The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, Vol. VI; The Drapier's Letters
Jonathan Swift

Part 1 out of 5

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_To be completed in 12 volumes, 3s. 6d. each_.






Edited by TEMPLE SCOTT. With a biographical introduction by
W.E.H. LECKY, M.P. With Portrait and Facsimiles.

With two Portraits of Stella and a Facsimile of one of the Letters.

With Portraits and Facsimiles of Title-pages.

With Portrait and Facsimiles of Title-pages.

With Portrait, Reproductions of Wood's Coinage,
and Facsimiles of Title pages.

With Portrait, Maps and Facsimiles.

With Portrait.

With Portrait.

_To be followed by:_




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[Illustration: Jonathan Swift from a painting in the National Gallery
of Ireland once in the possession of judge Berwick and ascribed to
Francis Bindon]













In 1714 Swift left England for Ireland, disappointed, distressed, and
worn out with anxiety in the service of the Harley Ministry. On his
installation as Dean of St. Patrick's he had been received in Dublin
with jeering and derision. He had even been mocked at in his walks
abroad. In 1720, however, he entered for the second time the field of
active political polemics, and began with renewed energy the series of
writings which not only placed him at the head and front of the
political writers of the day, but secured for him a place in the
affections of the people of Ireland--a place which has been kept sacred
to him even to the present time. A visitor to the city of Dublin
desirous of finding his way to St. Patrick's Cathedral need but to ask
for the Dean's Church, and he will be understood. There is only one
Dean, and he wrote the "Drapier's Letters." The joy of the people of
Dublin on the withdrawal of Wood's Patent found such permanent
expression, that it has descended as oral tradition, and what was
omitted from the records of Parliament and the proceedings of Clubs and
Associations founded in the Drapier's honour, has been embalmed in the
hearts of the people, whose love he won, and whose homage it was ever
his pride to accept.

The spirit of Swift which Grattan invoked had, even in Grattan's time,
power to stir hearts to patriotic enthusiasm. That spirit has not died
out yet, and the Irish people still find it seasonable and refreshing to
be awakened by it to a true sense of the dignity and majesty of
Ireland's place in the British Empire.

A dispassionate student of the condition of Ireland between the years
of Swift's birth and death--between, say, 1667 and 1745--could rise from
that study in no unprejudiced mood. It would be difficult for him to
avoid the conclusion that the government of Ireland by England had not
only degraded the people of the vassal nation, but had proved a disgrace
and a stigma on the ruling nation. It was a government of the masses by
the classes, for no other than selfish ends. It ended, as all such
governments must inevitably end, in impoverishing the people, in
wholesale emigration, in starvation and even death, in revolt, and in
fostering among those who remained, and among those whom circumstances
exiled, the dangerous spirit of resentment and rebellion which is the
outcome of the sense of injustice. It has also served, even to this day,
to give vitality to those associations that have from time to time
arisen in Ireland for the object of realizing that country's

It may be argued that the people of Ireland of that time justified
Swift's petition when he prayed to be removed from "this land of slaves,
where all are fools and all are knaves"; but that is no justification
for the injustice. The injustice from which Ireland suffered was a fact.
Its existence was resented with all the indignation with which an
emotional and spiritual people will always resent material obstructions
to the free play of what they feel to be their best powers.

There were no leaders at the time who could see this, and seeing it,
enforce its truth on the dull English mind to move it to saner methods
of dealing with this people. Nor were there any who could order the
resentment into battalions of fighting men to give point to the demands
for equal rights with their English fellow-subjects.

Had Swift been an Irishman by nature as he was by birth, it might have
been otherwise; but Swift was an Irishman by accident, and only became
an Irish patriot by reason of the humanity in him which found indignant
and permanent expression against oppression. Swift's indignation
against the selfish hypocrisy of his fellow-men was the cry from the
pain which the sight of man's inhumanity to man inflicted on his
sensitive and truth-loving nature. The folly and baseness of his
fellow-creatures stung him, as he once wrote to Pope, "to perfect rage
and resentment." Turn where he would, he found either the knave as the
slave driver, or the slave as a fool, and the latter became even a
willing sacrifice. His indignation at the one was hardly greater than
his contempt for the other, and his different feelings found trenchant
expression in such writings as the "Drapier's Letters," the "Modest
Proposal," and "Gulliver's Travels."

It has been argued that the _saeva indignatio_ which lacerated his heart
was the passion of a mad man. To argue thus seems to us to misunderstand
entirely the peculiar qualities of Swift's nature. It was not the mad
man that made the passion; it was rather the passion that made the man
mad. As we understand him, it seems to us that Swift's was an eminently
majestic spirit, moved by the tenderest of human sympathies, and capable
of ennobling love--a creature born to rule and to command, but with all
the noble qualities which go to make a ruler loved. It happened that
circumstances placed him early in his career into poverty and servitude.
He extricated himself from both in time; but his liberation was due to
an assertion of his best powers, and not to a dissimulation of them. Had
he been less honest, he might have risen to a position of great power,
but it would have been at the price of those very qualities which made
him the great man he was. That assertion cost him his natural vocation,
and Swift lived on to rage in the narrow confines of a Dublin Deanery
House. He might have flourished as the greatest of English statesmen--he
became instead a monster, a master-scourger of men, pitiless to them as
they had been blind to him. But monster and master-scourger as he proved
himself, he always took the side of the oppressed as against the
oppressor. The impulse which sent him abroad collecting guineas for
"poor Harrison" was the same impulse which moved him in his study at the
Deanery to write as "M.B. Drapier." On this latter occasion, however, he
also had an opportunity to lay bare the secret springs of oppression, an
opportunity which he was not the man to let go by.

No doubt Swift was not quite disinterested in the motives which prompted
him to enter the political arena for the second time. He hated the
Walpole Ministry in power; he resented his exile in a country whose
people he despised; and he scorned the men who, while they feared him,
had yet had the power to prevent his advancement. But, allowing for
these personal incentives, there was in Swift such a large sympathy for
the degraded condition of the Irish people, such a tender solicitude for
their best welfare, and such a deep-seated zeal for their betterment,
that, in measuring to him his share in the title of patriot, we cannot
but admit that what we may call his public spirit far outweighed his
private spleen. Above all things Swift loved liberty, integrity,
sincerity and justice; and if it be that it was his love for these,
rather than his love for the country, which inspired him to patriotic
efforts, who shall say that he does not still deserve well of us. If a
patriot be a man who nobly teaches a people to become aware of its
highest functions as a nation, then was Swift a great patriot, and he
better deserves that title than many who have been accorded it.

