Massachusetts' Currency Reform Act (1749)


The text of the currency reform act, reproduced below, can be found in Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay, Vol. III, pp. 430-441 or in Evans Imprints. The act was passed on January 26, 1749.

AN ACT FOR DRAWING IN THE BILLS OF CREDIT OF THE SEVERAL DENOMINATIONS WHICH HAVE AT ANY TIME BEEN ISSUED BY THIS GOVERNMENT AND ARE STILL OUTSTANDING, AND FOR ASCERTAINING THE RATE OF COIN'D SILVER IN THIS PROVINCE FOR THE FUTURE.

WHEREAS the sum of one hundred and eighty-three thousand six hundred and forty-nine pounds two shillings and sevenpence halfpenny sterling money, has been granted by the parliament of Great Britain, for reimbursing to this province their expences in taking and securing Cape Breton, --

Be it enacted by the Governour, Council and House of Representatives.

That the Honourable Sir Peter Warren, Knight of the Bath, William Bollan, Esq., agent for this province, and Eliakim Palmer, Esq., of London, merchant, they or two of them, -- the said William Bollan, agent, as aforesaid, except in case of his death, always to be one, -- be and are hereby authorized and impowred to give a full discharge to the right honourable the lords commissioners of the treasury, for the sum granted as aforesaid, whensoever the same shall have been issued; or to the Bank of England, in case the same shall have been there deposited; or to any person or persons in whose possession or custody soever the same is or shall be; to prefer the humble address of the general court of this province to the king's most excellent majesty, that he would be graciously pleased to order the said sum to be transported to this government in foreign coin'd silver, on board some one or more of his majesty's ships; and to pursue such instructions as the said general court shall judge necessary concerning the transportation of the said granted sum to this province.

And be it further enacted,

That the treasurer of the province for the time being, be and hereby is fully authorized and impowred to demand and receive the whole and every part of the money aforesaid from the commander of any vessel or vessels on board of which the same shall be ship'd, upon the arrival thereof within this government.

And be it further enacted,

That from and after the thirty-first day of March, which shall be in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifty, the possessor and possessors of each and every of the bills of credit of this province which shall then be outstanding, upon bringing such bill or bills to the treasurer aforesaid, shall be intitled to and receive, in exchange for every such bill or bills, silver at the rate following; viz., for change of every such bill or bills, silver at the rate following; viz., for every forty-five shillings in bills commonly known and understood by bills of the old form and tenor, one piece of eight; and for every eleven shillings and three pence in bills of the new form and tenor, and also of the middle form and tenor, one piece of eight; and so proportionably for a greater or less sum in the bills of each and any of the forms and tenors aforesaid: provided, nevertheless, that if the possessors aforesaid shall not offer such bills in exchange within one year from and after the said thirty-first day of March, one thousand seven hundred and fifty, all right or claim to the redemption or exchange thereof shall determine and cease.

Provided always, --

That such of the bills of credit of this province as shall be the property of the inhabitants of Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, may and shall be redeemed or exchanged by the bills of credit of each of those governments, respectively, that may be in the hands of the inhabitants of this government; anything in this act to the contrary notwithstanding.

And whereas all debts, dues, demands, bargains and contracts whatsoever, unless otherwise specially agreed or contracted, are now understood to be payable and may be discharged by the publick bills of credit of this province; and upon any action or actions being brought in the courts of judicature within this province, and judgment being made upon such action, and execution issued; such execution may be now satisfied and discharged by the publick bills of credit as aforesaid, with the addition of a greater or less sum according to the time when such debts were contracted, --

Be it enacted,

That from and after the thirty-first day of March, which shall be in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifty, all debts, dues, demands, bargains and contracts payable in bills of credit as aforesaid, shall be understood to be payable in coin'd silver only; and all executions in consequence of any judgment of court in all actions heretofore brought or that may at any time hereafter be brought for the recovery of such debts, dues, demands, bargains and contracts made and contracted as aforesaid, shall and may be then discharged by silver at the rate following; viz., every forty-five shillings of such debts, dues or demands which were payable or might be discharged by bills of the old tenor, shall and may be discharged by one mill'd piece-of-eight, with such addition, according to the time of contracting, as the laws of this province do or shall require; and so proportionably of any debt or demand of greater or less value.

