Lincoln’s ‘Greenback’ Notes Saved America Once–but Can They Save It Again Now?

October 12, 2019 Updated: October 13, 2019

Different people attribute different causes for the American Civil War, but like most wars, which are complex, its causes were manifold. Little known is how the power struggle to determine who shall control the United States’ money supply was a primary objective in the Civil War; and how a paper note called the “Greenback,” invented by Lincoln, allowed him to gain the upper hand in that contest to save America—at least for a while. It is a lesson we stand to learn from amidst the impending global crises today.

Slavery is often cited as the main cause of the Civil War, a moral realization of the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “all Men are created equal.” However, it is conceivable that saving the Union was Lincoln’s ultimate objective.

“I believe this Government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free,” Lincoln stated on June 16, 1858. “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”

But why was maintaining the Union so important?

An illustration of the American Declaration of Independence (Illustration – Shutterstock | andrasgs)

Besieged by Bankers

Lincoln knew that a divided nation would be unable to stand up to the financial elites of Europe who wanted to enslave America. A quote by then-German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck explained how larger powers planned to split the rich new nation and force Lincoln into the war:

“I know of absolute certainty that the division of the United States into two federations of equal force was decided long before the Civil War by the high financial powers of Europe. These bankers were afraid that the United States, if they remained as one block and were to develop as one nation, would attain economic and financial independence, which would upset the […] domination of Europe over the world.”

A photo taken in 1880 of then-German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) (©Shutterstock | Everett Historical)

In a Pinch: Lincoln Stumbles on the Secret of Money

However, Lincoln needed money in order to win. So he, along with Secretary of Treasury Salomon P. Chase, traveled to New York to seek loans from what he hoped were patriotic American bankers. But, wanting Lincoln to fail, they offered the extraordinarily high interest rate of 36 percent. Lincoln refused and returned to Washington, depressed.

Seeking advice, he tasked Col. Dick Taylor with finding a financial solution to fund the war effort. Taylor responded:

“Why, Lincoln, that is easy; just get Congress to pass a bill authorizing the printing of full legal tender treasury notes … and pay your soldiers with them and go ahead and win your war with them also […]

“They will have the full sanction of the government and be just as good as any money; as Congress is given that express right by the Constitution.”

So, in 1862 and 63, the American government printed $450 million of its own paper currency, paid their troops, and bought supplies, all created with no interest to pay. The special notes were printed with green ink on the back and a red seal on the front to distinguish them from debt-based money, hence the name that was coined: Greenbacks.

A “Greenback” American note (©Wikimedia Commons | National Museum of American History)

Lincoln would soon come to realize that a simple yet priceless principle—that government-printed currency, backed only by good faith—leads to unprecedented stability and prosperity for the nation. In a speech to Congress in 1865, he said:

“The Government should create, issue, and circulate all the currency and credit needed to satisfy the spending power of the Government and the buying power of consumers.

“The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of Government, but it is the Government’s greatest creative opportunity.

“By the adoption of these principles […] the taxpayers will save immense sums of interest. Money will cease to be master and become the servant of humanity.”

Lincoln succeeded in winning the American Civil War and preserving the Union. Yet even still, he was unable to prevent the scheme that followed after he was assassinated.

John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln in Ford’s Theater in 1865. (Illustration – Shutterstock | Everett Historical)

A Hired Mercenary?

On April 14, 1865, 41 days after his second inauguration and just 5 days after the South’s General Lee surrendered, Lincoln was shot dead by John Wilkes Booth—who was later revealed to be a mercenary of the international bankers, according to attorney G. G. McGeer, per The Vancouver Sun in 1934.

McGeer said that the bankers feared Lincoln’s “national currency program,” and that they “fought him throughout the Civil War on his policy of greenback currency.”

A Prediction of ‘Wars and Chaos’ Come True?

After Lincoln’s assassination, Otto von Bismarck lamented that:

“The death of Lincoln was a disaster for Christendom. There was no man in the United States great enough to wear his boots […] I feat that foreign bankers with their craftiness and torturous tricks will entirely control the exuberant riches of America, and use it systematically to corrupt modern civilization. They will not hesitate to plunge the whole of Christendom into wars and chaos in order that the earth should become their inheritance.”

Russian army officers take the oath of allegiance to the October Revolution in 1917. (©Shutterstock | Everett Historical)

Tragically, von Bismarck’s insights proved prophetically correct.

With Lincoln out of the way, a post-Civil War depression soon “convinced” the people that a centralized banking institution was needed, and America’s new central bank, the Federal Reserve, was established in 1913.

The decades that followed brought historic misery: the Great Depression; the Communist revolutions in Russia, China and elsewhere; two World Wars; the Korea and Vietnam Wars; and finally today’s global monetary crisis. Together, these have caused hundreds of millions of deaths and untold suffering.


Little is written or reported about the roles the central banks played in world history and in the current day, but it is becoming clearer how nations today can protect their sovereignty through a sound monetary policy for the people—if they can break free of the central bank’s currency monopoly iron grip. Lincoln’s Greenbacks once sent shock waves throughout the central banking elite of his day. Something along those lines in principle could be the key to a future of freedom and potentially unlimited prosperity.

A statue of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, inside the Lincoln Memorial at Washington, D.C. (©Getty Images | Terry Chambers)