The matter of Wood's Halfpence was a trivial one in itself; but it was
just that kind of a matter which Swift must instantly have appreciated
as the happiest for his purpose. It was a matter which appealed to the
commonest news-boy on the street, and its meaning once made plain, the
principle which gave vitality to the meaning was ready for enunciation
and was assured of intelligent acceptance. In writing the "Drapier's
Letters," he had, to use his own words, seasonably raised a spirit
among the Irish people, and that spirit he continued to refresh, until
when he told them in his Fourth Letter, "by the Laws of God, of Nature,
of Nations, and of your Country, you are, and ought to be, as free a
people as your brethren in England," the country rose as one man to the
appeal. Neither the suavities of Carteret nor the intrigues of Walpole
had any chance against the set opposition which met them. The question
to be settled was taken away from the consideration of ministers, and
out of the seclusion of Cabinets into the hands of the People, and
before the public eye. There was but one way in which it could be
settled--the way of the people's will--and it went that way. It does not
at all matter that Walpole finally had his way--that the King's mistress
pocketed her _douceur_, and that Wood retired satisfied with the ample
compensation allowed him. What does matter is that, for the first time
in Irish History, a spirit of national life was breathed into an almost
denationalized people. Beneath the lean and starved ribs of death Swift
planted a soul; it is for this that Irishmen will ever revere his

In the composition of the "Letters" Swift had set himself a task
peculiarly fitting to his genius. Those qualities of mind which enabled
him to enter into the habits of the lives of footmen, servants, and
lackeys found an even more congenial freedom of play here. His knowledge
of human nature was so profound that he instinctively touched the right
keys, playing on the passions of the common people with a deftness far
surpassing in effect the acquired skill of the mere master of oratory.
He ordered his arguments and framed their language, so that his readers
responded with almost passionate enthusiasm to the call he made upon
them. Allied to his gift of intellectual sympathy with his kind was a
consummate ability in expression, into which he imparted the fullest
value of the intended meaning. His thought lost nothing in its
statement. Writing as he did from the point of view of a tradesman, to
the shopkeepers, farmers, and common people of Ireland, his business was
to speak with them as if he were one of them. He had already laid bare
their grievances caused by the selfish legislation of the English
Parliament, which had ruined Irish manufactures; he had written grimly
of the iniquitous laws which had destroyed the woollen trade of the
country; he had not forgotten the condition of the people as he saw it
on his journeys from Dublin to Cork--a condition which he was later to
reveal in the most terrible of his satirical tracts--and he realized
with almost personal anguish the degradation of the people brought about
by the rapacity and selfishness of a class which governed with no
thought of ultimate consequences, and with no apparent understanding of
what justice implied. It was left for him to precipitate his private
opinion and public spirit in such form as would arouse the nation to a
sense of self-respect, if not to a pitch of resentment. The "Drapier's
Letters" was the reagent that accomplished both.

* * * * *

The editor takes this opportunity to express his thanks and obligations
to Mr. G.R. Dennis, to Mr. W. Spencer Jackson, to the late Colonel F.R.
Grant, to Mr. C. Litton Falkiner of Killiney, and to Mr. O'Donoghue of
Dublin. His acknowledgment is here also made to Mr. Strickland, of the
National Gallery of Ireland, to whose kindness and learning he is
greatly indebted.


NEW YORK, _March_, 1903.
























JONATHAN SWIFT. From a painting in the National Gallery of Ireland,
ascribed to Francis Bindon

HALFPENCE AND FARTHINGS coined by William Wood, 1722 and 1723

[Illustration: _Half-pence & farthings coined by William Wood, 1722 &




About the year 1720 it was generally acknowledged in Ireland that there
was a want there of the small change, necessary in the transaction of
petty dealings with shopkeepers and tradesmen. It has been indignantly
denied by contemporary writers that this small change meant copper
coins. They asserted that there was no lack of copper money, but that
there was a great want of small silver. Be that as it may, the report
that small change was wanting was sufficiently substantiated to the
English government to warrant it to proceed to satisfy the want. In its
dealings with Ireland, however, English governments appear to have
consistently assumed that attitude which would most likely cause
friction and arouse disturbance. In England coins for currency proceeded
from a mint established under government supervision. In Scotland such a
mint was specially provided for in the Act of Union. But in Ireland, the
government acted otherwise.

The Irish people had again and again begged that they should be
permitted to establish a mint in which coins could be issued of the same
standard and intrinsic value as those used in England. English
parliaments, however, invariably disregarded these petitions. Instead of
the mint the King gave grants or patents by which a private individual
obtained the right to mint coins for the use of the inhabitants. The
right was most often given for a handsome consideration, and held for a
term of years. In 1660 Charles II. granted such a patent to Sir Thomas
Armstrong, permitting him to coin farthings for twenty years. It
appears, however, that Armstrong never actually coined the farthings,
although he had gone to the expense of establishing a costly plant for
the purpose.

Small copper coins becoming scarce, several individuals, without
permission, issued tokens; but the practice was stopped. In 1680 Sir
William Armstrong, son of Sir Thomas, with Colonel George Legg
(afterwards Lord Dartmouth), obtained a patent for twenty-one years,
granting them the right to issue copper halfpence. Coins were actually
struck and circulated, but the patent itself was sold to John Knox in
the very year of its issue. Knox, however, had his patent specially
renewed, but his coinage was interrupted when James II. issued his
debased money during the Revolution (see Monck Mason, p. 334, and the
notes on this matter to the Drapier's Third Letter, in present edition).

Knox sold his patent to Colonel Roger Moore, who overstocked the country
with his coins to such an extent that the currency became undervalued.
When, in 1705, Moore endeavoured to obtain a renewal of his patent, his
application was refused. By 1722, owing either to Moore's bad coinage,
or to the importation of debased coins from other countries, the copper
money had degraded considerably. In a pamphlet[1] issued by George
Ewing in Dublin (1724), it is stated that in that year, W. Trench
presented a memorial to the Lords of the Treasury, complaining of the
condition of the copper coinage, and pointing out that the evil results
had been brought about by the system of grants to private individuals.
Notwithstanding this memorial, it was attempted to overcome the
difficulty by a continuance of the old methods. A new patent was issued
to an English iron merchant, William Wood by name, who, according to
Coxe, submitted proposal with many others, for the amelioration of the
grievance. Wood's proposals, say this same authority, were accepted "as
beneficial to Ireland." The letters patent bear the date July 12th,
1722, and were prepared in accordance with the King's instructions to
the Attorney and Solicitor General sent in a letter from Kensington on
June 16th, 1722. The letter commanded "that a bill should be prepared
for his royal signature, containing and importing an indenture, whereof
one part was to pass the Great Seal of Great Britain." This indenture,
notes Monck Mason,[2] between His Majesty of the one part, "and William
Wood, of Wolverhampton, in the County of Stafford, Esq.," of the other,
signifies that His Majesty

"has received information that, in his kingdom of Ireland, there was a
great want of small money for making small payments, and that retailers
and others did suffer by reason of such want."

