The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, Vol. VI; The Drapier's Letters
Part 5 out of 5
king, if he is represented in a court of justice, as if he were
partially concerned or rather inclined to desire, that a party should be
found guilty, than that he should be declared innocent.
The King's interest and honour is more concerned in the protection of
the innocent, than in the punishment of the guilty, as in all the
immediate actions of his Majesty we find that maxim pursued, a maxim can
never run a prince into excesses. We do not only find those princes
represented in history under odious characters, who have basely betrayed
the innocent, but such as by their spies and informers were too
inquisitive after the guilty, whereas none was ever blamed for clemency,
or for being too gentle interpreters of the law. Though Trajan was an
excellent prince, endowed with all heroical virtues; yet the most
eloquent writers, and his best friends, found nothing more to be praised
in his government, than that in his time, all men might think what they
pleased, and every man speak what he thought, this I say, that if any
amongst us by violent measures, and a dictatorial behaviour have raised
jealousies in the minds of His Majesty's faithful subjects, the blame
may lie at their door.
I know it has been said for His Majesty's service, grand juries may be
forced to discover their counsels: But you will confess a king can do
nothing against law, nor will any honest man judge that for his service,
which is not warranted by law. If a constant uninterrupted usage, can
give the force of a law, then the grand jurymen are bound by law, as
well as by their oaths, to keep the King's, their fellows' and their own
counsel secret. Bracton and Britton in their several generations bear
witness, that it was then practised; and greater proof of it needs not
be sought, than the disputes that appear by the law-books to have been
amongst the ancient lawyers, Whether it was treason or felony for a
grand juryman to discover their counsels--The trust of grand juries was
in those days thought so sacred, and their secrecy of so great concern
to the kingdom, that whosoever should break their oaths, was by all
thought worthy to die, only some would have them suffer as traitors,
others as felons.
If a king's commands should come to the judges of a court of justice or
to a jury, desiring them to vary from the direction of the law, (which
it is criminal to say, and no man ought to be believed therein) they are
bound by their oaths not to regard them. The statute of 2 of E. 3. 8.
and 20 E. 3. I. are express; and the substance of these and other
statutes is inserted into the oaths taken by every judge; and if they be
under the most solemn and sacred tie in the execution of justice to hold
for nothing the commands of the King under the great seal, then surely
political views and schemes, the pleasure or displeasure of a minister,
in the like case ought to be less than nothing.
It is a strange doctrine that men must sacrifice the law to secure their
properties, if the law is to be fashioned for every occasion, if grand
jurymen contrary to their oaths must discover their fellows' and their
own counsels, and betray the trust the law has reposed in them, if they
must subject the reasons of their verdicts to the censure of the judges,
whom the law did never design to trust with the liberty, property, or
good name of their fellow-subjects. No man can say he has any security
for his life or fortune, and they who do not themselves, may however see
their best friends and nearest relations suffer the utmost violences and
Which leads me to say a few words of the petit jury, not forgetting Mr.
Walters. I am assured by an eminent lawyer, that the power and office of
a petit jury is judicial, that they only are the judges from whose
sentence the indicted are to expect life or death. Upon their integrity
and understanding the lives of all that are brought in judgment do
ultimately depend; from their verdict there lies no appeal, by finding
guilty or not guilty. They do complicately resolve both law and fact. As
it hath been the law, so it hath always been the custom and practice of
these juries (except as before) upon all general issues, pleaded in
cases civil as well as criminal, to judge both of the law and fact. So
it is said in the report of the Lord Chief Justice Vaughan in Bushell's
case, That these juries determine the law in all matters where issue is
joined and tried, in the principal case whether the issue be about
trespass or debt, or disseizin in assizes, or a tort or any such like,
unless they should please to give a special verdict with an implicate
faith in the judgment of the Court, to which none can oblige them
against their wills.
It is certain we may hope to see the trust of a grand juryman best
discharged when gentlemen of the best fortunes and understandings attend
that service, but it is as certain we must never expect to see such men
on juries, if for differing with a judge in opinion, when they only are
the lawful judges, they are liable to be treated like villains, like
perjurers, and enemies to their king and country; I say my lord such
behaviour to juries will make all gentlemen avoid that duty, and instead
of men of interest, of reputation and abilities, our lives, our
fortunes, and our reputations must depend upon the basest and meanest of
I know it is commonly said, _boni judicis est ampliare juridictionem_.
But I take that to be better advice which was given by the Lord
Chancellor Bacon upon swearing a judge; That he would take care to
contain the jurisdiction of the court within the ancient mere-stones
without removing the mark.
I intend to pay my respects to your lordship once every month 'till the
meeting of the Parliament, when our betters may consider of these
matters, and therefore will not trouble you with any more on this
subject at present. But conclude, most heartily praying----
That from depending upon the will of a judge, who may be corrupted or
swayed by his own passions, interests, or the impulse of such as support
him and may advance him to greater honours, the God of mercy and of
justice deliver this nation.
I am, my lord,
Your lordship's most obedient humble servant,
Dec. the First 1724.
Dublin: Printed in the Year 1724.
A SECOND LETTER FROM A FRIEND TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE ------
I think the best service men employed by His Majesty can do for him and
this country, is to shew such prudence and temper in their behaviours as
may convince every man they are not intrusted with any power but what is
necessary and will always be exercised for the advantage and security of
His Majesty's subjects.
For my own part I hold it the duty of every man though he has not the
honour of serving His Majesty in public employment, not only, not to
misrepresent the actions of his servants, but in matters of small
concern, to wink at their follies and mistakes; I know the Jacobites and
Papists our irreconcilable enemies are too watchful to lay hold of every
occasion to misrepresent His Majesty and turn the faults of ambitious
and self-interested servants upon the best of kings.
