THE MASSACHUSETTS COINAGE, PROCLAMATION MONEY
AND LAWFUL MONEY(1)
At some stage in this discussion it is essential that the fact should be stated that the pounds, shillings and pence with which we are dealing do not have the same value as those which are called sterling. It is also important that something should be said concerning "proclamation money", a term to be met with in contemporary publications, and " lawful money," a phrase which is to be found in the supply bills, tax acts and in all legislation of a similar character in Massachusetts during this period. We have already reached a point where the understanding of these terms is imperative if one would comprehend contemporary literature, and in order that the subject may be completely covered it is perhaps desirable also to review the legislation in connection with the Massachusetts coinage. In seeking for the sterling value of these coins we naturally turn to the act establishing a mint but at the outset we meet with difficulties since the clauses of the act in which the values are defined are held to be irreconcilable.(2) According to the terms of that act the new coins were to be of the just alloy of new, sterling, English money; and for value to be two pence in a shilling of lesser value than the corresponding English Coins. The shilling was to weigh three pennyweights Troy weight. The new coins were declared to be the current money of the colony, and no other money was admitted to this privilege except English. The effect of this limitation was to a certain extent compromised by the addition of the clause "except the receivers consent thereunto."(3) The actual value of the shilling was stated by Randolph in 1676 to be 9d 1f., 22.5 per cent. below the English shilling.(4) This value was adopted by the officers of the London mint in a report in January, 1684-85(5) and further appears to be acceptable to Prof. W. G. Sumner(6) who has made a study of this subject, and who states that the value of this shilling was 77.5 per cent. of the English shilling.
In circulation it appears to have been valued almost at once at ninepence, for in 1654 we find a statement which seems to mean that it was exported at that rate, and of course it would not have been withdrawn for that purpose at a loss.(7) In the statement of a Board of Commissioners in 1655,(8) and also among the complaints against Massachusetts in 1661, we find a recognition of the same value.(9) In the fall of 1686 there was a discussion in England about the re-establishment of the mint in Boston. In the reasons for the mint which were submitted, the shilling was stated to be worth "nine pence farthing", while in the answer to these reasons the value is given " at 9d for a shilling (wch is about 25 per cent less than the money of England)".(10)
Douglass, who was fairly conversant with the history of the coinage, tells the story in the following words: "At the first settling of the New England colonies their medium was sterling coin at sterling value and barter. When they got into trade a heavy piece of eight passed at 5s. A. 1652 they proceeded to coin silver shillings, sixpences and threepences at the rate of 6s to a heavy piece of eight."(11) Elsewhere Douglass gives the sterling value of the piece of eight at 4s 6d,(12) thus enabling us to deduce the value of the shilling, from his quotations, at ninepence.
In a note to the Diaries of John Hull(13) Rev. Edward E. Hale endeavors to explain the discrepancies in the valuation of the shilling by the allowance for seigniorage. Professor Sumner seems to attribute the trouble to an erroneous estimate of the London value of silver. "The English mint price for silver," he says,(14) "after 1601 was 5s. 2d per ounce, but it seems to have been believed in Massachusets that it was still five shillings," and again(15) "The intention was to put the New England standard 25 per cent. below the English, supposing that the latter was 96 grains for a shilling.(16) In fact it was 92.9 grains,(17) so that a shilling of 72 grains was 77.5 per cent. of it." He also points out, however, that the mint charges were such that no person could have afforded to take silver to the mint for coinage unless the effective shilling in the market had been tenpence.(18)
The opinion prevailed at that time that by rating silver coins above their value they would be retained within the limits of the jurisdiction where this enhanced value was recognized. It was probably because of sympathy with this notion that the General Court enacted, June 14, 1642, that the piece of eight should circulate at the value of 4s. 8d.,(19) and again on the 29th of September of the same year increased the nominal rate to 5s.(20) Douglass says that this coin not only passed within the limits of the colony at five shillings in early days, but was actually remitted to Great Britain on that basis.(21)
The mint was established in the hope of retaining a uniform metallic currency in the colony. It was soon evident however that it was only partially successful in the performance of the expected work, and in May 1654, in the abortive act, the preamble of which has been alluded to,(22) it was proposed by the magistrates to order and enact " that whatever person or persons be they stranngers or Inhabitants that shall directly or Indirectly export out of this Jurisdiccon any of the coine of this countrie after the publication hereof shall forfeite his or their whole estate one halfe to the countrie and the other halfe to such pson or psons as shall sue for the same." It was also provided in the proposed act that there should be a "Water Bayly or searcher" appointed "in every port-towne" who was to be empowered to "search any suspitious persons or vessells, chests, truncks or any other things." If he should discover any money and the county court should determine that it was about to be transported then it was to be forfeited one half to the officer and one half to the country. Similar powers of search were granted, in the case of persons traveling by land, to constables. For some reason the deputies rejected this act, but in August of the same year a law was passed against the exportation of New England coin, and searchers were appointed to examine outgoing baggage,(23) and if they should find any money they were ordered to seize the same. In May, 1669, a larger force of searchers was appointed and they were endowed with extraordinary powers. It was their duty to examine outgoing vessels which had weighed anchor with the intention of leaving our waters, and they were instructed to search the "pocket, cloake, bag, portmantle or any other thing belonging" to such persons as were on their journey out of the jurisdiction on horseback. They were to seize all money "of the coin of this jurisdiction" which they should find, and were invested with power to break open packages and examine personal effects.(24) Notwithstanding these arbitrary proceedings, there was a scarcity of silver in the country, and in October, 1672, the General Court prefaced an act legalizing the currency of pieces of eight, with a preamble in which it was stated that these coins were of more value to carry out of the country than they would yield at the mint, and, what was of more consequence, that they were actually being carried out of the country instead of being taken to the mint. To prevent this, it was ordered that pieces of eight, of full weight and good silver, Mexico, Seville, and Pillar, should pass current at six shillings, after they had been duly stamped at the mint with the letters N. E. to indicate that they had been inspected. Light weight pieces of eight were to be stamped with their actual weight, and to pass for a proportionate value.(25)
