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Your scheme for a tax for raising such a sum is all visionary, and owing to a great want of knowledge in the miserable state of this nation. Tea, coffee, sugar, spices, wine, and foreign cloths, are the particulars you mention upon which this tax should be raised. I will allow the two first, because they are unwholesome; and the last because I should be glad if they were all burned but I beg you will leave us our wine to make us awhile forget our misery; or give your tenants leave to plough for barley. But I will tell you a secret which I learned many years ago from the commissioners of the customs in London; they said, when any commodity appeared to be taxed above a moderate rate, the consequence was to lessen that branch of the revenue by one half; and one of those gentlemen pleasantly told me that the mistake of parliaments on such occasions was owing to an error of computing two and two to make four; whereas, in the business of laying impositions, two and two never made more than one; which happens by lessening the import, and the strong temptation of running such goods as paid high duties, at least in this kingdom. Although the women are as vain and extravagant as their lovers or their husbands can deserve, and the men are fond enough of wine, yet the number of both who can afford such expenses is so small that the major part must refuse gratifying themselves, and the duties will rather be lessened than increased. But, allowing no force in this argument, yet so preternatural a sum as 110,0007., raised all on a sudden (for there is no dallying with hunger), is just in proportion with raising a million and a half in England; which as things now stand would probably bring that opulent kingdom under some difficulties.
You are concerned how strange and surprising it would be in foreign parts to hear that the poor were starving in a RICH Country, &c. Are you in earnest ? Is Ireland the rich country you mean? Or are you insulting our poverty? Were you ever out of Ireland? Or were you ever in it till of late? You may probably have a good employment, and are saving all you can to purchase a good estate in England. But by talking so familiarly of 110,0001. by a tax upon a few commodities, it is plain you are either naturally or affectedly ignorant of our present condition: or else you would know and allow that such a sum is not to be raised here without a general excise; since, in proportion to our wealth, we pay already in taxes more than England ever did in the height of war. And when you have brought over your corn, who will be the buyers? Most certainly not the poor, who will not be able to purchase the twentieth part of it.
Sir, upon the whole, your paper is a very crude piece, liable to more objections than there are lines; but I think your meaning is good, and so far you are pardonable.
If you will propose a general contribution for supporting the poor in potatoes and buttermilk till the new corn comes in, perhaps you may succeed better, because the thing at least is possible; and I think if our brethren in England would contribute upon this emergency out of the million they gain from us every year, they would do a piece of justice as well as
charity. In the mean time, go and preach to your own tenants to fall to the plough as fast as they can; and prevail with your neighbouring squires to do the same with theirs; or else die with the guilt of having driven away half the inhabitants, and starving the rest. For as to your scheme of raising 110,000, it is as vain as that of Rabelais, which was to squeeze out wind from the posteriors of a dead ass.
But why all this concern for the poor? We want them not as the country is now managed; they may follow thousands of their leaders, and seek their bread abroad. Where the plough has no work, one family can do the business of fifty, and you may send away the other forty-nine. An admirable piece of husbandry, never known or practised by the wisest nations, who erroneously thought people to be the riches of a country!
If so wretched a state of things would allow it, methinks I could have a malicious pleasure, after all the warning I have in vain given the public at my own peril for several years past, to see the consequences and events answering in every particular. I pretend to no sagacity; what I writ was little more than what I had discoursed to several persons, who were generally of my opinion; and it was obvious to every common understanding that such effects must needs follow from such causes;—a fair issue of things begun upon party rage, while some sacrificed the public to fury, and others to ambition: while the spirit of faction and oppression reigned in every part of the country, where gentlemen, instead of consulting the ease of their tenants or cultivating their lands, were worrying one another upon points of whig and tory, of high church and low church; which no more concerned them than the long and famous controversy of strops for razors: while agriculture was wholly discouraged, and consequently half the farmers and labourers and poorer tradesmen forced to beggary or banishment. "Wisdom crieth in the streets: Because I have called on you: I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsels, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh."
