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As to disputing the king's prerogative, give me leave to explain to those who are ignorant what the meaning of that word prerogative is.
The kings of these realms enjoy several powers, wherein the laws have not interposed. So they can make war and peace without the consent of parliament-and this is a very great prerogative: but if the parliament does not approve of the war, the king must bear the charge of it out of his own purse-and this is a great check on the crown. So the king has a prerogative to coin money without consent of parliament; but he cannot compel the subject to take that money except it be sterling gold or silver, because herein he is limited by law. Some princes have, indeed, extended their prerogative farther than the law allowed them ; wherein, however, the lawyers of succeeding ages, as fond as they are of precedents, have never dared to justify them. But to say the truth, it is only of late times that prerogative has been fixed and ascertained; for whoever reads the history of England will find that some former kings, and those none of the worst, have upon several occasions ventured to control the laws, with very little ceremony or scruple, even later than the days of queen Elizabeth. In her reign that pernicious counsel of sending base money hither very narrowly failed of losing the king. dom-being complained of by the lord-deputy, the council, and the whole body of the English here ; so that soon after her death it was recalled by her successor, and lawful money paid in exchange.
Having thus given you some notion of what is meant by “the king's prerogative,” as far as a trades. man can be thought capable of explaining it, I will
only add the opinion of the great lord Bacon: “That, as God governs the world by the settled laws of nature, which he has made, and never transcends those laws but upon high important occasions, so among earthly princes those are the wisest and the best who govern by the known laws of the country, and seldomest make use of their prerogative."
Now here you may see that the vile accusation of Wood and his accomplices, charging us with disputing the king's prerogative by refusing his brass, can have no place—because compelling the subject to take any coin which is not sterling is no part of the king's prerogative, and I am very confident if it were so we should be the last of his people to dispute it ; as well from that inviolable loyalty we have always paid to his majesty as from the treatment we might, in such a case, justly expect from some who seem to think we have neither common sense nor common
But God be thanked, the best of them are only our fellow-subjects and not our masters. One great merit I am sure we have, which those of English birth can have no pretence to-that our ancestors reduced this kingdom to the obedience of England ; for which we have been rewarded with a worse climate, -the privilege of being governed by laws to which we do not consent, -a ruined trade, -a house of peers without jurisdiction, -almost an incapacity for all employments,-and the dread of Wood's half. pence.
But we are so far from disputing the king's prerogative in coining, that we own he has power to give a patent to any man for setting his royal image and superscription upon whatever materials he pleases,
and liberty to the patentee to offer them in any country from England to Japan ; only attended with one small limitation—that nobody alive is obliged to take them.
Upon these considerations, I was ever against all recourse to England for a remedy against the present impending evil; especially when I observed that the addresses of both houses, after long expectance, produced nothing but a REPORT, altogether in favour of Wood ; upon which I made some observations in a former letter, and might at least have made as many more, for it is a paper of as singular a nature as I ever beheld.
But I mistake ; for before this Report was made, his majesty's most gracious answer to the house of lords was sent over, and printed ; wherein are these words, granting the patent for coining halfpence and farthings, AGREEABLE TO THE PRACTICE OF HIS ROYAL PREDECESSORS, &c. That king Charles II. and king James II. (AND THEY ONLY) did grant patents for this purpose is indisputable, and I have shown it at large. Their patents were passed under the great seal of Ireland, by references to Ireland ; the copper to be coined in Ireland ; the patentee was bound, on demand, to receive his coin back in Ireland, and pay silver and gold in return. Wood's patent was made under the great seal of England ; the brass coined in England ; not the least reference made to Ireland ; the sum immense, and the patentee under no obligation to receive it again and give good money for it. This I only mention, because in my private thoughts I have sometimes made a query whether the penner of those words in his majesty's most gracious answer, “ agreeable to the practice of his royal predecessors," had
maturely considered the several circumstances which, in my poor opinion, seem to make a difference.
Let me now say something concerning the other great cause of some people's fear, as Wood has taught the London newswriter to express it, that his excellency the lord-lieutenant is coming over to settle Wood's halfpence.
We know very well, that the lords-lieutenants, for several years past, have not thought this kingdom worthy the honour of their residence longer than was absolutely necessary for the king's business, which consequently wanted no speed in the dispatch. And therefore it naturally fell into most men's thoughts that a new governor, coming at an unusual time, must portend some unusual business to be done ; especially if the common report be true, that the parliament, prorogued to I know not when, is revoking that prorogation to assemble soon after the arrival; for which extraordinary proceeding the lawyers on the other side the water have by great good fortune found two precedents.
All this being granted, it can never enter into my head, that so little a creature as Wood could find credit enough with the king and his ministers, to have the lord-lieutenant of Ireland sent hither in a hurry upon his errand.
For let us take the whole matter nakedly as it lies before us, without the refinements of some people, with which we have nothing to do. Here is a patent granted under the great seal of England, upon false suggestions, to one William Wood, for coining copper halfpence for Ireland. The parliament here, upon apprehensions of the worst consequences from the said
a new summons
patent, address the king to have it recalled. This is refused ; and a committee of the privy-council report to his majesty that Wood has performed the conditions of his patent. He then is left to do the best he can with his halfpence, no man being obliged to receive them ; the people here, being likewise left to themselves, unite as one man, resolving they will have nothing to do with his ware.
By this plain account of the fact it is manifest, that the king and his ministry are wholly out of the case, and the matter is left to be disputed between him and
Will any man, therefore, attempt to persuade me that a lord-lieutenant is to be dispatched over in great haste before the ordinary time, and a parliament summoned by anticipating a prorogation, merely to put a hundred thousand pounds into the pocket of a sharper, by the ruin of a most loyal kingdom ?
But supposing all this to be true, by what arguments could a lord-lieutenant prevail on the same parliament, which addressed with so much zeal and earnestness against this evil, to pass it into a law? I am sure their opinion of Wood and his project is not mended since their last prorogation; and supposing those methods should be used which detractors tell us have been sometimes put in practice for gaining votes, it is well known that in this kingdom there are few employ. ments to be given ; and if there were more it is as well known to whose share they must fall.
But, because great numbers of you are altogether ignorant of the affairs of your country, I will tell you some reasons why there are so few employments to be disposed of in this kingdom.
All considerable offices for life are here possessed by