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Considerations on the Currency and Banking System of the United States (Classic Reprint)

Considerations on the Currency and Banking System of the United States (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Considerations on the Currency and Banking System of the United States

The framers of the Constitution of the United States were deeply impressed with the still fresh recollection of the baneful effects of a paper money currency, on the property and on the moral feeling of the community. It was accordingly provided by our National Charter, that no state should coin money, emit bills of credit, make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts, or pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts; and the power to coin money and to regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, was, by the same instrument, vested exclusively in Congress. As this body has no authority to make any thing whatever a tender in payment of private debts, it necessarily follows, that nothing but gold and silver coin can be made a legal tender for that purpose, and that Congress cannot authorize the payment, in any species of paper currency, of any other debts but those due to the United States, or such debts of the United States as may, by special contract, be made payable in such paper. All the engagements previously contracted at home, by the United States, were expressed in Spanish dollars; all the moneys of account of the several states, were estimated and payable in that coin; there might be some uncertainty as to the precise weight of pure silver which it contained; and the assays made at the time, may not, for want of proper means, have had all the accuracy of which that process is susceptible. But they were made in good faith; and the Act of Congress of the year 1791, which declared that the dollar of the United States should contain 371? grains of pure silver, has irrevocably fixed that quantity as the equivalent of a dollar of account, and as the permanent standard of value, according to which all contracts must be performed. The relative legal value of gold and foreign coins to that standard, may from time to time be varied provided that neither shall be so overrated, as to authorize the payment of a debt with an amount in such coin of a less actual value, than that of the silver to which it may be made to correspond.

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