State Issued

Coinage Act of 1792

The "money of account" of the United States—the constitutional “DOLLAR” or “UNIT” is an historically determinate, fixed weight of fine silver and nothing else.

Last Updated on October 1, 2021 by Constitutional Militia

No “Gold Dollar” or “Gold Standard” Established

For a more extensive analysis on the significance of this, see What is a “Dollar”?: An Historical Analysis of the Fundamental Question In Monetary Policy

Recognizing that to adopt Alexander Hamilton’s suggestion of a “gold dollar” would cause confusion and require constant governmental supervision to “regulate * * * Value[s],”[1] Congress created no such coin, instead mandating the coinage of “EAGLES,” “each to be of the value of ten dollars or units,”[2] that is, of the weight of fine gold equivalent in the marketplace to 371.25 grains of fine silver. Following Hamilton’s recommendation, though, it 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.”[3] 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 [established in the Act], and those of less than full weight at values proportional to their respective weights.”[4]

Thus, Congress did not establish a “gold dollar,” or enact a “gold standard,” as the popular misconception holds. For example, the Encyclopaedia Britannica erroneously reports that the “dollar * * * was defined in the Coinage Act of 1792 as either 24.75 gr. (troy) of fine gold or 371.25 gr. (troy) of fine silver.”[5] The Act did no such thing. It explicitly defined the “dollar” as a fixed weight of silver, and “regulate[d] the Value” of gold coins according to this standard unit (or money of account) and the market exchange-ratio between the two metals. Nowhere did the Act refer to a “gold dollar,” only to various gold coins of other names that it valued in “dollars.”[6] 

Footnotes:

1.) See U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 5.

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

3.) Id., § 11, 1 Stat. at 248-49.

4.) Id., § 16, 1 Stat. at 250.

5.) Vol. 7, “Dollar” (1963 ed.) at 558.

6.) For the correct interpretation of the Act, see, e.g., A. Hepburn, History of Coinage and Currency in the United States and the Perennial Contest for Sound Money (1903), at 22.

The Coinage Act of 1792

The Coinage Act of 1792[4] 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”.[5] 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,”[6] 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.”[7] Recognizing that to adopt Hamilton’s suggestion 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 eighths of a grain of pure * * * gold”,[8] the weight of fine gold then believed equivalent in the market place to 3, 712-½ 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”.[9] 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”.[10] 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 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 the same species of bullion which shall have been delivered, weight to weight, of the pure gold or pure silver therein contained: Provided nevertheless, That it shall be at the option of the party * * * bringing such bullion, and of the director of the * * * mint to make an immediate exchange of coins for standard bullion, with a deduction of one half per cent. From the weight of the pure gold or pure silver contained in the said bullion, as an indemnification the mint for the time which will necessarily be required for coining the said bullion, and for the advance which shall have been so made in coins.[11]

And Congress affixed the penalty of death for debasing the coinage.[12]

This statute is significant in several respects:

First, Congress determined as an historical fact the meaning of the term “dollar[ ]” as used in the Constitution[1]—to wit, the “Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current”, containing 371-¼ grains of fine silver.[2] By the act of 1792 * * * [t]he Spanish milled dollar, as the same was then current in use, was assumed as the standard.[3] This construction of the Constitution fixed its meaning:

We have * * * a construction * * * made by a Congress which was to provide * * * for the organization of the Government in accord with the Constitution which had just then been adopted, and in which there were, as representatives and senators, a considerable number of those who had been members of the Convention that framed the Constitution and presented it for ratification. It was the Congress that launched the Government. It was the Congress that rounded out the Constitution itself by the proposing of the first ten amendments which had in effect been promised to the people as a consideration for the ratification. It was the Congress in which Mr. Madison, one of the first in the framing of the Constitution, led also in the organization of the Government under it. It was a Congress whose constitutional decisions have always been regarded, as they should be regarded, as of the greatest weight in the interpretation of that fundamental instrument. This construction was followed by the legislative * * * and the executive department[s] continuously * * * [. A] contemporaneous legislative exposition of the Constitution when the founders of our government and framers of our Constitution were actively participating in public affairs, acquiesced in for a long term of years, fixes the construction to be given its provisions.[4]

