The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 9/The Drapier’s Letters 4




My dear countrymen,

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 of mercy, and that all impositions laid on them by a stronger hand, are, in the phrase of the report, legal and obligatory. Hence proceed 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 shown 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 has 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 certainly with a bad 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 stigmatised 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 has published a paragraph in another newspaper, to let us know, that the lord-lieutenant is ordered to come over immediately to settle his halfpence.

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 has 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 does 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 has 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 farther 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 has been fixed and ascertained. For, whoever reads the history of England, will find that some former kings, and those 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: so that, soon after her death, it was recalled by her successor, and lawful money paid in exchange.

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 has 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 prerogative.

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 ue 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 them.

Upon these considerations, I was ever against all recourse to England for a remedy against the present impending evil; especially when I observed, that the addresses of both houses, after long expectance produced nothing but a report altogether in favour of Wood; upon which I made some observations in a former letter, and might at least have made as many more; for it is a paper of as singular a nature as I ever beheld.

But I mistake; for, before this report was made, his majesty's most gracious answer to the house of lords was sent over and printed; wherein are these words, granting the patent for coining halfpence and farthings, agreeable to the practice of his royal predecessors, etc. That king Charles II, and king James II, (and they only) did grant patents for this purpose, is indisputable, and I have shown it at large. Their patents were passed under the great seal of Ireland, by references to Ireland, the copper to be coined in Ireland; the patentee was bound, on demand, to receive his coin back in Ireland; and pay silver and gold in return. Wood's patent was made under the great seal of England, the brass coined in England, not the least reference made to Ireland; the sum immense, and the patentee under no obligation to receive it again, and give good money for it. This I only mention, because, in my private thoughts, I have sometimes made a query, whether the penner of those words in his majesty's most gracious answer, agreeable to the practice of his royal predecessors, had maturely considered the several circumstances, which, in my poor opinion, seem to make a difference.

Let me now say something concerning the other great cause of some people's fear, as Wood has taught the London newswriter to express it, that his excellency the lord lieutenant is coming over to settle Wood's halfpence.

We know very well, that the lords lieutenants for several years past, have not thought this kingdom worthy the honour of their residence, longer than was absolutely necessary for the king's business; which, consequently, wanted no speed in the dispatch. And therefore it naturally fell into most men's thoughts, that a new governor, coming at an unusual time, must portend some unusual business to be done; especially if the common report be true, that the parliament, prorogued to I know not when, is by a new summons, revoking that prorogation, to assemble soon after his arrival; for which extraordinary proceeding, the lawyers on the other side the water, have, by great good fortune, found two precedents.

All this being granted, it can never enter into my head, that so little a creature as Wood, could find credit enough with the king and his ministers, to have the lord lieutenant of Ireland sent hither in a hurry upon his errand.

For, let us take the whole matter nakedly, as it lies before us, without the refinements of some people, with which we have nothing to do. Here is a patent granted under the great seal of England, upon false suggestions, to one William Wood, for coming copper halfpence for Ireland: the parliament here, upon apprehensions of the worst consequences from the said patent, address the king to have it recalled: this is refused, and a committee of the privy council report to his majesty, that Wood has performed the conditions of his patent. He then is left to do the best he can with his halfpence, no man being obliged to receive them; the people here, being likewise left to themselves, unite as one man, resolving they will have nothing to do with his ware. By this plain account of the fact, it is manifest, that the king and his ministry are wholly out of the case, and the matter is left to be disputed between him and us. Will any man therefore attempt to persuade me, that a lord lieutenant is to be dispatched over in great haste before the ordinary time, and a parliament summoned by anticipating a prorogation, merely to put a hundred thousand pounds into the pocket of a sharper, by the ruin of a most loyal kingdom?

But supposing all this to be true: by what arguments could a lord lieutenant prevail on the same parliament, which addressed with so much zeal and earnestness against this evil, to pass it into a law? I am sure their opinion of Wood and his project are not mended since their last prorogation: and, supposing those methods should be used, which detractors tell us have been sometimes put in practice for gaining votes, it is well known, that in this kingdom there are few employments to be given; and if there were more, it is as well known to whose share they must fall.

