entire nation.
Perhaps the creation and subsequent use of counterfeit money was in response to the greater currency problems seen in the South during the Reconstruction period. Because the South was not able to enjoy the benefits of the national banking system as readily as the north, the alternative was to counterfeit money in order to have the currency needed to survive economically.