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Letter III: To the Nobility and Gentry of the Kingdom of Ireland


The Drapier's second letter was dated August 4th, 1724. A few days later the English Privy Council's Report, dated 24th July, 1724, arrived in Dublin, and on August 25th, Swift had issued his reply to it in this third letter.

The Report itself, which is here prefixed to the third letter, was said to have been the work of Walpole. Undoubtedly, it contains the best arguments that could then be urged in favour of Wood and the patent, and undoubtedly, also, it would have had the desired effect had it been allowed to do its work uncriticised. But Swift's opposition was fatal to Walpole's intentions. He took the report as but another attempt to foist on the people of Ireland a decree in which they had not been consulted, and no amount of yielding, short of complete abandonment of it, would palliate the thing that was hateful in itself. He resented the insult. After specific rebuttals of the various arguments urged in the report in favour of the patent, Swift suddenly turns from the comparatively petty and insignificant consideration as to the weight and quality of the coins, and deals with the broad principle of justice which the granting of the patent had ignored. Had the English Houses of Parliament and the English Privy Council, he said, addressed the King against a similar breach of the English people's rights, his Majesty would not have waited to discuss the matter, nor would his ministers have dared to advise him as they had done in this instance. "Am I a free man in England," he exclaims, "and do I become a slave in six hours in crossing the channel?"

The report, however, is interesting inasmuch as it assists us to appreciate the pathetic condition of Irish affairs at the time. The very fact that the petition of the Irish parliament could be so handled, proves how strong had been the hold over Ireland by England, and with what daring insistence the English ministers continued to efface the last strongholds of Irish independence.

Monck Mason, in reviewing the report, has devoted a very elaborate note to its details, and has fortified his criticisms with a series of remarkable letters from the Archbishop of Dublin, which he publishes for the first time.[1] I have embodied much of this note in the annotations which accompany the present reprint of this letter.

[Footnote 1: "History of St. Patrick's Cathedral," pp. lxxxvi-xcv.]

The text of this third letter is based on Sir W. Scott's, collated with the first edition and that given by Faulkner in "Fraud Detected." It has also been read with Faulkner's text given in the fourth volume of his edition of Swift's Works, published in 1735.




Having already written two letters to people of my own level, and condition; and having now very pressing occasion for writing a third; I thought I could not more properly address it than to your lordships and worships.

The occasion is this. A printed paper was sent to me on the 18th instant, entitled, "A Report of the Committee of the Lords of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy-Council in England, relating to Mr. Wood's Halfpence and Farthings."[2] There is no mention made where the paper was printed, but I suppose it to have been in Dublin; and I have been told that the copy did not come over in the Gazette, but in the London Journal, or some other print of no authority or consequence; and for anything that legally appears to the contrary, it may be a contrivance to fright us, or a project of some printer, who hath a mind to make a penny by publishing something upon a subject, which now employs all our thoughts in this kingdom. Mr. Wood in publishing this paper would insinuate to the world, as if the Committee had a greater concern for his credit and private emolument, than for the honour of the Privy-council and both Houses of Parliament here, and for the quiet and welfare of this whole kingdom; For it seems intended as a vindication of Mr. Wood, not without several severe remarks on the Houses of Lords and Commons of Ireland.

[Footnote 2: The full text of this report is prefixed to this third letter of the Drapier. The report was published in the "London Journal" about the middle of August of 1724. Neither the "Gazette" nor any other ministerial organ printed it, which evidently gave Swift his cue to attack it in the merciless manner he did. Monck Mason thought it "not improbable that the minister [Walpole] adopted this method of communication, because it served his own purpose; he dared not to stake his credit upon such a document, which, in its published form, contains some gross mis-statements" ("History of St. Patrick's Cathedral," note, on p. 336). [T.S.]]

The whole is indeed written with the turn and air of a pamphlet, as if it were a dispute between William Wood on the one part, and the Lords Justices, Privy-council and both Houses of Parliament on the other; the design of it being to clear and vindicate the injured reputation of William Wood, and to charge the other side with casting rash and groundless aspersions upon him.

But if it be really what the title imports, Mr. Wood hath treated the Committee with great rudeness, by publishing an act of theirs in so unbecoming a manner, without their leave, and before it was communicated to the government and Privy-council of Ireland, to whom the Committee advised that it should be transmitted. But with all deference be it spoken, I do not conceive that a Report of a Committee of the Council in England is hitherto a law in either kingdom; and until any point is determined to be a law, it remains disputable by every subject.

This (may it please your lordships and worships) may seem a strange way of discoursing in an illiterate shopkeeper. I have endeavoured (although without the help of books) to improve that small portion of reason which God hath pleased to give me, and when reason plainly appears before me, I cannot turn away my head from it. Thus for instance, if any lawyer should tell me that such a point were law, from which many gross palpable absurdities must follow, I would not, I could not believe him. If Sir Edward Coke should positively assert (which he nowhere does, but the direct contrary) that a limited prince, could by his prerogative oblige his subjects to take half an ounce of lead, stamped with his image, for twenty shillings in gold, I should swear he was deceived or a deceiver, because a power like that, would leave the whole lives and fortunes of the people entirely at the mercy of the monarch: Yet this, in effect, is what Wood hath advanced in some of his papers, and what suspicious people may possibly apprehend from some passages in that which is called the "Report."

That paper mentions "such persons to have been examined, who were desirous and willing to be heard upon that subject." I am told, they were four in all, Coleby, Brown, Mr. Finley the banker, and one more whose name I know not. The first of these was tried for robbing the Treasury in Ireland, and although he was acquitted for want of legal proof, yet every person in the Court believed him to be guilty. The second was tried for a rape, and stands recorded in the votes of the House of Commons, for endeavouring by perjury and subornation, to take away the life of John Bingham, Esq.[3]

[Footnote 3: Referring to these persons who were examined by the Committee, Monck Mason quotes from two letters from Archbishop King to Edward Southwell, Esq. King was one of the council, and Southwell secretary of state at the time. The first of these letters remarks: "Could a greater contempt be put upon a nation, than to see such a little fellow as Wood favoured and supported against them, and such profligates as Brown and Coleby believed before a whole parliament, government, and private council." From the second letter, written on August 15th, 1724, Monck Mason gives the following extracts:

"--When I returned to Dublin I met with resolutions concerning our halfpence, founded chiefly on the testimony of two infamous persons, John Brown and Coleby: as to the first of these, you will find his character in the votes of the house of commons, last parliament. Tuesday, the 5th of November.

"'Resolved, that it appears to this Committee, that a wicked conspiracy was maliciously contrived and carried on against John Bingham, to take away his life and fortune.

"'Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Committee, that the said John Brown, of Rabens, Esq. and his accomplices, were the chief promoters and advisers of the said conspiracy.

"'Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Committee, that the said John Brown is a person not fit to serve his majesty, in any office or employment, civil or military, whatsoever.

"'Resolved, that the said John Brown has, in the course of his examination, grossly prevaricated with this Committee.

"'To all which resolutions, the question being severally put, the house did agree, nemine contradicente.

"'Ordered, that the said John Brown be, for his said prevarication, taken into the custody of the serjeant at arms attending this house.

"'Ordered, that his majesty's attorney-general do present the said John Brown, for conniving and maliciously carrying on the said conspiracy to take away the life of the said John Bingham, and others.'

"As to Coleby, he was turned out of the treasury for robbing it of a considerable sum of money. I was present at his trial at the King's-bench, and the evidence was such as convinced every one, in his conscience, that he was guilty; but, the proofs being presumptive, and not direct, the jury acquitted him; on which the judge (Pine, if I remember right) observed the happiness of English subjects, that, though everybody was convinced of a man's guilt, yet, if the evidence did not come up to the strict requisites of the law, he would escape" ("History of St. Patrick's Cathedral," pp. xciv-xcv.) [T.S.]]

But since I have gone so far as to mention particular persons, it may be some satisfaction to know who is this Wood himself, that has the honour to have a whole kingdom at his mercy, for almost two years together. I find he is in the patent entitled Esq; although he were understood to be only a hardware-man, and so I have been bold to call him in my former letters; however a 'squire he is, not only by virtue of his patent, but by having been a collector in Shropshire, where pretending to have been robbed, and suing the county, he was cast, and for the infamy of the fact, lost his employment.

