Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Elias Boudinot, 16 June 1801

From Elias Boudinot

Mint of the United States 16th. June 1801

Dear Sir

I duly recd. a Letter, without any signature, by a Mr Lesslie relative to a plan he proposed of striking Coin, by means of the double Cylinder—He assured me that he recieved this Letter from the President of the united States, and that the omission of the signature, was by mere accident; this led me to pay the strictest attention to its contents—

On Mr Lesslie’s first explanation of his design to me, a number of serious difficulties struck me; but not willing to trust my own Judgment, and desirous of giving him the best opportunity of supporting his scheme, I have had a meeting with him at the Mint, in presence of the professional work men. On the best investigation I could make, I found that the objections which arose in my mind were not new—This plan was attempted to be carried into execution in several parts of Germany, but on experiment was given up—Our present mode of striking, is much less expensive, and performs the business full as fast, as is necessary for our wants—I have so calculated the establishment, as to answer the supplies of the precious metals in the Year—I could with a small additional expence strike three times as much as we now do, but then the hands would often be idle for weeks together, and the deposits would lay in an unproductive State till a large quantity of the precious metals was collected together.

The single process of striking the Coin, is now one of the easiest of the twenty, thro which every planchett passes before it is compleat.—

The impracticability of preserving the precise circle—the flat surface—the uniform thickness and the milling round the Edge, added to the greater Expence of engraving a Cylinder (where the original Hubb could not be used, and of course the sameness of figure not preserved) would render this scheme not only very difficult but very expensive—For my own justification & your satisfaction, I take the liberty of enclosing a copy of the chief Coiner’s report to me on the Subject; that of the Engraver being of the like import.

Notwithstanding all this, as Mr Lessly seems desirous that the experiment should be made, I have determined, if still approved by the President, to have a sett of Cylinders made & engraved, altho’ it cannot be done under 150 Dollars—Mr Lessly has said that he would rather defray part of the expence than not make an attempt, but I presume this would not be allowed of—

I am conscious that the mint, has been the subject of great complaint, particularly with regard to its expence—This has certainly been without just cause, as every plan for reducing the expence to government, has been uniformly rejected by all parties, in various Committees of both Houses of Congress, on the policy that all the charge should be born by the Govt. and the Depositors have every thing done without the least expence to them. It was among other things for this purpose, proposed, that instead of the Depositor recieving in Coin the full weight of his Gold or Silver with the addition of the weight of the alloy (found by the united States) that it should be with the addition of two thirds of the alloy, by which means the expences of the Mint, to the public, would be reduced one half; but this was rejected on the principal of public policy. Even any charge for necessary Wastage was denied, or provision that the Silver put into the alloy of Gold, should be paid for—

I have been waited on by Mr Reich—and was much pleased with the samples of his work—He has been liberated from his servitude by means of one of the officers of the mint; since which I have set him to work on a particular medal, to be ascertained of his abilities—I am obliged to use great precaution, in regard to employing him in the mint, before I can have good evidence of the integrity of his character—

I have the honor to be with every sentiment of respect Dear Sir Your very obedt & very Hble Servt

Elias Boudinot

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the united States”; endorsed by TJ as received 22 June and so recorded in SJL. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 104, DL). Enclosure: Henry Voigt to Elias Boudinot, 15 June 1801 (see below).

A letter, without any signature: TJ to Boudinot, 23 May 1801.

Chief Coiner’s Report: Boudinot’s misgivings about using rollers to strike coins were seconded by Henry Voigt, the chief coiner of the Mint. In a detailed report to Boudinot dated 15 June, Voigt observed that striking coins with rollers had been frequently attempted, but was abandoned due to “the difficulties attending it.” He explained that far more time and labor was required to prepare the precious metals and form them into planchets than to impress the blanks, so that any savings in the latter process would have a negligible impact of the overall cost of operating the Mint. “Above all,” Voigt concluded, “the presses are made and ready for use and their efficacy certain and good; rollers are to be made for trial only, and pretty certain of no use when done; besides the expense and labour that will naturally occur in having them made” (Tr in DLC).

The Engraver: Robert Scot, appointed in 1793 (Vol. 4:36; Vol. 27:192).

All the Charge should be Born by the Govt.: under the terms of the 1792 act that established the Mint, any person could have gold and silver bullion assayed and coined at the Mint free of charge and receive coins (exclusive of the alloy they contained) weight for weight of the pure gold or silver deposited on a first-come, first-served basis. If a depositor did not wish to wait to have his bullion assayed and coined, he could exchange it for coins already in possession of the Mint for a charge of one-half percent of the bullion to be coined. This charge was intended to offset the expense of operating the Mint, but was rendered negligible since appropriations were never authorized to enable the Mint to purchase bullion in order to keep a stock of coins on hand (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 1:249–50; Stewart, First United States Mint description begins Frank H. Stewart, History of the First United States Mint, Its People and Its Operations, Camden, N.J., 1924 description ends , 17, 50).

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