Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 30, 1863: "The Results of Extortion and Speculation"

The blockade and wartime disruption of the Southern economy was beginning to impose real hardships on the Southern home front, as this excerpt from a journal entry from John B. Jones' "A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital" indicates.

January 30th.—I cut the following from yesterday’s Dispatch:
The Results of Extortion and Speculation.—The state of affairs brought about by the speculating and extortion practiced upon the public cannot be better illustrated than by the following grocery bill for one week for a small family, in which the prices before the war and those of the present are compared:
Bacon, 10 lbs. at 12½c$1.25Bacon, 10 lbs. at $1$10.00
Flour, 30 lbs. at 5c1.50Flour, 30 lbs. at 12½c3.75
Sugar, 5 lbs. at 8c.40Sugar, 5 lbs. at $1.155.75
Coffee, 4 lbs. at 12½c.50Coffee, 4 lbs. at $520.00
Tea (green), ½ lb. at $1.50Tea (green), ½ lb. at $168.00
Lard, 4 lbs. at 12½c.50Lard, 4 lbs. at $14.00
Butter, 3 lbs. at 25c.75Butter, 3 lbs. at $1.755.25
Meal, 1 pk. at 25c.25Meal, 1 pk. at $11.00
Candles, 2 lbs. at 15c.30Candles, 2 lbs. at $1.252.50
Soap, 5 lbs. at 10c.50Soap, 5 lbs. at $1.105.50
Pepper and salt (about).10Pepper and salt (about)2.50
“So much we owe the speculators, who have stayed at home to prey upon the necessities of their fellow-citizens.”
We have just learned that a British steamer, with cannon and other valuable cargo, was captured by the enemy, two days ago, while trying to get in the harbor. Another, similarly laden, got safely in yesterday. We can afford to lose one ship out of three—that is, the owners can, and then make money.
Cotton sells at seventy-five cents per pound in the United States. So the blockade must be felt by the enemy as well as ourselves. War is a two-edged sword.

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