But, because great numbers of you are altogether ignorant of the affairs of your country, I will tell you some reasons why there are so few employments to be disposed of in this kingdom. All considerable offices for life here are possessed by those, to whom the reversions were granted; and these have been generally followers of the chief governors, or persons who had interest in the court of England: so the lord Berkely of Stratton holds that great office of master of the rolls; the lord Palmerstown is first remembrancer, worth near 2000l. per annum. One Dodington, secretary to the earl of Pembroke, begged the reversion of clerk of the pells, worth 2500l. a year, which he now enjoys by the death of the lord Newtown. Mr. Southwell is secretary of state, and the earl of Burlington lord high treasurer of Ireland by inheritance. These are only a few among many others, which I have been told of, but cannot remember. Nay, the reversion of several employments during pleasure, is granted the same way. This, among many others, is a circumstance, whereby the kingdom of Ireland is distinguished from all other nations upon earth, and makes it so difficult an affair to get into a civil employ, that Mr. Addison was forced to purchase an old obscure place, called keeper of the records in Bermingham's tower, of ten pounds a year, and to get a salary of 400l. annexed to it, though all the records there are not worth half a crown either for curiosity or use. And we lately saw a favourite secretary[1] descend to be master of the revels, which by his credit and extortion he has made pretty considerable. I say nothing of the under treasurership, worth about 9000l. a year, nor of the commissioners of the revenue, four of whom generally live in England; for I think none of these are granted in reversion. But the jest is, that I have known, upon occasion, some of these absent officers as keen against the interest of Ireland, as if they had never been indebted to her for a single groat.

I confess I have been sometimes tempted to wish, that this project of Wood might succeed; because I reflected with some pleasure, what a jolly crew it would bring over among us of lords and 'squires, and pensioners of both sexes, and officers civil and military, where we should live together as merry and sociable as beggars; only with this one abatement, that we should neither have meat to feed, nor manufactures to clothe us, unless we could be content to prance about in coats of mail, or eat brass as ostriches do iron.

I return from this digression to that which gave me the occasion of making it: and I believe you are now convinced, that if the parliament of Ireland were as temptable as any other assembly within a mile of Christendom (which God forbid) yet the managers must of necessity fail, for want of tools to work with. But I will yet go one step farther, by supposing that a hundred new employments were erected, on purpose to gratify compliers; yet still an insuperable difficulty would remain. For it happens, I know not how, that money is neither whig nor tory, neither of town nor country party; and it is not improbable, that a gentleman would rather choose to live upon his own estate, which brings him gold and silver, than with the addition of an employment, when his rents and salary must both be paid in Wood's brass, at above eighty per cent discount.

For these, and many other reasons, I am confident you need not be under the least apprehensions from the sudden expectation of the lord lieutenant[2], while we continue in our present hearty disposition, to alter which, no suitable temptation can possibly be offered. And if, as I have often asserted from the best authority, the law has not left a power in the crown to force any money, except sterling, upon the subject; much less can the crown devolve such a power upon another.

This I speak with the utmost respect to the person and dignity of his excellency the lord Carteret, whose character was lately given me by a gentleman that has known him from his first appearance in the world: that gentleman describes him as a young man of great accomplishments, excellent learning, regular in his life, and of much spirit and vivacity. He has since, as I have heard, been employed abroad; was principal secretary of state; and is now about the thirty-seventh year of his age appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland. From such a governor, this kingdom may reasonably hope for as much prosperity, as, under so many discouragements, it can be capable of receiving.