I have now done with your memorial, and freely excuse your mistakes, since you appear to write as a stranger, and as of a country which is left at liberty to enjoy the benefits of nature, and to make the best of those advantages which God has given it in soil, climate, and situation.
But having lately sent out a paper entitled A Short View of the State of Ireland; and hearing of an objection, that some people think I have treated the memory of the late lord chief-justice Whitshed with an appearance of severity; since I may not probably have another opportunity of explaining myself in that particular, I choose to do it here. Laying it therefore down for a postulatum, which I suppose will be universally granted, that no little creature of so mean a birth and genius had ever the honour to be a greater enemy to his country and to all kinds of virtue than HE, I answer thus; whether there be two different goddesses called Fame, as some authors contend, or only one goddess sounding different trumpets, it is certain that people distinguished for their villany have as good a title to a blast from the proper trumpet, as those who are most renowned for their virtues have from the other; and have equal reason to complain if it be refused them. And accordingly the names of the most celebrated profligates have been faithfully transmitted down to posterity. And although the person here understood acted his part in an obscure corner of the world, yet his talents might have shone with lustre enough in the noblest scene.
As to my naming a person dead, the plain honest
reason is the best. He was armed with power and will to do mischief, even where he was not provoked, as appeared by his prosecuting two printers, one to death and both to ruin, who had neither offended God nor the king, nor him nor the public.
What an encouragement to vice is this! If an ill man be alive and in power we dare not attack him; and if he be weary of the world or of his own villanies, he has nothing to do but die, and then his reputation is safe. For these excellent casuists know just Latin enough to have heard a most foolish precept, that de mortuis nil nisi bonum; so that if Socrates and Anytus his accuser had happened to die together, the charity of survivors must either have obliged them to hold their peace or fix the same character on both. The only crime of charging the dead is when the least doubt remains whether the accusation be true; but when men are openly abandoned and lost to all shame, they have no reason to think it hard if their memory be reproached. Whoever reports or otherwise publishes anything which it is possible may be false, that man is a slanderer; hic niger est, hunc tu, Romane, caveto. Even the least misrepresentation or aggravation of facts deserves the same censure in some degree; but in this case I am quite deceived if my error has not been on the side of extenuation.
I have now present before me the idea of some persons (I know not in what part of the world) who spend every moment of their lives, and every turn of their thoughts while they are awake (and probably of their dreams while they sleep), in the most detestable actions and designs; who delight in mischief, scandal, and obloquy, with the hatred and contempt of all mankind against them, but chiefly of those among their own party and their own family; such whose odious qualities rival each other for perfection: avarice, brutality, faction, pride, malice, treachery, noise, impudence, dulness, ignorance, vanity, and revenge, contending every moment for superiority in their breasts. Such creatures are not to be reformed, neither is it prudent or safe to attempt a reformation. Yet, although their memories will rot, there may be some benefit for their survivors to smell it while it is rotting.
I am sir, your humble servant, A. B.
ON SUBJECTS RELATIVE TO THE IMPROVEMENT OF IRELAND.
TO MESSRS. TRUEMAN AND LAYFIELD.
GENTLEMEN,-I am inclined to think that I received a letter from you two last summer, directed to Dublin, while I was in the country, whither it was sent me; and I ordered an answer to it to be printed, but it seems it had little effect, and I suppose this will not have much more. But the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed. And gentlemen am to tell you another thing-that the world is too regardless of what we write for public good: that after we have delivered our thoughts, without any prospect of advantage or of reputation, which latter is not to be had but by subscribing our names, we cannot prevail upon a printer to be at the charge of sending it into the world unless we will be at all or half the expense; and although we are willing enough to bestow our labours we think it unreasonable to be out of pocket, because it probably may not consist with the situation of our affairs.
I do very much approve your good intentions, and in a great measure your manner of declaring them, and I do imagine you intended that the world should not
only know your sentiments but my answer, which I shall impartially give.
That great prelate [archbishop King], in whose cover you directed your letter, sent it me in the morning, and I begin my answer to-night, not knowing what interruption I may meet with.
