What is a “Dollar” ?

“Congress determined as an historical fact the meaning of the term “dollar[ ]” as used in the Constitution (footnote 1)—to wit, the “Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current”, containing 371 1/4 grains of fine silver. (footnote 2) By the act of 1792 *** [t]he Spanish milled dollar, as the same was then current in use, was assumed as the standard and “the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars or units, * * * and * * * accounts in the public offices and all proceedings in courts of the United States shall be kept and had in conformity to this regulation”. (footnote 3)

Pieces of Eight: The Monetary Powers and Disabilities of the United States Constitution, (Chicago, Illinois R R Donnelly & Sons ., Inc., GoldMoney Foundation Special Edition [2011] of the Second Revised Edition , 2002) by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Volume I, page 192-193.

Also see What is a “Dollar”?: An Historical Analysis • Mint Act of 1792 (Free Coinage Act)“Bills of Credit” Civil War and “Bills of Credit” • Federal Reserve System: Cartel StructureSilver and Gold as “Money” Implemented by the States • “Right of Redemption” of Paper Money: The Monetary Conjurer’s Trick


 What is a “Dollar”?

The word “dollar” is used in the Constitution in both Article I, Section 9, Clause 1 and the Seventh Amendment. Congress’s first Coinage Act, in 1792, decreed that “the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars or units,” (footnote 4) 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.” (footnote 5). How many Americans today are aware of this? For those who are not the relationship takes form on the top of this page with a piece of eight struck in 1733. Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. was never on a “gold standard”. The constitutional “Money Unit” or standard of the United States is silver. This matter of fact and constitutional law is no mere point of trivia or intellectual bagatelle. The “dollar” is a coin so familiar in the American experience as to be beyond transmogrification. The Political Class has refused to tell the truth and learning institutions have refused to teach Americans the legal definition of a “dollar”.

Elections were once decided on the basis of a sound, stable currency. Today the average American does not know the definition of a “dollar”, which is why they are using debt masquerading as currency. Without a stable unit of money, there can be no stable political or legal system. This is what the Constitution recognizes and provides for by prohibiting States from using anything other than silver and gold only as “Money”, based on the standard, the “dollar”—a coin containing 371 1/4 grains of fine silver.

  • 1519 : The first ‘dollar’ was struck in Joachim’s Thal, Bavaria.

    Historians generally first associate  the “dollar” with one Count Schlick, who began striking such silver coins in 1519  in Joachim’s Thal, Bavaria. Originally called “Shlicktenthalers” or “Joachimsthalers”  the coins became known known simply as “Thalers”, which transliterated into “dollars” (footnote 1).

    Footnotes:

    1.) Pieces of Eight: The Monetary Powers and Disabilities of the United States Constitution, (Chicago, Illinois R R Donnelly & Sons ., Inc., GoldMoney Foundation Special Edition [2011] of the Second Revised Edition , 2002) by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Volume I, page 137.

  • The American Colonies adopt the ‘dollar’ from Spain.

    The American Colonies did not adopt the “dollar” from Germany or England, but from Spain where it was first coined by Ferdinand and Isabella (footnote 1). Under that country’s monetary reforms of 1497, silver real became the unit of account. A new coin consisting of eight reales also appeared. Variously known as colanatas, piastres, pesos, duros, “Spanish Dollars” (because of their similarity to Thalers, and “pieces of eight” (because they contained eight reales) (footnote 2). The coins achieved prominence in the New World  because of Spain’s then-important commercial and political position there. (footnote 3).Recognized by law in the Colonies in 1672 (footnote 4), by 1704 “pieces of eight” had become the unit of account, as Queen Anne’s proclamation of that year made clear when it decreed that all other current foreign silver coins “stand regulated, according to their Weight and Fineness, according and in proportion to the Rate *** limited and set for Pieces of eight, of Sevil, Pillar, and Mexico.” (footnote 5).

    Footnotes:

    1.) Pieces of Eight: The Monetary Powers and Disabilities of the United States Constitution, (Chicago, Illinois R R Donnelly & Sons ., Inc., GoldMoney Foundation Special Edition [2011] of the Second Revised Edition, 2002) by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Volume I, page 137.

    2.) See A. Del Mar, Money and Civilization: or A History of the Monetary Laws and Systems of Various States Since the Dark Ages, and Their Influence Upon Civilization (1886), at 105-11.

    3.) See Sumner, “The Spanish Dollar and the Colonial Schilling”, 3 Amer. Hist. Rev. 607 (1898).

    4.) See Sumner, A History of American Currency (1874), at 13.

    5.) An Act for ascertaining the Rates of foreign Coins in her Majesty’s Plantations in America, 1707, 6 Anne, ch. 30 § I.

  • History of the ‘dollar’ in England and the American Colonies.

