National Executive Silver Committee.

Silver in the Fifty-first Congress, preceded by a summary of the coinage laws of the United States, prior to 1873, and a history of the act of 1873 and the act of 1878 online

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PiwM liy a Soimary of tie Coinage Laws of k MU States,

PRIOR TO 1873,

And a History of the Act of 1873 and the
Act of 1878.


-^ 1890.

— 6~67^'@'"^r$5 —

Washington, D. C:

Geo. K. Gray, Peinteb.





















Minnesota— JAMES McARTHUR.
Nebraska— ALLEN ROOT.
New Jersey— WM. BRINDLE.
North Carolina— ALFRED M. SCALES
Ohio— A. J. WARNER.
Pennsylvania— JOHN A. GRIER.
South Carolina-JOHN E. BRADLEY.
Tennessee— ANDREW J. KELLAR.
TTtah— WM. F. JAMES.
Washington— THOMAS FITCH.
Wyoming— M. N. GRANT.


lAiRMAN, A. J. WARNER. Marietta, Ohio.
:ce-Chaikman, THOMAS FITCH, Seattle, Washington.





L. M. RUMSEY, Missouri.

FRANK M. PIXLEY, California.

JOHN L. COCHRAN, Virginia.

H. B. CHAMBERLAIN, Colorado.


A. J. WARNER, Chairman.



LEE CRANDALL, Secretary.




Chaptek I.— The Act of 1792.— The First Coinage Law - - - 5

Chaptee II.— Coinage Laws from 1792 to 1873 - - - - 8

Dhaptke III.— The Act of 1873 . - - 16

Chaptee IV.— The Bland-Allison Act of 1878 - - - - 43

OHArTEB v.— Period from 1878 to 1890 - - - 52

Chapter VI.— Silver in the Fifty -first Congress - - - - 65

Chaptee VII.— The Caiicus Bill Considered ui the House 72

Chaptee VIII.— The House Caucus Bill in the Senate 89

Celaptee IX.— The Senate Free Coinage Bill in the House - - - 114

Chaptee X. — ^The Conference Committee - 144

Chaptee XL— The Effect of the Law -* - . - - - 156

Appendix .. - -..-.-.159


Including a Summary of the Coinage Laws of the United States prior to iSyjf
with a History of the Act of iSyj and the Act of 18^8.


Thb Act op 1792. — The First Coinage Law.

The first act of the Congress of the United States respecting coiJi-
agewas the act of April 2, 1792, entitled ^^ An act establishing a Mint
and regulating the coin^ of the United States. ' '

The ninth section of this act provided —

"That there shall be from time to time struck and coined at the
said Mint, coins of gold, silver, and copper of the following denomi-
nations, values and descriptions, viz: Eagles — each to be of the
value of ten Dollars or Units, and to contain two hundred and forty-
seven grains and four-eighths of a grain of pure, or two hundred and
seventy grains of standard gold."

Then, after providing for half eagles, each to be of half the value of
the eagle, and quarter eagles, eacli to be of one-fourth of the value
of the eagle, the section continues, as follows:

''Dollars or Units — each to be of the value of a Spanish milled dol-
lar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and sev-
enty-one grains and four-sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or four
hundred and sixteen grains of standard silver."

The act also provided for half dollars, quarter dollars, dimes and
half dimes, each to contain, respectively, one-half, one-fourth, one-
tenth and one-twentieth of the pure silver contained in the dollar.
The coinage of cents and halt cents of copper were also provided for.

It will thus be seen that in this first coinage act the words ' ' dollar or
unit " are applied equally to dollars of gold and the dollar of silver —
that is, "dollar" is the name of the unit of money in our system, and
the gold eagle was to be of the value of ten dollars, or units. The
coin, however, which represented exactly the unit was the silver
dollar, and the act provided that it should be of the value of the
Spanish milled dollar, as that piece was then current. The assay
of a number of Spanish dollars, then in common use, showed thein

to contain three hundred and seventy-one and a fourth grains of
pure silver, or four hundred and sixteen grains of standard silver.

The proportion of pure gold to the alloy in gold coins was made
by this act, eleven parts gold and one part alloy, the alloy being
composed of silver and copper. The proportion of pure silver to the
alloy in silver coins was made fourteen -hundred and eighty-five parts
fine silver to one hundred and seventy-nine parts alloy. The reason
for this proportion of silver to alloy was that the alloy was found in
that proportion in the Spanish dollars then current. These coins
having been a long time in circulation were more or less worn, and
their assay did not show the exact original weight of the coin, and
probably not the exact original proportion of alloy. The alloy in
the silver dollar consisted of 44|- grains of copper, making the dollar
892.4 fine ; this, as will be seen in another chapter, was afterwards
changed to 414- grains of copper, making the standard nine-tenths

Section 11 of the act provided —

"That the proportional value of gold to silver in all coins which
shall by law be current as money within the United States, shall
be as 15 to 1, according to quantity in weight, of pure gold or
pure silver ; that is to say, every fifteen pounds weight of pure silver
shall be of equal value in all payments with one pound weight of
pure gold, and so in proportion as to any greater or less quantities of
the respective metals."

