4th Congress.
No. 111
2d Session.


Communicated to the House of Representatives, February 13, 1797.

Mr Havens made the following report:

The Committee to whom it was referred to examine and report their opinion on the report of the Director of the Mint, communicated to the House by the Secretary of State, and suggesting the expediency of some alterations in its establishment, to render it less expensive to the public, and more accommodating to depositors, report:

That, by the act for the establishment of the mint, which was passed in April, 1792, no provision was made for purchasing gold and silver bullion, in behalf of the public, and replacing the capital that might be employed for that purpose, by the coins that might be produced from it, excepting that, in one case, it was provided that it should be optional for the depositors and the director of the mint to exchange coins of the United States for standard bullion, with a deduction of one half per cent. from the weight of the pure gold and silver that might be contained in the bullion, as an indemnification to the public for the loss that would be sustained by advancing the money for the time that would be necessarily required for coining it, and the Secretary of the Treasury was authorized to make the necessary advances for this purpose, whenever the state of the treasury would admit of it; but the great and continual demands upon the treasury for disbursements on other accounts, and the loss that would arise to the public by the delay that would frequently take place in coining, may be fairly assigned as the reasons why this provision in the law has never produced any effect, similar to that of purchasing bullion at its market price, and coining it in behalf of the public. It appears, however, by this act for regulating foreign coins, which was passed in February, 1793, that it was then intended to give some further employment to the mint, in coining the precious metals, than had before been provided for, at the time of its first establishment: for, this act provides that, at the expiration of three years next ensuing, the time when the coinage of gold and silver should commence at the mint, agreeably to the act for its establishment, which time should be announced by the proclamation of the President of the United States, all foreign gold and silver coins, excepting Spanish milled dollars, and parts of such dollars, should cease to be a legal tender; and that, whenever any such coins should be received in payment for moneys due to the United States, after the said time, they should be coined anew, previously to their being issued in circulation. But as no such proclamation has ever been issued by the President, this provision in the law cannot be contemplated as giving any additional employment to the mint; the consequence, therefore, has been, that the mint, since its establishment, has had no other employment in coining the precious metals, than what has been occasionally given to it by individuals who have made deposites of bullion; which has, generally, been much below the standard, and has, therefore, required the slow process of melting and refining, before it could be coined; and as the business of melting and refining was not the employment of any private persons in this country, as is the case in foreign countries, it became necessary, soon after the establishment of the mint, to provide by law, that this business should be carried on there; which, at first, was done altogether at the public expense, until, by an act which was passed in the last session, it was provided that this should be a charge upon the depositors. The act for the establishment of the mint having made no positive provision for an immediate advancement of money, on the part of the public, to the depositors of bullion, according to the value of their respective deposites, it became necessary to provide, in the same act, in order to do equal justice to each depositor, that their respective deposites should be coined as speedily as possible, and that payment should be made in coins of the United States, in the order in which each deposite had been made; and the consequence has been, that it has frequently happened that the mint has been under the necessity of proceeding to coin a very small deposite, greatly to the disadvantage of the public, because the expense would be nearly the same in coining a small, as in coining a large quantity of bullion; and the law being positive, that each depositor shall be paid in strict order, the consequence has been, that the whole of the value of all the pieces, that are, by the same act, to be reserved from each mass of gold and silver, for examination, at the end of the year, will fall upon the last depositor, who must remain unpaid until the end of the year. These inconveniences have, however, been, in some degree, obviated, of late, by obtaining anticipations of the value of deposites, from the Bank of the United States, or from individuals. It further appears, by the same act for regulating foreign coins, that all the foreign gold and silver coins that usually pass current in the United States, are made a legal tender for the payment of debts; which must operate so as to prevent, rather than to induce the holders of them to bring them to the mint, for the purpose of receiving the stamp of the coins of the United States. From this review of the laws relative to the mint, the committee are, therefore, of opinion, that, unless a capital, to a moderate amount, can be provided from the treasury of the United States, to be employed in purchasing gold and silver bullion, and foreign coin, now in circulation, for the purpose of coining it anew, in behalf of the public, the mint will continue to be an expensive establishment, without being productive of any great public advantage, excepting what may be supposed to be derived from the coinage of copper, which, as it has been stated to the committee, produces some small profit to the public; the value of the cents and half cents, being somewhat more than the cost of the copper, and the expense of importation.

The Director has stated in his report, that there is due to the mint, for unavoidable wastage, which has arisen in coining the precious metals, the sum of 1,845 dollars 95 cents and 5 mills; and the further sum of 974 dollars 75 cents and 5 mills, for a deficiency which has arisen in consequence of the mismanagement of a former assayer; by which a quantity of silver became mixed with a quantity of ashes and broken crucibles, and a great part of which, it is expected, may be recovered: for these two sums, it will be necessary to make appropriations. With respect to the contingent expenses of the mint, for the present year, it will be sufficient only to observe, that they cannot be estimated at a less rate than what they have been stated at, in the estimate of the Secretary of the Treasury, for the present year. The committee would, therefore, recommend the following resolutions:

Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding ------ dollars, ought to be appropriated for the purpose of purchasing gold and silver bullion, and the foreign coin now in circulation, at its market price, or according to its real value; and that the bullion and coin so to be purchased, ought to be coined at the mint, and the moneys thence arising, to be continually placed in the treasury of the United States.

Resolved, That the further sum of 2,820 dollars and 71 cents ought to be appropriated to make good a deficiency that has arisen from wastage in coining gold and silver, since the commencement of the coinage of those metals at the mint; and to make good a further deficiency which has arisen by the loss of a quantity of silver.