I hear some men say, that in my last to your lordship, there appears
more of the satirist, than becomes a man engaged merely in the defence
of liberty and justice; But I am satisfied I can with charity affirm,
they are either such as have no knowledge of the several steps [that]
have been taken to bring this poor country into ruin and disgrace, or
they are of the number of those who have had a share in the actings and
contrivances against it; for my lord, he must rather be an insensible
stoic than an angry cynic, who can survey the measures of some men
without horror and indignation--To see men act as if they had never
taken an oath of fidelity to their king, whose interest is inseparable
from that of his people, but had sworn to support the ruinous projects
of abandoned men (of whatever faction) must rouse the most lethargic, if
I who have always professed myself a Whig do confess it has mine.
I beg leave in this place to explain what I intended in my last by the
words, "unless by leave or order of the court," lest whilst I plead for
justice I should do an injury to your lordship.
I do declare I never heard that story of your lordship, and I hope no
man did believe it of you. My intention was by that hint to remember you
of Judge U--p--n and a certain assizes held at Wicklow, as I believe
your lordship understood it, and as I now desire all the world may.
Having learned from your lordship and other lawyers of undoubted
abilities, that no judge ought by threats or circumvention to make a
grand-juryman discover the king's counsel his fellows' or his own I
should not at present say anything in support of that position. But that
I find a most ridiculous and false explanation seem to mislead some men
in that point: Say they, by the word counsel is understood, such bills
as are before the grand jury and the evidence the prosecutors for the
crown have to support the charge against the subject--Lest that being
known the party indictable may fly from justice, or he may procure false
witnesses to discredit the evidence for the king, or he may by bribes
and other indirect measures take off the witnesses for the crown.
I confess _I_ take that to be the meaning of the word counsel, but I am
certain that is not _all_ that is meant by it, that is what must be
understood when it is called the king's counsel, _id est_, the counsel
or reasons for which the king by his servants, his attorney-general or
coroner, has drawn and sent to the grand jury a charge against a
But the counsel of a juror is a different thing, it is the evidence, the
motives and reasons that induce him or his fellow-jurors to say _billa
vera_ or _ignoramus_, and the opinion he or they happen to be of when the
question is put by the foreman for finding or not finding: This counsel
every man is sworn to keep secret, that so their opinion and advice may
not be of prejudice to them hereafter, That as they are sworn to act
without favour or affection, so may they also act without FEAR. Whereas,
were it otherwise the spirit of revenge is so universal, there are but
few cases wherein a juror could act with safety to himself; either the
prosecuted, as where the bill is found, or the prosecutor, where it is
returned _ignoramus_, may contrive to defame the jurors who differ from
them in opinion: As I am told has happened to some very honest citizens
who are represented to be Jacobites since their opinions were know to be
against ----. And sometimes revenge or ambition may prompt men to carry
it further, as in the case of Mr. Wilmer, who in King Charles 2d's time
was very severely handled for being one of an _ignoramus_ jury.----
'Tis not necessary to say whom he disobliged by being so.----But if I
remember right his case was this.
He was a merchant, (and as I said, an _ignoramus_ juryman) had
covenanted with a servant boy to serve him in the West Indies, and
accordingly sent him beyond sea: Upon suggestion and affidavit by which
any person might have it, a writ _de homine replegiando_ was granted
against Mr. Wilmer; the sheriffs would have returned on the writ the
agreement and the boy's consent, but the court (in the case of this
Wilmer) Easter 34, Cha. 2. [_i.e.,_ Charles the Second] in B.R. ruled
they must return _replegiari fecimus_ or _elongavit_, that is, they had
replevy'd the boy, or that Wilmer had carried him away where they could
not find him, in which last case Mr. Wilmer, though an innocent person
must have gone to gaol until he brought the boy into court or he must
have been outlawed--Shower's Rep. 2 Part.
I do not say this that I think the same thing will be practised again,
or anything like it, though I know that very homely proverb, "More ways
of killing a dog than hanging him."--But I instance it to shew, the
counsels of every grand juryman should be kept secret, that he may act
freely and without apprehensions of resentment from the prosecuted or
My resolution when I writ to you last, was, not to have said anything in
this concerning the power of dissolving or dispensing, but as I have
been forced to say something of the dispensing, for the same reason I
must of the dissolving power.--A power undoubtedly in effect including
that of returning, which makes me wish two men of great interest in this
kingdom, differing in every other thing, had not undertaken to defend
it, or they had better reasons for it than I have yet heard.
'Tis said, "This power is in the court as a right of resistance is in
the people, as the people have a power superior to the prerogative of
the prince, though no written or express law for it; so of necessity
though no statute directs it, and it may seem to overturn the greatest
security men have for their liberties, yet the court has a power of
dissolving grand juries, if they refuse to find or present as the court
Pray let us consider how well this concludes.
The people may do anything in defence of their lives, their religion and
liberties, and consequently resistance is lawful, therefore an inferior
court a _bene placito_ judge may----Monstrous absurdity.
Another, I am sorry I can't say more modest argument to support it is
"Considering," say they, "grand juries, it is but reasonable a
discretionary power of dissolving them should be lodged in the judges."
By the words "considering grand juries," I must understand considering
their understandings, their fortunes or their integrity, for from a want
of one or more of those qualifications must arise the reason of such a
discretionary power in the judges.
