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Jonathan Swift’s Allies

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


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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I first met Sabine Baltes in the summer semester of 1997 when she attended one of my seminars on Swift's Irish pamphlets. Sabine had just returned from an academic year in Northern Ireland, where she had studied at the University of Ulster, Coleraine, with the eminent historian S. J. Connolly, among others. From the start, Sabine's competence proved to be as impressive as her enthusiasm for Irish history was infectious, so when she subsequently invited me to supervise her M. A. thesis on Irish constitutional nationalism, I felt both delighted and honoured. She took her M. A. in October 1999 with flying colours, and went on to invest her dedication and energy in a thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy on The Pamphlet Controversy about Wood's Halfpence (1722–25) and the Tradition of Irish Constitutional Nationalism. Having returned to Ireland several times to substantiate her research in libraries and archives there, she submitted, and defended, her thesis in Münster in October 2002. Meanwhile, it has not only been published in Münster Monographs on English Literature by Peter Lang, Europäischer Verlag der Wissenschaften, Frankfurt, but has also received some very favourable reviews.

Lovers and admirers of the Dean may instinctively object to seeing his role in the controversy about Wood's Halfpence diminished; after all, he has been acclaimed as a fighter for the Irish cause, even as the Irish patriot, throughout the centuries. While Sabine Baltes does not wish to belittle, let...

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