William Hemsley Flips On Coinage

William Hemsley Flips On Coinage

William Hemsley spent two years serving in the Continental Congress.

While in Congress, Hemsley’s most important topic of participation was during the debates on coinage.

The State of the Union

The Treaty of Peace had arrived.

The Continental Congress reviewed and accepted these terms, sending word back to Europe and beginning an adventure. The United States was now a nation and had the work of constructing a country was to begin.

Well, sort of.

See, these thirteen States did not see themselves as one independent nation. Most delegates viewed their home State as its own country. They were simply a ‘League of Friendship.’

However, a few enterprising men in Congress began to see the benefits of uniting as a single people.

One of the main reasons for this was coinage.

One of the main players in the coinage debate was William Hemsley.

Continental Congress

William Hemsley grew up on a Maryland farm and joined the planter class during his adulthood. He was related to the powerful Tilghman family.

As a wealthy aristocrat, Hemsley was expected to serve in public office and, beginning in 1779, he did so in the State Senate. Three years later, William found himself in the Continental Congress.

Soon after arriving Congress, Hemsley participated in the discussions regarding the Treaty of Peace.

Additionally, William supported a motion against reimbursing individual States for their war expenses after the fact. This would primarily be due to Maryland having very little action within its borders during the war.  

Also, it’s close proximity to the Capital made declaring expenses quickly easy. This is compared to States like Massachusetts and South Carolina which had many battles and a great distance to travel for Congressional approval.


Hemsley’s largest participation in the Continental Congress regarded coinage.

Each State had different monetary systems at the time and this made trade between them difficult. Additionally, it made trade with foreign nations (and paying back war debts) difficult.

William reached out to Gouverneur Morris regarding the best way to bring one system of weights and measures to the States. Morris’ lengthy and specific response can be read here.

Hemsley became embroiled in one of the issues which was impossible to resolve under the Articles of Confederation. Since unanimous approval was needed by all the States to bring a permanent fix to the coinage situation, the delegates began to realize the need for a stronger federal government.  This was one of the reasons given for the calling of the Constitutional Convention.

Within a year, Thomas Jefferson would return to the Continental Congress and take the lead on the coinage debate.


After two years in the Continental Congress, William Hemsley returned to Maryland.

Hemsley served in the Maryland Congress sporadically through the 1780’s but never played a large role in this body.

Hemsley’s last significant contribution to the American Revolution was as a delegate to the Constitutional Ratification Convention where, based on his coinage experience, he would vote in favor of the document.  

His signature was placed on the letter to the Continental Congress verifying ratification.

If you are interested in other Founders who spent two brief but eventful years in the Continental Congress, check out our articles on Joseph Wood and Edward Langworthy.

Since there is not much reading to recommend on William Hemsley, I am going to point you toward another player in today’s story. ‘Gentleman Revolutionary’ about Gouverneur Morris is one of my all-time favorite books by my favorite author. I strongly recommend you pick up this book through our affiliate link below (and while you’re at it, grab Richard Brookhiser’s new biography of John Marshall which he just release this week).

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Caleb Brewster Row Row Row's His Boat

Caleb Brewster Row Row Row's His Boat

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