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

Part 2 out of 5

taken of the halfpence, and farthings coined by Mr. Wood proving so
unquestionably the weight, goodness and fineness of the copper money
coined, rather exceeding the conditions of the patent, than being any
way defective, the Lords of the Committee cannot advise your Majesty, by
a writ of _scire facias_, or any other manner to endeavour vacating the
said patent, when there is no probability of success in such an

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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



Upon a PAPER, Call'd, The


Most Honourable the _Privy-Council_
Relating to WOOD's _Half-pence_.

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

Printed by _John Harding_ in
_Molesworth's-Court_ in _Fishamble Street_.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is alleged in the said paper, called the "Report," that upon repeated
orders from a secretary of state, for sending over such papers and
witnesses, as should be thought proper to support the objections made
against the patent (by both Houses of Parliament) the Lord Lieutenant
represented "the great difficulty he found himself in to comply with
these orders. That none of the principal members of both Houses, who
were in the King's service or council, would take upon them to advise
how any material person or papers might be sent over on this occasion,
&c." And this is often repeated and represented as "a proceeding that
seems very extraordinary, and that in a matter which had raised so great
a clamour in Ireland, no one person could be prevailed upon to come over
from Ireland in support of the united sense of both Houses of Parliament
in Ireland, especially that the chief difficulty should arise from a
general apprehension of a miscarriage, in an enquiry before His
Majesty, or in a proceeding by due course of law, in a case where both
Houses of Parliament had declared themselves so fully convinced, and
satisfied upon evidence, and examinations taken in the most solemn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"'But, 3dly, it was not on the illegality of the patent, nor chiefly on
the abuse of it the patentee (which was not so much as mentioned by the
lords), that the parliament insisted, but on the unavoidable mischief
and destruction it would bring on the kingdom, and on its being obtained
by most false and notorious misinformation of his majesty; it being
suggested, as appears by the preamble, that the kingdom wanted such
halfpence and farthings: now, if the king be misinformed, the lawyers
tell us, that the grant is void. And, that his majesty was deceived in
this grant by a false representation, it was said, needed no further
proof than the patent itself.--William Wood by it was empowered to coin
360 tons of copper into halfpence and farthings, which would have made
L90,000, about the fifth part of all the current cash of Ireland; for
that is not reckoned, by those who suppose it most, to be L500,000. Now,
the current cash of England is reckoned above twenty millions; in
proportion, therefore, if Ireland wants L90,000 England will want four
millions. It is easy to imagine what would be said to a man that would
propose to his majesty such a coinage; and it is agreed, that the people
of England would not be more alarmed by such a patent, than the people
of Ireland are, by the prospect of turning the fifth part of their
current coin into brass.

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

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

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

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

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

"K. Charles 2d. 1660 granted a patent for coining only farthings for the
kingdom of Ireland to Coll. Armstrong: But I do not find he ever made
any use of it.[A] For all our copper and brass money to the year 1680
was issued by private persons, who obtained particular licences, _on
giving security to change their half-pence and farthings for gold and
silver_; but some of their securities failing, others pretending the
half-pence which were tendered to be changed were counterfeits, the
public always suffered. Col. Armstrong's son, finding great profit was
made by coining half-pence in Ireland, by virtue of particular licences
recallable at pleasure, solicited and obtained a patent in the name of
George Legg afterwards Lord Dartmouth, for coining half-pence for
Ireland from 1680, for 21 years, _he giving security to exchange them
for gold or silver on demand_.[B] In pursuance of this he coined
considerable quantities of half-pence for four years; but in 1685 [John]
Knox, with the consent of Armstrong, got the remaining part of this term
granted by patent in his own name, he giving security as above, and got
his half-pence declared the current coin of Ireland, notwithstanding two
Acts of Parliament had enacted that they should not be received in the
revenue. Knox was interrupted in his coinage in 1689, by King James's
taking it into his own hands, to coin his famous brass money, of which
he coined no less than L965,375, three penny worth of metal passing for
L10 _ster_. In this money creditors were obliged to receive their debts,
and by this cruel stratagem Ireland lost about L60,000 per month. This
not only made our gold and silver, but even our half-pence to disappear;
which obliged King William to coin pewter half-pence for the use of his

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will here please to observe, that the profit allowed to Wood by the
patent is twelvepence out of every pound of copper valued at _1s. 6d_.
whereas _5d_. only is allowed for coinage of a pound weight for the
English halfpence, and this difference is almost 25 _per cent_. which is
double to the highest exchange of money, even under all the additional
pressures, and obstructions to trade, that this unhappy kingdom lies at
present. This one circumstance in the coinage of three hundred and sixty
ton of copper makes a difference of twenty-seven thousand seven hundred
and twenty pounds between English and Irish halfpence, even allowing
those of Wood to be all of the heaviest sort.

