One of the first acts of a sovereign nation has always been to establish a system of currency for use in commercial transactions. In the fledgling United States this was doubly important. Although the accepted standard of value was the Spanish silver dollar and its fractional pieces of eight, English coins of pounds, shillings and pence also were in use throughout the young nation. Efficient trade was hampered at every turn, particularly between the states, as each valued the Spanish coins differently in relation to English issues. By the end of the 1780s, much discussion ensued concerning the necessity and structure of a reliable, non-fluctuating system of coinage.
Thomas Jefferson, along with Alexander Hamilton and financier Robert Morris, had long advocated the use of the decimal system. Introduced by the Dutch inventor Simon Stevin van Brugghe, it used whole numbers to describe fractions and was tr.... (Expand Text)