Communicated to the House of Representatives February 4, 1823.
Mr. Rochester, from the Committee appointed on the 13th ultimo, who were, by a resolution adopted on the 23d ultimo, instructed to inquire into the expediency of prolonging the continuance of the Mint at Philadelphia; and whether any amendments in the laws regulating the coins oŁ the United States be necessary; and, also, whether it would be expedient to make certain foreign gold coins receivable in payment of debts due to the United States, reported, in part:
That on the 16th day of October, 1786, Congress passed an ordinance for the establishment of a Mint, agreeably to the resolutions of the 8th August preceding, founded on a report from the then Board of Treasury.
That on the 2d of April, 1792, the first act passed regulating the coins of the United States and establishing a Mint, to be situate and carried on at the seat of Government for the time being. This act defined the national standard, and designated the description and denominations of the various American gold, silver, and copper coins.
No alteration has been since made by law in the standard, relative value, or weight of the respective coins, except in those of copper, which, by an act of January 14, 1793, underwent a small diminution of weight, and were, subsequently, by an act of December 27, 1795, on account of the increased price of copper, reduced to their present weight, viz: seven pennyweights for cents, and for half cents in proportion. On the removal of the seat of Government to Washington, by the act concerning the Mint, of 3d March, 1801, the Mint was continued at Philadelphia until 4th March, 1803, and has been continued there since, by several successive acts of Congress, the last of which, approved the 14th January, 1818, will expire on the 4th day of March next.
It is hardly necessary to urge the propriety of continuing the Mint. All well regulated commercial countries maintain establishments for the making of national coinage. Ours has the sanction of a resolution of Congress so long ago as the 21st of February, 1782, predicated upon a report of a committee of the States. It is, at present, in a highly improved state, and fully adequate to all its appropriate purposes.
The power to coin money and to regulate its value being vested by the Constitution in Congress exclusively, the States might reasonably complain were the exercise of a power so intimately connected with the regular operations of business and trade, and, in some degree, involving our national character, to be neglected.
At the commencement of the present year the silver coined at the Mint amounted to $12,611,199, and the gold coinage to $7,709,847. The committee cannot pretend to any precision in estimating the probable amount of gold and silver coins now in the United States; some of our statistical writers put it at sixteen millions, being one and a half million less than was supposed to be in the country in 1804, according to Blodget’s Manual. It is thought, however, not to be underrating the present aggregate amount by stating it (including foreign gold and silver) at less than has been coined of those metals at our Mint.
With respect to the copper coinage, it may be satisfactory to state that, since the year 1795, copper, in the form of planchets ready for coinage, has been procured on contract from England; that the supply now on hand, uncoined, will probably give employment to the Mint for the remainder of the year 1823 on this description of coinage, and is estimated to be worth about $14,000; the total amount of copper coinage at this time is $446,409; it is the only branch of coinage which has afforded any profit to the Government; this profit has varied from time to time, according to the price of copper in England and the rate of exchange, but may fairly be set down at about 20 per cent. Should the mines in the region of Lake Superior, spoken of in the intelligent communication made to the Secretary of War by Mr. Schoolcraft, Indian Agent at the Sault of St. Marie, and submitted to Congress in December last, prove as valuable as the agent represents them, there is little doubt but that, in the event of the extinguishment of the Indian title thereto, and of the erection of a refining establishment on an efficient basis, taken in connexion with the increasing facilities for transportation, by water, from that region to the sea-board, they will furnish a superabundant supply of copper for all the purposes of the Mint, as well as for every other necessary one, at a much cheaper rate than that at which the same metal may be brought from England.
The committee are not aware of any circumstance growing out of the operations of the Mint, or of the manner in which it has been conducted, which denotes any abuse, or demands a suspension of its operations. Its location is, perhaps, on all accounts, as favorable as any other which might be designated, and for some reasons obviously more so, to wit: Economy in the public expense. The whole establishment, including buildings, lots, and machinery, has, altogether, cost about $36,000, and if exposed to sale would probably fall far short of the expense that would be necessary for the purchase of another suitable site, and for the erection and furnishing of a national Mint at the seat of Government.
Again, most of the deposits of gold and silver have been, and probably will continue to be, made by the Bank of the United States, and those that are not made by that bank are generally transferred to it in Mint certificates. This fact would seem to indicate the propriety, if not necessity, of keeping those two institutions near each other.
Under the laws regulating the operations of the Mint no seignorage can be charged on the coinage of gold or silver. On copper, which, as before mentioned, is coined on the account of Government, the profit, during the last five years, has exceeded $30,000.
For some time after the establishment of the Bank of the United States large deposits were made through it in European coins; and, of late years, the deposits oŁ silver from Mexico and the Republics of South America have been very considerable, generally through the same medium. Whilst the Mints of those countries are in a great measure inoperative, there is no doubt but that the bullion from their mines may increase our deposits; yet, when their Mints renew their operations, (as doubtless they will ere long,) the importation of their coins and bullion must wholly depend upon the extent of our commerce with them. The importation of gold from thence, which has found its way to the Mint, has never been very considerable, that of their silver, during the last five years, amounts to $1,476,680, while that from all other places amounts to $2,869,024.
The committee ask leave to bring in a bill for the further continuance of the Mint at Philadelphia, to which bill they have added a section providing an amendment in the existing laws, which allow no deduction far the refining of silver, unless when below our standard, nor any compensation for the expense of alloy used in reducing to the legal standard such silver deposits as are of a quality superior to the standard.
The Director of the Mint, in a communication of the 30th ultimo, addressed to a member of the committee, states that, “it has been ascertained, from many years’ experience, that the wastage on coining is about one grain per ounce — and this is the allowance made to the chief coiner. That on melting and refining would probably be as much; but a reduction is made from this of all the charges for refining gold and silver below our standard, which is accounted for to the Treasury of the United States. Nothing is retained, except for refining the gold and silver below our standard; and that, as above, is deducted from the allowance for wastage. This, during the last five years, amounted to $2,147.”