First Drapier’s Letter: “To the Tradesmen, Shop-Keepers, Farmers, and Common People in General, of the Kingdom of Ireland”

Brethren, Friends, Countrymen and Fellow Subjects, WHAT I intend now to say to you, is, next to your Duty to God, and the Care of your Salvation, of the greatest Concern to your selves, and your Children, your Bread and Cloathing, and every common Necessary of Life entirely depend upon it. Therefore I do most earnestly exhort you as Men, as Christians, as Parents, and as Lovers of your Country, to read this Paper with the utmost Attention, or get it read to you by others; which that you may do at the less Expence. I have ordered the Printer to sell it at the lowest Rate.

It is a great fault among you, that when a Person writes with no other Intention than to do you Good, you will not be at the Pains to Read his Advices: One Copy of this Paper may serve a Dozen of you, which will be less than a Farthing a-piece. It is your Folly that you have no common or general Interest in your View, not even the Wisest among you, neither do you know or enquire, or care who are your Friends, or who are your Enemies.

About three Years ago, a little Book was written, to advise all People to wear the Manufactures of this our own Dear Country: It had no other Design, said nothing against the King or Parliament, or any Man, yet the POOR PRINTER was prosecuted two Years, with the utmost Violence. and even some WEAVERS themselves, for whose Sake it was written, being upon the JURY, FOUND [473] HIM GUILTY. This would be enough to discourage any Man from endeavouring to do you Good, when you will either neglect him or fly in his Face for his Pains, and when he must expect only Danger to himself and Loss of Money, perhaps to his Ruin.

However I cannot but warn you once more of the manifest Destruction before your Eyes, if you do not behave your selves as you ought. I will therefore first tell you the plain Story of the Fact; and then I will lay before you how you ought to act in common Prudence, and according to the Laws of your Country.

The Fact is thus, It having been many Years since COPPER HALF-PENCE or FARTHINGS were last Coined in this Kingdom, they have been for some time very scarce, and many Counterfeits passed about under the Name of RAPS, several Applications were made to England, that we might have Liberty to Coin New ones, as in former times we did; but they did not succeed. At last one Mr. WOOD, a mean ordinary man a Hard-Ware Dealer, procured a Patent under His MAJESTIES BROAD SEAL to Coin FOURSCORE AND TEN THOUSAND POUNDS in Copper for this Kingdom, which Patent however did not oblidge any one here to take them, unless they pleased. Now you must know, that the HALFPENCE and FARTHINGS in England pass for very little more than they are worth. And if you should beat them to Pieces, and sell them to the Brazier you would not lose above a Penny in a Shilling. But Mr. WOOD made his, HALF-PENCE of such Base Metal, and so much smaller than the English ones, that the Brazier would not give you above a Penny of good Money for a Shilling of his; so that this Sum of Fourscore and Ten Thousand Pounds in good Gold and Silver, must be given for TRASH that will not be worth above Eight or Nine Thousand Pounds real Value. But this is not the Worst, for Mr. WOOD when he pleasness may by Stealth send over another and another Fourscore and Ten Thousand Pounds, and buy all our Goods or Eleven Parts in Twelve, under the Value. For Example, if a [474] Hatter sells a Dozen of Hatts for Five Shillings a-piece, which amounts to Three Pounds, and receives the Payment in Mr. WOOD’s Coin, he really receives only the value of Five Shillings.

