Communicated to the Senate, March 14, 1800.
Mr. Hillhouse, from the Committee to whom was referred the message of the President of the United States, of the 8th day of January, 1800, together with the report of the Director of the Mint, of the 1st of January last, made the following report:
That the existing law requires the removal of the mint to the permanent seat of Government; that such removal would, in many respects, be inconvenient; but the policy of keeping up that establishment, in a situation where its operations will not be under the immediate superintendency and direction of the principal officers of Government, is questionable.
It appears by official reports, that, on the 31st of December, 1799, there had been coined and issued from the mint, since its first establishment, 696,530 dollars in gold; 1,216,158 dollars and 75 cents in silver; and in copper, 50,111 dollars and 42 cents; amounting in the whole, to 1,962,800 dollars and 17 cents. That the expense, during the same period, has been 213,336 dollars and 2 cents, of which sum there has been reimbursed, by the payment of cents and half cents, into the treasury, 48,041 dollars 42 cents; leaving a balance of 165,294 dollars 60 cents — an expense, in the opinion of the committee, disproportionate to the advantage which has been derived from a circulation of the coins of the United States, which have been very limited, and mostly confined to places in the vicinity of the mint.
To furnish coin sufficient for a circulating medium, throughout the United States, would be impracticable, unless the powers of the mint should be greatly increased, and the practice of melting down the coin, and the exportation to foreign countries, prevented; which may be done by debasing the coin — a measure which the committee cannot recommend.
The providing a fixed and permanent standard, by which the value of property, contracts for money, and foreign coins, shall be regulated, is an object of great importance. This may be effectually done without the aid of a permanent mint establishment: for it is not an indispensable requisite, that the whole circulating medium should be of the coins of the United States. Wholly to exclude foreign coins from circulation, if not impracticable, would be attended with great inconvenience, especially in the extreme parts of the Union.
The banks afford the most effectual guard against the circulation of base coin; a regard to their own interest will induce caution, and such coin will not be there received for more than its intrinsic value; which will fix the rate at which it will have a currency. An authority might be, by law, vested in the bank, for ascertaining the intrinsic value of coins of a new impression, by assaying them at the expense of the United States: for these purposes the present mint establishment cannot be necessary.
Causes, in their nature temporary, have, hitherto, furnished a great proportion of the bullion which has been coined at the mint, and the committee do not discover any mode which can in future be relied on, for furnishing a regular and certain supply, but that of prohibiting the circulation of foreign coins, and converting them into bullion, which seems to have been the mode contemplated. In addition to the inconvenience attending this measure, the Committee are strongly impressed with an apprehension, that it will be ineffectual, unless the transporting bullion to the mint, and the replacing the value in coin, is to be at the risk and expense of the United States: for the difference in value, between bullion and coin, will be so small, that no individual would be induced to take upon himself the risk and expense. And the vast extent of the territory of the United States, the foreign commerce which is carried on from the various ports, almost wholly disconnected from, and independent of each other, and there being no place where the trade of this country is, or can be concentrated, will always make that risk and expense an object of no small importance.
The furnishing a supply of cents and half cents, sufficient for circulation, would, in the opinion of the committee, be a desirable object, but they are well satisfied that the mint, upon its present establishment, will not furnish such supply. The efforts of almost seven years have done very little towards it. Perhaps a more economical, and the most effectual mode, would be by contract.
Though the coining of gold and silver may, at times, be deemed expedient, there will still remain a doubt as to the propriety of keeping up the present mint establishment. And the Committee have no hesitation in declaring it as their opinion that a plan may be devised, which will be more eligible, and better comport with economy, and the interest of the United States, for securing every object of importance in relation to a national coin.
As the removal of the mint must be attended with expense, and probably a derangement of many of the officers, if a change of the system is to take place, the present is beyond a doubt the most convenient time for effecting it.
The Committee, therefore, recommend the following resolutions:
Resolved, That a committee be appointed to bring in a bill for repealing the first section of the act, entitled “An act establishing a mint, and regulating the coins of the United States,” and such other sections and parts of sections of said act, and other acts, as relate to the establishment of a mint, and to provide for taking care of the materials and property appertaining to the mint, and which belong to the United States.
Resolved, That the Secretary of the Treasury be directed to report a plan for furnishing the United States with cents and half cents, and such other coins as shall be deemed necessary or expedient.
. . . . . . . .
A general statement of the expense of the Mint establishment, from its institution, to the 31st December, 1799.
|Incidental and contingent expenses and repairs of the mint, including purchase of ground and buildings thereon, in seventh street, Philadelphia.|
|From the institution of the mint to the 31st December, 1797,||$73,773||96|
|From 1st January to 31st December, 1798,||10,836||57|
|Copper purchased for coinage.|
|From the institution of the mint to the 31st December, 1797, 135,498 ¾ lbs.||34,427||48|
|From 1st January to 1st December, 1798, 22,829 lbs.||7,110||22|
|Salaries of the officers.|
|From the institution of the mint to the 31st December, 1797,||46,494||15|
|From 1st January to||31st December,||1798,||10,600||00|
|Wastage in the coinage of silver.|
|For this sum, applied to make good the wastage, as settled at the treasury,||2,820||71|
|Amount of warrants drawn on the Treasurer of the United States, for the mint establishment, including purchase of copper for coinage, in the year 1799, and exclusive of the salaries of the officers, the account of the expenditure thereof not fully settled,||16,672||93|
|The payments of cents and half cents into the treasury, from the institution of the mint to 31st December, 1799, have been||$48,041||42|
Treasury Department, Register's Office, February 20, 1800.
JOSEPH NOURSE, Register.