Excerpts From Huey Long's "Second Autobiography"
Wherein We Arrange To Overhaul And Revive The Nation
. . .The next great problem I considered was that of reforming the federal banking system. Under the leadership of my predecessor, Congress had reformed the powers of the Federal Reserve Board. While leaving private bankers in nominal control, it actually gave the President a great increase in power over the operation of the system.
In my campaign I had pledged the enactment of the banking reform act advocated by Father Charles E. Coughlin of Detroit. I was determined to carry that pledge into effect.
The Secretary of the Treasury, aware of my intentions, telephoned me one day, shortly after the inauguration, asking an appointment to discuss my banking program. I told him to come over to the White House at once.
On his arrival, he said:
"Mr. President, do you intend to ask Congress to enact the Coughlin banking bill?"
"I do," I told him. "Have you any objections to it?"
"None to the idea of a popular control of the banking system through elected officers. There are numerous minor provisions of the Coughlin bill which has been introduced in past Congresses, which must be revised for the purpose of clarity, and to make the new system foolproof."
"Then we are in accord, Mr. Secretary," I said, "because I am finally convinced that we will never get a private banking system in this or any other country to provide proper credit facilities for our people and to insure a banking structure safe against all the ravages of changing economic conditions. Private banking, as such, has failed in every emergency in every country in the world. How it can be defended any longer is beyond me. On the other hand, politically controlled banking systems, operated in response to the whim of every new administration, also have failed, and even those systems which political administrations and private bankers controlled jointly, have proved unsatisfactory. I think it is time for us to try out the central bank idea, and to have that central bank controlled by directors elected directly by the people. After all, the people make fewer mistakes than those which can be charged to private bankers.". . .
"Now, where does this Coughlin plan differ from the proposals made by the private bankers?" I inquired.
"Except in minor details, the main objection of private bankers to the Coughlin bill has been that it takes control of the banking system out of their hands and gives it to persons elected by the people," replied Couzens, "The bankers call that political control of banking."
"So it is a purely superficial objection, isn't it?"
"Exactly, Mr. President," replied Couzens. "You know bankers; they love power. They haven't been content to run their banks; they have used the resources of the people, the deposits of their customers, and their control of credit, to acquire a dominant control over transportation, industry, and all manner of commerce. They know that, once they lose control of the banking system, they will lose their present control of transportation, industry and commerce. Their opposition to this sort of legislation is the most unpatriotic, greedy, and heartlessly selfish thing in America today."
"So, anyway you look at it, the Coughlin plan couldn't be as bad as what we have already had from the private bankers?"