I have ordered your letter to be printed, as it ought to be, along with my answer, because I conceive it will be more acceptable and informing to the kingdom. I shall therefore now go on to answer your letter in all manner of sincerity.
Although your letter be directed to me, yet I take myself to be only an imaginary person; for although conjecture I had formerly one from you, yet I never answered it otherwise than in print; neither was I at a loss to know the reasons why so many people of this kingdom were transporting themselves to America. And if this encouragement were owing to a pamphlet written, giving an account of the country of Pennsylvania, to tempt people to go thither, I do declare that those who were tempted by such a narrative to such a journey were fools, and the author a most impudent knave, at least if it be the same pamphlet I saw when it first came out, which is above 25 years ago, dedicated to William Penn (whom by a mistake you call "sir William Penn "), and styling him by authority of the Scripture "most noble governor." For I was very well acquainted with Penn, and did some years after talk with him upon that pamphlet and the impudence of the author, who spoke so many things in praise of the soil and climate, which Penn himself did absolutely contradict. For he did assure me "That this country wanted the shelter of mountains, which left it open to the northern winds from Hudson's Bay and the Frozen Sea, which destroyed all plantations of trees and was even pernicious to all common vegetables." But indeed New York, Virginia, and other parts less northward, or more defended by mountains, are described as excellent countries; but upon what conditions of advantage foreigners go thither I am yet to seek.
What evils our people avoid by running from hence is easier to be determined. They conceive themselves to live under the tyranny of most cruel exacting landlords, who have no views further than increasing their rent-rolls. Secondly, You complain of the want of trade, whereof you seem not to know the reason. Thirdly, You lament most justly the money spent by absentees in England. Fourthly, You complain that your linen manufacture declines. Fifthly, That your tithecollectors oppress you. Sixthly, That your children have no hopes of preferment in the church, the revenue, or the army; to which you might have added the law and all civil employments whatsoever. Seventhly, You are undone for want of silver and want all other money.
I could easily add some other motives which, to men of spirit, who desire and expect and think they deserve the common privileges of human nature, would be of more force than any you have yet named to drive them out of this kingdom. But as these speculations may probably not much affect the brains of your people I shall choose to let them pass unmentioned. Yet I cannot but observe that my very good and virtuous friend, his excellency Burneta (0 fili, nec tali indigne parente!) has not hitherto been able to persuade his vassals, by his oratory in the style of a commander, to settle a revenue on his viceroyal person. I have been likewise assured that in one of those colonies on the continent, which nature has so far favoured as (by the industry of the inhabitants) to produce a great quantity of excellent rice, the stubborn people, having been told that the world was wide, took it into their heads that they might sell their own rice at whatever foreign market
a William Burnet, the eldest son of bishop Burnet, at this time governor of Massachusetts.
they pleased, and seem by their practice very unwilling to quit that opinion.
But to return to my subject; I must confess to you both, that if one reason of your people's deserting us be the despair of things growing better in their own country, I have not one syllable to answer, because that would be to hope for what is impossible; and so I have been telling the public these ten years. For there are events which must precede any such blessing; first, a liberty of trade; secondly, a share of preferments in all kinds, equal to the British natives; and thirdly, a return of those absentees who take almost one half of the kingdom's revenue. As to the first and second, there is nothing left us but despair; and for the third, it will never happen till the kingdom has no money to send them; for which, in my own particular, I shall not be sorry.
The exaction of landlords has indeed been a grievance of above 20 years' standing. But as to what you object about the severe clauses relating to the improvement, the fault lies wholly on the other side; for the landlords, either by their ignorance or greediness of making large rent-rolls, have performed this matter so ill, as we see by experience, that there is not one tenant in 500 who has made any improvement worth mentioning; for which I appeal to any man who rides through the kingdom, where little is to be found among the tenants but beggary and desolation; the cabins of the Scotch themselves, in Ulster, being as dirty and miserable as those of the wildest Irish. Whereas good firm penal laws for improvement, with a tolerable easy rent, and a reasonable period of time, would in 20 years have increased the rents of Ireland at least a third part of the intrinsic value.
