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Swift and Locke

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Swift and Locke Satire, monetary theory, and intrinsic value
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Soud, Stephen E
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Coinage ( jstor )
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Monetary theory ( jstor )
Money ( jstor )
Natural law ( jstor )
Poetry ( jstor )
Satire ( jstor )
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Treatises ( jstor )
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF ( lcsh )
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 1998.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 232-250).
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Typescript.
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Vita.
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by Stephen E. Soud.

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SWIFT AND LOCKE:
SATIRE, MONETARY THEORY, AND INTRINSIC VALUE









By

STEPHEN E. SOUD


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA




SWIFT AND LOCKE:
SATIRE, MONETARY THEORY, AND INTRINSIC VALUE
By
STEPHEN E. SOUD
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1998


Copyright 1998
by
Stephen E. Soud


Dedicated to Cathy, Natalie, Paul,
and our newest arrival, Jonathan


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The completion of a doctoral dissertation might well be described as a process of
accruing debtsand not only in the financial sense. I owe the greatest debt to my director,
Mel New. He has worked tirelessly, raising thought-provoking questions, returning drafts
swiftly, and giving invaluable critical and professional advice. I simply cannot say enough.
I am also particularly indebted to Pat Craddock, whose wisdom, kindness, and good sense
have helped buoy me more than she knows. Brian McCrea has also given excellent
advice, as have the other members of my committee, Brandy Kershner (who graciously
lent his services late in the process) and David Denslow. As I hope the list of references
indicates, I spent more than a little time in the Smathers Libraries, where John Van Hook
was of inestimable support and assistance. John always found time to answer questions
and help locate obscure sources. I must also thank Frank DiTrolio, who often proved a
valuable resource, and Todd Chisholm and Jennifer Johnson, who patiently renewed
hundreds of books for me. Also, for the Aubrey Williams Research Travel Fellowship,
thanks are due to the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.
Several of my colleagues at Maryville College have played an important role in the
completion of the dissertation. Susan Schneibel and Dean Boldon have been exceptionally
patient and supportive of me and my family as we have struggled through an
IV


extraordinarily difficult and then exciting two years. Sherry Kasper has taught me much
about the history of economics and, more importantly, been a good friend; Sam
Overstreet, a wonderful colleague, has provided stimulating conversation about literature,
theory, and intrinsic and extrinsic value.
To conclude, debts to family are often the least prominent but most extensive. I
cannot overestimate the contribution of my mother and father, who provided the sort of
home environment that makes learning and writing habits of being. Also, without the
generous support of Ash Verlander, none of this would have been possible. Finally, I can
only hope that, for the innumerable hours spent on this dissertation, the Dedication to
Cathy and the children will suffice.
v


TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iv
ABSTRACT viii
KEY TO ABBREVIATIONS x
CHAPTERS
1 SWIFTS BLACK FLAG 1
Pocock, Locke, and the Discourse of Credit 6
Revisiting Charles Davenant 16
Cultural History and the Legacy of Coinage 23
The Presence of Lockes Monetary Theories in the Eighteenth Century 28
Notes 37
2 LOCKE, THE GREAT RECOINAGE, AND INTRINSIC VALUE 47
The Minting Process and the Deterioration of the Coinage 54
War Supply, Currency Exchange, and Monetary Collapse 67
The Worsening Crisis and Parliamentary Intervention 74
The Recoinage Controversy 81
Locke, Intrinsic Value, and the Significance of Consent 93
Conclusion 108
Notes 109
3 A TALE OF A TUB. WIT, WEIGHT, AND INTRINSIC VALUE 120
Swift, Temple, and the Great Recoinage 124
Wit, Weight, and the Ancients: Sir William Temple 131
Wit, Weight, and the Modems: Sir Richard Blackmore 136
Intrinsic Value and Abuses in Learning 146
Intrinsic Value and Abuses in Religion 166
Madmen, Knaves, and Fools 175
vi


Conclusion 178
Notes 179
4 FORCE OF LAW: LINDALINO AND THEDRAPIER'SLETTERS 189
The Recoinage and the Irish Economy of the 1720s 195
Monetary Theory and the Irish Coinage Crisis 200
Locke and The Drapier 's Letters 209
Royal Prerogative and Lindalino 220
Notes 226
REFERENCES 232
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 251
vii


