Billeder på siden


49 of gold was chiefly in large foreign coins. The result was a lack of silver change, and too many large gold coins. Bishop Berkeley alludes to this in one of his queries: "Whether four pounds in small cash may not circulate and enliven an Irish market which many four-pound pieces would permit to stagnate ?"i In fact, so hampered was trade on account of the state of the coinage, that wages could not be paid in coin-weavers, for instance, often being paid their wages in cloth, which they were sometimes compelled to exchange for half its value. The Duchess of Kendal, who was notorious for her insatiable greed, and was always looking out for opportunities to gratify it, discovered that Ireland wanted copper money. About 1724 she procured a patent for one William Wood, a large ironmaster and owner of mines, to coin £108,000 (Irish) worth of halfpence and farthings. It appears, from the terms of the

. patent and the price of copper at the time, that the profit on the transaction would have been at least £40,000, of which a goodly share would no doubt have gone to the duchess.

A great clamour arose about this gross and extravagant job. The two Houses of Parliament petitioned the king, the halfpence were refused, and great disgust and annoyance were felt at court; even ministers quarrelled over the matter. After a long delay, but only after an intimation that no money Bill would be passed, an answer came to the petition of Parliament asking for the withdrawal of the patent. The answer was evasive-it was, in fact, a transparent device to escape out of the difficulty without making any real concession. An inquiry was promised, which was entrusted to a committee of the English Privy Council; samples of the halfpence were assayed at the Mint, under the direction of Sir Isaac Newton, then Master of the Mint, who reported them to be in accordance with the patent. The committee reported that the king had acted within his prerogative, and that the patent could not be legally withdrawn. The report was sent to Dublin and circulated, and the Government believed the storm had blown over. i The Qucrist, No. 482.


[ocr errors]


It is probable that nothing more would have been heard of the subject had not Dean Swift, in 1724, taken it up. Under the signature of M. B., a drapier, he published in rapid succession a series of letters and some incidental pieces in which he consigned to everlasting scorn and infamy this miserable job and all connected with it. The unfortunate Wood served as a lay figure, through whom the real culprits were wounded. The whole country got into a wild state of excitement; no one would take the halfpence. The Duke of Grafton was not considered strong enough to cope with such a storm, so he was recalled, and in 1724 Lord Carteret, one of the ablest statesmen of the Whig party, was sent in his place, to use all means which experience in England had proved successful in such cases: "corruption and resolution, adroit

ss and good dinners; Burgundy,' 'closeting,' and * palaver,'1

Carteret set to work the very day of his arrival—that, too, on which the fourth Drapier letter appeared—to carry out a vigorous policy contrary to the advice of many of his Council. “A vigorous policy in Ireland” always gave satisfaction in England; so Harding, the printer, was prosecuted. Swift addressed an anonymous letter to the grand jury, who following his advice threw out the bill; though browbeaten by Chief Justice Whitshed and sent back to consider their verdict, they persisted in it by a majority of twenty-seven to eleven. The majority were sent for individually in succession and expostulated with, but in vain. The chief-justice was so enraged that he discharged the grand jury contrary to law and precedent. A second grand jury was summoned, but, instead of presenting the printer of the “Drapier's Letters,” they presented all persons who had attempted or should endeavour to impose Wood's halfpence upon Ireland as enemies of his Majesty and of the welfare of the kingdom. The Government had now either to yield and withdraw the patent, or to treat the colony as they did the native Irish, and govern the whole country by force. Under the advice

1 Froude, op. cit., vol. i. p. 533.


51 of Primate Boulter, who had just become chief manager of Irish affairs, they withdrew the patent and compensated Wood.

The administration of Primate Boulter as general manager for successive viceroys, especially Lord Carteret, was very successful from the point of view of the English interest. He imposed the penal laws with great stringency, and protected the minor agents of Government in their lawless proceedings; above all he did his best to keep all sections and parties asunder by setting them against each other, and by fomenting and encouraging jealousies and quarrels within the several parties. With the object of preventing any amicable relations between Catholic votersfor the Catholics still retained to some extent the Parliamentary franchise-and Protestant candidates, especially those of the patriotic or national party, such as might perchance induce the latter to look with sympathy on the wretched position of Catholics, he surreptitiously slipped a section into a Bill, having the harmless title, "An Act for the further regulating the election of members of Parliament," etc. This section ran as follows: “And for the better preventing Papists from voting in elections, be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no Papist, though not convict, shall be entitled or admitted to vote at the election of any member to serve in Parliament as knight, citizen, or burgess, or at the election of any magistrate for any city or other town-corporate, any law, statute, or usage to the contrary notwithstanding."