And whereas in and by the several clauses in the acts of this government for issuing the public bills of credit, provision has been made for drawing said bills into the publick treasury again by certain taxes which it is provided by said acts shall be laid on the several towns in this government in each of the several years from this present year until the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty, --

Be it further enacted,

That the several clauses in the acts aforesaid, providing for the bringing into the province treasury, by taxes, the several sums, in bills of credit issued by virtue of such acts, be and hereby are repealed, and declared null and void.

And whereas the sum granted by parliament as aforesaid, may prove insufficient to redeem or exchange the whole sum which is now outstanding in said bills of credit, at the rates aforesaid, --

Be it further enacted,

That there be and hereby is granted unto his most excellent majesty, a tax of seventy-five pounds, to be levied on polls, and estates both real and personal, within this province, according to such rules and in such proportions on the several towns and districts within the same, as shall be agreed upon and ordered by this court at their session in May, one thousand seven hundred and forty-nine, to be paid into the publick treasury on or before the last of December then next ensuing; and the tax aforesaid is hereby declared to be payable in bills of the new form and tenor, or of the middle form and tenor, according to their respective denominations, or in bills of the old Tenor, accounting four for one, or in Spanish mill'd dollars at the Rate of eleven Shillings and three Pence each.

And be it further enacted, That in Case the General Court shall not at their Sessions in May and before the twentieth of June One Thousand seven Hundred and forty nine, agree and conclude upon an Act apportioning the Sum which by this Act is engaged shall be in said Year apportioned assessed and levied, that then and in such Case each Town and District within this Province shall pay (by a Tax to be levied on the Polls and estates both Real and Personal within their Districts) the same Proportion of the said Sum as the said Towns and Districts shall have been taxed by the General Court in the Tax Act then last preceeding; and the Province Treasurer is hereby fully impowred and directed some Time in the Month of June in the Year One Thousand seven Hundred and forty nine, to issue and send forth his Warrants directed to the Select-Men or Assessors of each Town and District within this Province, requiring them to assess the Polls and Estates both Real and Personal within their several Towns and Districts for their respective Part and Proportion of the Sum before directed, and engaged to be assessed, and the Assessors as also Persons assessed, shall observe, be governed by and subject to all such Rules and Directions as shall have been given in the last preceeding Tax Act; and if their be any Surplusage it shall remain a Stock in the Treasury.

And whereas it is provided by this Act that the whole Sum now outstanding in Bills of Credit which have been the Medium and Instrument of Trade and Commerce for many Years past shall be sunk, partly by a Tax, and partly by being exchanged for the Sum granted by Parliament as aforesaid, which Sum may prove sufficient to serve as a Medium instead of said Bills, and it being of great Importance that all possible means should be us'd for establishing an invariable Silver Currency for the future:

Be it enacted, That all Bargains and Contracts Debts and Dues whatsoever which shall be agreed, contracted or made after the thirty-first Day of March One Thousand seven Hundred and fifty, shall be understood and are hereby declared to be in Silver at six Shillings and eight Pence per Ounce, and all Spanish mill'd Pieces of Eight of full Weight, shall be accounted taken and paid at the Rate of six Shillings per Piece for the discharge of any Contracts or Bargains to be made after the said thirty-first Day of March One thousand seven Hundred and fifty, the Half's Quarters and other less Pieces of the same Coin, to be accounted received taken or paid in the same Proportion; and if any Person shall for the discharge of any such Contracts or Bargains account receive take or pay any Silver coin or any of the said Pieces at any greater or higher Rate than that at which the same is hereby regulated and allowed, every such Person so accounting receiving taking or paying the same, shall forfeit the Sum of fifty Pounds for every Offence, one Moiety thereof to his Majesty his Heirs and Successors to and for the Use of this Government, the other Moiety to him or them that shall sue for the same, to be recovered with full Costs of Suit by Action of Debt, Bill, Plaint, or Information, in any of his Majesty's Courts of Record within this Province, or by Presentment of the Grand Jury; and all Persons whatsoever are hereby required to conform their Books and Accounts according to the Regulation aforesaid, any former Usage to the contrary notwithstanding; and any Books and Accounts which shall not be made to conform to the said Regulation shall not be admitted or allowed to be produced in Evidence for the Recovery of any Debt in any of his Majesty's Courts within this Province.