I have heard another story of this 'Squire Wood from a very honourable lady, that one Hamilton told her. He (Hamilton) was sent for six years ago by Sir Isaac Newton to try the coinage of four men, who then solicited a patent for coining halfpence for Ireland; their names were Wood, Coster, Elliston, and Parker. Parker made the fairest offer, and Wood the worst, for his coin were three halfpence in a pound less value than the other. By which it is plain with what intentions he solicited this patent, but not so plain how he obtained it.

It is alleged in the said paper, called the "Report," that upon repeated orders from a secretary of state, for sending over such papers and witnesses, as should be thought proper to support the objections made against the patent (by both Houses of Parliament) the Lord Lieutenant represented "the great difficulty he found himself in to comply with these orders. That none of the principal members of both Houses, who were in the King's service or council, would take upon them to advise how any material person or papers might be sent over on this occasion, &c." And this is often repeated and represented as "a proceeding that seems very extraordinary, and that in a matter which had raised so great 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 in Ireland, especially that the chief difficulty should arise from a general apprehension of a miscarriage, in an enquiry before His 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."[4]

[Footnote 4: Commenting on this Monck Mason has the following note. This learned biographer's remarks are specially important inasmuch as he has fortified them with letters from Archbishop King, unpublished at the time he wrote: "But this [referring to the extract from the Report given by Swift] will not appear so strange or inexplicable after perusing the following letter from Archbishop King ... to Edward Southwell, Esq. ...; this important state paper may, therefore, be considered as an official communication of the sentiments of the Irish Privy Council upon this matter.

"Letter from William King, Archbishop of Dublin, to Edward Southwell, Esq., dated the 23d March, 1723.

"'I have not had any occasion of late to trouble you with my letters; but yesternight I came to the knowledge of an affair which gave me some uneasiness, and, I believe, will do so to the whole kingdom, when it becomes public. My lord lieutenant sent for several lords and commoners of the privy council, and communicated to them a letter from my Lord Carteret, writ by his majesty's command, in which was repeated the answer given to the addresses of the lords and commons, about one William Wood's farthings and halfpence; and his grace is required to send over witnesses and evidences against the patentee or patent: this has surprised most people, because we were borne in hand that that affair was dead, and that we should never hear any more of it.

"'His grace's design was, to be advised by what means and methods he might effectually comply with his majesty's commands; and, by what I could perceive, it was the sense of all, that it was not possible, in the present situation of affairs, to answer his majesty's expectations or those of the kingdom; and that, for these reasons:

"'1st, because this is a controversy between the parliament of Ireland and William Wood, and, the parliament being now prorogued, nobody either would, or durst, take on them to meddle in a business attacked by the parliament, or pretend to manage a cause which so deeply concerned the parliament, and the whole nation, without express orders. If this letter had come whilst the parliament was sitting, and had been communicated to the houses, they could have appointed certain persons to have acted for them, and raised a fund to support them, as has been done formerly in this kingdom on several occasions; but, for any, without such authority, to make himself a party for the legislature and people of Ireland, would be a bold undertaking, and, perhaps, dangerous; for, if such undertaker or undertakers should fail in producing all evidences that may be had, or any of the papers necessary to make the case evident, they must expect to be severely handled the next parliament for their officiousness, and bear the blame of the miscarriage of the cause: for these reasons, as it seemed to me, the privy councillors were unwilling to engage at all in the business, or to meddle with it.

"'But, 2dly, the thing seemed impracticable; because it would signify nothing to send over the copies of the papers that were laid before the parliament, if the design is, as it seems to be, to bring the patent to a legal trial; for such copies we were told by lawyers, could not be produced in any court as evidence; and, as to the originals, they are in the possession of the houses, and (as was conceived) could not be taken from the proper officers with whom they were trusted, but by the like order.

"'And, as to the witnesses, it was a query whether my lord lieutenant by his own power could send them; and, if he have such power, yet it will not be possible to come at the witnesses, for several in each house vouched several facts on their own knowledge, to whom the houses gave credit; my lord lieutenant can neither be apprised of the persons nor of the particulars which the members testified; whereas, if the parliament was sitting, those members would appear, and make good their assertions.

"'There were several sorts of farthings and halfpence produced to the houses, differing in weight, and there was likewise a difference in the stamp. These were sent over by William Wood to his correspondents here, and by them produced. But can it be proved, on a legal trial, that these particular halfpence were coined by him? It is easy for him to say, that they are counterfeited, as (if I remember right) he has already affirmed in the public prints, in his answer to the address of the commons.

"'But, 3dly, it was not on the illegality of the patent, nor chiefly on the abuse of it the patentee (which was not so much as mentioned by the lords), that the parliament insisted, but on the unavoidable mischief and destruction it would bring on the kingdom, and on its being obtained by most false and notorious misinformation of his majesty; it being suggested, as appears by the preamble, that the kingdom wanted such halfpence and farthings: now, if the king be misinformed, the lawyers tell us, that the grant is void. And, that his majesty was deceived in this grant by a false representation, it was said, needed no further proof than the patent itself.--William Wood by it was empowered to coin 360 tons of copper into halfpence and farthings, which would have made £90,000, about the fifth part of all the current cash of Ireland; for that is not reckoned, by those who suppose it most, to be £500,000. Now, the current cash of England is reckoned above twenty millions; in proportion, therefore, if Ireland wants £90,000 England will want four millions. It is easy to imagine what would be said to a man that would propose to his majesty such a coinage; and it is agreed, that the people of England would not be more alarmed by such a patent, than the people of Ireland are, by the prospect of turning the fifth part of their current coin into brass.

"'This, so far as I can remember, is a brief of what passed in the meeting before my lord lieutenant'" ("History of St. Patrick's Cathedral," pp. lxxxvii-lxxxviii). [T.S.]]

How shall I, a poor ignorant shopkeeper, utterly unskilled in law, be able to answer so weighty an objection. I will try what can be done by plain reason, unassisted by art, cunning or eloquence.

In my humble opinion, the committee of council, hath already prejudged the whole case, by calling the united sense of both Houses of Parliament in Ireland an "universal clamour." Here the addresses of the Lords and Commons of Ireland against a ruinous destructive project of an "obscure, single undertaker," is called a "clamour." I desire to know how such a style would be resented in England from a committee of council there to a Parliament, and how many impeachments would follow upon it. But supposing the appellation to be proper, I never heard of a wise minister who despised the universal clamour of a people, and if that clamour can be quieted by disappointing the fraudulent practice of a single person, the purchase is not exorbitant.

But in answer to this objection. First it is manifest, that if this coinage had been in Ireland, with such limitations as have been formerly specified in other patents, and granted to persons of this kingdom, or even of England, able to give sufficient security, few or no inconveniencies could have happened, which might not have been immediately remedied. As to Mr. Knox's patent mentioned in the Report, security was given into the exchequer, that the patentee should at any time receive his halfpence back, and pay gold or silver in exchange for them. And Mr. Moor (to whom I suppose that patent was made over) was in 1694 forced to leave off coining, before the end of that year, by the great crowds of people continually offering to return his coinage upon him. In 1698 he coined again, and was forced to give over for the same reason. This entirely alters the case; for there is no such condition in Wood's patent, which condition was worth a hundred times all other limitations whatsoever.[5]

[Footnote 5: It will serve to elucidate this paragraph if an account be given of the various coinage patents issued for Ireland. Monck Mason gives an account in a long note to his biography of Swift; but as he has obtained it from the very ably written tract, "A Defence of the Conduct of the People of Ireland," etc., I have gone to that pamphlet for the present résumé. I quote from pp. 21-24 of the Dublin edition, issued in 1724 and printed by George Ewing:

"K. Charles 2d. 1660 granted a patent for coining only farthings for the kingdom of Ireland to Coll. Armstrong: But I do not find he ever made any use of it.[A] For all our copper and brass money to the year 1680 was issued by private persons, who obtained particular licences, on giving security to change their half-pence and farthings for gold and silver; but some of their securities failing, others pretending the half-pence which were tendered to be changed were counterfeits, the public always suffered. Col. Armstrong's son, finding great profit was made by coining half-pence in Ireland, by virtue of particular licences recallable at pleasure, solicited and obtained a patent in the name of George Legg afterwards Lord Dartmouth, for coining half-pence for Ireland from 1680, for 21 years, he giving security to exchange them for gold or silver on demand.[B] In pursuance of this he coined considerable quantities of half-pence for four years; but in 1685 [John] Knox, with the consent of Armstrong, got the remaining part of this term granted by patent in his own name, he giving security as above, and got his half-pence declared the current coin of Ireland, notwithstanding two Acts of Parliament had enacted that they should not be received in the revenue. Knox was interrupted in his coinage in 1689, by King James's taking it into his own hands, to coin his famous brass money, of which he coined no less than £965,375, three penny worth of metal passing for £10 ster. In this money creditors were obliged to receive their debts, and by this cruel stratagem Ireland lost about £60,000 per month. This not only made our gold and silver, but even our half-pence to disappear; which obliged King William to coin pewter half-pence for the use of his army....