(In fact, the Second Congress enacted the Coinage Act of 1792. But the overlap of the personnel with the First Congress makes this analysis cogent.[5]) Thereafter, Congress could not change that construction[6] or otherwise alter the constitutional definition of the “dollar[ ]”[7]—and as will be shown, for more than three quarters of a century never even attempted to do so.

Footnotes:

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

2.) Act of 1792, § 9, 1 Stat. At 248 (emphasis supplied).

3.) United States v Gardner, 35 U.S. (10 Pet.) 618, 621 (1836) (emphasis supplied). 

4.) Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 174-75 (1926), citing Stuart v. Laird, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 299, 309 (1603); Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, 14 U.S. (1 Wheat.) 304, 351 (1816); Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 264, 420 (1821); Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 41 U.S. (16 Pet) 539, 621 (1842); Cooley v. Board of Wardens, 53 U.S. (12 How.) 299, 315 (1851); Burroughs-Giles Lithographing Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53, 57 (1664); Ames v. Kansas ex rel Johnston, 111 U.S. 449, 463-69 (1884); The Laura 114 U.S. 411, 416 (1885); Wisconsin v. Pelican Ins. Co., 127 U.S. 265, 297 (1888); McPherson v. Blacker, 146 U.S. 1, 28, 33, 35 (1892); Knowlton v. Moore 178 U.S. 41, 56 (1900); Fairbank v. United States, 181 U.S. 283, 308 (1901); and Ex parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87, 118 (1925). Accord, Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649, 691 (1892).

5.) See Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1971, S. Doc. No. 8, 92d Congress., 1st Sess. (1971), at 51-52 (First Congress), 53-54 (Second Congress).

6.) See Myers v. United States 272 U.S. 52, 150-52 (1926).

7.) See Eisner v. Macomber, 252 U.S. 189, 206 (1920).

Second, Congress made crystal clear that the “unit” of the monetary system is the silver “dollar[ ]”: “DOLLARS or UNITS—each to be the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain [371-¼ grains of pure] silver”;[1] and “the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars or units, * * * and * * * all accounts in the public offices and all proceedings in the courts of the United States shall be kept and had in conformity to this regulation”.[2] So, Congress did not create a “gold dollar”, or establish a “gold standard” or a “dual standard”, as popular misconceptions hold. For example, one edition edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica claimed that the Act of 1792 defined the “dollar” as either 24-¾ grains of fine gold or 371-¼ grains of fine silver.[3] Of course, the Act did nothing of the kind. It explicitly defined the “DOLLAR[ ]” as a fixed weight of silver, and regulate[d] the Value” of gold coins according to this standard “UNIT[ ]” and the market exchange ratio between the two metals. Nowhere did the act refer to a “gold dollar”, only to various gold coins of other names that it valued in “DOLLARS”: “EAGLES”—each to be of the value of ten dollars or units, not to be “ten dollars or units”. Some students of monetary law and history have avoided this elementary mistake,[4] including at one time even the Supreme Court.[5] But most legal scholars have stumbled badly over it. For example, at the height of the great monetary and constitutional crisis of the 1930s, when lawyers should have been trying to think clearly about both subjects, one law-review commentator contended that the “gold dollar” began in 1792 as merely a money of account, and ended that way in 1934—by which he meant that no actual “gold dollar” coin was struck either in 1792 or in 1934.[6] In one sense he was correct: No “gold dollar” was coined pursuant to the 1792 Act. But in a larger sense he was woefully mistaken: The 1792 Act recognized no “gold dollar” that might have been (but happened not to be) coined. The one and only, unique, “DOLLAR[ ] or UNIT[ ]” was the silver “DOLLAR[ ]”, which was coined.