Perhaps you will wonder how such an ordinary Fellow as this Mr. WOOD could have so much Interest as to get his MAJESTIES Broad Seal for so great a Sum of bad Money, to be sent to this Poor Country, and that all the Nobility and Gentry here could not obtain the same Favour, and let us make our own Half-pence, as we used to do. Now I will make that Matter very Plain. We are at a great Distance from the King’s Court, and have no body there to solicite for us, although a great Number of Lords and Squires, whose Estates are here, and are our Countrymen, spending all their Lives and Fortunes there. But this same Mr. WOOD was able to attend constantly for his own Interest; he is an ENGLISH MAN and had GREAT FRIENDS, and it seems knew very well where to give Money, to those that would speak to OTHERS that could speak to the KING and could tell A FAIR STORY. And HIS MAJESTY, and perhaps the great Lord or Lords who advised him, might think it was for our Country’s Good; and so, as the Lawyers express it, the KING was deceived in his Grant, which often happens in all Reigns. And I am sure if his MAJESTY knew that such a Patent, if it should take Effect according to the Desire of Mr. WOOD, would utterly Ruin this Kingdom which hath given such great Proofs of it’s [sic] Loyalty, he would immediately recall it, and perhaps shew his Displeasure to SOME BODY OR OTHER, But a Word to the Wise is enough. Most of you must have heard, with what Anger our Honourable House of Commons received an Account of this WOOD’s PATENT. There were several Pine Speeches made upon it, and plain Proofs that it was all A WICKED CHEAT from the Bottom to the Top, and several Smart Votes were printed, which that same WOOD had the assurance to answer likewise in Print, and in so confident a Way, as if he were A better Man than Our whole Parliament put together. [475]

This WOOD, as soon as his Patent was passed, or soon after, sends over a great many Barrels of these HALFPENCE, to Cork and other Seaport Towns, and to get them off offered an Hundred Pounds in his Coin for Seventy or Eighty in Silver; But the Collectors of the KING’s Customs very honestly refused to take them, and so did almost every body else. And since the Parliament hath condemned them, and desired the KING that they might be stopped, all the Kingdom do abominate them.

But WOOD is still working under hand to force his HALF-PENCE upon us, and if he can by help of his Friends in England prevail so far as to get an Order that the Commissioners and Collectors of the KING’s Money shall Receive them, and that the ARMY is to be paid with them, then he thinks his Work shall be done. And this is the Difficulty you will be under in such a Case. For the common Soldier when he goes to the Market or Ale-house will olfer this Money, and if it be refused, perhaps he will SWAGGER and HECTOR, and Threaten to Beat the BUTCHER or Ale-Wife, or take the Goods by Force, and throw them the bad HALF-PENCE. In this and the like Cases, the Shop-keeper, or Victualer, or any other Tradesmen has no more to do, than to demand ten times the Price of his Goods, if it is to be paid in WOOD’s Money; for Example, Twenty Pence of that Money for A QUART OF ALE, and so in all things else, and not part with his Goods till he gets the Money.

For suppose you go to an ALE-HOUSE with that base Money, and the Landlord gives you a Quart for Four of these HALF -PENCE, what must the Victualer, do? His BREWER will not be paid in that Coin, or if the BREWER should be such a Fool, the Farmers will not take it from them for their Bere, because they are bound by their Leases to pay their Rents in Good and Lawful Money, of England, which this is not, nor of Ireland neither, and the ’Squire their Landlord will never be so bewitched to take, such Trash for his Land, so that it must certainly stop some where or other, and wherever it stops it is the same thing and we are all undone. [476]

The common weight of these HALF-PENCE are between Four and Five to an Ounce, suppose Five, then three Shillings and Four Pence will weigh a Pound, and consequently Twenty Shillings will weigh Six Pound Butter Weight. Now there are many Hundred Farmers who pay Two Hundred Pound a Year Rent. Therefore when one of these Farmers comes with his Half Years Rent, which is one Hundred Pound, it will be at least Six Hundred Pound weight, which is Three Horse Load.

If a ’Squire has a mind to come to Town to buy Cloaths and Wine and Spices for himself and Family, or perhaps to pass the Winter here; he must bring with him Five or Six Horses loaden with Sacks as the Farmers bring their Corn; and when his Lady comes in her Coach to our Shops, it must be followed by a Car loaden with Mr. WOOD’s Money. And I hope we shall have the Grace to take it for no more than it is worth.

