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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/87

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cannot be doubted that, under the Constitution, the power to provide a circulation of coin is given to Congress. And it is settled by the uniform practice of the government, and by repeated decisions, that Congress may constitutionally authorize the emission of bills of credit. “It is not important here,” he adds, “to decide whether the quality of legal tender in payment of debts can be constitutionally imparted to these bills; it is enough to say that there can be no question of the power of the government to emit them; to make them receivable in payment of debts to itself; to fit them for use, by those who see fit to use them, in all the transactions of commerce; to provide for their redemption; to make them a currency uniform in value and description, and convenient and useful for circulation. . . . Congress has undertaken to supply a currency for the entire country. . . . It now consists of coin, of United States notes, and of the notes of the National banks. Both descriptions of notes may properly be described as bills of credit. . . . Having thus, in the exercise of undisputed constitutional powers, undertaken to provide a currency for the whole country, it cannot be questioned that Congress may constitutionally secure the benefit of it to the people by appropriate legislation. . . . Congress may restrain by suitable enactments the circulation as money of any notes not issued under its own authority.” The two dissenting judges do not deny the power of the government to emit bills of credit, but they speak of them as being “issued under a constructive power to issue bills of credit, as no express power is given in the Constitution.”[1] And again, in the case of Hepburn v. Griswold,[2] Chase, C. J., says: “No one questions the general constitutionality . . . of the legislation by which a note currency has been authorized in recent years. The doubt is as to the power to declare a particular class of these notes to be a legal tender in payment of preexisting debts.”

We are, therefore, to remark, that while the doctrine is now established that Congress may emit bills of credit, may furnish a paper currency, and may prohibit the circulation of any currency but its own, yet, in the debates of the Convention, so far as we know anything about them, the majority of the speakers thought that they were prohibiting bills of credit and paper money. They were wrong. They talked as if the striking out of the words “and emit bills on the credit of the United States” were prohibition;

  1. 8 Wall., at p. 555.
  2. Ib. 603, at p. 619.