Communicated to the House of Representatives February 6, 1823.
Mr. Rochester, from the Committee appointed on the 13th ultimo, having deliberated on the last point of inquiry embraced in the resolution of instructions to them, adopted by the House of Representatives on the 23d ultimo, namely, “the expediency of making the gold coins of Great Britain, Portugal, France; and Spain, receivable in payment of debts due the United States, at their intrinsic value,” asked leave, on that subject, to report:
The gold coins of Great Britain and Portugal, of their present standards, correspond almost exactly with our own; those of France are not so fine, and those of Spain still less pure.
Although no regular report of the assays of these coins has been made by the Director of the Mint since 1819, during which year the last act of Congress, declaring them a lawful tender, expired, yet, from numerous assays made since on deposits, it has been abundantly ascertained that their intrinsic value is equal to that which was assigned to them, respectively, by the act of the 29th of April, 1816.
The committee assent, without hesitation, to the expediency of making them receivable in payment of debts to the United States on sales of public lands, but doubt the propriety of making them a tender on other debts, duties, taxes, or sums of money, which have or may become due to the Government.
Notwithstanding it was stated in a previous report of the committee that the gold coins of every description and denomination, whether American or foreign, have of late been almost entirely banished from our seaport towns, yet there is reason to believe that, owing to the constant emigrations to the western country from Europe and to the acknowledged want of confidence in many of their banking institutions, considerable sums of foreign gold have found their way into that country, and have been and are much relied on as part of the means of paying the debt there due for public lands.
The committee are assured that very many of the purchasers of those lands, being persuaded, from long habit, that gold would, on account of its metallic preciousness, continue to be the safest and most in demand as a circulating medium, have studiously and carefully preserved it for the purpose of making payments to the Receivers of Public Money on their land purchases.
The debt on account of sales of the public lands is so large that it is believed every facility and inducement compatible with the just rights of the General Government should be extended by Congress for its speedy reduction and final extinguishment by actual payment.
It will be seen, by reference to the annexed communication of the 3d of February instant, made in reply to a letter addressed to the Treasury Department by direction of the committee, that the Secretary of the Treasury has found it expedient to authorize the Receivers of Public Money to continue to receive the coins adverted to in this report “in payments on account of public lands,” and that “they are, in fact, now received by them.” The reasons assigned in said communication for giving such authority to the Receivers are perfectly satisfactory to the committee, and strongly indicate the propriety, not to say necessity, of giving to that authority the sanction of law.
Treasury Department, February 3, 1823.
Sir: In reply to your letter of the 31st ultimo, inquiring whether it would not be expedient to make the gold coins of Great Britain, Portugal, France, and Spain, receivable in payments to the United States, at their intrinsic value, and especially in payments on account of public lands, I have the honor to state that it is deemed proper that it should be made a lawful tender in all payments to the United States on account of public lands. Upon the expiration of the act of Congress which made them a legal tender in the payment of debts in the United States, the Receivers of Public Money were authorized to continue to receive them in all payments on account of public lands, and they are, in fact, now received by them. This authority was given, first, because no doubt was entertained that the creditors of the Government in the States and Territories where the land offices were established would receive such coin in preference to the notes of the State banks established in those States and Territories, and second, because the refusal of those coins and of the notes of the local banks would have placed it out of the power of the purchasers of the public lands to make payment, as the notes of the Bank of the United States and of its offices did not circulate among them, and the current coin of the Union did not circulate in sufficient quantity to meet even a small proportion of the payments due by them.
In terminating this letter, I feel it my duty to observe that the relative current value of gold and silver differs materially from that established by the laws of the United States. The consequence has been that the gold coin of the United States has always been exported whenever the rate of exchange between the United States and the commercial nations of Europe has been in favor of the latter. If the gold coins of the United States should be made equal in value to sixteen times the value of silver coins of the same quantity of pure silver, they would be exported only when the rate of exchange should be greatly against the United States.
This subject was presented more fully in a report made by this Department upon the state of the currency, in obedience to a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 1st of March, 1819, to which I beg leave to refer the committee.
I remain, with respect, your most obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. CRAWFORD.
Hon. W. B. Rochester, C. C.on the Mint.