Pillar of the Community
I've previously posted about the proposed 1948 Wisconsin Statehood Centennial Half Dollar, but decided to return to its story to add one element that I left off the first time in the interest of post length...
I previously discussed the Wisconsin Statehood Centennial commemorative half dollar bill introduced by Frank Bateman Keefe (R-WI) in the House of Representatives and mentioned that a nearly identical bill had been introduced in the Senate at essentially the same time by Alexander Wiley (R-WI). You can read the post here: What If? 1948 Wisconsin Statehood Centennial
The House version of the bill was the one that ultimately passed Congress and was vetoed by Truman in July 1947. Senator Wiley, however, appeared to have seen "the writing on the wall" in March 1947 when he called for a bill that was designed to require commemorative medals replace commemorative coins to be passed over (i.e., not brought up for consideration/discussion) and entered into the Record a copy of the lengthy letter he sent to President Truman. I find Senator Wiley's passion for his coin bill to be admirable, and share his letter to President Truman here:Hon. HARRY S. TRUMAN,
President of the United States,
White House, Washington, D. C.
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: I have read your letter of February 26, addressed to the chairman of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee, in which you suggest the striking of commemorative medals in place of commemorative coins for certain historical events, and indicate your disapproval of the coinage proposal.
I am, of course, deeply interested in this subject, primarily because of the bill which I have introduced, S. 126, which, as amended, would authorize the Director of the Mint to strike 500,000 fifty-cent silver coins, which would be sold to the State treasurer or other duly authorized representative of the State of Wisconsin, for sale in connection with Wisconsin's celebration in 1948 of the one hundredth anniversary of her admission to the Union.
I have noted the objections raised by both Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt to the striking of commemorative coins, as well as the reasons which you personally advance. It seems to me, with all due respect, that the various reasons do not, however, justify in the present circumstances a negative stand on the part of the executive branch to these · coinage proposals. I would like to make the following points, which I earnestly submit to you, and which I hope will stimulate a more favorable view on your part and on the part of the Treasury Department to the commemorative-coin idea:
1. The minting of these coins does not cost the Federal Government one cent, since the full cost of the manufacture is borne by the appropriate historical authority, which buys them at their legal-tender value and sells them at a premium. This is in contrast to the countless proposals sponsored by the present and previous administrations, which have resulted in tremendous indebtedness to the National Government without accompanying favorable effects on the States. It seems to me that it ill behooves an administration which has caused vast indebtedness in wasteful activities to reject a proposal which will not cost the American taxpayers a penny, but will instead serve to create values to encourage trade and commerce.
2. The commemorative coin in the case of the celebration of a State's centennial could b real boon to the State governments, particularly in these days of centralization in Washington when States' prestige has been lowered by constant Federal intervention. ln the case of S. 126, a State of some 3,125,000 persons would be enabled to finance its centennial celebration principally through this coinage device. There would result new prestige and respect on the part of Badger citizens, who are already devoted to our State government, but who would have even greater appreciation of their State's history, progress, and future.
3. The claim that the coinage of commemorative coins results in counterfeiting of them seems to be a shallow excuse for poor enforcement activities of Government anticounterfeiting agents. I well recognize that a wide variety of designs might contribute in a small way to counterfeiting. Nevertheless, it seems to me that if enforcement authorities are on their toes, and if penalties for counterfeiting are sufficiently stringent and are so enforced, the counterfeiting possibility need not be a real obstacle to minting of these commemorative coins.
4. The alternative proposal of commemorative medals is. grossly inadequate to the purpose of financing such a celebration as Wisconsin contemplates,in view of the facts, among others, that the medals have no legal tender value, that the number of collectors of same is relatively limited in comparison to the number of coin collectors, and that a serious burden would fall on the State if a residue of medals were left unsold, in view of the fact that they have no legal-tender value.
5. I well recognize that a line must be drawn in order to prevent the unlimited striking of these commemorative coins. I see no reason why the Congress cannot establish effective standards which would bar minting of these coins for trivial purposes. It seems to me that the Congress of the United States has enough discrimination and judgment to establish such standards. Certainly, within those standards should be provision for coins to mark anniversaries of
States' admission into the Union or as Territorial governments. Is it too much to ask that once or twice in 100 years a State government, such as Wisconsin, be aided by the Federal Government in this small manner without resulting cost to the taxpayer, but with great prestige resulting to the State government in its work?
I have written primarily in terms of Wisconsin's need for the commemorative coin, and in so doing, I sincerely feel that I am speaking for the citizens of Wisconsin and for their elected officials who have, in communications to me, unanimously endorsed my bill. I am definitely not asking any special favors for Wisconsin; that has never been the policy of our State, nor its people, nor of myself. All I am asking is that Wisconsin share in being allowed to buy these
coins for sale to its citizens and friends as any other State, celebrating a similar anniversary, should be so entitled.
Admittedly, we are establishing a precedent here and, if this measure goes through, we are breaking with the tradition set up by Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt. But in so doing, we shall be acting upon what I believe is "evidence so conclusive and argument so clear," to use Lincoln's words, that we are justified in breaking with the past.
In the light of these facts, may I earnestly recommend to you that you reconsider your suggestion. Or, if you do not believe the facts warrant such reconsideration, may I recommend that, if the Congress passes the bill, in spite of your objection, that you do not exercise your power of veto in connection with it.
With assurances of high esteem and personal admiration, I am,
Wiley succeeded only with getting the Senate to pass over the medals-to-replace-coins bill as a result of his objection to it; the Senate went on to other matters.
Technically, Truman did not veto Wiley's bill, but his letter to the President was not the reason. As I discussed in the previous thread, the House version of the Wisconsin Statehood bill was the one that proceeded in Congress and was the one presented to Truman for approval (and, ultimately, was met with his veto). In the end, Wiley's passion could not save the coin proposal, regardless of where it originated.
For other of my posts about commemorative coins and medals, including more What If? stories, check out: Commems Collection.
Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.