Note: The following is part of a series of columns looking at how hard currency was introduced in Georgia and Bulloch County.
Article 1, Section 10 of the proposed U.S. Constitution declared, "No State shall … coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; (or) make anything but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts."
Georgia's Ratifying Convention only agreed to this restrictive clause because "acute panic caused by Indian warfare caused them to vote for the Constitution in hope of gaining aid from the rest of the union."
After the new Continental Congress was not given the legal authority to print its own money, Congress granted itself the authority in the Articles of Confederation to print the "United Colonies" continentals.
"Continentals" were printed in almost every possible denomination, each of which carried a different revolutionary motto, chosen by the Founding Fathers of our nation and inscribed on the bill.
The smaller bills (and their mottos) were: the $1 bill ("Pressed down, it rises again"); $2 ("Affliction improves it"); $3 ("The outcome is in doubt"); and $4 ("Choose death or an honorable life").
The middle-valued bills were: $5 ("Sustain or abstain"); $6 ("Persevere"); $7 ("It will clear up"); and $8 ("The larger are in harmony with the smaller"); and a $20 bill ("It assaults with force").
Many higher-value bills were printed: $30 ("If you act rightly & we will rest and revive after it's over"); $35 ("This is our wealth"); $40 ("Confederation"); $45 ("Thus, let the nation flourish"); $50 ("Perennial"), and $55 ("After clouds, the sun").
The highest-value bills were: $60 ("God reigns, let the earth rejoice"); $65 ("Let there be justice"); $70 ("For four years it has withstood the force of the storm"); and $80 ("It will flourish throughout the ages").
Not worth a continental!
The British printed massive amounts of counterfeit continentals. Not surprisingly, Continentals soon became worthless, as in the phrase "That's not worth a continental."
In response, on Aug. 1, 1776, Congress declaring that counterfeiters, if caught, would have their ears cut off, be whipped and then be fined. This punishment was applied, and without mercy!
In March 1780, Congress devalued continentals to one-40th "face" value. However, as many as 1000 continentals were often required to get one single silver dollar in exchange.
In 1781, continentals were no longer circulating as legal tender. However, the federal government, which couldn't tax the American public until 1789, used the continentals to pay or be paid by the states various monies owed.
George Washington, himself, was recorded as saying "no person will touch it (the continental)." After the war, the "Twelve Confederation Colonies" had to retire continental dollars.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.