Thomas Jefferson — like his friend, then bitter foe, then friend again John Adams — wrote a lot. He’s also a well-known name from history. The combination makes him ripe for a made-up quote. As with the Washington quote, the first reference to this supposed Jeffersonian quip didn’t occur until a century (actually 111 years) after his death, in a congressional report.
It goes like this: “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered.”
What’s interesting is, this quote is often footnoted to a number of important-sounding, credible sources. But none of them are accurate. The most damning evidence comes from “Respectfully Quoted.” As with the words falsely associated to William McKinley, this quote contains an anachronism: “Deflation.” The term first appeared in the Oxford Dictionary in 1920, and even the word “inflation” wasn’t in common-enough use to get added until 1838 — twelve years after Jefferson’s death.
And finally, even with Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, the United States had yet to expand across “the continent” in his lifetime. Nor did corporations exist at the time of the founding as we know them today: The focus of public ire, political influence and economic might. As Bruce Brown, author of “The History of the Corporation, Vol. 1″ writes that the United States “possessed only seven chartered business corporations at the time of Independence. The first significant American industrial corporation, the Boston Manufacturing Company, was not established until 1813.”