[Footnote 1: "A Defence of the Conduct of the People of Ireland in their
unanimous refusal of Mr. Wood's Copper Money," pp. 22-23.]

[Footnote 2: "History of St. Patrick's Cathedral," note v, pp. 326-327.]

By virtue, therefore, of his prerogative royal, and in consideration of
the rents, covenants, and agreements therein expressed, His Majesty
granted to William Wood, his executors, assigns, etc., "full, free,
sole, and absolute power, privilege, licence, and authority," during
fourteen years, from the annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, 1722, to
coin halfpence and farthings of copper, to be uttered and disposed of in
Ireland, and not elsewhere. It was provided that the whole quantity
coined should not exceed 360 tons of copper, whereof 100 tons only were
to be coined in the first year, and 20 tons in each of the last
thirteen, said farthings and halfpence to be of good, pure, and
merchantable copper, and of such size and bigness, that one avoirdupois
pound weight of copper should not be converted into more farthings and
halfpence than would make thirty pence by tale; all the said farthings
and halfpence to be of equal weight in themselves, or as near thereunto
as might be, allowing a remedy not exceeding two farthings over or under
in each pound. The same "to pass and to be received as current money, by
such as shall or will, voluntarily and willingly, and not otherwise,
receive the same, within the said kingdom of Ireland, and not
elsewhere." Wood also covenanted to pay to the King's clerk or
comptroller of the coinage, L200 yearly, and L100 per annum into his
Majesty's treasury.

Most of the accounts of this transaction and its consequent agitation
in Ireland, particularly those given by Sir W. Scott and Earl Stanhope,
are taken from Coxe's "Life of Walpole." Monck Mason, however, in his
various notes appended to his life of Swift, has once and for all placed
Coxe's narrative in its true light, and exposed the specious special
pleading on behalf of his hero, Walpole. But even Coxe cannot hide the
fact that the granting of the patent and the circumstances under which
it was granted, amounted to a disgraceful job, by which an opportunity
was seized to benefit a "noble person" in England at the expense of
Ireland. The patent was really granted to the King's mistress, the
Duchess of Kendal, who sold it to William Wood for the sum of L10,000,
and (as it was reported with, probably, much truth) for a share in the
profits of the coining. The job was alluded to by Swift when he wrote:

"When late a feminine magician,
Join'd with a brazen politician,
Expos'd, to blind a nation's eyes,
A parchment of prodigious size."

Coxe endeavors to exonerate Walpole from the disgrace attached to this
business, by expatiating on Carteret's opposition to Walpole, an
opposition which went so far as to attempt to injure the financial
minister's reputation by fomenting jealousies and using the Wood patent
agitation to arouse against him the popular indignation; but this does
not explain away the fact itself. He lays some blame for the agitation
on Wood's indiscretion in flaunting his rights and publicly boasting of
what the great minister would do for him. At the same time he takes care
to censure the government for its misconduct in not consulting with the
Lord Lieutenant and his Privy Council before granting the patent. His
censure, however, is founded on the consideration that this want of
attention was injudicious and was the cause of the spread of exaggerated
rumours of the patent's evil tendency. He has nothing to say of the
rights and liberties of a people which had thereby been infringed and

The English parliament had rarely shown much consideration for Irish
feelings or Irish rights. Its attitude towards the Irish Houses of
Legislation had been high-handed and even dictatorial; so that
constitutional struggles were not at all infrequent towards the end of
the seventeenth and during the first quarter of the eighteenth century.
The efforts of Sir Constantine Phipps towards a non-parliamentary
government,[3] and the reversal by the English House of Lords of the
decision given by the Irish House of Lords in the famous Annesley case,
had prepared the Irish people for a revolt against any further attempts
to dictate to its properly elected representatives assembled in
parliament. Moreover, the wretched material condition of the people, as
it largely had been brought about by a selfish, persecuting legislation
that practically isolated Ireland commercially in prohibiting the
exportation of its industrial products, was a danger and a menace to the
governing country. The two nations were facing each other threateningly.
When, therefore, Wood began to import his coin, suspicion was
immediately aroused.

[Footnote 3: See Lecky's "History of Ireland," vol. i., p. 446, etc.]

The masses took little notice of it at first; but the commissioners of
revenue in Dublin took action in a letter they addressed to the Right
Hon. Edward Hopkins, secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. This letter,
dated August 7th, 1722, began by expressing surprise at the patent
granted to Mr. Wood, and asked the secretary "to lay before the Lord
Lieutenant a memorial, presented by their agent to the Lords of the
Treasury, concerning this patent, and also a report of some former
Commissioners of the revenue on the like occasion, and to acquaint his
Grace, that they concurred in all the objections in those papers, and
were of opinion, that such a patent would be highly prejudicial to the
trade, and welfare of this kingdom, and more particularly to his
Majesty's revenue, which they had formerly found to have suffered very
much, by too great a quantity of such base coin."[4] No reply was
received to this letter.

[Footnote 4: "A Defence of the Conduct of the People of Ireland," etc.,
p. 6.]

Fears began to be generally felt, and the early murmurs of an agitation
to be heard when, on September 19th, 1722, the Commissioners addressed a
second letter, this time to the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's
Treasury. The letter assured their Lordships "that they had been applied
to by many persons of rank and fortune, and by the merchants and traders
in Ireland, to represent the ill effects of Mr. Wood's patent, and that
they could from former experience assure their Lordships, it would be
particularly detrimental to his Majesty's revenue. They represented that
this matter had made a great noise here, and that there did not appear
the _least want of such small species of coin for change_, and hoped
that the importance of the occasion would excuse their making this
representation of a matter that had not been referred to them."[5]

[Footnote 5: _Ibid_, pp. 6-7.]

To this letter also no reply was vouchsafed. In the meantime, Wood kept
sending in his coins, landing them at most of the ports of the kingdom.

"Then everyone that was not interested in the success of this coinage,"
writes the author of the pamphlet already quoted, "by having contracted
for a great quantity of his halfpence at a large discount, or biassed by
the hopes of immoderate gain to be made out of the ruins of their
country, expressed their apprehensions of the pernicious consequences of
this copper money; and resolved to make use of the _right they had by
law to refuse the same_".[6]

[Footnote 6: _Ibid_, p. 7.]

The Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Grafton, had arrived in August, 1723,
and parliament sat early in September. Its first attention was paid to
the Wood patent. After the early excitement had subsided, they resolved
to appeal to the King. During the early stages of the discussion,
however, the Commons addressed the Lord Lieutenant, asking that a copy
of the patent and other papers relating to it, be laid before them. This
was on September 13th. On the following day Mr. Hopkins informed the
House that the Lord Lieutenant had no such copy, nor any papers. The
House then unanimously resolved to inquire into the matter on its own
account, and issued orders for several persons to appear before it to
give evidence, fixing the day for examination for September 16th. On
that day, however, Mr. Hopkins appeared before the members with a copy
of the patent, and informed them that the Lord Lieutenant had received
it since his last communication with them. This incident served but to
arouse further ridicule. A broadside, published at the time with the
title "A Creed of an Irish Commoner," amusingly reveals the lameness of
the excuse for this non-production of the exemplification. Coxe says
that the cause for the delay was due to the fact that the copy of the
patent had been delivered to the Lord Lieutenant's servant, instead of
to his private secretary; but this excuse is probably no more happily
founded than the one offered.

On Friday, September 20th, the House resolved itself into a committee
"to take into consideration the state of the nation, particularly in
relation to the importing and uttering of copper halfpence and farthings
in this kingdom." After three days' debate, and after examining
competent witnesses under oath, it passed resolutions to the following

(1) That Wood's patent is highly prejudicial to his Majesty's revenue,
and is destructive of trade and commerce, and most dangerous to the
rights and properties of the subject.

(2) That for the purpose of obtaining the patent Wood had notoriously
misrepresented the state of the nation.

(3) That great quantities of the coin had been imported of different
impressions and of much less weight than the patent called for.

(4) That the loss to the nation by the uttering of this coin would
amount to 150 per cent.

(5) That in coining the halfpence Wood was guilty of a notorious fraud.

(6) "That it is the opinion of this Committee, that it hath been always
highly prejudicial to this kingdom to grant the power or privilege of
coining money to private persons; and that it will, at all times, be of
dangerous consequence to grant any such power to any body politic, or
corporate, or any private person or persons whatsoever."[7]

[Footnote 7: "Comm. Journals," vol. iii., pp. 317-325.]

Addresses to his Majesty in conformity with these resolutions were voted
on September 27th.

The House of Lords passed similar resolutions on September 26th, and
voted addresses embodying them on September 28th.[8]

[Footnote 8: "Lords' Journals," vol. ii., pp. 745-751.]

These Addresses received a better attention than did the letters from
the revenue commissioners. The Houses were courteously informed that
their communications would receive His Majesty's careful consideration.
Walpole kept his promise, but not before he had fought hard to maintain
the English prerogative, as he might have called it. The "secret"
history as narrated in Coxe's lively manner, throws some light on the
situation. Coxe really finds his hero's conduct not marked with "his
usual caution." The Lord Lieutenant was permitted to go to Ireland
without proper instructions; the information on which Walpole acted was
not reliable; and he did not sufficiently appreciate the influence of
Chancellor Midleton and his family. "He bitterly accused Lord Midleton
of treachery and low cunning, of having made, in his speeches,
distinction between the King and his ministers, of caballing with
Carteret, Cadogan, and Roxburgh, and of pursuing that line of conduct,
because he was of opinion the opposite party would gain the ascendency
in the cabinet. He did not believe the disturbances to be so serious as
they were represented, nor was he satisfied with the Duke of Grafton's
conduct, as being solely directed by Conolly, but declared that the part
acted by Conolly, almost excused what the Brodricks had done." Carteret
complained to the King and proved to him that Walpole's policy was a
dangerous one. The King became irritated and Walpole "ashamed." He even
became "uneasy," and it is to be supposed, took a more "cautious"
course; for he managed to conciliate the Brodricks and the powers in
Dublin. But the devil was not ill long. The cabinet crisis resulted in
the triumph of Townshend and Walpole, and the devil got well again.
Carteret must be removed and the patent promoted. But Midleton and the
Brodricks must be kept friendly. So Carteret went to Ireland as Lord
Lieutenant, Midleton remained Chancellor, and constituted a lord
justice, and St. John Brodrick was nominated a member of the Privy
Council. Still farther on his "cautious" way, Ireland must be given some
consideration; hence the Committee of the Privy Council, specially
called to inquire into the grievances complained of by the Irish Houses
of Parliament in their loyal addresses.

The Committee sat for several weeks, and the report it issued forms the
subject of Swift's animadversions in the Drapier's third letter. But the
time spent by the Committee in London was being utilized in quite a
different fashion by Swift in Ireland. "Cautious" as was Walpole, he had
not reckoned with the champion of his political opponents of Queen
Anne's days. Swift had little humour for court intrigues and cabinet
cabals. He came out into the open to fight the good fight of the people
to whom courts and cabinets should be servants and not self-seeking
masters. Whatever doubts the people of Ireland may have had about the
legal validity of their resentment towards Wood and his coins, were
quickly dissipated when they read "A Letter to the Shop Keepers,
Tradesmen, Farmers, and Common People of Ireland, concerning the Brass
Half-pence coined by Mr. Wood," and signed, "M.B. Drapier." The letter,
as Lord Orrery remarked, acted like the sound of a trumpet. At that
sound "a spirit arose among the people, that in the eastern phrase, was
_like unto a trumpet in the day of the whirlwind_. Every person of every
rank, party, and denomination was convinced, that the admission of
Wood's copper must prove fatal to the Commonwealth. The papist, the
fanatic, the Tory, the Whig, all listed themselves volunteers under the
banners of M.B. Drapier, and were all equally zealous to serve the
Common cause."

The present text of the first of the Drapier's letters is based on that
given by Sir W. Scott, carefully collated with two copies of the first
edition which differed from each other in many particulars. One belonged
to the late Colonel F. Grant, and the other is in the British Museum. It
has also been read with the collection of the Drapier's Letters issued
by the Drapier Club in 1725, with the title, "Fraud Detected"; with the
London edition of "The Hibernian Patriot" (1730), and with Faulkner's
text issued in his collected edition of Swift's Works in 1735.


_Shop-Keepers_, _Tradesmen_, _Farmers_
and _Common-People_ of

Concerning the
*Brass Half-pence*
Coined by

**Mr. Woods,**

A _Design_ to have them _Pass_ in this

Wherein is shewn the Power of the said PATENT,
the Value of the HALF-PENCE, and
how far every Person may be oblig'd to take the
same in Payments, and how to behave in Case
such an Attempt shou'd be made by WOODS
or any other Person.

[Very Proper to be kept in every FAMILY.]

By M.B. _Drapier_.

DUBLIN: Printed by _J. Harding_
in _Molesworth's-Court_.