They say ’SQUIRE CONOLLY has Sixteen Thousand Pounds a Year, now if he sends for his Rent to Town, as it is likely he does, he must have Two Hundred and Forty Horses to bring up his Half Years Rent, and Two or Three great Cellars in his House for Stowage. But what the Bankers will do I cannot tell. For I am assured, that some great Bankers keep by them Forty Thousand Pounds in ready Cash to answer all Payments, which Sum, in Mr. WOOD’s Money, would require Twelve Hundred Horses to carry it.

For my own Part, I am already resolved what to do; I have a pretty good Shop of Irish Stuffs and Silks, and instead of taking Mr. WOOD’s bad Copper, I intend to Truck with my Neighbours the BUTCHERS, and Bakers, and Brewers, and the rest, Goods for Goods, and the little Gold and Silver I have, I will keep by me like my Heart’s Blood till better Times. or till I am just ready to starve, and then I will buy Mr. WOOD’s Money as my Father did the Brass Money in K. JAMES’s Time, who could buy Ten Pound of it with a Guinea, and I hope to get as much for a Pistole, and so purchase Bread from those who will be such Fools as to sell it me. [477]

These HALF-PENCE, if they once pass, will soon be COUNTERFEIT, because it may be cheaply done, the Stuff is so Base. The DUTCH likewise will probably do the same thing, and send them over to us to pay for our Goods. And Mr. WOOD will never be at rest but coin on: So that in some Years we shall have at least five Times Four Score and Ten Thousand Pounds of this Lumber. Now the Current Money of this Kingdom is not reckoned to be above Four Hundred Thousand Pounds in all, and while there is a Silver Six-pence left these BLOODSUCKERS will never be quiet.

When once the Kingdom is reduced to such a Condition, I will tell you what must be the End: The Gentlemen of Estates will all turn off their Tenants for want of Payment; because as I told you before, the Tenants are obliged by their Leases to pay Sterling which is Lawful Current Money of England, then they will turn their own Farmers, AS TOO MANY OF THEM DO ALREADY, Run all into Sheep where they can, keeping only such other Cattle as are necessary, then they will be their own Merchants and send their Wooll and Butter and Hydes and Linnen beyond Sed for ready Money and Wine and Spices and Silks. They win keep only a few miserable Cottiers. The Farmers must Rob or Beg, or leave their Country. The Shop-keepers in this and every other Town, must Break and Starve: For it is the Landed-man that maintains the Merchant, and Shopkeeper, and Handycrafts Man.

But when the ’Squire turns Farmer and Merchant himself, all the good Money he gets from abroad, he will hoard up, or send for England, and keep some poor Taylor or Weaver and the like in his own House, who will be glad to get Bread at any Rate.

I should never have done if I  were to tell you all the Miseries that we shall undergo if we be so Foolish and Wicked as to take this CURSED COYN. It would be very hard if all Ireland should be put into One Scale, and this sorry Fellow WOOD into the other, that Mr. WOOD should weigh down this whole Kingdom, by which England gets above a Million of good Money every Year clear into their [478] Pockets, and that is more than the English do by all the World besides.

But your great Comfort is, that as his MAJESTIES Patent does not oblige you to take this Money, so the Laws have not given the Crown a Power of forcing the Subjects to take what Money the KING pleases: For then by the same Reason we might be bound to take PEBBLE-STONES or Cockle-shells or Stamped Leather for Current Coin, if ever we should happen to live under an ill PRINCE, who might likewise by the same Power make a Guinea pass for Ten Pounds, a Shilling for Twenty Shillings, and so on, by which he would in a short Time get all the Silver and Gold of the Kingdom into his own Hands, and leave us nothing but Brass or Leather or what he pleased. Neither is any Thing reckoned more Cruel or Oppressive in the French Government than their common Practice of calling in all their Money after they have sunk it very low, and then coining it a New at a much higher Value, which however is not the Thousand Part so wicked as this abominable Project of Mr. WOOD. For the French give their Subjects Silver for Silver and Gold for Gold, but this Fellow will not so much as give us good Brass or Copper for our Gold and Silver, not even a Twelfth Part of their Worth.