The act of October, 1672, is the first point at which we obtain a legal rating of the piece of eight in New England money. It seems probable that this legislation was the result of two circumstances: first, that the piece of eight having a recognized rate in shillings at which it would pass, people could and did avail themselves of it as a medium of trade without paying seigniorage at the mint for its conversion into New England money; and second that the General Court was desirous of protecting the public against the light weight pieces if possible. So far as this latter reason may have had influence in promoting this legislation, it is evident that it produced little result, for in May, 1682,(26) the General Court authorized the currency of light weight pieces of eight according to their weight, and in October of the same year added by way of explanation that they were to be received at six shillings eight pence per ounce Troy weight.(27) Under the Province, it was enacted in 1692 that pieces of eight, Seville, Pillar, and Mexico, should pass current, if of full seventeen penny-weight, at six shillings. This act was disallowed on account of the penalty attached to its infringement, but the substance of the law was reenacted in 1697 in such form that it was permitted to stand.(28) The expression "full seventeen penny weight" is probably the equivalent of "not less than seventeen penny weight." The rate of coined silver per ounce to be deduced therefrom, assuming, as was apparently the custom at that time in the province, that it was of sterling alloy, is a little over seven shillings. The same year the legislation against the export of bullion or money was renewed(29) and shipmasters on clearing were required to take oath that they did not have on board their vessels over five pounds in bullion or current silver money.
As has already been intimated the confusion in the currency caused by the closure of the mint led to proceedings in England towards the re-establishment of that institution. Reasons were submitted to the Lords of the Committee for Trade and Plantations why this should be done, September 23, 1686,(30) and a reply to this document on the part of the officials of the mint was filed on the 23d of October.(31) In this latter paper the statement is made that pieces of eight "are but a commodity" in New England and it is recommended that the people there be left to barter the one against the other as their interest guides them. In the interim between the date of the application or petition and the reply on the 13th of October, a committee had already reported to the Privy Council against re-establishing the mint and had recommended that power be given Sir Edmund Andros to regulate, by proclamation, the passage of pieces of eight and other foreign coins imported into New England.(32) On the 27th of the same month, the Privy Council concluded that the mint should not be re-established and passed an order to the effect that "Sir Edmund Andros, be and is hereby authorized and empowered by proclamation to regulate pieces of eight and other foreign coins within the said Territory of New England, to such current value as he shall judge most requisite for his Majesty's Service and the trade of his subjects there." On the 31st of October, Sunderland officially communicated this decision of his Majesty in Privy Council to Sir Edmund in a letter in which instructions were given that "by Proclamation under our Seal for our said dominion in New England, you regulate the price of pieces of eight and other foreign coins imported thither, in such manner and to such a current value as you, with the advice of our Council shall find most requisite for our service and the trade of our subjects there."(33)
This letter was communicated to the New England Council by Sir Edmund on the 22d of January, 1686-87(34) and at the same time the answer of the officers of the mint to the paper entitled "Reasons for a Mint in New England" was also read. On the 28th the matter was brought up again in council and in this connection there was some discussion as to whether it was in the power of the council to prevent the shipping of coin to England and also as to what prejudice to the country such shipments actually occasioned.(35) On the 23d of February, the letter relative to pieces of eight was again submitted to the council and at the same time a paper was presented by Mr. Wharton(36) for an accommodation of the country and supply of money to carry on trade, as the record reads.(37) There is a paper in the Massachusetts Archives (vol. 100, no. 162) bearing no date but classified chronologically under 1671, which is endorsed "Mr. Wharton's paper about raising of money."(38) It contains among many others the following propositions: All outstanding debts to be discharged in specie at 6s. 8d. per ounce; after a given date New England coins to pass as follows: 1s. @ 14d., 6d. @ 7d., 3d. @ 4d. and 2d. @ 3d.; All Mexico, Pillar, Seville, and other pieces of eight, bullion and plate of sterling alloy to pass current at 7s. 6d. per ounce. The paper contained many other suggestions, and bears evidence of some care in its preparation, but has some amendments in a different hand writing from that of the main part of the text. It was obviously introduced as a basis for discussion. This point was gained and Randolph's record has preserved the substance of what was said. It was contended that unless the New England coins and pieces of eight were raised, all money would leave the country. Sir Edmund was not influenced by this argument but declared that he was opposed to setting any value upon the New England money other than its intrinsic value accounted as bullion. Two goldsmiths were called in as experts. They came to the council chamber and Mr. Wharton's paper was read to them. They asked for time for the preparation of their opinion which was granted them and the discussion was renewed with vigor, many of the council being of opinion that raising the value of money would make it plentiful in the country and quicken trade. To this it was replied that such a course of action would tend to destroy commerce with the West Indies. Instead of sugar, molasses and rum, nothing but light pieces of eight would be shipped thence to New England. It was argued that raising the coinage would only help the merchants, as the country people could not raise prices on their goods, and this would result in positive injury to the country.
