Originally posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
Constitution.org provides an extensive and thoughtful Memorandum of Law by Larry Becraft, Esq., of Huntsville, Alabama, on Article I, Section 10, clause 1 of the US Constitution.
Sir William Blackstone courtesy of Wikipedia
One of many interesting matters the Memorandum treats is Blackstone’s Commentaries, a book that was a fixture in the offices of lawyers of an earlier era (including that of this writer and his father before him).
The common law represented the legal consensus organically developed over centuries and preceded the often artificial statutory enactments which also have the force of law (but not always the common law’s common sense). Becraft:
One of the most significant expositions of the common law of England, and therefore the heritage of American law, consists
of Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. In Blackstone’s exhaustive treatment of the common law,
he aptly stated the common law concerning money:
“Money is an universal medium, or common standard, by comparison with which the value of all merchandize may be ascertained: or it is sign, which represents the respective values of all commodities. Metals are well calculated for this sign, because they are durable and are capable of many subdivisions: and a precious metal is still better calculated for this purpose, because it is the most portable. A metal is also the most proper for a common measure, because it can easily be reduced to the same standard in all nations: and every particular nation fixes on it its own impression, that the weight and standard (wherein consists the intrinsic value) may both be known by inspection only.
“The coining of money is in all states the act of the sovereign power; for the reason just mentioned, that it’s value may be known on inspection. And with respect to coinage in general, there are three things to be considered therein; the materials, the impression, and the denomination.
“With regard to the materials, Sir Edward Coke lays it down, that the money of England must either be of gold or silver; and none other was ever issued by the royal authority till 1762, when copper farthings and half-pence were coined by King Charles the Second * * * But this copper coin is not upon the same footing with the other in many respects * * *
“As to the impression, the stamping thereof is the unquestionable prerogative of the crown * * *
“The denomination, or the value for which the coin is to pass current, is likewise in the breast of the king * * * In order to fix the value, the weight and the fineness of the metal are to be taken into consideration together. When a given weight of gold or silver is of a given fineness, it is then of the true standard, and called sterling metal * * * And of this sterling metal all the coin of the kingdom must be made, by the statute 25 Edw. III c. 13 (Coinage, 1351). So that the king’s prerogative seemeth not to extend to the debasing or inhancing the value of the coin, below or above the sterling value * * * The king may also, by his proclamation, legitimate foreign coin, and make it current here; declaring at what value it shall be taken in payments. But this, I apprehend, ought to be by comparison with the standard of our own coin; otherwise the consent of parliament will be necessary.”