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Letter II: To Mr. Harding the Printer


NOTE.


Towards the beginning of the August of 1724, the Committee of Inquiry had finished their report on Wood's patent. Somehow, an advance notice of the contents of the report found its way, probably directed by Walpole himself, into the pages of a London journal, from whence it was reprinted in Dublin, in Harding's Newspaper on the 1st of August. The notice stated that the Committee had recommended a reduction in the amount of coin Wood was to issue to 40,000. It informed the public that the report notified that Wood was willing to take goods in exchange for his coins, if enough silver were not to be had, and he agreed to restrict the amount of each payment to 5-1/2d. But a pretty broad hint was given that a refusal to accept the compromise offered might possibly provoke the higher powers to an assertion of the prerogative.

Walpole also had already endeavoured to calm the situation by consenting to a minute examination of the coins themselves at the London Mint. The Lords Commissioners had instructed Sir Isaac Newton, the Master of the Mint, Edward Southwell, and Thomas Scroope, to make an assay of Wood's money. The report of the assayists was issued on April 27th, 1724;[1] and certified that the coins submitted had been tested and found to be correct both as to weight and quality. In addition to this evidence of good faith, Walpole had nominated Carteret in place of the Duke of Grafton to the Lord-Lieutenancy. Carteret was a favourite with the best men in Ireland, and a man of culture as well as ability. It was hoped that his influence would smooth down the members of the opposition by an acceptance of the altered measure. He was in the way in London, and he might be of great service in Dublin; so to Dublin he went.

[Footnote 1: A full reprint of this report is given in Appendix II.]

But Walpole had not reckoned with the Drapier. In the paragraph in Harding's sheet, Swift saw a diplomatist's move to win the game by diplomatic methods. Compromise was the one result Swift was determined to render impossible; and the Drapier's second letter, "To Mr. Harding the Printer," renews the conflict with yet stronger passion and with even more satirical force. It is evident Swift was bent now on raising a deeper question than merely this of the acceptance or refusal of Wood's halfpence and farthings. There was a principle here that had to be insisted and a right to be safeguarded. Mr. Churton Collins ably expresses Swift's attitude at this juncture when he says:[2] "Nothing can be more certain than that it was Swift's design from the very beginning to make the controversy with Wood the basis of far more extensive operations. It had furnished him with the means of waking Ireland from long lethargy into fiery life. He looked to it to furnish him with the means of elevating her from servitude to independence, from ignominy to honour. His only fear was lest the spirit which he had kindled should burn itself out or be prematurely quenched. And of this he must have felt that there was some danger, when it was announced that England had given way much more than it was expected she would give way, and much more than she had ever given way before."

[Footnote 2: "Jonathan Swift," pp. 179-180.]

This letter to Harding was but the preliminary leading up to the famous fourth letter "to the whole people of Ireland." It was also an introduction to, and preparation of the public mind for, the drastic criticism of the Privy Council's Report, the arrival of which was expected shortly.

The present text of this second letter is that given by Sir W. Scott, collated with the copies of the original edition in the possession of the late Colonel F. Grant and in the British Museum. It has also been compared with Faulkner's issue of 1725, in "Fraud Detected."

[T.S.]



LETTER II.

TO MR. HARDING THE PRINTER.


Sir, In your Newsletter of the 1st. instant there is a paragraph dated from London, July 25th. relating to Wood's halfpence; whereby it is plain what I foretold in my "Letter to the Shopkeepers, &c." that this vile fellow would never be at rest, and that the danger of our ruin approaches nearer, and therefore the kingdom requires NEW and FRESH WARNING; however I take that paragraph to be, in a great measure, an imposition upon the public, at least I hope so, because I am informed that Wood is generally his own newswriter. I cannot but observe from that paragraph that this public enemy of ours, not satisfied to ruin us with his trash, takes every occasion to treat this kingdom with the utmost contempt. He represents "several of our merchants and traders upon examination before a committee of council, agreeing that there was the utmost necessity of copper money here, before his patent, so that several gentlemen have been forced to tally with their workmen and give them bits of cards sealed and subscribed with their names." What then? If a physician prescribes to a patient a dram of physic, shall a rascal apothecary cram him with a pound, and mix it up with poison? And is not a landlord's hand and seal to his own labourers a better security for five or ten shillings, than Wood's brass seven times below the real value, can be to the kingdom, for an hundred and four thousand pounds?[3]

[Footnote 3: Thus in original edition. 108,000 is the amount generally given. See note on p. 15. [T.S.]]

But who are these merchants and traders of Ireland that make this report of "the utmost necessity we are under of copper money"? They are only a few betrayers of their country, confederates with Wood, from whom they are to purchase a great quantity of his coin, perhaps at half value, and vend it among us to the ruin of the public, and their own private advantage. Are not these excellent witnesses, upon whose integrity the fate of a kingdom must depend, who are evidences in their own cause, and sharers in this work of iniquity?

If we could have deserved the liberty of coining for ourselves, as we formerly did, and why we have not is everybody's wonder as well as mine,[4] ten thousand pounds might have been coined here in Dublin of only one-fifth below the intrinsic value, and this sum, with the stock of halfpence we then had, would have been sufficient:[5] But Wood by his emissaries, enemies to God and this kingdom, hath taken care to buy up as many of our old halfpence as he could, and from thence the present want of change arises; to remove which, by Mr. Wood's remedy, would be, to cure a scratch on the finger by cutting off the arm. But supposing there were not one farthing of change in the whole nation, I will maintain, that five and twenty thousand pounds would be a sum fully sufficient to answer all our occasions. I am no inconsiderable shopkeeper in this town, I have discoursed with several of my own and other trades, with many gentlemen both of city and country, and also with great numbers of farmers, cottagers, and labourers, who all agree that two shillings in change for every family would be more than necessary in all dealings. Now by the largest computation (even before that grievous discouragement of agriculture, which hath so much lessened our numbers [6]) the souls in this kingdom are computed to be one million and a half, which, allowing but six to a family, makes two hundred and fifty thousand families, and consequently two shillings to each family will amount only to five and twenty thousand pounds, whereas this honest liberal hardwareman Wood would impose upon us above four times that sum.