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

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

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

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

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

I never can suppose that such patents as these were originally granted
with the view of being a job for the interest of a particular person, to
the damage of the public: Whatever profit must arise to the patentee was
surely meant at best but as a secondary motive, and since somebody must
be a gainer, the choice of the person was made either by favour, or
_something else_[7] or by the pretence of merit and honesty. This
argument returns so often and strongly into my head, that I cannot
forbear frequently repeating it. Surely His Majesty, when he consented
to the passing of this patent, conceived he was doing an act of grace to
his most loyal subjects of Ireland, without any regard to Mr. Wood,
farther than as an instrument. But the people of Ireland think this
patent (intended _no doubt_ for their good) to be a most intolerable
grievance, and therefore Mr. Wood can never succeed, without an open
avowal that his profit is preferred not only before the interests, but
the very safety and being of a great kingdom; and a kingdom
distinguished for its loyalty, perhaps above all others upon earth. Not
turned from its duty by the "jurisdiction of the House of Lords,
abolished at a stroke, by the hardships of the Act of Navigation newly
enforced; By all possible obstructions in trade," and by a hundred
other instances, "enough to fill this paper." Nor was there ever among
us the least attempt towards an insurrection in favour of the Pretender.
Therefore whatever justice a free people can claim we have at least an
equal title to it with our brethren in England, and whatever grace a
good prince can bestow on the most loyal subjects, we have reason to
expect it: Neither hath this kingdom any way deserved to be sacrificed
to one "single, rapacious, obscure, ignominious projector."

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

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

[Footnote 8: By the terms of the patent, Wood covenanted to pay to the
King's clerk, or comptroller of the coinage, L200 yearly, and L100 per
annum into his Majesty's exchequer, and not as Walpole's report has it,
L800 and L200. [T.S.]]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 10: Knox's patent, as Monck Mason points out, did not contain
the right to have his coins pass as the current coin of the realm; that
was permitted by a proclamation of the lord lieutenant, and could in the
same manner be withdrawn. Knox's patent differed materially from that
granted to Wood, since he was obliged to take back his coins and give
gold or silver for them, and no one was compelled to take more than five
shillings in the payment of each L100. See note, p. 66. [T.S.]]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But because much weight is laid on the precedents of other patents, for
coining copper for Ireland, I will set this matter in as clear a light
as I can. Whoever hath read the Report, will be apt to think, that a
dozen precedents at least could be produced of copper coined for
Ireland, by virtue of patents passed in England, and that the coinage
was there too; whereas I am confident, there cannot be one precedent
shewn of a patent passed in England for coining copper for Ireland, for
above an hundred years past, and if there were any before, it must be in
times of confusion. The only patents I could ever hear of, are those
already mentioned to Lord Dartmouth and Knox; the former in 1680. and
the latter in 1685. Now let us compare these patents with that granted
to Wood. First, the patent to Knox, which was under the same conditions
as that granted to Lord Dartmouth, was passed in Ireland, the government
and the Attorney and Solicitor-general making report that it would be
useful to this kingdom: [The patentee was obliged to make every
halfpenny one hundred and ten grains Troy weight, whereby _2s. 2d_. only
could be coined out of a pound of copper.][14] The patent was passed
with the advice of the King's council here; The patentee was obliged to
receive his coin from those who thought themselves surcharged, and to
give gold and silver for it; Lastly, The patentee was to pay only _16l.
13s. 4d. per ann._ to the crown. Then, as to the execution of that
patent. First, I find the halfpence were milled, which, as it is of
great use to prevent counterfeits (and therefore industriously avoided
by Wood) so it was an addition to the charge of coinage. And for the
weight and goodness of the metal; I have several halfpence now by me,
many of which weigh a ninth part more than those coined by Wood, and
bear the fire and hammer a great deal better; and which is no trifle,
the impression fairer and deeper. I grant indeed, that many of the
latter coinage yield in weight to some of Wood's, by a fraud natural to
such patentees; but not so immediately after the grant, and before the
coin grew current: For in this circumstance Mr. Wood must serve for a
precedent in future times.

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

Let us now examine this new patent granted to William Wood. It passed
upon very false suggestions of his own, and of a few confederates: It
passed in England, without the least reference hither. It passed unknown
to the very Lord Lieutenant, then in England. Wood is empowered to coin
one hundred and eight thousand pounds, "and all the officers in the
kingdom (civil and military) are commanded" in the Report to countenance
and assist him. Knox had only power to utter what we would take, and was
obliged "to receive his coin back again at our demand," and to "enter
into security for so doing." Wood's halfpence are not milled, and
therefore more easily counterfeited by himself as well as by others:
Wood pays a thousand pounds _per ann._ for 14 years, Knox paid only
_16l. 13s. 4d. per ann._ for 21 years.

