Bills of Credit


Also found in: Dictionary, Financial.

Bills of Credit

Non-interest-bearing promissory notes issued by the government and backed by its faith and credit to be paid when presented by their holders, which are in the form of currency and are intended to be circulated and exchanged in the community as money.

The federal government, acting through the federal reserve banks, issues bills of credit in the form of dollar bills that are promises to pay the specific denominations indicated on them to the bearer of such paper on demand. Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution, in order to provide a uniform standard of money throughout the United States, prohibits states from issuing their own bills of credit for circulation as currency.

References in periodicals archive ?
In 1764, Parliament adopted an act addressing the colonies' paper bills of credit, now known as the Currency Act of 1764.
Legal writers--as opposed to economic historians--seem almost universally to have made the error of assuming that the constitutional phrase "Bills of Credit" (171) was a mere synonym for paper money.
The "treasury notes" issued by Connecticut and Massachusetts after mid-century (176) were not legal tender, but they were bills of credit in all but name.
Both bills of credit and other forms of paper money could be secured or unsecured.
The Continental Congress decided to issue bills of credit worth two million Spanish-milled dollars to finance the cause.
Congress soon issued more bills of credit. By 1778, continental issues had grown to $30 million; by 1779 to $150 million; and by 1780 to $240 million.
They were particularly hostile to state emissions of paper money, which accounts for their adopting an express ban on state bills of credit and tender laws.
That draft included a congressional power "[t]o borrow money, and emit bills on the credit of the United States." (233) The discussion on paper money began when Gouverneur Morris moved to strike the language: "emit bills on the credit of the United States." His reason, apparently, was that this phrase would wave a red flag before some of the Constitution's potential supporters, and it would do so needlessly, for officials in the future government could find ways to borrow money without resorting to bills of credit. (234)
* All of those voting to retain the language explicitly authorizing federal bills of credit did so because they believed (i) the federal government should have the power to issue bills of credit; and (ii) deleting the language would delete the power.
* Some voting to delete the language believed (i) the federal government should not have the power to issue bills of credit; and (ii) deleting the language would delete that power.
* Others voting to delete the language believed (i) the federal government should have the power to issue bills of credit; but (ii) deleting the language would not delete that power.
Perhaps the Committee's addition of a separate power to issue bills of credit was the reason the ban was omitted; if so, the Convention's deletion of that power may have implied the reinstitution of the ban.