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would spoil the appearance of the coin, and give it a base countenance. Its beauty would indeed be injured, though in a less degree, even if the usual proportions of silver and copper should be maintained in the increased quantity of alloy.
And, however inconsiderable an additional expenditure of copper in the coinage of a year may be deemed, in a series of years it would become of consequence. In regulations which contemplate the lapse and operation of ages, a very small item of expense acquires importance.
The actual depreciation of the coin by an increase of alloy, results from the very circumstance which is the motive to it-the greater difficulty of refining. In England, it is customary for those concerned in manufactures of gold, to make a deduction in the price of four-pence sterling per ounce, of fine gold, for every carat which the mass containing it is below the legal standard. Taking this as a rule, an inferiority of a single carat, or one twenty-fourth part in the gold coins of the United States, compared with the English standard, would cause the same quantity of pure gold in them to be worth nearly four-tenths per cent. less than in the coins of Great Britain. This circumstance would be likely, in process of time, to be felt in the market of the United States.
A still greater depreciation, in the public opinion, would be to be apprehended from the apparent debasement of the coin. The effects of imagination and prejudice cannot safely be disregarded, in any thing that relates to money. If the beauty of the coin be impaired, it may be found difficult to satisfy the generality of the community, that what appears worst is not really less valuable; and it is not altogether certain, that an impression of its being so, may not occasion an unnatural augmentation of prices.
Greater danger of imposition, by counterfeits, is also to be apprehended from the injury which will be done to the appearance of the coin. It is a just observation, that "The perfection of the coins is a great safeguard against counterfeits." And it is evident that the color, as well as the excellence of the workmanship, is an ingredient in that perfection. The intermixture of too much alloy, particularly of copper, in the gold coins at least, must materially lessen the facility of distinguishing, by the eye, the purer from the baser kind-the genuine from the counterfeit.
The inefficacy of the arrangement to the purpose intended to be answered by it, is rendered probable by different considerations. If the standard of plate in the United States should be regulated according to that of the national coins it is to be expected that the goldsmith would prefer these to the foreign coins, because he would find them prepared to his hand, in the state which he desires; whereas he would have to expend an additional quantity of alloy to bring the foreign coins to that state. If the standard of plate, by law or usage, should be superior to that of the national coins, there would be a possibility of the foreign coins bearing a higher price in the market; and this would not only obstruct their being brought to the mint, but might occasion the exportation of the national coin in preference. It is not understood, that the practice of making an abatement of price for the inferiority of standard, is applicable to the English mint; and if it be not, this would also contribute to frustrating the expected effect from the increase of alloy. For, in this case, a given quantity of pure metal, in our standard, would be worth as much there as in bullion of the English or any other standard.
Considering, therefore, the uncertainty of the success of the expedient,
and the inconveniences which seem incident to it, it would appear preferable to submit to those of a free coinage. It is observable, that additional expense, which is one of the principal of these, is also applicable to the pro posed remedy.
It is now proper to resume and finish the answer to the first question, in order to which the three succeeding ones have necessarily been anticipated., The conclusion to be drawn from the observations which have been made on the subject, is this: That the unit, in the coins of the United States, ought to correspond with 24 grains and of a grain of pure gold, and with 371 grains and of a grain of pure silver, each answering to a dollar in the money of account. The former is exactly agreeable to the present value of gold, and the latter is within a small fraction of the mean of the two last emissions of dollars-the only ones which are now found in common circulation, and of which the newest is in the greatest abundance. The alloy in each case to be one-twelfth of the total weight, which will make the unit 27 grains of standard gold, and 405 grains of standard silver.
Each of these, it has been remarked, will answer to a dollar in the money of account. It is conceived that nothing better can be done in relation to this, than to pursue the track marked out by the resolution of the 8th of August, 1786. This has been approved abroad, as well as at home, and it is certain that nothing can be more simple or convenient, than the decimal subdivisions. There is every reason to expect that the method will speedily grow into general use, when it shall be seconded by corresponding coins. On this plan, the unit in the money of account will continue to be, as established by that resolution, a dollar; and its multiples, dimes, cents, and mills, or tenths, hundredths, and thousandths.
With regard to the number of different pieces which shall compose the coins of the United States, two things are to be consulted-convenience of circulation, and cheapness of the coinage. The first ought not to be sacrificed to the last; but as far as they can be reconciled to each other, it is desirable to do it. Numerous and small (if not too minute) subdivisions assist circulation; but the multiplication of the smaller kinds increases expense; the same process being necessary to a small as to a large piece.
