Historians are keenly aware of the importance of the war bonds and promissory notes generated by the states and the Continental Congress to finance the American Revolution. It is safe to say that of all the monetary issues in American history, the fiscal paper of the American Revolution is the most significant and widely discussed. Many of the political questions of the Revolutionary era and the critical Confederation period revolved around the problem of public finance. Both the Untied States Constitution and the first national political parties were results of the disputes engendered by these certificates of public debt.
Ironically, historians have written much about the public debt controversy, but none of the Revolutionary fiscal paper has ever before been illustrated in a scholarly work. Most historians are not aware that many of these certificates have survived.
On the other hand, numismatists have for some time avidly collected these fiscal papers. Bur their knowledge of the function and historical significance of these items has remained limited. The same is true for certificate collectors, whose numbers have grown in recent years.
William G. Anderson's work bridges the gap between the historian and the numismatist. His carefully researched account of the origins and political controversies surrounded fiscal paper and the public debt is presented in Part I. The second part, the R.M. Smythe Catalog of American Revolutionary Debt Certificates, is an illustrated and annotated listing of all certificates known to have been issued. The certificates issued by the Continental Congress precede those issued by the states. This, then, is both a study of the political economy of the Revolutionary and early national period and a valuable catalog.