I am glad to hear you speak with some decency of the clergy, and to impute the exactions you lament to the managers or farmers of the tithes. But you entirely mistake the fact, for I defy the most wicked and the most powerful clergyman in the kingdom to oppress the meanest farmer in the parish; and I defy the same clergyman to prevent himself from being cheated by the same farmer, whenever that farmer shall be disposed to be knavish or peevish. For although the Ulster tithingteller is more advantageous to the clergy than any other in the kingdom, yet the minister can demand no more than his tenth; and where the corn much exceeds the small tithes, as except in some districts I am told it always does, he is at the mercy of every stubborn farmer, especially of those whose sect as well as interest incline them to opposition. However I take it that your people bent for America do not show the best side of their prudence in making this one part of their complaint; yet they are so far wise as not to make the payment of tithes a scruple of conscience, which is too gross for any protestant dissenter except a quaker to pretend. But do your people indeed think that if tithes were abolished or delivered into the hands of the landlord, after the blessed manner in the Scotch spiritual economy, the tenant would sit easier in his rent under the same person who must be lord of the soil and of the tithe together?
I am ready enough to grant that the oppression of landlords, the utter ruin of trade, with its necessary consequences, the want of money, half the revenues of the kingdom spent abroad, the continued dearth of three years, and the strong delusion in your people by false allurement from America, may be the chief motives of their eagerness after such an expedition. But there is likewise another temptation, which is not of inconsiderable weight; which is their itch of living in a country where their sect is predominant, and where their eyes and consciences will not be offended by the stumbling block of ceremonies, habits, and spiritual titles. But I was surprised to find that those calamities,
whereof we are innocent, have been sufficient to drive many families out of their country who had no reason to complain of oppressive landlords. For while I was last year in the northern parts a person of quality, whose estate was let above 20 years ago and then at a very reasonable rent, some for leases of lives and some perpetuities, did in a few months purchase eleven of those leases at a very inconsiderable price, although they were two years ago reckoned to pay but half value. Whence it is manifest that our present miserable condition and the dismal prospect of worse, with other reasons above assigned, are sufficient to put men upon trying this desperate experiment of changing the scene they are in, although landlords should by a miracle become less inhuman.
There is hardly a scheme proposed for improving the trade of this kingdom which does not manifestly show the stupidity and ignorance of the proposer; and I laugh with contempt at those weak wise heads who proceed upon general maxims or advise us to follow the examples of Holland and England. These empirics talk by rote without understanding the constitution of the kingdom; as if a physician, knowing that exercise contributed much to health, should prescribe to his patient under a severe fit of the gout to walk ten miles every morning. The directions for Ireland are very short and plain, to encourage agriculture and home consumption and utterly discard all importations which are not absolutely necessary for health or life. And how few necessaries, conveniences, or even comforts of life, are denied us by nature or not to be attained by labour and industry! Are those detestable extravagancies of Flanders lace, English cloths made of our own wool, and other goods, Italian or Indian silks, tea, coffee, chocolate, china-ware, and that profusion of wines by the knavery of merchants growing dearer every season, with a hundred unnecessary fopperies better known to others than me—are these, I say, fit for us any more than for the beggar who could not eat his veal without oranges? Is it not the highest indignity to human nature that men should be such poltroons as to suffer the kingdom and themselves to be undone by the vanity, the folly, the pride, and wantonness of their wives, who under their present corruptions seem to be a kind of animal suffered for our sins to be sent into the world for the destruction of families, societies, and kingdoms, and whose whole study seems directed to be as expensive as they possibly can in every useless article of living; who by long practice can reconcile the most pernicious foreign drugs to their health and pleasure, provided they are but expensive, as starlings grow fat with henbane; who contract a robustness by mere practice of sloth and luxury; who can play deep several hours after midnight, sleep beyond noon, revel upon Indian poisons, and spend the revenues of a moderate family to adorn a nauseous unwholesome living carcase? Let those few who are not concerned in any part of this accusation suppose it unsaid; let the rest take it among them. Gracious God, in his mercy, look down upon a nation so shamefully besotted!
