Vulture Capitalism in Antebellum America: The 1841 Federal Bankruptcy Act and the Exploitation of Financial Distress
There is, on an average, annually wrecked upon the Florida coast, about fifty vessels…. The great destruction of property consequent upon this state of things, and the hope of gain, have induced a settlement at Key West, where, to adjudicate upon the wrecked property, a court of admiralty has been established. A large number of vessels, from 20 to 30, are annually engaged as wreckers, lying about this coast to “help the unfortunate,” and to help themselves. These vessels are in many instances owned in whole or in part by the merchants of Key West; the same merchant frequently acts in quadruple capacity of owner of die wrecker, agent for the wreckers, consignee of the captain, and agent for the underwriters. Whose business he transacts with most assiduity, his own, or that of others, may be readily inferred.—“Wrecks, Wrecking, and Wreckees, on Florida Reef,” Hunt's Merchants' Magazine 6 (1842): 349.
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