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John Law
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    (April 21, 1671-March 21, 1729)
    Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
    Wrote ‘Money and Trade Considered, with a Proposal for Supplying the Nation with Money’ (1705)
    Established the Banque Generale, effectively the first central bank of France (1716)
    Appointed Controller General of Finances of France (1720)
    He killed Beau Wilson in a duel over the affections of Elizabeth Villiers (April 9, 1694).
    After his sentence was commuted from death to imprisonment, he escaped from jail and fled to Amsterdam.
    In return for the Banque General taking responsibility for the French national debt, he was granted a monopoly on trade in North America and the West Indies through a joint-stock company, the Mississippi Company.
    He greatly exaggerated the amount of wealth being produced in French Louisiana, leading to massive speculation as share prices in the Mississippi Company rose from 500 livres to 15,000 livres in barely a year.
    The speculation also caused hyperinflation, with food prices rising over 20% each month.
    When the speculative bubble burst (May, 1720), it resulted in the collapse of both the Mississippi Company and the Banque Generale.
    He fled Paris in the dead of night to escape angry crowds of ruined investors.
    He died broke after an unsuccessful run at gambling.
    He was described as charming and elegant.
    His policy of issuing paper money through the Banque General succeeded at stimulating trade and employment until he tangled the Banque up with the Mississippi Company.
    As Controller General, he initiated several reforms, including breaking up large land holdings to benefit the peasants, eliminating internal road and canal tolls, and offering low-interest loans to new industries.

Credit: C. Fishel

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