MR. WILLIAM CUNNINGHAME, who about A.D. 1780 built
the splendid mansion in Queen Street which now forms the interior
portion of the Royal Exchange, rose to fortune in a most sudden and
singular manner. At the time when the first American war broke out he
was a junior partner
in a very extensive Virginia house in Glasgow. This house at that time
held the largest stock of tobacco of any house in the United Kingdom,
and the cost of their stock, upon an average, was threepence per pound!
Immediately upon the declaration of American Independence, tobacco rose
to sixpence per pound; and upon the great rise taking place, a general
meeting of all the partners of the house was called, in order to consult
about the sale of their stock.
At this meeting every partner, with the exception of
Cunninghame, was of opinion that the present opportunity should be taken
advantage of; and as their capital would be doubled by an immediate
sale, it should be effiected without delay. Upon hearing this
resolution, Mr. Cunninghame turned round to each partner in succession
and asked him:
"Do you offer to sell your share of the company’s
tobacco at sixpence per pound?"
And upon every one of them
the affirmative, Mr. Cunninghanie very coolly replied:
"Well, gentlemen, all your tobacco is sold at
The partners stared at one another, and demanded of
"What do you mean by that statement ?"
To which Mr. Cunningliame replied:
"I have bought the whole of it at sixpence per pound,
and I will satisfy you as to the payment of it."
Tobacco continued from this time to rise, till at
last it reached the enormous price of three shillings and sixpence per
pound. Mr. Cunninghame, however, had sold the whole of his tobacco
before it reached its ultimate highest price; but yet at a price by
which he realised an immense fortune.