Sen. Arlen Spector, D-Pa., introduced a bill on Feb. 11 to require the Treasury secretary to strike commemorative coinage recalling the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 2013 and the address that President Abraham Lincoln made famous while dedicating the battlefield cemetery in November 1863.
“We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live,” Lincoln said in remarks that took less than three minutes to deliver, and rang out for all time. Spector’s bill would commemorate that with 100,000 half dollars, 350,000 silver dollars and 75,000 $5 gold coins.
A previous generation, in 1936, commemorated the Battle of Gettysburg; some 26,938 half dollars were produced honoring the blue and gray at a time when Union and Confederate army veterans were still alive and holding annual reunions to recall what another speaker at that cemetery, Edward Everett, spoke of in a two-hour long oration on the battlefield:
“As we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates the Battles of Gettysburg.”
Two comparable measures have been introduced in the House, one with 87 co-sponsors; Spector’s bill has a single co-sponsor. Under congressional rules, two-thirds of each body must co-sponsor before a coin measure will be put up for a vote.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a ranking member of the House’s minority, introduced last Dec. 9 H.R. 4248, a bill to repeal the legal-tender laws, to prohibit taxation on certain coins and bullion and to repeal superfluous sections related to coinage. It received a boost in March when it was referred to the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, rather than the House financial services committee.
It provides that “no tax may be imposed on (or with respect to the sale, exchange, or other disposition of) any coin, medal, token, or gold, silver, platinum, palladium, or rhodium bullion, whether issued by a state, the United States, a foreign government, or any other person.”
It would also repeal what is termed “superfluous” sections of law concerning counterfeiting and reproductions of coins with a political theme; “Title 18, United States Code, is amended by striking sections 486 (relating to uttering coins of gold, silver, or other metal) and 489 (making or possessing likeness of coins)” would be repealed and convictions of those previously prosecuted would be voided.
This is similar to the current claims against Bernard von NotHaus, and prosecutions during the Nixon Administration of those who used coin and currency for political or revolutionary advocacy.
The bill is also straightforward: “Section 5103 of title 31, United States Code (relating to legal tender), is hereby repealed.” That would eliminate legal-tender laws and allow gold, silver or lumps of coal to become money of the land.
The first key factor relates to the legal- tender status is that which connotes that a coin (or currency) may be used for all debts, public and private, public charges, duties, taxes and dues.
Congress took this precise position in 1982 when it revised the U.S. Code to make title 31 (coin and currency) positive law. H. Rep. No. 97-651, 97th Cong., 2nd sess. 148 (1982) (31 USC §5103) makes this clear.
It is true for foreign coinage as well. Even Krugerrands owned primarily for bullion are a legal tender. But this is by virtue of legislative action. The South African Mint & Coinage Act No. 78 of 1964, as amended by the South African Mint & Coinage Act of 1966, and the South African Mint & Coinage Further Amendment Act. No. 40 of 1966, Â§Â§11 through 12.
For the same reason, the Canadian Maple Leaf is a legal tender by virtue of the Currency Exchange Act, Canadian revised Chapter C-39 Â§4, Schedule 1 (1970) (Amended by Order of the Privy Council No. 3048 (1979)).
The “power to ‘coin money’ … is a prerogative of sovereignty,” something that the U.S. Supreme Court enunciated more than 90 years ago in the case of Ling Su Fan v. US, 218 U.S. 302, 310 (1920).
Thus, Congress could deny the Trade dollar legal tender status (1876) and grant it again (1965). Or, as Rep. Paul suggests, eliminate legal tender entirely and turn money into a Wild West shootout.