On the 25th of February, the goldsmiths again attended the meeting of the council and submitted their report upon Mr. Wharton's paper. They were of opinion that raising the value of pieces of eight would bring them into the country plentifully, but they thought it would at the same time occasion the shipment out of the country of the New England money. It is obvious from this that they conceived that the opposition of Sir Edmund Andros was fatal to that part of Wharton's project which involved the raising of the New England money. The specific question was put to them what advantage would there be in raising pieces of eight to 7s. 6d.? and they answered that unless the New England money was correspondingly advanced it would all leave the country. This day's conference was closed by the submission of a proposition that "all whole pieces of eight (Peru excepted) 15 pennyweight and upwards should pass currant at 6s., all other bullion and plate of sterling alloy should pass currant at six and eight pence pr. ounce. All Peru pieces 15 penny weight at 6s.(39)"
On the 10th of March some of the chief merchants of Boston and Salem were summoned before the council in order that they might be consulted on the money question. They were present at the meeting of the board and recommended that there be no change in the valuation of the New England money. They further recommended that Mexico, Seville and Pillar pieces of eight should pass by weight at 6s. 10d. per ounce Troy, and the fractional parts of the same, the quarters and reals, on the basis of a valuation of the piece of eight at 5s. 4d. Outstanding liabilities, they thought, ought to be adjusted in current New England money or in Mexico, Seville or Pillar pieces of eight at 6s. 10d. per oz. Troy.
They were asked by Sir Edmund what was the standard weight of a good piece of eight? They replied seventeen and a half pennyweights. This ended the conference. The merchants wanted the New England money to stand unchanged, and to remain the standard money of the country, and they desired that the Spanish money should pass by weight. This did not accord with the views expressed by Sir Edmund, who evidently wished to establish a value at which the standard piece of eight should circulate and did not wish in direct terms to recognize the New England coins. Randolph undertook to record the impression made upon Andros by this discussion but his haste prevented him from being intelligible. His words are "his Exce found out the designs of the Merchants to [make ?] mony(40) a commodity and not to make it currant mony at a price." An order was then passed "That all pieces of eight, Civill, Pillar and Mexico at due weight(41) shall pass in payment at six shillings per piece, that half pieces of Eight, Quarter pieces and Realls do pass pro rata," and on the 12th of March proclamation to that effect was given near the Town House by beat of drum and sound of trumpet. Whether the proclamation followed the language of the order, as recorded in the transcript sent to London and now to be found in the council record, or adopted the language of the Andros records and specified the weight of the piece of eight which should pass at six shillings, does not appear; but it would seem as if the attempt to enforce the order must have been of little use unless the latter was the case.
