|1.||When signed into law on February 25, the bill became the first act to allow the issue of U.S. legal-tender notes (the greenbacks). In its final form, the measure authorized $150 million in notes for use as legal tender except for duties and interest. The resolution recently passed by the House Committee on Ways and Means referred a copy of the unfinished legislation to Chase. Elbridge Gerry Spaulding, A source of War--The Credit of the Government Made Immediately Available... ( Buffalo, 1869), 45; Statutes at Large, 12:345-48.|
Autograph letter on letterhead stationery. Chase Manhattan Archives ( micro 19:0293).
Feb. 4, 1862
My dear Sir,
Your feelings of repugnance to the legal tender clause can hardly greater than my own; but I am convinced that, as a temporary measure, it is indispensably necessary. From various motives, some honorable and some not honorable, a considerable number, though a small minority of the business men or people, are indisposed to sustain the U.S. Notes by receiving and paying them as money. This minority, in the absence of any legal tender clause may control the majority to all practical intents. To prevent this, which would, at this time, be disastrous in the extreme, I yield my general views for a particular exception. To yield does not violate any obligation to the people, for the great majority, willing now to receive & pay these notes, desire that the minority may not be allowed to reap special advantages from their refusal to do so: and our government is not only a government of the people, but is bound in an exigency like the present to act on the maxim, Salus populi suprema lex.1