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A common currency: early US monetary policy and the transition to the dollar

  • ROUSSEAU, PETER L.

The transition of the U.S. money supply from the mixture of paper bills of credit, certificates, and foreign coins that circulated at various exchange rates with the British pound sterling during the colonial period to the unified dollar standard of the early national period was rapid and had far-reaching consequences. This paper documents the transition and highlights the importance of this standardization in bringing order to the nation's finances and in facilitating the accumulation and intermediation of capital. It describes how the struggle of the colonies to maintain viable substitutes for hard money set the stage for the financial leaders of the Federalist period, led by Alexander Hamilton, to settle upon the dollar, attach it to a convertible metallic base, and create a national Bank that issued notes denominated in the new monetary unit. It also presents recently-constructed estimates of the U.S. money stock for 1790-1820 and relates them to measures of the nation's early modernization.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal Financial History Review.

Volume (Year): 13 (2006)
Issue (Month): 01 (April)
Pages: 97-122

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Handle: RePEc:cup:fihrev:v:13:y:2006:i:01:p:97-122_00
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  1. Rousseau, Peter L & Wachtel, Paul, 1998. "Financial Intermediation and Economic Performance: Historical Evidence from Five Industrialized Countries," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 30(4), pages 657-78, November.
  2. King, Robert G. & Levine, Ross, 1993. "Finance and growth : Schumpeter might be right," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1083, The World Bank.
  3. Peter L. Rousseau & Richard Sylla, 2000. "Emerging Financial Markets and Early U.S. Growth," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0015, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  4. Peter L. Rousseau & Richard Sylla, 2003. "Financial Systems, Economic Growth, and Globalization," NBER Chapters, in: Globalization in Historical Perspective, pages 373-416 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. King, Robert G. & Levine, Ross, 1993. "Finance and growth : Schumpeter might be right," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1083, The World Bank.
  6. Farley Grubb, 2003. "Creating the U.S. Dollar Currency Union, 1748–1811: A Quest for Monetary Stability or a Usurpation of State Sovereignty for Personal Gain?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1778-1798, December.
  7. Johansen, Soren, 1991. "Estimation and Hypothesis Testing of Cointegration Vectors in Gaussian Vector Autoregressive Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(6), pages 1551-80, November.
  8. Calomiris, Charles W., 1988. "Institutional Failure, Monetary Scarcity, and the Depreciation of the Continental," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(01), pages 47-68, March.
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