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An Open Letter to Our Founding Fathers

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We're sorry!

To the legendary founders of these United States, we modern-day citizens offer our heartfelt apology. We learned of your sacrifices as schoolchildren, but we took the fruits of your labor for granted.

We've visited monuments erected in your honor, overlooking Washington, the capitol, but we've failed to keep watch ourselves. Your words, in time, fell tragically into the well of human forgetfulness, and so we stood by as many of your works were undone.

I am sorry to report that here in the year 2009, we find our nation mired in debt as you cautioned against, and to a degree for which you would have no context. I know you are each austere statesmen to the core, but be not surprised to shed a tear as we describe the fiscal state of our nation.

Paper money
Mr. Washington, of you we were told quaint parables about cherry trees and epic tales of bravery, but only today do we fathom this great nugget of your wisdom: "Paper money has had the effect in your state that it will ever have, to ruin commerce, oppress the honest, and open the door to every species of fraud and injustice." You and your fellow patriots knew the value of sound money, backed by gold and silver, and had witnessed the very same ravages of fiat currency crises that we are witnessing today.

Mr. Jefferson, you were most explicit in outlining the dangers posed by undisciplined fiscal policy. You warned that "banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies," and today we have clear evidence in the shattered remains of banks like Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) . Today, Mr. President, we feel humbled by your most prescient declaration of all:

It is from Great Britain we copy the idea of giving paper in exchange for discounted bills: and while we have derived from that country some good principles of government and legislation, we unfortunately run into the most servile imitation of all her practices, ruinous as they prove to her, and with the gulph yawning before us into which those very practices are precipitating her. The unlimited emission of bank-paper has banished all her specie, and is now, by a depreciation acknowledged by her own statesmen, carrying her rapidly to bankruptcy, as it did France, as it did us, and will do us again, and every country permitting paper to be circulated, other than that by public authority, rigorously limited to the just measure for circulation.

All these years later, we regret to inform you that Britain once again faces a test of its very solvency, dwarfed only by the scale of indebtedness accumulating here between our own shining seas. You will be troubled to learn, furthermore, that in 1913 we passed much sovereign authority of the Treasury to a consortium of private banks called -- quite cunningly -- the Federal Reserve.

The power to print
Mr. Jackson, though you stood on the shoulders of those founding giants, you too understood the sanctity of sovereign authority over the nation's currency. You clarified the intent of the founders with this: "If Congress has the right under the Constitution to issue paper money, it was given to be used by themselves, not to be delegated to individuals or corporations."

Well, Mr. President, I'm sorry to inform you that not only was the authority delegated away, but as you read this letter the resulting Federal Reserve has embarked upon the most ambitious effort to reflate a deleveraging economy ever devised. Adding insult to injury, your portrait graces the very paper that you would have vehemently opposed … the fiat $20 federal reserve note.

It has happened before, and it will happen again
Take a breath, sirs, for we have more to report. The unfathomable debt recently accrued by quasi-national corporations called Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM  ) and Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE  ) in a futile stretch beyond our collective means bears a striking resemblance to a crisis in 1873. Half a century later, our nation endured a Great Depression, as did many bread-and-butter companies like United States Steel (NYSE: X  ) and Bucyrus (Nasdaq: BUCY  ) . Thereafter, the universal reliance upon leverage and the treatment of debts as assets returned once more, adding bitter irony to the name Fifth Third Bancorp (NYSE: FITB  ) .

For offering your lives of service and your words of wisdom as guiding templates for the nation you built, we thank you. For failing to adequately oversee the practices of our government and the financial industry it coddled, we are truly sorry. We ignored Mr. Jackson's timeless lesson: "eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty." I wish I could say that it will never happen again, but history and human nature would seem to suggest otherwise.

Further Foolishness:

With one simple glance, the founding fathers would become very wary of the domestic economy and might look abroad for investment opportunities. The Motley Fool Global Gains newsletter team is constantly scouring the globe to identify investment opportunities for Fools who wish to diversify out of the domestic markets, and they're ready to share their findings with you.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker hopes to get a letter back from any of these great men. He can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He owns no shares in the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy hopes to jump off the paper one day and visit Monticello.

Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (73)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2009, at 1:50 PM, TMFMitten wrote:

    As a favorite bumper sticker of mine states:

    Irony is Andrew Jackson on a Federal Reserve note.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2009, at 5:16 PM, jesusfreakinco wrote:


    As always great article. I just wish the average American would wake up and take back this country. We are headed down the socialist path and some day will wake up and wonder what happened.

    I remember reading a book called Rise and Fall of Great Powers and feel like the US is on its way out as a great power. Sad to see.


  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2009, at 5:49 PM, Luwingo wrote:

    Outstanding article. I've been waiting to see whether anyone would be willing to look back at the lessons taught by the legendary Founders of this great nation and draw parallels between the lessons they taught and the travails facing the world today. Your article succeeds brilliantly.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2009, at 7:01 PM, mlaursen wrote:

    I'd welcome the end of the hubris that comes from we Americans derive from considering ourselves to be the nation with the greatest power. That hubris is part of what's gotten us into this mess; we think our nation is "too big to fail."

    What I fear is that we're on our way out as a place where economic dreams come true, or just as a place where most people make a decent middle-class living. Such a needless waste.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2009, at 12:16 AM, texjammer wrote:

    The authors of the constitution missed one other fallacy of the present - the Politician-for -Life.

    As farmers and businessmen, they assumed anyone seeking office would shortly be ready to return to their life. They simply didn't understand anyone who would be willing to live off other people without ever producing anything of value to others. Hard work and the fruits of their labor were the landmarks they strove towards, otherwise there would have been Term Limits in the Constitution.

    Help take back this great country by joining the fight against Politicians-for-Life. Vote every incumbent from both parties out of office starting in 2010. Demand Term Limits be one of their priorities. 12 years combined for Senate and/or House and then they go home!!! Take away the salary and healthcare benifits for life. Once their term is up, they go home and never get another taxpayer's dime.

    This is a great article, but once again, the main flaw in the system was overlooked!

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2009, at 8:29 AM, Wharton93 wrote:

    Our constitution and the legacy of our Founders died a long, long time ago. We reap what we sow.

  • Report this Comment On April 10, 2009, at 7:40 PM, jeeyum wrote:

    The Internet is host to many spurious quotes attributed to the founding fathers. I'm trying to find a record of that quote from Washington. Can anyone help?

  • Report this Comment On April 10, 2009, at 7:46 PM, jeeyum wrote:

    I have found it! :D

    George Washington to Jabez Bowen 9 January 1787

    I'm happy to know that this is a genuine quote.

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