Commentary Magazine


The More Things Change …

I was reading a textbook history of the United States and noticed this ditty composed by the British after the U.S. started running into debt problems following the Panic of 1837:

Yankee Doodle borrows cash,
Yankee Doodle spends it,
And then 
he snaps his fingers at
The jolly flat that lends it.


President Andrew Jackson had implemented several policies designed to benefit, or so he believed, the common man. Perhaps well-intentioned, his policies, combined with a wheat failure, nevertheless led to the Panic of 1837 and ultimately hurt that very same common man by making it more difficult for him to access capital.

After the Panic, the country, with its expanding transportation system and business growth, fell deeply in debt to the British. When several states defaulted on that debt, the Brits were understandably furious.

I wonder what kids will be reading in textbooks 20 years from now — and whether they’ll need to know Mandarin to get the joke.

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