And whereas bills of credit have been the only medium of trade within this government for many years past, and the bills of Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, have passed promiscuously with the bills of this government, and the inhabitants of this government will be liable to greater evils than they have ever yet suffered if the bills of those governments continue current within this province, -

Be it further enacted,

That if any person, from and after the thirty-first day of March, one thousand seven hundred and fifty, shall account, receive, take or pay any bill or bills of credit of either of the governments of Connecticut, New Hampshire or Rhode Island, in discharge of any contract or bargain, or for any valuable consideration whatsoever, every such person so accounting, receiving, taking or paying the same, shall forfeit the sum of fifty pounds for every offence, to be recovered and applied in like manner with the forfeiture or penalty for receiving or paying silver coin at a higher rate than is regulated by this act.

And be it further enacted,

That from and after the last day of March, which shall be in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifty, until the last day of March, which shall be in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifty-four, every person who shall be chosen to serve in any office in any of the towns of this province, shall, before his entrance upon said office, take the following oath, to be administered by a justice of the peace, or where no justice of the peace shall be present, by the town clerk, who is hereby impowred to administer the same; viz: --

You, A.B., do, in the presence of God, solemnly declare, that you have not, since the last day of March, 1750, wittingly and willingly, directly or indirectly, either by yourself or any for or under you, been concerned in receiving or paying, within this government, any bill or bills of credit of either of the governments of Connecticut, New Hampshire or Rhode Island. So help you God.

And where any person chosen as aforesaid, shall refuse or neglect to take the oath aforesaid on tendering the same, the town shall proceed to the choice of another person in his room; and where any person shall be elected during the term aforesaid, by any town into any office, to the non-acceptance or refusal whereof a penalty is by law annexed, such person neglecting or refusing to take the oath aforesaid, shall be liable to the same penalty as is by law provided for the non-acceptance or refusal of such office.

And be it further enacted,

That when any person, during the term aforesaid, shall be chosen to represent any town within this province, in the general court or assembly, such person so chosen shall take the oath aforesaid, and return shall be made by the selectmen upon the back of the precept, that the person so chosen has taken the oath required in the act made and passed in the twenty-second year of his majesty King George the second, intitled, "An act for drawing in the bills of credit of the several denominations which have at any time been issued by this government, and are still outstanding, and for ascertaining the rate of coin'd silver in this province for the future;" and if any person so chosen shall refuse or neglect to take the oath aforesaid, such refusal or neglect shall be deem'd a refusal to serve as a representative, and the town shall proceed to the choice of another person in his room.

And be it further enacted,

That the oath aforesaid shall be administered to each of the members of his majesty's council every year during the term aforesaid, at the same time when the usual oaths required to be taken by the said members of his majesty's council shall be administered; and all officers, civil and military, within this government, who shall be nominated or appointed during the term aforesaid, shall, before they receive their respective commissions, take the oath aforesaid, and their respective commissions shall otherwise be void; and all persons elected into any office during the term aforesaid, by the general assembly, shall be deem'd not qualified to enter upon the execution of their respective offices until they have taken the oath aforesaid; and all officers, civil and military, appointed by this government, who shall be in commission in the month of June, one thousand seven hundred and fifty-three, shall, some time in said month, take the oath aforesaid; and in case of neglect thereof, their respective commissions shall become and are hereby declared to be void.

And be it further enacted,

That no execution shall be issued, during the term aforesaid, from the office of any clerk of any of the inferiour courts of common pleas, or of the superiour courts of judicature, for any sum whatsoever, unless the plaintiff or plaintiffs, suing in his or their own right, and dwelling within this province, shall first take the oath aforesaid, and certificate thereof shall be made on such execution; and if any execution shall issue or go forth during the term aforesaid without such certificate, the same shall be and is hereby declared to be void.