Though I shall not urge it as far as I could, I will venture to say the
argument is at least as strong the other way--considering the judges.--
First as to their understandings, it must be confessed the benches are
infinitely superior to the lower professors of the law: Yet surely it
can't give offence to say the gentlemen of the several counties have
understandings sufficient to discharge the duty of grand jurymen--If
want of fortune be an objection to grand jurymen, _a pari ratione_, it
is an objection to some other men.--Besides, that the fact is not true,
for in their circuits, no judge goes into any county where he does not
meet at least a dozen gentlemen returned upon every grand jury, every
one of whom have better estates than he himself has--And these not
during pleasure, which last consideration, saves me the trouble of
shewing the weakness of the objection in the third qualification.
"Ay. But it was a necessary expedient to keep out Wood's brass."
Are the properties of the commons of this kingdom better secured by the
knight-errantry of that day? In the name of common sense, what are we to
believe? Has the undaunted spirit, the tremendous voice of ------
frightened Wood and his accomplices from any further attempts? Or rather
has not the ready compliance of ------ encouraged them to further
trials? The officers and attendants of his court may tremble when he
frowns, but who else regards it more than they do one of Wood's
"There is no comparison," says another, "between the affair of Sir W.
Scroggs and this of ------. Sir W. discharged a grand jury because they
were about to present the Duke of York for being a Papist, but ------
discharged the grand jury for not presenting a paper he recommended to
them to present as scandalous, (and in which, I say, he was a party
I agree there is a mighty difference, but whom does it make for?
A grand jury of a hundred (part of a county) take upon them to present
a no less considerable person than the king's brother and heir
presumptive of the crown, the chief-justice thinks this a matter of too
much moment for men of such sort to meddle in, but a matter more proper
for the consideration of Parliament: I would not be understood to
condemn the jury; I think they acted as became honest Englishmen and
lovers of their country; But I say if judges could in any case be
allowed to proceed by rules of policy, surely here was a sufficient
excuse. However the commons impeached him.
The determinations of ignorant or wicked judges as they are precedents
of little weight, so they are but of little danger, and therefore it
will become the commons at all times to animadvert most carefully upon
the actions of the most knowing men in that profession.
I say, my lord, _at all times_, because I hear former merit is pleaded
to screen this action from any inquiry.
I am sensible much is due to the man who has always preferred the public
interest to his private advantages as -------- has done. When a man has
signalized himself, when he has suffered for that principle, he deserves
universal respect. Yet men should act agreeably to the motive of that
respect, and not ruin the liberty of their country to shew their
gratitude, and so, my lord, where a man has the least pretence to that
character, I think 'tis best to pass over small offences, but never such
as will entail danger and dishonour upon us and our posterity.
The Romans, my lord, when a question was in the senate, whether they
should ransom fifteen thousand citizens who had merited much by their
former victories, but losing one battle were taken prisoners; were
determined by the advice of that noble Roman Attilius Regulus not to
redeem them as men unworthy their further care, though probably it was
their misfortunes not their faults lost that day.
Damnum: neque amissos colores
Luna refert medicata fuco
He thought they were not worthy to be trusted again:----
To shew them pity, in his mind, would betray the Romans to perpetual
danger: _Et exemplo trahenti_
Perniciem veniens in aevum,
Si non periret immiserabilis
I hear some precedents have been lately found out to justify that
memorable action; but if precedents must control reason and justice, if
a man may swear he will keep his counsels secret, and yet by precedents
may be forced to divulge them, I would advise gentlemen very seriously
to consider, the danger we are in; and examine what precedents there are
on each side of the question, for my part I think the commons of England
are not a worse precedent than the judges of England.
Besides it must be remembered that precedents in some cases will not
excuse a judge, even where they are according to the undoubted law of
the land, as for instance,
Suppose a man says what is true, not knowing it to be true, though it be
logically a truth as it is distinguished, yet it is morally false; and
so, suppose a judge give judgment according to law, not knowing it to be
so, as if he did not know the reason of it at that time, but bethought
himself of a reason or precedent for it afterwards, though the judgment
be legal and according to precedent, yet the pronouncing of it is
unjust; and the judge shall be condemned in the opinions of all men: As
happened to the Lord Chief Justice Popham a person of great learning and
parts, who upon the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh; when Sir Walter
objected to reading or giving in evidence, Lord Cobham's affidavit,
taken in his absence, without producing the lord face to face, the lord
being then forthcoming: The chief justice overruled the objection, and
was of opinion it should be given in evidence against Sir Walter, and
summing up the evidence to the jury the chief justice said, "Just then
it came into his mind why the accuser should not come face to face to
the prisoner, because, &c." Now if any judge has since found precedents,
or has since picked up the opinion of lawyers, I fear he will come
within the case I have put.
I foresee, if ever this question happens to be debated, _you know
where_, gentlemen will be divided; Some will be desirous to do their
country justice and free us from all future danger of this kind; Others
upon motives not quite so laudable, will strive to screen, and with
others private friendship will prevail: But I would recommend to your
friends, who really love their country, to consider the several
circumstances concurring in your lordship which probably may not in your
successor: Let them suppose a person were to fill your place, from whose
manifest ignorance in the law, we may reasonably conclude, his only
merit is an inveteracy and hatred to this country. I say how could your
best friends excuse themselves, if in regard to your lordship they
should suffer such a precedent to be handed down to such a man
unobserved or uncensured?
_Invenit etiam aemulos infaelix nequitia_--Ambitious men have not always
been deterred by the unhappy fate of their predecessors, _Quid si
floreat vigeatque?_ But what lengths will they run if injustice and
corruption shall ride triumphant?
Had somebody received a reprimand upon his knees in a proper place, for
treating a printer's jury like men convict of perjury, forcing them to
find a special verdict, I dare to say he had not been quite so hardy as
to have discharged the grand jury or treated them in the manner he did,
because they had not an implicit faith in the court; nor had he dared
not to receive a presentment made by the second grand jury against
Wood's farthings upon pretence it was informal, which I mention because
the worthy Drapier has mistaken the fact.
