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Historical Error #5: A Bogus Quotation from Benjamin Franklin on Colonial Scrip

Gary North
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Ellen Brown does not bother to check her sources. She lifts bogus quotes from screwball Websites and passes them along to her readers. Here is a choice one, which she attributes to Benjamin Franklin, made at a supposed meeting with the directors of the Bank of England.

In the Colonies, we issue our own paper money. It is called Colonial Scrip. We issue it to pay the government's approved expenses and charities. We make sure it is issued in proper proportions to make the goods pass easily from the producers to the consumers. . . . In this manner, creating ourselves our own paper money, we control its purchasing power and we have no interest to pay to no one. You see, a legitimate government can both spend and lend money into circulation, while banks can only lend significant amounts of their promissory bank notes, for they can neither give away nor spend but a tiny fraction of the money the people need. Thus, when your bankers here in England place money in circulation, there is always a debt principal to be returned and usury to be paid. The result is that you have always too little credit in circulation to give the workers full employment. You do not have too many workers, you have too little money in circulation, and that which circulates, all bears the endless burden of unpayable debt and usury. [Web of Debt, pp. 40-41]

Anyone can use Google to search for this quotation. I found it in two clicks:

http://www.en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Money

Immediately following this quotation is this bit of information (my emphasis): Attributed to Benjamin Franklin Autobiography. These words do not appear in Franklin's Autobiography or any other work of his.

You can find variants of it all over the Web. The tip-off that it is bogus is that they do not agree on details -- a sure sign of a fake quotation.

So, this quotation is as fake as her Josiah Stamp quotation.

I took one look and knew it was a fake. I earned my Ph.D. in history, with a specialty in colonial America. I have read biographies of Franklin. I have read his major works. Nothing he ever wrote sounded even remotely like this.

In any case, the issuing of colonial scrip would have been illegal. She knew this when she inserted the quotation. Just one page earlier (39), she wrote about Pennsylvania's finances. Her footnote revealed that she relied heavily on the article by Alvin Rabushka on colonial alternatives to paper money. He wrote this in his article:

From a legal standpoint, colonial paper money was not official paper money. The British government did not allow colonial governments to issue official paper money, mint coins, or even establish local note-issuing private banks.

Does lawyer Brown really believe that Franklin would tell Bank of England directors that the secret of colonial success was to violate the law against colonial paper money which the Bank of England had persuaded the Parliament to pass? If she does, she is not a lawyer I would hire to defend me.

She knew about the Bank's connivance in the 1764 act to prohibit colonial currency (p. 41). But the prohibition had been in force through the entire century.

Additionally, there is no record that Franklin ever spoke to directors of the Bank of England.

The same quotation is usually attributed to him on some screwball websites as having been delivered to Parliament. Franklin spoke to Parliament only once: in 1766, on the issue of the Stamp Act.

The entire story is nonsense from start to finish.

Once again, she is putting the shuck on the rubes: her readers.

In response, she admits that the quote is bogus.

http://www.garynorth.com/public/7126.cfm

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

http://www.garynorth.com/public/department141.cfm


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