[Footnote A: Monck Mason, quoting Simon "On Irish Coins" (Append., No. LXV), says: "Sir Thomas [Armstrong] was never admitted to make use of this grant, nor could he obtain allowance of the chief governor of Ireland, to issue them as royal coin among the subjects of that kingdom."]

[Footnote B: "A proclamation was issued by the lord lieutenant, declaring these half-pence to be the current coin of the kingdom, but it provided that none should be enforced to take more than five shillings in the payment of one hundred pounds, and so proportionately in all greater and lesser sums.... This patent was granted, by and with, the advice of James, Duke of Ormond" (Monck Mason, "History of St. Patrick's," p. 334, note y).]

"After the Revolution, Col. Roger Moore being possessed of Knox's patent, commenced his coinage in Dublin, and at first kept several offices for changing his half-pence for gold or silver. He soon overstocked the kingdom so with copper money, that persons were obliged to receive large sums in it; for the officers of the crown were industrious dispensers of it, for which he allowed them a premium. It was common at that time for one to compound for 1/4 copper, and the collectors paid nothing else. The country being thus overcharged with a base coin, everyone tendered it to Col. Moore to be changed. This he refused, on pretence they were counterfeits.... On this he quitted coining in 1698, but left us in a miserable condition, which is lively represented in a Memorial presented by Will. Trench, Esq. to the Lords of the Treasury, on Mr. Wood's obtaining his patent, and which our Commissioners referred to.... Col. Moore finding the sweet of such a patent, applied to King William for a renewal of it; but his petition being referred to the government of Ireland, the affair was fairly represented to the king, whereby his designs were frustrated.

"In the reign of the late Queen, application was made by Robert Baird and William Harnill, Trustees for the garrison which defended Londonderry, for a patent to coin base money for Ireland ... their petition was rejected.... Since this time there have been many applications made for such patents." [T.S.]]

Put the case, that the two Houses of Lords and Commons of England, and the Privy-council there should address His Majesty to recall a patent, from whence they apprehend the most ruinous consequences to the whole kingdom: And to make it stronger if possible, that the whole nation, almost to a man, should thereupon discover the "most dismal apprehensions" (as Mr. Wood styles them) would His Majesty debate half an hour what he had to do? Would any minister dare advise him against recalling such a patent? Or would the matter be referred to the Privy-Council or to Westminster-hall, the two Houses of Parliament plaintiffs, and William Wood defendant? And is there even the smallest difference between the two cases?

Were not the people of Ireland born as free as those of England? How have they forfeited their freedom? Is not their Parliament as fair a representative of the people as that of England? And hath not their Privy-council as great or a greater share in the administration of public affairs? Are they not subjects of the same King? Does not the same sun shine on them? And have they not the same God for their protector? Am I a freeman in England, and do I become a slave in six hours by crossing the Channel? No wonder then, if the boldest persons were cautious to interpose in a matter already determined by the whole voice of the nation, or to presume to represent the representatives of the kingdom, and were justly apprehensive of meeting such a treatment as they would deserve at the next session. It would seem very extraordinary if an inferior court in England, should take a matter out of the hands of the high court of Parliament, during a prorogation, and decide it against the opinion of both Houses.

It happens however, that, although no persons were so bold, as to go over as evidences, to prove the truth of the objections made against this patent by the high court of Parliament here, yet these objections stand good, notwithstanding the answers made by Wood and his Council.

The Report says, that "upon an assay made of the fineness, weight and value of this copper, it exceeded in every article." This is possible enough in the pieces upon which the assay was made; but Wood must have failed very much in point of dexterity, if he had not taken care to provide a sufficient quantity of such halfpence as would bear the trial; which he was well able to do, although "they were taken out of several parcels." Since it is now plain, that the bias of favour hath been wholly on his side.[6]

[Footnote 6: The report of the assayers as abstracted by the Lords of the Committee in their report is not accurately stated. Monck Mason notes that the abstract omits the following passage: "But although the copper was very good, and the money, one piece with another, was full weight, yet the single pieces were not so equally coined in the weight as they should have been." Nor is it shown that the coins assayed were of the same kind as those sent into Ireland. The Committee's report fails to see the question that must arise when it is noted that while in England a pound of copper was made into twenty-three pence, yet for Ireland Wood was permitted to make it into thirty pence, in spite of the statement that the copper used in England was worth fivepence a pound more than that used by Wood. [T.S.]]

But what need is there of disputing, when we have positive demonstration of Wood's fraudulent practices in this point? I have seen a large quantity of these halfpence weighed by a very skilful person, which were of four different kinds, three of them considerably under weight. I have now before me an exact computation of the difference of weight between these four sorts, by which it appears that the fourth sort, or the lightest, differs from the first to a degree, that, in the coinage of three hundred and sixty tons of copper, the patentee will be a gainer, only by that difference, of twenty-four thousand four hundred and ninety-four pounds, and in the whole, the public will be a loser of eighty-two thousand one hundred and sixty-eight pounds, sixteen shillings, even supposing the metal in point of goodness to answer Wood's contract and the assay that hath been made; which it infallibly doth not. For this point hath likewise been enquired into by very experienced men, who, upon several trials in many of these halfpence, have found them to be at least one fourth part below the real value (not including the raps or counterfeits that he or his accomplices have already made of his own coin, and scattered about). Now the coinage of three hundred and sixty ton of copper coined by the weight of the fourth or lightest sort of his halfpence will amount to one hundred twenty-two thousand four hundred eighty-eight pounds, sixteen shillings, and if we subtract a fourth part of the real value by the base mixture in the metal, we must add to the public loss one fourth part to be subtracted from the intrinsic value of the copper, which in three hundred and sixty tons amounts to ten thousand and eighty pounds, and this added to the former sum of eighty-two thousand one hundred sixty-eight pounds, sixteen shillings, will make in all, ninety-two thousand two hundred forty-eight pounds loss to the public; besides the raps or counterfeits that he may at any time hereafter think fit to coin. Nor do I know whether he reckons the dross exclusive or inclusive with his three hundred and sixty ton of copper; which however will make a considerable difference in the account.

You will here please to observe, that the profit allowed to Wood by the patent is twelvepence out of every pound of copper valued at 1s. 6d. whereas 5d. only is allowed for coinage of a pound weight for the English halfpence, and this difference is almost 25 per cent. which is double to the highest exchange of money, even under all the additional pressures, and obstructions to trade, that this unhappy kingdom lies at present. This one circumstance in the coinage of three hundred and sixty ton of copper makes a difference of twenty-seven thousand seven hundred and twenty pounds between English and Irish halfpence, even allowing those of Wood to be all of the heaviest sort.

It is likewise to be considered, that for every halfpenny in a pound weight exceeding the number directed by the patent, Wood will be a gainer in the coinage of three hundred and sixty ton of copper, sixteen hundred and eighty pounds profit more than the patent allows him; Out of which he may afford to make his comptrollers easy upon that article.

As to what is alleged, that "these halfpence far exceed the like coinage for Ireland in the reigns of His Majesty's predecessors;" there cannot well be a more exceptionable way of arguing: Although the fact were true, which however is altogether mistaken; not by any fault in the Committee, but by the fraud and imposition of Wood, who certainly produced the worst patterns he could find, such as were coined in small numbers by permissions to private men, as butchers' halfpence, black dogs and the like, or perhaps the small St. Patrick's coin which passes for a farthing, or at best some of the smallest raps of the latest kind. For I have now by me some halfpence coined in the year 1680 by virtue of the patent granted to my Lord Dartmouth, which was renewed to Knox, and they are heavier by a ninth part than those of Wood, and in much better metal. And the great St. Patrick's halfpenny is yet larger than either.

But what is all this to the present debate? If under the various exigencies of former times, by wars, rebellions, and insurrections, the Kings of England were sometimes forced to pay their armies here with mixed or base money, God forbid that the necessities of turbulent times should be a precedent for times of peace, and order, and settlement.