Some of your lordship's screens I hear advise you to shew great humility
and contrition for what's past, as the only means to appease the just
indignation all sorts of men have conceived against you.----Were I well
secured you will not recommend this letter to the next grand jury to be
presented, I could give you more _seasonable advice_, but happen as it
may I will venture to give you a little.
Fawning and cajoling will have but little effect on those who have had
the honour of your acquaintance these ten years past, for Caligula who
used to hide his head if he heard the thunder, would piss upon the
statues of the gods when he thought the danger over--A better expedient
Tell men the Drapier is a Tory and a Jacobite.--That he writ "The
Conduct of the Allies."--That he writ not his letters with a design to
keep out Wood's halfpence, but to bring in the Pretender; persuade them
if you can, the dispute is no longer about the power of judges over
juries, nor how much the liberty of the subject is endangered by
dissolving them at pleasure, but that it is now become mere Whig and
Tory, a dispute between His Majesty's friends and the Jacobites, and
'twere better to see a thousand grand juries discharged than the Tories
carry a question though in the right.--_Haec vulnera pro libertate
publica excepi, hunc oculum pro vobis impendi._ Try this cant, pin a
cloth over your eyes, look very dismal, and cry, "I was turned out of
employment, when the Drapier was rewarded with a Deanery," I say, my
lord, if you can once bring matters thus to bear, I have not the least
doubt you may escape without censure.
To your lordship's zeal and industry without doubt is owing, that the
Papists and the Tories have not delivered this kingdom over to the
Pretender, so Caesar conquered Pompey that _Legum auctor et eversor,_
and 'twas but just the liberty and laws of Rome should afterwards depend
upon his will and pleasure.----The Drapier in his letter to Lord
Molesworth has made a fair offer, "Secure his country from Wood's
coinage," then condemn all he has writ and said as false and scandalous,
when your lordship does as much I must confess it will be somewhat
difficult to discover the impostor.
Thus to keep my word with your lordship, I have much against my
inclinations writ this, which shall be my last upon the ungrateful
subject.--If I have leisure, and find a safe opportunity of giving it to
the printer, my next shall explain what has long duped the true Whigs of
this kingdom. I mean _honesty in the "worst of times."_
Though your lordship object to my last, that what I writ was taken out
of Lord Coke, Lord Somers, Sir Will. Jones, or the writings of some
other great men, yet I will venture to end this with the sentiments of
Philip de Comines upon some thorough-going courtiers.
"If a sixpenny tax is to be raised, they cry by all means it ought to be
double. If the prince is offended with any man, they are directly for
hanging him. In other instances, they maintain the same character.
Above all things they advise their king to make himself terrible, as
they themselves are proud, fierce, and overbearing, in hopes to be
dreaded by that means, as if authority and place were their
Your Lordship's most
obedient and most
_Jan_. 4, 1724-5.
THE PRESENTMENT OF THE GRAND JURY OF THE COUNTY OF THE CITY OF
Whereas several great quantities of base metal coined, commonly called
_Wood's halfpence,_ have been brought into the port of Dublin, and
lodged in several houses of this city, with an intention to make them
pass clandestinely, among His Majesty's subjects of this kingdom;
notwithstanding the addresses of both houses of parliament and the
privy-council, and the declarations of most of the corporations of this
city against the said coin; And whereas His Majesty hath been graciously
pleased to leave his loyal subjects of this kingdom at liberty to take
or refuse the said halfpence.
[Footnote 1: Chief Justice Whitshed, after browbeating the Grand Jury
that threw out the Bill against Harding for printing the fourth
Drapier's letter, discharged it, and called another Grand Jury. The
second Grand Jury not only repeated the verdict of the first, but issued
the following expression of its opinion on the matter of Wood and his
We the Grand Jury of the county of the city of Dublin, this Michaelmas
term, 1724, having entirely at heart His Majesty's interest and the
welfare of our country, and being thoroughly sensible of the great
discouragement which trade hath suffered by the apprehensions of the
said coin, whereof we have already felt the dismal effects, and that the
currency thereof will inevitably tend to the great diminution of His
Majesty's revenue, and the ruin of us and our posterity: do present all
such persons as have attempted, or shall endeavour by fraud or
otherwise, to impose the said halfpence upon us, contrary to His
Majesty's most gracious intentions, as enemies to His Majesty's
government, and to the safety, peace and welfare of all His Majesty's
subjects of this kingdom, whose affections have been so eminently
distinguished by their zeal to his illustrious family, before his happy
accession to the throne, and by their continued loyalty ever since.
As we do with all just gratitude acknowledge the services of all such
patriots, as have been eminently zealous for the interest of His
Majesty, and this country, in detecting the fraudulent impositions of
the said Wood, and preventing the passing his base coin: So we do at the
same time declare our abhorrence and detestation of all reflections on
His Majesty, and his government, and that we are ready with our lives
and fortunes to defend his most Sacred Majesty against the Pretender and
all His Majesty's open and secret enemies both at home and abroad: Given
under our hands at the Grand Jury Chamber this 28th, November, 1724.
George Forbes, David Tew,
William Empson, Thomas How,
Nathaniel Pearson, John Jones,
Joseph Nuttall, James Brown,
William Aston, Charles Lyndon,
Stearn Tighe, Jerom Bredin,
Richard Walker, John Sican,
Edmond French, Anthony Brunton,
John Vereilles, Thomas Gaven,
Philip Pearson, Daniel Elwood,
Thomas Robins, John Brunet.
