The Path Between the Seas - Study Guide Book 1, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

David McCullough
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"The Incredible Task" chronicles the early years of the Compagnie Universelle, marked by soaring hopes, misleading propaganda, real but costly progress, and massive logistical and natural challenges. De Lesseps' second attempt at going public is the biggest financial undertaking to date, exploiting Frenchmen's blind faith in venture capitalism. The cost of individual shares ($100) represents a full year's income for half of France's working population, but de Lesseps demands only 25% down and allows six years to pay the rest. Suez stock offered at the same cost is now worth $500 and pays 17% dividends.

When de Lesseps discretely "subsidizes" the press to the tune of some $319,000, Panama becomes a "magic word." Within three days, over 100,000 people subscribe for 1,206,609 shares, which was double the number available. At the first shareholders' meeting in January 1881, de Lesseps declares all problems have been solved, and all difficulties smoothed over. The...

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This section contains 1,512 words
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Buy The Path Between the Seas Study Guide
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