Guest Essayist: Kevin Walsh

The legal tender controversy involved Supreme Court decisions that spanned a decade and a half beginning in 1870 with Hepburn v. Griswold 75 U.S. 603 (1870), in which the Legal Tender Act of 1862, 12 Stat. 345, making United States Treasury notes legal tender, was invalidated on constitutional grounds.  In Hepburn, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, who as secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War was a key player in the Legal Tender Act’s passage, held for the majority that congressional authorization of the notes (also referred to as “fiat currency” or “greenbacks”) to be used as legal tender violated the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause protecting property.

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