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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/14/11

How Benjamin Franklin Caused the Revolutionary War

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 "Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men.   These are ambition and avarice; the love of power and love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when unified in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects." – Benjamin Franklin, Memoirs, Volume 1, 1834.   "The refusal of King George III to allow the colonies to operate an honest money system, which freed the ordinary man from the clutches of the money manipulators, was probably the prime cause of the Revolution." – Attributed to Benjamin Franklin.


As the American economy progressed from bad to worse, many colonists ignored the British ban on their scrip.   Various colonies, seeing the depression and destruction caused by a lack of money, reinstituted their scrip – At great peril.   "Says Jefferson: 'Before the 19th of April, 1775' the day succeeding the Battle of Lexington, 'I never had heard a whisper of a disposition to separate from Great Britain.   The Colonies had not yet cut asunder the ties of allegiance to the Crown.   The Continental Congress had sent a petition to the King denying any intention of separation from England.'   But, although the Colonies were as yet uncertain of their course with respect to separation, there was no uncertainty with regard to their monetary system.   This they had determined should be independent of the Crown and this determination they had expressed in overt acts that had long marked them as disaffected rebels and were now to mark them as outlaws.   Lexington and Concord were trivial acts of resistance which chiefly concerned those who took part in them and which might have been forgiven; but the creation and circulation of bills by revolutionary assemblies in Massachusetts and Philadelphia, were the acts of a whole people and coming as they did upon the heels of the strenuous efforts made by the Crown to suppress paper money in America, they constituted acts of defiance so contemptuous and insulting to the Crown that forgiveness was thereafter impossible.   After these acts there was but one course for the Colonies; to stand by their monetary system.   Thus the bills of credit of this era, which ignorance and prejudice have attempted to belittle into the mere instruments of a reckless financial policy, were really the standards of the Revolution.   They were more than this: they were the Revolution itself!" – Alexander del Mar, The History of Money in America, 1899.   Noted historian Alexander del Mar tells us that, in spite of the taxes, and beyond the skirmishes with British troops at Lexington and Concord, it was the Colonists' legal tender monetary system that was the primary cause of the Revolutionary War.   "Thus the bills of credit of this era ... were really the standards of the Revolution.   They were more than this: they were the Revolution itself!" The Colonists, seeing first-hand how the English debt-money had so quickly destroyed their growing economy, resumed printing their legal-tender scrip.   Printing their own colonial money, thereby defying the laws of the most powerful nation on earth, was indeed a revolutionary act.  


"When Great Britain commenced the present war upon the colonies they had neither arms nor ammunition, nor money to purchase them, or pay soldiers.   The new government had not immediately the consistence necessary for collecting heavy taxes; nor would taxes that could be raised within the year during peace have been sufficient for a year's expense in time of war; they therefore printed a quantity of paper bills each expressing to be the value of a certain number of Spanish dollars, from one to thirty.   With these they paid, clothed, and fed their troops; fitted out ships and supported the war during five years against one of the most powerful nations of Europe." – Benjamin Franklin.   Some Colonists accepted this paper money without problem, some, more loyal to the King, were coerced by law: "... any person who shall hereafter be so lost to all virtue and regard for his country as to refuse to receive said bills in payment, or obstruct and discourage the currency or circulation thereof, and shall be duly convicted ... shall be deemed, published and treated as an enemy of his country, and precluded from all trade or intercourse with the inhabitants of those colonies." – Continental Congress Journal.   Talk about being cut-off! – No trade or intercourse with the other Colonists.   Now that's what I would call a stiff sentence.  

 "By the time the first shots were fired in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts on 19 April, 1775, the colonies had been drained of gold and silver coin by British taxation.   Consequently, the Continental government had no choice but to print its own paper money to finance the war.   At the start of the Revolution, the American colonial money supply stood at $12 million.   By the end of the war, it was $500 million.   This was partly a result of massive British counterfeiting.   Consequently, the currency was virtually worthless.   Shoes sold for $55,000 a pair." – Alexander del Mar, historian and first Director of the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, 1866-69.     "It is a fact too well authenticated to admit of dispute that (British) Gen. Howe aided the making and uttering of counterfeit Continental bills.   In the same newspaper, in New York, in which the British official documents were printed, there were also printed advertisements proposing to supply counterfeit money to persons going into other colonies, so nearly and exactly executed that no risk attended their circulation." – Alexander del Mar, The History of Money in America, 1899.  


