originalism, U.S. Constitution, paper money, legal tender, U.S. Supreme Court, republicanism, consent of the governed


I remember a German farmer expressing as much in a few words as the whole subject requires: “money is money, and paper is paper.”—All the invention of man cannot make them otherwise. The alchymist may cease his labours, and the hunter after the philosopher’s stone go to rest, if paper cannot be metamorphosed into gold and silver, or made to answer the same purpose in all cases. Every day Americans spend paper money, using it as legal tender. Yet the Constitution makes no mention of this phenomenon. Indeed, it clearly prevents the states from having the authority to make paper money into legal tender, and does not award this power to Congress. Yet today, without a formal written amendment to the Constitution, America seems united in accepting this fact to a degree that greatly exceeds our unity in the vast majority of Constitutional questions that might appear. The acceptance by the people today of a power at odds with the original meaning of our Constitution offers insights into the legitimacy of the process of unwritten amendments to the founding document and the continuing meaning of the consent of the governed.