ALTHOUGH Reconstruction occupied a large place in the columns of the press and the speeches of political orators, Grant was correct in his estimate that problems of finance demanded the first attention of his Administration. "Our purchases of bonds," said Secretary Cox, "have been barely sufficient to keep the money market from being strung up to the snapping point during the early part of the year. . . . When the departure of currency to the West for the moving of crops fairly sets in, it will be strange if we don't hear signs of distress in Wall Street, and I fear they won't wait for the fall elections."1 During the summer Grant held frequent Cabinet meetings to consider the matter, but agreed on no policy to be followed in the event of a crisis. Boutwell continued to sell gold and buy bonds for the sinking fund, and Grant, though much interested in the financial situation, continued his policy of allowing the Secretary a free hand.
Though Boutwell's policy of purchasing bonds at a premium met the hearty approval of those who had bonds for sale, and caused Horace Greeley to point with partisan pride to the mounting figures of debt reduction, the commendation was by no means universal. Democratic leaders criticized a policy which enriched bondholders at the expense of the nation. Jay Cooke, too, opposed the public sales and deplored the Secretary's lack of aggressiveness, while importers, desiring a lower premium on gold, wanted the sales of gold increased. On Wall Street, speculative bulls and bears desired respectively a diminution and an increase of Treasury sales. Despite these differences, all classes from gold speculators to Republican politicians were united in one desire-- to know what Boutwell's intentions might be. Among the Wall Street operators, none were more anxious to determine the government's intentions than James Fisk, Jr., and Jay Gould. The partnership of these two, men widely different in personal characteristics, is convincing evidence that economies as well as politics makes strange bed-fellows. Jim Fisk, a newcomer to Wall Street, had begun his meteoric career as a pedlar in rural New England. In a____________________