Having said thus much, I will now go on to tell you the Judgments of some great Lawyers in this Matter, whom I fee’d on purpose for your Sakes, and got their Opinions under their Hands, that I might be sure I went upon good Grounds.

A Famous Law-Book, call’d the Mirrour of Justice, discoursing of the Articles (or Laws) ordained by our Antient Kings declares the Law to be as follows: It was ordained that no King of this Realm should Change, Impair or Amend the Money or make any other Money than of Gold or Silver without the Assent of all the Counties, that is, as my Lord Coke says, without the Assent of Parliament. (2 Inst. 576.)

This Book is very Antient, and of great Authority for the Time in which it was wrote, and with that Character [479] is often quoted by that great Lawyer my Lord Coke. By the Law of England, the several Metals are divided into Lawful or true Metal and unlawful or false Metal, the Former comprehends Silver or Gold (2 Inst. 576-77); the Latter all Baser Metals: That the Former is only to pass in Payments appears by an Act of Parliament made the Twentieth Year of Edward the First, called the Statute concerning the Passing of Pence, which I give you here as I got it translated into English, for some of our Laws at that Time, were, as I am told writ in Latin: Whoever in Buying or Selling presumeth to refuse an Half-penny or Farthing of Lawful Money, bearing the Stamp which it ought to have, let him be seized on as a Contemner of the King’s Majesty, and cast into Prison. (2 Inst. 577.)

By this Statute, no Person is to be reckoned a Contemner of the KING’S Majesty, and for that Crime to be committed to Prison; but he who refuses to accept the KING’s Coin’made of Lawful Metal, by which, as I observed before, Silver and Gold only are intended.

That this is the true Construction of the Act, appears not only from the plain Meaning of the Words, butt from my Lord Coke’s Observation upon it. By this Act (says he) it appears, that no Subject can be forc’d to take in Buying or Selling or other Payments, any Money made but of Lawful Metal; that is, of Silver or Gold. (2  Inst. 577.)

The Law of England gives the KING all Mines of Gold and Silver, but not the Mines of other Metals, the Reason of which Prerogative or Power, as it is given by my Lord Coke is, because Money can be made of Gold and Silver, but not of other Metals. (2 Inst. 577.)

Pursuant to this Opinion Half-pence and Farthings were antiently made of Silver, which is most evident from the Act of Parliament of Henry the 4th. Chap. 4 by which it is enacted as follows: Item, for the great Scarcity that is at present within the Realm of England offlalfpence and Farthings of Silver, it is ordained and established that the Third Part of all the Money of Silver Plate which shall be brought to the Bullion, shall be made in Half-pence and Farthings.  [480] This shews that by the Word Half-penny and Farthing of Lawful Money in that Statute concerning the Passing of Pence, are meant a small Coin in Half-pence and Farthings of Silver.

This is further manifest from the Statute of the Ninth Year of Edward the 3d. Chap. 3 which Enacts, That no Sterling HALF-PENNY or FARTHING be Molten for to make Vessel, nor any other thing by the Gold-smiths, nor others, upon Forfeiture of the Money so molten (or melted).

By another Act in this King’s Reign Black Money was not to be current in England; and by an Act made in the Eleventh Year of his Reign Chap. 5. Galley Half-pence were not to pass, what kind of Coin these were I do not know, but I presume they were made of Base Metal, and that these Acts were no New Laws, but farther Declarations of the old Laws relating to the Coin.

