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Historical Error #20: A Bogus Quotation from President Garfield

Gary North
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Ellen Brown offers this bogus quotation from President James Garfield.

In 1881, James Garfield became President. He boldly took a stand against the bankers, charging:

Whosoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce . . . And when you realize that the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.

President Garfield was murdered not long after releasing this statement, when he was less than four months into his presidency. [Web of Debt, p. 96]

She cites no source. Neither do the 123,000 versions of this on Google. If he did say this, it would be easy to locate the source. His Presidency did not last long: 100 days.

Here is what he did say, in his inaugural address (1881).

The prosperity which now prevails is without parallel in our history. Fruitful seasons have done much to secure it, but they have not done all. The preservation of the public credit and the resumption of specie payments, so successfully attained by the Administration of my predecessors, have enabled our people to secure the blessings which the seasons brought.

By the experience of commercial nations in all ages it has been found that gold and silver afford the only safe foundation for a monetary system. Confusion has recently been created by variations in the relative value of the two metals, but I confidently believe that arrangements can be made between the leading commercial nations which will secure the general use of both metals. Congress should provide that the compulsory coinage of silver now required by law may not disturb our monetary system by driving either metal out of circulation. If possible, such an adjustment should be made that the purchasing power of every coined dollar will be exactly equal to its debt-paying power in all the markets of the world.

The chief duty of the National Government in connection with the currency of the country is to coin money and declare its value. Grave doubts have been entertained whether Congress is authorized by the Constitution to make any form of paper money legal tender. The present issue of United States notes has been sustained by the necessities of war; but such paper should depend for its value and currency upon its convenience in use and its prompt redemption in coin at the will of the holder, and not upon its compulsory circulation. These notes are not money, but promises to pay money. If the holders demand it, the promise should be kept.

He was a gold standard man from the beginning. He was known as an expert in finance. He went on to say in his inaugural address, "I venture to refer to the position I have occupied on financial questions during a long service in Congress, and to say that time and experience have strengthened the opinions I have so often expressed on these subjects." He made his position clear: " The finances of the Government shall suffer no detriment which it may be possible for my Administration to prevent."

To imply that bankers had him killed is preposterous. It is far easier to believe that Greenbackers hired the killer.

Here is my reply to Ellen Brown's response:

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

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