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Jonathan Swift’s Allies

The Wood’s Halfpence Controversy in Ireland, 1724–1725. Second revised and augmented edition

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Edited By Sabine Baltes-Ellermann

The patent for coining copper money granted by King George I to the English manufacturer William Wood aroused nationwide protest in Ireland. It led to the publication of Jonathan Swift’s «Drapier’s Letters», in which the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, attacked both the patent and England’s Irish policy. But this is not the whole story. This annotated edition contains more than 100 pamphlets, declarations, poems, and songs that were published during the dispute. Most of the reproduced texts are extremely rare and have hitherto lain dormant in various libraries. They illustrate that the protest was in fact carried on by the Irish population at large, who regarded the coinage scheme as a severe intrusion into the nation’s circulating cash which threatened to ruin the country’s economy.

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The Pamphlets and Broadsides against Wood's Halfpence

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The Pamphlets and Broadsides againstWood's Halfpence

The following pamphlet, written by the Dublin irondealer James Maculla, opened the public campaign against Wood's coinage. On four densely printed pages, he drew attention to the deficiencies of the proposed scheme and to the ensuing economic dangers, and urged his readers to reject the coins. Although he probably exaggerated the consequences of the project, his prediction that Ireland's loss would amount to £200,000 drove the message home, alarming his audience and generating among them a spirit of opposition.

1. Ireland's Consternation in the Loosing of Two Hundred Thousand Pounds of their Gold and Silver for Brass Money: Set forth by an Artificer in Metals, And a Citizen of Dublin. Shewing the Fatal Consequence of Coining in Another Kingdom Three Hundred Tun Weight of Copper Half-pence, Amounting to the Damage of Two Hundred Thousand Pounds Sterl. to this Nation, and the Continuance of the same for Fourteen Years. [Dublin, 1723].191

Query. Whereas there is now a Coyning by one William Wood, &c. in another Kingdom, Three Hundred Tunn Weight of Copper Half-pence for this Kingdom, and that the said Coynage is to Continue Fo[u]rteen Years, Whether the said Half-pence be of equal Value with English Coyn, and whether the same be not made of Irish Copper unrefin'd.

Answer. The Value of the said Half-pence is abundantly inferior to the Half-pence current in England, as hereafter may more fully appear, and 'tis...

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