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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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58. The Sixth Letter to the Whole People of Ireland

Extract

But were there not these clear Demonstrations of our Loyalty, can any charge against a Nation be Supported by Pamphlets written by private Persons, generally unknown? If it could, the Reputation of a Kingdom would stand on a slenderer foundation than that of a private Person. I believe there never was a Reign in which Seditious Papers were not Published in England: Nay his Sacred Majesty's most just Administration, and the Conduct of the best chosen Ministry have not escaped Seditious Pens, altho' there be not one fact to support their Malicious reflections. I have seen Mist's Journal, The True Britons,579 &c. Printed in London.←367 | 368→ The Publishers were Prosecuted, and whether found Guilty, or Acquitted, there the Matter ended; and none ever pretended that such Papers contained the Sense of England. Must Ireland then be the only Country whose Sense of Matters can best be judged of by the representations of private Persons either known or unknown?

But there has not been any remis[s]ness before or since the Arrival of his Excellency, The Lord Lieutenant in discouraging all Papers which might have given cause of Offence, as the several Prosecutions now depending, and a Proclamation lately published do sufficiently demonstrate. But let not Mr. Wood flatter himself that these Prosecutions are any way intended to promote a Currency of his Halfpence; No: Had not those Writers quitted their Subject (a Subject worthy of the best Irish Pen), had they kept to the...

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