As it is easy to add, it will be most adviseable to begin with a small number, till experience shall decide whether any other kinds are necessary. The following, it is conceived, will be sufficient in the commencement: One gold piece, equal in weight and value to ten units or dollars.
One gold piece, equal to a tenth part of the former, and which shall be à unit or dollar.
One silver piece, which shall also be a unit or dollar.
One silver piece, which shall be, in weight and value, a tenth part of the silver unit or dollar.
One copper piece, which shall be of the value of a hundredth part of a
One other copper piece, which shall be half the value of the former.
It is not proposed that the lightest of the two gold coins should be numerous, as, in large payments, the larger the pieces the shorter the process of counting, the less risk of mistake, and, consequently, the greater the safety and the convenience; and, in small payments, it is not perceived that any inconvenience can accrue from an entire dependance on the silver and copper coins. The chief inducement to the establishment of the small gold piece, is to have a sensible object in that metal, as well as in silver, to ex
press the unit. Fifty thousand at a time in circulation, may suffice for this purpose.
The tenth part of a dollar is but a small piece, and, with the aid of the copper coins, will probably suffice for all the more minute uses of circulation. It is less than the least of the silver coins now in general currency in England.
The largest copper piece will nearly answer to the halfpenny sterling, and the smallest, of course, to the farthing. Pieces of very small value are a great accommodation, and the means of a beneficial economy to the poor, by enabling them to purchase, in sinall portions, and at a more reasonable rate, the necessaries of which they stand in need. If there are only cents, the lowest price for any portion of a vendible commodity, however inconsider able in quantity, will be a cent; if there are half cents, it will be a half cent, and in a great number of cases exactly the same things will be sold for a half cent, which, if there were none, would cost a cent. But a half cent is low enough for the minimum of price. Excessive minuteness would defeat its object. To enable the poorer classes to procure necessaries cheap, is to enable them with more comfort to themselves to labor for less: the advantages of which need no comment.
The denominations of the silver coins contained in the resolution of the 8th of August, 1786, are conceived to be significant and proper. The dollar is recommended by its correspondency with the present coin of that name for which it is designed to be a substitute, which will facilitate its ready adoption as such in the minds of the citizens. The disme, or tenth, the cent, or hundredth, the mille, or thousandth, are proper, because they express the proportions which they are intended to designate. It is only to be regretted, that the meaning of these terms will not be familiar to those who are not acquainted with the language from which they are borrowed. It were to be wished that the length, and in some degree the clumsiness of some of the corresponding terms in English, did not discourage from preferring them. It is useful to have names which signify the things to which they belong; and, in respect to objects of general use, in a manner intelligible to all. Perhaps it might be an improvement to let the dollar have the appellation either of dollar or unit, (which last will be the most significant,) and to substitute "tenth" for disme. In time, the unit may succeed to the dollar. The word cent, being in use in various transactions and instruments, will, without much difficulty, be understood as the hundredth; and the half cent, of course, as the two-hundredth part.
The eagle is not a very expressive or apt appellation for the largest gold piece, but nothing better occurs. The smallest of the two gold coins may be called the dollar or unit, in common with the silver piece with which it coincides.
The volume or size of each piece is a matter of more consequence than its denomination. It is evident, that the more superficies or surface, the more the piece will be liable to be injured by friction; or, in other words, the faster it will wear. For this reason, it is desirable to render the thickness as great, in proportion to the breadth, as may consist with neatness and good appearance. Hence the form of the double guinea, or double louisd'or, is preferable to that of the half johannes, for the large gold piece. The small one cannot well be of any other size than the Portuguese piece of eight, of the same metal.
As it is of consequence to fortify the idea of the identity of the dollar, it may be best to let the form and size of the new one, as far as the quantity of matter (the alloy being less) permits, agree with the form and size of the present. The diameter may be the same.
The tenths may be in a mean between the Spanish and of a dollar. The copper coins may be formed merely with a view to good appearance, as any difference in the wearing that can result from difference of form, can be of little consequence in reference to that metal.
It is conceived that the weight of the cent may be eleven pennyweight; which will about correspond with the value of the copper and the expense of coinage. This will be to conform to the rule of intrinsic value, as far as regard to the convenient size of the coins will permit; and the deduction of the expense of coinage in this case will be the more proper, as the copper coins, which have been current hitherto, have passed till lately for much more than their intrinsic value. Taking the weight as has been suggested, the size of the cent may be nearly that of the piece herewith transmitted, which weighs 10dwt. 11grs. 10m. Two-thirds of the diameter of the cent will suffice for the diameter of the half cent.