[Footnote 2: On August 20th, 1724, the Grand Jury, and the other
inhabitants of the Liberty of the Dean and Chapter of St. Patrick's
waited on the Dean, and read him the following Declaration, desiring him
to give orders for its publication:
"The Declaration of the Grand-Jury, and the rest of the inhabitants of
the Liberty of the Dean and Chapter of St. Patrick's, Dublin.
"We, the Grand-Jury, and other inhabitants of the Liberty of the Dean
and Chapter of St. Patrick's, Dublin, whose names are underwritten, do
unanimously declare and determine, that we never will receive or pay any
of the half-pence or farthings already coined, or that shall hereafter
be coined, by one William Wood, being not obliged by law to receive the
same; because we are thoroughly convinced by the Addresses of both
Houses of Parliament, as well as by that of his Majesty's most
honourable Privy-Council, and by the universal opinion of the whole
kingdom, that the currency of the said half-pence and farthings would
soon deprive us of all our gold and silver, and therefore be of the most
destructive consequence to the trade and welfare of the nation." [T.
PROCLAMATION AGAINST THE DRAPIER.
"_Oct. 27th,_ 1724.
"A proclamation for discovering ye Author of ye Pamphlet intituled A
letter to ye whole people of Ireland, by M.B. Drapier, author of the
Letter to the Shop-keepers, etc.
BY THE LORD-LIEUTENANT AND COUNCIL OF IRELAND.
"Whereas a wicked and malicious pamphlet, intituled A Letter to the
whole people of Ireland, by M.B. Drapier, author of the Letter to the
Shop-keepers, etc., printed by John Harding, in Molesworth's Court, in
Fishamble Street, Dublin, in which are contained several seditious and
scandalous paragraphs highly reflecting upon his Majesty and his
Ministers, tending to alienate the affections of his good subjects of
England and Ireland from each other, and to promote sedition among the
people, hath been lately printed and published in this kingdom: We, the
Lord-Lieutenant and Council do hereby publish and declare that, in order
to discover the author of the said seditious pamphlet, we will give the
necessary orders for the payment of three hundred pounds sterling, to
such person or persons as shall within the specified six months from
this date hereof, discover the author of the said pamphlet, so as he be
apprehended and convicted thereby.
"Given at the council chamber in Dublin, this twenty-seventh day of
October, one thousand seven hundred and twenty-four.
"(Signed) Midleton _Cancer_. Shannon; Donnerail; G. Fforbes; H. Meath;
Santry; Tyrawly; Fferrars; William Conolly; Ralph Gore; William
Whitshed; B. Hale; Gust. Hume; Ben Parry; James Tynte; R. Tighe; T.
"God Save the King."
It is very interesting and even curious to note, that the signatories to
the public expression of their attitude towards Wood and his patent, as
shown by the Proclamation, should have almost all of them signed another
document, in their capacities of Privy Councillors, which addressed his
Majesty _against_ Wood and the patent. So far as I can learn, Monck
Mason seems to have been the first historian to discover it; nor do I
find the fact mentioned by any of Swift's later biographers.
"It was rumoured in Swift's time," says Monck Mason, "but not actually
known to him" (see Drapier's Sixth Letter), "that the Irish Privy
Council had addressed his Majesty against Mr. Wood's coin. Having
inspected the papers of the Council office, I shall lay before the
reader the particulars of this event, which were never promulgated,
probably, because they had not the desired effect, the premier [Walpole]
having determined, notwithstanding all opposition or advice, to
persevere in his ill-judged project.
"On the 17th April, 1724, at a meeting of the Council, in which the Duke
of Grafton himself presided, it was ordered, that it should be referred
to a committee of the whole board, or of any seven or more, 'to consider
what was proper to be done to allay and quiet the great fears of the
people, occasioned by their apprehensions of William Wood's copper money
becoming current among them,' On the 6th of May, the committee reported,
that they had considered the matter referred to them, and were of
opinion, that an address should be sent to his Majesty, of which they
then presented a draught. It was again on the 19th, referred to a
committee of the whole board to prepare a letter, which was accordingly
done on the next day.--The report was as follows:
"'To the King's Most Excellent Majesty, the humble address of the Lords
Justices, and Privy-Council.
* * * * *
"'May it please your Majesty,
"'We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Justices
and Privy Council, most humbly beg leave, at this time, to give an
instance of that duty, which, as upon all other occasions, so more
especially upon such as are of the greatest moment and importance, we
hold ourselves always bound to pay to your Majesty.
"'Your Majesty's great council, the High Court of Parliament, being now
prorogued, we conceive ourselves bound, by the trust which your Majesty
has been pleased to repose in us, and the oaths we have taken, with all
humility to lay before your Majesty the present state of this your
kingdom, with reference to a great evil that appears to threaten it, to
which, if a speedy remedy be not applied, the unavoidable consequence,
as we apprehend, will be, the ruin of multitudes of your Majesty's
subjects, together with a great diminution of your revenue.
"'Though the fears of your Majesty's subjects of this kingdom, in
relation to the coinage of copper half-pence and farthings, were, in a
great measure, allayed by your Majesty's most gracious resolution to do
every thing in your power for the satisfaction of your people, expressed
in your Majesty's answer to the addresses of both Houses of Parliament;
yet, the repeated intelligence from Great Britain, that William Wood has
the assurance to persist in his endeavours to introduce his copper
half-pence and farthings amongst us, has again alarmed your faithful
subjects, to such a degree, as already to give a great check to our
inland trade. If the letters patent granted to William Wood should, in
all points, be exactly complied with, the loss to be sustained by taking
his half-pence and farthings would be much greater than this poor
kingdom is able to bear. But if he, or any other persons, should, for
the value of gain, be tempted to coin and import even more than double
the quantity he by his patent is allowed to do, your people here do not
see how it is possible for your Majesty's chief governors of this your
kingdom, to detect or hinder the cheat.