A dollar of gold contained 24.75 grains of pure metal, and a
dollar of silver 371.25 grains — being exactly 15 to 1.
Section 14 provided —

'' That it shall be lawful for any person or persons to bring to the
said Mint gold and silver bullion, in order to their being coined; and
that the bullion so brought shall be there assayed and coined as
speedily as may be after the receipt thereof, and that free of expense
to the person or persons by whom the same shall have been brought.
And as soon as the said bullion shall have been coined, the person
or persons by whom the same shall have been delivered, shall upon
dernand, receive in lieu thereof coins of the same species of bullion
which shall have been so delivered, weight for weight, of the pure
gold or pure silver therein contained."

Section 16, which follows, made the coinage of both metals equally
a lawful tender in all payments whatsoever,' thus establishing the
free coinage and full legal tender of both metals without ' limit at
the ratio of 15 to 1. The exact language of Section 16, of the act, is:

''That all tlie gold and silver coins which shall have been struck

at, and issued from the said Mint, shall be a lawful tender iu all
payments whatsoever; those of full weight according to the respec-
tive values hereinbefore declared, and those of less than full weight
at values proportional to their respective weights."

Thus it will be seen that by this first act of Congress establishing
the mint, gold and silver, as recomraended by Hamilton and Jefferson,
and approved by Washington, were placed upon an exact equality as
money metals, and their coinage made free and unlimited.*

The ratio of 15 to 1 for American coins was not exactly in accord-
•ance with the ratio which then prevailed in European countries.
Silver was slightly over-valued and gold a little under-valued. The
result was that the metallic money of the United States, during this
period, consisted mostly of silver coins and largely of foreign coins.
But $11,908,890 of gold altogether were coined from 1793 to 1834,
and this was generally soon exported. The production of gold for
the same period in the United States is given at $14,000,000.

But it should be remembered that this ratio of 15 to 1 was adopted
eleven years before the law of France, enacted in 1803, fixed the
wavering ratio at 15| to 1, at which it stood without variation except
as accounted for by the course of exchange, till 1873.

* Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, had recommended in his
celebrated report to Congress that tha unit of value should rest on both metals,
and gave as a reason that " To annul the use of either of the metals as money is
io abridge the quantity of circulatinr/ medium, and is liable to all the objections
which arise from a comparison of tbe benefits of a full with the evils of a scanty
ttireulation." (Report to Congress, 179I.J

And Jefferson in a letter to Hamilton, indorsed this view, saying : " I return
you the report on the mint. I concur with you that the unit must stand on both
metals.''' (Letter to Hamilton, February, 1792.)


Coinage Laws From 1792 to 18V3.

The act of May 8, 1792, provided for the purchase of copper, ''not
exceeding one hundred and fifty tons," " to be coined into cents and
half cents," which, by the act of April 2, 1V92, were to contain
respectively eleven, and five and a half, pennyweights. The act of
January 14, 1793, provided that the cent piece should contain 208-
grains of copper and the half cent 104 grains.

The act of February 9, 1793, prescribed the rates at which foreign
gold and silver coins should be legf^l tender in the United States.
This act provided that Spanish milled dollars should be legal tender
"at the rate of 100 cents for each dollar, the actual weight whereof
shall not be less than seventeen pennyweights and seven grains."
Section 2 of this act provided, "That at the expiration of three
years next ensuing the time when the coinage of gold and silver,
agreeably to the act entitled ' An act establishing a mint, and regu-
lating the coins of the United States,' shall commence at the mint of
the United States, (which time shall be announced by the proclama^
tion of the President of the United States,) all foreign gold coins and
all foreign silver coins, except Spanish milled dollars, and parts of
such dollars, shall cease to be a legal tender, as aforesaid."

By this provision it will be seen that, while all other coins were to
be deprived of legal tender, the Spanish milled dollar was to continue
to be a part of the money of the country.

Section 5 of the act of March 3, 1795, provided for the deduc-
tion of two cents per ounce from deposits of silver bullion, when
below the standard of the United States, and four cents per ounce
from gold bullion below the United States standard, to cover the
cost of refining.