In the patent above mentioned granted to Lord Dartmouth, in the reign of King Charles 2d. and renewed to Knox, the securities given into the exchequer, obliging the patentee to receive his money back upon every demand, were an effectual remedy against all inconveniencies. And the copper was coined in our own kingdom, so that we were in no danger to purchase it with the loss of all our silver and gold carried over to another, nor to be at the trouble of going to England for the redressing of any abuse.

That the Kings of England have exercised their prerogative of coining copper for Ireland and for England is not the present question: But (to speak in the style of the Report) it would "seem a little extraordinary," supposing a King should think fit to exercise his prerogative by coining copper in Ireland, to be current in England, without referring it to his officers in that kingdom to be informed whether the grant was reasonable, and whether the people desired it or no, and without regard to the addresses of his Parliament against it. God forbid that so mean a man as I should meddle with the King's prerogative: But I have heard very wise men say, that the King's prerogative is bounded and limited by the good and welfare of his people. I desire to know, whether it is not understood and avowed that the good of Ireland was intended by this patent. But Ireland is not consulted at all in the matter, and as soon as Ireland is informed of it, they declare against it; the two Houses of Parliament and the Privy-council addresses His Majesty upon the mischiefs apprehended by such a patent. The Privy-council in England takes the matter out of the Parliament's cognizance; the good of the kingdom is dropped, and it is now determined that Mr. Wood shall have the power of ruining a whole nation for his private advantage.

I never can suppose that such patents as these were originally granted with the view of being a job for the interest of a particular person, to the damage of the public: Whatever profit must arise to the patentee was surely meant at best but as a secondary motive, and since somebody must be a gainer, the choice of the person was made either by favour, or something else[7] or by the pretence of merit and honesty. This argument returns so often and strongly into my head, that I cannot forbear frequently repeating it. Surely His Majesty, when he consented to the passing of this patent, conceived he was doing an act of grace to his most loyal subjects of Ireland, without any regard to Mr. Wood, farther than as an instrument. But the people of Ireland think this patent (intended no doubt for their good) to be a most intolerable grievance, and therefore Mr. Wood can never succeed, without an open avowal that his profit is preferred not only before the interests, but the very safety and being of a great kingdom; and a kingdom distinguished for its loyalty, perhaps above all others upon earth. Not turned from its duty by the "jurisdiction of the House of Lords, abolished at a stroke, by the hardships of the Act of Navigation newly enforced; By all possible obstructions in trade," and by a hundred other instances, "enough to fill this paper." Nor was there ever among us the least attempt towards an insurrection in favour of the Pretender. Therefore whatever justice a free people can claim we have at least an equal title to it with our brethren in England, and whatever grace a good prince can bestow on the most loyal subjects, we have reason to expect it: Neither hath this kingdom any way deserved to be sacrificed to one "single, rapacious, obscure, ignominious projector."

[Footnote 7: A hint at the Duchess of Kendal's influence in the procuring of the patent. [T.S.]]

Among other clauses mentioned in this patent, to shew how advantageous it is to Ireland, there is one which seems to be of a singular nature, that the patentee shall be obliged, during his term, "to pay eight hundred pounds a year to the crown, and two hundred pounds a year to the comptroller."[8] I have heard indeed that the King's council do always consider, in the passing of a patent, whether it will be of advantage to the crown, but I have likewise heard that it is at the same time considered whether the passing of it may be injurious to any other persons or bodies politic. However, although the attorney and solicitor be servants to the King, and therefore bound to consult His Majesty's interest, yet I am under some doubt whether eight hundred pounds a year to the crown would be equivalent to the ruin of a kingdom. It would be far better for us to have paid eight thousand pounds a year into His Majesty's coffers, in the midst of all our taxes (which, in proportion, are greater in this kingdom than ever they were in England, even during the war) than purchase such an addition to the revenue at the price of our utter undoing.

[Footnote 8: By the terms of the patent, Wood covenanted to pay to the King's clerk, or comptroller of the coinage, £200 yearly, and £100 per annum into his Majesty's exchequer, and not as Walpole's report has it, £800 and £200. [T.S.]]

But here it is plain that fourteen thousand pounds are to be paid by Wood, only as a small circumstantial charge for the purchase of his patent, what were his other visible costs I know not, and what were his latent, is variously conjectured. But he must be surely a man of some wonderful merit. Hath he saved any other kingdom at his own expense, to give him a title of reimbursing himself by the destruction of ours? Hath he discovered the longitude or the universal medicine? No. But he hath found out the philosopher's stone after a new manner, by debasing of copper, and resolving to force it upon us for gold.

When the two Houses represented to His Majesty, that this patent to Wood was obtained in a clandestine manner, surely the Committee could not think the Parliament would insinuate that it had not passed in the common forms, and run through every office where fees and perquisites were due. They knew very well that persons in places were no enemies to grants, and that the officers of the crown could not be kept in the dark. But the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland[9] affirmed it was a secret to him (and who will doubt of his veracity, especially when he swore to a person of quality; from whom I had it, that Ireland should never be troubled with these halfpence). It was a secret to the people of Ireland, who were to be the only sufferers, and those who best knew the state of the kingdom and were most able to advise in such an affair, were wholly strangers to it.

[Footnote 9: The Duke of Grafton. Walpole called him "a fair-weather pilot, that knew not what he had to do, when the first storm arose." Charles, second Duke of Grafton (1683-1757), was the grandfather of the third duke, so virulently attacked by Junius in his famous letters. [T. S.]]

It is allowed by the Report that this patent was passed without the knowledge of the chief governor or officers of Ireland; and it is there elaborately shewn, that "former patents have passed in the same manner, and are good in law." I shall not dispute the legality of patents, but am ready to suppose it in His Majesty's power to grant a patent for stamping round bits of copper to every subject he hath. Therefore to lay aside the point of law, I would only put the question, whether in reason and justice it would not have been proper, in an affair upon which the welfare of a kingdom depends, that the said kingdom should have received timely notice, and the matter not be carried on between the patentee and the officers of the Crown, who were to be the only gainers by it.

The Parliament, who in matters of this nature are the most able and faithful counsellors, did represent this grant to be "destructive of trade, and dangerous to the properties of the people," to which the only answer is, that "the King hath a prerogative to make such a grant."

It is asserted that in the patent to Knox, his "halfpence, are made and declared the current coin of the kingdom," whereas in this to Wood, there is only a "power given to issue them to such as will receive them." The authors of the Report, I think, do not affirm that the King can by law declare anything to be current money by his letters-patents. I dare say they will not affirm it, and if Knox's patent contained in it powers contrary to law, why is it mentioned as a precedent in His Majesty's just and merciful reign:[10] But although that clause be not in Wood's patent, yet possibly there are others, the legality whereof may be equally doubted, and particularly that, whereby "a power is given to William Wood to break into houses in search of any coin made in imitation of his." This may perhaps be affirmed to be illegal and dangerous to the liberty of the subject. Yet this is a precedent taken from Knox's patent, where the same power is granted, and is a strong instance what uses may be sometimes made of precedents.

[Footnote 10: Knox's patent, as Monck Mason points out, did not contain the right to have his coins pass as the current coin of the realm; that was permitted by a proclamation of the lord lieutenant, and could in the same manner be withdrawn. Knox's patent differed materially from that granted to Wood, since he was obliged to take back his coins and give gold or silver for them, and no one was compelled to take more than five shillings in the payment of each £100. See note, p. 66. [T.S.]]

But although before the passing of this patent, it was not thought necessary to consult any persons of this kingdom, or make the least enquiry whether copper money were wanted among us; yet now at length, when the matter is over, when the patent hath long passed, when Wood hath already coined seventeen thousand pounds, and hath his tools and implements prepared to coin six times as much more; the Committee hath been pleased to make this affair the subject of enquiry. Wood is permitted to produce his evidences, which consist as I have already observed, of four in number, whereof Coleby, Brown and Mr. Finley the banker are three. And these were to prove that copper money was extremely wanted in Ireland. The first had been out of the kingdom almost twenty years, from the time that he was tried for robbing the treasury, and therefore his knowledge and credibility are equal. The second may be allowed a more knowing witness, because I think it is not above a year since the House of Commons ordered the Attorney-general to prosecute him, for endeavouring "to take away the life of John Bingham Esq; member of parliaments by perjury and subornation." He asserted that he was forced to tally with his labourers for want of small money (which hath often been practised in England by Sir Ambrose Crawley[11] and others) but those who knew him better give a different reason, (if there be any truth at all in the fact) that he was forced to tally with his labourers not for want of halfpence, but of more substantial money, which is highly possible, because the race of suborners, forgers, perjurers and ravishers, are usually people of no fortune, or of those who have run it out by their vices and profuseness. Mr. Finley the third witness honestly confessed, that he was ignorant whether Ireland wanted copper money or no; but all his intention was to buy a certain quantity from Wood at a large discount, and sell them as well as he could, by which he hoped to get two or three thousand pounds for himself.

