From Thomas Paine
London Sepr. 28th. 1790.
I enclose you a few Observations on the establishment of a Mint. I have not seen your report on that subject and therefore cannot tell how nearly our opinions run together, but as it is by thinking upon and talking Subjects over that we approach towards truth there may probably be something in the enclosed that may be of use.
As the establishment of a Mint combines a portion of Politics with a knowlege of the Arts and a variety of other Matters it is a subject I shall very much like to talk with you upon. I intend at all events to be in America in the Spring and it will please me much to arrive before you have gone thro’ the arrangement. I am Dr. Sir with much esteem Your Obt. Hble. Servant,
As I do not know by what means this will arrive, or when it will go, I put nothing in it but the subject I write upon.
RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 11 Feb. 1791 and so recorded in SJL.
TJ had not received Paine’s essay when he informed Hamilton on 24 Jan. 1791 that he had read the latter’s report on the establishment of a mint “with a great deal of satisfaction.” Except for the reservation stated in that letter, there was no ground for feeling otherwise since in general Hamilton’s recommendations harmonized with those TJ himself had advanced earlier (see TJ’s notes on coinage, 1776 and 1784: Vol. 1: 511–8; Vol. 7: 150–202; Syrett, Hamilton description begins The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett and others, New York, 1961—, 7 vols. description ends , vii, 462607, especially p. 467–8 where Hamilton’s plan is compared with that of TJ). Copper coinage, however, was a controverted issue, partly because of the ease of passing debased or counterfeit specimens, as TJ had indicated in his comment on “Birmingham coppers” in his report of 1784. In his 1790 report on copper coinage TJ had suggested that billon might be used instead of copper for the larger coins, but Hamilton, following the lead of the London Mint, preferred to accept the handicap of weight in countering the threat of debasement and counterfeiting. Paine’s ingenious solution to the problem of weight was characteristic and his advocacy of the use of waste copper also obviously appealed to TJ. The enabling legislation for establishing a mint on 3 Mch. 1791 reflected the division of opinion in the country over the issue, for the joint resolution passed the House of Representatives by the close vote of 25 to 21 (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, Gales & Seaton, 1826– description ends , I, 402). TJ at that time was expecting Paine to come to America during the spring, hence the long delay in asking his permission to publish the above observations (TJ to Paine, 29 July 1791).