[Footnote 4: Time and again Ireland had petitioned the King of England for the establishment of a mint in Dublin. Both Houses of Parliament addressed King Charles I. in 1634, begging for a mint which should coin money in Ireland of the same standard and values as those of England, and allowing the profits to the government. Wentworth supported the address; but it was refused (Carte's "Ormond," vol. i., pp. 79-80). When Lord Cornwallis's petition for a renewal of his patent for minting coins was presented in 1700, it was referred to a committee of the Lords Justices. In their report the Lords Justices condemned the system in vogue, and urged the establishment of a mint, in which the coining of money should be in the hands of the government and in those of a subject. No notice was taken of this advice. See Lecky's "Ireland," vol. i., p. 448 (ed 1892) [T.S.]]

[Footnote 5: Boulter stated that 10,000 or 15,000 would have amply fulfilled the demand ("Letters," vol. i., pp. 4, 11). [T.S.]]

[Footnote 6: It was not alone the direct discouragement of agriculture which lessened the population. This result was also largely brought about by the anti-Catholic legislation of Queen Anne's reign, which "reduced the Roman Catholics to a state of depression," and caused thousands of them to go elsewhere for the means of living. See Crawford's "Ireland," vol. ii., pp. 264-267. [T.S.]]

Your paragraph relates further, that Sir Isaac Newton reported an assay taken at the Tower of Wood's metal, by which it appears, that Wood had in all respects performed his contract[7]. His contract! With whom? Was it with the parliament or people of Ireland? Are not they to be the purchasers? But they detest, abhor, and reject it, as corrupt, fraudulent, mingled with dirt and trash. Upon which he grows angry, goes to law, and will impose his goods upon us by force.

[Footnote 7: For the full text of Newton's report see Appendix, No. II. [T.S.]]

But your Newsletter says that an assay was made of the coin. How impudent and insupportable is this? Wood takes care to coin a dozen or two halfpence of good metal, sends them to the Tower and they are approved, and these must answer all that he hath already coined or shall coin for the future. It is true indeed, that a gentleman often sends to my shop for a pattern of stuff, I cut it fairly off, and if he likes it, he comes or sends and compares the pattern with the whole piece, and probably we come to a bargain. But if I were to buy an hundred sheep, and the grazier should bring me one single wether fat and well fleeced by way of pattern, and expect the same price round for the whole hundred, without suffering me to see them before he was paid, or giving me good security to restore my money for those that were lean or shorn or scabby, I would be none of his customer. I have heard of a man who had a mind to sell his house, and therefore carried a piece of brick in his pocket, which he shewed as a pattern to encourage purchasers: And this is directly the case in point with Mr. Wood's assay.[8]

[Footnote 8: Monck Mason remarks on this assay that "the assay-masters do not report that Mr. Wood's coinage was superior to that of former kings, but only to those specimens of such coinages as were exhibited by Mr. Wood, which, it is admitted were much worn. Whether the money coined in the preceding reign was good or bad is in fact nothing to the purpose." "'What argument,'" quotes Monck Mason from the tract issued in 1724 entitled, "A Defence of the Conduct of the People of Ireland, in their unanimous refusal of Mr. Wood's Copper Money," "'can be drawn from the badness of our former coinages but this, that because we have formerly been cheated by our coiners, we ought to suffer Mr. Wood to cheat us over again? Whereas, one reason for our so vigorously opposing Mr. Wood's coinage, is, because we have always been imposed upon in our copper money, and we find he is treading exactly in the steps of his predecessors, and thinks he has a right to cheat us because he can shew a precedent for it.' In truth, there was a vast number of counterfeits of those coins, which had been imported, chiefly from Scotland, as appears from a proclamation prohibiting the Importation of them in 1697" ("History St. Patrick's Cathedral," p, 340, note d.) [T.S.]]

The next part of the paragraph contains Mr. Wood's voluntary proposals for "preventing any future objections or apprehensions."

His first proposal is, that "whereas he hath already coined seventeen thousand pounds, and has copper prepared to make it up forty thousand pounds, he will be content to coin no more, unless the EXIGENCES OF TRADE REQUIRE IT, though his patent empowers him to coin a far greater quantity."

To which if I were to answer it should be thus: "Let Mr. Wood and his crew of founders and tinkers coin on till there is not an old kettle left in the kingdom: let them coin old leather, tobacco-pipe clay or the dirt in the streets, and call their trumpery by what name they please from a guinea to a farthing, we are not under any concern to know how he and his tribe or accomplices think fit to employ themselves." But I hope and trust, that we are all to a man fully determined to have nothing to do with him or his ware.

The King has given him a patent to coin halfpence, but hath not obliged us to take them, and I have already shewn in my "Letter to the Shopkeepers, &c." that the law hath not left it in the power of the prerogative to compel the subject to take any money, beside gold and silver of the right sterling and standard.

