Abstract

abstract:

In January 1731, the Pennsylvania General Assembly impeached William Fishbourn, the official responsible for managing the provincial paper currency, for misappropriating "diverse great sums of the public money bills of credit to his own use" and for staging a burglary to cover-up the embezzlement. Fishbourn was not the first colonial public servant to be charged with financial malfeasance, and he would not be the last accused of embezzling Pennsylvania's paper currency. He was, however, the first to be subjected to a lengthy and antagonistic audit that caught him out when he was unable to come up with the paper notes thought to be in his care. In the conduct of the audit and the subsequent inquiry into the alleged burglary, as well as in Fishbourn's defense, we glimpse the changing tenor of debate around the practice of public finance, the difficulties of managing a novel paper currency, and how provincial notes quickly became a powerful policy tool and political weapon in the increasingly vitriolic debates concerning provincial taxation, debt, and the balance of trade.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0895
Print ISSN
1543-4273
Pages
pp. 64-99
Launched on MUSE
2021-02-03
Open Access
No
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