The “of the value of” language proves more than that the Coinage Act of 1792 created no “gold dollar”. It also shows that the United States statutory “DOLLAR[ ]” of 1792 was not the constitutional “dollar[ ]” of 1788, but a new “DOLLAR[ ]” with the “Value” of the constitutional “dollar[ ]”: “DOLLARS or UNITS—each to be of the value of a Spanish milled dollar [or ‘piece of eight’] as the same is now current”. Of course this must have been true, because the constitutional “dollar[ ]” preëxisted both the Constitution and the 1792 Act. Thus, as to that “dollar[ ]” and its statutory embodiment, both the Constitution and the Act of 1792 vindicated Carl Menger’s aperçu that money is not the invention of government, and requires no political authorization for its use.[7]

Footnotes:

1.) Act of 2 April 1792, ch. 16, § 9, 1 Stat. 246, 248 (emphasis supplied).

2.) § 20, 1 Stat. at 250-51.

3.) 7 Encyclopedia Britannica, “Dollar” (1963), at 558. Perhaps from “authorities” such as this the historian Hofstadter fell into his own confusion on the subject.

4.) See e.g., A. Hepburn, History of Coinage and Currency in the United States and the Perennial Contest for Sound Money (1903), at 22; W Harvey, Coin’s Financial School (reprint of the 1984 ed.), at 101-104.

5.) Bronson v. Rodes, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 229, 247-48 (1869).

6.) Eder, “Legal Theories of Money”, 20 Cornell L.Q. 52 (1934), at 70. In his footnote71 Eder cited Section 20 of the Coinage Act of 1792, and in his footnotes 72, referring to then contemporary events, pointed out that Roosevelt’s new “gold dollar” of 15-¹⁵⁄₂₁ grains was not struck as a coin.

7.) C Menger, Principles of Economics (J. Dingwall and B Hoselitz transl., 1981), at 261-62. Of course, subsequent events have also proven Menger correct on the devolution of money: that governments have so badly and so often abused their powers as to confuse people into believing that money is not a real commodity, but instead something quite imaginary. Id. at 283.

Third, Congress reiterated the understanding that the legal “Value” of “Money” is no abstraction subject to arbitrary definition, but consists of a coin’s actual weight in precious metal. Silver and gold coins were to be “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”.[1] Even the Supreme Court has been able—at one time—to comprehend the significance of this.[2]

Footnotes:

1.) Act of 2 April 1792, ch. 16, § 16, 1 Stat. 246, 250 (emphasis supplied).

2.) Bronson v. Rodes, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 229, 248-49 (1869).

Fourth, the provisions defining the “DOLLAR[ ]” and declaring the “money of account”—that “DOLLARS or UNITS” are each to be of the value of the Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain [371-¼ grains of pure] silver;[1] and that “the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars or units”[2]—carry with them a heavy historic tradition. As is generally true, historically a “money of account” was no invention of government, but developed from the commercial practice of maintaining accounts in units of money. For centuries, a “money of account”—often called “imaginary money”, because such a monetary unit was not embodied in an actual coin—served as the standard of deferred payments, or as an accounting device. Actual payments, however, were made in the various gold or silver coins in circulation at the time.[3] A money of account served no purpose in a monometallic system; but in a bimetallic system the device was used to adjust the legal ratio between silver and gold coins to the free market exchange ratio between the metals, by “crying the currency up or down”—that is by increasing or decreasing the values of real coins in terms of the money of account. This maintained parity between the legal exchange rate between silver and gold, and the metals’ relative prices in the free market.[4] one of the advantages of the use of a money of account was that the government could dispense with a mint, by giving “currency” to foreign coins—that is, adopting those coins as part of its official money supply simply by valuing them in terms of the domestic money of account.[5] The main drawback, however, was that change in the legal exchange rate between gold and silver were not always (or even usually) contemporaneous with changes in the free market exchange rate. A practical solution to this problem would have been to make the legal exchange rate compulsory only in the absence of the parties’ contractual agreement to the contrary. This would have obviated the inherent instability of the bimetallic system.[6] Unfortunately, after the 1790s, legislators apparently forgot about “imaginary money” and the benefits it offered.[7]

