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[Note: As this is taken from an archived site, some links and videos below may not be working.]

Sunday, 2 December 2012

"Give me control of a nation's money supply" is a joke quote

Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744 — 1812) and his son Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777 — 1836)
Picture source: Reeves, John. The Rothschilds: The Financial Rulers of Nations. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co. 1887. 

Mayer Amschel Rothschild, the founder of the banking dynasty, or often, his third son Nathan, who became the richest man in the world, is alleged to have once said, or written, something along the lines of:

"Give me control over a nation's money supply, and I care not who makes its laws."

Today, this Rothschild quote (or variations of it) appears on countless websites, and has featured in books, magazines, documentaries, and films, for many decades. It's even made appearances during monetary debates in Parliaments around the world:

  • On Jun 28, 1945, it was quoted in the Parliament of Australia by C. A. A. Morgan. 

  • On Jan 26, 1954, it was quoted in the British House of Commons by Henry Norman Smith (it also appears  in his 1944 book).

  • On Mar 20, 1967, it was quoted in the House of Commons of Canada. 

The earliest use of the quote I have found, is in the article "Men v. the Money-Power", written by Captain C. W. T. Curd, which appeared in the October 1941 edition of The Catholic World. But I not claiming that that is where it originated, I just going to prove it's a joke quote, and people who pass it off as authentic, are being laughed at.

"Give me the making of a nation's ballads, and I care not who makes its laws,"

— Sir Philip Sidney (1554 — 1586)

"Give me the making of a nation's ballads, and let who pleases make the laws."

— Andrew Fletcher of Saluton (1655 — 1716)

“Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.”

— Mark Twain (1835 — 1910)

Scottish writer and politican Andrew Fletcher really did write in 1703:
"I said, I knew a very wise man so much of Sir Christopher's sentiment, that he believed if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation."

You have to read context (see below) to understand why it has become such a legendary piece of literature, but in essence: Fletcher describes how his friend, the politician Sir Christopher Musgrave, believed the overtly sexual content in the lyrics of popular songs (ballads), had corrupted the people, both rich and poor. So Fletcher related to Musgrave what a wise man had told him: All that is required to keep the people virtuous, is control of writing ballads, as the people are more influenced by music than they are deterred by laws.

I've found literally dozens of publications, both newspapers and books, from around 1835 to the present (Google books is your friend), that either misquote (paraphrase is perhaps more accurate) Fletcher, or misattribute a paraphrasing of the quote to Sidney—who did actually write ballads. Several publications describe the quote (whilst paraphrasing it) as a "maxim" or an "
aphorism." Although I'd not previously heard it before I begun to do some research for this post, it's clear that the quote, although always paraphrased, was once very famous, probably still is amongst more well-read folk, and understandably so—it's very amusing.

A barstardised version of Fletcher's quote was at some point attributed to Mayer 
Amschel Rothschild, and very likely in jest, as the original quote was so famous, surely no-one with even half-a-brain would take it seriously. But tellingly, for at least the last 71 years, this joke-quote has been propagated as a genuine. And that'll probably continue.

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