From Promise to Property, from Populism to Expertise: The Political Career of the Dollar, 1862-1913


ACLS Fellowship Program




This study of the legal history of money will examine the connection between two late nineteenth-century events: the transformation of the legal and popular conceptions of money and the disappearance of monetary policy as an issue for electoral politics. Between the 1862 and 1913, paper money went from being viewed as a promise to pay to being viewed as final payment. Meanwhile, monetary policy, which had been the central issue of electoral politics, fell off the partisan political agenda, paving the way for the founding of a central bank to be run by experts with minimal political intervention. The project links these two phenomena, explaining how the rise of expert technocratic control of monetary policy is dependent on the shift from a promissory to a proprietary conception of money.