In the 1792 Act, the “Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current” can be analogized to an “imaginary money”—in the sense that it was the true, historic unit (money of account) of the monetary system, but was not to be (because it could not be) coined as such by the United States. All United States silver coins would, however, be regulate[d in] * * * Value”[8] as against this “money of account” at the rate of 371-¼ grains of coined silver to the “DOLLAR[ ]”. And gold coins would be regulate[d in] Value at the market exchange rate between silver and gold as ascertained from time to time by Congress.

Initially, Congress chose a fixed statutory valuation of gold “EAGLES” in terms of (silver) “DOLLARS”.[9] Congress would have been wiser, though, not to have employed a statutory bimetallic ratio at all, and to have stamped no statutory “Value[s]” in “DOLLARS” on the gold coins at the mint, striking them simply as “EAGLES” with a stamped certification of their content of fine gold when at full weight, and letting their “Value[s]” in “DOLLARS” be set from day to day in the market.[10] If silver and gold are perfect substitutes as money, the exchange ratio between them can be arbitrarily fixed; whereas, if they are imperfect substitutes, statutorily fixing the ratio is not feasible.[11] Silver and gold would be imperfect substitutes as money if creditors refused to accept one or the other in payment of debts—for example, where creditors found the weight of silver coins disadvantageous as opposed to the weight of gold coins of the same free-market value, or where creditors foresaw a depreciation in purchasing power of one metal relative to the other.[12] Thus, the greater the free-market exchange ratio between equivalent weights of silver and gold, the greater the metals’ imperfection as monetary substitutes for each other—and the less likely a fixed bimetallic ratio will work. So, instead of fixing the bimetallic ratio in 1792 (and at other times thereafter), Congress should simply have minted gold “EAGLES” without attaching any denomination in “DOLLARS”, and allowed their “Value[s]” in “DOLLARS” to be “regulate[d]” in the course of commerce. (Congress may constitutionally exercise its regulatory authority as well by leaving determination of exchange ratios to the market as by itself fixing them statutorily.[13]) This would have resulted in a system of dual prices—with some goods and services priced in (silver) “DOLLARS”, and others priced in “EAGLES” or in “dollars payable in gold” (that is, the weight of coined gold equivalent on that day to the price of the particular good or service stated in silver “DOLLARS”).[14] In addition, such an approach would have had great and lasting educational value, by reminding people every day that money is in fact a commodity the purchasing power of which is not and can never be stable, given the vicissitudes of life.[15]

Adopting a statutory scheme more closely modeled on the traditional money-of-account approach would not have obviated all problems—rogue public officials intent on cheating the people could still have devalued the coinage by “crying up” the coin (statutorily raising its nominal value) in relation to the money of account.[16] But it would have avoided the difficulties the country later faced with the bimetallic system, and certainly overall could not have worked out more unfavorably than the present monetary system, in which the ersatz Congressional “dollar” appears to be a wholly imaginary concept, embodied willy-nilly in silver, gold, base-metallic “clad” coins, and legal-tender paper currency.[17]

Footnotes:

1.) § 9, 1 Stat. at 248.

2.) § 20, 1 Stat. at 250.

3.) Einaudi, “The Theory of Imaginary Money from Charlemagne to the French Revolution”, in Enterprise and Secular Change: Readings in Economic History 229 (F. Lane ed. 1953), at 233-36.

4.) Id. at 245.

5.) Id. at 250, 252.

6.) Id. at 251.

7.) Id. at 246.