    In 1704-1707 Queen Anne of England passed a proclamation followed by a statute of parliament that made the Spanish Milled Dollar the standard coin by which all other foreign coins were to be valued (footnote 1). There were many other types of coins circulating (Portuguese, Dutch, etc.). England valued those coins in dollars (i.e,. Spanish Milled Dollar). So if there were a coin that had been minted in some other country that contained the same amount of silver as the Spanish Milled Dollar, that coin would be valued at “1 Dollar” (i.e., 1 Spanish Milled Dollar) in England and the American Colonies. So “regulating the value” of England’s Spanish Milled Dollar against other coinage was simply a matter of comparing weights and measures (amount of silver contained within the coin itself).

    Queen Anne wasn’t “creating” something new. She was acknowledging, by proclamation and then a statute something that had already been going on in the market place of England and the American Colonies, which was the acceptance of the Spanish Milled Dollar by merchants as the standard medium (unit) of exchange.

    Footnotes:

    1.) In an act for ascertaining the Rates of foreign Coins in her Majesty’s Plantations in America, 1707, 6 Anne, ch. 30 § I. Also see: Pieces of Eight: The Monetary Powers and Disabilities of the United States Constitution, (Chicago, Illinois R R Donnelly & Sons ., Inc., GoldMoney Foundation Special Edition [2011] of the Second Revised Edition, 2002) by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Volume I, page 529.

  • Alexander Hamilton’s Mint Report of 1791 recognized the constitutional ‘dollar’ to be minted as the U.S. monetary standard was to be a ‘substitute’ for the Spanish Milled Dollar.

    Alexander Hamilton in his Mint Report of 1791 stated, “There is scarcely any point, in the economy of national affairs, of greater moment than the uniform preservation of the intrinsic value of the money unit. On this the security and steady value of property depend.” (footnote 1) Hamilton went on to say, “[t]he [silver] dollar is recommended by its corespondency with the present coin of that name for which it is designed to be a substitute [i.e., the Spanish Milled Dollar], which will facilitate its ready adoptions such in the minds of the citizens.” (footnote 2)

    Footnotes:

    1.) H.R. Doc. No. 24, 1st Cong., 3d Sess. (1791) (“Hamilton’s Mint Report”), in 2 The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States (J. Gales compil. 1834), Appendix, at 2071-73. Also see: Pieces of Eight: The Monetary Powers and Disabilities of the United States Constitution, (Chicago, Illinois R R Donnelly & Sons ., Inc., GoldMoney Foundation Special Edition [2011] of the Second Revised Edition, 2002) by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Volume I, page 188.

    2.) Id., at 2083-84. Emphasis supplied. Also see: Pieces of Eight: The Monetary Powers and Disabilities of the United States Constitution, (Chicago, Illinois R R Donnelly & Sons ., Inc., GoldMoney Foundation Special Edition [2011] of the Second Revised Edition , 2002) by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Volume I, page 188-189.

  • Where does the ‘dollar sign’ ($) come from?

    Pictured above left is the Spanish Milled Dollar, front and back sides. It is a silver coin that was also known as a “Piece of Eight”, due to the fact that the coin would be cut into 8 equal pieces to “make change”. This coin would eventually become the model for the “Constitutional Dollar”.

    You will see on the back of the coin (image on right), two pillars – “The Pillars of Hercules”. This was Gibraltar, part of Spain then, taken over later by the British. This was symbolic of Spanish exploration and colonization. Each pillar has a ribbon around it that says, “Nec plus ultra”, which means, “Nothing further beyond” (“this is the ultimate”).

    *Look closely at the image on the left hand side above, the coin on the right — the pillar with the ribbon, and what is it the symbol for? It’s a “dollar” sign ($). If you take both pillars (2 vertical lines through the “S”) that’s another alternative for the “dollar” sign. Our “dollar” sign ($) comes from the back of the Spanish Milled Dollar.

The Spanish Milled Dollar would eventually become the “Constitutional Dollar”. But he Founders had another task yet to be performed. To determine the “value” of a “dollar”. In other words, they needed to determine the precise weight and measure of silver to be in each “Constitutional Dollar” to be minted by the United States government. Based on their findings, the “Money Unit” or standard of the United States, the “dollar”, was defined by law in the Mint Act of 1792.

The word “value”, when referring to “Money” in the Constitution, is referring to the metal content of a coin, not the purchasing power of “Money” in the marketplace. The “value” of “Money” in that era was often performed by chemical analysis.

  • Footnotes

    1.) U.S. Const. art. I § 9, cl. 1 and amend. VII.

    2.) An Act establishing a Mint, Act of 2 April 1792, ch 16 § 9, 1 Stat. at 248.

    3.) Id., ch 16 § 20, 1 Stat. 250-51.

    4.) Id., ch 16 § 20, 1 Stat. at 250.

    5.) Id., ch 16 § 9, 1 Stat. at 248.