And no licence shall be granted to, nor any recognizance taken from, any taverner, innholder or retailer, by the justices of any of the courts of sessions within this province during the term aforesaid, until such taverner, innholder or retailer shall have taken said oath in presence of the court, or certificate of his having so done, from a justice of peace, shall be presented to the court.

Provided always, --

That when any inhabitant of this province shall be sued or have his person or estate taken by mean process, or in execution, for any debt contracted before the thirty-first day of March, one thousand seven hundred and fifty, with any of the inhabitants of either of the governments aforesaid, upon making oath that he was possess'd of any sum in bills of credit of the government to which his creditor belongs, before the said thirty-first day of March, one thousand seven hundred and fifty, and has continu'd to be so possess'd, he shall have liberty to tender the same; and the creditor shall be oblig'd to accept the same towards payment or discharge of such debt, in like manner as if this act had never pass'd.

Provided also, and it is accordingly to be understood, --

That if the bills of credit of said governments of Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, shall be drawn in and sunk, and the paper currency of said governments shall be brought to an end, and cease, at any time before the said thirty-first day of March, one thousand seven hundred and fifty-four, then, and in such case, the three last preceeding enacting clauses of this act shall become void and have no further effect.

And whereas the sum of one hundred and eighty-three thousand six hundred and forty-nine pounds two shillings and sevenpence halfpenny, sterling, granted by parliament as aforesaid, and the further sum of seventy-five thousand pounds, now granted to be assess'd in bills of credit in the year one thousand seven hundred and forty-nine, on the polls and estates of the inhabitants of this province, are by this act become the sole fund and security for the whole sum in bills of credit outstanding, and in case the said sterling sum, granted as aforesaid, be not imported into this province before the said thirty-first day of March, one thousand seven hundred and fifty, the exchanging the bills of credit as is above intended will be rendered impracticable, and the former funds or securities being made void, there will remain a fund for seventy-five Thousand Pounds, now granted to be assess'd in Bills of Credit in the Year One Thousand seven Hundred and forty nine, n the Polls and Estates of the Inhabitants of this Province, are by this Act become the sole Fund and Security for the whole Sum in Bills of Credit outstanding, and in Case the said Sterling Sum granted as aforesaid, be not imported into this Province before the said thirty-first day of March One Thousand seven Hundred and fifty, the exchanging the Bills of Credit as is above intended will be rendered impracticable, and, the former funds or Securities being made void, there will remain a Fund for Seventy five Thousand Pounds only, and the Remainder of the said Bills of Credit will become of no Value to the Possessors:

Be it therefore provided, And it is accordingly hereafter Enacted, that if the Sum granted by Parliament as aforesaid, shall not be received within this Government on or before the thirty-first Day of March One Thousand seven Hundred and fifty, then and in such Case the several Acts of this Province for drawing in the said Bills, and all and every Part of said Acts, shall be and continue in full Force, any Thing in this Act to the contrary notwithstanding; and all and every Part of this Act shall be void, and have no further Effect.

Saving always, That whereas the Sum of One Hundred and thirty Thousand five Hundred Pounds in said Bills of Credit is engaged by said Acts to be drawn in by a Tax in the Year One Thousand seven Hundred and forty nine, and by this Act Provision is made for drawing Seventy five Thousand Pounds, Part of said Sum only in said year, which Part of this Act may have had its Effect, and the Time will be elapsed for drawing in the remaining Part of said One Hundred and thirty Thousand five Hundred Pounds:

Be it therefore hereby enacted and declared, That in such Case the Sum of Fifty five Thousand five Hundred Pounds the remaining Part of said Sum of One Hundred and thirty Thousand five Hundred Pounds, shall be and hereby is added to the Tax of Thirty five Thousand Pounds, engag'd to be assess'd in the Year One Thousand seven Hundred and fifty, and the Inhabitants of this Province shall be assess'd for said Sum at the same Time and in like Manner and Proportion as is by Law provided that they shall be assess'd for said Thirty five Thousand Pounds, and the Treasurer is hereby required to issue his Warrants accordingly.


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