If I am possessed of 1001. a-year, and by some misfortune it sinks to 50 without a possibility of ever being retrieved, does it remain a question in such an exigency what I am to do? must not I retrench one half in every article of expense? or retire to some cheap, distant part of the country, where necessaries are at half-value?
Is there any mortal who can show me, under the circumstances we stand with our neighbours, under their inclinations towards us, under laws never to be repealed, under the desolation caused by absentees, under many other circumstances not to be mentioned, that this kingdom can ever be a nation of trade or subsist by
any other method than that of a reduced family, by the utmost parsimony, in the manner I have already prescribed?
I am tired with letters from many unreasonable, wellmeaning people, who are daily pressing me to deliver my thoughts in this deplorable juncture, which upon many others I have so often done in vain. What will it import that half a score people in a coffeehouse may happen to read this paper, and even the majority of those few differ in every sentiment from me? If the farmer be not allowed to sow his corn, if half the little money among us be sent to pay rents to Irish absentees, and the rest for foreign luxuries and dress for the women, what will our charitable dispositions avail when there is nothing left to be given? when contrary to all custom and example all necessaries of life are so exorbitant; when money of all kinds was never known to be so scarce; so that gentlemen of no contemptible estates are forced to retrench in every article (except what relates to their wives) without being able to show any bounty to the poor?
ANSWER TO SEVERAL LETTERS SENT FROM UNKNOWN HANDS. 1729.
I AM very well pleased with the good opinion you express of me, and wish it were any way in my power to answer your expectations for the service of my country. I have carefully read your several schemes and proposals which you think should be offered to the parliament. In answer, I will assure you that in another place I have known very good proposals rejected with contempt by public assemblies merely because they were offered from without doors; and yours perhaps might have the same fate, especially if handed to the public by me, who am not acquainted with three members nor have the least interest with one. My printers have been twice prosecuted, to my great expense, on account of discourses I writ for the public service, without the least reflection on parties or persons; and the success I had in those of the drapier was not owing to my abilities but to a lucky juncture, when the fuel was ready for the first hand that would be at the pains of kindling it. It is true both those envenomed prosecutions were the workmanship of a judge who is now gone to his own place. But let that be as it will, I am determined henceforth never to be the instrument of leaving an innocent man at the mercy of that bench.
It is certain there are several particulars relating to this kingdom (I have mentioned a few of them in one of my drapier's letters) which it were heartily to be wished that the parliament would take under their consideration, such as will no way interfere with England otherwise than to its advantage.
The first I shall mention is touched at in a letter which I received from one of you, gentlemen, about the highways, which indeed are almost everywhere scandalously neglected. I know a very rich man in this city, a true lover and saver of his money, who being possessed of some adjacent lands has been at great charge in repairing effectually the roads that lead to them, and has assured me that his lands are thereby advanced 48. or 58. an acre, by which he gets treble interest. But generally speaking all over the kingdom the roads are deplorable, and what is more particularly barbarous there is no sort of provision made for travellers on foot, no, not near the city, except in a very few places and in a most wretched manner; whereas the English are so particularly careful in this point, that you may travel there 100 miles with less inconvenience than one mile here. But since this may be thought too great a reformation I shall only speak of roads for horses, carriages, and cattle.
Ireland is, I think, computed to be one-third smaller than England, yet by some natural disadvantages it would not bear quite the same proportion in value with the same encouragement. However it has so happened for many years past that it never arrived to above oneeleventh part in point of riches; and of late by the continual decrease of trade and the increase of absentees, with other circumstances not here to be mentioned, hardly to a fifteenth part, at least if my calculations be right, which I doubt are a little too favourable on our side.
