It has become apparent that an independent publisher has taken the initiative to print and to distribute an unregulated note to serve as basis for a market, the extent of which has reached the very centre of our union to contaminate our books. The development of this object would appear to have been driven by an unintended process of deflation, the unfolding of which process one may read on any one of the exemplars that have come to be collected in the vaults of our reserve. To take the specimens at hand, it may be seen that they are equally proportioned, with the same square shape, and that the issues have been varied, for the watermark and date of first release have several versions. Of the issues we possess the first in time contains the watermark of a complex carbon compound, and the following examples have a watermark that would seem to be an image of the macroscopic structure of the cosmos, with an intricate design of random filaments that extend toward the edges of the paper. Yet the words that were impressed before these various releases is the same in every instance. At the top, in thick black letters, it is written: “Promise to adhere to the conditions of the contract”, and beneath this line, in smaller text, the note reads: “For receipt of”, with a space beneath this line to write a line about the nature of the object of receipt, and a space beneath this space in which to sign and date the contract. In the most preserved exemplar of the early of the issues it is written: “One 500 reams of cotton paper” (which appears to be the substance that the notes themselves are made of), and is signed by “William Rollock”. On the back of this exemplar is a list of countersignatures, with a line about the nature of the objects of exchange inscribed beside them: “One small car”, “5 fat heifers”, “1 clothes store”, and “A favour of your choice, when it be needed”. Yet the dates of these endorsements, and the dates of the endorsements on the other notes at hand, do not extend beyond a certain point in time that would appear to be a threshold, for the time between the signatures was brief on each occasion, and the signatures appear to discontinue. Perhaps one may deduce from this phenomenon that it came to be apparent that for ease of the transactions it was needless to endorse, because the value of the notes had been effectively established, and could simply be exchanged through passing hands for what was deemed to be equated. Thus the market would appear to have been settled on the base of a supply of printed notes that were potentially of infinite varieties of value, but were fixed by a development of usage. This fixation of the value of the notes however led to the potential for an infinite exchange of any one thing for another. Yet this infinite potential may be seen as an untenable illusion when the writing on the notes has been considered. For the fact that any note has the capacity to function as the means of an exchange is to be recognised as owing to the fact that it is yet to be redeemed, and the working of the market will depend upon the fact that every one of them be yet to be redeemed – however also the belief that any note could be redeemed at any moment. But what would this consist of? On the surface it would seem that this must mean an operation of reverse exchange, in which the note is handed back to any one of those who guaranteed its value, as the founders of the market, to receive the corresponding act or object of original exchange. Of course this would be similar to any other action of exchange, except that the provider of the good will be obliged to make it happen. In the case of second signatories this obligation passes to the subjects of the signatures preceding, and the major guarantee remains the signature first written on the contract. The secondary signatures thus qualify the value, and are given to ensure that the first signatory be held to what it promised to perform, but do not represent the source of any value. In the case of the exemplar we have looked at, this returns to William Rollock, who had promised “to adhere to the conditions of the contract, for receipt of one 500 reams of cotton paper”, as equated to the other objects mentioned. To confine ourselves to that first written – the five-hundred reams of paper – it would seem that this would need no explanation, for five-hundred reams of paper are five-hundred reams of paper, irrespective of the use that they be subject to thereafter. The agreement had been made at a specific point in time, and must therefore equate to the condition of that thing at that specific point in time, which would imply the kind of world in which it came to be agreed on. An account of what that signifies however must come after, and it cannot but attempt to take account of that condition from the world in which it happens to attempt this, and the world to which it tries to come to terms cannot be entered. It can however speculate on aspects. For example, at the time there had been present an abundance of the cotton that was used to make the paper, in the wake of an unusually large harvest in the autumn; however, shortly after the exchange the population was informed of the condition of the rivers that had served the cotton farmers to produce this kind of crop for generations, which dependency had drained the river system to the point that the ecology had altered, and a wealth of life was lost. The implications of this slow deterioration are inestimable and vast, one must imagine; but the point to which we may and must adhere is that the presence of the paper, at the time it was received, did not account for this destruction. Thus the question should be asked, in the context of an endlessly inadequate awareness of the endless implications in the presence of this paper, what the value of the note is. In any case it has to be assumed that what was given in exchange for it, as written on the back, which had such endless implications of their own, one must assume, were insufficient to equate to what it stood for; and the notion of such “value”, as enabling exchange between invalid estimations, is incongruent with any obligation to account for what is given to account for. Accountability is not the simple balance of accounts already made, but the ability to come to clearer terms with that which has not been accounted. In the case of William Rollock, this is written on the instrument, in words that would appear to have been simply overlooked. For there it may be read that he has promised to adhere to the conditions of the contract – without any indication of the sense of these conditions – and in no sense to return what he was happy to receive when he had promised. And although he may have promised in good will, with a nascent understanding of “the contract”, the exchange of this for other obligations has prevented him from keeping to his word – and the appearance of the market has been founded on a failure to adhere to the conditions it would seem to take for granted. One can imagine that a general recognition of this fact will cause the market to collapse, to clearly demonstrate the way in which the drafting of a figure of a quantity of debt will be its sudden dissolution. It is only when a note such as the note that we have looked at is withdrawn from circulation that it signifies its worth. It remains however to be seen how William Rollock will respond to the distressing situation he has willingly or otherwise allowed to come to light for other people. For his promise stands, regardless of the way he has abused it.
Chris Clifton lives in Australia, and his experimental treatise “Of the contract” was published by Punctum Books.