"'It is found by experience, that we have already a sufficient quantity
of half-pence, to serve by way of exchange in the retailing trade, which
is the only use of such sort of money, of which, therefore, we find
ourselves to be in no want.
"'And since, by the letters patent granted to the same William Wood, no
man is required or commanded to take the said half-pence or farthings,
but the taking them is left at liberty to those who are willing so to
do; we most humbly submit it to your royal wisdom and goodness, whether
it may not be for your Majesty's service, and the great satisfaction and
good of your subjects, and very much tend to the allaying and quieting
of their fears, that your Majesty should cause your royal pleasure to be
signified to the Commissioners, and other officers of your Majesty's
revenue in this kingdom, that they neither receive those half-pence and
farthings, nor give countenance or encouragement to the uttering or
vending of them; or that some other speedy method may be taken to
prevent their becoming current amongst us.'"
Searching among the pamphlets of the Halliday Collection at the Royal
Irish Academy, Dublin, I came across a tract of twelve pages, printed by
John Whaley of Dublin in 1723, with the following title:
"The Patentee's Computation of Ireland, in a Letter from the Author of
the Whitehall Evening-Post concerning the making of Copper-Coin. As also
the Case and Address of both Houses of Parliament together with His
Majesty's Most Gracious Answer to the House of Lords Address."
The writer of this tract in defence of the patent maintained the
(1) That the Kingdom of Ireland wants a Copper Coin.
(2) That the quantity of this coin will be no inconvenience to it.
(3) That it is better than ever the Kingdom had, and as good as (in all
probability) they ever will or can have, and that the Patentee's profit
is not extravagant, as commonly reported.
(4) That the Kingdom will lose nothing by this coin.
(5) That the public in Ireland will gain considerably by it, if they
(6) That the Kingdom will have L100,000 additional cash.
As he states his arguments, they are quite reasonable. On proposition
three, if his figures are correct, he is especially convincing. He
details the cost of manufacture thus:
Copper prepared for the coinage at his Majesty's
Mint at the Tower of London, costs per pound
weight 1 6
Coinage of one pound weight 3-1/2
Waste and charge of re-melting 1
Yearly payment to the Exchequer and Comptroller 1
Allowed to the purchaser for exchange, &c. 5
Total charge 2 4-1/2
"So that the patentee," he concludes, "makes a profit of only 1-1/2_d._
in the half crown or about 5%."
The tract, however, is more interesting for the reprint it gives of the
twenty-eight articles stated by the people in objection to the patent
and the coin. I give these articles in full:
IRELAND'S CASE HUMBLY PRESENTED TO THE HONOURABLE THE KNIGHTS, CITIZENS,
AND BURGESSES IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED
MOST HUMBLY SHEWETH,
Whereas your Honours finding the late Grant or Letters Patents obtained
by Mr. William Wood, for making Three Hundred and Sixty Tun weight of
copper half-pence for the Kingdom of Ireland, were to be manufactured in
London &c. which money is now coining in Bristol, and that the said
money was to weigh two shillings and sixpence in each pound weight, and
that change was to be uttered or passed for all such as were pleased to
take the same in this Kingdom.
That it's humbly conceived Your Honours on considering the following
Remarks, will find the permitting such change to pass, exceeding
Injurious and Destructive to the Nation.
First. That the same will be a means to drain this Kingdom of all its
Gold and Silver, and ten, fifteen, or twenty per cent abated, will most
effectually do the same.
2d. That the making such money in England will give great room for
counterfeiting that coin, as well in this Kingdom, as where it is made.
3d. That the Copper Mines of this Island which might be manufactured in
the nation, is by management shipped off to England by some persons at,
or about forty shillings per tun, by others at four pounds and six
pounds per ton, which copper when smelted and refined is sold and sent
back to this kingdom at two shillings and six pence per pound weight as
aforesaid, which is two hundred and eighty pound sterl. per ton.
4th. That two shillings and sixpence per pound weight is making the said
coin of very small value, the said coin ought not to weigh or exceed two
shillings in each pound weight as the English Halfpence are.
5th. That all such money brought to this Nation manufactured, is to be
entered at value, which value is in the Book of Rates, ten per cent duty
6th. That no security is given to this Nation to make such money in any
one point, the same may be found defective in either, as to baseness of
metal, workmanship or weight, or to give gold and silver for the same,
when the subject was, or may be burthened therewith.
7th. That if such monies as aforesaid be permitted to pass in this
nation, all persons that have gold or silver by them would not part
therewith, but Brass money must be carried from House to House on
Truckles, and in the county by carts and horses, with troops to guard
8th. That such money will raise the price of all commodities from
abroad, probably to three or four hundred per cent.
9th. That linen, yarn, beef, butter, tallow, hides and all other
commodities, will raise to that degree by being bought with half-pence,
and workmen paid with brass money, that commissions from abroad will not
reach them, therefore such goods must lie on hands and remain a drugg.
10th. That the excise of beer, ale, brandy, &c., and hearth-money will
be paid in such coin, the same falling first into the hands of the poor
and middling people.
11th. That if any trouble should happen in this nation, no army could be
raised with such specie, but an enemy in all appearance would be
admitted with their gold and silver, and which would drive the nation
12th. The Courts of Law could not subsist, for all the suits there must
be supported and maintained with ready money. Viz. Gold and Silver.
13th. That all the bankers must shut up their shops, no lodgment would
be made except Halfpence, such as would lodge their money with them,
would rather draw off and cause a run on them, fearing that their specie
should be turned into the said brass and copper money.
