5th Congress.
No. 134
2d Session.


Communicated to the House of Representatives, May 19, 1798.

Mr. Dwight Foster, from the Committee of Claims, to whom was referred the petition of John Vaughan, made the following report:

That the petitioner states, that, between the 1st of January and 21st of November, 1795, he deposited in the mint of the United States, for coinage, a quantity of silver bullion, amounting to 230,888 oz. 10 dwts. of standard silver, as assayed and calculated by the then assayer of the mint, at the rate of nine parts fine to one part alloy, and received from the mint, in coined silver, the same quantity of silver, of the same standard; but that, by law, the said silver ought to have been assayed at the rate of 1485 parts fine to 179 parts alloy, and the coin delivered in exchange therefor, in the same proportion as by law established; and that, by reason of the superior fineness of the coin to the standard fixed by law, he has sustained a loss of two thousand two hundred and sixty dollars and thirty-two cents.

He further states, that the bullion which he deposited, was of fineness superior to the legal standard of the coins of the United States, which produced a great saving to the United States, by being mixed with bullion inferior to the standard, which had been previously deposited for coinage, and thereby saving the trouble, delay, and expense, of refining a quantity of bullion which was baser than the standard; that being obliged, however, to wait the coinage of the bullion deposited before his, he suffered great delays, and was long kept out of his money: Whereupon, he prays that he may be allowed interest on the same, after what he supposes a reasonable time for the coinage, until it was paid him.

The committee conceive, that, as the delay which Mr. Vaughan suffered, in obtaining his coin, took place only in the ordinary course of business, and without any fault of the United States, or of their officers, his claim for interest is wholly unfounded.

As to the other ground on which the petitioner claims, the committee find that, as stated by the petitioner, the standard, by law affixed for the silver coin, which has not been altered since the first establishment of the mint, is 1485 parts fine to 179 parts alloy; notwithstanding which, the coinage was commenced, and carried on, until the time when the present Director came into the management of the business, which was in the month of October, 1795, on an assumed standard of nine parts fine to one part alloy. The legal standard may be defined — ten ounces, fourteen pennyweights five grains of fine silver, to one ounce, five pennyweights, nineteen grains of alloy; the assumed, or practical standard of the mint, until it has been changed by the present Director, ten ounces sixteen pennyweights fine, to one ounce and four pennyweights alloy. Hence, it followed, that the depositor of silver bullion, although he received coin which contained an equal quantity of fine silver with his deposite, did not receive that number of coins to which, by law, he was entitled; and coins finer than the legal standard being of no more value for circulation, than those exactly conforming to that standard, he was, of course, a loser by the difference. It should seem there could be no question but the depositor of bullion at the mint is entitled to receive its value, in coins at the standard fixed by law, and that the public must be considered as contracting to this effect. The petitioner has not received the sum, in coin which he ought to have received, by the amount of the difference caused by the variation of the assumed from the legal standard. The committee are, therefore, of opinion, that he is entitled to redress, and recommend to the House to adopt the following resolution:

Resolved, That the accounting officers of the Treasury allow to John Vaughan the amount of the difference in his favor, which would result from calculating the bullion by him deposited in the mint of the United States for coinage, at the rate of 10 oz. 14 dwt. 5 gr. fine, to 1 oz. 5 dwt. 19 gr. alloy, instead of 10 oz. 16 dwt. fine, to 1 oz. 4 dwt. alloy.