Report on Foreign Coinage
The Secretary of State, to whom was referred by the President of the United States, the Resolution of the House of Representatives of the 29th. of Novr. 1792. on the subject of Experiments on the Coins of France, England, Spain, and Portugal,
That assays and experiments have been accordingly made at the Mint by the Director, and under his care and inspection, of sundry Gold and Silver Coins of France, England, Spain and Portugal, and a statement of the quantity of fine metal and Alloy in each of them, and the specific gravities of those of Gold given in by the Director, a copy of which, and of the letter covering it, are contained in the papers marked A. and B.
Jan. 8. 1793.
PrC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., signed and dated by TJ in ink. Tr (same); in Taylor’s hand, signature and date by TJ clipped; endorsed by Tobias Lear. PrC (DLC). FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, SDR). Recorded in SJPL. Enclosure: David Rittenhouse to TJ, 7 Jan. 1793, with enclosed Assay of Foreign Coins. Enclosed in TJ to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, 8 Jan. 1793, and TJ to George Washington, 8 Jan. 1793.
This report grew out of a recommendation in the President’s fourth annual message to Congress of 6 Nov. 1792 that the legislature complete its consideration of regulations to fix the value of foreign coins in connection with the establishment of the United States Mint the previous April. On 16 Nov. the House received from the Senate a bill to regulate the value of foreign coins in the United States. After reading and amending the bill, the House decided on 28 Nov. to recommit it to the committee of the whole on the first Monday in January 1793. In the meantime, in order to obtain information on the coins, the House resolved on the following day to request the President “to cause assays and other proper experiments to be made, at the Mint of the United States, of the gold and silver coins of France, England, Spain, and Portugal; and a report of the quantity of fine metal, and of alloy, in each of the denominations of the coins, to be laid before this House” (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1826, 9 vols. description ends , i, 620–1, 626, 627, 629, 630; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales, 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , i, 454, 458).
Washington referred this resolution to TJ, whose department had jurisdiction over the Mint, and the assays were carried out by David Ott, a temporary employee of the Mint, under the supervision of David Rittenhouse, the Mint’s director. Rittenhouse sent the results of the assays to TJ on 7 Jan. 1793, the day the House was supposed to reconsider the foreign coinage bill, but lacking the assays, the House took no action on the measure. Meanwhile, TJ prepared the above report and drafted a covering message to the House for the President (see note to TJ to Washington, 8 Jan. 1793); the message was not used, however, and TJ submitted the report to the House this day with his own covering letter to the Speaker.
The House read and tabled TJ’s report the same day it was submitted and did not resume consideration of the foreign coinage bill until 29 Jan. After amendments were made in the House and Senate, the bill received Washington’s approval on 9 Feb. 1793. In its final form the act established the value at which certain British, French, Portuguese, and Spanish coins would circulate as legal tender in the United States for three years after the Mint began to issue coinage, beyond which period all but the Spanish milled dollar would have to be recoined by the Mint, and stipulated that no foreign coins issued after 1791 could be legal tender unless their value was shown by assay to meet the required standards (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1826, 9 vols. description ends , i, 663, 685, 687, 688, 695, 698; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales, 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , i, 476, 477, 480, 481, 482; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , iii, 1412–13; Taxay, Mint description begins Don Taxay, The U.S. Mint and Coinage: An Illustrated History from 1776 to the Present, New York, 1966 description ends , 102–3).