8.) U.S. Const. art I § 8, cl. 5.

9.) Act of 2 April 1792, ch. 16, § 9, 1 Stat. 246, 248.

10.) This procedure was in fact proposed in the early 1830s, when the practical necessity of correcting the statutory exchange ratio between silver and gold in the coinage system impinged itself on Congress. See post at 215-16, 220, 225.

11.) Chen, “Bimetallism: Theory and Controversy in Perspective”, 4 Hist. Pol. Econ. 89 (1972), at 96, 97, 111.

12.) See id. at 101.

13.) See, e.g., cases under the Commerce Clause holding that Congress’s decision not to regulate some area of economic activity amounts to a negative regulation in favor of a completely free market, cited in Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona ex rel. Sullivan, 325 U.S. 761, 769 (1945). If Congress may allow the market to direct “Commerce”, it may allow the market to judge monetary “Value”.

14.) See Chen, “Flexible Bimetallic Exchange Rates in China, 1650-1850, 7 J. Money, Credit and Banking 359 (1975). Chen calls this “duomettalism”, a bimetallic system with a floating exchange rate. Id. at 361.

15.) See Einaudi, The Theory of Imaginary Money, ante note 821, at 233-36.

16.) Id. at 258-59.

17.) 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, pages 4-11.

Fifth, Congress’s reliance on a statutorily defined bimetallic system in the 1792 Act was not an entirely unworkable project. True, such a system is clumsy, because it requires continuous and careful legislative oversight to amend the statutory ratio between silver and gold as the free-market ratio changes, in order to maintain concurrent circulation of both metals. Nevertheless, the history of France from 1785 to 1873 proves that, notwithstanding significant changes in the relative production of silver and gold, a bimetallic system can remain stable where the national economy is large in comparison to the world economy, and where people actually use silver and gold coins for daily transactions and as reserves for bank notes and deposits.[1]

Interestingly, the 1792 Act did not purport to guarantee that silver and gold would exchange in the marketplace at fifteen to one. For example, the statute lacked a provision allowing a person to bring silver (or gold) bullion to the mint to exchange for gold (or silver) coins. To the contrary: The Act provided that “as soon as the * * * bullion shall have been coined, the person * * * by whom the same shall have been delivered, shall upon demand receive in lieu thereof coins of the same species of bullion which shall have been so delivered”.[2] The government’s only representation was that, for the time being (for Congress always retained the power to change the bimetallic ratio), it would accept silver and gold at fifteen to one “in all payments” to it.[3] Moreover, although the 1792 Act mandated the “all silver and gold coins * * * shall be a lawful tender in all payments whatsoever”,[4] nothing in that or any other statute (until the 1930s) precluded individuals from entering into gold- or silver-clause contracts specifying which of the metals would be their exclusive medium of payment.[5] Indeed, in the post-Civil War Greenback era, the Supreme Court held that such contracts were exempt from the law declaring United States Notes legal tender,[6] had to be valued in terms of specie “dollars”,[7] and were enforceable for their values in specie.[8] No court in the late 1700s and early 1800s would have ruled differently.

Footnotes:

1.) Friedman, “Bimetallism Revisited”, 4 J. Econ. Perspectives 85 (1990), at 256-67.

2.) Act of 2 April 1792, ch. 16, § 14, 1 Stat. 246, 249 (emphasis supplied).

3.) §§ 11, 16, 1 Stat. at 248-49, 250.

4.) § 16, 1 Stat. at 250.

5.) The relative popularity of gold- versus silver-clause contracts fluctuated with changes in the relative purchasing power of the two metals. See e.g., Holyoke Water Power Co. v. American Writing Paper Co. 68 F.2d 261, 262 (1st Cir. 1933).

6.) Bronson v. Rodes, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 229, 254 (1869).

7.) Thompson v. Butler, 95 U.S. 694, 696-97 (1878), interpretation of gold clauses affirmed in Norman v. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co., 294 U.S. 240, 300-02 (1935).

