Example: [Collected via e-mail, October 2008]
"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered."
Variations: Some versions of this quotation end with the following lines:
"We are completely saddled and bridled, and the bank is so firmly mounted on us that we must go where they ill guide. The dominion which the banking institutions have obtained over the minds of our
Origins: One of the "Rules of Misquotation" outlined by Ralph Keyes in his 1992 book on that subject is that axiom that "Famous dead people make excellent commentators on current events." Given the fear and uncertainty engendered by the current economic situation, and the disgruntlement expressed by many Americans at the thought of providing taxpayer-funded government bailouts to financial institutions and other large corporate entities (such as the auto industry), it was only a matter of time until someone trotted out a quotation (apocryphal or otherwise) from a respected, long-dead figure demonstrating that this whole economic mess was both predictable and inevitable. And one could hardly find a more hallowed figure in
Although Jefferson certainly expressed disdain and mistrust of banking institutions and paper currency on many occasions, this particular quotation bears all the hallmarks of being a
- No documentation ties it to its putative originator.
- Its earliest known reference did not appear until long after the death of its supposed originator.
- Multiple sources are claimed for its origins.
- Contextual information indicates the words are of more recent origin than claimed.
This quotation is commonly cited as originating with one of several sources, primarily an 1802 letter to Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, an 1809 publication entitled The Debate Over the Recharter of the Bank Bill, and a
In addition to the lack of documentation, an entry in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations labels this quotation as "obviously spurious" for contextual reasons, noting that the Oxford English Dictionary's (OED) earliest citation for the word "deflation" (as related to currency) dates only to 1920. (The OED's earliest citation for the word "inflation" used in a financial sense dates to 1838, which means that usage might have been known during Jefferson's lifetime.)
A couple of similar statements have likewise been attributed to Jefferson and sometimes appended to the quotation in question: "I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies" and "The issuing power [of money] should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs." Although these statements likewise lack documentation establishing them as authentically Jeffersonian, the former is a reasonably close paraphrase of the closing sentence in Jefferson's
The latter statement is both undocumented and not in accordance what Jefferson wrote in a
Last updated: 6 September 2011
Keyes, Ralph. Nice Guys Finish Seventh. New York: Harper Collins, 1992. ISBN 0-06-270020-0. Kominsky, Morris. The Hoaxers: Plain Liars, Fancy Liars, and Damned Liars. Boston: Branden Press, 1970. Platt, Suzy. Respectfully Quoted. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1989. ISBN 0-84-440538-8.