Now supposing day-labour to be cheaper by one-half here than in England, and our roads, by the nature of our carriages and the desolation of our country, to be not worn and beaten above one-eighth part so much as those of England, which is a very moderate computation, I do not see why the mending of them would be a greater burden to this kingdom than to that.
There have been, I believe, 20 acts of parliament in six or seven years of the late king for mending long tracts of impassable ways in several counties of England, by erecting turnpikes and receiving passagemoney, in a manner that everybody knows. If what I have advanced be true it would be hard to give a reason against the same practice here; since the necessity is as great, the advantage in proportion perhaps much greater, the materials of stone and gravel as easy to be found, and the workmanship at least twice as cheap. Besides, the work may be done gradually with allowances for the poverty of the nation by so many perch a-year, but with a special care to encourage skill and diligence, and to prevent fraud in the undertakers, to which we are too liable and which are not always confined to those of the meaner sort; but against these no doubt the wisdom of the nation may and will provide.
Another evil, which in my opinion deserves the public care, is the ill management of the bogs; the neglect whereof is a much greater mischief to this kingdom than most people seem to be aware of.
It is allowed indeed by those who are esteemed most skilful in such matters that the red, swelling mossy bog, whereof we have so many large tracts in this island, is not by any means to be fully reduced, but the skirts which are covered with a green coat easily may, being not accretion or annual growth of moss like the other.
Now the landlords are generally so careless as to suffer their tenants to cut their turf in these skirts as well as the bog adjoined, whereby there is yearly lost a considerable quantity of land throughout the kingdom, never to be recovered.
But this is not the greatest part of the mischief; for the main bog, although perhaps not reducible to natural soil, yet by continuing large, deep, straight canals through the middle, cleaned at proper times as low as the channel or gravel, would become secure summerpasture; the margins might with great profit and ornament be filled with quickens, birch, and other trees proper for such a soil, and the canals be convenient for water-carriage of the turf, which is now drawn upon sled-cars with great expense, difficulty, and loss of time, by reason of the many turf-pits scattered irregularly through the bog, wherein great numbers of cattle are yearly drowned. And it has been, I confess, to me a matter of the greatest vexation as well as wonder to think how any landlord could be so absurd as suffer such havoc to be made.
All the acts for encouraging plantations of foresttrees are I am told extremely defective, which with great submission must have been owing to a defect of skill in the contrivers of them. In this climate, by the continual blowing of the west-south-west wind, hardly any tree of value will come to perfection that is not
Planted in groves, except very rarely and where there is much land-shelter. I have not indeed read all the acts, but from inquiry I cannot learn that the planting in groves is enjoined. And as to the effects of these laws, I have not seen the least in many hundred miles' riding, except about a very few gentlemen's houses, and even those with very little skill or success. In all the rest the hedges generally miscarry, as well as the larger slender twigs planted upon the tops of ditches, merely for want of common skill and care.
I do not believe that a greater and quicker profit could be made than by planting large groves of ash a few feet asunder, which in seven years would make the best kind of hop-poles, and grow in the same or less time to a second crop from their roots.
It would likewise be of great use and beauty in our desert scenes to oblige cottagers to plant ash or elm before their cabins and round their potato-gardens, where cattle either do not or ought not to come to destroy them.
The common objection against all this, drawn from the laziness, the perverseness, or thievish disposition of the poor native Irish, might be easily answered by showing the true reasons for such accusations, and how easily those people may be brought to a less savage manner of life; but my printers have already suffered too much for my speculations. However, supposing the size of a native's understanding just equal to that of a dog or a horse, I have often seen those two animals civilized by rewards at least as much as by punishments.'