What I intend now to say to you, is, next to your duty to God, and the
care of your salvation, of the greatest concern to yourselves, and your
children, your bread and clothing, and every common necessary of life
entirely depend upon it. Therefore I do most earnestly exhort you as
men, as Christians, as parents, and as lovers of your country, to read
this paper with the utmost attention, or get it read to you by others;
which that you may do at the less expense, I have ordered the printer to
sell it at the lowest rate.

It is a great fault among you, that when a person writes with no other
intention than to do you good, you will not be at the pains to read his
advices: One copy of this paper may serve a dozen of you, which will be
less than a farthing a-piece. It is your folly that you have no common
or general interest in your view, not even the wisest among you, neither
do you know or enquire, or care who are your friends, or who are your

About three[9] years ago, a little book was written, to advise all
people to wear the manufactures of this our own dear country:[10] It had
no other design, said nothing against the King or Parliament, or any
man, yet the POOR PRINTER was prosecuted two years, with the utmost
violence, and even some WEAVERS themselves, for whose sake it was
written, being upon the JURY, FOUND HIM GUILTY. This would be enough to
discourage any man from endeavouring to do you good, when you will
either neglect him or fly in his face for his pains, and when he must
expect only danger to himself and loss of money, perhaps to his

[Footnote 9: In his reprint of the Drapier's Letters, issued in 1725
with the title, "Fraud Detected; or the Hibernian Patriot," Faulkner
prints "four" instead of "three"; but this, of course, is a correction
made to agree with the date of the publication of this reprint. The
"Proposal" was published in 1720. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 10: The "little book" was "A Proposal for the Universal Use of
Irish Manufactures." See vol. vii. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 11: Instead of the words "loss of money," Faulkner in the
reprint of 1725 has "to be fined and imprisoned." [T.S.]]

However I cannot but warn you once more of the manifest destruction
before your eyes, if you do not behave yourselves as you ought.

I will therefore first tell you the plain story of the fact; and then I
will lay before you how you ought to act in common prudence, and
according to the laws of your country.

The fact is thus: It having been many years since COPPER HALFPENCE OR
FARTHINGS were last coined in this kingdom, they have been for some time
very scarce,[12] and many counterfeits passed about under the name of
_raps_, several applications were made to England, that we might have
liberty to coin new ones, as in former times we did; but they did not
succeed. At last one Mr. Wood,[13] a mean ordinary man, a hardware
dealer, procured a patent[14]under his Majesty's broad seal to coin
fourscore and ten thousand pounds[15] in copper for this kingdom, which
patent however did not oblige any one here to take them, unless they
pleased. Now you must know, that the halfpence and farthings in England
pass for very little more than they are worth. And if you should beat
them to pieces, and sell them to the brazier you would not lose above a
penny in a shilling. But Mr. Wood made his halfpence of such base metal,
and so much smaller than the English ones, that the brazier would not
give you above a penny of good money for a shilling of his; so that this
sum of fourscore and ten thousand pounds in good gold and silver, must
be given for trash that will not be worth above eight or nine thousand
pounds real value. But this is not the worst, for Mr. Wood when he
pleases may by stealth send over another and another fourscore and ten
thousand pounds, and buy all our goods for eleven parts in twelve, under
the value. For example, if a hatter sells a dozen of hats for five
shillings a-piece, which amounts to three pounds, and receives the
payment in Mr. Wood's coin, he really receives only the value of five

[Footnote 12: They had become scarce because they had been undervalued,
and therefore sent out of the country in payment of goods bought. See
Prior's "Observations on Coin," issued in 1729, where it is stated that
this scarcity had occurred only within the last twenty years. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 13: William Wood (1671-1730) was an ironmaster of
Wolverhampton. In addition to the patent for coining copper halfpence
which he obtained for Ireland, and to which full reference is made in
the introductory note to this first Drapier's Letter, Wood also obtained
a patent, in 1722, for coining halfpence, pence and twopence for the
English colonies in America. This latter patent fared no better than the
Irish one. The coins introduced in America bear the dates 1722 and 1723,
and are now much sought after by collectors. They are known as the Rosa
American coinage. A list of the poems and pamphlets on Wood, during the
excitement in Dublin, attending on the Drapier's Letters, will be found
in the bibliography of Swift's works to be given in vol. xi. of this
edition. See also Monck Mason's "History of St. Patrick's Cathedral." In
the original edition of the Letter, Wood's name is mis-spelt Woods. [T.

[Footnote 14: See the introductory note for the manner in which this
patent was obtained. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 15: This is how the amount is named in the first edition; but
the amount in reality was L100,800 (the value of 360 tons of copper, as
stated by the patent). Sir W. Scott prints this as L108,000. Coxe, in
his "Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole" gives the amount as L100,000. Lecky
states it as L108,000. [T.S.]]

Perhaps you will wonder how such an ordinary fellow as this Mr. Wood
could have so much interest as to get His Majesty's broad seal for so
great a sum of bad money, to be sent to this poor country, and that all
the nobility and gentry here could not obtain the same favour, and let
us make our own halfpence, as we used to do. Now I will make that matter
very plain. We are at a great distance from the King's court, and have
nobody there to solicit for us, although a great number of lords and
squires, whose estates are here, and are our countrymen, spending all
their lives and fortunes there. But this same Mr. Wood was able to
attend constantly for his own interest; he is an Englishman and had
great friends, and it seems knew very well where to give money, to
those that would speak to others that could speak to the King and could
tell a fair story. And His Majesty, and perhaps the great lord or lords
who advised him, might think it was for our country's good; and so, as
the lawyers express it, "the King was deceived in his grant," which
often happens in all reigns. And I am sure if His Majesty knew that such
a patent, if it should take effect according to the desire of Mr. Wood,
would utterly ruin this kingdom, which hath given such great proofs of
its loyalty, he would immediately recall it, and perhaps shew his
displeasure to somebody or other. But "a word to the wise is enough."
Most of you must have heard, with what anger our honourable House of
Commons received an account of this Wood's patent.[16] There were
several fine speeches made upon it, and plain proofs that it was all A
WICKED CHEAT from the bottom to the top, and several smart votes were
printed, which that same Wood had the assurance to answer likewise in
print, and in so confident a way, as if he were a better man than our
whole Parliament put together.[17]

[Footnote 16: The Irish House of Commons reported that the loss to the
country, even if the patent were carried out as required, would amount
to about 150 per cent.; and both Irish Houses of Parliament voted
addresses against the coinage, and accused the patentee of fraud and
deceit. They asserted that the terms of the patent had not been
fulfilled and "that the circulation of the halfpence would be highly
prejudicial to the revenue, destructive of the commerce, and of most
dangerous consequences to the rights and properties of the subjects."
See introductory note. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 17: Wood's indiscreet retort was published in the "Flying
Post" October 8th, 1723. Later he boasted that he would, with Walpole's
assistance, "pour the coin down the throats of the people." [T.S.]]

