Punishment of Counterfeiting

In its affirmative aspect, this clause has been given a narrow interpretation; it has been held not to cover the circulation of counterfeit coin or the possession of equipment susceptible of use for making counterfeit coin.1474 At the same time, the Supreme Court has rebuffed attempts to read into this provision a limitation upon either the power of the States or upon the powers of Congress under the preceding clause. It has ruled that a state may punish the issuance of forged coins.1475 On the ground that the power of Congress to coin money imports “the correspondent and necessary power and obligation to protect and to preserve in its purity this constitutional currency for the benefit of the nation,”1476 it has sustained federal statutes penalizing the importation or circulation of counterfeit coin,1477 or the willing and conscious possession of dies in the likeness of those used for making coins of the United States.1478 In short, the above clause is entirely superfluous. Congress would have had the power it purports to confer under the Necessary and Proper Clause; and the same is the case with the other enumerated crimes it is authorized to punish. The enumeration was unnecessary and is not exclusive.1479

Footnotes

1474
United States v. Marigold, 50 U.S. (9 How.), 560, 568 (1850). [Back to text]
1475
Fox v. Ohio, 46 U.S. (5 How.) 410 (1847). [Back to text]
1476
United States v. Marigold, 50 U.S. (9 How.) 560, 568 (1850). [Back to text]
1477
Id. [Back to text]
1478
Baender v. Barnett, 255 U.S. 224 (1921). [Back to text]
1479
Legal Tender Cases (Knox v. Lee), 79 U.S. (12 Wall.) 457, 536 (1871). [Back to text]