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[669] favored this first issue, rendering it as advantageous to commerce as to the treasury. In fact, since the suppression of the Federal banks, which had formerly been sacrificed to the jealous animosity with which the Democratic party had pursued everything calculated to strengthen the central power, no restraint had been placed upon the issue of private bank-bills. In default of a national fiduciary currency, the country had been flooded by the paper of all the banks and associated institutions, which were constantly putting unlimited quantities of bank-bills in circulation, the real value of which depended entirely upon the degree of confidence inspired by those whose signatures they bore. At the beginning of the war the nominal value of all this paper, both North and South, amounted to over two hundred millions. The evil was all the greater, because the Americans, in availing themselves, without stint, of this powerful and delicate measure, made use of bills of very small denomination, which multiplied its effects. So that the promenader who entered a Broadway store to make a small purchase, would throw a package of bank-bills of all kinds and colors upon the counter; the merchant then would consult the detector, containing an account of the market value of such bills, from the denomination of one dollar to one hundred, and calculate the discount on this paper from zero to par before taking it. The issue of treasury notes, which have borne the name of greenbacks since their first issue, in consequence of their color, put out of circulation the most depreciated portion of the paper bearing the signatures of private individuals, and thus rendered a real service to the public.

Before adjourning Congress had to provide the necessary means, not only for paying the interest on the enormous debt which it had authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to contract, but also for meeting a portion of the current expenses and for offering an earnest guarantee to capitalists, who were soon to be called upon to make new advances to the Federal treasury. The day when the new loan should be entirely taken the Secretary would have required the sum of sixteen millions for the necessities of his department alone. We have stated that Mr. Chase had proposed to raise eighty millions by taxation. These propositions were endorsed and authorized by the law of August, 1861. It was

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Salmon P. Chase (1)
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August, 1861 AD (1)
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