'Philosophical speculation': - I
Letter from Disraeli to Thomas Mullett Evans, 9 May 1830
Dep. Hughenden 17/1, fols. 40r-1r
Disraeli returned from his tour of the Rhine reinvigorated but restless. Convinced his future lay outside a career in law, he abandoned his clerkship with Messrs Swain, Maples & Co. In appeasement to his father, Disraeli joined Meredith in studying for election to Lincoln's Inn. He was admitted in November 1824, but like his great political rival Gladstone, Disraeli was never called to the Bar. Instead he charted a more expeditious path in Stock Market speculation - a decision that left him financially infirm for the rest of his life.
Against a backdrop of crumbling Spanish imperialism, the silver and gold mines of the South American colonies presented City speculators with the promise of quick returns. Gripped by the furore of the global economic boom, Disraeli was determined not to miss out. He joined forces with a fellow solicitor's clerk, Thomas Evans, and Robert Messer - the son of a wealthy financier - who brokered most of their stock. The triumvirate enjoyed a promising start. Encouraged by John Powles, a leading City merchant (who Disraeli had met at Frederick's Place), they acquired shares in the Anglo-Mexican and Columbian Mining Associations. The value of their stock rose sharply, buoyed as 1824 closed, by the formal recognition of the republics' independence. Rather than realize his profit Disraeli looked to John Murray for further investment - a move that proved fatal. From February 1825 prices slumped, causing the three men's balance deficit to swell from under £400 (see Item 14b) to £7000 by June (Robert Blake, Disraeli (London, 1966), p. 25). Whilst half this loss was paid-off by Evans, precisely how much of the debt belonged to Disraeli is unclear. The sum in question however far overreached Disraeli's modest means - his only source of income coming from Murray (see Items 10 and 11).
By the City crash that December Disraeli and Evans owed Messer £2833 (Jane Ridley, The Young Disraeli: 1804-1846 (London, 1995), p. 41). Here, writing to Evans in May 1830 - on the eve of his trip to the East, Disraeli shows little intention of settling this account. Indeed, it was not until 1849 that the matter was finally resolved. In a typically partisan reading of history, Disraeli describes Messer "as the cause of all our errors" cursing "the hour he practised, as he thought so cunningly, upon our inexperienced youth." In contrast, he appeals to Evans for time to arrange his financial affairs: "all I can say is, that the first step I take, when the power is mine shall be in your favor". "Sooner, or later" Disraeli prophesises, 'the power will be mine', and ... some day or other we may look back to these early adventures, rather as matter of philosophical speculation, than individual sorrow..."
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