May 21, 1687, Randolph wrote with reference to this order as follows: "it does not answer the end, money grows very scarce and no trade to bring it in."(42) The condition of affairs a few months later would seem to have revived the discussion as to the rates at which pieces of eight should pass, for on January 24, 1687-88, Randolph again wrote " We cannot yet agree upon the prizes of money: Some would have all pieces of 8, tho' of 15 pennyweight, go at 6s. New England, others at 17; but they stand at 17½. Our money goes all away and shall have little or none to supply ordinary occasions."(43) The statement that the standard weight, 17½ pennyweight, was maintained at that date, shows what was meant by "due weight" in the official records of the council, copies of which were forwarded to London. It is of importance, however to note that the certified copy of the order passed in council regulating the value at which pieces of eight should pass which was sent to London, did not specify the weight otherwise than in this vague form.(44)
The proclamation which gave its name in some of the colonies to the basic measure of value during this period was issued by Queen Anne in 1704 and fixed the rates at which certain foreign coins should pass current in her Majesty's dominions in America.(45) The weight and intrinsic values of these coins were given, and also the corresponding rates at which they should pass in the plantations, the latter being fixed in terms of New England money, or at least in shillings which were so near those in which the province had already rated the piece of eight that it was supposed they would readily be accepted as an equivalent. It may be inferred from this proclamation and from the parliamentary statute passed in 1707 for enforcing it,(46) as well as from the colonial legislation of this period, with regard to the value at which pieces of eight should pass, that the New England coinage had been absolutely supplanted by the Spanish and Mexican dollars and fractional parts thereof. The mint had been closed for twenty years when the proclamation was issued, and thenceforth when the term "proclamation money" is used it refers to the shilling defined in the proclamation. On the other hand, the favorite equivalent phrase in Massachusetts, "lawful money," refers apparently to the shilling based upon the provincial act.(47) The shillings thus denominated were to have the same value as those rated in the proclamation or act as the case might be in terms of the piece of eight.(48)
By this proclamation, the Seville piece of eight, old plate, and the Mexican piece of eight were each valued at 4s. 6d. sterling, and the weight of each was given at 17 cwt. 12 grs. The Pillar piece of eight was given a slightly higher value in this table. The rate at which these coins were to circulate in the plantation was fixed at 6s. the same value as that assigned by provincial legislation, "if of full seventeen penny weight." The rate of conversion was exactly 133, the 4s. 6d. sterling being equal to 6s. New England money. The price of silver in London was then 5s. 2d. per ounce. In proclamation money, where 17½ dwt. was equal to 6s., the nominal value of the ounce of silver was 6s. 10 2/7 d. Lawful money or 17 dwt. for 6s., gave 7s. 3 as the value of an ounce of silver.(49)
In 1706 the Lords of Trade informed Governor Dudley that the provincial act of 1697 furnished the basis for the rates fixed in the proclamation.(50) "You are further to represent to the Assembly," they said, " that there lies a particular obligation on them to enforce a due obedience to her Majesty's commands herein, for that the regulation of the rates at which foreign coins are to pass was calculated from a law of their own." The establishment of the value at which foreign coins should pass in the plantations, by the standard fixed for the value of the New England shilling in an act passed by the General Court of Massachusetts instead of reversing the process and taking sterling money as the basis, at first glance seems peculiar. It appears that the Board of Trade adopted this course with reluctance, their action being taken in consequence of an opinion of the attorney general, May 31, 1703, to the effect that the provincial act of 1697, having been approved by the Privy Council had the force of an Act of Parliament.(51) The probable influence of this opinion was anticipated by those in London who were in touch with current events, and William Penn, writing in December of the same year, prophesied that New England's standard would be that of the continent. To this he added, that if a law of theirs [the act of 1697] had not been unwarily confirmed by King William, which law could not be repealed except with their consent, the English standard would have been the measure of America at large. Again in July, 1704, he wrote, " the Queen by proclamation now sent thee has settled the coin at £25 per ct. according to New England standard, and would have done it to English sterling but for the late king's confirming their rates for money, which extends all over America."(52)
Notwithstanding the fact that the action of the Privy Council in thus adopting what they evidently regarded as practically the New England standard for all the plantations in America rested upon the opinion of their legal adviser to the effect that they were bound by the confirmation of the provincial act of 1697, it may well be doubted whether the Privy Council would not have found some way to avoid this dilemma if they had seriously objected to it. The act of 1697 fixed a rate for the piece of eight "if of seventeen penny weight." The proclamation demanded that this weight should be seventeen and one-half penny weights in order that this coin should circulate at the rate of six shillings. Professor Sumner in his paper on "The coin shilling of Massachusetts Bay"(53) says of this proceeding, "In fact the English authorities did violate the law of 1697." Through the exercise of the same power by which this change was accomplished the sterling standard could have been adopted.
If we turn to the then existing condition of the currencies in New England and at home, we shall see that the circumstances were such that it was easy for the Privy Council to reconcile themselves to the step thus forced upon them by the opinion of the attorney general.
The province was then dependent upon foreign silver for its currency. New England money was but a nominal measure of value, the local coinage having disappeared after the closure of the mint, and the province having been compelled to resort to legislation against the export of silver, in the hope of retaining within its borders the miscellaneous coins then in circulation.(54) Moreover, the condition of the silver coinage in Great Britain at that time may serve to some extent to explain this readiness to accept a measure of value set by the province itself in terms of a foreign coin. The table of values for foreign coins contained in the proclamation was prepared by Sir Isaac Newton, who had been called to the mint for the purpose of superintending the recoinage of the silver of the realm. Prior to this process, and during its continuance, the relations of the values of English gold and silver coins were greatly disturbed. After the recoinage, confidence was re-established in London, but it was still fresh in the minds of men that the upward career of the guinea, when measured in the clipped and sweated silver in circulation prior to this measure, had been decreed by parliamentary enactment to stop at 30s., and that by successive laws its measure in silver had been ordered to be reduced to 22s., while as a matter of fact, it had, at the time the table was made, actually fallen to 21s. 6d. Thus it will be seen that the recent instability of the English silver coinage may have influenced the politic course taken in accepting as binding the opinion of the attorney general heretofore alluded to and adopting a measure of value which purported to be the same as that established, in terms of a foreign coin, by the colonists themselves. The rate having thus been fixed between a nominal measure of values and an actual coinage, there was nothing to disturb it so long as the standards of the mints were preserved. It is known that these standards were not constant, but in practice these changes were not noticed in the colonies, and the rate was passed on to our day, six New England shillings being equal to the dollar, Mexican or Spanish, and to their successor our dollar; 133 s. lawful money being in the days of the province equal to 100s. sterling. Until dollars came into use, all transactions in Massachusetts were stated in New England money. All accounts given in terms of "lawful money" must therefore be reduced twenty five per cent if we could obtain the corresponding amount in sterling.
