In the first half of the 19th-century, Americans were absorbed with western expansion—fulfilling their “Manifest Destiny” to conquer the continent. By the 1870s, the interior of the country was secure, and the nation’s focus began to move beyond its borders, with increased emphasis on international trade. But global commerce was hampered by scores of competing coins and currencies, and many people on both sides of the Atlantic called for a worldwide coinage system to facilitate trade. In 1867, growing discussion blossomed into an international conference in Paris, where twenty nations agreed to adopt a gold standard with the French franc as its base.
Many in Congress envisioned the United States as the hub of
a world monetary system and responded with their own ideas for an international
gold coin, but few proposals went beyond debate. By 1871, it was silver, not
gold, t.... (read more)