1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 06
“Run that by me again, Captain.” Jeff Higgins shook his head. “I’m having some trouble with the logic involved.”
Captain David Bartley looked a bit lost, as he often did when other people couldn’t follow his financial reasoning. “Well…”
He sat up straighter on the stool in a corner of the Hangman Regiment’s HQ tent. “Let’s try it this way. The key to the whole thing is the new script. What I’m calling the divisional script.”
Higgins shook his head again. “Yeah, I got that. But that’s also right where my brain goes blank on account of my jaw hits the floor so hard. If I’ve got this right, you are seriously proposing to issue currency in the name of the Third Division?”
“Exactly. We’ll probably need to come up with some sort of clever name for it, though. ‘Script’ sounds, well, like script.”
“Worthless paper, in other words,” provided Thorsten Engler. He, like Bartley and Colonel Higgins himself, was also sitting on a stool in the tent. The flying artillery captain was smiling. Unlike Jeff, he found Bartley’s unorthodox notions to be quite entertaining.
“Except it won’t be — which is why we shouldn’t call it ‘script.'”
“Why won’t it be worthless?” asked Major Reinhold Fruehauf. Unlike the others, he was standing. Slouched against one of the tent poles, more precisely. Fruehauf commanded the regiment’s 20th Battalion. Battalions were numbered on a divisional basis, with the 1st and 2nd battalions assigned to the division’s “senior” regiment, the Freiheit Regiment commanded by Colonel Albert Zingre. Jeff Higgins’ Hangman Regiment being the bastard tenth regiment of the division, its two battalions got the numbers nineteen and twenty.
Bartley squinted a little, as if puzzled by the question. “Why won’t it be worthless? Because… Well, because it’ll officially be worth something.”
The regiment’s other battalion commander cocked a skeptical eyebrow. “According to who, Captain? You? Or even the regiment itself?” Major Baldwin Eisenhauer had a truly magnificent sneer. “Ha! Try convincing a farmer of that!”
“He’s right, I’m afraid,” said Thorsten. His face had a sympathetic expression, though, instead of a sneer. Engler intended to become a psychologist after the war; Major Eisenhauer’s ambition was to found a brewery. Their personalities reflected the difference.
“I was once one myself,” Engler continued. “There is simply no way that a level-headed farmer is going to view your script — call it whatever you will — as anything other than the usual ‘promissory notes’ that foraging troops hand out when they aren’t just plundering openly. That is to say, not good for anything except wiping your ass.”
Bartley looked more lost than ever. “But — but — Of course it’ll be worth something. We’ll get it listed as one of the currencies traded on the Grantville and Magdeburg money exchanges. If Mike — uh, General Stearns — calls in some favors, he’ll even avoid having it discounted too much.” He squared his slender shoulders. “I remind all of you that they don’t call him the ‘Prince of Germany’ for no reason. I can pretty much guarantee that even without any special effort money printed and issued by Mike Stearns will trade at a better value than a lot of European currencies.”
Now, it was the turn of the other officers in the tent to look befuddled.
“Can he even do that?” asked Captain Tadeusz Szklenski. He was the commander of the artillery battery that had been transferred to Jeff’s unit from the Freiheit Regiment.
Bartley scratched his head. “Well… It’s kind of complicated, Ted. First, there’s no law on the books that prevents him from doing it.”
Szklenski frowned. “I thought the dollar –”
But David was already shaking his head. “No, that’s a common misconception. The dollar is issued by the USE and is recognized as its legal tender, sure enough. But no law has ever been passed that makes it the nation’s exclusive currency.”
“Ah! I hadn’t realized that,” said Thorsten. The slight frown on his face vanished. “There’s no problem then, from a legal standpoint, unless the prime minister or General Torstensson tells him he can’t do it. But I don’t see any reason to even mention it to anyone outside the division yet. Right now, we’re just dealing with our own logistical needs.”
The expressions on the faces of all the down-timers in the tent mirrored Engler’s. But Jeff Higgins was still frowning.
“I don’t get it. You mean to tell me the USE allows any currency to be used within its borders?”
He seemed quite aggrieved. Bartley was grinning, however.
“You’re like most up-timers,” David said, “especially ones who don’t know much history. The situation we have now is no different from what it was for the first seventy-five years or so of the United States — our old one, back in America. There was an official United States currency — the dollar, of course — but the main currency used by most Americans was the Spanish real. The name ‘dollar’ itself comes from the Spanish dollar, a coin that was worth eight reales. It wasn’t until the Civil War that the U.S. dollar was made the only legal currency.”
“I’ll be damned,” said Jeff. “I didn’t know that.”
He wasn’t in the least bit discomfited. As was true for most Americans, being charged with historical ignorance was like sprinkling water on a duck.
Jeff had been sitting long enough, and the stools weren’t particularly comfortable anyway. So he rose and stretched a little. “What you’re saying, in other words, is that there’s technically no reason — legal reason, I mean — that the Third Division couldn’t issue its own currency.”
A frown was back on Captain Szklenski’s face. “I can’t think of any army that’s ever done so, though.”
David shrugged. “So? We’re doing lots of new things.”
“Let’s take it to the general,” said Jeff, heading for the tent flap. “We haven’t got much time, since he’s planning to resume the march tomorrow.”