How to manipulate share prices – The Napoleon version……

I have just finished reading quite an extraordinary book called Napoleon is Dead by a fellow called Richard Dale. To cut a (rather long) story short, the upshot was this.

The Napoleonic wars were a long and trying experience for the British. So when on February 21, 1814 a man wearing the muddied uniform of a British military officer showed up at a Dover inn on the coast of the English Channel, announcing that the war was over, due to Napoleons death by a group of Cossacks, and that the Bourbon government was restored; everyone who heard the news was ecstatic.

Swift horses were dispatched to speed the news to London. In the capital people rejoiced, and jubilant investors bid up the stocks on the London exchange. Then the bad news arrived. Napoleon was still alive. The report of his death had just been a hoax.

In the investigation that followed, a scheme to manipulate prices on the London stock exchange was uncovered. Some circumstantial evidence indicated that a popular Naval and political hero called Lord Thomas Cochrane had masterminded the plan. He was arrested, tried, and imprisoned.

But as time passed many began to question whether Cochrane was really guilty, or whether he had been framed by his political enemies. After all, there was no evidence that Cochrane had profited from the stock market’s rise. The following year in 1814 he was released from prison due to the popular support he enjoyed.
It is said that C.S.Forrester based his fictional hero, Horatio Hornblower, on Cochranes` exploits at sea.

In 1831 William IV pardoned him of any involvement in the stock market hoax. Historians now agree that Cochrane was probably not behind the scheme to defraud investors, but the real perpetrator of the hoax remains unknown.


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