South-Sea Scheme

or Bubble. A stock-jobbing scheme devised by Sir John Blunt, a lawyer. The object of the company was to buy up the National Debt, and to be allowed the sole privilege of trading in the South Seas. The 100 shares soon realised ten times that sum, but the whole bubble burst in 1720 and ruined thousands. (1710-1720.) The term is applied to any hollow scheme which has a splendid promise, but whose collapse will be sudden and ruinous. (See Mississippi Bubble.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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