It has been said that the standards of the foreign coins which were in use in the colony were subjected to changes during this period. The fluctuations in value consequent thereto have been fully described by Professor William G. Sumner.(55) Although the value of "proclamation money"' and of "lawful money" remained constant so long as there were no changes of weight and alloy at the mints, still in practice the standard of weight for the piece of eight in circulation which passed for six shillings was steadily reduced until silver was driven out of circulation. The different values of the coin shilling to be derived from legislation and from the degradation of the piece of eight at different times, 1652 to 1705, have also been worked out by Professor Sumner.(56)
Although we have reached technical definitions of proclamation and lawful moneys, we have not conquered all the difficulties which are to be encountered in the attempt to analyze the significance of these terms. It was the Opinion of Attorney General Northey that the tender in the colonies of the foreign coins mentioned in the proclamation at the rates therein expressed was a legal tender.(57) Whether this was sound law or not, in practice the proclamation was not recognized. Doug lass, speaking of the act of Parliament passed for enforcing the proclamation says "This Act continues to be observed in none of our colonies, excepting in Barbadoes and Bermudas."(58)
If the values assigned by the proclamation had been accepted in the colonies, a measure of values would have been furnished which would only have been affected by the changes in weight and alloy made by the foreign mints, we might indeed say by the Spanish mint. Northey's opinion would have been made the law of the land through local legislation and "lawful money" and "proclamation money" would have been synonymous. Such was not the case, however, for when Dudley sought to secure observance of the proclamation through penal legislation he was met with such vigorous resistance by the assembly, that he wrote to the Lords of Trade, July 25, 1705, that they would not even refer the proposed legislation to a committee until he had dropped the word "penalty" out.(59) He then went on to say that the assembly sought to rate silver at eight shillings an ounce, scarce fifteen penny weight for six shillings. This he had peremptorily refused to approve and had finally, after a contest of five weeks, prevailed and secured the levy at seventeen penny weight. In other words the utmost concession that he had secured from the assembly was the adoption of the rate which had already been recognized by provincial legislation, that is to say the act of 1697. The rate of silver which the assembly attempted to fix in the tax levy was the then current rate in the province and it carried with it the corollary that the piece of eight then in circulation weighed, as Dudley expressed it, "scarce fifteen penny weight." This had been accomplished through the process of selection for remittance, from the clipped coins in use in trade, of all those whose weight made them more valuable for this purpose than for local use, and the bills of public credit had been kept at a nominal par with silver through the degradation of the coins in use. During the time that this process was going on there must have been an unusual difficulty in determining what was "lawful money." Legally perhaps this was determined by the act of 1697, which still stood unrepealed and was practically recognized, through the persistency of Dudley, in the tax levy of 1705. Moreover, so far as the government was concerned, Dudley intimated in the same letter that he should insist upon payments being made to the treasury on that basis, but in the adjustment of ordinary debts, it is probable that pieces of eight at their current value or bills of public credit on the same basis were accepted without question. Dudley evidently refers to such a practice when he says "thereby the country will be emboldened to use their late way of payment at fifteen penny." When however silver disappeared, some other measure than the uncertain paper money had to be resorted to and recourse was apparently had to the shilling defined in the provincial act of 1697.(60)
In a paper published by the writer in February, 1898,(61) the discrepancies in the value to be assigned to silver through these definitions and the difficulty of determining what it actually was at any given time were pointed out. The assumption was made in that paper that the shilling to be derived from the proclamation and that which can be deduced from the provincial statute were accepted as substantially the same. This opinion was based upon the disregard of precise definitions which then prevailed and the total neglect of other elements than weight in assigning values to the Spanish coinage then in circulation. It will be seen, however, from some of the references which have been given that certain of the writers recognized the distinction in value between the "proclamation" and the "lawful" money, and it must be borne in mind that the latter was the fundamental measure of value in Massachusetts.
Any person who cares to pursue the technical investigation of this subject will derive much aid from two papers which have been published by Professor William G. Sumner.(62)
facts related thereto are arranged and analyzed in these papers with masterly skill. The value of
the coin shilling at various periods is stated in terms of scientific accuracy and the conclusion is
reached that the silver shilling derived from the piece of eight in the middle of the century was
62.9 grains of fine silver, coinciding with a shilling which among the various fluctuating values
had been twice met with before. It is not possible to reproduce here the various definitions of the
coin shilling arrived at by Prof. Sumner, nor would it be profitable to do so in an attempt to show
what the community regarded as the shilling in commercial use. It is not so much tile scientific
definition of value that we seek, as the opinion of the colonists as to values measured in sterling.
