By Will Rogers, from a recording released May 31, 1923, by Victor Records. The origins of the speech are unknown; Rogers may have been speaking before the annual convention of the American Bankers Association in 1922, in New York City. The document is included in The Papers of Will Rogers, Volume Four, published by the University of Oklahoma Press.
Loan sharks and interest hounds—I have addressed every form of organized graft in the United States, excepting Congress, so it’s naturally a pleasure for me to appear before the biggest. You are without a doubt the most disgustingly rich audience I ever talked to, with the possible exception of the bootleggers’ union, Local No. 1, combined with the enforcement officers.
Now, I understand that you hold this convention every year to announce what the annual gyp will be. I have often wondered where the depositors hold their convention. I had an account in the bank once, and the banker, he asked me to withdraw it. He said I had used up more red ink than the account was worth.
I see where your convention was opened by a prayer, you had to send outside your ranks to get somebody that knew how to pray. You should have had one creditor there; he’d have shown you how to pray. I noticed in the prayer the clergyman announced to the Almighty that the bankers were here. Well, it wasn’t exactly an announcement. It was more in the nature of a warning. He didn’t tell the devil, as he figured he knew where you all were all the time anyhow.
I see by your speeches that you’re very optimistic of the business conditions of the coming year. Boy, I don’t blame you. If I had your dough, I’d be optimistic too.
Will you please tell me what you all do with the vice presidents the bank has? I guess that’s to get anybody more discouraged before they can see the main guy. Why, the United States is the biggest business institution in the world. They got only one vice president. Nobody’s ever found anything for him to do.
You have a wonderful organization. I understand you have 10,000 here, and what you have in federal prisons brings your membership up to around 30,000. So goodbye, paupers. You’re the finest bunch of shylocks that ever foreclosed a mortgage on a widow’s home.