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An American Monetary History Timeline

1800 to 1849

Written by Darrell Anderson.

April 24, 1800

Volume 1 Statutes at Large, 6th Congress Session I, Chapter 34, pp. 53–54. Specified the amount to appropriate toward the purchase of copper, gold, and silver bullion for minting coins.

May 14, 1800

Volume 1 Statutes at Large, 6th Congress Session I, Chapter 70, p. 86. Maintained the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.

March 3, 1801

Volume 1 Statutes at Large, 6th Congress Session II, Chapter 21, p. 111. Maintained the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia and reassigned certain assay inspection duties.

March 3, 1801

Volume 1 Statutes at Large, 6th Congress Session II, Chapter 28, p. 121. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

April 30, 1802

Volume 1 Statutes at Large, 7th Congress Session I, Chapter 38, p. 173. Suspended the expiration period in the act of February 9, 1793 for three years.

1803

Discovered in 1799, gold mining in North Carolina began in earnest.

1804

Minting of gold eagles and silver dollars suspended.

March 23, 1804

Volume 1 Statutes at Large, 8th Congress Session I, Chapter 32, p. 274. Amended the First Bank charter to allow the bank president and directors to establish additional discount and deposit offices in territorial regions.

April 10, 1806

Volume 2 Statutes at Large, 9th Congress Session I, Chapter 22, pp. 374–375. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

April 21, 1806

Volume 2 Statutes at Large, 9th Congress Session I, Chapter 49, pp. 404–405. Specified punishment for counterfeiting coinage, effectively repealing the death penalty enacted in the coinage act of 1792.

1809

Minting of gold quarter-eagles suspended.

March 19, 1812

Volume 2 Statutes at Large, 12th Congress Session I, Chapter 43, p. 695. Charter for the First Bank of the United States repealed.

June 18, 1812

Volume 2 Statutes at Large, 12th Congress Session I, Chapter 102, p. 755. Legislators declare war with Great Britain.

June 30, 1812

Volume 2 Statutes at Large, 12th Congress Session I, Chapter 111, pp. 766–768. Legislators authorize President to issue up to $5 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

February 25, 1813

Volume 2 Statutes at Large, 12th Congress Session II, Chapter 27, pp. 801–804. Legislators authorize President to issue up to $5 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

1814

Except in New England, bankers suspend redemption of bank notes in specie during war hostilities.

March 4, 1814

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 13th Congress Session II, Chapter 18, pp. 100–102. Legislators authorize President to issue up to $5 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

December 26, 1814

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 13th Congress Session III, Chapter 17, pp. 161–163. Legislators authorize President to issue up to $25 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

February 24, 1815

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 13th Congress Session III, Chapter 56, pp. 213–216. Legislators authorize President to issue up to $25 million of non interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

April 10, 1816

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 14th Congress Session I, Chapter 44, pp. 266–277. Charter approved for incorporating the Second Bank of the United States. Bank members issued notes to circulate as a paper currency.

April 29, 1816

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 14th Congress Session I, Chapter 139, p. 322. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

April 30, 1816

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 14th Congress Session I, Resolution 8, p. 343. Legislative resolution specifying that the Secretary of Treasury, beginning February 20, 1817, should accept payments only in Treasury notes, specie, or bank notes issued and held at par with Treasury notes and convertible in specie.

January 1817

The Second Bank of the United States begins operations.

March 3, 1817

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 14th Congress Session II, Chapter 85, pp. 377–378. Repealed authority to issue Treasury notes.

August 1817

Bankers from the Second Bank of the United States begin a monetary expansion by discounting their own corporate stock and issuing a large number of loans.

March 1818

In an effort to restore solvency, bankers from the Second Bank of the United States begin a large monetary contraction, by curtailing loans, calling in loans, issuing fewer bank notes, and suspending payment of notes in specie. Prices begin to decrease as a result.

