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Is Paper Money Just Paper Money? Experimentation and Variation in the Paper Monies Issued by the American Colonies from 1690 to 1775

  • Farley Grubb

The British North American colonies were the first western economies to rely on legislature-issued paper monies as an important internal media of exchange. This system arose piecemeal. In the absence of banks and treasuries that exchanged paper monies at face value for specie monies on demand, colonial governments experimented with other ways to anchor their paper monies to real values in the economy. These mechanisms included tax-redemption, land-backed loans, sinking funds, interest-bearing notes, and legal tender laws. The structure and performance of these mechanisms are explained and assessed. This was monetary experimentation on a grand scale. "[The colonies] cannot keep Gold and Silver among them sufficient for the Purposes of their internal Commerce... Paper Bills called Bills of Credit or Paper Money have therefore in the colonies long been substituted for real Money. Various Ways of issuing these and on different Foundations, have at different Times been thought of and practised.... On the whole no Method has been found to give any Degree of fixed, steady, uniform Value to Bills of Credit in America,..." (Benjamin Franklin, 13 Feb. 1767)

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17997.

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Date of creation: Apr 2012
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Publication status: published as Farley Grubb, “Is Paper Money Just Paper Money? Experimentation and Variation in the Paper Monies Issued by the American Colonies from 1690 to 1775.” RESEARCH IN ECONOMIC HISTORY, vol. 32 (2016), pp. 147-224.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17997
Note: DAE
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  1. Rousseau, Peter L., 2006. "A common currency: early US monetary policy and the transition to the dollar," Financial History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(01), pages 97-122, April.
  2. Sumner, Scott, 1993. "Colonial Currency and the Quantity Theory of Money: A Critique of Smith's Interpretation," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(01), pages 139-145, March.
  3. Sheridan, Richard B., 1960. "The British Credit Crisis of 1772 and The American Colonies," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(02), pages 161-186, June.
  4. Farley Grubb, 2011. "State Redemption of the Continental Dollar, 1779-1790," NBER Working Papers 17209, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
  6. Peter L. Rousseau, 2007. "Backing, the Quantity Theory, and the Transition to the U.S. Dollar, 1723-1850," NBER Working Papers 12835, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Farley Grubb, 2008. "Testing for the Economic Impact of the U.S. Constitution: Purchasing Power Parity across the Colonies versus across the States, 1748-1811," NBER Working Papers 13836, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Farley Grubb, 2008. "Creating Maryland's Paper Money Economy, 1720-1739: The Role of Power, Print, and Markets," NBER Working Papers 13974, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Smith, Bruce D, 1985. "Some Colonial Evidence on Two Theories of Money: Maryland and the Carolinas," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1178-1211, December.
  10. Hanson, John R, II, 1979. "Money in the Colonial American Economy: An Extension," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 17(2), pages 281-86, April.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Wicker, Elmus, 1985. "Colonial Monetary Standards Contrasted: Evidence from the Seven Years' War," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 45(04), pages 869-884, December.
  14. McCallum, Bennett T, 1992. "Money and Prices in Colonial America: A New Test of Competing Theories," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 143-61, February.
  15. Farley Grubb, 2012. "Chronic Specie Scarcity and Efficient Barter: The Problem of Maintaining an Outside Money Supply in British Colonial America ," Working Papers 12-08, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
  16. Jim Celia & Farley Grubb, 2014. "Non-Legal-Tender Paper Money: The Structure and Performance of Maryland's Bills of Credit, 1767-1775," NBER Working Papers 20524, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. 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.
  18. Ronald W. Michener & Robert E. Wright, 2006. "Farley Grubb’s Noisy Evasions on Colonial Money: A Rejoinder," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 3(2), pages 251-274, May.
  19. Goldberg, Dror, 2009. "The Massachusetts Paper Money of 1690," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(04), pages 1092-1106, December.
  20. Michener, Ron, 1988. "Backing Theories and the Currencies of Eighteenth-Century America: A Comment," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(03), pages 682-692, September.
  21. Farley Grubb, 2013. "Colonial New Jersey's Paper Money Regime, 1709-1775: A Forensic Accounting Reconstruction of the Data," NBER Working Papers 19710, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Harris, Ron, 1994. "The Bubble Act: Its Passage and Its Effects on Business Organization," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(03), pages 610-627, September.
  23. Officer, Lawrence H., 2005. "The quantity theory in New England, 1703-1749: new data to analyze an old question," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 101-121, January.
  24. Farley Grubb, 2011. "The Continental Dollar: Initial Design, Ideal Performance, and the Credibility of Congressional Commitment," Working Papers 11-15, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
  25. Farley Grubb, 2013. "The Continental Dollar: How the American Revolution was Financed with Paper Money--Initial Design and Ideal Performance," NBER Working Papers 19577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Thayer, Theodore, 1953. "The Land-Bank System in the American Colonies," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(02), pages 145-159, March.
  27. Bruce D. Smith, 1985. "American Colonial Monetary Regimes: The Failure of the Quantity Theory and Some Evidence in Favour of an Alternative View," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 18(3), pages 531-65, August.
  28. West, Robert Craig, 1978. "Money in the Colonial American Economy," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 16(1), pages 1-15, January.
  29. Alvin Rabushka, 2008. "Introduction to Taxation in Colonial America
    [Taxation in Colonial America]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
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