The story of Benjamin Rathbun's ruin reads like a primer for the scandals and studied neglect that triggered America's economic crisis today. Banker, builder and architect, a revered citizen of the flourishing American northwestern frontier-in the end he was also a convicted forger. And his forgeries were of such gravity that they added momentum to the Panic of 1837, the rapid collapse of a system of credit and debt that brought down the young nation's financial system. Rathbun was surely a rascal, but a rascal somehow of great decency. In Buffalo, a half-built landscape was strewn with Rathbun's broken vision. Concerned for the thousands who had depended upon him, he begged for release from jail long enough to fix the damage. Instead, he spent five years in prison shouldering the blame for others who fled to Texas, beyond the reach of American law.