It was the Report that set me the example of making a comparison between
those two patents, wherein the committee was grossly misled by the false
representation of William Wood, as it was by another assertion, that
seven hundred ton of copper were coined during the 21 years of Lord
Dartmouth's and Knox's patents. Such a quantity of copper at the rate of
_2s. 8d. per_ pound would amount to about an hundred and ninety thousand
pounds, which was very near as much as the current cash of the kingdom
in those days; yet, during that period, Ireland was never known to have
too much copper coin, and for several years there was no coining at all:
Besides I am assured, that upon enquiring into the custom-house books,
all the copper imported into the kingdom, from 1683 to 1692, which
includes 8 years of the 21 (besides one year allowed for the troubles)
did not exceed 47 tons, and we cannot suppose even that small quantity
to have been wholly applied to coinage: So that I believe there was
never any comparison more unluckily made or so destructive of the design
for which it was produced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 19: The suggestion thus made by the Lords of the Committee,
although coupled with the reduction in the amount of money Wood was to
be permitted to introduce, did not do any good. Archbishop King argued
rightly that this was treating the people of Ireland as if they were
fools and children. If Wood could coin L40,000, what was to prevent him
coining L200,000? The suggestion indeed irritated the people almost as
much as did the patent itself. [T.S.]]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Another ran as follows:


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

This puts me in mind of a passage I was told many years ago in England.
At a quarter-sessions in Leicester, the justices had wisely decreed, to
take off a halfpenny in a quart from the price of ale. One of them, who
came in after the thing was determined, being informed of what had
passed, said thus: "Gentlemen; you have made an order, that ale should
be sold in our country for three halfpence a quart: I desire you will
now make another to appoint who must drink it, for _by G-- I will

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

"Another Letter to Mr. Harding the printer, upon occasion of the Report
of the Committee of the Lords of His Majesty's Most Honourable
Privy-Council, in relation to Mr. Wood's halfpence and farthings, etc.,
lately published.

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

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

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

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

"I am your, etc.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 25, 1724.




The country was now in a very fever of excitement. Everywhere meetings
were held for the purpose of expressing indignation against the
imposition, and addresses from brewers, butchers, flying stationers, and
townspeople generally, were sent in embodying the public protest against
Wood and his coins. Swift fed the flame by publishing songs and ballads
well fitted for the street singers, and appealing to the understandings
of those who he well knew would effectively carry his message to the
very hearths of the poorest labourers. Courtier and student, tradesman
and freeman, thief and prostitute, beggar and loafer, all were alike
carried by an indignation which launched them on a maelstrom of
enthusiasm. So general became the outcry that, in Coxe's words, "the
lords justices refused to issue the orders for the circulation of the
coin.... People of all descriptions and parties flocked in crowds to the
bankers to demand their money, and drew their notes with an express
condition to be paid in gold and silver. The publishers of the most
treasonable pamphlets escaped with impunity, provided Wood and his
patent were introduced into the work. The grand juries could scarcely be
induced to find any bill against such delinquents; no witnesses in the
prosecution were safe in their persons; and no juries were inclined, or
if inclined could venture, to find them guilty."

In such a state of public feeling Swift assumed an entirely new
attitude. He promulgated his "Letter to the Whole People of Ireland"--a
letter which openly struck at the very root of the whole evil, and laid
bare to the public eye the most secret spring of its righteous
indignation. It was not Wood nor his coins, it was the freedom of the
people of Ireland and their just rights and privileges that were being
fought for. He wrote them the letter "to refresh and continue that
spirit so seasonably raised among" them, and in order that they should
plainly understand "that 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 King's prerogative had been held threateningly
over them. What was the King's prerogative? he asked in effect. It was
but the right he enjoyed within the bounds of the law as made by the
people in parliament assembled. The law limits him with his subjects.
Such prerogative he respected and would take up arms to protect against
any who should rebel. But "all government without the consent of the
governed, is the very definition of slavery." The condition of the Irish
nation was such that it was to be expected eleven armed men should
overcome a single man in his shirt; but even if those in power exercise
then power to cramp liberty, a man on the rack may still have "the
liberty of roaring as loud as he thought fit." And the men on the rack
roared to a tune that Walpole had never before heard.

