BLTC Press Titles


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Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll


The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois


The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky


Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States

by Joseph Story

Excerpt:

§ 1112. Under the confederation, the continental congress had delegated to them, "the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the states," and "fixing the standard of weights and measures throughout the United States." It is observable, that, under the confederation, there was no power given to regulate the value of foreign coin, an omission, which in a great measure would destroy any uniformity in the value of the current coin, since the respective states might, by different regulations, create a different value in each.1 The constitution has, with great propriety, cured this defect; and, indeed, the whole clause, as it now stands, does not seem to have attracted any discussion in the convention.* It has been justly remarked, that the power "to coin money " would, doubtless, include that of regulating its value, had the latter power not been expressly inserted. But the constitution abounds with pleonasms and repetitions of this nature.'

§ 1113. The grounds, upon which the general power to coin money, and regulate the value of foreign and

1 The Federalist, No. 42.

"Journ. of Convention, 220, 257, 357.

3 Mr. Madison's Letter to Mr. Cabell, 18th Sept . 1828.

domestic coin, is granted to the national government, cannot require much illustration in order to vindicate it. The object of the power is to produce uniformity of value throughout the Union, and thus to preclude us from the embarrassments of a perpetually fluctuating and variable currency. Money is the universal medium or common standard, by a comparison with which the value of all merchandise may be ascertained, or, it is a sign, which represents the respective values of all commodities.1 It is, therefore, indispensable for the wants and conveniencies of commerce, domestic as well as foreign. The power to coin money is one of the ordinary prerogatives of sovereignty, and is almost universally exercised in order to preserve a proper circulation of good coin of a known value in the home market. In order to secure it from debasement it is necessary, that it should be exclusively under the control and regulation of the government; for if every individual were permitted to make and circulate, what coin he should please, there would be an opening to the grossest frauds and impositions upon the public, by the use of base and false coin. And the same remark applies with equal force to foreign coin, if allowed to circulate freely in a country without any control by the government. Every civilized government, therefore, with a view to prevent such abuses, to facilitate exchanges, and thereby to encourage all sorts of industry and commerce, as well as to guard itself against the embarrassments of an undue scarcity of currency, injurious to its own interests and credits, has found it necessary to coin money, and affix to it a public stamp and value, and to regulate the introduction and use of foreign coins.* In England, this

1 1 Black. Comm. 276.

2 Smith's Wealth of Nations, B. 1, ch. 4.

VOL. III. 3

prerogative belongs to the crown; and, in former ages, it was greatly abused; for base coin was often coined and circulated by its authority, at a value far above its intrinsic worth; and thus taxes of a burthensome nature were laid indirectly upon the people.1 There is great propriety, therefore, in confiding it to the legislature, not only as the more immediate representatives of the public interests, but as the more safe depositaries of the power.*

§ 1114. The only question, which could properly arise under our political institutions, is, whether it should be confided to the national, or to the state government. It is manifest, that the former could alone give it complete effect, and secure a wholesome and uniform currency throughout the Union. The varying standards and regulations of the different states would introduce infinite embarrassments and vexations in the course of trade; and often subject the innocent to the grossest frauds. The evils of this nature were so extensively felt, that the power was unhesitatingly confided by the articles of confederation exclusively to the general government,8 notwithstanding the extraordinary jealousy, which pervades every clause of that instrument. But the concurrent power thereby reserved to the states, (as well as the want of a power to regulate the value of foreign coin,) was, under that feeble pageant of sovereignty, soon found to destroy the whole importance of the grant. The floods of depreciated paper money, with which most of the states of the Union, during the last war, as well as the revolutionary war with England, were inundated, to the dismay of the traveller and


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