Fiat Money Inflation in France

Andrew Dickson White
Fiat Money Inflation in France
(How it Came, What it Brought,
and How it Ended)

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Title: Fiat Money Inflation in France
Author: Andrew Dickson White
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Brought, and How It Ended
Andrew Dickson White, LL.D., Ph.D., D.C.L.
Late President and Professor of History at Cornell University;
Sometime United States Minister to Russia and Ambassador to
Germany; Author of "A History of the Warfare of Science with
Theology," etc.
As far back as just before our Civil War I made, in France and
elsewhere, a large collection of documents which had appeared during
the French Revolution, including newspapers, reports, speeches,
pamphlets, illustrative material of every sort, and, especially,
specimens of nearly all the Revolutionary issues of paper money,--from
notes of ten thousand livres to those of one sou.
Upon this material, mainly, was based a course of lectures then given to
my students, first at the University of Michigan and later at Cornell
University, and among these lectures, one on "Paper Money Inflation in
This was given simply because it showed one important line of facts in
that great struggle; and I recall, as if it were yesterday, my feeling of
regret at being obliged to bestow so much care and labor upon a subject
to all appearance so utterly devoid of practical value. I am sure that it

never occurred, either to my Michigan students or to myself, that it
could ever have any bearing on our own country. It certainly never
entered into our minds that any such folly as that exhibited in those
French documents of the eighteenth century could ever find supporters
in the United States of the nineteenth.
Some years later, when there began to be demands for large issues of
paper money in the United States, I wrought some of the facts thus
collected into a speech in the Senate of the State of New York, showing
the need of especial care in such dealings with financial necessities.
In 1876, during the "greenback craze," General Garfield and Mr. S. B.
Crittenden, both members of the House of Representatives at that time,
asked me to read a paper on the same general subject before an
audience of Senators and Representatives of both parties in Washington.
This I did, and also gave it later before an assemblage of men of
business at the Union League Club in New York.
Various editions of the paper were afterward published, among them,
two or three for campaign purposes, in the hope that they might be of
use in showing to what folly, cruelty, wrong and rain the passion for
"fiat money" may lead.
Other editions were issued at a later period, in view of the principle
involved in the proposed unlimited coinage of silver in the United
States, which was, at bottom, the idea which led to that fearful wreck of
public and private prosperity in France.
For these editions there was an added reason in the fact that the
utterances of sundry politicians at that time pointed clearly to issues of
paper money practically unlimited. These men were logical enough to
see that it would be inconsistent to stop at the unlimited issue of silver
dollars which cost really something when they could issue unlimited
paper dollars which virtually cost nothing.
In thus exhibiting facts which Bishop Butler would have recognized as
confirming his theory of "The Possible Insanity of States," it is but just
to acknowledge that the French proposal was vastly more sane than that
made in our own country. Those French issues of
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