In 1776, the British brought a printing press out the H.M.S. Phoenix, moored in the New York harbor, and started printing up "Continentals" – the illegal, legal-tender money of the Colonies.   They distributed these to Colonists loyal to the Crown who dutifully spent them - For the times, a very innovative strategy.   These New York newspaper ads, in addition to being blatantly ballsy and letting the American rebels know they were but gnats in the eyes of England, had the added effect of planting seeds of doubt in the minds of the colonists as to the validity of all their money.     Soon, Washington had a hard time purchasing supplies for his troops and the phrase, "Not worth a Continental," entered the American lexicon.   "A wagon load of money will scarcely buy a wagon load of provisions." – General George Washington.  

The paper Continentals issued by the colonists promised to pay – a few years after the war – their face value plus interest in "Spanish milled (silver) dollars."   "The fulfillment of these promises was impossible.   They were made in good faith and with the hope of speedy success for the American army.   For a year, the bills circulated at par with silver, and in their third year the premium on the coin was only seventy-five percent.   But, as the struggle continued, the people came to realize the huge joke of attempting to redeem, in 'Spanish milled dollars,' an amount of paper, genuine and counterfeit, calling for more than fifty times the whole sum of coin in the country, and counting interest, three or four hundred times the sum of coin specified in the promises.   Still, the paper circulated; and the determined, patriotic people kept passing it from hand to hand, as it went down, buying and selling with it – receiving it for something – until 1781.   It then sank out of sight at a depreciation of five hundred per cent, but 'with indulgence for its memory,' said Jefferson, 'as a thing which had vindicated the liberties of the country' and 'fallen in the moment of victory.'

 "In other words, the American people came to regard the loss on Continental money – a loss borne by the whole of them – as a general tax on their property, to secure American independence.   Thus the losers were not cheated.   It was they, in fact, who insisted on letting their losses go, and would sanction no attempt to recover them.   Congress did its best to fulfill its pledges, but the people laughed away every effort to fund or redeem the currency, and 'barbers papered their shops with it.' For once we got the better of the British bullionists and counterfeiters." – Gordon Clark, Shylock: As Banker, Bondholder, Corruptionist, Conspirator, 1894.     "Continental money expired without a single groan.   Not a murmur was heard among the people.   On the contrary, universal congratulations took place on their seeing the gigantic mass, - whose dissolution had threatened convulsions which should shake their infant confederacy to its centre, - quietly interred in its grave." - Thomas Jefferson.


"In 1764 the prohibition against issuing their money was extended to all the colonies.  It then became mandatory for all the colonies to borrow their money into circulation at huge interest rates.  It is probable that these acts were more responsible for the Revolution than any other factors.   Many of our founding fathers were keenly aware of the problem this debt money created and this is one of the principle reasons why our Constitution so clearly provided for an honest money system.  Article 1, Section 8, Par. 5 of the Constitution provides that 'Only Congress shall have the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof.'" – June Grem, The Money Manipulators, 1971.   "Fortunately, for Americans and for the entire world, the founders of this country, the authors of the Constitution of the United States, knew well the supreme importance of a scientific and honest money system. Farsighted and intelligent, they took the enormous precaution of placing the power to coin money and regulate its value, with Congress alone. That power is the greatest power inherent in any people who constitute a civilized nation, because with money we make our exchanges of goods and services.   The founders of this nation, being learned men, knew well the effects of allowing money creation to be made a privilege and function of private individuals. The phrase 'to regulate the value thereof' gives power to control the purchasing power of all money in the nation. Wide and sudden gyrations in the purchasing power of money have been the direct cause of more human misfortune and suffering than any other single force in the experience of civilized peoples. To entrust that power to private individuals gives them controls which can actually jeopardize the welfare of every individual in a nation." – Gertrude M. Coogan, Money Creators, 1935.