Wood further proposes, (if I understand him right, for his expressions are dubious) that "he will not coin above forty thousand pounds, unless the exigences of trade require it." First, I observe that this sum of forty thousand pounds is almost double to what I proved to be sufficient for the whole kingdom, although we had not one of our old halfpence left. Again I ask, who is to be judge when the exigences of trade require it? Without doubt he means himself, for as to us of this poor kingdom, who must be utterly ruined if his project should succeed, we were never once consulted till the matter was over, and he will judge of our exigences by his own; neither will these be ever at an end till he and his accomplices will think they have enough: And it now appears that he will not be content with all our gold and silver, but intends to buy up our goods and manufactures with the same coin.

I shall not enter into examination of the prices for which he now proposes to sell his halfpence, or what he calls his copper, by the pound; I have said enough of it in my former letter, and it hath likewise been considered by others. It is certain that by his own first computation, we were to pay three shillings for what was intrinsically worth but one,[9] although it had been of the true weight and standard for which he pretended to have contracted; but there is so great a difference both in weight and badness in several of his coins that some of them have been nine in ten below the intrinsic value, and most of them six or seven.[10]

[Footnote 9: The report of the Committee of the Privy Council which sat on Wood's coinage, stated that copper ready for minting cost eighteen pence per pound before it was brought into the Mint at the Tower of London. See the Report prefixed to Letter III. and Appendix II., in which it is also stated that Wood's copper was worth thirteen pence per pound. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 10: Newton's assay report says that Wood's pieces were of unequal weight. [T.S.]]

His last proposal being of a peculiar strain and nature, deserves to be very particularly considered, both on account of the matter and the style. It is as follows.

"Lastly, in consideration of the direful apprehensions which prevail in Ireland, that Mr. Wood will by such coinage drain them of their gold and silver, he proposes to take their manufactures in exchange, and that no person be obliged to receive more than fivepence halfpenny at one payment."

First, Observe this little impudent hardwareman turning into ridicule "the direful apprehensions of a whole kingdom," priding himself as the cause of them, and daring to prescribe what no King of England ever attempted, how far a whole nation shall be obliged to take his brass coin. And he has reason to insult; for sure there was never an example in history, of a great kingdom kept in awe for above a year in daily dread of utter destruction, not by a powerful invader at the head of twenty thousand men, not by a plague or a famine, not by a tyrannical prince (for we never had one more gracious) or a corrupt administration, but by one single, diminutive, insignificant, mechanic.

But to go on. To remove our "direful apprehensions that he will drain us of our gold and silver by his coinage:" This little arbitrary mock-monarch most graciously offers to "take our manufactures in exchange." Are our Irish understandings indeed so low in his opinion? Is not this the very misery we complain of? That his cursed project will put us under the necessity of selling our goods for what is equal to nothing. How would such a proposal sound from France or Spain or any other country we deal with, if they should offer to deal with us only upon this condition, that we should take their money at ten times higher than the intrinsic value? Does Mr. Wood think, for instance, that we will sell him a stone of wool for a parcel of his counters not worth sixpence, when we can send it to England and receive as many shillings in gold and silver? Surely there was never heard such a compound of impudence, villainy and folly.

His proposals conclude with perfect high treason. He promises, that no person shall be obliged to receive more than fivepence halfpenny of his coin in one payment: By which it is plain, that he pretends to oblige every subject in this kingdom to take so much in every payment, if it be offered; whereas his patent obliges no man, nor can the prerogative by law claim such a power, as I have often observed; so that here Mr. Wood takes upon him the entire legislature, and an absolute dominion over the properties of the whole nation.

Good God! Who are this wretch's advisers? Who are his supporters, abettors, encouragers, or sharers? Mr. Wood will oblige me to take fivepence halfpenny of his brass in every payment! And I will shoot Mr. Wood and his deputies through the head, like highwaymen or housebreakers, if they dare to force one farthing of their coin upon me in the payment of an hundred pounds. It is no loss of honour to submit to the lion, but who, with the figure of a man, can think with patience of being devoured alive by a rat. He has laid a tax upon the people of Ireland of seventeen shillings at least in the pound; a tax I say, not only upon lands, but interest-money, goods, manufactures, the hire of handicraftsmen, labourers, and servants. Shopkeepers look to yourselves. Wood will oblige and force you to take fivepence halfpenny of his trash in every payment, and many of you receive twenty, thirty, forty payments in a day, or else you can hardly find bread: And pray consider how much that will amount to in a year: Twenty times fivepence halfpenny is nine shillings and twopence, which is above an hundred and sixty pounds a year, whereof you will be losers of at least one hundred and forty pounds by taking your payments in his money. If any of you be content to deal with Mr. Wood on such conditions they may. But for my own particular, "let his money perish with him." If the famous Mr. Hampden rather chose to go to prison, than pay a few shillings to King Charles 1st. without authority of Parliament, I will rather choose to be hanged than have all my substance taxed at seventeen shillings in the pound, at the arbitrary will and pleasure of the venerable Mr. Wood.

The paragraph concludes thus. "N.B." (that is to say nota bene, or mark well), "No evidence appeared from Ireland, or elsewhere, to prove the mischiefs complained of, or any abuses whatsoever committed in the execution of the said grant."

