1837 Hard Times Tokens:
Millions for Defense, Not One Cent for Tribute

. . . Continued from Page 1

The next day a newspaper recorded the toasts that were given to John Marshall at the dinner the night before. The toast from Robert Goodloe Harper was stated as "Millions for defense, but not a cent for tribute!" It wasn’t long before people, and later historians, had taken these words and placed them in the mouth of Charles Pinckney for his reply to the French.

Barbary Pirates

Just a few years later, President Thomas Jefferson again took up the cry "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute" in regard to the Barbary States of Tripoli, Algiers, and Tunis. These Barbary “pirates” demanded tribute from the United States in order to keep them from attacking American shipping.

The capture and enslavement of the crew of the USS Philadelphia by Tripoli appalled most Americans. A newspaper known to be a strong supporter of Thomas Jefferson ran an article with the headline “Millions for Defense, but not a Cent for Tribute” thus picking up the rallying cry once again.

This Barbary hostage crisis was the equivalent in its day to the Iran hostage crisis at the end of the Carter Administration some 175 years later. The resulting military action, specifically the battle of Derne, led to the Tripoli portion of the phrase "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli" in The Marine Corps’ Hymn.

Hard Times

By 1837, there were still many Americans that remembered the cry "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute." So it is not surprising that this would end up on many Hard Times tokens.

These "hard times" came about as a result of President Andrew Jackson’s economic policies. These policies, which included the President’s stand against the Second Bank of the United States, certainly led to the Panic of 1837 and a resulting shortage of coinage due to hoarding. The production of Hard Times tokens was a direct response to help solve this nation's coin shortage during this time.


Appleby, Joyce. Thomas Jefferson. Macmillan, 2003.

Brown, Everit and Albert Strauss. A Dictionary of American Politics: Comprising Accounts of Political Parties, Measures and Men . . .etc. A.L. Burt, 1907.

Editor. “Letters to the Editor,” Time Magazine (April 12, 1937).

Keyes, Ralph. The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When. St. Martin's Griffin, 2006.

Marrota, Michael E. "Hard Times Tokens." (May 31, 1994) http://www.limunltd.com/numismatica/articles/hard-times-tokens.html (accessed June 4, 2009). Originally appeared in Topic 43 of the Well Collectibles Conference.

Meriwether, Colyer. Publications of the Southern History Association, v. 4. Southern History Association, 1900.

Rulau, Russell. Hard Times Tokens: 1832-1844, 6th Ed. Krause Publications, 1996.