This we can to a certain extent accomplish, but the practical disregard by the colonists of any
other question in connection with the coins in use than that of weight makes conclusions based
upon these opinions of doubtful accuracy. In the long run value undoubtedly asserted itself, but
quotations must at times have been at variance with it. Furthermore, the irreconcilable nature of
some of the statutes, from which more than one value can be determined, unsettles conclusions
based upon them and compels the exercise of independent judgment. In any event whether the
reader be competent to test the recorded facts with the skill of an expert numismatist or can
simply apply the tests open to an ordinary business man, the recapitulation and study of the same
events will be necessary.
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1. A paper treating of these topics was read by me before the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, February, 1898. This chapter is based upon a part of that paper. See Proc. Amer. Acad., Arts and Sc. vol. 33. no. 12; February, 1898.
2. Rev. Edward E. Hale, in a note to The Diaries of John Hull, Trans. and Coll. Amer. Ant. Soc., vol. 3, p. 284. The coin shilling, etc., by Prof. W. G. Sumner, Yale Review, Nov., 1898, p. 251.
3. Mass. Colonial Rec., vol. 3, pp. 261-262.
4. Hutchinson's Collection of Papers, p. 480.
5. Mass. Arch., vol. 100, no. 350.
6. The coin shilling, Yale Review, Nov., 1898, p. 252.
7. "Whereas the end of coyning money within this commonwealth is for the more easy managing the trafique thereof within itself and not intended to make retournes to other Countries which can not advance any profit to such as send it but rather a fowerth part losse. . ." Mass. Arch., vol. 100, no. 46.
8. Thirteenth report Hist. MSS. Com. appendix, part 2, p. 94.
9. "They [the Massachusetts Bay] have allowed the King's coin to be bought and melted down in Boston to be new coined there, by which means they gain three pence in every shilling, and lessen his Majesty's coin a full fourth." Cal. state papers, colonial Amer. and W. I., 1661-1668, p. 26. no. 78. 1661? "Sir Thomas Modyford to Sec. Sir Henry Bennett recommends for Jamaica that power be given for making a coin of the alloy and weight of that of New England, about l0d. to the English shilling." Ibid., p. 208, No. 739, 1664.
A captain who was in New England in 1673 reported to the Board of Trade in 1675, that "as soon as any English money is brought there it is melted down into their coin, making of each shilling fifteen pence, to keep it from being carried out." A narrative of the settlement of the Corporation of Massachusetts Bay and Capt. Wyborne's account of things in 1673, read at a meeting of the Committee for Trade and Plantations, December l, 1675. Cal. state papers, colonial Amer. and W. I., 1675-1676, p. 306, no. 721.
No. 405 in the same volume is from a small manuscript volume, one of Sir Joseph Williamson's note books. In 1675, "they melt down all English money brought in there into their own coin, making every shilling 15d to avoid carrying it out." See p. 156.
Aug. 9, 1681, Lord Culpepper reported to the Lords of Trade and Plantations concerning the New England coinage. He said the shilling "is not so fine in itself, and weighs but three penny weight against the English four.... If therefore it be no longer connived at, it is absolutely necessary that the English shilling be made current there by law or proclamation at sixteen pence, and so proportionally, and coinage made more moderate and speedy." Cal. state papers, Colonial Amer. and W. I., 1681-1685, p.100, no. 200.
10. Copies of these documents were obtained from the Colonial Entry Book, vol. 61, and were printed by Crosby in The early coins of America, pp. 91-94.
11. A discourse concerning the currencies of the British plantations in America, etc., p. 10. In addition to the above coins, silver two-pences were authorized in 1662. Mass. Colonial Rec., vol. 4, part 2, pp. 51, 52.
12. Ibid., p. 8.
13. Trans. and Coll. Amer. Ant. Soc., vol. 3, p. 284.
14. The Coin Shilling, Yale Review, Nov. 1898, p. 247.
15. Ibid, p. 252.
16. I.e. silver at 5s.
17. I.e. silver at 5s. 2d.
18. The coin shilling, Yale Review, Nov., 1898, p. 253, note.
19. Mass. Colonial Rec., vol. 2, p. 20. This was before the mint had been established, and was, of course, a sterling value.
20. Mass. Colonial Rec., vol. 2, p. 29. Also sterling, for the same reasons.
21. A discourse, etc., p. 8. See also Observations occasioned by reading a pamphlet entitled A discourse concerning the currencies of the British plantations in America, p. 12.
22. See ante, p. 25, note.
23. Mass. Colonial Rec., vol. 3, pp. 353, 354; vol. 4, part I, p. 198; Colonial Laws, 1660, Whitmore's ed., p. 182. This act was directed exclusively against the export of money coined within the jurisdiction of the colony. The order to the searchers that in case they should find any money they were to seize the same was misleading. The money which the searchers were to seize must have been only money of the Massachusetts coinage. The division was one-third and two-thirds.