14th. That such bills as are drawn to the country, viz. Cork, Limerick,
Waterford, Kingsale, Deny, &c. The Exchange would be instead of a
quarter per cent, twenty per cent and then paid in the said Brass
specie, by means of its being brought on cars, carts, or waggons, and
guards to attend the same.
15th. That all the rent in the Kingdom would be paid in half-pence; no
man would give gold or silver, when he had brass money to pay the same.
16th. That no one can coin or manufacture such a quantity of halfpence
or farthings for this Kingdom, out of the same, but either he must be
ruined in the undertaking or the nation undone by his project, in taking
such light money, by reason of ten per cent, duty, and probably this
session be made twenty or thirty per cent duty, and the exchange nine or
ten per cent. Ten per cent abated to circulate them. Ten per cent
factorage, freight, gabberage, key-porters, &c. all which is forty per
cent, charged on the same.
17th. That if the said Wood was obliged to make his light money not to
exceed two shillings in the pound weight according to the English coin,
he would give up such grant, for six pence in each pound weight is 25
18th. That the said twenty-five per cent is 19,360_l._ sterl. on the
said 360 ton of copper, loss to this nation, by being coined out of this
Kingdom, besides 80,690_l._ of gold and silver sent out of the Kingdom
for brass or copper money.
19th. That the copper mines of this Kingdom is believed to be the metal
such copper is made of, which verifies the English saying, That Irish
people are wild, that would part with 200,000_l._ sterl. of their gold
and silver, for their own copper mines, which cost them not one pound
20th. That the said Wood's factors probably may send in fourteen years
double the quantity of copper which is 720 ton, then this Kingdom loses
38,720_l._ sterl. and parts with 161,280_l._ sterl. of their gold and
silver for almost nothing.
21st. If any great sum was to be raised by this nation, on any emergency
extraordinary, to serve his Majesty and his Kingdom how would it be
possible to do the same; copper half-pence would not stem the tide, no
silver now to be had of value, then no gold to be seen.
22d. That England also must be a great loser by such money, by reason
the said half-pence being from 20 to 40 grains lighter and less in value
than their own, so that the same will not pass in that Kingdom scarce
for farthings a piece, how then shall the vast quantities of goods be
paid for, that are brought from that Kingdom here, a considerable part
of this island must be broke and run away for want of silver and gold to
pay them their debts.
23d. That if the said Wood should get all that money, what power would
he regard, and what temptation would he be subject unto on that head, he
is but a man, and one almost as little known or heard of, as any one
subject the king has on this side the water.
24th. That the vast quantity of sea-coal brought from England here,
would not be had for such money; the colliers will keep both their ships
and coal at home, before they trade with such a nation, as had their
treasure turned into brass money.
25th. That the Army must be paid with such money, none else to be had,
they would lay down their arms and do no duty, what blood and confusion
then would attend the same.
26th. That no people out of any other Kingdom would come into this
country to dwell, either to plant or sow, where all their money must be
27th. That the beautiful Quay and river of Dublin which is now lined and
filled with ships in a most delightful order, would then be scattered to
other harbours, as also the new Range, there and now a building, would
be left, nothing but empty places all as doleful as the weeping river,
deserted by her fleets and armies of merchants and traders.
28th. That the aforesaid scheme is to be viewed and considered by a
King and Parliament, that will do themselves and their nation justice,
who will with hearts and hands, stem that tide and current, as never to
suffer so dutiful and loyal a people to be ruined and undone without
DESCRIPTIONS OF THE VARIOUS SPECIMENS OF WOOD'S COINS
The following descriptions of the various varieties of Wood's coins,
taken from a note in Monck Mason's "History of St. Patrick's Cathedral"
(ed. 1819, pp. xcvi-xcvii), may be interesting to the student. The two
varieties of the coins given as illustrations in this volume are
reproduced from specimens in the British Museum.
Monck Mason obtains his information from Simon's "Essay on Irish Coins,"
Dublin, 1749, 4to; Snelling's Supplement to Simon issued in 1767; and
the edition of Simon's work reprinted in 1810.
With the exception of No. II. of this list all of Wood's coins had, on
one side, "the king's head laureat, looking to the left, with this
inscription, GEORGIUS, DEI GRATIA, REX. On the reverse is the figure of
Ireland, represented by a woman sitting, beside her, a harp: the
differences consist chiefly, in variations in the attitude of the
figure, and in the date of the coin."
No. I. 1722.--Hibernia, with both her hands on the harp, which is placed
on her right side; her figure is full front, but she looks towards the
right; round her this inscription, HIBERNIA, 1722. (Simon, plate 7,
No. II. 1722.--Hibernia is seated as in the last, but has her head
turned to the left, on which side there is a rock; round her is
inscribed, HIBERNIA; in the exergue, 1722; on the obverse the usual
head, the inscription, GEORGIUS D.G. REX. (Snelling, plate 2, Numb. 24.)
No. III. 1722.--Hibernia, in profile, looking to the left, holding, in
her right hand, a palm branch, resting her left on a harp; round it,
HIBERNIA, 1722. (Simon, plate 7, Numb. 161.)
No. IV. 1723.--Hibernia, as in the last; round her, HIBERNIA, 1723.
(Simon, plate 8, Numb. 169.)
It was some of this coin that was submitted to Sir Isaac Newton for
No. V. 1724.--Hibernia, as in the last two, differing only in the date.
(Mentioned by Simon, but no engraving given.)
No, VI. 1724.--Hibernia, seated as in the three preceding; round her,
HIBERNIA: in the exergue, 1724. (Snelling, plate 2, Numb. 26.)