It is true indeed, that within the memory of man, there have been governors of so much dexterity, as to carry points of terrible consequence to this kingdom, by their power with those who are in office; and by their arts in managing or deluding others with oaths, affability, and even with dinners. If Wood's brass had, in those times, been upon the anvil, it is obvious enough to conceive what methods would have been taken. Depending persons would have been told in plain terms, that it was a service expected from them, under the pain of the publick business being put into more complying hands. Others would be allured by promises. To the country gentlemen, beside good words, burgundy, and closetting, it might perhaps have been hinted, how kindly it would be taken to comply with a royal patent, although it were not compulsory: that if any inconveniencies ensued, it might be made up with other graces or favours hereafter: that gentlemen ought to consider, whether it were prudent or safe to disgust England: they would be desired to think of some good bills for encouraging of trade, and setting the poor to work; some farther acts against popery, and for uniting protestants. There would be solemn engagements, that we should never be troubled with above forty thousand pounds in his coin, and all of the best and weightiest sort, for which we should only give our manufactures in exchange, and keep our gold and silver at home. Perhaps a seasonable report of some invasion would have been spread in the most proper juncture; which is a great smoother of rubs in publick proceedings: and we should have been told, that this no time to create differences, when the kingdom was in danger.

These, I say, and the like methods, would, in corrupt times, have been taken, to let in this deluge of brass among us. And I am confident, even then, would not have succeeded; much less under the administration of so excellent a person as the lord Carteret; and in a country where the people of all ranks, parties, and denominations, are convinced to a man, that the utter undoing of themselves and their posterity for ever, will be dated from the admission of that execrable coin: that if it once enters, it can be no more confined to a small or moderate quantity, than a plague can be confined to a few families; and that no equivalent can be given by any earthly power, any more than a dead carcase can be recovered to life by a cordial.

There is one comfortable circumstance in this universal opposition to Mr. Wood, that the people sent over hither from England, to fill up our vacancies, ecclesiastical, civil, and military, are all on our side. Money, the great divider of the world, has, by a strange revolution, been the great uniter of a most divided people. Who would leave a hundred pounds a year in England (a country of freedom) to be paid a thousand in Ireland out of Wood's exchequer? The gentleman they have lately made primate[3], would never quit his seat in an English house of lords, and his preferments at Oxford and Bristol, worth twelve hundred pounds a year, for four times the denomination here, but not half the value; therefore I expect to hear he will be as good an Irishman, at least upon this one article, as any of his brethren, or even of us, who have had the misfortune to be born in this island. For, those, who in the common phrase do not come hither to learn the language, would never change a better country for a worse, to receive brass instead of gold.

Another slander spread by Wood and his emissaries, is, that by opposing him, we discover an inclination to shake off our dependence upon the crown of England. Pray observe how important a person is this same William Wood; and how the publick weal of two kingdoms is involved in his private interest. First, all those who refuse to take his coin are papists; for he tells us, that none but papists are associated against him. Secondly, they dispute the king's prerogative. Thirdly, they are ripe for rebellion. And, fourthly, they are going to shake off their dependence upon the crown of England; that is to say, they are going to choose another king; for there can be no other meaning in this expression, however some may pretend to strain it.

And this gives me an opportunity of explaining, to those who are ignorant, another point, which has often swelled in my breast. Those who come over hither to us from England, and some weak people among ourselves, whenever in discourse we make mention of liberty and property, shake their heads, and tell us, that Ireland is a depending kingdom; as if they would seem by this phrase to intend, that the people of Ireland are in some state of slavery or dependence different from those of England: whereas a depending kingdom is a modern term of art, unknown as I have heard to all ancient civilians, and writers upon government; and Ireland is, on the contrary, called in some statutes an imperial crown, as held only from God; which is as high a style as any kingdom is capable of receiving. Therefore, by this expression, a depending kingdom, there is no more to be understood, than that by a statute made here in the thirty-third year of Henry VIII, the king, and his successors, are to be kings imperial of this realm, as united and knit to the imperial crown of England. I have looked over all the English and Irish statutes, without finding any law that makes Ireland depend upon England, any more than England does upon Ireland. We have indeed obliged ourselves to have the same king with them; and consequently they are obliged to have the same king with us. For the law was made by our own parliament; and our ancestors then were not such fools (whatever they were in the preceding reign) to bring themselves under I know not what dependence, which is now talked of, without any ground of law, reason, or common sense.

