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83. The power to coin money in the United States is given exclusively to Congress, the States being forbidden. to coin money or to make anything but gold and silver a "tender" in payment of debts.' It is necessary that every independent government should have this power of coining money, and it is for the best interests of the country that the currency should be uniform.
By "coining" is meant stamping pieces of metal for use as a medium of exchange in commerce and trade according to fixed standards of value. It is not an easy matter, however, to fix the standard, when more than one metal is used. If gold alone were used, the standard would always be the same, and the dollar would depend on the market value of the gold contained in the dollar-piece. But there is not a sufficient amount of gold in the world to supply the purposes of currency. Governments have, therefore, to use silver also, and perhaps even baser metals. Congress, under its power to "regulate the value of money," has tried to overcome the difficulty of having two metals in use as currency, by finding out as nearly as they could the market value of both gold and silver, and issuing coins in both metals of such weight that they should have the same value. It has not been possible to do this fully, for at one time or another there is a greater quantity of one or of the other metal. In that event, the more valuable coins rise in value, and are collected by speculators and melted down, while the cheaper coins are left in circulation. In order to prevent this, the method pursued is to make the silver coins lighter than their real value, so that they are worth less than gold; and then they are made "legal tender" in small sums only. Then, of course, there can be no object in hoarding or in melting down these lighter silver coins, for a dollarpiece, while it will buy a dollar's worth of goods, is still
1 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 10, Par. 1.
not worth a dollar in silver bullion. And gold is kept in circulation by being made indispensable in larger transactions.
84. Mints.-The government has public mints in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Carson, and Denver, where the coins are made and stamped. In the case of gold, the owner of the "bullion" takes it to the mint, has it coined, and then coin in full value of the bullion is returned to him. This is called "free coinage." Until 1853 there was free coinage of both gold and silver; but since 1853, of gold only. In the case of silver, whose metallic, or commercial, value is so much below its nominal, or coin, value, the government purchases it in open market in such quantities as it wants, and coins it exclusively for itself.
85. The power to punish counterfeiting of coin of the United States and of foreign coin, Congress has exercised by making such counterfeiting a felony. The penalty for the offense is fixed at a fine of not more than $5,000 and imprisonment for not more than ten years.
86. The Federal Courts, which Congress is empowered to establish,' are necessary to the independence of the national government. The government having a law-making body and a law-executing body of its own, must, in order to preserve its own peace and dignity, have law-applying and law-interpreting bodies of its own. These courts are described later in Chapter XIII., under the head of the Federal Judiciary.
These powers which we have been considering are necessary to a government, in order that it may be capable of existing and developing in a manner free and independent of any other government. These
1 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 1; and Art. III., Sect. 1.
powers give it the capacity of self-existence, considered by itself or with respect to the States. But it was also necessary to remember that there are many other nations and governments in the world. In the course of time the American government might come into conflict with some one of these other governments. It was then necessary to give it the means of defending itself, of maintaining its dignity and existence against foreign assault, as also against domestic insurrection. And, too, it was proper and necessary that the government should have the means of entering into arrangements in regard to trade and commerce, or the postal service, or many other subjects, with foreign powers.
To repeat again, by giving the government the taxing power, the money power, and control over its own membership, the means of self-existence are imparted to it. By giving it the power to make laws and to establish courts for applying and enforcing these laws, the means of compelling peaceful obedience from its citizens are also imparted to it. By giving it the power to make "treaties," the means of securing peaceable alliances with foreign governments, and thus of entering into the "family of nations" in times of peace, are granted to it; while for maintaining its dignity and respect, the additional powers of declaring war and of supporting military and naval forces are necessary.
(2) Powers Essential to an Independent International Existence.
87. The War Power.-The power to declare war, which is given to Congress, means the power to declare whether or not there shall be war in a given case.
1The power to make treaties is not given to Congress, but to the President with the assent of the Senate.
2 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 11.
war may exist without any "declaration of war." In such case Congress by some act recognizes war as already existing and provides means for its prosecution. Thus, in the case of the war of 1812, Congress passed an Act expressly declaring war, while in the case of the war with Mexico, the preamble of an Act making provision for carrying on the war merely said "whereas, a state of war exists," etc. In the case of the war of the rebellion, war was not even expressly recognized, but the Act of July 22, 1861, is entitled "An Act to authorize the employment of volunteers to aid in enforcing the laws and protecting public property.”
88. Letters of Marque and Reprisal.-In connection with the war power is given also power to grant letters of marque and reprisal,' and to make rules concerning captures on land and water. The word marque means landmark or boundary, and letters of marque mean commissions to a private person authorizing him to pass beyond the frontier and make captures of an enemy's property or persons. The word reprisal means a retaking, and indicates the purpose for which the "letters" are granted. A vessel bearing such letters is called a privateer.
89. The power to raise and support armies, and to provide and maintain a navy, is a necessary adjunct of the war power. And it is important that a nation should possess this power in peace as well as in war, for the mere existence of an army and navy may often prevent the occurrence of a war. The whole control and regulation of the military forces of the country is thus placed, as it should be, under the power of the federal government.2
1 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 11.
2 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 12, 13, 14.
90. The militia which the States are allowed to have is placed at the disposal of Congress whenever it may be needed in order to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, or repel invasions. All the male citizens of a State between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, unless "exempted" by law, are subject to service in the State militia. The organized militia of a State constitutes its "National Guard." This body is trained by officers appointed by the State according to military regulations approved by Congress.' This militia serves as a great security to the country, and it is not found. necessary to maintain a large standing army like those in Europe.
From the experience of England and other European countries, where armies were often used by the head of the state or by some military commander to oppress the people, the Constitution took the precaution of providing that "no appropriation of money for raising and supporting armies should be for a longer term than two years." In time of need Congress may enlist in its armies all persons, whether previously exempted or not, whether minors or adults, capable of military duty.
91. Power to Punish Crimes.—As a further incident of the membership of the American nation in the family of nations, Congress is given power over certain offenses against the law of nations. It is authorized to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and other such offenses. Piracy is robbery at sea. By its power to define piracy, Congress is authorized to extend the meaning as commonly understood by the "law of nations," or "international law," so as to include 1 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 15. 2 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 16. 3 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 12. 4 U. S. Const., Art. I., Sect. 8, Par. 10.