This Wood, as soon as his patent was passed, or soon after, sends over
a great many barrels of these halfpence, to Cork and other sea-port
towns,[18] and to get them off offered an hundred pounds in his coin for
seventy or eighty in silver. But the collectors of the King's customs
very honestly refused to take them, and so did almost everybody else.
And since the Parliament hath condemned them, and desired the King that
they might be stopped, all the kingdom do abominate them.

[Footnote 18: At Dublin, Cork, Waterford and other ports, the merchants
refused to accept the copper coins. Monck Mason notes that "in the
'Dublin Gazette,' No. 2562, we meet with resolutions by the merchants of
Cork, dated the 25th of Aug., 1724, and like resolutions by those of
Waterford, dated 22d Aug. wherein they declare, that, 'they will never
receive or utter in any payment, the halfpence or farthings coined by
William Wood; as they conceive the importing and uttering the same, to
be highly prejudicial to His Majesty's revenue, and to the trade of the
kingdom': these resolutions are declared to be conformable to those of
the Trinity Guild, of merchants, of the city of Dublin, voted at their
guild-hall, on the 18th day of the same month" (Hist. St. Patrick's, p.
346, note r). See also Appendix No. IX. [T.S.]]

But Wood is still working underhand to force his halfpence upon us, and
if he can by help of his friends in England prevail so far as to get an
order that the commissioners and collectors of the King's money shall
receive them, and that the army is to be paid with them, then he thinks
his work shall be done. And this is the difficulty you will be under in
such a case. For the common soldier when he goes to the market or
alehouse will offer this money, and if it be refused, perhaps he will
swagger and hector, and threaten to beat the butcher or alewife, or take
the goods by force, and throw them the bad halfpence. In this and the
like cases, the shopkeeper or victualler, or any other tradesman has no
more to do, than to demand ten times the price of his goods, if it is to
be paid in Wood's money; for example, twenty-pence of that money for a
quart of ale, and so in all things else, and not part with his goods
till he gets the money.

For suppose you go to an alehouse with that base money, and the landlord
gives you a quart for four of these halfpence, what must the victualler
do? His brewer will not be paid in that coin, or if the brewer should be
such a fool, the farmers will not take it from them for their bere,[19]
because they are bound by their leases to pay their rents in good and
lawful money of England, which this is not, nor of Ireland neither, and
the 'squire their landlord will never be so bewitched to take such trash
for his land, so that it must certainly stop somewhere or other, and
wherever it stops it is the same thing, and we are all undone.

[Footnote 19: Bere = barley. Cf. A.S. _baerlic_, Icelandic, _barr_,
meaning barley, the grain used for making malt for the preparation of
beer. [T.S.]]

The common weight of these halfpence is between four and five to an
ounce, suppose five, then three shillings and fourpence will weigh a
pound, and consequently twenty shillings will weigh six pound butter
weight. Now there are many hundred farmers who pay two hundred pound a
year rent. Therefore when one of these farmers comes with his
half-year's rent, which is one hundred pound, it will be at least six
hundred pound weight, which is three horse load.

If a 'squire has a mind to come to town to buy clothes and wine and
spices for himself and family, or perhaps to pass the winter here; he
must bring with him five or six horses loaden with sacks as the farmers
bring their corn; and when his lady comes in her coach to our shops, it
must be followed by a car loaden with Mr. Wood's money. And I hope we
shall have the grace to take it for no more than it is worth.

They say 'Squire Conolly[20] has sixteen thousand pounds a year, now if
he sends for his rent to town, as it is likely he does, he must have two
hundred and forty horses to bring up his half-year's rent, and two or
three great cellars in his house for stowage. But what the bankers will
do I cannot tell. For I am assured, that some great bankers keep by them
forty thousand pounds in ready cash to answer all payments, which sum,
in Mr. Wood's money, would require twelve hundred horses to carry it.

[Footnote 20: William Conolly (d. 1729) was chosen Speaker of the Irish
House of Commons on November 12th, 1715. He held this office until
October 12th, 1729. Swift elsewhere says that Wharton sold Conolly the
office of Chief Commissioner of the Irish Revenue for L3,000. Between
the years 1706 and 1729 Conolly was ten times selected for the office of
a Lord Justice of Ireland. The remark in the text as to Conolly's income
is repeated by Boulter ("Letters," vol. i., p. 334), though the Primate
writes of L17,000 a year. The reference to Conolly is of set purpose,
because Conolly had advocated the patent as against Midleton's
condemnation of it. [T.S.]]

For my own part, I am already resolved what to do; I have a pretty good
shop of Irish stuffs and silks, and instead of taking Mr. Wood's bad
copper, I intend to truck with my neighbours the butchers, and bakers,
and brewers, and the rest, goods for goods, and the little gold and
silver I have, I will keep by me like my heart's blood till better
times, or till I am just ready to starve, and then I will buy Mr. Wood's
money as my father did the brass money in K. James's time,[21] who could
buy ten pound of it with a guinea, and I hope to get as much for a
pistole, and so purchase bread from those who will be such fools as to
sell it me.

[Footnote 21: James II., during his unsuccessful campaign in Ireland,
debased the coinage in order to make his funds meet the demands of his
soldiery. Archbishop King, in his work on the "State of the Protestants
in Ireland," describes the evil effects which this proceeding had: "King
James's council used not to stick at the formalities of law or reason,
and therefore vast quantities of brass money were coined, and made
current by a proclamation, dated 18th June, 1689, under severe
penalties. The metal of which this money was made was the worst kind of
brass; old guns, and the refuse of metals were melted down to make it;
workmen rated it at threepence or a groat a pound, which being coined
into sixpences, shillings, or half-crowns, one pound weight made about
L5. And by another proclamation, dated 1690, the half-crowns were called
in, and being stamped anew, were made to pass for crowns; so that then,
three pence or four pence worth of metal made L10. There was coined in
all, from the first setting up of the mint, to the rout at the Boyne,
being about twelve months, L965,375. In this coin King James paid all
his appointments, and all that received the king's pay being generally
papists, they forced the protestants to part with the goods out of their
shops for this money, and to receive their debts in it; so that the loss
by the brass money did, in a manner, entirely fall on the protestants,
being defrauded (for I can call it no better) of about, L60,000 per
month by this stratagem, which must, in a few months, have utterly
exhausted them. When the papists had gotten most of their saleable goods
from their protestant neighbours, and yet great quantities of brass
money remained in their hands, they began to consider how many of them,
who had estates, had engaged them to protestants by judgments, statutes
staple, and mortgages; and to take this likewise from them they procured
a proclamation, dated 4 Feb. 1689, to make brass money current in all
payments whatsoever." A proclamation of William III., dated July 10th,
1690, ordered that these crown pieces of James should pass as of equal
value with one penny each. [T.S.]]

