What Is A Constitutional Dollar?

Mises Daily: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 by

Are you aware that a Federal Reserve dollar bill is not a constitutional dollar? Perhaps you are, but if so, do you know what a constitutional dollar literally is? Is it gold? Is it silver? Is it both? What is actually meant by a metal standard? Can the United States or any country be on two standards at the same time? Can two metals circulate as coin if there is but one standard? Or does one metal have to drive the other out of circulation? How and why does Gresham’s law work when a country uses metal coin for money? In what ways are certain statements of Gresham’s law misleading?

Sooner or later, if and when the power of the Federal Reserve over money is revoked in a constitutional manner, and if and when constitutional coin comes back into use, these questions will need to be asked, answered, and understood. That is what this article does in a compact fashion.

In his meticulously researched two-volume work, Pieces of Eight, constitutional lawyer Edwin Vieira Jr. shows beyond any doubt that the constitutional dollar in the United States is an “historically determinate, fixed weight of fine silver.” The Coinage Act of 1792 is but one source among many that makes this evident, reading,

“the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars or units … of the value [mass or weight] of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and seventy-one grains and four sixteenth parts of a grain of pure … silver.

The United States has a legal and constitutional silver standard, although we would not know it today, since the government has illegally and unconstitutionally removed silver as currency and replaced it with the Federal Reserve notes that we know as dollar bills. The term “dollar bills” obscures the actual and tangible meaning of “dollar” as a specific weight of silver.

The United States has historically minted gold coins as well as silver coins, as the constitution instructed. It regulated their “value,” the weight of gold they contained, in order to bring the meaning of a gold dollar into conformity with the silver standard coin, which contains 371.25 grains of pure silver. This too was constitutionally mandated. The government did the same for foreign coins up until 1857.

The United States never was or could be constitutionally on a dual standard or a gold standard.

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