It may, perhaps, be thought expedient, according to general practice, to make the copper coinage an object of profit; but where this is done to any considerable extent, it is hardly possible to have effectual security against counterfeits. This consideration, concurring with the soundness of the principle of preserving the intrinsic value of the money of a country, seems to outweigh the consideration of profit.
The foregoing suggestions, respecting the sizes of the several coins, are made on the supposition that the legislature may think fit to regulate this matter. Perhaps, however, it may be judged not unadviseable to leave it to executive discretion,
With regard to the proposed size of the cent, it is to be confessed, that it is rather greater than might be wished, if it could with propriety and safety be made less: and should the value of copper continue to decline, as it has done for some time past, it is very questionable whether it will long remain alone a fit metal for money. This has led to a consideration of the expediency of uniting a small proportion of silver with the copper, in order to be able to lessen the bulk of the inferior coins. For this, there are precedents in several parts of Europe. In France, the composition which is called billion, has consisted of one part silver and four parts copper; according to which proportion, a cent might contain seventeen grains, defraying out of the material the expense of coinage. The conveniency of size is a recommendation of such a species of coin; but the Secretary is deterred from proposing it, by the apprehension of counterfeits. The effect of so small a quantity of silver, in comparatively so large a quantity of copper, could easily be imitated by a mixture of other metals of little value, and the temptation to doing it would not be inconsiderable.
The devices of the coins are far from being matters of indifference, as they may be made the vehicles of useful impressions. They ought, therefore, to be emblematical, but without losing sight of simplicity. The fewer sharp points and angles there are, the less will be the loss by wearing. The Secretary thinks it best, on this head, to confine himself to these concise and general remarks.
The last point to be discussed, respects the currency of foreign coins.
The abolition of this, in proper season, is a necessary part of the system contemplated for the national coinage. But this it will be expedient to defer, till some considerable progress has been made in preparing substitutes for them. A gradation may, therefore, be found most convenient.
The foreign coins may be suffered to circulate, precisely upon their present footing, for one year after the Mint shall have commenced its operations. The privilege may then be continued for another year, to the gold coins of Portugal, England, and France, and to the silver coins of Spain. And these may still be permitted to be current, for one year more, at the rates allowed to be given for them at the Mint; after the expiration of which, the circulation of all foreign coins to cease.
The moneys which will be paid into the Treasury during the first year, being re-coined, before they are issued anew, will afford a partial substitute, before any interruption is given to the pre-existing supplies of circulation. The revenues of the succeeding year, and the coins which will be brought to the Mint, in consequence of the discontinuance of their currency, will materially extend the substitute, in the course of that year, and its extension will be so far increased, during the third year, by the facility of procuring the remaining species to be re-coined, which will arise from the diminution of their current values, as probably to enable the dispensing wholly with the circulation of the foreign coins, after that period. The progress which the currency of bank bills will be likely to have made, during the same time, will also afford a substitute of another kind.
This arrangement, besides avoiding a sudden stagnation of circulation, will cause a considerable proportion of whatever loss may be incident to the establishment, in the first instance, to fall, as it ought to do, upon the government, and will probably tend to distribute the remainder of it, more equally among the community.
It may, nevertheless, be adviseable, in addition to the precautions here suggested, to repose a discretionary authority in the President of the United States, to continue the currency of the Spanish dollar, at a value corresponding with the quantity of fine silver contained in it, beyond the period abovementioned, for the cessation of the circulation of the foreign coins. It is possible, that an exception in favor of this particular species of coin, may be found expedient; and it may tend to obviate inconveniences, if there be a power to make the exception, in a capacity to be exerted when the period shall arrive.
The Secretary for the Department of State, in his report to the House of Representatives, on the subject of establishing a uniformity in the weights, measures, and coins of the United States, has proposed, that the weight of the dollar should correspond with the unit of weight. This was done on the supposition that it would require but a very small addition to the quantity of metal, which the dollar, independently of the object he had in view, ought to contain; in which he was guided by the resolution of the 8th of August, 1786, fixing the dollar at 375 grains and 64 hundredths of a grain.
Taking this as the proper standard of the dollar, a small alteration, for the sake of incorporating so systematic an idea, would appear desirable. But, if the principles which have been reasoned from, in this report, are just, the execution of that idea becomes more difficult. It would certainly not be adviseable to make, on that account, so considerable a change in the money unit, as would be produced by the addition of five grains of silver to the proper weight of the dollar, without a proportional augmentation of its