Let whoever think otherwise, I, M. B. drapier, desire to be excepted: for I declare, next under God, I depend only on the king my sovereign, and on the laws of my own country. And I am so far from depending upon the people of England, that if they should ever rebel against my sovereign (which God forbid) I would be ready, at the first command from his majesty, to take arms against them, as some of my countrymen did against theirs at Preston. And if such a rebellion should prove so successful as to fix the pretender on the throne of England, I would venture to transgress that statute so far, as to lose every drop of my blood to hinder him from being king of Ireland[4].

It is true indeed, that within the memory of man, the parliaments of England have sometimes assumed the power of binding this kingdom by laws enacted there; wherein they were at first openly opposed (as far as truth, reason, and justice are capable of opposing) by the famous Mr. Molineux, an English gentleman born here, as well as by several of the greatest patriots and best whigs in England; but the love and torrent of power prevailed. Indeed the arguments on both sides were invincible. For, in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery: but in fact, eleven men well armed will certainly subdue one single man in his shirt. But I have done: for those who have used power to cramp liberty, have gone so far as to resent even the liberty of complaining; although a man upon the rack was never known to be refused the liberty of roaring as loud as he thought fit.

And as we are apt to sink too much under unreasonable fears, so we are too soon inclined to be raised by groundless hopes, according to the nature of all consumptive bodies like ours. Thus it has been given about for several days past, that somebody in England empowered a second somebody, to write to a third somebody here, to assure us that we should no more be troubled with these halfpence. And this is reported to have been done by the same person[5], who is said to have sworn some months ago, that he would ram them down our throats, though I doubt they would stick in our stomachs: but whichever of these reports be true or false, it is no concern of ours. For, in this point, we have nothing to do with English ministers: and I should be sorry to leave it in their power to redress this grievance, or to enforce it; for the report of the committee has given me a surfeit. The remedy is wholly in your own hands; and therefore I have digressed a little, in order to refresh and continue that spirit so seasonably raised among you; and to let you see, 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.

If the pamphlets published at London by Wood and his journeymen, in defence of his cause, were reprinted here, and our countrymen could be persuaded to read them, they would convince you of his wicked design, more than all I shall ever he able to say. In short, I make him a perfect saint, in comparison of what he appears to be, from the writings of those whom he hires to justify his project. But he is so far master of the field (let others guess the reason) that no London printer dare publish any paper written in favour of Ireland: and here nobody has yet been so bold as to publish any thing in favour of him.

There was, a few days ago, a pamphlet sent me of near fifty pages, written in favour of Mr. Wood and his coinage, printed in London: it is not worth answering, because probably it will never be published here. But it gave me occasion to reflect upon an unhappiness we lie under, that the people of England are utterly ignorant of our case; which however is no wonder, since it is a point they do not in the least concern themselves about, farther than perhaps as a subject of discourse in a coffeehouse, when they have nothing else to talk of. For I have reason to believe, that no minister ever gave himself the trouble of reading any papers written in our defence, because I suppose their opinions are already determined, and are formed wholly upon the reports of Wood and his accomplices; else it would be impossible that any man could have the impudence to write such a pamphlet as I have mentioned.

Our neighbours, whose understandings are just upon a level with ours, (which perhaps are none of the brightest) have a strong contempt for most nations, but especially for Ireland. They look upon us as a sort of savage Irish, whom our ancestors conquered several hundred years ago. And if I should describe the Britons to you as they werein Cæsar's time, when they painted their bodies, or clothed themselves with the skins of beasts, I should act full as reasonably as they do. However, they are so far to be excused in relation to the present subject, that hearing only one side of the cause, and having neither opportunity nor curiosity to examine the other, they believe a lie merely for their ease; and conclude, because Mr. Wood pretends to power, he has also reason on his side.

