Tracing the bogus Thomas Jefferson bank quote

As mentioned in the previous post, a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson is being bandied about now that the bank bailout is in the news. The quote is:

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. 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 [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” – Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 1802

I thought the quote was fishy-sounding, so I did some Googling tonight to find where it came from. The first step was to search on a unique snippet of the quote. Out of 220 Google results on “continent their fathers conquered” I found a slew of results from this year (and especially last month), but many without listed dates. How far back could I trace it?

I soon found a link to a book by Mark Hill called Shadow Kings, which is text-searchable thanks to Google Books. The book was published in 2005 and has the quote on page 102. So we’re back to 2005, now what?

The next clue was a page from an independent newspaper called the Coastal Post in 1997 of a print article that ran in 1989. Since that predates the commercial Internet I guessed that was as far as I could go, but I got lucky again.

After clicking through more search results I found the quote mentioned in American Chronicle – only this time it was attributed to something Jefferson said during the “the Debate Over The Recharter Of The Bank Bill, (1809).” A ha! Something new to search!

A few clicks into a search of “the Debate Over The Recharter Of The Bank Bill” and “conquered” I found just what I was looking for: The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia! In the Spurious Quotations category is a whole page debunking the Private Bank Quotewith citations!

According to the Jefferson Encyclopedia, the quote’s first appearance was in 1937 in a United States Senate committee! And the Encyclopedia can’t find any record of any “Debate Over The Recharter Of The Bank Bill,” either.

Hmph. Senators, eh? I should’ve known the quote was the work of professional liars!

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5 Responses to “Tracing the bogus Thomas Jefferson bank quote”

  1. ralph says:

    I have found that I need to listen to political quotes with blank faced skepticism. Thank God for Google!

  2. Mark Turner says:

    Good strategy. As Winston Churchill said, it pays to be skeptical!

  3. scootdawg says:

    are you sure he said that?

  4. rdwatersagltd says:

    F.Y.I. – I know this is almost a month old, but I happened to run across you blog. Here’s what I found at bartleby.com:

    I sincerely believe … that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.

    ATTRIBUTION: Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), U.S. president. Letter, May 28, 1816, to political philosopher and senator John Taylor, whose book An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (1814) had argued against the harmful effects of finance capitalism.
    BIOGRAPHY: Columbia Encyclopedia.

    Direct link: http://www.bartleby.com/66/29/30729.html

    All the best to you in Raleigh, NC from Newton, NC!

  5. Mark Turner says:

    Yes, that particular quote is well-documented. Its the “inflation” one that seems to be bogus – a blend of the quote you provided and pure fiction.

    Thanks for visiting!
    Mark