Today in history, the Coinage Act of 1792 was passed. It was the first attempt, under the current Constitution, to establish a coinage system for the United States.

The coins were based on a decimal system, championed by Thomas Jefferson and Robert Morris in the 1780s. In a report entitled, “Notes on the Establishment of a Money Unit and Coinage for the United States,” Jefferson endorsed Morris’ plan to use the system for the first coins, and Congress agreed. The coins became known as the Nova Constellatio.

Unlike the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution prohibited paper money at both a Congressional and state level. During the 1780s, the states printed debtor-friendly bills of credit that became rapidly debased, enraging creditors and creating an economic calamity.

Because of a push, primarily by Roger Sherman of Connecticut, the new Constitution established that Congress possesses the power “To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures.” Additionally, no state could “make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.” Madison’s notes reflect that Sherman believed the economic doldrums produced “a favorable crisis for crushing paper money.” He noted that without such constraint, the friends of paper money would make “every exertion” to get into the Legislature in order to license it. The prohibition on the emission of bills of credit passed by a margin of 8-1, with one state divided.

Sherman was not alone in his opposition to paper money, and several others recognized this necessity. In North Carolina’s state ratifying convention, William Davie observed that “it is essential to the interests of agriculture and commerce, that the hands of the states should be bound from making paper money, installment laws, or pine-barren acts. By such iniquitous laws the merchant or farmer may be defrauded of a considerable part of his just claims.” Even Alexander Hamilton, a fierce proponent of national banking, maintained: “The emitting of paper money by the authority of Government is wisely prohibited to the individual States, by the National Constitution. And the spirit of that prohibition ought not to be disregarded, by the Government of the United States.”

Under the 1792 Act, a United States Mint was established for the first time. The United States dollar was tied to the value of the Spanish silver dollar, which had been widely circulated in North America for several decades. For the first time, the act created a copper cent, the grandfather of today’s variant. The act also created Eagles – worth $10, Half Eagles – worth $5, Dollars – worth $1, and Quarters – worth $0.25, among other demarcations.

All coinage was backed by weighted bullion in standard gold, silver, and copper, in accordance with the constitutional power. At a central level, bullion-based coinage was never abandoned until 1861, where the United States government printed fiat “Greenbacks” that rapidly depreciated in value over the next few years. Compounding the problem further, some state banks refused to accept the paper for deposits or accept them for the payment of taxes.

Dave Benner

The 10th Amendment

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”



Featured Articles

On the Constitution, history, the founders, and analysis of current events.

featured articles


Tenther Blog and News

Nullification news, quick takes, history, interviews, podcasts and much more.

tenther blog


State of the Nullification Movement

232 pages. History, constitutionality, and application today.

get the report


Path to Liberty

Our flagship podcast. Michael Boldin on the constitution, history, and strategy for liberty today

path to liberty


Maharrey Minute

The title says it all. Mike Maharrey with a 1 minute take on issues under a 10th Amendment lens. maharrey minute

Tenther Essentials

2-4 minute videos on key Constitutional issues - history, and application today


Join TAC, Support Liberty!

Nothing helps us get the job done more than the financial support of our members, from just $2/month!



The 10th Amendment

History, meaning, and purpose - the "Foundation of the Constitution."

10th Amendment



Get an overview of the principles, background, and application in history - and today.