The impudence of this remark exceeds all that went before. First; the House of Commons in Ireland, which represents the whole people of the kingdom; and secondly the Privy-council, addressed His Majesty against these halfpence. What could be done more to express the universal sense and opinion of the nation? If his copper were diamonds, and the kingdom were entirely against it, would not that be sufficient to reject it? Must a committee of the House of Commons, and our whole Privy-council go over to argue pro and con with Mr. Wood? To what end did the King give his patent for coining of halfpence in Ireland? Was it not, because it was represented to his sacred Majesty, that such a coinage would be of advantage to the good of this kingdom, and of all his subjects here? It is to the patentee's peril if his representation be false, and the execution of his patent be fraudulent and corrupt. Is he so wicked and foolish to think that his patent was given him to ruin a million and a half of people, that he might be a gainer of three or four score thousand pounds to himself? Before he was at the charge of passing a patent, much more of raking up so much filthy dross, and stamping it with His Majesty's "image and superscription," should he not first in common sense, in common equity, and common manners, have consulted the principal party concerned; that is to say, the people of the kingdom, the House of Lords or Commons, or the Privy-council? If any foreigner should ask us, "whose image and superscription" there is in Wood's coin, we should be ashamed to tell him, it was Caesar's. In that great want of copper halfpence, which he alleges we were, our city set up our Caesar's statue[11] in excellent copper, at an expense that is equal in value to thirty thousand pounds of his coin: And we will not receive his image in worse metal.

[Footnote 11: An equestrian statue of George I. at Essex Bridge, Dublin, [F.]]

I observe many of our people putting a melancholy case on this subject. "It is true" say they, "we are all undone if Wood's halfpence must pass; but what shall we do, if His Majesty puts out a proclamation commanding us to take them?" This hath been often dinned in my ears. But I desire my countrymen to be assured that there is nothing in it. The King never issues out a proclamation but to enjoin what the law permits him. He will not issue out a proclamation against law, or if such a thing should happen by a mistake, we are no more obliged to obey it than to run our heads into the fire. Besides, His Majesty will never command us by a proclamation, what he does not offer to command us in the patent itself. There he leaves it to our discretion, so that our destruction must be entirely owing to ourselves. Therefore let no man be afraid of a proclamation, which will never be granted; and if it should, yet upon this occasion, will be of no force. The King's revenues here are near four hundred thousand pounds a year, can you think his ministers will advise him to take them in Wood's brass, which will reduce the value to fifty thousand pounds. England gets a million sterl. by this nation, which, if this project goes on, will be almost reduced to nothing: And do you think those who live in England upon Irish estates will be content to take an eighth or a tenth part, by being paid in Wood's dross?

If Wood and his confederates were not convinced of our stupidity, they never would have attempted so audacious an enterprise. He now sees a spirit hath been raised against him, and he only watches till it begins to flag, he goes about "watching" when to "devour us." He hopes we shall be weary of contending with him, and at last out of ignorance, or fear, or of being perfectly tired with opposition, we shall be forced to yield. And therefore I confess it is my chief endeavour to keep up your spirits and resentments. If I tell you there is a precipice under you, and that if you go forwards you will certainly break your necks. If I point to it before your eyes, must I be at the trouble of repeating it every morning? Are our people's "hearts waxed gross"? Are "their ears dull of hearing," and have "they closed their eyes"? I fear there are some few vipers among us, who, for ten or twenty pounds gain, would sell their souls and their country, though at last it would end in their own ruin as well as ours. Be not like "the deaf adder, who refuses to hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely."

Though my letter be directed to you, Mr. Harding, yet I intend it for all my countrymen. I have no interest in this affair but what is common to the public. I can live better than many others, I have some gold and silver by me, and a shop well furnished, and shall be able to make a shift when many of my betters are starving. But I am grieved to see the coldness and indifference of many people, with whom I discourse. Some are afraid of a proclamation, others shrug up their shoulders, and cry, "What would you have us do?" Some give out, there is no danger at all. Others are comforted that it will be a common calamity and they shall fare no worse than their neighbours. Will a man, who hears midnight robbers at his door, get out of bed, and raise his family for a common defence, and shall a whole kingdom lie in a lethargy, while Mr. Wood comes at the head of his confederates to rob them of all they have, to ruin us and our posterity for ever? If an highwayman meets you on the road, you give him your money to save your life, but, God be thanked, Mr. Wood cannot touch a hair of your heads. You have all the laws of God and man on your side. When he or his accomplices offer you his dross it is but saying no, and you are safe. If a madman should come to my shop with an handful of dirt raked out of the kennel, and offer it in payment for ten yards of stuff, I would pity or laugh at him, or, if his behaviour deserved it, kick him out of my doors. And if Mr. Wood comes to demand any gold and silver, or commodities for which I have paid my gold and silver, in exchange for his trash, can he deserve or expect better treatment?

When the evil day is come (if it must come) let us mark and observe those who presume to offer these halfpence in payment. Let their names, and trades, and places of abode be made public, that every one may be

aware of them, as betrayers of their country, and confederates with Mr. Wood. Let them be watched at markets and fairs, and let the first honest discoverer give the word about, that Wood's halfpence have been offered, and caution the poor innocent people not to receive them.

Perhaps I have been too tedious; but there would never be an end, if I attempted to say all that this melancholy subject will bear. I will conclude with humbly offering one proposal, which, if it were put in practice, would blow up this destructive project at once. Let some skilful judicious pen draw up an advertisement to the following purpose.

That "Whereas one William Wood hardware-man, now or lately sojourning in the city of London, hath, by many misrepresentations, procured a patent for coining an hundred and forty thousand pounds[12] in copper halfpence for this kingdom, which is a sum five times greater than our occasions require. And whereas it is notorious that the said Wood hath coined his halfpence of such base metal and false weight, that they are, at least, six parts in seven below the real value. And whereas we have reason to apprehend, that the said Wood may, at any time hereafter, clandestinely coin as many more halfpence as he pleases. And whereas the said patent neither doth nor can oblige His Majesty's subjects to receive the said halfpence in any payment, but leaves it to their voluntary choice, because, by law the subject cannot be obliged to take any money except gold or silver. And whereas, contrary to the letter and meaning of the said patent, the said Wood hath declared that every person shall be obliged to take fivepence halfpenny of his coin in every payment. And whereas the House of Commons and Privy-council have severally addressed his Most Sacred Majesty, representing the ill consequences which the said coinage may have upon this kingdom. And lastly whereas it is universally agreed, that the whole nation to a man (except Mr. Wood and his confederates) are in the utmost apprehensions of the ruinous consequences, that must follow from the said coinage. Therefore we whose names are underwritten, being persons of considerable estates in this kingdom, and residers therein, do unanimously resolve and declare that we will never receive, one farthing or halfpenny of the said Wood's coining, and that we will direct all our tenants to refuse the said coin from any person whatsoever; Of which that they may not be ignorant, we have sent them a copy of this advertisement, to be read to them by our stewards, receivers, &c."

