An Educational Charity | Charity Reg. No. NIC100280
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Charitable Objectives

Finance

Financial transactions at all levels presented a serious problem and a hinderance to economic development. Although much trade was still done by barter, the lack of a mint was a serious deficiency as money was withdrawn from the country – in rents paid to absentees, for example, as well as in the normal course of trade – from time to time there was an acute shortage of liquidity, and the lack of a mint made Ireland dependent on whatever coinage was available. Often the shortage was in a specific coin, sixpences, guineas, etc.. Frequently these problems were viewed in a political–constitutional light rather than a purely economic one. For instance, in 1722, without consultation or proper investigation, the British administration had issued a patent to the king's mistress, the Duchess of Kendal, to mint copper coins for Ireland and she had sold it to William Wood, an iron–master. Apart from the fact that Ireland needed small silver change, not copper coins, the new coinage was rumoured to be defective. The reaction of the merchants and parliament, still angry over the 1720 Declaratory Act, was predictable. Swift penned his four Drapier's Letters in protest against Wood's Halfpence. In 1724 the recently arrived Primate Boulter warned the Duke of Newcastle that the crisis was being magnified out of proportion, and that:

“It is likewise certain that some foolish and other ill–meaning people have taken this opportunity of propagating a notion of the independency of this kingdom on that of England ... those of the best sense and estates here abhor any such notion ... they esteem the greatest security of all they have here to lie on their dependency on the kingdom as well as the king of England.”

Significantly, there was a reprint of Molyneux's work in 1725. The crisis was judged to be so severe that, although at this time the Lord Lieutenant usually resided in Ireland only during the biennial sessions of parliament, Lord Lieutenant Carteret resided constantly in the country from October 1724 to April 1726.

The value of coinage bore a direct relationship to its metallic content, hence the importance of fixing the value of gold. Because of its metallic value, those expecting to handle money often carried small pocket scales to verify the weight of the coins proffered. The nomenclature of the coins was the same as that of England although, in common with the currency of other dependencies, Irish money was discounted against the pound sterling. Attempts were made to resolve the currency problem by traders' tokens which were used locally. In 1737 Portuguese gold moidores, used to relieve the shortage of specie, became overvalued but the merchants, especially the Cork provision merchants, were panic–stricken at the thought of their immediate losses in the event of a devaluation, as were the bankers and remitters who, although the measure brought them long–term commercial benefits, suffered a short–term loss. Parliament was bombarded with petitions and Swift, a fervent protagonist of Ireland's economic as well as constitutional development, had a black flag raised on St Patrick's Cathedral and tolled the passing–bell when the overvalued foreign gold was revalued by proclamation in 1737.

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Registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC100280