Legal Tender cases


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Legal Tender cases,

lawsuits brought to the U.S. Supreme Court involving the constitutionality of the Legal Tender Act of 1862, which was passed to meet currency needs during the Civil War. The act had authorized the issue of $150 million in "United States notes" (see greenbackgreenback,
in U.S. history, legal tender notes unsecured by specie (coin). In 1862, under the exigencies of the Civil War, the U.S. government first issued legal tender notes (popularly called greenbacks) that were placed on a par with notes backed by specie.
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) without any reserve or specie basis. Intended originally as only a temporary measure during wartime, about $450 million had been issued in greenbacks by the end of the war. The paper money depreciated in terms of gold and became the subject of controversy, particularly because debts contracted earlier could be paid in this cheaper currency. Many cases concerning the greenbacks were entered in the courts, but it was not until 1870 that the Supreme Court attacked the constitutionality of paper money. In Hepburn v. Griswold (1870), the Majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Samuel P. Chase, declared the act unconstitutional as a violation of Fifth Amendment protections against the taking of property without due process. President Ulysses Grant, angered by the decision, promptly nominated two Republican justices to the Court who reversed the decision in Knox v. Lee and Parker v. Davis (1871), ruling that the act was valid on the basis of the implied powers of Congress. The constitutionality of the act was more widely sustained in Juillard v. Greenman (1884).
References in periodicals archive ?
Chase's stance in the Legal Tender Cases is much better known.
Sometimes the Legal Tender Cases are loosely described as involving the power to issue paper money.
In his opinion for the majority, Justice Miller (who had so vehemently clashed with Chase in the Legal Tender Cases) claimed that the basic economic liberties of property and contract were to be protected solely by state governments, (247) a conclusion that was hotly contested in three dissenting opinions by Justices Bradley, Swain, and Field.
Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who read the opinion, reviewed the Legal Tender Cases that had allowed Congress the power to make U.S.
Hughes emphasized Congress's power "To coin money and regulate the value thereof." He held that "the Court in the legal tender cases did not derive from that express grant [of power] alone the full authority of the Congress in relation to the currency ...
The majority opinion in 1935 simply treated these gross distortions of congressional power over money from the Legal Tender Cases as if they were quoted from the Constitution itself, and without reexamining the validity of the arguments.
Grant, however, eventually got two new justices on the court, and legal tender was established in a series of rulings--one involving the purchase of some sheep, the other of some bales of cotton, and another some land--known as the Legal Tender Cases.
He told me he feared the Legal Tender Cases could not be overturned.
at 276-86 (referencing The Legal Tender Cases, 79 U.S.
Those who rely on the Legal Tender Cases to discredit originalism are, however, in error.
(5) More influential, perhaps, have been legal commentators who agree that the Legal Tender Cases were wrongly decided from an originalist point of view, but who do not advocate a return to metal coinage.
Yet the conclusion that the Legal Tender Cases conflict with an originalist view of the Constitution rests on a fairly slender foundation.