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A Common Currency: Early U.S. Monetary Policy and the Transition to the Dollar

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  • Peter L. Rousseau

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter L. Rousseau, 2004. "A Common Currency: Early U.S. Monetary Policy and the Transition to the Dollar," NBER Working Papers 10702, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10702 Note: DAE IFM ME
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Robert G. King & Ross Levine, 1993. "Finance and Growth: Schumpeter Might Be Right," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 717-737.
    4. Rousseau, Peter L. & Sylla, Richard, 2005. "Emerging financial markets and early US growth," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 1-26, January.
    5. 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.
    6. 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 657-678, November.
    7. Johansen, Soren, 1991. "Estimation and Hypothesis Testing of Cointegration Vectors in Gaussian Vector Autoregressive Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(6), pages 1551-1580, November.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Rousseau, Peter L. & Stroup, Caleb, 2011. "Monetization and growth in colonial New England, 1703–1749," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 600-613.
    2. Grubb, Farley, 2004. "The circulating medium of exchange in colonial Pennsylvania, 1729-1775: new estimates of monetary composition, performance, and economic growth," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 329-360, October.
    3. Farley Grubb, 2014. "A New Approach to Solving the Colonial Monetary Puzzle: Evidence from New Jersey, 1709-1775," NBER Working Papers 19903, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Peter L. Rousseau, 2010. "Monetary Policy and the Dollar," NBER Chapters,in: Founding Choices: American Economic Policy in the 1790s, pages 121-149 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Farley Grubb, 2008. "The Distribution of Congressional Spending During the American Revolution, 1775-1780: The Problem of Geographic Balance," Working Papers 08-21, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
    6. Peter L. Rousseau, 2013. "Politics on the road to the U.S. monetary union," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 13-00006, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    7. Farley Grubb, 2012. "Is Paper Money Just Paper Money? Experimentation and Variation in the Paper Monies Issued by the American Colonies from 1690 to 1775," NBER Working Papers 17997, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Shambaugh, Jay C., 2006. "An experiment with multiple currencies: the American monetary system from 1838-60," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 609-645, October.
    9. Farley Grubb, 2014. "A New Approach to Explaining the Value of Colonial Paper Money: Evidence from New Jersey, 1709-1775," Working Papers 14-08, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
    10. Farley W. Grubb, 2005. "State "Currencies" and the Transition to the U.S. Dollar: Reply—Including a New View from Canada," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1341-1348, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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