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Thomas Jefferson Letters + Money Supply

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posted on Feb, 21 2009 @ 02:39 AM
I was reading through some of the letters of Thomas Jefferson, which can be found here: The following really struck me. I'm certain we don't spend much time thinking about what paper money actually is, considering our familiarity with it on a daily basis, but historically such a notion was just absurd, almost laughable actually. Why would any vendor trust some lunatic with a piece of paper saying it's actually worth something? No one would take such a risk. Where would you store all these flimsy, easily lost items? Times have changed, but we still treat money as a second-class commodity. So it goes without saying that a private party (i.e. Central Bank) with no affection, or rather any vested interest in the security of money for the people, should not be placed in a position to create, handle and distribute it. Jefferson was entirely aware of this. Although he said printing money was useful in times of war, where aggregate demand is essentially infinite, it makes no sense in times of economic prosperity and relative peace. It's unsustainable. Anyway, I thought I should just share this excerpt from one of his letters. It's nothing special, nothing groundbreaking. It's just simple, common sense laid out in some pretty basic language (erudition was a bit more extravagant back then, but it's pretty straightforward). He talks about inflation... I highlighted the main talking points.

The States should be applied to, to transfer the right of issuing circulating paper to Congress exclusively, _in perpetuum_, if possible, but during the war at least, with a saving of charter rights. I believe that every State west and South of Connecticut river, except Delaware, would immediately do it; and the others would follow in time. Congress would, of course, begin by obliging unchartered banks to wind up their affairs within a short time, and the others as their charters expired, forbidding the subsequent circulation of their paper. This they would supply with their own, bottomed, every emission, on an adequate tax, and bearing or not bearing interest, as the state of the public pulse should indicate. Even in the non-complying States, these bills would make their way, and supplant the unfunded paper of their banks, by their solidity, by the universality of their currency, and by their receivability for customs and taxes. It would be in their power, too, to curtail those banks to the amount of their actual specie, by gathering up their paper, and running it constantly on them. The national paper might thus take place even in the non-complying States. In this way, I am not without a hope, that this great, this sole resource for loans in an agricultural country, might yet be recovered for the use of the nation during war; and, if obtained _in perpetuum_, it would always be sufficient to carry us through any war; provided, that in the interval between war and war, all the outstanding paper should be called in, coin be permitted to flow in again, and to hold the field of circulation until another war should require its yielding place again to the national medium.

But it will be asked, are we to have no banks? Are merchants and others to be deprived of the resource of short accommodations, found so convenient? I answer, let us have banks; but let them be such as are alone to be found in any country on earth, except Great Britain. There is not a bank of discount on the continent of Europe, (at least there was not one when I was there,) which offers anything but cash in exchange for discounted bills. No one has a natural right to the trade of a money lender, but he who has the money to lend. Let those then among us, who have a monied capital, and who prefer employing it in loans rather than otherwise, set up banks, and give cash or national bills for the notes they discount. Perhaps, to encourage them, a larger interest than is legal in the other cases might be allowed them, on the condition of their lending for short periods only. It is from Great Britain we copy the idea of giving paper in exchange for discounted bills; and while we have derived from that country some good principles of government and legislation, we unfortunately run into the most servile imitation of all her practices, ruinous as they prove to her, and with the gulph yawning before us into which these very practices are precipitating her. The unlimited emission of bank paper has banished all her specie, and is now, by a depreciation acknowledged by her own statesmen, carrying her rapidly to bankruptcy, as it did France, as it did us, and will do us again, and every country permitting paper to be circulated, other than that by public authority, rigorously limited to the just measure for circulation. Private fortunes, in the present state of our circulation, are at the mercy of those self-created money lenders, and are prostrated by the floods of nominal money with which their avarice deluges us. He who lent his money to the public or to an individual, before the institution of the United States Bank, twenty years ago, when wheat was well sold at a dollar the bushel, and receives now his nominal sum when it sells at two dollars, is cheated of half his fortune; and by whom? By the banks, which, since that, have thrown into circulation ten dollars of their nominal money where was one at that time.

[edit on 21-2-2009 by cognoscente]

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