South Sea Company

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The South Sea Company was a British joint-stock company founded in 1711 as a public-private partnership. The Company's headquarters were located on Threadneedle Street in the City of London. The stock price crashed disastrously in 1720. The company continued unsuccessfully until 1853 when all of the existing South Sea Company's existing annuities were either redeemed or converted into stock owned by the British government.


  • The South Sea Company survived for many decades after the catastrophe which threatened its very existence. Its efforts to establish itself as a trading company were, however, singularly unfortunate. For the Greenland Whale Fishery fitted out in 1728 fitted out twenty-three ships, which returned with only the blubber and fins of eighteen whales.
  • The South-Sea Company was originated by the celebrated Harley Earl of Oxford, in the year 1711, with the view of restoring public credit, which had suffered by the dismissal of the Whig ministry, and of providing for the discharge of the army and navy debentures, and other parts of the floating debt, amounting to nearly ten millions sterling. ... Even at this early period of its history the most visionary ideas were formed by the company and the public of the immense riches of the eastern coast of South America. Every body had heard of the gold and silver mines of Peru and Mexico; every one believed them to be inexhaustible, and that it was only necessary to send the manufactures of England to the coast to be repaid a hundredfold in gold and silver ingots by the natives.
  • When the South Sea Bubble burst, a passionate member of the British Parliament called for the application of the Lex Pompeia on Parricides to those who had defrauded the nation. Just as the Romans, he argued, face to face with a monstrous and unprecedented crime, devised for it a monstrous and unprecedented punishment, so the British were invited to tie the directors of the South Sea Company into sacks with a dog, a cock, a viper and an ape in each, and sink them in the Thames.

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