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Gunboats, Reputation, and Sovereign Repayment: Lessons from the Southern Confederacy

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  • Marc Weidenmier

Abstract

Many states that formed the Southern Confederacy defaulted on sovereign debt sold in international capital markets during the 1840s. The Confederacy also elected President Jefferson Davis, who openly advocated the repudiation of U.S. states' debts while a member of Congress. Despite its poor credit record, the Confederate government managed to float cotton bonds in England that constituted under two percent of its expenditures. The bonds were largely issued to settle overdue debts with gun contractors who had cut off trade credit. The South serviced the bonds as late as March 1865, a time of domestic hyperinflation and weeks before the fall of Richmond. Although the Confederate experience shows that trade sanctions can promote debt repayment, the gunboat model can only account for a small amount of lending. A reputation or another type of sanction would be necessary to support higher levels of lending in international capital markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Marc Weidenmier, 2004. "Gunboats, Reputation, and Sovereign Repayment: Lessons from the Southern Confederacy," NBER Working Papers 10960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10960
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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen Quinn, 2008. "Securitization of Sovereign Debt: Corporations as a Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism in Britain, 1694-1750," Working Papers 200701, Texas Christian University, Department of Economics.

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    JEL classification:

    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • N2 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions

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