[Footnote 11: Ambrose Crowley (not Crawley) was alderman and sheriff of London. He was knighted January 1st, 1706-1707, and sat in the House of Commons as member for Andover in 1713-1714. [T.S.]]

But suppose there were not one single halfpenny of copper coin in this whole kingdom (which Mr. Wood seems to intend, unless we will come to his terms, as appears by employing his emissaries to buy up our old ones at a penny in the shilling more than they pass for), it could not be any real evil to us, although it might be some inconvenience. We have many sorts of small silver coins, to which they are strangers in England, such as the French threepences, fourpence halfpennies and eightpence half-pennies, the Scotch fivepences and tenpences, besides their twenty-pences, and three-and-four-pences, by all which we are able to make change to a halfpenny of almost any piece of gold or silver, and if we are driven to Brown's expedient of a sealed card, with the little gold or silver still remaining, it will I suppose, be somewhat better than to have nothing left but Wood's adulterated copper, which he is neither obliged by his patent, nor hitherto able by his estate to make good.

The Report farther tells us, it "must be admitted that letters-patents under the Great Seal of Great Britain for coining copper money for Ireland are legal and obligatory, a just and reasonable exercise of His Majesty's royal prerogative, and in no manner derogatory or invasive of any liberty or privilege of his subjects of Ireland." First we desire to know, why His Majesty's prerogative might not have been as well asserted, by passing this patent in Ireland, and subjecting the several conditions of the contract to the inspection of those who are only concerned, as was formerly done in the only precedents for patents granted for coining for this kingdom, since the mixed money[12] in Queen Elizabeth's time, during the difficulties of a rebellion: Whereas now upon the greatest imposition that can possibly be practised, we must go to England with our complaints, where it hath been for some time the fashion to think and to affirm that "we cannot be too hardly used." Again the Report says, that "such patents are obligatory." After long thinking, I am not able to find out what can possibly be meant here by this word obligatory. This patent of Wood neither obligeth him to utter his coin, nor us to take it, or if it did the latter, it would be so far void, because no patent can oblige the subject against law, unless an illegal patent passed in one kingdom can bind another and not itself.

[Footnote 12: "Civill warre having set all Ireland in a combustion, the Queene [Elizabeth] more easily to subdue the rebels, did take silver coyne from the Irish, some few years before her death, and paid her army with a mixed base coyne, which, by proclamation, was commanded to be spent and received, for sterling silver money. This base mixed money had three parts of copper, and the fourth part of silver, which proportion of silver was in some part consumed by the mixture, so as the English goldsmiths valued a shilling thereof at no more than two silver pence, though they acknowledged the same to be worth two pence halfpenny." (Fynes Moryson's "Itinerary," pt. i., p. 283). [T.S.]]

Lastly, it is added that "such patents are in no manner derogatory or invasive of any liberty or privilege of the King's subjects of Ireland." If this proposition be true, as it is here laid down, without any limitation either expressed or implied, it must follow that a King of England may at any time coin copper money for Ireland, and oblige his subjects here to take a piece of copper under the value of half a farthing for half-a-crown, as was practised by the late King James, and even without that arbitrary prince's excuse, from the necessity and exigences of his affairs. If this be in no manner "derogatory nor evasive of any liberties or privileges of the subjects of Ireland," it ought to have been expressed what our liberties and privileges are, and whether we have any at all, for in specifying the word Ireland, instead of saying "His Majesty's subjects," it would seem to insinuate that we are not upon the same foot with our fellow-subjects in England; which, however the practice may have been, I hope will never be directly asserted, for I do not understand that Poining's act[13] deprived us of our liberty, but only changed the manner of passing laws here (which however was a power most indirectly obtained) by leaving the negative to the two Houses of Parliament. But, waiving all controversies relating to the legislature, no person, I believe, was ever yet so bold as to affirm that the people of Ireland have not the same title to the benefits of the common law, with the rest of His Majesty's subjects, and therefore whatever liberties or privileges the people of England enjoy by common law, we of Ireland have the same; so that in my humble opinion, the word Ireland standing in that proposition, was, in the mildest interpretation, a lapse of the pen.

[Footnote 13: It was not intended that Poyning's act should interfere with the liberty of the people, but it is undoubted that advantage was taken of this law, and an interpretation put on it far different from the intention that brought it on the statute books. It was passed by a parliament convened by Sir Edward Poyning, at Drogheda, in the tenth year of Henry VII.'s reign. Its immediate cause was the invasion of Perkin Warbeck. That pretender assumed royal authority in Ireland and had several statutes passed during his short-lived term of power. To prevent any viceroy from arrogating to himself the powers of law-making it was enacted by Poyning's parliament:

"That no parliament be holden hereafter in Ireland, but at such season as the King's lieutenant and counsaile there first do certifie the King, under the Great Seal of that land, the causes and considerations, and all such acts as them seemeth should pass in the same parliament, and such causes, considerations, and acts affirmed by the King and his counsaile to be good and expedient for that land, and his licence thereupon, as well in affirmation of the said causes and acts, as to summon the said parliament, under his Great Seal of England had and obtained; that done, a parliament to be had and holden as afore rehearsed" ("Irish Statutes," vol. i., p. 44).

Two statutes, one, the Act of 3 and 4 Phil., and Mary, cap. 4, and the other of II Eliz. Ses. 3, cap. 8, explain this act further, and the latter points out the reason for the original enactment, namely, that "before this statute, when liberty was given to the governors to call parliaments at their pleasure, acts passed as well to the dishonour of the prince, as to the hindrance of their subjects" ("Irish Statutes," vol. i., p. 346).

"By Poyning's Law," says Lecky, "a great part of the independence of the Irish Parliament had indeed been surrendered; but even the servile Parliament which passed it, though extending by its own authority to Ireland laws previously enacted in England, never admitted the right of the English Parliament to make laws for Ireland." ("Hist. Ireland," vol. ii., p. 154; 1892 ed). [T.S.]]

The Report farther asserts, that "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 the King and his predecessors, have been issued under the royal sign manual, without any previous reference or advice of His Majesty's officers of Ireland, which have always had their due force, and have been punctually complied with, and obeyed." It may be so, and I am heartily sorry for it, because it may prove an eternal source of discontent. However among all these precedents there is not one of a patent for coining money for Ireland.

There is nothing hath perplexed me more than this doctrine of precedents. If a job is to be done, and upon searching records you find it hath been done before, there will not want a lawyer to justify the legality of it, by producing his precedents, without ever considering the motives and circumstances that first introduced them, the necessity or turbulence or iniquity of times, the corruptions of ministers, or the arbitrary disposition of the prince then reigning. And I have been told by persons eminent in the law, that the worst actions which human nature is capable of, may be justified by the same doctrine. How the first precedents began of determining cases of the highest importance to Ireland, and immediately affecting its interest, without any previous reference or advice to the King's officers here, may soon be accounted for. Before this kingdom was entirely reduced by the submission of Tyrone in the last year of Queen Elizabeth's reign, there was a period of four hundred years, which was a various scene of war and peace between the English pale and the Irish natives, and the government of that part of this island which lay in the English hands, was, in many things under the immediate administration of the King. Silver and copper were often coined here among us, and once at least upon great necessity, a mixed or base metal was sent from England. The reign of King James Ist. was employed in settling the kingdom after Tyrone's rebellion, and this nation flourished extremely till the time of the massacre 1641. In that difficult juncture of affairs, the nobility and gentry coined their own plate here in Dublin.

