The Practice and Politics of Fiat Finance: North Carolina in the Confederation, 1783-1789

By James R. Morrill | Go to book overview
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III. Emission of Currency

As revealed in the previous chapter, North Carolina came to emit fiat currency during the postwar period. This decision, supported unhesitantly by some legislators and reluctantly by others,1. was reached in response to the severe shortage of money and the pressing financial demands upon government. Fiscal conservatives found themselves engaged in another struggle against fiat policy, and it is to the details of that struggle that we must now turn.

The General Assembly that convened at Hillsborough on April 8, 1783, was the first to face the manifold problems of postwar finance. With specie practically unavailable and with the war currencies dead, the Assembly's overriding task was to attempt the creation of an adequate, viable medium of exchange. In addition to this general problem, there was an immediate and specific need for currency: the undeniably just demands of the North Carolina Continental Line concerning arrears of pay. Paying the Line, in turn, was not only a matter of simple justice but also, as a later chapter shall reveal,2. an important factor in state-federal relations as Congress sought to pay the Line with certificates and thereby

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1.
In later years men who had supported fiat emissions during and after the Revolution would claim that they had reluctantly done so only because they had believed the policy to be absolutely necessary in view of the shortage of money. See, for example, the statements made at the North Carolina Convention of 1788 as recorded in Jonathan Elliot, ed., The Debates, Resolutions, and Proceedings, in Convention, on the adoption of the Federal Constitution ( 3 vols.; Washington: Jonathan Elliot, 1827-30), III, 87, 155. As the present chapter will reveal, many persons supported the 1783 currency only because much of it went to pay the state's Continental Line, and it is reasonable to assume that at the Assembly the plight of the Line did much to assure passage of the emission bill.
2.
Above, pp. 169-90.

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