Thomas Jefferson — author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia — voiced the aspirations of a new America as no other individual of his era. As a public official, historian, philosopher, and plantation owner, he served his country for over five decades.
Like a dropsical man calling out for water, water, our deluded citizens are clamoring((Calling)) for more banks, more banks. the American mind is now in that state of fever which the world has so often seen in the history of other nations. we are, under the bank-bubble, as England was under the South sea bubble((The south sea bubble occurred in 1720 when speculation in shares in the British South Sea Company resulted in its catastrophic failure.)), France under the Misisipi bubble((The Mississippi bubble in France happened between 1717 and 1720, when the value of the shares of the French company that controlled trade and colonization in North America rose dramatically and then collapsed.)), and as every nation is liable to be, under whatever bubble design or delusion may puff up in moments when off their guard. we are now taught to believe that legerdemain tricks upon paper can produce as solid wealth as hard labor in the earth. it is vain for common sense to urge that nothing can produce but nothing: that it is an idle dream to believe in a philosopher’s stone which is to turn every thing into gold, and to redeem man from the original sentence of his maker that ‘in the sweat of his brow shall he eat his bread’((Genesis 3:19)).((Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 6 January 1816))
When public opinion changes it is with the rapidity of thought. confidence is already on the totter; and every one now handles this paper((Bank notes.)) as if playing at Robin’s alive((A “hot potato” game in which a burning stick is passed from person to person after the player with the stick repeats the rhyme, “The robin (bird) is alive, and alive like to be, If it dies in my hand you may back-saddle me”. The point that Jefferson is making is this, when the passion for fiat money (a currency established as money by government regulation or law) dies, the value of it will be no more than the value of a dead bird)). That in the present state of the circulation the banks should resume payments in specie would require their vaults to be like the widow’s cruise.((1 Kings 17:16))((Jefferson makes the point that when a bank operates on specie (the gold standard for example), their vaults shall not run dry because all obligations will be based on actual assets on hand. However, when banks operate on fiat money (a currency established as money by government regulation or law), the real value of money is only what is is preceded to be and may empty the bank’s vaults when the value of paper money assumes it’s actual value))((Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 6 January 1816))
The difficulty is indeed great; and the greater because the patient revolts against all medecine.((Jefferson discusses the challenges of managing a financial system that is based on fiat money (a currency established as money by government regulation or law).)) I am far from presuming to say that any plan can be relied on with certainty, because the bubble may burst from one moment to another; but if it fails we shall be but where we should have been without any effort to save ourselves.((After the inevitable financial collapse, the only assets of value will be those assets the have intrinsic value. Remember the analogy of playing Robin’s alive, he who’s wealth is based on fiat money will be left holding nothing more valuable than a dead bird.))((Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 6 January 1816))
With the legislature I chearfully leave it to apply this medecine, or that medecine, or no medecine at all. I am sure their intentions are faithful, and embarked in the same bottom, I am willing to swim or sink with my fellow citizens. if the latter is their choice, I will go down with them without a murmur. but my exhortation would rather be ‘not to give up the ship.’((Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 6 January 1816))
If a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.((Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 6 January 1816))