The Under Secretary of the Treasury (Mills) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: Since 1920 it has been the policy of the Treasury Department to reject all gold known to be of Soviet origin [Page 828]when tendered at United States Mints and Assay Offices.9 No warranties of title or of non-Soviet origin arte held to be sufficient to justify the acceptance of such gold. Gold which is suspected to be of Soviet origin, or involved in transactions for Soviet account, if tendered to the United States Mints or Assay Offices will be received only subject to investigation. Gold bearing the official coinage or mint stamp of friendly governments will be considered as free from suspicion or possibility of Soviet origin.

These rules were adopted for the reason that in purchasing gold at United States Mints and Assay Offices under sections 3519 and 3545 of the Revised Statutes, the transaction is not a mere minting operation, but a purchase, and the Treasury is only authorized to accept deposits made by “owners” of gold. The Treasury is, therefore, concerned with the question of title, and in ordinary course receives an implied warranty of title from the person presenting the gold. At that time the Treasury Department inquired of the State Department whether the latter would have any objection to the purchase of Soviet gold by the Treasury and as to whether it would be prepared to give assurance that title to Soviet gold would not be subject to attack internationally if purchased by the Treasury. The State Department advised the Treasury under date of November 8, 1920,10 that it would be inadvisable in the circumstances for any branch or agency of the Government to assume the responsibility involved in the possession of gold of Soviet origin, and that it could not give assurance that the title to such gold would not be subject to attack internationally.

The situation is fully outlined in the letter of Mr. S. P. Gilbert, Jr., then Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, addressed to Mr. Dearing under date of March 25, 1921,11 and in Mr. Dearing’s reply dated April 9, 1921.12

The Treasury Department will appreciate it if the State Department will inform us whether in view of changed circumstances it still adheres to the following opinion: “The State Department cannot give any assurance that the title to Soviet gold will not be subject to attack internationally or otherwise”.

Sincerely yours,

Ogden L. Mills
  1. See letter of December 23, 1920, from the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury to the Director of the Mint, Foreign Relations, 1920, vol. iii, p. 725.
  2. Ibid., p. 722.
  3. Ibid., 1921, vol. ii, p. 764.
  4. Ibid., p. 774.