It is generally believed that Congress, in imposing a prohibitive 10% tax on state banknotes in 1865, made the public better off by doing away with inferior brands of currency while simultaneously helping finance the Civil War by stimulating bond sales to national banks. In truth, the tax served neither purpose. The true purpose of the 10% tax was not to enhance bond sales or to improve the quality of the currency but to offset the inflationary effects of greenbacks and national banknotes. In the long run, the public might have been better off had state banks retained their right to issue currency. Copyright 2000 by Oxford University Press.