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This is page 5 of an 1963 informative multi-page article about Revolutionary war Continental currency and it's devaluation (inflation).  Included is a list showing the inflation rate of the paper money over a five year period of time.

(Click here to return to first page)

Page 5 of 5

The Continental Currency

The following article is from

The New York Herald newspaper

- dated January 26, 1863

 In this connection the varying rates of foreign exchange during the circulation of the Continental money are extremely interesting.  The following table is compiled from authentic sources, and shows how many dollars of paper money, in computing exchange, were reckoned to be equal to one dollar in coin: -

Table of the Current Rates of Foreign Exchange at Philadelphia During the War of Independence, Showing How Much Paper Money Was Equal to One Spanish (silver) Dollar.  (Inflation Depreciation Chart)

Month 1777 1778 1779 1780 1781
Jan. 1.25 4.00 8.00 43.00 100.00
Feb. 1.50 5.00 10.00 50.00 110.00
March 2.00 5.00 11.00 62.00 128.00
April 2.50 6.00 18.00 60.00 170.00
May 2.50 5.00 23.00 60.00 350.00
June 2.50 4.00 20.00 60.00 500.00
July 3.00 4.50 19.00 62.00  
Aug. 3.00 5.00 20.00 69.00  
Sept. 3.00 5.00 28.00 75.00  
Oct. 3.00 5.00 30.00 78.00  
Nov. 4.00 6.00 38.50 90.00  
Dec. 4.00 6.00 42.00 100.00  

  See related chart on the amount of paper money issued - click here.

Certain writers have recently told us that, whatever the state of exchange and appreciation of gold, a paper currency cannot be in excess if it be in such active demand that there are no large unemployed masses of it in the great business centres of the country.  This is a fallacy.  They forgot that the demand may be factitious.  The circulation of the Continental currency was never more active than when its value was five hundred for one.

On the return of peace no attempt was made to cancel the original obligation by redeeming the bills; for, as the depreciation had been slowly progressing while the paper money was gradually circulating, it was obviously impossible to measure the exact loss each holder had suffered.  To pay the last holder in full would only have aggravated the injustice, by taxing the nation again to give him more than his due, while his predecessors, whose loss was greater than his own, were left without any compensation whatever.  It was strongly urged that the

depreciation of the paper money ought to be considered as a tax, inasmuch as the issue was
made only to relieve the people from the necessity of paying tax.  Each person through whose hands the money had passed parted with it again at a small loss, according to the quantity he held and the time for which he held it.  As the currency circulated among the whole people - the rich and the poor holding it, and suffering from its depreciation in proportion to the respective amounts of their cash purchases nearly in just proportion to their ability and liability to pay tax.  The payment of the whole value borne on the face of the bill to one who had received it, perhaps at the rate of one hundred for one, could have been fairly and heavily taxed by its depreciation.

How far the depreciation of the Continental money might have been checked or prevented, had some means for its absorption been contrived, either by the payment of taxes or by investment in public stocks, it is impossible to say.  Both these methods of diminishing the volume of the circulations, and thus checking the tendency to depreciate, are, however, in operation at present.  Hence, we may fairly infer that our second nations experiment in paper money will throw as much light on these new financial principles as was thrown by the Continental money on the great fundamental principle, that paper money will not depreciate, except it be excessive in quantity, and that the rate of depreciation is usually proportional to the amount of excess in the issue.    End

Page 5 of 5

Return to page number:  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5



Table above depicts early American inflation when Colonial paper money - currency depreciated.


Copyright © 2001 John Lynn at

Disclaimer: This article is subject to typographical errors or errors of omission.  This does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell. Use your good judgment, get professional advice, and read the actual publications before buying, selling, holding, or making any type of transaction based on this information.



Click here to find out more about this or purchase this actual Civil War newspaper.


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