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Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Authorizing Commemorative Coins.

July 31, 1947

I AM withholding my approval of H.R. 1180, "To authorize the coinage of 50-cent pieces in commemoration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the admission of Wisconsin into the Union as a State".

The proposed legislation would authorize the coinage of not to exceed five hundred thousand silver 50-cent pieces in commemoration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the admission of Wisconsin into the Union.

A year ago when I approved the legislation authorizing special coins honoring the late Booker T. Washington and the one-hundredth anniversary of the admission of Iowa into the Union, I stated that I would have preferred to approve legislation providing for commemorative medals and that in the future I would look with disfavor upon legislation authorizing the issuance of commemorative coins. My stand in this matter and the compelling reasons therefor were reiterated in a letter to the House Banking and Currency Committee on February 26, 1947.

I am well aware of the great accomplishments of the State of Wisconsin and its splendid citizens. My failure to approve the bill, H.R. 1180, should not be construed as a lack of appreciation of their contributions to the welfare of the United States. In withholding my approval of this bill, I am continuing the wise policy adopted by my predecessors, former President Hoover and the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This policy was given legislative sanction by the Congress when it enacted the Act of August 5, 1939, prohibiting the coinage of or the issuance of special commemorative coins authorized prior to March 1, 1939.

There are pending before the Congress 18 bills commemorating 12 events of importance in the history of our great country, all of which are well deserving of commemoration. In such a situation, it is evident that it is impossible to enact one bill and ignore all the others. Thus, the Senate has, at the session just closed, passed eight additional bills providing for commemorative coins.

Former President Hoover, in a message to the Congress vetoing a bill which would have authorized coins in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Gadsden Purchase, expressed very precisely the dilemma which confronts the Congress and the Chief Executive with reference to commemorative coin legislation. He said:

"There are a great many historical events which it is not only highly proper but desirable to commemorate in a suitable way, but the longer use of our coins for this purpose is unsuitable and unwise. This would seem to be clear from the very number of events to be commemorated, and past experience indicates how difficult it is to draw the line and how such a practice, once it is recognized, tends constantly to grow. If this bill is to become law, it is not apparent on what grounds similar measures, no matter how numerous, may be rejected. Yet their enactment in such numbers must bring further confusion to our monetary system."

I have pointed out before that the multiplicity of designs on United States coins resulting from the coinage of commemorative coins tends to create confusion, to increase the possibility of counterfeiting, to encourage traffic in commemorative coins for private profit, and, in general, to detract from the fundamental purpose for which money is issued, namely, to provide a medium of exchange.

I take this opportunity to call attention again to my request of February 26, 1947, for the enactment of commemorative medal legislation. Such legislation was reported by the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency on March 10, 1947, and is still pending in the Senate. It is my hope that the Congress will enact such legislation at its next session in order to prevent abuses to, and to preserve the integrity of, the coinage system of the United States.

I regret the necessity of withholding my approval of H.R. 1180, and I take this action only because of the compelling reasons indicated above.


Harry S Truman, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Authorizing Commemorative Coins. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232133

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