By all that I can discover, the copper coin of Ireland for three hundred years past consisted of small pence and halfpence, which particular men had licence to coin, and were current only within certain towns and districts, according to the personal credit of the owner who uttered them, and was bound to receive them again, whereof I have seen many sorts; neither have I heard of any patent granted for coining copper for Ireland till the reign of King Charles II. which was in the year 1680. to George Legge Lord Dartmouth, and renewed by King James II. in the first year of his reign to John Knox. Both patents were passed in Ireland, and in both the patentees were obliged to receive their coin again to any that would offer then twenty shillings of it, for which they were obliged to pay gold or silver.

The patents both of Lord Dartmouth and Knox were referred to the Attorney-general here, and a report made accordingly, and both, as I have already said, were passed in this kingdom. Knox had only a patent for the remainder of the term granted to Lord Dartmouth, the patent expired in 1701, and upon a petition by Roger Moor to have it renewed, the matter was referred hither, and upon the report of the attorney and solicitor, that it was not for His Majesty's service or the interest of the nation to have it renewed, it was rejected by King William. It should therefore seem very extraordinary, that a patent for coining copper halfpence, intended and professed for the good of the kingdom, should be passed without once consulting that kingdom, for the good of which it is declared to be intended, and this upon the application of a "poor, private obscure mechanic;" and a patent of such a nature, that as soon as ever the kingdom is informed of its being passed, they cry out unanimously against it as ruinous and destructive. The representative of the nation in Parliament, and the Privy-council address the King to have it recalled; yet the patentee, such a one as I have described, shall prevail to have this patent approved, and his private interest shall weigh down the application of a whole kingdom. St. Paul says, "All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient." We are answered that this patent is lawful, but is it expedient? We read that the high-priest said "It was expedient that one Man should die for the people;" and this was a most wicked proposition. But that a whole nation should die for one man, was never heard of before.

But because much weight is laid on the precedents of other patents, for coining copper for Ireland, I will set this matter in as clear a light as I can. Whoever hath read the Report, will be apt to think, that a dozen precedents at least could be produced of copper coined for Ireland, by virtue of patents passed in England, and that the coinage was there too; whereas I am confident, there cannot be one precedent shewn of a patent passed in England for coining copper for Ireland, for above an hundred years past, and if there were any before, it must be in times of confusion. The only patents I could ever hear of, are those already mentioned to Lord Dartmouth and Knox; the former in 1680. and the latter in 1685. Now let us compare these patents with that granted to Wood. First, the patent to Knox, which was under the same conditions as that granted to Lord Dartmouth, was passed in Ireland, the government and the Attorney and Solicitor-general making report that it would be useful to this kingdom: [The patentee was obliged to make every halfpenny one hundred and ten grains Troy weight, whereby 2s. 2d. only could be coined out of a pound of copper.][14] The patent was passed with the advice of the King's council here; The patentee was obliged to receive his coin from those who thought themselves surcharged, and to give gold and silver for it; Lastly, The patentee was to pay only 16l. 13s. 4d. per ann. to the crown. Then, as to the execution of that patent. First, I find the halfpence were milled, which, as it is of great use to prevent counterfeits (and therefore industriously avoided by Wood) so it was an addition to the charge of coinage. And for the weight and goodness of the metal; I have several halfpence now by me, many of which weigh a ninth part more than those coined by Wood, and bear the fire and hammer a great deal better; and which is no trifle, the impression fairer and deeper. I grant indeed, that many of the latter coinage yield in weight to some of Wood's, by a fraud natural to such patentees; but not so immediately after the grant, and before the coin grew current: For in this circumstance Mr. Wood must serve for a precedent in future times.

[Footnote 14: The portion here in square brackets was printed in the fourth edition of this Letter and in the work entitled, "Fraud Detected." It is not given in Faulkner's first collected edition issued in 1735, nor in "The Hibernian Patriot," issued in 1730. [T.S.]]

Let us now examine this new patent granted to William Wood. It passed upon very false suggestions of his own, and of a few confederates: It passed in England, without the least reference hither. It passed unknown to the very Lord Lieutenant, then in England. Wood is empowered to coin one hundred and eight thousand pounds, "and all the officers in the kingdom (civil and military) are commanded" in the Report to countenance and assist him. Knox had only power to utter what we would take, and was obliged "to receive his coin back again at our demand," and to "enter into security for so doing." Wood's halfpence are not milled, and therefore more easily counterfeited by himself as well as by others: Wood pays a thousand pounds per ann. for 14 years, Knox paid only 16l. 13s. 4d. per ann. for 21 years.

It was the Report that set me the example of making a comparison between those two patents, wherein the committee was grossly misled by the false representation of William Wood, as it was by another assertion, that seven hundred ton of copper were coined during the 21 years of Lord Dartmouth's and Knox's patents. Such a quantity of copper at the rate of 2s. 8d. per pound would amount to about an hundred and ninety thousand pounds, which was very near as much as the current cash of the kingdom in those days; yet, during that period, Ireland was never known to have too much copper coin, and for several years there was no coining at all: Besides I am assured, that upon enquiring into the custom-house books, all the copper imported into the kingdom, from 1683 to 1692, which includes 8 years of the 21 (besides one year allowed for the troubles) did not exceed 47 tons, and we cannot suppose even that small quantity to have been wholly applied to coinage: So that I believe there was never any comparison more unluckily made or so destructive of the design for which it was produced.

The Psalmist reckons it an effect of God's anger, when "He selleth His people for nought, and taketh no money for them." That we have greatly offended God by the wickedness of our lives is not to be disputed: But our King we have not offended in word or deed; and although he be God's vicegerent upon earth, he will not punish us for any offences, except those which we shall commit against his legal authority, his sacred person (which God preserve) or the laws of the land.

The Report is very profuse in arguments, that Ireland is in great want of copper money.[15] Who were the witnesses to prove it, hath been shewn already, but in the name of God, Who are to be judges? Does not the nation best know its own wants? Both Houses of Parliament, the Privy-council and the whole body of the people declare the contrary: Or let the wants be what they will, We desire they may not be supplied by Mr. Wood. We know our own wants but too well; they are many and grievous to be borne, but quite of another kind. Let England be satisfied: As things go, they will in a short time have all our gold and silver, and may keep their adulterate copper at home, for we are determined not to purchase it with our manufactures, which Wood hath graciously offered to accept. Our wants are not so bad by an hundredth part as the method he hath taken to supply them. He hath already tried his faculty in New-England,[16] and I hope he will meet at least with an equal reception here; what that was I leave to public intelligence. I am supposing a wild case, that if there should be any person already receiving a monstrous pension out of this kingdom, who was instrumental in procuring this patent, they have either not well consulted their own interests, or Wood must[17] put more dross into his copper and still diminish its weight.

[Footnote 15: On this subject of the want of small money in Ireland, Monck Mason traverses the Report in the following manner:

"There appears to be a manifest prevarication in their lordships' report upon this part of the subject; they state, that the witnesses testified, that there was a want of small money in Ireland; they attempt, therefore, to impose a copper currency, which certainly was not wanted. To satisfy the reader upon this point, I shall quote, from the unpublished correspondence of Archbishop King, the following extracts: the first, from his letter to General Gorge, dated the 17th October, 1724, is to the following purpose.

"'... As to our wanting halfpence for change, it is most false; we have more halfpence than we need, already; it is true, we want change; but it is sixpences, shillings, half-crowns, and crowns; our silver and our guineas being almost gone; and the general current coin of the kingdom is now moydores, which are thirty shillings a-piece; at least nine pence above the value in silver: now, they would have us change these for halfpence, and so the whole cash of the kingdom would be these halfpence.' ...

"But the true state of the case, as to coin, is more circumstantially developed in the following letter of the same prelate to Mr. Southwell, which was written a few months before, viz., on the 9th June, 1724.

"'... And yet, after all, we want change, and I will take leave to acquaint you with the state of this kingdom as to coin. We used to have hardly any money passing here, but foreign ducatoons, plate pieces, perns, dollars, etc. but, when the East India Company were forbid sending the coin of England abroad, they continued to buy up all our foreign coin, and give us English money in lieu of some part of it; by which we lost twopence in every ounce, the consequence of this was, that in two years there was not to be seen in Ireland a piece of foreign silver.

