MONETARY POWERS AND DISABILITIES  191

a. THE COINAGE ACT OF 1792

        The Coinage Act of 1792794 initiated a new statutory system, embodying the common-law and constitutional principles Hamilton had reaffirmed in his Report. Congress followed common-law tradition by continuing the use of silver, gold, and copper as “Money”.795 It reiterated the judgment of the Continental Congress and the Constitution that “the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars or units”,796 and defined the “DOLLARS or UNITS” in terms of weight, as “of the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and seventy-one grains and four sixteenth parts of a grain of pure * * * silver”.797 Recognizing that to adopt Hamilton’s suggest of a parallel “gold dollar” would cause confusion, Congress created no such coin, instead mandating the coinage of “EAGLES”, “each to be of the value of ten dollars or units, and to contain two hundred and forty-seven grains and four eights of a grain of pure * * * gold”,798 the weight of fine gold then believed equivalent in the marketplace to 3,712-1/2 grains of fine silver. For, following Hamilton’s recommendation, Congress fixed “the proportional value of gold to silver in all coins which shall by law be current as money within the United States” at “fifteen to one, according to quantity in weight, of pure gold or pure silver”.799 And it made “all the gold and silver coins * * * issued from the * * * mint * * * a lawful tender in all payments whatsoever, those of full weight according to the respective values * * * declared [in the Act], and those of less than full weight at values proportional to their respective weights”.800 Congress also provided for “free coinage”: namely, that “any person” might



bring to the * * * mint gold and silver bullion, in order to their being coined; and * * * the bullion so brought shall be * * * coined as speedily as may be after the receipt thereof, and that free of expense to the person * * * by whom the same shall have been brought. And as soon as the said bullion shall have been coined, the person * * * by whom the same shall have been delivered, shall upon demand receive in lieu thereof coins of




794 Act of 2 April 1792, ch. 16, 1 Stat. 246.

795 9, 1 Stat. at 248.

796 20, 1 Stat. at 250.

797 9, 1 Stat. at 248. Because it contained 480 grains, a troy ounce of coined silver was worth 1.2929+ “dollars” — a number that would appear repeatedly in American monetary history.

798 9, 1 Stat. at 248.

799 11, 1 Stat. at 248-49.

800 16, 1 Stat. at 250.

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