Section 7 of this act provided that preference might be given in
coining gold or silver bullion, which came up to the United States
standard, over that which required to be refined.

Section 8 of the same act authorized the President of the United
States to reduce the weight of the copper coin.

The act of February 1, 1798, suspended for three years the act
of February 9, 1793, and made foreign gold and silver coins lega
tender until 1801.

Section 2 of the act of April 24, 1800, provided —

" That there shall be retained from every deposit, in the mint of
gold or silver bullion below the standard of the United States such
sum as shall be equivalent to the expense incurred in refining the

Thus, the only charge made at the mint against either gold or
silver bullion was the cost of refining it, when below the coining

The act of April 10, 1806, repealed the act of February 9, 1793,.
regulating foreign coins, and provided that "foreign gold and silver
coins shall pass current as money within the United States, and
be a legal tender for the payment of all debts and demands," at
rates provided in the act. Among the coins named was the Spanish
milled dollar. This act also made it the duty of the Secretary of
the Treasury to cause assays of foreign coins to be had at the mint
of the United States each year, and to make a report thereof to-
Con gress.

The act of April 21, 1806, provided penalties for falsifying or coun-
terfeiting coins of the United States, or foreign coins circulating in
the United States.

The act of April 29, 1816, provided that after three years gold
coins of Grreat Britain, France, Portugal and Spain, and the crown»
and five-franc silver pieces of France should not be legal tender.
This act was, however, modified by the act of March 3, 1819, whicl:
provided that from and after the first day of November of that year-
foreign gold coins should cease to be legal tender in the United
States. The French crown and five-franc piece, however, were
continued as legal tender for two years, and were afterwards continued
legal tender till 1823, and again till 1827.

But by the act of March 3, 1823, all foreign gold coins were again
made receivable for public lands. The act of June 25, 1834, made
the dollar piece of Mexico, Peru, Chili and Central America and the
five-franc piece of France legal tender at their nominal value when-
of full weight.

As will appear from the foregoing summary of the coinage laws-
from 1792 to 1834, the coinage of both gold and silver for the benefit
of the holder remained free and unrestricted at the ratio of 15 to 1,.
as established by the act of 1792, and that during this period foreigii
gold and silver coins, at values designated by Congress, continued tt>
be current in the United States.


It is worthy of note too that at no time was the Spanish milled dol-
lar, the prototype of the American standard dollar, barred from circu-
lation or deprived of its legal tender quality.

In 1834 the first change in the ratio of pure metal in the gold and
silver coins of the United States was made.

By the act of June 28, 1834, the pure gold in the gold eagle
was reduced from 247^ grains to 232 grains, and the other gold
pieces were reduced in proportion.

Section 3 of the act changing the weight of gold coins pro-
vided —

''That all gold coins of the United States, minted anterior to the
-31st day of July next shall be receivable in all payments at the rate
of ninety-four and eight-tenths of a cent per pennyweight."

By an act of the same date foreign gold coins were made current
in the United States at the same rate per pennyweight as provided
for United States gold coins, except French gold coins, which being
nine-tenths fine (instead of eleven-twelfths fine, as were our first gold
■and most foreign gold coins,) were made current at the rate of 93.1
cents a pennyweight.

This act of 1834 making the eagle contain 232 grains of pure and
258 grains of standard gold, changed the alloy to very nearly one-
tenth instead of eleven-twelfths. If the pure gold in the eagle
had been made 232.2 grains instead of 232 grains, the proportion of
pure gold to alloy would have been exactly as 9 to 1. The change
to this proportion was made three years later when the French stand-
ard of fineness was adopted for both gold and silver coins, and from
:that date all our gold and silver coins have been nine-tenths fine.

The new gold coins provided for by the act of 1834 were made
legal tender in all payments. The old gold coins, those coined prior
to 1834, as shown above, were made receivable in all payments at
the rate of 94.8 cents per pennyweight, and as the eagle piece con-
tained 270 grains eleven-twelfths fine, or 27 grains of the then
standard gold to the dollar, these coins were, by this act, raised to

The ratio of pure gold to pure silver in our coins was made by the
act of 1834, 23.2 to 37 H, or almost exactly 16 to 1. No change was
made in our silver coins by the act of 1834. Why the ratio should
have been changed at this time from 15 to 1, as established in 1792,
to 16 to 1, thirty-one years after the French act of 1803, which had
practically fixe

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Online LibraryNational Executive Silver CommitteeSilver in the Fifty-first Congress, preceded by a summary of the coinage laws of the United States, prior to 1873, and a history of the act of 1873 and the act of 1878 → online text (page 1 of 21)