These halfpence, if they once pass, will soon be counterfeit, because it
may be cheaply done, the stuff is so base. The Dutch likewise will
probably do the same thing, and send them over to us to pay for our
goods.[22] And Mr. Wood will never be at rest but coin on: So that in
some years we shall have at least five times fourscore and ten thousand
pounds of this lumber. Now the current money of this kingdom is not
reckoned to be above four hundred thousand pounds in all, and while
there is a silver sixpence left these blood-suckers will never be quiet.

[Footnote 22: The Dutch had previously counterfeited the debased coinage
of Ireland and sent them over in payment for Irish manufactures. [T.

When once the kingdom is reduced to such a condition, I will tell you
what must be the end: The gentlemen of estates will all turn off their
tenants for want of payment, because as I told you before, the tenants
are obliged by their leases to pay sterling which is lawful current
money of England; then they will turn their own farmers, as too many of
them do already, run all into sheep where they can, keeping only such
other cattle as are necessary, then they will be their own merchants and
send their wool and butter and hides and linen beyond sea for ready
money and wine and spices and silks. They will keep only a few miserable
cottiers.[23] The farmers must rob or beg, or leave their country. The
shopkeepers in this and every other town, must break and starve: For it
is the landed man that maintains the merchant, and shopkeeper, and

[Footnote 23: "Unlike the peasant proprietor," says Lecky, "and also
unlike the mediaeval serf, the cottier had no permanent interest in the
soil, and no security for his future position. Unlike the English
farmer, he was no capitalist, who selects land as one of the many forms
of profitable investment that are open to him. He was a man destitute of
all knowledge and of all capital, who found the land the only thing that
remained between himself and starvation. Rents in the lower grades of
tenancies were regulated by competition, but it was competition between
a half-starving population, who had no other resources except the soil,
and were therefore prepared to promise anything rather than be deprived
of it. The landlord did nothing for them. They built their own mud
hovels, planted their hedges, dug their ditches. They were half naked,
half starved, utterly destitute of all providence and of all education,
liable at any time to be turned adrift from their holdings, ground to
the dust by three great burdens--rack-rents, paid not to the landlord
but to the middleman; tithes, paid to the clergy--often the absentee
clergy--of the church to which they did not belong; and dues, paid to
their own priests" ("Hist, of Ireland," vol. i., pp. 214-215, ed. 1892).

But when the 'squire turns farmer and merchant himself, all the good
money he gets from abroad, he will hoard up or send for England, and
keep some poor tailor or weaver and the like in his own house, who will
be glad to get bread at any rate.

I should never have done if I were to tell you all the miseries that we
shall undergo if we be so foolish and wicked as to take this CURSED
COIN. It would be very hard if all Ireland should be put into one scale,
and this sorry fellow Wood into the other, that Mr. Wood should weigh
down this whole kingdom, by which England gets above a million of good
money every year clear into their pockets, and that is more than the
English do by all the world besides.

But your great comfort is, that as His Majesty's patent does not oblige
you to take this money, so the laws have not given the crown a power of
forcing the subjects to take what money the King pleases: For then by
the same reason we might be bound to take pebble-stones or cockle-shells
or stamped leather for current coin, if ever we should happen to live
under an ill prince, who might likewise by the same power make a guinea
pass for ten pounds, a shilling for twenty shillings, and so on, by
which he would in a short time get all the silver and gold of the
kingdom into his own hands, and leave us nothing but brass or leather or
what he pleased. Neither is anything reckoned more cruel or oppressive
in the French government than their common practice of calling in all
their money after they have sunk it very low, and then coining it anew
at a much higher value, which however is not the thousandth part so
wicked as this abominable project of Mr. Wood. For the French give their
subjects silver for silver and gold for gold, but this fellow will not
so much as give us good brass or copper for our gold and silver, nor
even a twelfth part of their worth.

Having said thus much, I will now go on to tell you the judgments of
some great lawyers in this matter, whom I fee'd on purpose for your
sakes, and got their opinions under their hands, that I might be sure I
went upon good grounds.

A famous law-book, called "The Mirror of Justice,"[24] discoursing of
the articles (or laws) ordained by our ancient kings declares the law to
be as follows: "It was ordained that no king of this realm should
change, impair or amend the money or make any other money than of gold
or silver without the assent of all the counties," that is, as my Lord
Coke says,[25] without the assent of Parliament.

[Footnote 24: This was an important legal treatise often quoted by Coke.
Its full title is: "The Booke called, The Mirrour of Justices: Made by
Andrew Home. With the book, called, The Diversity of Courts, And Their
Jurisdictions ... London ... 1646." The French edition was printed in
1642 with the title, "La somme appelle Mirroir des Justices: vel
speculum Justiciariorum, Factum per Andream Home." Coke quotes it from a
manuscript, as he died before it was printed. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 25: 2 Inst. 576. [ORIG. ED.]]

This book is very ancient, and of great authority for the time in which
it was wrote, and with that character is often quoted by that great
lawyer my Lord Coke.[26] By the law of England, the several metals are
divided into lawful or true metal and unlawful or false metal, the
former comprehends silver or gold; the latter all baser metals: That the
former is only to pass in payments appears by an act of Parliament[27]
made the twentieth year of Edward the First, called the "Statute
concerning the Passing of Pence," which I give you here as I got it
translated into English, for some of our laws at that time, were, as I
am told writ in Latin: "Whoever in buying or selling presumeth to refuse
an halfpenny or farthing of lawful money, bearing the stamp which it
ought to have, let him be seized on as a contemner of the King's
majesty, and cast into prison."

[Footnote 26: 2 Inst. 576-577. [ORIG. ED.]]

[Footnote 27: 2 Inst. 577. [ORIG. ED.]]

By this statute, no person is to be reckoned a contemner of the King's
majesty, and for that crime to be committed to prison; but he who
refuses to accept the King's coin made of lawful metal, by which, as I
observed before, silver and gold only are intended.

That this is the true construction of the act, appears not only from the
plain meaning of the words, but from my Lord Coke's observation upon it.
"By this act" (says he) "it appears, that no subject can be forced to
take in buying or selling or other payments, any money made but of
lawful metal; that is, of silver or gold."[28]

[Footnote 28: 2 Inst. 577. [ORIG. ED.]]