Mason notes of this specimen: "Mr. Snelling does not specify,
particularly, in what respect this coin differs from those which
precede; his words are, 'different from any other, and very good work,
especially the halfpenny, which is the finest and broadest piece of his
money I ever saw, and belongs to Mr. Bartlet.' They do not, however,
appear to have attained to circulation in Ireland. A few might, perhaps,
have been struck off by the patentee, to distribute among his own, and
the minister's friends."
No. VII.--Mr. Snelling mentions, "another halfpenny, which has Hibernia
pointing up with one hand to a sun in the top of the piece"; but of this
he has not given any engraving.
Addison, made keeper of the records of Bermingham's Tower
Armstrong, Sir Thomas, granted a patent to coin farthings in Ireland
Armstrong, Sir William, granted a patent to coin halfpence in Ireland
Bacon, Lord, on the Royal prerogative, quoted
Berkeley, Lord, of Stratton, Master of the Rolls
Brodrick, St. John, made a Privy Councillor
Burlington, Earl of, Lord High Treasurer of Ireland
attempts to injure Walpole's reputation by means of the Wood agitation
made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
takes Walpole's side
Swift's letters to
his relations with Walpole
Charles I., paid his troops with debased coin
Coinage, the law with reference to
_See_ Wood's Coinage
Coke, Sir Edward, on the laws regarding coinage
Conolly, William, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons
Coxe, Archdeacon, his account of the agitation in Ireland
"Creed of an Irish Commoner, A"
Crowley, Sir Ambrose
Dartmouth, Lord, granted a patent to coin halfpence in Ireland
Davies, Sir John, his "Abridgement of Coke's Reports"
"Defence of the Conduct of the People of Ireland, A," quoted
Drapier, the, his account of himself
Dublin, petition of the Lord Mayor, sheriffs and citizens of
Dutch, the, counterfeited debased coinage of Ireland
Elizabeth, Queen, her army paid with base coin
base money sent to Ireland by
Ewing, George, "Defence of the Conduct of the People of
Ireland" published by
Filmer, Sir Robert
France, system of re coinage in
George I., equestrian statue of, in Dublin
Grafton, Duke of, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
not concerned with Wood's patent
Harding, John, arrest and prosecution of
Harley, Robert, Earl of Oxford, Swift's tribute to
Holt, Sir John
Hopkins, Right Hon. Edward, secretary to the Lord Lieutenant
made Master of the Revels
Ireland, want of small change in
patents granted for coining in
relations between England and
petitions for establishment of a mint in
computed population of
copper money not wanted in
not a "depending kingdom,"
English contempt for
a free country
project for a bank in
England's profit from
the absentees of
absence of faction in
Charter schools founded in
needed reforms in
_See also_ Wood's Coinage.
James II., debased the coinage in Ireland
Kendal, Duchess of, sold Wood his patent for L10,000
King, Archbishop, letters to Southwell quoted
letter to General George
refused to condemn the Drapier
letter to Molyneux on the proclamation against the Drapier's 4th letter
Knox, John, his patent to coin halfpence
comparison of his patent with Wood's
Legg, Colonel George. _See_ Dartmouth, Lord.
Marsh; Bishop, Charter schools founded by
Midleton, Chancellor, and Walpole
Swift's letter to
opposed to Wood's patent
but signed the Proclamation against the Drapier
"Mirror of Justice, The,"
Molesworth, Viscount, letter to
Moore, Colonel Roger, patent to coin halfpence sold to
Newton, Sir Isaac, Wood's coinage assayed by
Palmerston, Lord, Chief Remembrancer
Pembroke, Earl of, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland
Philips, Ambrose, secretary to Archbishop Boulter
Phipps, Sir Constantine
Precedents, Swift on
Prior, Thomas, his "List of the Absentees of Ireland"
Privy Council, Report of the, on Wood's coinage
and _see_ Letters II. and III.
Privy Council, the Irish, Report of, on Wood's coinage
"Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufactures, A"
Rooke, Admiral Sir George
Royal Prerogative, the
Scotland, power of coining in
Scroggs, Sir William, Lord Chief Justice
Scroope, Thomas, one of the assayists of Wood's coinage
"Seasonable Advice to the Grand Jury,"
Sedley, Sir Charles
Sheridan, Thomas, probably the author of "Tom Punsibus Dream"
Southwell, Edward, one of the assayists of Wood's coinage
King's letters to
Secretary of State
Sunderland, Earl of
Swift, Jonathan, his aims in writing the Drapier's letters
his letter to Midleton
acclaimed the saviour of his country
his sermon on "Doing Good"
idolized in Ireland
Trench, W., memorial of, with reference to the copper coinage
"Tom Punsibi's Dream"
Walpole, Sir Robert, his conduct in the matter of Wood's patent
said to have been the author of the Report of the Privy Council
his Irish policy
Wood's reliance on
exonerated by the Drapier
Whitshed, Chief Justice, dissolves the Grand Jury in the case against
William, King, pewter halfpence coined by
Wood, William, terms of the patent granted to
his indiscreet boasts
his profit considered
his patent obtained clandestinely
his patent compared with Knox's
pamphlets published in London in favor of
his reliance on Walpole
his patent ended
a pension given to
Wood's coinage, letters of the Revenue Commissioners regarding
resolutions of the Irish Houses of Parliament on
report of the Committee of the Privy Council on
and Letters II and III.
refused by the merchants at the ports
no one obliged to take it
assay of, at the mint
the revenue officers ordered to pass it
popular indignation against
the matter summed up
end of the agitation concerning
addresses to the King concerning
presentment of the Grand Jury on
description of the various specimens of
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