Recently I was in a very heated exchange over the Federal Reserve. My opponent did nothing but peddle various conspiracy theories I’d already heard, which culminated in him calling me a shill since he didn’t really have anything else to say.
One point he made, though, was with regard to Woodrow Wilson regretting signing the Federal Reserve Act. And it is that point I will address herein.
Here’s the quote in question:
I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. 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. 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 duress of a small group of dominant men.
Now since this was brought up in the course of the referenced conversation, I decided to try to track this down. To see if there was actually any evidence Wilson regretted signing the Federal Reserve Act. I couldn’t find any.
Like the oft-repeated quote1 attributed to Mayer Amschel Rothschild or Nathan Rothschild, depending on source, I was very skeptical that Wilson actually said or wrote what is quoted above. Attempting to Google the quote brought up numerous conspiracy websites peddling the same thing about the Federal Reserve.
Given how popular the quote was, I knew that Wikipedia had to have something on it. And the Talk page for the Wikipedia article on the Federal Reserve Act detailed that the above quote is a quote mine. But didn’t exactly go into much detail beyond that. But it was a lead, and it was enough for the keyboard brawl I was having at the time.
Looking into it further, I was able to discover it to be an extensive quote mine. Manufactured from two sections The New Freedom: A Call for the Emancipation of the Generous Energies of a People, which Wilson wrote and published in 1913. Long before the Federal Reserve Act even made it to Wilson’s desk. The book is available via Project Gutenberg, so feel free to check my work below if you wish.
Let’s start with this:
I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country.
These introductory sentences may have been uttered at one point by Wilson, but not with regard to the Federal Reserve. A plausible context being the fact he dragged the United States into the First World War. It is nowhere in Wilson’s book. The word “unhappy” only appears once, and not to say “unhappy man”, and “ruined my country” never appears in the book.
The rest of the quote is mined and assembled from two paragraphs. The first half can be found (quote mined section in blue) in chapter 8 called “Monopoly, or Opportunity”:
However it has come about, it is more important still that the control of credit also has become dangerously centralized. It is the mere truth to say that the financial 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 monopoly of big credits. 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 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. This is the greatest question of all, and to this statesmen must address themselves with an earnest determination to serve the long future and the true liberties of men.
And the latter half is found in chapter 9, called “Benevolence, or Justice?” (quote mined section in blue):
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.
So it is clear that the oft-repeated quote from Woodrow Wilson was never actually said or written by Wilson as it is quoted. The quote is mined from two completely separate paragraphs of Wilson’s book. From two separate chapters of Wilson’s book.
And as the quote came from a book published before the Federal Reserve Act was even voted on by Congress, let alone signed by Wilson into law, Wilson could not have been speaking about the Federal Reserve Act.
This does not mean Woodrow Wilson never regretted signing it into law. He very well may have. But the oft-repeated quote cannot be used as evidence to that effect. One would need to find a specific quote showing Wilson explicitly expressing such regret.
And, thus far, to the best I was able to find, no one has shown such a quote.
- There are two versions of the quote. A shorter one attributed to Mayer Amschel Rothschild, “Give me control of a nation’s money supply, and I care not who makes its laws.”
And a longer quote attributed to Nathan Rothschild, one of M.A. Rothschild’s sons:
I care not what puppet is placed upon the throne of England to rule the Empire on which the sun never sets. The man who controls Britain’s money supply controls the British Empire, and I control the British money supply.