Sunday, November 13, 2011
Thomas Jefferson on "the end of democracy"
There is a purported quote of Thomas Jefferson going viral at the moment that is not actually correct. The following sets the record straight.
From the Monticello website:
The end of democracy...(Quotation)
Quotation: "The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations."
Variations: "The country is headed toward a single and splendid government of an aristocracy founded on banking institutions and moneyed incorporations and if this tendency continues it will be the end of freedom and democracy, the few will be ruling...I hope we shall...crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to trial and bid defiance to the laws of our country. I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies."
1. Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Digital Edition
2. Thomas Jefferson: Papers collection in Hathi Trust Digital Library
3. Retirement Papers
Earliest known appearance in print: 1994
Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Thomas Jefferson: see above
Status: This exact quotation has not been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It may be a mistaken amalgamation of the author's comments in the above 1994 reference with a real Jefferson quotation. Jefferson wrote in 1825 to William Branch Giles of "a vast accession of strength from their younger recruits, who, having nothing in them of the feelings or principles of '76, now look to a single and splendid government of an aristocracy, founded on banking institutions, and monied incorporations under the guise and cloak of their favored branches of manufactures, commerce and navigation, riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry." Chomsky's 1994 book quotes Jefferson's 1825 letter to Giles and then comments that "[Jefferson] warned that that would be the end of democracy and the defeat of the American revolution."
1. Shelley A. Stark, Hidden Treuhand: How Corporations and Individuals Hide Assets and Money (Boca Raton, Fla.: Universal-Publishers, 2009.), 226. This version includes a spurious first sentence combined with two genuine Jefferson quotes, from two different letters ("crush in it's birth the aristocracy..." from Jefferson to George Logan, Nov. 12, 1816 and "I sincerely believe that banking establishments..." from Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, May 28, 1816).
2. Noam Chomsky, Keeping the Rabble in Line: Interviews with David Barsamian (Monroe, Me.: Common Courage Press, 1994), 245.
3. Jefferson to William Branch Giles, December 26, 1825, in Ford, 10:356. Polygraph copy available online from the Library of Congress.