The want of a sufficient supply of good copper coins, which was the ostensible origin of the Drapier storm, still existed, and had become intensified. The obvious remedy for this state of things would have been to establish a mint, as Dean Swift desired, and as the public wished. Bishop Berkeley, in one of his queries, asks, “If we had a mint for coining only shillings, sixpences, and copper money, whether the nation would not soon feel the good effects thereof?"1 But this was the last thing Primate Boulter would sanction; in his opinion it would be a signal sign of independence. So he spent twelve years in trying to get some copper coined at the Mint in London, and in having the standard of gold lowered—a striking illustration of the absence of any interest on the part of the English Government in the welfare of Ireland where English interests were not involved. When the Primate at length got his supply of copper coins, Dean Swift is said to have hung out a black flag on the top of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, and rung a peal with muffled clappers. Writing to the Duke of Dorset evidently in a state of great irritation at the manner in which his gift was received, the Primate says, “I have had a great share of suffering on this account, as far as the most virulent papers and the curses of a deluded and enraged multitude could go."1

1 The Querisl, No. 485.

But no amount of skill in keeping things quiet and carrying on the "king's business" so as to maintain the English interest and the Ascendency faction could save the kingdom from the neglect of all economic laws, and so the gradually increasing misery culminated in 1729, after three unfavourable harvests, in a dire famine.?

It was while the country was suffering from the effects of this famine that the notorious Charter Schools—the conception of Primate Boulter-were founded. The want of food, and the hunger-fever which always accompanies famine, had reduced the south and west of Ireland to a state of intense misery, and left a large number of orphans. Here was an opportunity not to be neglected of growing a Protestant population. Primate Boulter first broached his scheme in a letter to the Bishop of London, urging "that one of the most likely methods we can think of is, if possible, instructing and converting the young generation; for, instead of converting those that are adult, we are daily losing several of our meaner people, who go off to Popery." 3

1 Letter of February 11, 1737 [1738], Letters, vol. ii. 246.

? It was this famine which gave occasion to one of the most merciless and scathing pieces of sarcasm ever written by Swift: “A Modest Proposal for preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from being a Burden to their Parents or Country, and making them Beneficial to the People."

3 Ibid., vol. ii. p. 11. See also letter of May 5, 1730, Letters, vol. ii. p. 10.

[ocr errors]




The principal nobility, gentry, and clergy of the Ascendency accordingly presented an address to his Majesty for a charter of incorporation, for a society for establishing schools to teach Papist children the Protestant religion. The charter was granted, and a number of schools were established; these were soon filled by pressure and intimidation, and kidnapping. The latter method, which was ostensibly employed at first to gather up the wandering, starving orphans, soon extended itself to any children that could be laid hold of, and became so common that the tradition of the Charter School kidnappers came down even to within living memory as a bogey for frightening wayward children. The schools were at first supported by subscribed funds, but after some time they became a national institution recommended in the speeches of the viceroy at the opening of Parliament. Ill managed from the first, left in the hands of the lowest class of disreputable jobbers, the Charter Schools were perhaps, without exception, the basest and most demoralising engine ever employed against the people of Ireland. 1

But while it was sought to strengthen the English interest by the importation of clergy and place-men, sham and real conversions under the pressure of the penal laws, and the kidnapping of Catholic children, the Protestant interest was bleeding almost to death. The Restoration had driven the greater number of sturdy, energetic Puritans out of three-fourths of Ireland. The disabilities under which the Dissenters laboured, joined to economic causes after the Revolution, were now doing the same thing with the Presbyterians of Ulster. This Nonconformist emigration, which had been going on for many years, rising and falling according to the course of events in the kingdom, now poured out in a constant stream, bearing away the

1 The Charter Schools are now represented by the Incorporated Society, the funds, which are considerable, being now applied, not very wisely or economically, for the education of Protestants only, instead of being applied, as they ought to be, to found bursaries to enable the cleverest boys in all public primary schools irrespective of religious denomination to get a superior education. In this way some compensation might be made to the country in the future for the evil they have done to it in the past.

« ForrigeFortsæt »