Observations on the Banking Crisis

a famous statesman's letter sheds light on the banking crisis

"The enormous abuses of the banking system are not only prostrating our commerce, but producing revolution of property, which without more wisdom than we possess, will be much greater than were produced by the revolutionary paper. That too had the merit of purchasing our liberties, while the present trash has only furnished aliment to usurers and swindlers.

The banks themselves were doing business on capitals, three fourths of which were fictitious: and, to extend their profit they furnished fictitious capital to every man, who having nothing and disliking the labours of the plough, chose rather to call himself a merchant to set up a house of 5000. D. a year expence, to dash into every species of mercantile gambling, and if that ended as gambling generally does, a fraudulent bankruptcy was an ultimate resource of retirement and competence. This fictitious capital probably of 100. millions of Dollars, is now to be lost, & to fall on some body; it must take on those who have property to meet it, & probably on the less cautious part, who, not aware of the impending catastrophe have suffered themselves to contract, or to be in debt, and must now sacrifice their property of a value many times the amount of their debt.

We have been truly sowing the wind, and are now reaping the whirlwind. If the present crisis should end in the annihilation of these pennyless & ephemeral interlopers only, and reduce our commerce to the measure of our own wants and surplus productions, it will be a benefit in the end. But how to effect this, and give time to real capital, and the holders of real property, to back out of their entanglements by degrees requires more knowledge of Political economy than we possess. I believe it might be done, but I despair of it's being done.

The eyes of our citizens are not yet sufficiently open to the true cause of our distresses. They ascribe them to every thing but their true cause, the banking system; a system, which, if it could do good in any form, is yet so certain of leading to abuse, as to be utterly incompatible with the public safety and prosperity. At present all is confusion, uncertainty and panic."

Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rush - June, 1819

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