[Footnote 12: In the first paragraph of this letter the sum was given as 104,000. [T.S.]]

I could wish, that a paper of this nature might be drawn up, and signed by two or three hundred principal gentlemen of this kingdom, and printed copies thereof sent to their several tenants; I am deceived, if anything could sooner defeat this execrable design of Wood and his accomplices. This would immediately give the alarm, and set the kingdom on their guard. This would give courage to the meanest tenant and cottager. "How long, O Lord, righteous and true."

I must tell you in particular, Mr. Harding, that you are much to blame. Several hundred persons have enquired at your house for my "Letter to the Shopkeepers, &c." and you had none to sell them. Pray keep yourself provided with that letter, and with this; you have got very well by the former, but I did not then write for your sake, any more than I do now. Pray advertise both in every newspaper, and let it not be your fault or mine, if our countrymen will not take warning. I desire you likewise to sell them as cheap as you can.

I am your servant,

M.B.

Aug. 4, 1724.


The Report of the Committee of the Lords of His Majesty's most honourable Privy-Council, in relation to Mr. Wood's Halfpence and Farthings, etc.[1]

AT THE COUNCIL CHAMBER AT WHITEHALL, THE 24TH DAY OF JULY, 1724.


In obedience to your Majesty's order of reference, upon the several resolutions and addresses of both Houses of Parliament of Ireland, during their late session, the late address of your Majesty's justices, and Privy-council of that kingdom, and the petitions of the county and city of Dublin, concerning a patent granted by your Majesty to William Wood Esq; for the coining and uttering copper halfpence and farthings in the kingdom of Ireland, to such persons as would voluntarily accept the same; and upon the petition of the said William Wood, concerning the same coinage, the Lords of the Committee have taken into their consideration the said patent, addresses, petitions, and all matters and papers relating thereto, and have heard and examined all such persons, as upon due and sufficient notice, were desirous and willing to be heard upon the subject matter under their consideration, and have agreed upon the following Report, containing a true state of the whole matter, as it appeared before them, with their humble opinion, to be laid before your Majesty for your royal consideration and determination, upon a matter of such importance.

[Footnote 1: For the story of the origin of this report see the Note prefixed to Letter III. [T.S.]]

The several addresses to your Majesty from your subjects of Ireland, contain in general terms the strongest representations of the great apprehensions they were under, from the importing and uttering copper halfpence and farthings in Ireland, by virtue of the patent granted to Mr. Wood, which they conceived would prove highly prejudicial to your Majesty's revenue, destructive of the trade and commerce of the kingdom, and of dangerous consequence to the properties of the subject. They represent, That the patent had been obtained in a clandestine and unprecedented manner, and by notorious misrepresentations of the state of Ireland; That if the terms of the patent had been complied with, this coinage would have been of infinite loss to the kingdom, but that the patentee, under colour of the powers granted to him, had imported and endeavoured to utter great quantities of different impressions, and of less weight, than required by the patent, and had been guilty of notorious frauds and deceit in coining the said copper money: And they humbly beseech your Majesty, that you would give such directions, as in your great wisdom you should think proper, to prevent the fatal effects of uttering any half pence or farthings by virtue of the said patent: And the House of Commons of Ireland, in a second address upon this subject, pray, That your Majesty would be pleased to give directions to the several officers intrusted in the receipt of your Majesty's revenue, That they do not on any pretence whatever, receive or utter any of the said copper halfpence or farthings.

In answer to the addresses of the Houses of Parliament of Ireland, your Majesty was most graciously pleased to assure them, "That if any abuses had been committed by the patentee, you would give the necessary orders for enquiring into and punishing those abuses; and that your Majesty would do everything, that was in your power, for the satisfaction of your people."

In pursuance of this your Majesty's most gracious declaration, your Majesty was pleased to take this matter into you royal consideration; and that you might be the better enabled effectually to answer the expectations of your people of Ireland, your Majesty was pleased by a letter from Lord Carteret, one of your principal secretaries of state, dated March 10, 1723-4, to signify your pleasure to your Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, "That he should give directions for sending over such papers and witnesses as should be thought proper to support the objections made against the patent, and against the patentee, in the execution of the powers given him by the patent."

Upon the receipt of these your Majesty's orders, the Lord Lieutenant, by his letter of the 20th of March, 1723-4, represented the great difficulty he found himself under, to comply with these your Majesty's orders; and by another letter of the 24th of March 1723-4, "after consulting the principal members of both Houses, who were immediately in your Majesty's service, and of the Privy Council," acquainted your Majesty, "That none of them would take upon them to advise, how any material persons or papers might be sent over on this occasion; but they all seemed apprehensive of the ill temper any miscarriage, in a trial, upon scire facias brought against the patentee, might occasion in both Houses, if the evidence were not laid as full before a jury, as it was before them," and did therefore, a second time, decline sending over any persons, papers or materials whatsoever, to support this charge brought against your Majesty's patent and the patentee.

