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The United States: From Greenbacks to Gold, 1862–79

The United States: From Greenbacks to Gold, 1862–79

(p.49) Chapter 2 The United States: From Greenbacks to Gold, 1862–79
Currency Politics
Jeffry A. Frieden
Princeton University Press

This chapter surveys US currency policy from the Civil War until the country returned to the gold standard in 1879. It shows that economic interests played a major role in the politics of US currency policy in this period. In particular, they appear consistent with the idea that those most likely to benefit from a weak dollar—farmers producing tradable crops and manufacturers facing import competition—were strong supporters of either staying off the gold standard or going to a depreciated silver standard. There is no question that the data are of questionable quality, and the evaluations of the arguments are indirect. Nevertheless, the results seem consistent over a series of votes that took place over a period of about ten years. And they served as a precursor to an even more striking and much better-known US debate over the gold standard in the 1890s.

Keywords:   exchange rates, currency policy, Civil War, gold standard, monetary policy

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