and as long as it can be resorted to it will be a bar to other resources.—Mr. Butler remarked that paper was a legal tender in no country in Europe. He was urgent for disarming the government of such a power.—Mr. Mason was still averse to tying the hands of the legislature altogether. If there was no example in Europe, as just remarked, it might be observed, on the other side, that there was none in which the government was restrained on this head. —Mr. Read thought the words, if not struck out, would be as alarming as the mark of the beast in Revelation.— Mr. Langdon had rather reject the whole plan than
retain the three words, “and emit bills.”
Morris’s motion to strike out was then carried by a vote of nine States to two. In a note at the bottom of page 435, in accounting for the vote of Virginia, Madison says: “This vote in the affirmative by Virginia was occasioned by the acquiescence of Mr. Madison, who became satisfied that the striking out of the words would not disable the government from the use of public notes so far as they could be safe and proper; and would only cut off the pretext for a paper currency, and particularly for making the bills a tender, either for public or private debts.”
Now, in regard to that discussion, observe one or two points: first, that the objectionable thing was not merely making paper a legal tender, but having a paper currency at all. Madison’s suggestion to insert a prohibition upon making bills a legal tender, was met by saying that all paper emissions must be prohibited; and Madison’s note shows that he conceived that, in their final action, they were cutting away all pretext for a paper currency, and not merely for making it a legal tender; second, eleven persons only are reported as speaking in this discussion out of fifty-five, who, at one time or another, attended the Convention; and most of those who spoke appear to have assumed that striking out the phrase “emit bills on the credit of the United States” was equivalent to prohibition. But, although most of the members may have assumed this, all of them did not. One prominent and respected member, Mr. Gorham, from Massachusetts, distinctly made the point that, while he favored striking out, he would not consent to prohibition; he would strike out, because leaving the words in would be a standing temptation to use the power. Madison also tells us, in explaining his vote, that he thought there would still be some power
- 1 Ell. Deb. 125.
- And so Luther Martin, in his Address to the Legislature of Maryland, 1 Ell. Deb. 369, 370.