"'If any be brought, it is immediately sent away, the two, or as I am informed, the three pence in the ounce, given by the East India Company, being a temptation not to be resisted; but, the truth is, very little is brought in, for the merchants that carry our commodities to foreign markets, find it more to their advantage to carry directly to London whatever they receive in cash; and whereas formerly they used, when they had disposed of their cargo, to load their vessels with such commodities as there was a demand for in Ireland, and bring the rest in cash, they bring now only the commodities, and send the silver to London; and when they have got the twopence in every ounce from the East India Company, the rest serves to answer the returns we are obliged to make to England, for the rents we are obliged to pay to noblemen and gentlemen who have estates in Ireland and live in England, and for the pensions, and other occasions which are many; by this means they gain likewise the exchange, which is commonly four or five per cent, better to them than if they sent cash.

"'It Is farther to be observed, that 21 shillings, which is the value of a guinea in England, makes in Ireland 22 shillings and 9 pence, whereas a guinea passes for 23 shillings with us, therefore, he who sends silver into England, gains three pence more by it than if he sent guineas; this advantage, though it may seem little, yet in a manner has entirely drained us of our English money which was given in lieu of foreign silver.

"'But farther, if any carry foreign gold to England, they cannot easily pass it, and if they do, it is at a greater loss than there is in the guineas, this has taken away our guineas, so that there is hardly one to be seen; we have hardly any coin left but a few moydores and pistoles, which can, by no means, serve the inland trade of the kingdom.

"'To give, therefore, a short view of our case, it is thus; We can have English coin but by stealth, there being an act of parliament forbidding the exportation of English coin; if, therefore, we should send our gold or silver to England to be coined, we cannot have it back again, or if we could, we cannot keep it for the reason above; we cannot for the same reason have foreign silver; let us add to these, that by the act of navigation and other acts, we cannot make our markets of buying where we make our markets for selling; though we might have the commodities we want much cheaper there, than we can have them in England, viz. all East India and Turkey goods, with many others: nor is it to be expected that any nation will trade with us with their silver only, when we will not exchange commodities with them.

"'Except, therefore, England designs entirely to ruin Ireland, a kingdom by which it is demonstrable that she gains yearly thirteen or fourteen hundred thousand pounds, she ought to think of giving us some relief'" ("History of St. Patrick's," pp. xciii-xciv). [T.S.]]

[Footnote 16: See note on p. 14. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 17: Another hint at the Duchess of Kendal and her connection with the patent. [T.S.]]

Upon Wood's complaint that the officers of the King's revenue here had already given orders to all the inferior officers not to receive any of his coin, the Report says, That "this cannot but be looked upon as a very extraordinary proceeding," and being contrary to the powers given in the patent, the Committee say, They "cannot advise His Majesty to give directions to the officers of the revenue here, not to receive or utter any of the said coin as has been desired in the addresses of both Houses," but on the contrary, they "think it both just and reasonable that the King should immediately give orders to the commissioners of the revenue, &c. to revoke all orders, &c. that may have been given by them to hinder or obstruct the receiving the said coin." And accordingly, we are told, such orders are arrived.[18]. Now this was a cast of Wood's politics; for his information was wholly false and groundless, which he knew very well; and that the commissioners of the revenue here were all, except one, sent us from England, and love their employments too well to have taken such a step: But Wood was wise enough to consider, that such orders of revocation would be an open declaration of the crown in his favour, would put the government here under a difficulty, would make a noise, and possibly create some terror in the poor people of Ireland. And one great point he hath gained, that although any orders of revocation will be needless, yet a new order is to be sent, and perhaps already here, to the commissioners of the revenue, and all the King's officers in Ireland, that Wood's "halfpence be suffered and permitted, without any let, suit, trouble, molestation or denial of any of the King's officers or ministers whatsoever, to pass and be received as current money by such as shall be willing to receive them." In this order there is no exception, and therefore, as far as I can judge, it includes all officers both civil and military, from the Lord High Chancellor to a justice of peace, and from the general to an ensign: So that Wood's project is not likely to fail for want of managers enough. For my own part, as things stand, I have but little regret to find myself out of the number, and therefore I shall continue in all humility to exhort and warn my fellow-subjects never to receive or utter this coin, which will reduce the kingdom to beggary by much quicker and larger steps than have hitherto been taken.[19]

[Footnote 18: Archbishop King's letter, quoted by Monck Mason, explains why it was that the revenue officers refused to receive Wood's coins. It seems the officers had been advised by lawyers that, in the event of their taking the coins, it might be quite likely they would be compelled to make them good, should such a demand be made of them. Precedents could easily be cited by those taking action, since all previous patents issued to private individuals for coining money, required of the patentee to take them back and pay for them with gold or silver. [T. S.]]

[Footnote 19: The suggestion thus made by the Lords of the Committee, although coupled with the reduction in the amount of money Wood was to be permitted to introduce, did not do any good. Archbishop King argued rightly that this was treating the people of Ireland as if they were fools and children. If Wood could coin £40,000, what was to prevent him coining £200,000? The suggestion indeed irritated the people almost as much as did the patent itself. [T.S.]]

But it is needless to argue any longer. The matter is come to an issue. His Majesty pursuant to the law, hath left the field open between Wood and the kingdom of Ireland. Wood hath liberty to offer his coin, and we have law, reason, liberty and necessity to refuse it. A knavish jockey may ride an old foundered jade about the market, but none are obliged to buy it. I hope the words "voluntary" and "willing to receive it" will be understood, and applied in their true natural meaning, as commonly understood by Protestants. For if a fierce captain comes to my shop to buy six yards of scarlet cloth, followed by a porter laden with a sack of Wood's coin upon his shoulders, if we are agreed about the price, and my scarlet lies ready cut upon the counter, if he then gives me the word of command, to receive my money in Wood's coin, and calls me a "disaffected Jacobite dog" for refusing it (although I am as loyal a subject as himself, and without hire) and thereupon seizes my cloth, leaving me the price in his odious copper, and bids me take my remedy: In this case, I shall hardly be brought to think that I am left to my own will. I shall therefore on such occasions, first order the porter aforesaid to go off with his pack, and then see the money in silver and gold in my possession before I cut or measure my cloth. But if a common soldier drinks his pot first, and then offers payment in Wood's halfpence, the landlady may be under some difficulty; For if she complains to his captain or ensign, they are likewise officers, included in this general order for encouraging these halfpence to pass as current money. If she goes to a justice of peace, he is also an officer, to whom this general order is directed. I do therefore advise her to follow my practice, which I have already begun, and be paid for her goods before she parts with them. However I should have been content, for some reasons, that the military gentlemen had been excepted by name, because I have heard it said, that their discipline is best confined within their own district.

His Majesty in the conclusion of his answer to the address of the House of Lords against Wood's coin, is pleased to say that "he will do everything in his power for the satisfaction of his people." It should seem therefore, that the recalling the patent is not to be understood as a thing in his power. But however since the law does not oblige us to receive this coin, and consequently the patent leaves it to our voluntary choice, there is nothing remaining to preserve us from rain but that the whole kingdom should continue in a firm determinate resolution never to receive or utter this fatal coin:[20]

[Footnote 20: So ready was the response to this suggestion of Swift's, that it was found necessary for tradesmen to take precautions to have it publicly known that they were in no way connected with Wood and his money, The following is a copy of an advertisement which illustrates this:

"Whereas several persons in this kingdom suspect that John Molyneux of Meath Street, ironmonger, and his brother Daniel Molyneux, of Essex Street, ironmonger, are interested in the patent obtained by William Wood for coining of halfpence and farthings for this kingdom.

"Now we the said John Molyneux and Daniel Molyneux, in order to satisfy the public, do hereby declare, that we are in no way concerned with the said Wood in relation to his said patent; And that we never were possessed of any of the said halfpence or farthings, except one halfpence and one farthing, which I the said John Molyneux received in a post-letter, and which I immediately afterwards delivered to one of the Lords-Justices of Ireland.

"And we do further declare, that we will not directly or indirectly, be anyways concerned with the said Wood's halfpence or farthings; but on the contrary, act to the great advantage and satisfaction of this kingdom, as good, loving and faithful subjects ought to do. And we do further declare, that to the best of our knowledge, the said William Wood is not in this kingdom.

"Given under our hands in Dublin this 22d. day of August 1724.



Another ran as follows:


"Whereas, I, Thomas Handy, of Meath Street, Dublin, did receive by the last packet, from a person in London, to whom I am an entire stranger, bills of lading for eleven casks of Wood's halfpence, shipped at Bristol, and consigned to me by the said person on his own proper account, of which I had not the least notice until I received the said bills of lading.