The letter appeared on the 13th October, 1724.[1] The Duke of Grafton
had been recalled and Carteret had taken up the reins of government. For
reasons, either personal or politic, he took Walpole's side. Coxe goes
into considerations on this attitude of Carteret's, but they hardly
concern us here. Suffice it that the Lord Lieutenant joined forces with
the party in the Irish Privy Council, among whom were Midleton and St.
John Brodrick, and on October 27th issued a proclamation offering a
reward of L300[2] for the discovery of the author of this "wicked and
malicious pamphlet" which highly reflected on his Majesty and his
ministers, and which tended "to alienate the affections of his good
subjects of England and Ireland from each other."

[Footnote 1: Not on October 23rd as the earlier editors print it, and as
Monck Mason, Scott and Mr. Churton Collins repeat.]

[Footnote 2: See Appendix, No. VI.]

The author's name was not made public, nor was it likely to be. There is
no doubt that it was generally known who the author was. In that general
knowledge lies the whole pith of the Biblical quotation circulated
abroad on the heels of the proclamation: "And the people said unto Saul,
shall _Jonathan_ die, who had wrought this great salvation in Israel?
God forbid: as the Lord liveth there shall not one hair of his head fall
to the ground, for he hath wrought with God this day: So the people
rescued _Jonathan_ that he died not."

Swift remained very much alive. Harding, for printing the obnoxious
letter, had been arrested and imprisoned, and the Crown proceeded with
his prosecution. In such circumstances Swift was not likely to remain
idle. On the 26th October he addressed a letter to Lord Chancellor
Midleton in defence of the Drapier's writings, and practically
acknowledged himself to be the author.[3] It was not actually printed
until 1735, but there is no doubt that Midleton received it at the time
it was written. What effect it had on the ultimate issue is not known;
but Midleton's conduct justifies the confidence Swift placed in him. The
Grand Jury of the Michaelmas term of 1724 sat to consider the bill
against Harding. On the 11th of November Swift addressed to them his
"Seasonable Advice." The bill was thrown out. Whitshed, the Chief
Justice, consistently with his action on a previous occasion (see vol.
vii.), angrily remonstrated with the jury, demanded of them their
reasons for such a decision, and finally dissolved them. This
unconstitutional, and even disgraceful conduct, however, served but to
accentuate the resentment of the people against Wood and the patent, and
the Crown fared no better by a second Grand Jury. The second jury
accompanied its rejection of the bill by a presentment against the
patent,[4] and the defeat of the "prerogative" became assured. Every
where the Drapier was acclaimed the saviour of his country. Any person
who could scribble a doggerel or indite a tract rushed into print, and
now Whitshed was harnessed to Wood in a pillory of contemptuous
ridicule. Indeed, so bitter was the outcry against the Lord Chief
Justice, that it is said to have hastened his death. The cities of
Dublin, Cork and Waterford passed resolutions declaring the uttering of
Wood's halfpence to be highly prejudicial to his Majesty's revenue and
to the trades of the kingdom. The Drapier was now the patriot, and the
whole nation responded to his appeal to assist him in its own defence.

[Footnote 3: The highly wrought up story about Swift's butler, narrated
by Sheridan, Deane Swift and Scott, is nothing but a sample of
eighteenth century "sensationalism." Swift never bothered himself about
what his servants would say with regard to the authorship of the
Letters. Certainly this letter to Midleton proves that he was not at all
afraid of the consequences of discovery.]

[Footnote 4: See Appendix V.]

The text of the present reprint is based on that given by Sir Walter
Scott, collated with the original edition and with that reprinted in
"Fraud Detected" (1725). Faulkner's text of 1735 has also been




**WHOLE People**


_By_ M.B. _Drapier_.

AUTHOR of the LETTER to the


Printed by _John Harding_ in
_Molesworth's-Court_ in _Fishamble Street_.




Having already written three letters upon so disagreeable a subject as
Mr. Wood and his halfpence; I conceived my task was at an end: But I
find, that cordials must be frequently applied to weak constitutions,
political as well as natural. A people long used to hardships, lose by
degrees the very notions of liberty, they look upon themselves as
creatures at mercy, and that all impositions laid on them by a stronger
hand, are, in the phrase of the Report, legal and obligatory. Hence
proceeds that poverty and lowness of spirit, to which a kingdom may be
subject as well as a particular person. And when Esau came fainting from
the field at the point to die, it is no wonder that he sold his
birthright for a mess of pottage.

