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  • "The Panick has destroyed business"
  • "The Panick has destroyed business"
On December 17, 1860, a Baltimore merchant informed a tobacco merchant in Henry County that the unsettled political situation had created a financial crisis.
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    Merchants discuss unsettled business conditions
  • "Less hopeful than we were"
  • "We are now short of Cash"
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"The Panick has destroyed business"

John P. Pleasants and Sons to Benjamin Franklin Gravely, December 17, 1860, Gravely Family Papers, Acc. 34126, Library of Virginia.

John P. Pleasants and Sons, a mercantile house in Baltimore, informed Henry County merchant Benjamin Franklin Gravely that the unsettled political situation in the country had created a financial crisis because banks were unwilling to extend credit to businesses or to accept at face value notes drawn on other banks. Three days before South Carolina seceded from the Union, Pleasants wrote that he regarded "the present aspect of political matters as more unpromising than they have, heretofore, been, but he cannot think otherwise than that some adjustment will be effected." Many Virginia merchants and tobacco dealers had longstanding business relationships, such as that between Pleasants and Gravely, with firms outside the South.

Letter from the Baltimore mercantile house of John P. Pleasants and Sons to Henry County merchant Benjamin Franklin Gravely, December 17, 1860. Gravely Family Papers, Acc. 34126, Library of Virginia.

Balto. 17th Decb 1860
Mr B. F. Gravely
Leatherwood
Henry County
Va.
Dear Sir
 This morning, we recd. yours of the 10th inst.—You were fortunate in getting the exchange, as by waiting a few days longer you would have been obliged to pay a high premium—The 15 3/4 boxes "J. Thomas" Viz. have been recd.—
Were we to force sales of Tobacco, now, it would scarcely bring half as much as it did in Octbr—The Panick has destroyed business & until a settlement is effected of the existing difficulties, we can see no prospect for its revival. Some despair of the Union—The writer regards the present aspect of political matters as more unpromising than they have, heretofore, been, but he cannot think otherwise than that some adjustment will be effected—You are the only one of our correspondents on whom we have called for remittances & we do so on you not only because we have been most liberal to you, but also by reason of our having more confidence in your judgement & discretion, as well as your disposition to serve us.
One cause of the present high rate of exchange in Va., & probably the chief cause, is that the banks are obliged to remit to N. York to pay the interest on the state bonds due 1st Jany—
After that time, it will probably be lower both on N. York &Balto.—Our payments in Jany. are large—We, therefore, request that you will draw on us for $2000.00 at 4 mos. from 28th Decbr & $2000.00 at 4 mos. from 5th Jany.—Get these drafts discounted, & remit to us the proceeds about the 5th to 6th Jany in exchange on Balto. or N. York, if the latter can be had at a difference of not over more than two pr ct. above Balto. exchange.
Meantime let us hear from you—
Dont buy any leaf Tobacco before spring—We think by holding off, you will have a chance of buying very low—No commission houses can accept until there is a renewal of demand & many manufrs, we think, will have to quit
We do not think of advancing this winter
Yours Truly
John P. Pleasants & Sons