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
SWIFT AND LOCKE:
SATIRE, MONETARY THEORY, AND INTRINSIC VALUE
By
Stephen E. Soud
August, 1998
Chair: Melvyn New
Major Department: English
By exploring relationships between the monetary theories of John Locke and the
satires of Jonathan Swift-with particular emphasis on the concept of intrinsic valuethis
dissertation challenges prevailing interpretations of British culture and literature in the
early eighteenth century. Chapter 1 establishes ways the neo-Machiavellian discourse of
credit, a hermeneutic widely associated with J. G. A. Pocock, has overlooked issues
concerning coinage, and thus downplayed the significance of the treatises Locke wrote
during the Great Recoinage of 1695-99. Lockes theory of the intrinsic value of gold and
silver money was dominant in eighteenth-century Britain, and re-establishing the
importance of coinage and its metaphors is vital for our properly understanding the culture
of the era. Hence recent economically based studies of literature, which focus primarily on
the workings of public credit, need to be supplemented. Chapter 2 details the processes


by which English coin was minted in the seventeenth century, the monetary problems
associated with clipping, war finance, and international exchange, and the conflicting
positions in the Recoinage debate. It concludes with an exposition of Lockes theory of
intrinsic value, paradoxically founded on general consent. Chapter 3 places Swifts A Tale
of a Tub, written during the late 1690s, in the context of the Recoinage. Coinage
metaphors and the language of value played a significant part in the Battle of the Books,
and these figure into the Tale. In addition to parodying Sir Richard Blackmores Satyr
against Wit (1699), Swift uses the language of value to help establish Martin as the via
media of the satire. However, like Locke, Swift finds himself caught in the paradox of
defining intrinsic value by general consent. Chapter 4 examines Swifts use of Lockes
natural law theory of money in The Drapier 's Letters (1724) to lead the Irish boycott of
Woods halfpence. Swift transformed what had been an economic objection to the
halfpence into a powerful legal argument that implicitly threatened Englands claims to
monetary sovereignty over Ireland. I also contend that an appreciation of Swifts ironic
use of Lockes theories is necessary to understanding the Lindalino allegory of Gullivers
Travels (1726).
IX


KEY TO ABBREVIATIONS
Swift
I have used the following abbreviations in the text for Swifts primary works and
selected secondary materials:
Corr
The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift. Ed. Harold Williams. 5 vols.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963.
DSL
Dean Swift '.v Library. Ed. Harold Williams. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1932.
Ehrenpreis
Ehrenpreis, Irvin. Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age. 3 vols.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962-83.
Poems
The Poems of Jonathan Swift. Ed. Harold Williams. 3 vols. 2nd ed.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958.
PW
The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift. Ed. Herbert Davis. 16 vols. Oxford:
Basil Blackwell, 1939-74.
Tale
Swift, Jonathan. A Tale of a Tub. To Which Is Added "The Battle of the
Books and the "Mechanical Operation of the Spirit. Ed. A. C.
Guthkelch and D. Nichol Smith. 2nd ed., corrected. Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1973.
TDL
Swift, Jonathan. The Drapiers Letters to the People of Ireland. Ed.
Herbert Davis. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935.
x


Locke
With the exception of the first printing of Some Considerations, which is cited
individually in the text, all of Lockes monetary writings have been drawn from Patrick
Kellys splendid edition, Locke on Money. I have keyed these references, with title and
page numbers corresponding to the Kelly edition, as follows:
Draft
Transcript of Final Manuscript Draft of Some Considerations." Appendix
A, 503-612.
Early
Early Writings on Interest, 1668-1674. 167-202.
FC
Further Considerations Concerning Raising the Value of Money. Wherein
Mr Lowndess Arguments for it in his late "Report Concerning An Essay
for the Amendment of the Silver Coins, are Particularly Examined. 402-
81.
Guineas
Guineas. 363-4.
Kelly
Introduction. In John Locke, Locke on Money. Ed. Kelly. 2 vols.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991. 1-162.
SC
Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest, and
Raising the Value of Money. 209-342.
SO
Short Observations on a Printed Paper, Intituled, "For encouraging the
Coining Silver Money in England and after for keeping it here. 345-59.
Trumbull
A Paper Given to Sir William Trumbull Which Was Written at His
Request September 1695, 365-73.
Two other frequently cited works by Locke are abbreviated as follows:
ECHU
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Ed. Peter H. Nidditch.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.
TT
Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government. Ed. Peter Laslett.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
xi


