Spurious Quotes

  1. Did Wilson have regrets over the Federal Reserve?

“A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credits.  Our system of credits is concentrated.  The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men…We have come to be one of the worst ruled: one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments, in the civilized world…no longer a government by conviction and the free vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men.” Since the 1950s at least, this quote has been identified as a 1916 complaint by the president over what had become of the Federal Reserve.

Some versions even begin with a colorful bemoaning of the ruin Wilson supposedly brought upon the country. However, that segment is impossible to find in Wilson’s writing, and the first part of the quote here comes from a prepared address that Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey gave to a rally of Democratic clubs in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on June 15, 1911.

There are references to this 1911 version in several magazines and it was quoted at length in a 1914 book by Brandeis on banking, so presumably it was well known.

You can find the actual speech he ended up giving in the published papers of Woodrow Wilson, edited by Arthur Link.

The written address is in the public papers of Woodrow Wilson, edited by Ray Stannard Baker. College and State, Vol. II, p. 307

Beyond all these, waiting to be solved, lying as yet in the hinterland of party policy, lurks the great question of banking reform. The plain fact is that control of credit  – at any rate of credit upon any large scale – is dangerously concentrated in this country. The large money resources of the country are not at the command of those who do not submit to the direction and domination of small groups of capitalists, who wish to keep the economic development of the country under their own eye and guidance. The great monopoly in this country is the money monopoly. So long as that exists our old variety and freedom and individual energy of development are out of the question. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men who, even if their action be honest and intended for the public interest, are necessarily concentrated upon the great undertakings in which their own money is involved and who necessarily, by very reason of their own limitations, chill and check and destroy genuine economic freedom.

Wilson used portions of this text in his 1913 book The New Freedom. On page 185.

The great monopoly in this country is the monopoly of big credits. So long as that exists, our old variety and freedom and individual energy of development is out of the question. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men who, even if their action be honest and intended for the public interest, are necessarily concentrated upon the great undertakings in which their own money is involved and who necessarily, by very reason of their own limitations, chill and check and destroy genuine economic freedom.

It is in The New Freedom that the rest of the quote can be found, though it is much later, on page 201.

We are at the parting of the ways. We have not one or two or three, but many established and formidable monopolies in the United States. We have, not one or two, but many fields of endeavor into which it is difficult, if not impossible, for the independent man to enter. We have restricted credit, we have restricted opportunity, we have controlled development, and we have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated, governments in the civilized world – no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men.

The Federal Reserve Act passed on December 23, 1913, having first been proposed by Carter Glass in August of that year.

 

 

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