24. Mass. Colonial Rec., vol. 4, pt 2, p. 421; Colonial Laws, Whitmore's ed., 1660, p. 261e; 1672, p. 118. The passage of this act was followed in June of the same year by a proposition to legalize the passage of pieces of eight, at 6s if of full weight and sterling alloy. A crude scheme was outlined for the submission of all pieces of eight then in circulation, to the inspection of some suitable person, who was to put a stamp or mark on such as were entitled to pass at this value. Unless the coins should be stamped, their circulation was not to be compulsory. The proposed law met with the disapproval of the magistrates. Mass. Arch., vol. 100, no. 136.
25. Mass. Colonial Rec., vol. 4, pt 2, p. 533.
26. Between 1672 and 1682, there were numerous propositions submitted to the General Court looking towards relief through raising the money, lightening the coins, or making the mint free. A plan, suggesting each of these alternatives, was presented June 2, 1677. Mass. Arch., vol. 100, no. 222. On the 31st of October, 1679, it was proposed that pieces of eight should pass at 6s. Ibid., no. 241. In May 1680, a petition for a free mint was filed. In the preamble it was set forth that through the mint charges there was a loss to the holder of bullion in the conversion to coin, and consequently plate, bullion and coin were exported. Ibid., no. 243. An order for a free mint was draughted. Ibid., no. 244. A similar draught, without date, is to be found, Ibid., no. 260. A plan for reducing the weight of the New England coins, said to be in the hand writing of John Hull, the mint master, dated June 6, 1680, is in the same volume. The writer says: "If every shilling be made 12 grains lighter then all those that have Peices of eight i.e. both of Good Silver and full weight will advance about 7d or 7½d more then now they doe. Every
12d then to be 2 penyweight & halfe
6d one penyweight 6 graines
3d 15 graines
2d lo gr,
the same fynenesse to be kept and put a new date. Let the coynage and west be as by the last settlement." Ibid., no. 245. The Report of the Officers of the Mint, London, Jan. 15, 1684-85, upon the New England coinage is to be found, Ibid., nos. 350-351. A report upon the question of re-establishing the mint, Ibid., no. 388.
27. Mass. Colonial Rec., vol. 5, pp. 351-373. Colonial Laws, 1672, Whitmore's ed., p. 292, a, and p. 294.
28. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 1, pp. 70 and 296.
29. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. I, p, 306.
30. See Crosby for a copy of this paper, pp. 91-93.
31. Ibid., pp. 93, 94.
32. Ibid., p. 94.
33. See Crosby for a copy of this paper, p. 95.
34. Mass. Council Rec., vol. 2, p. 110. Andros Records, in manuscript, in possession of the Amer. Ant. Soc., p. 19. My attention was called to the fact that these records contained information on these points, through the notes to Mr. Toppan's memoir of Edward Randolph. Publications of the Prince Society: Edward Randolph, with historical illustrations and memoir, by Robert Noxon Toppan, vol. 2, pp. 18, 19, and notes. The Andros Records were examined by me in MSS at Worcester. They have since been published and the reference above given will be found in Proc. Amer. Ant. Soc., vol. 13, new series, part 2, pp. 247, 463. The references to the Council Records are to volume and page of the Manuscript Records at the State House. The Dudley Records have since been published. See Proc. Mass. Hist. Soc., 2d series, vol. 13, pp. 226-286.
35. Andros Records, pp. 21, 22, Proc. Amer, Ant. Soc., vol. 13, new series, part 2, p. 249.
36. Probably Richard Wharton, one of the councillors.
37. Andros Records, p. 28, Proc Amer. Ant. Soc., vol. 13, new series, part 2, p. 252.
38. Crosby gives this paper in full in The early coins of America, pp. 106, 107.
39. The account of the proceedings at the meetings of January 28 February 23, and February 25 is taken from the Andros Records. The meeting at which the merchants were called in is recorded under date of March 8, Mass. Council Rec., vol. 2, p. 114, and in the Andros Records under date of March 10. The Council Records represent that the merchants were called in to give their opinion in writing and hence it is to be inferred that the action taken was in accordance with that opinion. The fuller account given in the Andros Records shows that this was not so.
40. By " Money " he must mean pieces of eight.
41. The language of the order is taken from the Council Record. The Andros Records at Worcester define the weight of the piece of eight "at 17½ dwt," and add " that the prent New Engld money do passe for value as formerly." They also give a rate for pistoles.
42. Toppan's Randolph, vol. 4, p. 163.
43. Ibid., vol. 5, p. 199. This tends, of course, to confirm the impression that the weight was mentioned in the proclamation.
44. We know this because the Council Records of this date in the Archives are transcripts of those in the Record Office in London.
45. Bancroft says of this proclamation: "It pretended to give to coins one value in England, another in the colonies; but as the coin, being an actual product of labor, could not change, it was, in fact, but giving to the words pounds, shillings, and pence, different signification in America from that which they bore in Europe." History of U. S. (ed. 1841), vol. 3, p. 390. The pounds, shillings and pence were in the one case sterling, in the other New England money.