The law of England gives the King all mines of gold and silver, but not
the mines of other metals, the reason of which prerogative or power, as
it is given by my Lord Coke[29] is, because money can be made of gold
and silver, but not of other metals.

[Footnote 29: 2 Inst. 577. [ORIG. ED.]]

Pursuant to this opinion halfpence and farthings were anciently made of
silver, which is most evident from the act of Parliament of Henry the
4th. chap. 4.[30] by which it is enacted as follows: "Item, for the
great scarcity that is at present within the realm of England of
halfpence and farthings of silver, it is ordained and established that
the third part of all the money of silver plate which shall be brought
to the bullion, shall be made in halfpence and farthings." This shews
that by the word "halfpenny" and "farthing" of lawful money in that
statute concerning the passing of pence, are meant a small coin in
halfpence and farthings of silver.

[Footnote 30: Swift makes an incorrect reference here. The act was 4
Henry IV., cap. 10. [T.S.]]

This is further manifest from the statute of the ninth year of Edward
the 3d. chap. 3. which enacts, "That no sterling halfpenny or farthing
be molten for to make vessel, nor any other thing by the goldsmiths, nor
others, upon forfeiture of the money so molten" (or melted).

By another act in this King's reign[31] black money was not to be
current in England, and by an act made in the eleventh year of his reign
chap. 5. galley halfpence were not to pass, what kind of coin these were
I do not know, but I presume they were made of base metal, and that
these acts were no new laws, but farther declarations of the old laws
relating to the coin.

[Footnote 31: The act against black money was passed in Henry IV.'s
reign not Edward III.'s. The "galley halfpence" were dealt with by 9
Hen. IV., cap. 4. [T.S.]]

Thus the law stands in relation to coin, nor is there any example to the
contrary, except one in Davis's Reports,[32] who tells us that in the
time of Tyrone's rebellion Queen Elizabeth ordered money of mixed metal
to be coined in the Tower of London, and sent over hither for payment of
the army, obliging all people to receive it and commanding that all
silver money should be taken only as bullion, that is, for as much as it
weighed. Davis tells us several particulars in this matter too long here
to trouble you with, and that the privy-council of this kingdom obliged
a merchant in England to receive this mixed money for goods transmitted

[Footnote 32: This refers to Sir John Davies's "Abridgement of Sir
Edward Coke's Reports," first published in 1651. Davies was
Attorney-General for Ireland and a poet. His works have been collected
and edited by Dr. A.B. Grosart in the Fuller Worthies Library. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 33: Charles I., during the Civil War, paid his forces with
debased coin struck by him. [T.S.]]

But this proceeding is rejected by all the best lawyers as contrary to
law, the Privy-council here having no such power. And besides it is to
be considered, that the Queen was then under great difficulties by a
rebellion in this kingdom assisted from Spain, and whatever is done in
great exigences and dangerous times should never be an example to
proceed by in seasons of peace and quietness.

I will now, my dear friends to save you the trouble, set before you in
short, what the law obliges you to do, and what it does not oblige you

First, You are obliged to take all money in payments which is coined by
the King and is of the English standard or weight, provided it be of
gold or silver.

Secondly, You are not obliged to take any money which is not of gold or
silver, no not the halfpence, or farthings of England, or of any other
country, and it is only for convenience, or ease, that you are content
to take them, because the custom of coining silver halfpence and
farthings hath long been left off, I will suppose on account of their
being subject to be lost.

Thirdly, Much less are you obliged to take those vile halfpence of that
same Wood, by which you must lose almost eleven-pence in every shilling.

Therefore my friends, stand to it one and all, refuse this filthy trash.
It is no treason to rebel against Mr. Wood. His Majesty in his patent
obliges nobody to take these halfpence,[34] our gracious prince hath no
so ill advisers about him; or if he had, yet you see the laws have not
left it in the King's power, to force us to take any coin but what is
lawful, of right standard gold and silver, therefore you have nothing to

[Footnote 34: The words of the patent are "to pass and to be received as
current money; by such as shall or will, voluntarily and wittingly, and
not otherwise, receive the same" (the halfpence and farthings). [T.S.]]

And let me in the next place apply myself particularly to you who are
the poor sort of tradesmen, perhaps you may think you will not be so
great losers as the rich, if these halfpence should pass, because you
seldom see any silver, and your customers come to your shops or stalls
with nothing but brass, which you likewise find hard to be got, but you
may take my word, whenever this money gains footing among you, you will
be utterly undone; if you carry these halfpence to a shop for tobacco
or brandy, or any other thing you want, the shopkeeper will advance his
goods accordingly, or else he must break, and leave the key under the
door. Do you think I will sell you a yard of tenpenny stuff for twenty
of Mr. Wood's halfpence? No, not under two hundred at least, neither
will I be at the trouble of counting, but weigh them in a lump; I will
tell you one thing further, that if Mr. Wood's project should take, it
will ruin even our beggars; For when I give a beggar an halfpenny, it
will quench his thirst, or go a good way to fill his belly, but the
twelfth part of a halfpenny will do him no more service than if I should
give him three pins out of my sleeve.

In short these halfpence are like "the accursed thing, which" as the
Scripture tells us, "the children of Israel were forbidden to touch,"
they will run about like the plague and destroy every one who lays his
hands upon them. I have heard scholars talk of a man who told a king
that he had invented a way to torment people by putting them into a bull
of brass with fire under it, but the prince put the projector first into
his own brazen bull to make the experiment;[35] this very much resembles
the project of Mr. Wood, and the like of this may possibly be Mr. Wood's
fate, that the brass he contrived to torment this kingdom with, may
prove his own torment, and his destruction at last.

[Footnote 35: It is curious to find Swift so referring to Phalaris, of
whom he had heard so much in the days of the "Battle of the Books." [SIR

N.B. The author of this paper is informed by persons who have made it
their business to be exact in their observations on the true value of
these halfpence, that any person may expect to get a quart of twopenny
ale for thirty-six of them.

I desire all persons may keep this paper carefully by them to refresh
their memories whenever they shall have farther notice of Mr. Wood's
halfpence, or any other the like imposture.




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 L40,000. 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 5-1/2_d_. 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."


Mr. _Harding_ the Printer,
Upon Occasion of a

of _Aug_. 1st.

Relating to Mr. _Wood's_ Half-pence.

_By_ M.B. _Drapier_.
AUTHOR of the LETTER to the

DUBLIN: Printed by _J. Harding_
in _Molesworth's-Court_.



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

[Footnote 3: Thus in original edition. L108,000 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 L10,000 or L15,000 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.

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

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

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,

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

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
L104,000. [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_,


_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]

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


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