8.) E.g., Bronson v. Rodes, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 229, 254 (1869); Butler v. Horwitz, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 258, 260-61 (1869); Trebilcock v. Wilson, 79 U.S. (12 Wall.) 687, 594-99 (1871).

In sum, the Coinage Act of 1792 demonstrates an early Congress’s strict adherence to the common-law and constitutional principles elucidated heretofore. Congress coined American “DOLLARS or UNITS” as “Money”, containing the intrinsic value of silver in a constitutional “dollar[ ]”: “a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current”. It coined American “EAGLES” as “Money” containing a fixed weight of pure gold—and “regulate[d] the[ir] Value” at so-many “DOLLARS” by comparing their intrinsic value in (or weight of) to the market equivalent of coined silver. It gave both silver and gold coins legal-tender character for their intrinsic values in all payments. It opened the mint to “free coinage” of the precious metals. And it outlawed the debasement of the nation’s new “Money”. All this is hardly surprising. For the statesmen who drafted and approved these measures were more than merely conversant with common-law principles, the experiences of the Continental Congress, and the monetary provisions of the Constitution. And their handiwork was more than a merely coincidental embodiment of those principles, experiences, and provisions. Rather, taking into account the vicissitudes of the time, the Coinage Act of 1792 perfectly reflected what the common law and the law under the Articles of Confederation had been before ratification of the Constitution, and what the constitutional law was then and remains today. It definitely interpreted, elaborated, and applied the Constitution—with a clearly constitutional character its own in Section 9 (definition of the “DOLLAR[ ]”), 14 (“free coinage” of silver and gold), 16 (legal-tender character for silver and gold coins), and 20 (“DOLLAR[ ]” identified as “money of account”).[13] In particular, the Congressional determination of the weight of a “DOLLAR[ ]”—“the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current”[14]—remains for all practical purposes today a statement of constitutional law unalterable except by amendment of the Constitution itself. For, at the remove of almost two centuries, to revise the conclusion that 371-¼ grains of fine silver represents an average of the Spanish “pieces of eight” in circulation in the United States in the years immediately preceding 1792 is most probably impossible.[15]

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

2.) § 20, 1 Stat. at 250.

3.) § 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.

4.) An Act establishing a Mint, Act 2 of April 1792, ch. 16, 1 Stat. 246.

5.) § 9, 1 Stat. at 248.

6.) Id., at 2.

7.) Id., at 3.

8.) § 9, 1 Stat. at 248.

9.) § 11, 1 Stat. at 248-249. 

10.) § 16, 1 Stat. at 250.

11.) § 14, 1 Stat. at 249.

12.) § 19, 1 Stat. at 250. The penalty for debasement is now far less intimidating. See 18 U.S.C. § 332.

13.) 1 Stat. at 248, 249, 250-51.

14.) § 9, 1 Stat. at 248.

15.) Even Section 11 of the Act, which set the bimetallic ratio at 15 to 1, was arguably constitutional in 1792, representing as it did a reasonable means of “regulat[ing] the Value” of gold coins as against the “dollar[ ]” in an era in which financial data were uncertain and difficult to communicate with dispatch. Today, such a statutorily fixed exchange ratio for the precious metals would be unreasonable given the technical sophistication of existing financial institutions. The analogous Section 11 of a parallel modern statute ought to read, perhaps, “That the proportional value of gold to silver in all coins which shall by law be current as money within the United States, on any particular day or days, shall be the proportion between pure gold and pure silver, according to quantity in weight, existing at the beginning of the business day or days [here Congress would identify a financial market], or, if the particular day or days is or are not a business day or days, on the last preceding business day or days”. Cf H.R. 6054, 97th Cong., 2d Sess. (1982), § 4. This formula might also be refined to allow for valuation at multiple points within a day, or even continuously while the markets remained open for trading.

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