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Historical Error #15: A Bogus Lincoln Quotation on Men and Wages

Gary North
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Ellen Brown has filled Web of Debt with bogus quotations, as I have shown. Here is another one.

Lincoln is quoted as saying, "The wages of men should be recognized as more important than the wages of money." [Web of Debt, p. 85]

I did a search for this quotation on Google. Here are the results: fewer than half a dozen, and all of them cite her book.

So, I searched for a less precise version: "Abraham Lincoln," "wages of men," and "wages of money," I got 800+, but I could not find any reference to a primary source. It appears in Greenbacker books. This is typical of so many of her quotations. They have floated around for decades in Greenbacker circles. None of these people ever bothers to trace down the origin of any of these quotations.

This quotation is a well-known fake. I found a reference on Wikiquotes. This took me about 60 seconds.

There are lots of these bogus quotes on monetary policy. They all come from a 1935 book by a Canadian populist lawyer and Greenbacker Gerry McGeer. He made them up. After all, he was a lawyer. Lawyers are paid to win cases. He wrote a book, The Conquest of Poverty (1935), which is posted here. Chapter 5 is titled: "Lincoln, Practical Economist."

The following assessment is from Wikiquotes.

The following passage is the source of many supposed Lincoln quotes. Despite the quotation marks (in the original), the passage is Gerry McGeer's interpretation of Lincoln's policy. None of the sentences are Lincoln's.

McGeer, Gerald Grattan (1935). "5 - Lincoln, Practical Economist". The Conquest of Poverty. Gardenvale, Quebec: Garden City Press. pp. pp. 186ff. Retrieved on 2009-07-29. Let us now, from his speeches and his messages to Congress, summarize the monetary policy that Lincoln, at the time of his assassination, was about to more clearly define and establish.

Lincoln's Monetary Policy

"Money is the creature of law and the creation of the original issue of money should be maintained as an exclusive monopoly of national government.

"Money possesses no value to the State other than that given to it by circulation.

"Capital has its proper place and is entitled to every protection.

"The wages of men should be recognized as the structure of government and in the social order as more important than the wages of money.

"No duty is more imperative on the government than the duty it owes the people of furnishing them with a sound and uniform currency and of regulating the circulation of the medium of exchange so that labour will be protected from a vicious currency, and commerce will be facilitated by cheap and safe exchanges.

"The available supply of gold and silver being wholly inadequate to permit the issuance of coins of intrinsic value or paper currency convertible into coin in the volume required to serve the needs of the people, some other basis for the issue of currency must be developed and some means other than that of convertibility into coin must be developed to prevent undue fluctuations in the value of paper currency or any other substitute for money of intrinsic value that may come into use.

"The monetary needs of increasing numbers of people advancing towards higher standards of living can and should be met by the government. Such needs can be served by the issue of national currency and credit through the operation of a national banking system. The circulation of a medium of exchange issued and backed by the government can be properly regulated, and redundancy of issue avoided by withdrawing from circulation such amounts as may be necessary by taxation, redeposit and otherwise. Government has the power to regulate the currency and credit of the nation.

"Government should stand behind its currency and credit and the bank deposits of the nation. No individual should suffer a loss of money through depreciated or inflated currency or bank bankruptcy.

"Government possessing the power to create and issue currency and credit as money and enjoying the right to withdraw both currency and credit from circulation by taxation and otherwise, need not and should not borrow capital at interest as the means of financing governmental work and public enterprise. The government should create, issue and circulate all the currency and credit needed to satisfy the spending power of government and the buying power of consumers. The privilege of creating and issuing of money is not only the supreme prerogative of government, but it is the government's greatest creative opportunity.

"By the adoption of these principles, the long-felt want for a uniform medium will be satisfied. The taxpayers will be saved immense sums in interest, discounts and exchanges. The financing of all public enterprise, the maintenance of stable government and ordered progress and the conduct of the treasury will become matters of practical administration. The people can and will be furnished with a currency as safe as their own government. Money will cease to be master and become the servant of humanity. Democracy will rise superior to Money Power."

I argue in my critique of Ellen Brown's economics that her fiat money system is a crude form of Keynesianism. Gerry McGeer held the same view of fiat money that she does. In 1933, in the Preface to the original 1933 edition of his book, he wrote the following:

Proposals such as are now advanced by Keynes and Douglas in England, the followers of Silvio Geysel of Germany, directed to establish an automatic self-regulating currency and social credit, and the various plans to do away with price and profit, may be perfected to the point where they will achieve all their proponents promise. But, in the meantime, we must get started. The work of experimentation that has been proceeding with success in Russia and Sweden, where national management of currency and credit are recognized as essential to twentieth century progress, has advanced sufficiently to warrant our attacking, without further delay, the problem of dissipating the gloom of depression by replacing the anxious hopelessness of unemployment with the happy optimism of human industry, fairly requited and intelligently employed. We must put the people to work at the millions of jobs that are crying for the service of wage-earners in every part of the nation. The plan I have proposed will do that. If we start with it, we can depend upon the intelligence of the future to improve it and to establish something better in its place.

Keynes in The General Theory (1936) praised Gesell's monetary ideas. Who was he? Wikipedia explains.

In 1915, Gesell left Germany to return to his farm in Les Hauts-Geneveys. In 1919, he was called on to take part in the Bavarian Soviet Republic by Ernst Niekisch. The republic offered him a seat in the Socialization Commission and then appointed him the People's Representative for Finances. Gesell chose the Swiss mathematician Theophil Christen and the economist Ernst Polenske as his assistants and immediately wrote a law for the creation of Freigeld. His term of office lasted only 7 days. After the bloody end of the Soviet Republic, Gesell was held in detention for several months until being acquitted of treason by a Munich court because of the speech he gave in his own defense. Because of his participation in the Soviet Republic, Switzerland denied him the opportunity to return to his farm in Neuchâtel.

This Greenback monetary reform is leftist to the core, as McGeer's statement indicates. So in Brown's suggested reform, as she makes clear later in her book.

She steadfastly refuses to provide primary source evidence that Lincoln ever said this.

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

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