Thus the Law stands in Relation to Coin, nor is there any Example to the contrary, except one in Davis’s [for Sir John Davies] Reports, who tells us that in the time of Tyrone’s Rebellion QUEEN ELIZABETH ordered Money of Mixt Metal to be Coined in the Tower of London, and sent over hither for Payment of the ARMY, obliging all People to receive it and Commanding that all Silver Money should be taken only as Bullion, that is, for as much as it weighed. Davis tells us several Particulars in this Matter too long here to trouble you with, and that the Privy-Council of this Kingdom obliged a Merchant in England to receive this mixt Money for Goods transmitted hither.

But this Proceeding is rejected by all the best Lawyers as contrary to Law, the Privy-Council here having no such Power. And besides it is to be considered, that the Queen was then under great Difficulties by a Rebellion in this Kingdom assisted from Spain, and whatever is done in great Exigences and Dangerous Times should never be an Example to proceed by in Seasons of Peace and Quietness.

I will now, my Dear Friends to save you the Trouble, set before you in short, what the Law obliges you to do, and what it does not oblige you to.

First, you are oblig’d to take all Money in Payments [481]  which is coin’d by the KING and is of the English Standard or Weight, provided it be of Gold or Silver.

Secondly, you are not obliged to take any Money which is not of Gold or Silver, no not the HALF-PENCE, or FARTHINGS of England, or of any other Country, and it is only for Convenience, or Ease. that you are content take them, because the Custom of Coining Silver HALFPENCE & FARTHINGS bath long been left off, I will suppose on Account of their being subject to be lost.

Thirdly, much less are you obliged to take those Vile Half-Pence of that same WOOD, by which you must lose almost Eleven-Pence in every Shilling.

Therefore my Friends, stand to it One and All, refuse this Filthy Trash; It is no Treason to Rebel against Mr. WOOD, His MAJESTY in his Patent obliges no body to take these Half-Pence, our GRACIOUS PRINCE hath no so ill Advisers about him; or if he had, yet you see the Laws have not left it in the KING’s Power, to force us to take any Coin but what is Lawful, of right Standard Gold and Silver, therefore you have nothing to fear.

And let me in the next Place apply my self particularly to you who are the poor Sort of Tradesmen, perhaps you, may think you will not be so great Losers as the Rich, these Half-Pence should pass, because you seldom see any Silver, and your Customers come to your Shops with nothing but Brass, which you likewise find hard got, but you may take my Word, whenever this Money gains Footing among you you will be utterly undone; if you carry these Half-Pence to a Shop for Tobacco or Brandy, or any other Thing you want, the Shopkeeper will advance his Goods accordingly, or else he must break and leave the Key under the Door. Do you think I  will sell you a Yard of tenpenny Stuff for Twenty of Mr. WOOD’s Half-Pence no, not under Two hundred at least, neither will I be at the Trouble of counting, but weigh them in a Lump; I will tell you one Thing further, that if Mr. WOOD’s Project should take, it will ruin even our Beggars. For when I give a Beggar an half-penny, it will quench his Thirst, or go a good way to fill his Belly, but the Twelfth Part of a Half-penny will [482] do him no more Service than if I should give three Pins out of my Sleeve.

In short these HALF-PENCE are like the accursed Thing which as the Scripture tells us,  the Children of Israel were forbidden to touch, they will run about like the Plague and destroy every one who lays his Hands upon them. I have heard Scholars talk of a Man who told a King that he had invented a Way to torment People by putting. them into a Bull of Brass with Fire under it, but the Prince put the Projector first into his own Brazen Bull to make the Experiment; this very much resembles the Project of Mr. WOOD, and the like of this may possibly be Mr. WOOD’s Fate, that the Brass he contrived to torment this Kingdom with, may prove his own Torment, and his Destruction at last.

N.B. The AUTHOR of this Paper is informed by Persons who have made it their Business to be exact in their Observations on the true Value of these HALF-PENCE that any Person may expect to get a Quart of Two Penny Ale for Thirty-six of them.

I desire all Persons may keep this Paper carefully by them to Refresh their Memories whenever they shall have farther Notice of Mr. WOOD’s Half-Pence, or any other the like Imposture.

[ close ]  
[ top ]