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Karen Palumbo

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Blogs by Karen Palumbo

On This Day 6/22/1775
6/23/2011 7:43:56 PM

Congress issues Continental currency


Congress issues two million dollars in bills of credit. By the spring of 1775, colonial leaders, concerned by GreatBritain martial law in Boston and increasing constraints on trade, had led their forces inbattle against the crown. But, the Americans revolutionaries encountered a small problem on their way to the front: they lacked the funds necessary to wage a prolonged war.

Though hardly the colonies forst dalliance with paper notes, the Massachusetts Bay colony had issued its own bills in 1690, the large-scale distribution of the revolutionary currency was faily new ground for America. Moreover, the bills, known at the time as "Continentals", notably lacked the then "de riguer rendering of the British King George III. Instead, someof the notes featured likenesses of American Revolution troops nd the inscription:

"The United Colonies"

But whatever their novelty, the Continentals proved to be a poor economic instrument, backed by nothing more than the promise of:

"Future tax Revenues"

and prone to rampant inflation,the notes ultimately had little fiscal value. As General George Washington noted at the time.

" A wagonload of currency will hardly
purchase a wagonload of provisions."

Thus, the Continental failed and left the young nation saddled with a hefty war debt. A deep economic depression followed the "Treaty of Paris" in 1783. Unstable currency and unstable debts caused a Continental Army veteran, Daniel Shays,to leada rebellion in western Massachusettsduring the winter of 1787.

Fear of economic chaos played a significant role in the decision to abandon the "Articles of Confederation" for the more powerful, centralized government created by the federal Constitution. During President George Washington's presidency, Alexander Hamilton struggled to create financial institutions capable of stabilizing the new nation's economy.

Duly frustrated by the experience with Continental currency, America resisted the urge to again issue new paper notes until the dawn of the "Civil War."



(K) (HST)

George III King of Great Britain
George Washington American General
Daniel Shays American Patriot
Shay's Rebellion
Alexander Hamilton American Patriot


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