I thought I had sufficiently shewn to all who could want instruction, by
what methods they might safely proceed, whenever this coin should be
offered to them; and I believe there hath not been for many ages an
example of any kingdom so firmly united in a point of great importance,
as this of ours is at present, against that detestable fraud. But
however, it so happens that some weak people begin to be alarmed anew,
by rumours industriously spread. Wood prescribes to the newsmongers in
London what they are to write. In one of their papers published here by
some obscure printer (and probably with no good design) we are told,
that "the Papists in Ireland have entered into an association against
his coin," although it be notoriously known, that they never once
offered to stir in the matter; so that the two Houses of Parliament, the
Privy-council, the great number of corporations, the lord mayor and
aldermen of Dublin, the grand juries, and principal gentlemen of
several counties are stigmatized in a lump under the name of "Papists."

This impostor and his crew do likewise give out, that, by refusing to
receive his dross for sterling, we "dispute the King's prerogative, are
grown ripe for rebellion, and ready to shake off the dependency of
Ireland upon the crown of England." To countenance which reports he hath
published a paragraph in another newspaper, to let us know that "the
Lord Lieutenant is ordered to come over immediately to settle his

I entreat you, my dear countrymen, not to be under the least concern
upon these and the like rumours, which are no more than the last howls
of a dog dissected alive, as I hope he hath sufficiently been. These
calumnies are the only reserve that is left him. For surely our
continued and (almost) unexampled loyalty will never be called in
question for not suffering ourselves to be robbed of all that we have,
by one obscure ironmonger.

As to disputing the King's prerogative, give me leave to explain to
those who are ignorant, what the meaning of that word _prerogative_ is.

The Kings of these realms enjoy several powers, wherein the laws have
not interposed: So they can make war and peace without the consent of
Parliament; and this is a very great prerogative. But if the Parliament
doth not approve of the war, the King must bear the charge of it out of
his own purse, and this is as great a check on the crown. So the King
hath a prerogative to coin money without consent of Parliament. But he
cannot compel the subject to take that money except it be sterling, gold
or silver; because herein he is limited by law. Some princes have indeed
extended their prerogative further than the law allowed them; wherein
however, the lawyers of succeeding ages, as fond as they are of
precedents, have never dared to justify them. But to say the truth, it
is only of late times that prerogative hath been fixed and ascertained.
For whoever reads the histories of England, will find that some former
Kings, and these none of the worst, have upon several occasions ventured
to control the laws with very little ceremony or scruple, even later
than the days of Queen Elizabeth. In her reign that pernicious counsel
of sending base money hither, very narrowly failed of losing the
kingdom, being complained of by the lord-deputy, the council, and the
whole body of the English here:[5] So that soon after her death it was
recalled by her successor, and lawful money paid in exchange.

[Footnote 5: See Moryson's "Itinerary" (Pt. ii., pp. 90, 196 and 262),
where an account is given which fully bears out Swift.[T.S.]]

Having thus given you some notion of what is meant by the King's
"prerogative," as far as a tradesman can be thought capable of
explaining it, I will only add the opinion of the great Lord Bacon: That
"as God governs the world by the settled laws of nature, which he hath
made, and never transcends those laws but upon high important occasions;
so among earthly princes, those are the wisest and the best, who govern
by the known laws of the country, and seldomest make use of their

[Footnote 6: The words in inverted commas appear to be a reminiscence
rather than a quotation. I have not traced the sentence, as it stands,
in Bacon; but the regular government of the world by the laws of nature,
as contrasted with the exceptional disturbance of these laws, is
enunciated in Bacon's "Confession of Faith," while the dangers of a
strained prerogative are urged in the "Essay on Empire." Bacon certainly
gives no support to Swift's limits of the prerogative as regards
coinage. [CRAIK.]]

Now, here you may see that the vile accusation of Wood and his
accomplices, charging us with "disputing the King's prerogative" by
refusing his brass, can have no place, because compelling the subject to
take any coin which is not sterling is no part of the King's
prerogative, and I am very confident if it were so, we should be the
last of his people to dispute it, as well from that inviolable loyalty
we have always paid to His Majesty, as from the treatment we might in
such a case justly expect from some who seem to think, we have neither
common sense nor common senses. But God be thanked, the best of them are
only our fellow-subjects, and not our masters. One great merit I am sure
we have, which those of English birth can have no pretence to, that our
ancestors reduced this kingdom to the obedience of England, for which we
have been rewarded with a worse climate, the privilege of being governed
by laws to which we do not consent, a ruined trade, a House of Peers
without jurisdiction, almost an incapacity for all employments; and the
dread of Wood's halfpence.

But we are so far from disputing the King's prerogative in coining, that
we own he has power to give a patent to any man for setting his royal
image and superscription upon whatever materials he pleases, and liberty
to the patentee to offer them in any country from England to Japan, only
attended with one small limitation, That nobody alive is obliged to take


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