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Historical Error #2: Thomas Jefferson Was a Promoter of Paper Money Unbacked by Gold or Silver.

Gary North
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Ellen Brown is Greenbacker. Greenbackers want the abolition of any form of gold standard. They want pure fiat paper money: no gold backing. It is long been part of the Greenback tradition to attribute their view of money to politicians of American Revolution and Constitution era. Ellen Brown writes:

The following chapters track the web of deceit that has engulfed us in debt, and present a simple solution that could make the country solvent once again. It is not a new solution but dates back to the Constitution: the power to create money needs to be returned to the government and the people it represents. The federal debt could be paid, income taxes could be eliminated, and social programs could be expanded; and this could all be done without imposing austerity measures on the people or sparking runaway inflation. Utopian as that may sound, it represents the thinking of some of America's brightest and best, historical and contemporary, including Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. [Web of Debt, page 3]


With paper money, the Federal government can provide lots and lots of free lunches!

She is correct: this does indeed sound Utopian.

That she attributes this idea to Thomas Jefferson is simply incredible. Where did Thomas Jefferson write anything about paper money funding social programs? Nowhere. He was a promoter of limited civil government. He also hated paper money. In an 1813 letter to John W. Eppes, Jefferson expressed this opinion on specie (precious metal coins):

"Specie is the most perfect medium because it will preserve its own level; because, having intrinsic and universal value, it can never die in our hands, and it is the surest resource of reliance in time of war."

He also wrote this in his letter to Eppes:

"The trifling economy of paper, as a cheaper medium, or its convenience for transmission, weighs nothing in opposition to the advantages of the precious metals... it is liable to be abused, has been, is, and forever will be abused, in every country in which it is permitted."

This letter appears on the website of the University of Virginia, which houses Jefferson's papers. The page has dozens of statements by Jefferson in favor of precious metal coins as the proper form of money. He opposed paper money.

Is lawyer Brown this ignorant? Anyone can find this page by typing in "Thomas Jefferson" and "gold." Apparently, this research technique did not occur to her. Or else she is trying to fool people she regards as rubes: her readers.

I call this tactic putting the shuck on the rubes Ellen Brown attempts this repeatedly in her book. I shall offer many examples. Keep reading.

She has responded to my article. I reply here:


For a detailed critique of Ellen Brown's economics, go here:

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