A Grammar of American Politics: The National Government

By Wilfred E. Binkley; Malcolm C. Moos | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVIII
FEDERAL CONTROL OF MONEY, BANKING, AND CREDIT

METALLIC MONETARY REGULATIONS

The Persistence of American Monetary Problems

THE extraordinary extent to which human welfare is dependent upon an adequate medium of exchange has been demonstrated by more than three centuries of American experience with money. Quite properly, then, regulation of the media of exchange is universally regarded as a function of national sovereignty. Colonial, state, and national governments in turn have wrestled with American monetary problems. The veto of British crown authority checked one colonial project after another designed to relieve the desperate scarcity of money by means of colonial issues of paper money. Finally by the Currency Act of 1764 Parliament settled the matter once and for all, as it supposed, by outlawing absolutely such colonial issues. Not the least among the cumulative grievances that culminated in independence was the provocation thus produced by the creditor-conscious Parliament upon the currency-starved and debt-ridden colonists. Independence gave free rein to the inflationary urge of the agrarians now entrenched in the strategic seats of power, the state legislatures. Extraordinary issues of legal tender paper money and the consequent economic confusion was one of the important factors that led to the call for the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Nor were promoters of the movement disappointed in the outcome. Clause after clause of the Constitution stamps it as a deflationary document.


Constitutional Restrictions on State Monetary Power

The Constitution provides that no state shall "coin money, emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin legal tender in the payment

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