As this proceeding seemed very extraordinary, that in a matter that had raised so great and universal a clamour in Ireland, no one person could be prevailed upon to come over from Ireland, in support of the united sense of both Houses of Parliament of Ireland; That no papers, no materials, no evidence whatsoever of the mischiefs arising from this patent, or of the notorious frauds and deceit committed in the execution of it, could now be had, to give your Majesty satisfaction herein; "your Majesty however, desirous to give your people of Ireland all possible satisfaction, but sensible that you cannot in any case proceed against any of the meanest of your subjects, but according to the known rules and maxims of law and justice," repeated your orders to your Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, that by persuasion, and making proper allowances for their expenses, new endeavours might be used to procure and send over such witnesses as should be thought material to make good the charge against the patent.

In answer to these orders, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland acquaints your Majesty, by his letter of the 23d of April to one of your principal secretaries of state, "That in order to obey your Majesty's commands as far as possibly he could, at a meeting with my Lord Chancellor, the Chief Judges, your Majesty's Attorney and Solicitor-General, he had earnestly desired their advice and assistance, to enable him to send over such witnesses as might be necessary to support the charge against Mr. Wood's patent, and the execution of it. The result of this meeting was such, that the Lord Lieutenant could not reap the least advantage or assistance from it, every one being so guarded with caution, against giving any advice or opinion in this matter of state, apprehending great danger to themselves from meddling in it."

The Lords of the Committee think it very strange, that there should be such great difficulty in prevailing with persons, who had already given their evidence before the Parliament of Ireland, to come over and give the same evidence here, and especially, that the chief difficulty should arise, from a general apprehension of a miscarriage, in an enquiry before your Majesty, or in a proceeding by due course of law, in a case, where both Houses of Parliament had declared themselves so fully convinced, and satisfied upon evidence, and examinations taken in the most solemn manner.

At the same time that your Majesty sent your orders to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, to send over such evidences as were thought material to support the charge against the patent, that your Majesty might, without any further loss of time than was absolutely necessary, be as fully informed as was possible, and that the abuses and frauds alleged to be committed by the patentee, in executing the powers granted to him, might be fully and strictly enquired into, and examined, your Majesty was pleased to order that an assay should be made of the fineness, value, and weight of this copper money, and the goodness thereof, compared with the former coinages of copper money for Ireland, and the copper money coined in your Majesty's Mint in England; and it was accordingly referred to Sir Isaac Newton, Edward Southwell, and Thomas Scroope, Esqs. to make the said assay and trial.

By the reports made of this assay, which are hereunto annexed, it appears,[2] "That the pix of the copper moneys coined at Bristol by Mr. Wood for Ireland, containing the trial pieces, which was sealed and locked up at the time of coining, was opened at your Majesty's mint at the Tower; that the comptroller's account of the quantities of halfpence and farthings coined, agreed with Mr. Wood's account, amounting to 59 tons, 3 hundred, 1 quarter, 11 pounds, and 4 ounces; That by the specimens of this coinage, which had from time to time been taken from the several parcels coined, and sealed up in papers, and put into the pix, 60 halfpence weighed 14 ounces troy, and 18 penny-weight, which is about a quarter of an ounce above one pound weight avoirdupois; and 30 farthings weighed 3 ounces and 3 quarters of an ounce troy, and 46 grams, which is also above the weight required by the patent. It also appears, that both halfpence and farthings when heated red-hot spread thin under the hammer without cracking; that the copper of which Mr. Wood's coinage is made, is of the same goodness and value with the copper of which the copper money is coined in your Majesty's mint for England, and worth in the market about 13 pence per pound weight avoirdupois; That a pound of copper wrought into bars of fillets, and made fit for coinage, before brought into the mint at the Tower of London, is worth 18 pence per pound, and always cost as much, and is coined into 23 pence of copper money by tale, for England; It likewise appears, that the halfpence and farthings coined by Mr. Wood, when compared with the copper money coined for Ireland, in the reigns of King Charles II. King James II. and King William and Queen Mary, considerably exceeds them all in weight, very far exceeds them all in goodness, fineness, and value of the copper, none of them bearing the fire so well, not being malleable, wasting very much in the fire, and great part of them burning into a cinder of little or no value at all; Specimens of all which, as likewise of Mr. Wood's copper money, upon trials and assays made by Sir Isaac Newton, Mr. Southwell, and Mr. Scroope, were laid before this Committee for their information."

[Footnote 2: See Appendix, No. II. [T.S.]]

The Lords of the Committee beg leave upon this article of the complaint, "That notorious frauds and deceits had been committed by the patentee, in executing the powers granted him," to observe to your Majesty, That this is a fact expressly charged upon the patentee, and if it had in any manner been proved, it might have enabled your Majesty, by due course of law, to have given the satisfaction to your people of Ireland, that has been so much insisted upon; but as it is now above four months since your Majesty was pleased to send over to Ireland for such evidence, as might prove a fact alleged to be so notorious, and no evidence at all has been as yet transmitted, nor the least expectation given of any that may hereafter be obtained, and the trials and assays that have been taken of the halfpence, and farthings coined by Mr. Wood proving so unquestionably the weight, goodness and fineness of the copper money coined, rather exceeding the conditions of the patent, than being any way defective, the Lords of the Committee cannot advise your Majesty, by a writ of scire facias, or any other manner to endeavour vacating the said patent, when there is no probability of success in such an undertaking.

As these trials and assays fully shew that the patentee hath acted fairly according to the terms and conditions of his patent, so they evidently prove, that the care and caution made use of in this patent, by proper conditions, checks, and comptrols have effectually provided, that the copper money coined for Ireland by virtue of this patent, should far exceed the like coinages for Ireland, in the reigns of your Majesty's royal predecessors.

