Today in History: April 2

April 2 is the 92nd day of the year (93rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 273 days remaining until the end of the year.
742 Born today: Charlemagne (April 2, 742–January 28, 814, age 71)

Charlemagne /ˈʃɑːrlᵻmeɪn/, also known as Charles the Great (Carolus Magnus or Karolus Magnus in Latin) or Charles I, was King of the Franks. Called the “Father of Europe” (Pater Europae), during the early Middle Ages Charlemagne united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire and laid the foundations for modern France and Germany. His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of energetic cultural and intellectual activity within the Western Church. All Holy Roman Emperors up to the last Emperor Francis II, as well as both the French and German monarchies, considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne’s empire.

He took the Frankish throne in 768. In 774, he conquered the Lombard kingdom and became King of Italy. Charlemagne reached the height of his power on Christmas Day in 800 when he was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III. He was the first Holy Roman Emperor — the first recognized emperor in Western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. While Charlemagne already ruled his kingdom without the help of the Pope, recognition granted him divine legitimacy in the eyes of his contemporaries. The expanded Frankish state Charlemagne founded was called the Carolingian Empire.

One of Charlemagne’s successes is educational reform. In 789, he started establishing schools teaching mathematics, grammar, music, and religion. Every monastery and abbey was expected to have a school for the education of the boys of the surrounding villages. He wished to replace the ignorance of the population in his realm with the ability to become more prosperous. The tradition of learning he initiated led to the expansion of medieval scholarship in the 12th-century Renaissance.

1792 The Coinage Act was passed by the United States Congress, establishing the United States Mint and regulating the coinage of the United States.

The Coinage Act of 1792 established the silver dollar as the unit of money in the United States, declared it to be lawful tender, and created a decimal system for U.S. currency. The long title of the legislation is An Act establishing a mint, and regulating the Coins of the United States.

The Act authorized production of the following coins:

Eagles $10 247 4/8 grain (16.0 g) pure or 270 grain (17.5 g) standard gold
Half Eagles $5 123 6/8 grain (8.02 g) pure or 135 grain (8.75 g) standard gold
Quarter Eagles $2.50 61 7/8 grain (4.01 g) pure or 67 4/8 grain (4.37 g) standard gold
Dollars or Units $1 371 4/16 grain (24.1 g) pure or 416 grain (27.0 g) standard silver
Half Dollars $0.50 185 10/16 grain (12.0 g) pure or 208 grain (13.5 g) standard silver
Quarter Dollars $0.25 92 13/16 grain (6.01 g) pure or 104 grains (6.74 g) standard silver
Disme $0.10 37 2/16 grain (2.41 g) pure or 41 3/5 grain (2.70 g) standard silver
Half Disme $0.05 18 9/16 grain (1.20 g) pure or 20 4/5 grain (1.35 g) standard silver
Cents $0.01 11 pennyweights (17.1 g) of copper
Half Cents $0.005 5 1/2 pennyweights (8.55 g) of copper

The coins were required to contain the following markings:

  • One side was to have an impression emblematic of liberty, with the inscription “Liberty”, and the year of the coinage.
  • The reverse side of each of the gold and silver coins was to have the figure or representation of an eagle with the inscription “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.
  • The reverse of the copper coins was to have an inscription expressing the denomination.

The Act defined the proportional value of gold and silver as 15 units of pure silver to 1 unit of pure gold. Standard gold was defined as 11 parts pure gold to one part alloy composed of silver and copper. Standard silver was defined as 1485 parts pure silver to 179 parts copper alloy. The Act also specified the dollar as the “money of account” of the United States, and directed that all accounts of the federal government be kept in dollars, “dismes”, cents, and “milles” (one-tenth of a cent or one-thousandth of a dollar). The silver content of a dollar under this act was almost exactly equal to 1/5 of the silver content of the contemporary British pound sterling, or 4 British shillings.

Most sections of the act have been superseded, as for example the Coinage Act of 1834 changing the silver-to-gold weight ratio. Various acts have subsequently been passed affecting the amount and type of metal in U. S. coins, so that today there is no legal definition of the term “dollar” to be found in U. S. statute. Current statutes regulating coinage in the United States may be found in Title 31 of the United States Code, Chapter 51 — Coins and Currency.

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