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his wonderful logic (whether for fair reasoning or 80phistry and misrepresentation), his ever-present life and power of interesting, his occasional fire and passion, his bursts of scorn, indignation, and withering invective, and the other resources of his supreme art. The measure, such as it is, in which all this is found in Swift can only, however, of course be fully gathered from the entire Letters.
The following passages are from the second Letter:
But your newsletter says that an assay was made of the coin. How impudent and insupportable is this! Wood takes care to coin a dozen or two halfpence of good metal, sends them to the Tower, and they are approved ; and these must answer all that he has already coined, or shall coin for the future. It is true, indeed, that a gentleman often sends to my shop for a pattern of stuff; I cut it fairly off, and, if he likes it, he comes or sends, and compares the pattern with the whole piece, and probably we come to a bargain. But if I were to buy a hundred sheep, and the grazier should bring me one single wether, fat and well fleeced, by way of pattern, and expect the same price round for the whole hundred, without suffering me to see them before he was paid, or giving me good security to restore my money for those that were lean, or shorn, or scabby, I would be none of his customers. I have heard of a man who had a mind to sell his house, and therefore carried a piece of brick in his pocket, which he showed as a pattern to encourage customers; and this is directly the case in point with Mr. Wood's assay.
The paragraph concludes thus: “N.B.” (that is to say, nota bene or mark well) “No evidence appeared from Ireland, or elsewhere, to prove the mischiefs complained of, or any abuses whatsoever committed, in the execution of the said grant.”
The impudence of this remark exceeds all that went before. First, the House of Commons in Ireland, which
represents the whole people of the kingdom, and, secondly, the Privy Council, addressed his Majesty against these halfpence. What could be done more to express the universal sense of the nation ? If his copper were diamonds, and the kingdom were entirely against it, would not that be sufficient to reject it? committee of the whole House of Commons, and our whole Privy Council, go over to argue pro and con with Mr. Wood? To what end did the king give his patent for coining halfpence for Ireland ? Was it not because it was represented to his sacred majesty that such a coinage would be of advantage to the good of this kingdom, and of all his subjects here? It is to the patentee's peril if this representation be false, and the execution of his patent be fraudulent and corrupt. Is he so wicked and foolish to think that his patent was given him to ruin a million and a half of people, that he might be a gainer of three or four score thousand pounds to himself? Before he was at the charge of passing a patent, much more of raking up so much filthy dross, and stamping it with his Majesty's image and superscription, should he not first, in common sense, in common equity, and common manners, have consulted the principal party concerned—that is to say, the people of the kingdom, the House of Lords or Commons, or the Privy Council ? If any foreigner should ask us whose image or superscription there is on Wood's coin, we should be ashamed to tell him it was Cæsar's. In that great want of copper hálfpence which he alleges we were, our city set up Cæsar's statue in excellent copper, at an expense that is equal in value to thirty thousand pounds of his coin, and we will not receive his image in worse metal. .
Although my letter be directed to you, Mr. Harding [the printer], yet I intend it for all my countrymen. I have no interest in this affair but what is common to the public. I can live better than many others; I have some gold and silver by me, and a shop well furnished ; and shall be able to make a shift when many of my betters are starving. But I am grieved to see the coldness and indifference of many people with whom I discourse. Some are afraid of a proclamation ; others shrug up their shoulders and cry,
" What would you have us to do ?” Some give out there is no danger at all; others are comforted that it will be a common calamity, and they shall fare no worse than their neighbours. Will a man who hears midnight robbers at his door get out of bed and raise his family for a common defence; and shall a whole kingdom lie in a lethargy, while Mr. Wood comes, at the head of his confederates, to rob them of all they have, to ruin us and our posterity for ever? If a highwayman meets you on the road, you give him your money to save your life; but, God be thanked, Mr. Wood cannot touch a hair of your heads. You have all the laws of God and man on your side ; when he or his accomplices offer you his dross, it is but saying no, and you are safe. If a madman should come into my shop with a handful of dirt raked out of the kennel, and offer it in payment for ten yards of stuff, I would pity or laugh at him ; or, if his behaviour deserved it, kick him out of my doors. And, if Mr. Wood comes to demand my gold and silver, or commodities for which I have paid my gold and silver, in exchange for his trash, can he deserve or expect better treatment ?
