Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5

Document 8

John Jay to George Washington

13 Nov. 1790Correspondence 3:406--7

The Constitution gives power to the Congress "to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin; to provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States." If the word current had been omitted, it might have been doubted whether the Congress could have punished the counterfeiting of foreign coin. Mexican dollars have long been known in our public acts as current coin. The 55th section of the act "to provide more effectually for the collection of the duties," etc., enumerates a variety of foreign coins which shall be received for the duties and fees mentioned in it.

The late penal act (as it is generally called) provides punishment for counterfeiting paper, but not coin, foreign or domestic. Whether this omission was accidental or designed, I am uninformed. It appears to me more expedient that this offence, as it respects current coin, should be punished in a uniform manner throughout the nation, rather than be left to State laws and State courts.

The Constitution provides, that "no State shall coin money, nor make any thing but gold or silver coin a tender in payment of debts." Must not this gold and silver coin be such only as shall be either struck or made current by the Congress? At present, I do not recollect any act which designates, unless perhaps by implication, what coins shall be a legal tender between citizen and citizen.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5, Document 8
The University of Chicago Press

The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay. Edited by Henry P. Johnston. 4 vols. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1890--93.

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