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Money Matters

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Original U.S. Constitution

Art. I Sec. 8 Cl. 5
[Congress shall have Power ... ] To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, ...;
Art. I Sec. 10 Cl. 1
[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".

Seventh Amendment

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.


  • Text Version The Coinage Act of Apr 2, 1792
  • Text Version The Coinage Act of Mar 4, 1900
  • HTML Version or Menu Text Version Word Version Dollar Defined — Dictionary and statutory definitions of money, 1856-1996.
  • Adobe PDF Excerpt 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 farmers.
  • HTML The Gold Confiscation Of April 5, 1933 — Unconstitutional act of Congress and President Roosevelt.
  • HTML Version or Menu Word Version Money as Debt Quotations — Revealing statements from public figures.
  • Remote HTML 31 USC 5103, defining legal tender. However, it only constitutionally applies to non-state U.S. territory, such as federal enclaves created under Art. I Sec. 8 Cl. 17 or incorporated territory under Art. IV Sec. 3 Cl. 2.

Court cases

  • Local PDF Version Remote PDF Version Antebellum Money Cases, including some civil war legal tender cases. Compiled by Larry Becraft.


  • PDF Version A 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.
  • HTML Version or Menu Text Version Gold and Economic Freedom, by Alan Greenspan (1966) — Before he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve he had some strong opinions, which he has never repudiated.
  • HTML Version or Menu A Pieces of Eight, by Edwin Vieira — Comprehensive treatise on money.
  • HTML Version or Menu Remote Link - HTML What Is A "Dollar"? An Historical Analysis Of The Fundamental Question In Monetary Policy, by Edwin Vieira.
  • HTML Version or Menu Remote Link - HTML Trashing 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 25th, 2003.
  • HTML Version or Menu Remote Link - HTML The Money Issue, memorandum of law by Larry Becraft.
  • HTML Version or Menu  Text Version  Remote Link - HTML  A 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. Constitution.
  • PDF
            Version Word
            Version De Moneta, Nicholas Oresme, 1484. Translated from Latin by Charles Johnson — Classic treatise on money and coinage.
  • Remote PDF Version Remote HTML Version The Theory and Practice of Banking, Henry dunning MacLeod, 1892. — Classic treatise on money and banking in the post-feudal, early industrial age.
  • PDF Version Money and Civilization, Alexander del Mar, 1867. Early classic treatise.
  • PDF Version History of Monetary Systems, Alexander del Mar, 1895. Early classic treatise.
  • PDF Version History of Money in America, Alexander del Mar, 1899. Early classic treatise.
  • PDF Version Natural Law of Money, William Brough, 1896. Early classic treatise.
  • PDF Version Gold and Silver Coinage under the Constitution, U.S. Statutes, 1789-1896.
  • PDF Version Legal Tender: A Study in English and American Monetary History, S.P. Breckinridge, 1903.
  • PDF Version The First and Second Banks of the United States, John Thom Holdsworth, Davis Dewey, 1910.
  • PDF Version State Banking Before the Civil War, Davis Dewey; The Safety Fund Banking System in New York: 1829-1866, Robert Paddock, 1910.

Banking, Control of Money


  • OANDA Currency Converter — Allows you to convert units of any national currency or precious metal into units of any other, for any date back to 1990.


  • Remote Link - HTML Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA) — Advocate and undertake litigation against illegal collusion to control the price and supply of gold and related financial securities..
  • Remote Link - HTML People for Mathematically Perfected Economy — Argues that debt-based currency leads to economic collapse.
  • Remote Link - HTML You Be The Judge and The Jury — Accusation that the present monetary system is fundamentally corrupt and unconstitutional.


The following links are provided free for public educational purposes, and do not represent endorsements of the companies or their products or services.

  1. Energy Currency — Proposal to base legal tender on units of energy.
  2. Digital Currency — Proposal to use digital certificates for currency.
    • Bitcoin — P2P Virtual Currency.
    • Loom — Digitally encrypted commodity exchange system, warehouse certificates that can be used as currency.
  3. World Gold Council — The global advocate for gold.
  4. Crowne Gold — Gold trading.
  5. GoldMoney — Digital gold currency.
  6. e-gold — Gold circulated electronically.
  7. Gold Eagle — Documents and links on gold.
  8. Netspend — Anonymous digital cash.
  9. PayPal — Online clearinghouse for currency exchanges among members.
  10. National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and the Internal Revenue Code (NORFED) — Support the Liberty Dollar backed by gold or silver. Currently under unlawful attack by the federal government.

Also see Tax Matters

Home » Legal Reform
Original URL: //www.constitution.org/cs_money.htm
Jon Roland of the Constitution Society
Original date: 2000/7/10 — 

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