The following is the winding-up of Letter Third :I am very sensible that such a work as I have undertaken might have worthily employed a much better pen : but, when a house is attempted to be robbed, it often happens the weakest in the family runs first to stop the door. All the assistance I had were some informations from an eminent person ; whereof I am afraid I have spoiled a few, by endeavouring to make them of a piece with my own productions, and the rest I was not able to manage: I was in the case of David, who could not move in the armour of Saul, and therefore I rather chose to attack this uncircumcised Philistine (Wood, I mean) with a sling and a stone. And I may say, for Wood's honour as well as my own, that he resembles Goliath in many circumstances very applicable to the present purpose ; for Goliath had «a helmet of brass upon his
head, and he was armed with a coat of mail ; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass ; and he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.” In short, he like Mr. Wood, all over brass, and he defied the armies of the living God. Goliath's conditions of combat were likewise the same with those of Wood : "if he prevail against us, then shall we be his servants.” But, if it happens that I prevail over him, I renounce the other part of the condition: he shall never be a servant of mine; for I do not think him fit to be trusted in any honest man's shop.
We have only room to give in addition a few short paragraphs from Letter Fourth :
It is true, indeed, that within the memory of man the parliaments of England have sometimes assumed the power of binding this kingdom by laws enacted there; wherein they were at first openly opposed (as far as truth, reason, and justice are capable of opposing) by the famous Mr. Molineux, an English gentleman born here, as well as by several of the greatest patriots and best Whigs in England; but the love and torrent of power prevailed. Indeed, the arguments on both sides were invincible. For, in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery; but, in fact, eleven men well armed will certainly subdue one single man in his shirt. But I have done ; for those who have used power to cramp liberty have gone so far as to resent even the liberty of complaining ; although a man upon the rack was never known to be refused the liberty of roaring as loud as he thought fit.
And, as we are apt to sink too much under unreasonable fears, so we are too soon inclined to be raised by groundless hopes, according to the nature of all consumptive bodies like ours. Thus, it has been given about for several days past that somebody in England empowered a second somebody to write to a third somebody, here to assure us that we should no more be troubled
with these halfpence. And this is reported to have been done by the same person * who is said to have sworn some months ago " that he would ram them down our throats,” though I doubt they would stick in our stomachs ; but, whichever of these reports be true or false, it is no concern of ours. For in this point we have nothing to do with English ministers, and I should be sorry to leave it in their power to redress this grievance or to enforce it, for the report of the Committee has given me a surfeit. The remedy is wholly in your own hands, and therefore I have digressed a little in order to refresh and continue that spirit so seasonably raised among you, and to let you see, that, by the laws of God, of NATURE, of Nations, and of your Country, you ARE and ought to be as FREE a people as your brethren in England.
Before I conclude, I must beg leave in all humility to tell Mr. Wood, that he is guilty of great indiscretion, by causing so honourable a name as that of Mr. Walpole to be mentioned so often and in such a manner upon this occasion. A short paper printed at Bristol, and reprinted here, reports Mr. Wood to say " that he wonders at the impudence and insolence of the Irish in refusing his coin, and what he will do when Mr. Walpole comes to town.” Where, by the way, he is mistaken ; for it is the true English people of Ireland who refuse it, although we take it for granted that the Irish will do so too whenever they are asked. In another printed paper of his contriving it is roundly expressed, is that Mr. Walpole will cram his brass down our throats.” Sometimes it is given out “ that we must either take those halfpence or eat our brogues ;” and in another newsletter, but of yesterday, we read," that the same great man has sworn to make us swallow his coin in fire-balls."
This brings to my mind the known story of a Scotch
* Walpole. †. A committee of the English Privy Council to whom the matter had been referred.