Therefore, to let you see how this case is represented in England by Wood and his adherents, I have thought it proper to extract out of that pamphlet, a few of those notorious falsehoods, in point of fact and reasoning, contained therein; the knowledge whereof will confirm my countrymen in their own right sentiments, when they will see, by comparing both, how much their enemies are in the wrong.

First, the writer positively asserts, that Wood's halfpence were current among us for several months, with the universal approbation of all people, without one single gainsayer; and we all to a man, thought ourselves happy in having them.

Secondly, he affirms, that we were drawn into dislike of them only by some cunning, evil designing men among us, who opposed this patent of Wood to get another for themselves.

Thirdly, that those who most declared at first against Wood's patent, were the very men who intend to get another for their own advantage.

Fourthly, that our parliament and privy council, the lord mayor and aldermen of Dublin, the grand juries and merchants, and in short the whole kingdom, nay, the very dogs (as he expresses it) were fond of those halfpence, till they were inflamed by those few designing persons aforesaid.

Fifthly, he says directly, that all those who opposed the halfpence, were papists, and enemies to king George.

Thus far I am confident, the most ignorant among you, can safely swear, from your own knowledge, that the author is a most notorious liar in every article; the direct contrary being so manifest to the whole kingdom, that, if occasion required, we might get it confirmed under five hundred thousand hands.

Sixthly, he would persuade us, that if we sell five shillings worth of our goods or manufactures for two shillings and four pence worth of copper, although the copper were melted down, and that we could get five shillings in gold and silver for the said goods; yet to take the said two shillings and four pence in copper, would be greatly for our advantage.

And, lastly, he makes us a very fair offer, as empowered by Wood, that if we will take off two hundred thousand pounds in his halfpence for our goods, and likewise pay him three per cent interest for thirty years for a hundred and twenty thousand pounds (at which he computes the coinage above the intrinsick value of the copper) for the loan of his coin, he will after that time give us good money for what halfpence will be then left.

Let me place this offer in as clear a light as I can, to show the insupportable villany and impudence of that incorrigible wretch. First (says he) I will send two hundred thousand pounds of my coin into your country: the copper I compute to be, in real value, eighty thousand pounds, and I charge you with a hundred and twenty thousand pounds for the coinage; so that you see, I lend you a hundred and twenty thousand pounds for thirty years; for which you shall pay me three per cent, that is to say, three thousand six hundred pounds per annum, which in thirty years will amount to a hundred and eight thousand pounds. And when these thirty years are expired, return me my copper, and I will give you good money for it.

This is the proposal made to us by Wood in that pamphlet, written by one of his commissioners: and the author is supposed to be the same infamous Coleby, one of his under swearers at the committee of council, who was tried for robbing the treasury here, where he was an under clerk.

By this proposal, he will first, receive two hundred thousand pounds in goods or sterling, for as much copper as he values at eighty thousand pounds, but in reality not worth thirty thousand pounds. Secondly, he will receive for interest a hundred and eight thousand pounds: and when our children come thirty years hence to return his halfpence upon his executors (for before that time he will be probably gone to his own place) those executors will very reasonably reject them as raps and counterfeits, which they will be, and millions of them of his own coinage.

Methinks I am fond of such a dealer as this, who mends every day upon our hands like a Dutch reckoning; wherein if you dispute the unreasonableness and exorbitance of the bill, the landlord shall bring it up every time with new additions.

Although these, and the like pamphlets, published by Wood in London are altogether unknown here, where nobody could read them without as much indignation, as contempt would allow; yet I thought it proper to give you a specimen how the man employs his time, where he rides alone without any creature to contradict him; while our few friends there wonder at our silence: and the English in general, if they think of this matter at all, impute our refusal to wilfulness or disaffection, just as Wood and his hirelings are pleased to represent.

But although our arguments are not suffered to be printed in England, yet the consequence will be of little moment. Let Wood endeavour to persuade the people there, that we ought to receive his coin; and let me convince our people here, that they ought to reject it, under pain of our utter undoing; and then let him do his best and his worst.