"Now I, the said Thomas Handy, being highly sensible of the duty and regard which every honest man owes to his country and to his fellow-subjects, do hereby declare, that I will not be concerned, directly or indirectly, in entering, landing, importing, receiving, or uttering any of the said Wood's halfpence, for that I am fully convinced, as well from the addresses of both Houses of Parliament, as otherwise, that the importing and uttering the said halfpence will be destructive to this nation, and prejudicial to his Majesty's revenue.

"And of this my resolution I gave notice by letter to the person who sent me the bills of lading, the very day I received them, and have sent back the said bills to him.


"Dublin, 29th. August, 1724." [T.S.]]

After which, let the officers to whom these orders are directed, (I would willingly except the military) come with their exhortations, their arguments and their eloquence, to persuade us to find our interest in our undoing. Let Wood and his accomplices travel about the country with cart-loads of their ware, and see who will take it off their hands, there will be no fear of his being robbed, for a highwayman would scorn to touch it.

I am only in pain how the commissioners of the revenue will proceed in this juncture; because I am told they are obliged by act of Parliament to take nothing but gold and silver in payment for His Majesty's customs, and I think they cannot justly offer this coinage of Mr. Wood to others, unless they will be content to receive it themselves.

The sum of the whole is this. The "Committee advises the King to send immediate orders to all his officers here, that Wood's coin be suffered and permitted without any let, suit, trouble, &c. to pass and be received as current money by such as shall be willing to receive the same." It is probable, that the first willing receivers may be those who must receive it whether they will or no, at least under the penalty of losing an office. But the landed undepending men, the merchants, the shopkeepers and bulk of the people, I hope, and am almost confident, will never receive it. What must the consequence be? The owners will sell it for as much as they can get. Wood's halfpence will come to be offered for six a penny (yet then he will be a sufficient gainer) and the necessary receivers will be losers of two-thirds in their salaries or pay.

This puts me in mind of a passage I was told many years ago in England. At a quarter-sessions in Leicester, the justices had wisely decreed, to take off a halfpenny in a quart from the price of ale. One of them, who came in after the thing was determined, being informed of what had passed, said thus: "Gentlemen; you have made an order, that ale should be sold in our country for three halfpence a quart: I desire you will now make another to appoint who must drink it, for by G-- I will not."[21]

[Footnote 21: The following broadside, ascribed to Swift, but written probably by Sheridan, further amusingly illustrates the point Swift makes. The broadside was printed by John Harding:

"Another Letter to Mr. Harding the printer, upon occasion of 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., lately published.

"Mr. Harding,--Although this letter also is directed to you, yet you know that it is intended for the benefit of the whole kingdom, and therefore I pray make it public, and take care to disperse it.

"The design of it is only to desire all people to take notice, That whatever apprehensions some persons seem to be under on account of the above-mentioned report concerning Mr. Wood's halfpence and farthings, yet the utmost advice which the right honourable Committee have thought fit to give His Majesty, is, That a certain sum of the said halfpence and farthings may be received as current money by such as shall be willing to receive the same. And if we are willing to ruin ourselves and our country, I think we are not to be pitied.

"Upon this occasion I would only tell my countrymen a short story.

"A certain King of Great Britain who spoke broad Scotch, and being himself a man of wit, loved both to hear and speak things that were humorous, had once a petition preferred to him, in which the petitioner, having set forth his own merits, most humbly prayed His Majesty to grant him letters-patent for receiving a shilling from every one of his subjects who should be willing to give so much to him. 'In gude troth,' said the King, 'a very reasonable petition. Let every man give thee twa shillings gin he be willing so to do, and thou shalt have full liberty to receive it.' 'But,' says the petitioner, 'I desire that this clause may be inserted in my patent, That every man who refuses to give me a shilling, should appear at Westminster Hall to shew cause why he so refuses.' 'This also,' says the King, 'shall be granted thee, but always with this proviso, that the man be willing to come.'

"I am your, etc.


I must beg leave to caution your lordships and worships in one particular. Wood hath graciously promised to load us at present only with forty thousand pounds of his coin, till the exigences of the kingdom require the rest. I entreat you will never suffer Mr. Wood to be a judge of your exigences. While there is one piece of silver or gold remaining in the kingdom he will call it an exigency, he will double his present quantum by stealth as soon as he can, and will have the remainder still to the good. He will pour his own raps[22]and counterfeits upon us: France and Holland will do the same; nor will our own coiners at home be behind them: To confirm which I have now in my pocket a rap or counterfeit halfpenny in imitation of his, but so ill performed, that in my conscience I believe it is not of his coining.

[Footnote 22: The word Rap is probably a contraction of "raparee," and was the name given to the tokens that passed current in Ireland for copper coins of small value. Generally it referred to debased coins; hence it may be allied to "raparee," who might be considered as a debased citizen. The raparees were so called from the rapary or half-pike they carried. [T.S.]]

I must now desire your lordships and worships that you will give great allowance for this long undigested paper, I find myself to have gone into several repetitions, which were the effects of haste, while new thoughts fell in to add something to what I had said before. I think I may affirm that I have fully answered every paragraph in the Report, which although it be not unartfully drawn, and is perfectly in the spirit of a pleader who can find the most plausible topics in behalf of his client, yet there was no great skill required to detect the many mistakes contained in it, which however are by no means to be charged upon the right honourable Committee, but upon the most false impudent and fraudulent representations of Wood and his accomplices. I desire one particular may dwell upon your minds, although I have mentioned it more than once; That after all the weight laid upon precedents there is not one produced in the whole Report, of a patent for coining copper in England to pass in Ireland, and only two patents referred to (for indeed there were no more) which were both passed in Ireland, by references to the King's Council here, both less advantageous to the coiner than this of Wood, and in both securities given to receive the coin at every call, and give gold and silver in lieu of it. This demonstrates the most flagrant falsehood and impudence of Wood, by which he would endeavour to make the right honourable Committee his instruments, (for his own illegal and exorbitant gain,) to ruin a kingdom, which hath deserved quite different treatment.

I am very sensible that such a work as I have undertaken might have worthily employed a much better pen. But when a house is attempted to be robbed it often happens that the weakest in the family runs first to stop the door. All the assistance I had were some informations from an eminent person,[23] whereof I am afraid I have spoiled a few by endeavouring to make them of a piece with my own productions, and the rest I was not able to manage: I was in the case of David who could not move in the armour of Saul, and therefore I rather chose to attack this "uncircumcised Philistine (Wood I mean) with a sling and a stone." And I may say for Wood's honour as well as my own, that he resembles Goliath in many circumstances, very applicable to the present purpose; For Goliath had "a helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass, and he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders." In short he was like Mr. Wood, all over brass; And "he defied the armies of the living God." Goliath's condition of combat were likewise the same with those of Wood. "If he prevail against us, then shall we be his servants:" But if it happens that I prevail over him, I renounce the other part of the condition, he shall never be a servant of mine, for I do not think him fit to be trusted in any honest man's shop.

[Footnote 23: Mr. Robert Lindsay, a Dublin lawyer, assisted Swift on the legal points raised in the Drapier's letters. This is the Mr. Lindsay, counsellor-at-law, to whom Swift submitted a case concerning a Mr. Gorman (see Scott's edit., vol. xix., p. 294). Mr. Lindsay is supposed to be the author of two letters addressed to Chief Justice Whitshed on the matter of his conduct towards the grand jury which discharged Harding the printer (see Scott's edit., vol. vi., p. 467). [T.S.]]

I will conclude with my humble desire and request which I made in my second letter; That your lordships and worships would please to order a declaration to be drawn up expressing, in the strongest terms, your firm resolutions never to receive or utter any of Wood's halfpence or farthings, and forbidding your tenants to receive them. That the said declaration may be signed by as many persons as possible who have estates in this kingdom, and be sent down to your several tenants aforesaid.[24]

[Footnote 24: A Declaration, pursuant to this request, was signed soon after by the most considerable persons of the kingdom, which was universally spread and of great use. [F.]

"The humble petition of the lord-mayor, sheriffs, commons, and citizens of the city of Dublin, in Common Council assembled," was issued as a broadside on 8th September, 1724. See also Appendix IX. [T.S.]]

And if the dread of Wood's halfpence should continue till next quarter-sessions (which I hope it will not) the gentlemen of every county will then have a fair opportunity of declaring against them with unanimity and zeal.

I am with the greatest respect,
(May it please your lordships and worships)
Your most dutiful
and obedient servant,

Aug. 25, 1724.

Jonathan Swift