but it is not wanting by reason merely of striking out the expression of a power to emit bills.
Let us see just what took place in the Convention as regards bills of credit, and what was then thought to be the effect of its action. What actually took place may be seen (so far as we have any report of it) by looking at pages 434 and 435 of the fifth volume of Elliott’s Debates. The Convention was discussing, on August 16, the draft of a Constitution submitted ten days before by the Committee of Detail:—
Mr. Governeur Morris moved to strike out “and emit bills on
the credit of the United States.” If the United States had credit, such bills would be unnecessary; if they had not, unjust and useless.—Mr. Butler seconds the motion.—Mr. Madison. Will it not be sufficient to prohibit the making them a lender? This will remove the temptation to emit them with unjust views; and promissory notes, in that shape, may in some emergencies be best.—Mr. Gouverneur Morris. Striking out the words will leave room still for notes of a responsible minister, which will do all the good without the mischief. The moneyed interest will oppose the plan of government, if paper emissions be not prohibited.—Mr. Gorham was for striking out without inserting any prohibition. If the words stand, they may suggest and lead to the measure.—Mr. Mason had doubts on the subject. Congress, he thought, would not have the power unless it were expressed. Though he had a mortal hatred to paper money, yet, as he could not foresee all emergencies, he was unwilling to tie the hands of the legislature. He observed that the late war could not have been carried on, had such a prohibition existed.—Mr. Gorham. The power, as far as it will be necessary or safe, is involved in that of borrowing.—Mr. Mercer was a friend to paper money, though, in the present state and temper of America, he should neither propose nor approve of such a measure. He was, consequently, opposed to a prohibition of it altogether. It will stamp suspicion on the government, to deny it a discretion on this point. It was impolitic, also, to excite the opposition of all those who were friends to paper money. The people of property would be sure to be on the side of the plan, and it was impolitic to purchase their further attachment with the loss of the opposite class of citizens.—Mr. Ellsworth thought this a favorable moment to shut and bar the door against paper money. The mischiefs of the various experiments which had been made were now fresh in the public mind, and had excited the disgust of all the respectable part of America. By withholding the power from the new government, more friends of influence would be gained to it than by almost anything else. Paper money can in no case be necessary. Give the government credit, and other resources will offer. The power may do harm, never good.—Mr. Randolph. notwithstanding his antipathy to paper money, could not agree to strike out the words, as he could not foresee all the occasions that might arise.—Mr. Wilson: It will have a most salutary influence on the credit of the United States to remove the possibility of paper money. This expedient can never succeed whilst its mischiefs are remembered;