If we had the money. From the Columbia State, May, 1901.Colonel Gibbes went to England to negotiate the cotton bonds.
Some people are wont to console themselves with the thought that the Confederacy might have won if— That ‘if’ embraces many reasons. If Albert Sidney Johnston had lived to pursue his victory over Grant at Shiloh. If Pemberton had not surrendered too hastily at Vicksburg. If Stonewall Jackson had not yielded his life at Chancellorsville, if— But there is one sordid consideration which is little thought of,—‘if’ the South had had the money! Colonel James G. Gibbes, of this city, the present Surveyor-General, recalls an interesting fact bearing on this ‘if.’ In 1862 he was sent out by the Treasury Department of the Confederacy to negotiate the famous ‘cotton bonds.’ Mr. C. G. Memminger, of this State, was Secretary of the Treasury, but Colonel Gibbes was sent at the advice of Mr. Judah P. Benjamin, Attorney-General, who had, while an attorney in New Orleans, been a legal adviser of Colonel Gibbes. The latter ran the blockade out of Charleston the first week in November (parenthetically, Colonel Gibbes remarked that blockade running was far from an impossibility. John Frazier & Co. were famous blockade runners, and made 60 trips before a single vessel was attacked. However, pilots were paid fabulous prices, and a captain received $5,000 in gold for each trip). Arrived at Nassau, Colonel Gibbes spent a month waiting to get over to Liverpool. When he arrived at the latter place, he conferred with James Spence, an Englishman, financial agent of the Confederacy. For several weeks they worked hard and without success in the endeavor to dispose of the bonds at a fair figure. Colonel Gibbes carried over with him $15,000,000 of these bonds. These bonds proposed that the amount on the face be paid to the holder, in specie or in cotton at 10 cents a pound within six months after peace should be declared.  Finally the whole issue was taken by Baron Erlanger, a wealthy German with banking houses at Frankfort, Paris, and Amsterdam. (After the war Erlanger built a number of railroads in the South which he styled the ‘Erlanger system.’) Baron Erlanger ridiculed the idea of the South, issuing $15,000,000 in bonds, when a much larger figure could have been negotiated. For it is a fact that at that time cotton was bringing from 60 to 80 cents a pound in Liverpool, and these bonds provided for the redemption of the money with cotton at 10 cents a pound. Colonel Gibbes is not positive what Erlanger gave for the bonds, but thinks the price was over 80 cents on the dollar. This was a speculation for the wealthy foreigner, and he advertised for proposals for the bonds. He put the minimum price to be bid at 90 cents. The actual bids were even higher. Mirabile dictu! There were but fifteen millions of dollars represented by the bonds, yet the bids aggregated $625,000,000. It is evident that more than $15,000,000 could have been gotten. Erlanger came to this country and from President Lincoln at Washington obtained a pass to Richmond — for Lincoln did not know Erlanger or suspect his mission. The foreigners communicated with President Davis and Mr. Memminger and urged them to make a larger issue of cotton bonds. He was received indifferently by Mr. Davis, who had learned to rely on Mr. Memminger's excellent judgment. The latter declared that the Confederate Congress authorized him to borrow but $15,000,000 and he could not exceed its instructions. Erlanger was thus unseccessful. He declared that the South should get all the foreign money possible. ‘Get them interested financially in your success or failure, and they will force their government to recognize the Confederacy as a government, and its subjects as belligerents.’ This would have meant peace, for the South starved to death because of the fact that foreign powers would not recognize her government. In Capers' life of Memminger, the distinguished Secretary of the Confederate Treasury is excused for not taking advantage of this opportunity on the ground that he could not exceed his instructions. But Colonel Gibbes says the Confederate Congress was almost constantly in session and it would not have been a difficult matter to have gotten authority.  After the war, in 1869, a very strange thing happened. The Confederacy had gone to pieces, and the bonds were worthless—were not on the market. However, curio collectors began to buy them. This gave rise to a report that money had been found on deposit in London to the credit of the Confederacy. Naturally holders of bonds could claim any such funds. The price of these cotton bonds then went up as high as 10 cents on the dollar, due to this foolish rumor. In the cellar of his home, Colonel Gibbes had stored hundreds of thousands of dollars in ordinary Confederate bonds and in ‘cotton bonds.’ The paper was heavily ‘sized’ or starched, and had been a toothsome find for mice and roaches. However, from the barrels of shreds of paper which had once been valuable bonds, Colonel Gibbes managed to find one bundle in a fair state of preservation. This he forwarded to Branch & Sons, Richmond, and secured $Zzz,800 for his bonds. While Colonel Gibbes was in England trying to place the ‘cotton bonds,’ he was accorded a privilege which few then enjoyed, and from which he now derives an unique distinction. He was in a semi-official capacity permitted to witness the marriage of the Prince of Wales, now King Edward of England. The marriage took place at the chapel of Windsor Castle, and there were few permitted to enter the church, as the Queen, Victoria, was in deep mourning for her husband. However, 200,000 people crowded the streets leading to the chapel. Although it was a private marriage, there was a great deal of style and pomp about the ceremony. The Queen attended and viewed the ceremony from a balcony. Colonel Gibbes saw her as she parted the curtains of the balcony to look down upon the marriage. Colonel Gibbes is, perhaps, the only living American who was invited there. He was then staying with Mr. James M. Mason, ‘Commissioner,’ or Minister, from the Confederacy to England. The Confederacy had never been recognized, and Mr. Mason was not by the Queen regarded as an official, yet there was in Great Britain a great deal of sympathy for the Southern Cause. In this way Mr. Mason was given entree to the highest circles, and so was Colonel Gibbes during his visit.