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oath made before a magistrate, forfeits a shilling, which may be levied with little difficulty.
It is almost unnecessary to mention that this is become a pet vice among us; and though age renders us unfit for other vices, yet this, where it takes hold, never leaves us but with our speech.
So vast a revenue might be raised by the execution of this act, that I have often wondered, in a scarcity of funds, that methods have not been taken to make it serviceable to the public.
I dare venture to say, if this act was well executed in England, the revenue of it, applied to the navy, would make the English fleet a terror to all Europe.
It is computed by geographers that there are 2,000,000 in this kingdom (of Ireland), of which number there may be said to be 1,000,000 of swearing souls.
It is thought there may be 5000 gentlemen ; every gentleman, taking one with another, may afford to swear an oath every day, which will yearly produce 1,825,000 oaths ; which number of shillings makes the yearly sum of £91,250.
The farmers of this kingdom, who are computed to be 10,000, are able to spend yearly 500,000 oaths, which gives £25,000; and it is conjectured that, from the bulk of the people, £20,000 or £25,000 may be yearly collected.
These computations are very modest, since it is evident that there is a much greater consumption of oaths in this kingdom, and consequently a much greater sum might be yearly raised.
That it may be collected with ease and regularity, it is proposed to settle informers in great towns in propor.
tion to the number of inhabitants, and to have ridingofficers in the country ; and since nothing brings a greater contempt on any profession than poverty, it is determined to settle very handsome salaries on the gentlemen that are employed by the bank, that they may, by a generosity of living, reconcile men to an office that has lain under so much scandal of late as to be undertaken by none but curates, clerks of meetinghouses, and broken tradesmen.
It is very probable that £20,000 will be necessary to defray all expenses of servants, salaries, etc. However, there will be the clear yearly sum of £100,000, which may very justly claim a million subscription.
It is determined to lay out the remaining unapplied profits, which will be very considerable, toward the erecting and maintaining of charity schools. A design so beneficial to the public, and especially to the protestant interest of this kingdom, has met with so much encouragement from several great patriots in England, that they have engaged to procure an act to secure the sole benefit of informing on this swearing act to the agents and servants of this new bank. Several of my friends pretend to demonstrate, that this bank will in time vie with the South Sea Company : they insist, that the army dispend as many oaths yearly as will produce £100,000 nett.
There are computed to be 100 pretty fellows in this town that swear fifty oaths a-head daily ; some of them would think it hard to be stinted to a hundred : this very branch would produce a vast sum yearly.
The fairs of this kingdom will bring in a vast revenue; the oaths of a little Connaught one, as well as
they could be numbered by two persons, amounted to three thousand. It is true that it would be impossible to turn all of them into ready money, for a shilling is so great a duty on swearing, that if it was carefully exacted the common people might as well pretend to drink wine as to swear, and an oath would be as rare among them as a clean shirt.
A servant that I employed to accompany the militia their last muster day had scored down, in the compass of eight hours, three hundred oaths; but, as the putting of the act in execution on those days would only fill the stocks with porters, and pawn-shops with muskets and swords, and as it would be matter of great joy to papists and disaffected persons to see our militia swear themselves out of their guns and swords; it is resolved that no advantage shall be taken of any
militiaman's swearing while he is under arms; nor shall any advantage be taken of any man's swearing in the Four Courts, provided he is at hearing in the exchequer, or has just paid off an attorney's bill.
The medicinal use of oaths is what the undertaker would by no means discourage, especially where it is necessary to help the lungs to throw off any distilling humour. On certificate of a course of swearing prescribed by any physician, a permit will be given to the patient by the proper officer of the bank, paying no more than sixpence. It is expected that a scheme of so much advantage to the public will meet with more encouragement than their chimerical banks; and the undertaker hopes, that as he has spent a considerable fortune in bringing this scheme to bear, he may have the satisfaction to see it take place for the public good, though he should have the fate of most projectors, to be undone,
THE DRAPIER'S LETTERS
LETTER THE FOURTH
TO THE WHOLE PEOPLE OF IRELAND
Oct. 23, 1724. MY DEAR COUNTRYMEN, HAVING already written three letters upon so disagreeable a subject as Mr. Wood and his halfpence, I conceived my task was at an end; but I find that cordials must be frequently applied to weak constitutions, political as well as natural. A people long used to hardships lose by degrees the very notions of liberty. They look upon themselves as creatures at mercy, and that all impositions laid on them by a stronger hand are, in the phrase of the Report, legal and obligatory. Hence proceed that poverty and lowness of spirit to which a kingdom may be subject, as well as a particular person. And when Esau came fainting from the field at the point to die, it is no wonder that he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.
I thought I had sufficiently shown to all who could want instruction by what methods they might safely proceed, whenever this coin should be offered to them and I believe there has not been for many ages an example of any kingdom so firmly united in a point of
great importance, as this of ours is at present against that detestable fraud. But however, it so happens that some weak people begin to be alarmed anew by rumours industriously spread. Wood prescribes to the newsmongers in London what they are to write. In one of their papers, published here by some obscure printer, and certainly with a bad design, we are told “That the papists in Ireland have entered into an association against his coin," although it be notoriously known that they never once offered to stir in the matter; so that the two houses of parliament, the privy-council, the great number of corporations, the lord mayor and aldermen of Dublin, the grand juries and principal gentlemen of several counties, are stigmatized in a lump under the name of “papists."
This impostor and his crew do likewise give out, that by refusing to receive his dross for sterling we "dispute the king's prerogative, are grown ripe for rebellion, and ready to shake off the dependency of Ireland upon the crown of England.” To countenance which reports he has published a paragraph in another newspaper, to let us know that “the lord-lieutenant is ordered to come over immediately to settle his halfpence.”
I entreat you, my dear countrymen, not to be under the least concern upon these and the like rumours, which are no more than the last howls of a dog dissected alive, as I hope he has sufficiently been. These calumnies are the only reserve that is left him. For surely our continued and (almost) unexampled loyalty will never be called in question, for not suffering ourselves to be robbed of all that we have by one obscure ironmonger.