Before I conclude, I must beg leave, in all humility, to tell Mr. Wood that he is guilty of great indiscretion, by causing so honourable a name as that of Mr. Walpole, to be mentioned so often, and in such a manner, upon this occasion. A short paper printed at Bristol, and reprinted here, reports Mr. Wood to say, that he wonders at the impudence and insolence of the Irish in refusing his coin, and what he will do when Mr. Walpole comes to town. Where, by the way, he is mistaken; for it is the true English people of Ireland who refuse it, although we take it for granted, that the Irish will do so too whenever they are asked. In another printed paper of his contriving, it is roundly expressed, that Mr. Walpole will cram his brass down our throats. Sometimes it is given out, that we must either take those halfpence, or eat our brogues: and in another newsletter, but of yesterday, we read, that the same great man has sworn to make us swallow his coin in fireballs.

This brings to my mind the known story of a Scotchman, who receiving the sentence of death with all the circumstances of hanging, beheading, quartering, embowelling, and the like, cried out, What need all this Cookery? And I think we have reason to ask the same question; for, if we believe Wood, here is a dinner getting ready for us; and you see the bill of fare; and I am sorry the drink was forgot, which might easily be supplied with melted lead and flaming pitch.

What vile words are these to put into the mouth of a great counsellor, in high trust with his majesty, and looked upon as a prime minister? If Mr. Wood has no better a manner of representing his patrons, when I come to be a great man, he shall never be suffered to attend at my levee. This is not the style of a great minister; it savours too much of the kettle and the furnace, and came entirely out of Wood's forge.

As for the threat of making us eat our brogues, we need not be in pain; for, if his coin should pass, that unpolite covering for the feet would no longer be a national reproach; because then we should have neither shoe nor brogue left in the kingdom. But here the falsehood of Mr. Wood is fairly detected; for I am confident Mr. Walpole never heard of a brogue in his whole life.

As to swallowing these halfpence in fireballs, it is a story equally improbable. For, to execute this operation, the whole stock of Mr. Wood's coin and metal must be melted down, and moulded into hollow balls with wildfire, no bigger than a reasonable throat may be able to swallow. Now, the metal he has prepared, and already coined, will amount to at least fifty millions of halfpence to be swallowed by a million and a half of people; so that, allowing two halfpence to each ball, there will be about seventeen balls of wildfire apiece to be swallowed by every person in the kingdom; and to administer this dose, there cannot be conveniently fewer than fifty thousand operators, allowing one operator to every thirty; which, considering the squeamishness of some stomachs, and the peevishness of young children, is but reasonable. Now, under correction of better judgments, I think the trouble and charge of such an experiment, would exceed the profit; and therefore I take this report to be spurious, or, at least, only a new scheme of Mr. Wood himself; which, to make it pass the better in Ireland, he would father upon a minister of state.

But I will now demonstrate, beyond all contradiction, that Mr. Walpole is against this project of Mr. Wood, and is an entire friend to Ireland, only by this one invincible argument; that he has the universal opinion of being a wise man, an able minister, and in all his proceedings pursuing the true interest of the king his master: and that as his integrity is above all corruption, so is his fortune above all temptation, I reckon, therefore, we are perfectly safe from that corner, and shall never be under the necessity of contending with so formidable a power, but be left to possess our brogues and potatoes in peace, as remote from thunder as we are from Jupiter[6].

I am, my dear countrymen,

your loving fellow subject,

fellow sufferer, and

humble servant,

M. B.

october 13, 1724.

Upon the arrival of lord Carteret, soon after the publication of this letter, a proclamation was published by his excellency and council, offering a reward of three hundred pounds for discovering the author. Harding the printer was imprisoned, and a bill of indictment was ordered to be prepared against him: which gave occasion to the following paper.

  1. Mr. Hopkins, secretary to the duke of Grafton.
  2. Lord Carteret, afterward earl Granville.
  3. Doctor Hugh Boulter.
  4. This paragraph gave great offence. See Letter V.
  5. Mr. Walpole, afterward earl of Orford.
  6. Procul à Jove, procul à fulmine.