Communicated to the House of Representatives, March 20, 1816.
Treasury Department, March 17, 1816.
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 15th instant, proposing two subjects for inquiry: 1st. Whether it would be expedient, at the present time, to make the gold coins of France, England, Portugal, and Spain, and the crowns of France, part of the legal currency of the United States? and, 2d. What is the actual value of those coins respectively?
1. The lawful money of the United States, under the existing laws, consists of the coins of the United States and of Spanish dollars and parts thereof. The coins of other descriptions, which have circulated in the United States of late years, have not been very considerable in amount, and have consisted principally of Spanish gold coins. But these, since the expiration of the act of the 10th of April, 1806, have, for the most part, borne, in all transactions into which they have entered, their true character of bullion, and have been bought and sold as such. As it might, however, be the means of facilitating the resumption of specie payments, and of continuing them, until a more competent supply of the coins of the United States than now exists could be furnished, it appears to be expedient to revive, for three years, the act of the 10th of April, 1806, by which the coins you have mentioned were made a part of the legal currency of the United States; varying, however, the rates of the coins so as to fix them at what they have been ascertained to be actually worth, compared with the coins of the United States.
2. The following may be considered as the result of repeated assays made at the Mint, which have been, heretofore, annually reported to Congress.
The gold coins of Great Britain and Portugal are uniformly of the same quality, and of the same standard as the gold coins of the United States. Their intrinsic value, therefore, is at the rate of 100 cents for 27 grains, or 888/9 cents per pennyweight.
The gold coins of France, of the new stamp, are very nearly of uniform quality, and are of the intrinsic value of 100 cents for 271/2 grains, or 871/4 cents per pennyweight.
The gold coins of Spain are more variable in their quality, their average intrinsic value is at the rate of 100 cents for 281/2 grains, or 84 cents per pennyweight.
The crowns of France, struck prior to the revolution, are of the intrinsic value of 1176/10 cents per ounce, or 110 cents for each crown weighing 18 pennyweights 17 grains. The five franc piece of Napoleon (and its divisions in proportion) is of the intrinsic value of 116 cents per ounce, or 933/10 cents for each five franc piece weighing 16 pennyweights 2 grains.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant,
The Hon. John C. Calhoun, Chairman of Committee on the National Currency.