46. 6 Anne, c. 30 (1707). Statutes at large, vol. 4, pp. 311, 312. The table is also given in Annals of the coinage of Great Britain, etc., by the Rev. Rogers Ruding, London, 1840, vol. 2, p. 61. It was printed in the News Letter, No. 34, December 11, 1704, the date of the proclamation being there given as June 18, 1704, and is quoted by Felt in his Historical account of the Massachusetts currency, p. 59. It was published in the American Journal of Numismatics and was copied from that journal by Crosby, pp. 117, 118. The act is published by Chalmers in his History of the currency of the British colonies p. 414. From and after January 1, next ensuing the publication of the act, no Seville, Pillar or Mexican piece of eight, though of full seventeen penny weight and one-half, was to be accounted, received, taken or paid, in any of the colonies whether proprietary, charter or under commission, at above the rate of six shillings per piece current money, for the discharge of any contracts or bargains to be made after January 1, next. After May 1, 1709, the penalty was to apply in all cases.
47. The new tenor bills were, according to their terms, equal to silver at a specified rate. This might have furnished a new definition for lawful money after the emission of these bills, but in January, 1741-42, lawful money was defined by the Assembly to be coined silver of sterling alloy, at the rate of 6s. 8d. per ounce, Troy weight. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 2, p. 1083. I do not conceive that the difference in the rate of silver from that to be derived from the statute of 1697 was of practical consequence.
48. The editor of the New Hampshire provincial papers, vol. 5, p. 672, says that he "has been unable to find any definition or explanation of what is meant by proclamation money." It is defined in "The statutes at large of South Carolina, edited under authority of the Legislature, by Thomas Cooper," 1837, vol. 2, p. 709, note. Douglass says, "Spanish pieces of eight are reckoned the Plantation Currency, and are esteemed as such in the Proclamation Act." A summary, etc, vol. 2, p. 16. Felt, on page 116 of his Historical account, etc., says, "as debtors, who confided in the last emission of government notes, had promised to pay lawful money, meaning these bills. . ." This expression is susceptible of the interpretation that Felt thought the public bills of the issue referred to were lawful money, which may or may not have been his intent. The statute which he was interpreting was passed for the purpose of relieving debtors who had incautiously agreed to pay lawful money for debts contracted in public bills.
49. "We have already a law of this province (of old standing) fixing the lawful tender of pieces of eight of 17 dwt to 6s, that is nearest 7s 3 per ounce, and much later than that an establishment in Queen Anne's reign making pieces of eight of 17 dwt and half a lawful tender for 6s, that is 6s 10d two sevenths per ounce commonly called proclamation money." An inquiry into the nature and uses of money, etc. Boston, 1740, p. 44.
"Some people think that the government have obliged themselves (by saying upon the face of the bills that they shall be equal to money) to discharge them by paying silver at the rate of 17 pwt for 6s or 7s 3 per oz., the then current lawful money." Some Observations on the scheme projected for emitting £60,000, etc., Boston, 1738, p. 14.
50. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 1, p. 580.
51. Chalmers' History of the currency, p. 14. But for this, one might think reference was had to the legislation under Andros when the rate was based upon 17½ dwt. The phrase "due weight"" in the records will be remembered.
52. 'Memoirs Pennsylvania Hist. Soc., vol. 9. The Penn and Logan Correspondence, vol. 1, pp. 248, 296. See also Observations occasioned by reading a pamphlet entitled A discourse, etc., etc., p. 15.
53. Yale Review, Nov., 1898, p. 264.
54. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 1, pp. 306, 307.
55. Amer. Hist Rev., July, 1898.
56. 'The coin shilling of Massachusetts Bay, Yale Review, Nov., 1898, and Feb., 1899.
57. October 19, 1705. See Opinions of Eminent Lawyers, etc., by George Chalmers, London, 1814, vol. 2, p. 322.
58. A Discourse, etc., Boston, 1740. Reprinted by Amer. Economic Assoc. in Economic Studies, vol. 2, no. 5, p. 302.
59. Acts and Res. Prov. Mass. Bay, vol. 1, p. 579, note to chap. 3.
60. Belcher, writing in 1739, says, "good and lawful money of the province which is seventeen pennyweights for six shillings." Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc., 6th series, vol. 7, p. 225. A writer in 1720 says, " Any man might all along, and may still with silver money at seventeen pennyweight, buy almost any commodity at pretty near the same rate he might before our province bills were first issued out." A letter from one in the country to his friend in Boston, containing some remarks upon a late pamphlet, etc., etc., Boston, 1720. p. 4.
61. Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts and Sc. vol. 33, No. 12.
62. The Spanish dollar and the colonial shilling, Amer. Hist. Rev.,July, 1898; and The coin shilling of Massachusetts Bay, Yale Review, Nov., 1898, and Feb., 1899.