Juilliard v. Greenman

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Juilliard v. Greenman
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Submitted January 22, 1884
Decided March 3, 1884
Full case name Juilliard v. Greenman
Citations 110 U.S. 421 (more)
4 S. Ct. 122; 28 L. Ed. 204; 1884 U.S. LEXIS 1712
Legal Tender Acts are constitutional, and apply in peacetime.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Gray
Dissent Field

Juilliard v. Greenman, 110 U.S. 421 (1884), was a Supreme Court of the United States case in which issuance of greenbacks as legal tender was challenged in peacetime. The Legal Tender Acts of 1862 and 1863 were upheld.

Juilliard sold and delivered 100 bales of cotton to Greenman for $5,122.90. Greenman tendered $5,100 in United States legal tender notes and the rest in coin, but Juilliard would not accept the U.S. notes. The tendered notes were originally issued under an act of Congress passed on February 25, 1862 and March 3, 1863, during the Civil War. An act of May 31, 1878 provided to “forbid the further retirement of United States legal tender notes”.

The decision[edit]

In an 8–1 decision, resting largely on prior court cases, the power "of making the notes of the United States a legal tender in payment of private debts" was interpreted as "included in the power to borrow money and to provide a national currency".

The dissent[edit]

Justice Field dissented, challenging the court's interpretation of the terms to "borrow" and "coin" money.

He explained that the term to borrow money was well settled in other instruments such as municipal and corporate bonds, and private contracts. Field contended that allowing the government to make their notes legal tender would interfere with third-party contractual obligations, as third parties would be compelled by law to accept notes instead of coin. Field argued that a private corporate bond could not require an amusement park to accept the bond in exchange for entry. To find that the term to borrow money as written in the constitution, according to Field, would allow interference in third-party contracts and would improve the value of the note, but would deviate from the meaning of the term "to borrow money".

Field asserted that the meaning of the terms ‘to coin money’ was not at all doubtful: “It is to mould metallic substances into forms convenient for circulation and to stamp them with the impress of the government.” Field argued that in the clause authorizing congress ‘to provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States’, a distinction was clearly made between debt and coin.

Justice Field also cited many quotes by the founders against paper money, including the following by James Madison: "The pretext for paper currency, and particularly for making the bills a tender either for public or private debts, was cut off."

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