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.

Documents

Court cases

Commentary

Control of Money

Tools

Advocates

Alternatives

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.
  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: http://www.constitution.org/cs_money.htm
Maintained: Jon Roland of the Constitution Society
Original date: 2000/7/10 — 


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