And that your Majesty's royal predecessors have exercised this undoubted prerogative of granting to private persons the power and privilege of coining copper halfpence and farthings for the kingdom of Ireland, was proved to this Committee by several precedents of such patents granted to private persons by King Charles II. and King James II. none of which were equally beneficial to your kingdom of Ireland, nor so well guarded with proper covenants and conditions for the due execution of the powers thereby granted, although the power and validity of those patents, and a due compliance with them, was never in any one instance, till this time, disputed or controverted.

By these former patents, the sole power of coining copper money for Ireland, was granted to the patentees for the term of 21 years, to be coined in such place as they should think convenient, and "such quantities as they could conveniently issue within the term of 21 years," without any restriction of the quantity to be coined within the whole term, or any provision of a certain quantity, only to be coined annually to prevent the ill consequences of too great a quantity to be poured in at once, at the will and pleasure of the patentees; no provision was made for the goodness and fineness of the copper, no comptroller appointed to inspect the copper in bars and fillets, before coined, and take constant assays of the money when coined, and the power of issuing not limited "to such as would voluntarily accept the same"; but by the patent granted to John Knox, the money coined by virtue of the patent, "is made and declared to be the current coin of the kingdom of Ireland," and a pound weight of copper was allowed to be coined into 2 shillings and 8 pence, and whatever quantity should be coined, a rent of 16l per annum only was reserved to the crown, and 700 tons of copper were computed to be coined within the 21 years, without any complaint.

The term granted to Mr. Wood for coining copper money is for 14 years only, the quantity for the whole term limited to 360 tons, 100 ton only to be issued within one year, and 20 tons each year for the 13 remaining years; a comptroller is appointed by the authority of the crown to inspect, comptrol, and assay the copper, as well not coined as coined; the copper to be fine British copper, cast into bars or fillets, which when heated red hot would spread thin under the hammer; a pound weight of copper to be coined into 2 shillings and sixpence, and without any compulsion on currency enforced, to be received by such only as would voluntarily and wilfully accept the same"; a rent of 800l per annum is reserved unto your Majesty,[3] and 200l per annum to your Majesty's clerk comptroller, to be paid annually by the patentee, for the full term of the fourteen years, which for 13 years when 20 tons of copper only are coined, is not inconsiderable; these great and essential differences in the several patents, that have been granted for coining copper money for the kingdom of Ireland, seemed sufficiently to justify the care and caution that was used in granting the letters-patent to Mr. Wood.

[Footnote 3: See the extract from the patent itself, where the amount is given differently [T.S.]]

It has been further represented to your Majesty, That these letters-patent were obtained by Mr. Wood in a clandestine and unprecedent manner, and by gross misrepresentations of the state of the kingdom of Ireland. Upon enquiring into this fact it appears, That the petition of Mr. Wood for obtaining this coinage, was presented to your Majesty at the time that several other petitions and applications were made to your Majesty, for the same purpose, by sundry persons, well acquainted and conversant with the affairs of Ireland, setting forth the great want of small money and change in all the common and lower parts of traffic, and business throughout the kingdom, and the terms of Mr. Wood's petition seeming to your Majesty most reasonable, thereupon a draught of a warrant directing a grant of such coinage to be made to Mr. Wood, was referred to your Majesty's then Attorney and Solicitor-general of England, to consider and report their opinion to your Majesty; Sir Isaac Newton, as the Committee is informed was consulted in all the steps of settling and adjusting the terms and conditions of the patent; and after mature deliberation, your Majesty's warrant was signed, directing an indenture in such manner as is practised in your Majesty's mint in the Tower of London, for the coining of gold and silver moneys, to pass the Great Seal of Great Britain, which was carried through all the usual forms and offices without haste or precipitation, That the Committee cannot discover the least pretence to say, this patent was passed or obtained in a clandestine or unprecedented manner, unless it is to be understood, that your Majesty's granting a liberty of coining copper money for Ireland, under the Great Seal of Great Britain, without referring the consideration thereof to the principal officers of Ireland, is the grievance and mischief complained of. Upon this head it must be admitted, that letters-patent under the Great Seal of Great Britain for coining copper money for Ireland, are legal and obligatory, a just and reasonable exercise of your Majesty's royal prerogative, and in no manner derogatory, or invasive, of any liberties or privileges of your subjects of Ireland. When any matter or thing is transacting that concerns or may affect your kingdom of Ireland, if your Majesty has any doubts concerning the same, or sees just cause for considering your officers of Ireland, your Majesty is frequently pleased to refer such considerations to your chief governors of Ireland, but the Lords of the Committee hope it will not be asserted, that any legal orders or resolutions of your Majesty can or ought to be called in question or invalidated, because the advice or consent of your chief governors of that kingdom was not previously had upon them: The precedents are many, wherein cases of great importance to Ireland, and that immediately affected, the interests of that kingdom, warrants, orders, and directions, by the authority of your Majesty and your royal predecessors, have been issued under the royal sign manual, without any previous reference, or advice of your officers of Ireland, which have always had their due force, and have been punctually complied with and obeyed. And as it cannot be disputed but this patent might legally and properly pass under the Great Seal of Great Britain, so their Lordships cannot find any precedents of references to the officers of Ireland, of what passed under the Great Seal of England; on the contrary, there are precedents of patents passed under the Great Seal of Ireland, where in all the previous steps the references were made to the officers of England.

