John Law was one of the first great conmen. Born into riches in 1671 Edinburgh, he inherited the money, but his extravagant lifestyle led him to kill a man in a duel. Fleeing to Paris at the beginning of the capitalist idea, he replaced gold reserves to back up money transfers with confidence, a regular practice today.
Opening his own Parisian bank in 1715, he paid people to go throughout France claiming to have heard stories of gold and wealth from Louisiana, a new colony. His Louisiana bonds sold, moving into Canadian fur and Virginia tobacco. However, when confidence declined, he had to flee again, leaving many people broke.
(c) Anthony North, Feb 2007