1819

The Financial Panic of 1819. McCullough v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (Wheaton) 316. Pivotal Supreme Court case embracing the doctrine of implied powers and the constitutionality of incorporating a national bank.

March 3, 1819

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 15th Congress Session II, Chapter 97, p. 525. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

March 3, 1821

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 16th Congress Session II, Chapter 54, p. 645. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

May 3, 1822

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 17th Congress Session I, Chapter 47, p. 675. Limited the use of Treasury notes as a form of payment only to the Treasury.

March 3, 1823

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 17th Congress Session II, Chapter 50, p. 777. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

March 3, 1823

Volume 3 Statutes at Large, 17th Congress Session II, Chapter 53, p. 779. Allowed using certain foreign coins as payment for land purchases.

1825

The Financial Panic of 1825.

December 1829

Andrew Jackson begins his attack on the policies and management of the Second Bank of the United States.

1831

Discovered in 1828, gold mining in Georgia began in earnest.

July 10, 1832

Andrew Jackson vetoes a legislative bill to renew the charter for the Second Bank of the United States.

June 25, 1834

Volume 4 Statutes at Large, 23rd Congress Session I, Chapter 71, pp. 681–682. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

June 28, 1834

Volume 4 Statutes at Large, 23rd Congress Session I, Chapter 95, pp. 699–700. Popularly known as the Coinage Act of 1834. The legislative act of 1834 redefined the eagle to contain 232 grains of gold and 258 grains total metal, thereby establishing a new purity mixture ratio of 232:258 and reducing the overall amount of gold in each coin. By statute, the 1834 exchange ratio between silver and gold was fixed at approximately 16 parts silver to 1 part gold (16:1). The eagle maintained a market exchange value of 10 dollars.

Because both gold and silver are commodities used for purposes other than currency, the market value as a commodity fluctuates. If gold or silver become more valuable as a commodity and possess a market value higher than the statutory coinage value, the metal would tend to disappear from circulation as currency. This is what happened to prompt the 1834 act. Since the 1792 coinage act, gold had all but stopped circulating as currency and the 1834 ratios were intended to increase the demand for gold and encourage circulating gold as currency. Subsequent gold discoveries would increase the gold supply and amount of gold in circulation as currency, and with a fixed ratio, would create the opposite effect of removing silver from circulation as currency.

The intent was to encourage the circulation of both gold and silver coinage and to discourage circulation of paper currencies. The act did not debase or devalue the dollar or any gold standard. The dollar remained statutorily defined as 371.25 grains of silver and no gold standard statutorily yet existed.

June 28, 1834

Volume 4 Statutes at Large, 23rd Congress Session I, Chapter 96, pp. 700–701. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

1834

U.S. Mint resumes minting silver dollars.

1835

U.S. political financial debt is approximately $33,733.

March 3, 1835

Volume 4 Statutes at Large, 23rd Congress Session II, Chapter 39, pp. 774–775. U.S. Mints established at Dahlonega, Georgia, Charlotte, South Carolina, and New Orleans, Louisiana. The Georgia and North Carolina mints minted only gold coins.

June 15, 1836

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 24th Congress Session I, Chapter 97, p. 48. Charter for the Second Bank of the United States repealed.

June 23, 1836

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 24th Congress Session I, Chapter 115, pp. 52–56. An act instructing the Secretary of the Treasury to select private regional banks suitable for holding deposits of public funds.

July 11, 1836

Andrew Jackson issued his “Specie Circular,” which instructed land office agents to accept only specie in payment. The instruction modified the joint resolution from April 30, 1816, which instructed land office agents to accept payment in specie, Treasury notes, or private bank notes convertible in specie.

January 18, 1837

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 24th Congress Session II, Chapter 3, pp. 136–142. Popularly known as the Coinage Act of 1837. The legislative act of 1837 changed the purity ratio of both silver and gold coin to a uniform 900:1000 (9/10 pure). The act changed the total metal grains of a silver dollar coin to 412.5, but did not modify the original silver content of 371.25.

