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A Brief Monetary History Of The United States: Part III

Today we bring you Part III of “A Brief Monetary History of the United States” from the Ron Paul Monetary Policy Anthology. The full series can be found at the following links:

  • Part I – Colonial Money and the Coinage Act of 1792
  • Part II – The Banks of the United States, McCulloch v. Maryland, and Private Coinage
  • Part III – Government Begins to Monopolize Currency
  • Part IV – The Legal Tender Cases and the “Crime of ’73”
  • Part V – The Rise of the Fed
  • Part VI – The Great Depression, Gold Confiscation, and the Gold Exchange Standard
  • Part VII – The Dollar Reigns Supreme: From Bretton Woods to Stagflation
  • Part VIII – The 1980s to the Great Recession and on to the Future
  • III. GOVERNMENT BEGINS TO MONOPOLIZE CURRENCY

    Coinage Act of 1857

    As the 19th century progressed, the federal government sought to enhance its control over the banking industry and the monetary system. In 1857, Congress passed a coinage act which removed the legal tender status that circulating foreign coinage had until then enjoyed. All circulating foreign coins received by the Treasury were to be melted down and recoined. By driving foreign coinage out of circulation, Congress sought to ensure that only U.S. coins circulated, a step towards federal government dominance of the money supply. This was ostensibly to provide a uniform national currency, a stated goal of the federal government since the country’s founding. By “uniform national currency” the federal government did not mean adherence to a dollar defined as a specific weight of metal with coinage circulating by weight and valued in relation to that dollar. Instead, the federal government sought to ensure that only the United States Mint’s coins would circulate in commerce, regardless of what type of coins the market desired.

    A further strike against market choice in currency came in 1864, when Congress passed legislation to prohibit private production of coins. The minting of any coins intended for use as current money was made illegal, even if the coins were of completely original design. This prohibition remains in force today, and was most famously used in recent years to prosecute the creators of the Liberty Dollar.