John Law

1671 - 1729

Financier and gambler. Born in Edinburgh, son of a goldsmith, he lived at Lauriston Castle. Moving to London, he gambled heavily, fought a duel over a woman, killed his opponent and had to flee to the continent. Returning to Edinburgh (1700), he proposed a novel scheme for a central bank which would issue paper currency valued against land. The Scottish Parliament rejected his plan, which was intended to resolve the pre-union chaos in Scottish finances. He went to France and, besides even more gambling, instituted a similar scheme, which was accepted by the French government. He thus effectively ran the French economy and is credited with having introduced paper money to that country. However, the success soon turned to failure and Law quickly slipped away, eventually settling in Venice where he died, poor but still plotting grand financial schemes.

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