By the misrepresentation of the state of Ireland, in order to obtain this patent, it is presumed, is meant, That the information given to your Majesty of the great want of small money, to make small payments, was groundless, and that there is no such want of small money: The Lords of the Committee enquired very particularly into this article, and Mr. Wood produced several witnesses, that directly asserted the great want of small money for change, and the great damage that retailers and manufactures suffered for want of such copper money. Evidence was given, That considerable manufacturers have been obliged to give tallies, or tokens in cards, to their workmen for want of small money, signed upon the back, to be afterwards exchanged for larger money: That a premium was often given to obtain small money for necessary occasions: Several letters from Ireland to correspondents in England were read, complaining of the want of copper money, and expressing the great demand there was for this money.

The great want of small money was further proved by the common use of raps, a counterfeit coin, of such base metal, that what passes for a halfpenny, is not worth half a farthing, which raps appear to have obtained a currency, out of necessity and for want of better small money to make change with, and by the best accounts, the Lords of the Committee have reason to believe, That there can be no doubt, that there is a real want of small money in Ireland, which seems to be so far admitted on all hands, that there does not appear to have been any misrepresentation of the state of Ireland in this respect.

In the second address from the House of Commons to your Majesty, They most humbly beseech your Majesty, that you will be graciously pleased to give directions to the several officers intrusted with the receipt of your Majesty's revenue, that they do not, on any pretence whatsoever, receive or utter such halfpence or farthings, and Mr. Wood, in his petition to your Majesty, complains, that the officers of your Majesty's revenue had already given such orders to all the inferior officers not to receive any of this coin.

Your Majesty, by your patent under the Great Seal of Great Britain, wills, requires and commands your "lieutenant, deputy, or other chief governor or governors of your kingdom of Ireland, and all other officers and ministers of your Majesty, your heirs and successors in England, Ireland or elsewhere, to be aiding and assisting to the said William Wood, his executors, &c. in the execution of all or any the powers, authorities, directions, matters or things to be executed by him or them, or for his or their benefit and advantage, by virtue, and in pursuance of the said indentures, in all things as becometh, &c." And if the officers of the revenue have, upon their own authority, given any orders, directions, significations, or intimations, to hinder or obstruct the receiving and uttering the copper money coined and imported, pursuant to your Majesty's letters-patent, this cannot but be looked upon as a very extraordinary proceeding.

In another paragraph of the patent your Majesty has covenanted and granted unto the said William Wood, his executors, &c. "That upon performance of covenants, on his and their parts, he and they shall peaceably, and quietly, have, hold, and enjoy all the powers, authorities, privileges, licences, profits, advantages, and all other matters and things thereby granted, without any let, suit, trouble, molestation or denial of your Majesty, your heirs or successors, or of or by any of your or their officers or ministers, or any person or persons, &c." This being so expressly granted and covenanted by your Majesty, and there appearing no failure, non-performance, or breach of covenants, on the part of the patentee, the Lords of the Committee cannot advise your Majesty to give directions to the officers of the revenue, not to receive or utter any of the said copper halfpence or farthings as has been desired.

Mr. Wood having been heard by his counsel, produced his several witnesses, all the papers and precedents, which he thought material, having been read and considered, and having as he conceived, fully vindicated both the patent, and the execution thereof. For his further justification, and to clear himself from the imputation of attempting to make to himself any unreasonable profit or advantage, and to enrich himself at the expense of the kingdom of Ireland, by endeavouring to impose upon them, and utter a greater quantity of copper money, than the necessary occasions of the people shall require, and can easily take off, delivered a proposal in writing, signed by himself, which is hereunto annexed, and Mr. Wood having by the said letters-patent, "covenanted, granted, and promised to, and with your Majesty, your heirs and successors, that he shall and will from time to time in the making the said copper farthings and halfpence in England, and in transporting the same from time to time to Ireland, and in uttering, vending, disposing and dispersing the same there, and in all his doings and accounts concerning the same, submit himself to the inspection, examination, order and comptrol of your Majesty and your commissioners of the treasury or high-treasurer for the time being;" the Lords of the Committee are of opinion, that your Majesty upon this voluntary offer and proposal of Mr. Wood, may give proper orders and directions for the execution and due performance of such parts of the said proposal, as shall be judged most for the interest and accommodation of your subjects of Ireland: In the mean time, it not appearing to their Lordships that Mr. Wood has done or committed any act or deed, that may tend to invalidate, or make void his letters-patent, or to forfeit the privileges and advantages thereby granted to him by your Majesty; It is but just and reasonable, that your Majesty should immediately send orders to your commissioners of the revenue, and all other your officers in Ireland, to revoke all orders, directions, significations, or intimations whatsoever, that may have been given by them, or any of them, to hinder or obstruct the receiving and uttering this copper money, and that the halfpence and farthings already coined by Mr. Wood, amounting to about 17,000l. and such further quantity as shall make up the said 17,000l. to 40,000l. "be suffered and permitted without any let, suit, trouble, molestation, or denial of any of your Majesty's officers or ministers whatsoever, to pass, and be received as current money by such as shall be willing to receive the same." At the same time, it may be advisable for your Majesty, to give the proper orders, that Mr. Wood shall not coin, import into Ireland, utter or dispose of any more copper halfpence or farthings, than to the amount of 40,000l. according to his own proposal, without your Majesty's special licence or authority, to be had for that purpose; and if your Majesty shall be pleased to order, that Mr. Wood's proposal, delivered to the Lords of the Committee, shall be transmitted to your Majesty's chief governor, deputies, or other your ministers, or officers in Ireland, it will give them a proper opportunity to consider, Whether, after the reduction of 360 tons of copper, being in value 100,800l. to 142 tons, 17 hundred, 16 pounds being in value 40,000l. only, anything can be done for the further satisfaction of the people of Ireland.


Jonathan Swift