Sunday, January 18, 2015

Peter Cooper on bankers in government

For many years, I have used Peter Cooper as an example of someone who knew a whole lot more about the nature of money and monetary policy than almost anyone who ever broached the subject—and that most especially includes the mediocrities that have run the various central banks in the last 40 years.

Unfortunately, what I knew of Cooper came second-hand.  I knew he was the guy who sold the idea of Greenbacks to Lincoln when it became obvious that conventional banking sources were not about to fund the Civil War.  I also knew that he was the oldest man to have ever run for President at 85 as the standard-bearer of the Greenback Party in 1876.  I also knew that that virtually all of the monetary ideas supported by the People's Party could be traced back to him.  But in all honesty, I really had not read his writings.  Well, it turns out that he was a prolific writer who wrote clearly and beautifully.  In 1883, the year of his death, a collection of his writings appeared under the clunky title of Ideas For a Science of Good Government: In Addresses, Letters and Articles on a Strictly National Currency, Tariff and Civil Service.  In 2009, this collection was reissued thanks to the benevolence of the Microsoft Foundation.  You can buy it for $25 from Amazon but far more interestingly, you can download it for free at

Cooper was certainly one of the USA's more interesting nation-builders.  In 1830, he built the first steam locomotive in North American called Tom Thumb. Among his other achievements were his supervision of laying the first trans-Atlantic cable in 1858, and the founding of the Cooper Union in 1859, a first rate school of design and engineering that is still with us.

Now that I have a digitized copy of Science of Good Government: I intend to publish interesting excerpts once a week for the foreseeable future.  And because the biggest problem facing the USA government these days is the pernicious influence of Wall Street and those it hires to corrupt our public affairs, here is Cooper on how the founding fathers felt about allowing moneychangers into the temple of democracy.


On page 20 of the Journal of the United States Senate, first session of the Third Congress, commenced at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 2, 1793, can be found the following resolution, offered on the 23d of December the same year, and passed by the United States Senate with but two dissenting votes, and signed by George Washington, President, and John Adams, Yice-President : "ANY PERSON, HOLDING ANY OFFICE OR ANY STOCK IN ANY INSTITUTION IN THE NATURE OF A BANK FOR ISSUING OR DISCOUNTING BILLS OR NOTES PAYABLE TO BEARER ON ORDER, CANNOT BE A MEMBER OF THE HOUSE WHILST HE HOLDS SUCH OFFICE OR STOCK."

Yet, a late Congress was composed of one hundred and twenty bankers, ninety-nine lawyers, fourteen merchants, thirteen manufacturers, seven doctors, four mechanics, and not a single farmer or day laborer. This is agreeable to a statement made by Moses W. Field, " I think this law was invoked to prevent A. T. Stewart, the largest importer of foreign goods, from becoming Secretary of the Treasury."

Why should it not be enforced now to oust speculators from our Congress, where they are making laws in their own favor and against the interest of the people? The wise men, who achieved the Independence, drafted the Constitution and established our Government, well knew that it was unsafe to trust the governmental law-making to bankers, usurers, or any one interested in such business. They knew it was morally impossible for persons, interested in money-lending, not to attempt to legislate in their own favor and against the good of the people.

I ever did and ever shall advocate a purely national currency, as long as I live, as the only remedy against periodic stagnation, caused by special legislation, suggested and voted by banking representatives and speculators in the seats of our Congress.

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