Unfortunately, what we continually learn from history is that we fail to learn from history.   Today, we Americans borrow every single dollar into circulation from private bankers - just like pre-Revolutionary War colonists had to do with the Bank of England.   This "borrowed money" is termed, "debt money" and as you can imagine, the interest costs that are generated by borrowing every single dollar in the U.S. economy are staggering. Go get your wallet, I'll wait...   Now, pull out some Federal Reserve Notes and look at them. Every dollar you have there is money that is owed, with interest, to the Federal Reserve Bank.   I know, you think you own that dollar free and clear – You don't.   If you pay income tax, you pay an annual interest, not only on the dollars in your hand, but on every dollar in circulation, whether physically printed on paper, or floating in the ether as an electronic computer digit.   Remember, the Bank of England lent every pound and penny into circulation in England and, unlike a real "loan," didn't demand it back – The Bank was content to sit back and collect the interest year after year after year - forever.   Same here.     This debt money interest is the principle reason why we have to pay Federal Income Tax.   Imagine, for a minute, what your personal economic situation would be like if you didn't have to pay most of your income tax.   If you are a worker, take a look at your pay stub or refer back to last year's federal income tax filing.   Imagine keeping those hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars for your own use.   Most of what you pay approximates the annual price for your "privilege" of using debt money.   If you want to cut your taxes, look here.   As Franklin pointed out and as we saw, there is an alternative and the economic life of the American Colonies before and after the advent of debt money illustrates just how dramatically these two systems can influence our nation's welfare.   Recall his story as you contemplate today's economy. Our forefathers saw first-hand how the bankers' giant debt money leech sucked the life out of their struggling economy and they wanted no part of it.   They were willing to FIGHT and they were willing DIE so that their children and their children's children would not have to suffer under its continual, intolerable burden - Such was the magnitude of their disgust.   How do you think they would feel, knowing that we chose to ignore their sacrifice and shackled ourselves - slaves to debt money?   Was debt money the only reason for our Revolutionary War?   Of course not.    Was it an extremely important factor?   Yes.   Did you learn about it in school?   No. Why not?

Our Founding Fathers stipulated in Article 1 of our Constitution that, "Only Congress shall have the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof."   Also, and equal in importance: "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law."    This put the creation of money exclusively in the hands of the U.S. Treasury and its issuance, strictly controlled by Congress.   Period.   These concepts were so important that they were in Article 1 of our Constitution!   Top billing! – Page one!   Unbelievably, the Founding Fathers even used highlighter pens to let future generations know how important this section was. Unfortunately, now, no one can tell because the whole thing turned yellow with age.   Apparently, God feels that the entire document is important. Anyway, nobody seemed to notice Article 1, and now we have that private banking corporation, the Federal Reserve System, lending us our own money – debt money - and even telling us how much of it we can have and how much interest we have to pay them. Where is Congress in all this?   Where's the Treasury?   Is our Constitution so old, brittle, yellow, and feeble that it no longer matters? Does it still form the living bone and sinew of the body of our great nation or is it now functioning simply a tourist attraction and as the basis for meaningless questions on your child's history test?  

Our Forefathers fought a bloody, bitter war to stop the injustice of debt money, money that carried the burden of interest payments, and with instructions clearly noted in Article 1 of the foundational legal document of our nation – the Constitution of the United States - I'm sure they thought that this issue was well taken care of – that there was nothing to worry about – nobody would ever be stupid enough to try that again.   Let me ask you again: You've just read the words of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and later historians and now understand how important a debt-free money system was to our Founding Fathers in fighting the Revolutionary War and in the framing of our Constitution.   Had you ever – at any time in your life – heard this story?   I'm sure, as a child, you were told about the $1 per year tax on tea – over and over again – as a deflection from the truth of the matter, but had you ever learned that our nation's currency was debt money?   Or that you have to pay interest on the money in your wallet?    Or that a good portion of your personal income tax goes to pay the interest on this debt money?    Here's the follow-up question – again, for extra points: Why?   Unbelievably and unfortunately, the Bank of England's debt money system is exactly what we have in America today and, just like in the past, the interest payments are sucking the vitality right out of our economy. What happened?   How did we get back to the same stinking situation our Founding Fathers fought so valiantly to end?      So ends Chapter 1 of Vile Acts of Evil - Banking in America. Watch for more.

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Mike Kirchubel writes a weekly Progressive/Economic column for the Fairfield, California Daily Republic and is the author of: Vile Acts of Evil, a look at the hidden economic history of the United States. Vile Acts of Evil almost wrote itself. (more...)
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