It would be a noble achievement to abolish the Irish language in this kingdom, so far at least as to oblige all the natives to speak only English on every occasion of business, in shops, markets, fairs, and other places of dealing; yet I am wholly deceived if this might not be effectually done in less than half an age, and at a very trifling expense; for such I look upon a tax to be of only 60001. a-year to accomplish so great a work. This would in a great measure civilize the most barbarous among them, reconcile them to our customs and manner of living, and reduce great numbers to the national religion, whatever kind may then happen to be established. This method is plain and simple, and although I am too desponding to produce it, yet I could heartily wish some public thoughts were employed to reduce this uncultivated people from that idle, savage, beastly, thievish manner of life, in which they continue sunk to such a degree that it is almost impossible for a country gentleman to find a servant of human capacity, or the least tincture of natural honesty, or who does not live among his own tenants in continual fear of having his plantations destroyed, his cattle stolen, and his goods pilfered.
The love, affection, or vanity of living in England, continuing to carry thither so many wealthy families, the consequences thereof, together with the utter loss of all trade except what is detrimental, which has forced such great numbers of weavers and others to seek their bread in foreign countries; the unhappy practice of stocking such vast quantities of land with sheep and other cattle, which reduces 20 families to one; these events, I say, have exceedingly depopulated this kingdom for several years past. I should heartily wish therefore under this miserable dearth of money, that those who are most concerned would think it advisable to save 100,0007. a-year, which is now sent out of this kingdom, to feed us with corn. There is not an older or more uncontroverted maxim in the politics of all wise nations than that of encouraging agriculture, and therefore to what kind of wisdom a practice so directly contrary among us may be reduced I am by no means a judge. If labour and people make the true riches of a nation, what must be the issue where one part of
the people are forced away and the other have nothing to do?
If it should be thought proper by wiser heads that his majesty might be applied to in a national way for giving the kingdom leave to coin halfpence for its own use, I believe no good subject will be under the least apprehension that such a request could meet with refusal or the least delay. Perhaps we are the only kingdom upon earth, or that ever was or will be upon earth, which did not enjoy that common right of civil society, under the proper inspection of its prince or legislature, to coin money of all usual metals for its own occasions. Every petty prince in Germany, vassal to the emperor, enjoys this privilege. And I have seen in this kingdom several silver pieces with the inscription of CIVITAS WATERFORD, DROGHEDAGH, and other towns.
SIR, You desire to know my opinion concerning Mr. M'Culla's project of circulating notes, stamped on copper, that shall pass for the value of halfpence and pence. I have some knowledge of the man: and about a month ago he brought me his book, with a couple of his halfpenny notes; but I was then out of order, and he could not be admitted. Since that time I called at his house, where I discoursed the whole affair with him as thoroughly as I could. I am altogether a stranger to his character. He talked to me in the usual style, with a great profession of zeal for the public good; which is the common cant of all projectors in their bills, from a first minister of state down to a corncutter. But I stopped him short, as I would have done a better man; because it is too gross a practice to pass at any time, and especially in this age, where we all know one another so well. Yet whoever proposes any scheme which may prove to be a public benefit, I shall not quarrel if it prove likewise very beneficial to himself. It is certain that, next to the want of silver, our greatest distress in point of coin is the want of small change, which may be some poor relief for the defect of the former, since the crown will not please to take that work upon them here as they do in England. One thing in M'Culla's book is certainly right, that no law hinders me from giving a payable note upon leather, wood, copper, brass, iron, or any other material (except gold or silver), as well as upon paper. The question is whether I can sue him on a copper bond, where there is neither hand nor seal nor witnesses to prove it? To supply this he has proposed that the materials upon which this note is written shall be in some degree of value equal to the debt. But that is one principal matter to be inquired into. His scheme is this:
He gives you a piece of copper for a halfpenny or penny, stamped with a promissory note to pay you 20d. for every pound of copper notes whenever you shall return them. Eight-and-forty of these halfpennypieces are to weigh a pound; and he sells you that pound, coined and stamped, for 2s.: by which he clearly gains a little more than 16 per cent.; that is to say 2d. in every 1s.
This will certainly arise to a great sum if he should circulate as large a quantity of his notes as the kingdom, under the great dearth of silver, may very probably require enough indeed to make any Irish tradesman's fortune; which however I should not repine at in the least if we could be sure of his fair dealing. It was obvious for me to raise the common objection, why