The act maintained the 1834 total metal content of the eagle at 258 grains. Thus with the new purity ratio established a gold content of 232.2 grains.

May 1837

Bankers in New York City stop converting paper currency to specie, igniting the Financial Panic of 1837. A prolonged economic depression follows, including bank failures and bankers suspending redemption of bank notes in specie.

July 27, 1837

Charlotte Mint opened. Minting of gold coins resumed.

October 12, 1837

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 25th Congress Session I, Chapter 2, pp. 201–204. Legislators authorize President to issue up to $10 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

May 21, 1838

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 25th Congress Session II, Chapter 82, p. 228. An act extending the act of October 12, 1837 authorizing the President to issue up to $10 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

March 2, 1839

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 25th Congress Session III, Chapter 37, p. 323. An act extending the act of May 21, 1838 authorizing the President to issue up to $10 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

March 31, 1840

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 26th Congress Session I, Chapter 5, p. 370. An act extending the act of March 2, 1839 authorizing the President to issue up to $10 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

July 4, 1840

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 26th Congress Session I, Chapter 41, pp. 385–392. Popularly known as the Independent Treasury Act of 1840. A legislative act creating an Independent Treasury System.

February 15, 1841

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 26th Congress Session II, Chapter 5, pp. 411–412. Legislators authorize President to issue up to $5 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

August 13, 1841

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 27th Congress Session I, Chapter 7, pp. 439–440. A legislative act repealing the Independent Treasury Act of 1840.

January 31, 1842

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 27th Congress Session II, Chapter 2, p. 469. Legislators authorize President to issue up to $5 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

July 27, 1842

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 27th Congress Session II, Chapter 66, p. 496. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

August 31, 1842

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 27th Congress Session II, Chapter 287, pp. 581–582. Legislators authorize President to issue up to $6 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

March 3, 1843

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 27th Congress Session II, Chapter 69, p. 607. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

March 3, 1843

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 27th Congress Session III, Chapter 81, p. 614. Legislators authorize President to reissue up to $6 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

March 3, 1843

Volume 5 Statutes at Large, 27th Congress Session II, Chapter 92, p. 625. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

May 22, 1846

Volume 9 Statutes at Large, 29th Congress Session I, Chapter 23, p. 14. Specified the exchange rates of certain foreign coins.

July 22, 1846

Volume 9 Statutes at Large, 29th Congress Session I, Chapter 64, pp. 39–40. Legislators authorize President to issue up to $10 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

August 6, 1846

Volume 9 Statutes at Large, 29th Congress Session I, Chapter 90, pp. 59–66. A legislative act reorganizing the Department of the Treasury, somewhat restoring the intent of the Independent Treasury Act of 1840.

January 28, 1847

Volume 9 Statutes at Large, 29th Congress Session II, Chapter 5, pp. 118–122. Legislators authorize President to issue up to $23 million of interest-bearing Treasury notes. The notes were not issued as legal tender nor declared as such. The notes were intended to be IOUs and evidence of indebtedness.

January 24, 1848

James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in California. The California gold rush soon begins, dramatically increasing the usable supply of gold, both as a currency and a commodity and hence, reducing the market exchange value of gold. The abundance of gold in circulation as currency with respect to silver thereby renders gold the preferred precious metal commodity to circulate as currency and effectively removes silver from circulation as currency.

March 3, 1849

Volume 9 Statutes at Large, 30th Congress Session II, Chapter 109, pp. 397–398. Popularly known as the Coinage Act of 1849. The legislative act of 1849 created a new gold dollar coin to contain 25.8 grains of total metal and maintained a purity mixture ratio of 900:1000. The act also created authority to mint the double-eagle or $20 gold coin. Introduced a gold coin containing the equivalent exchange value of a (silver) dollar, which along with the increase in the aggregate supply of gold, hastened the disappearance of silver coinage from circulation. However, the unit of account remained the dollar, defined by weight in silver.

Finis.

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