[No State shall ...] make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a
Tender in Payment of Debts; ...
Note that there is no such prohibition against Congress, or any
delegated power to make anything legal tender. Congress was
originally understood to have no power to make anything legal
tender outside of federal territories, under Art. I Sec. 8 Cl. 17 and Art. IV Sec. 3 Cl. 2, but in
1868 a Supreme Court packed by Pres. Ulysses S. Grant, in the Legal
Tender Cases, allowed Congress to make paper currency issued
by the U.S. Treasury, backed by gold, legal tender on state
territory, a precedent that remains controversial to this day,
when courts allow paper currency not backed by anything to be
considered "legal tender".
The only money amount in the Constitution or its amendments is in
the Seventh Amendment:
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall
exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be
preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise
re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to
the rules of the common law.
In 1789 the "dollar" was a coin, the Spanish taler,
containing 371.25 grains of pure silver, or 416 grains of silver
of standard (coin grade) purity. A troy ounce, the standard
measurement unit for precious metals, is 480 grains, so a "dollar"
contains 0.7734 troy ounce of pure silver, and 20 such coins would
weigh 17.3333 troy ounces and contain 15.46875 troy ounces of pure
silver. One can use the Oanda
Currency Converter below to find out what the current value
of that amount of bulk silver would be in federal reserve notes.
For example, on June 15, 2000, it would be about $87.71 in federal
reserve notes. However, keep in mind that the world trading price
for gold or silver is the bulk, wholesale price, for ingots, in
minimum quantities of 400 troy ounces, and the trading is
generally only a tranfer of title and not a physical delivery of
the ingots, for which an additional transport charge may be made.
As single coins it would have about twice that bulk value, so the
constitutional threshold under the Eighth Amendment would be
closer to $176 in federal reserve notes. That would be the minimum
"value in controversy" that would preserve the right to trial by
jury in a civil case.
The Coinage Act of Apr 2, 1792
The Coinage Act of Mar 4, 1900
Dollar Defined Dictionary
and statutory definitions of money, 1856-1996.
from 1923 Congressional Record The Federal Reserve and
several large banks deliberately contracted to extend credit to
the agriculture industry for the purpose of eliminating many
The Gold Confiscation
Of April 5, 1933 Unconstitutional act of Congress and
Debt Quotations Revealing statements from public
31 USC 5103,
defining legal tender. However, it only constitutionally applies
to non-state U.S. territory, such as federal enclaves created
Sec. 8 Cl. 17 or incorporated territory under Art. IV
Sec. 3 Cl. 2.
Money Cases, including some civil war legal tender cases.
Compiled by Larry Becraft.
Caveat Against Injustice, or An Inquiry into the Evils of a
Fluctuating Medium of Exchange, Roger Sherman, 1752.
One of the Framers presents his theory of money.
Economic Freedom, by Alan Greenspan (1966) Before he
became Chairman of the Federal Reserve he had some strong
opinions, which he has never repudiated.
Eight, by Edwin Vieira Comprehensive treatise on money.
What Is A
"Dollar"? An Historical Analysis Of The Fundamental
Question In Monetary Policy, by Edwin Vieira.
the Constitution: How misconstruction of the monetary powers
and disabilities subverted the Founding Fathers intent,
speech of Edwin Vieira before the Rotary Club of New York, March
Issue, memorandum of law by Larry Becraft.
Caveat Against Injustice, or, An Inquiry into the
Evils of a Fluctuating Medium of Exchange, Roger Sherman
(1752) By the author of the Tender Clause of the U.S.
Moneta, Nicholas Oresme, 1484. Translated from Latin
by Charles Johnson Classic treatise on money and coinage.
Theory and Practice of Banking, Henry dunning
MacLeod, 1892. Classic treatise on money and banking in the
post-feudal, early industrial age.
and Civilization, Alexander del Mar, 1867. Early
of Monetary Systems, Alexander del Mar, 1895. Early
of Money in America, Alexander del Mar, 1899. Early
Law of Money, William Brough, 1896. Early classic
and Silver Coinage under the Constitution, U.S.
Tender: A Study in English and American Monetary History,
S.P. Breckinridge, 1903.
The First and Second Banks of
the United States, John Thom Holdsworth, Davis
Banking Before the Civil War, Davis Dewey; The
Safety Fund Banking System in New York: 1829-1866,
Robert Paddock, 1910.