Sketching the Supply Side of the Story: The Circulation of Mexican Dollars in Antebellum America, 1792-1860

Manuel A. Bautista González

In a previous paper, I explored the little known, long-lasting influence of Mexican silver dollars on the American monetary supply between 1792 and 1860 following some institutional, legal and economic developments available in secondary sources. I now revisit the problem analyzing some documents I found in two Mexican archives concerning the monetary relationship between antebellum America and Mexico. This is a paper that focuses on the national and international context of the production of Mexican dollars during the nineteenth century. The evidence in the archives I visited is scarce, limited, and fragmentary. There is nevertheless merit in revising it. An official communication from an American officer found in the archives of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs sets the agenda for this paper. The questions in that letter guide what I call the “supply side” of the story. A document from the Mexican National Archive provides for the first time microeconomic evidence (on the Mexican side) for Peter Temin’s explanation of the macroeconomic woes of the United States in the late 1830s. Future work will concern the “demand side” of the story.