CHAPTER 1
SWIFTS BLACK FLAG
In the Spring of 1737, after years of lobbying by Irish Primate Hugh Boulter, the
English government agreed to lower the value of the gold coin circulating in Ireland. In
August of that year, the Irish Lords Justices and Privy Council issued a proclamation
lowering the official rate of a guinea from 1/. 3s. to 1/. 2s. 9d. Boulter and many others
viewed the adjustment as a hard-fought victory for the beleaguered Irish economy, but
Dean Swift, always distrustful of Boulters political motives, held a contrary opinion.
Convinced the alteration would pave a Bridge of Gold across the Irish Sea, further
lining the pockets of absentee landlords and leaving hundreds of thousands . starving at
home, for want of Employment (PW XIII: 120), Swift ordered the bells of St. Patricks
muffled to ring mourning and flew from the Cathedral steeple a black flag.1 A month later
a London newspaper received a suspiciously anonymous letter from Dublin describing
reaction to the incident:
All we can say is that the citizens were greatly alarmed when they saw the
black flag, imagining that our patriot, who had been ill, was dead. Many of
them ran in great consternation to the church, where they learned that their
Dean lived, and to their great consolation was happily recovered from his
late illness. The signs of mourning were on account of the lowering of the
gold.2
1


2
Other contemporary responses to Swifts gesture were decidedly less sympathetic.
At least one spectator was embarrassed by what he considered eccentric behavior from the
aging satirist: The Dean of St. Patricks involves himself in such strange, improper,
insignificant oppositions to matters of a public nature, Baron Wainwright of the Irish
Exchequer wrote to the Earl of Oxford, that, by hanging out black flags and putting his
bells in mourning, he makes it impossible for one in my station to converse much with
him.3 Ambrose Philips, Boulters secretary and editor of his correspondence (and who
had ample reason to hold a grudge), responded with greater venom: Dean Swift not long
after this cruel, though feeble effort, this telum imbelle sine ictu, became one of his own
meer doting Struldbrugs, an event which some people say he used to be apprehensive of in
his more melancholy moments, and this way of thinking perhaps was the first motive to
make that noble charity, which to his great honour he founded in Dublin for lunatics and
idiots.4 Although Swiftnever one to be swayed by public opinionsteadfastly
maintained that the new policy was a failure,5 modem biographers have followed
Wainwright and Philips, usually adopting a less caustic version of the latters
psychologizing. J. A. Downie, for instance, declares that Swift was tilting at windmills,
exhibiting an ill-considered, almost paranoid response to the alteration of the coin. And
while Swifts most meticulous biographer, Irvin Ehrenpreis, does indeed discuss Swifts
economic reasons for opposing the adjustment, he too resorts to psychoanalytic language
to explain the force of Swifts objection, suggesting it grew out of a characteristic
personal obsession with finance, his anxiety concerning the perpetual inflation of money.6


3
Curiously, however, commentators have overlooked one of the most trenchant
rejoinders to Swifts protest, an anonymous pamphlet entitled Some Reflections
Concerning the Reduction of Gold Coin in Ireland Upon the Principles of the Dean of
St. Patrick's and Mr. Lock? Siding with Boulter, this tract chides Swiftthe Watchfull
Dragon that ever Wakes to Guard the Hesperian Goldfor renouncing the monetary
principles he had set forth nine years earlier in Intelligencer 19 (1728). There he had
argued that a reduction of three pence in the value of a guinea would be the most sensible
solution to Irelands loss of silver coin:
When the value of Guineas was lowred in England [in 1717], from 21 .v. 6
d. to only 21 s. the Consequences to this Kingdom, were obvious, and
manifest to us all; and a sober Man, may be allowed at least to wonder,
though he dare not complain, why a new Regulation of Coin among us,
was not then made; much more, why it hath never been since. It would
surely require no very profound skill in Algebra, to reduce the difference of
nine Pence in thirty Shillings, or three Pence in a Guinea, to less than a
Farthing.*
By reducing the difference in the exchange rate to so small a Fraction as a farthing,
Swift continues, the advantage of trading silver for gold in England and bringing the gold
back to Ireland, where it had greater purchasing power, would be eliminated. Then
Bankers would no longer be tempted to hazard their Silver at Sea, or Tradesmen to
load themselves with [silver], in their Journeys to England9 This very reduction, Some
Reflections satirically points out (hence the irony hinted at in the pamphlets title), was
precisely what Swift protested by flying the black flag.
While the public demonstration of a Swiftian volte-face is not to be discounted,
there is, in my view, a more significant component of the pamphlets ironic attack. As its


4
title further hints, Some Reflections implies that Swift, in reversing his earlier position, was
thereby abandoning his long-standing advocacy of the monetary ideas associated with
John Locke.10 In capsule form, the pamphlets argument runs something like this: If the
Dean wished to avoid hypocrisy and remain faithful to his prior opinion, he would
maintain the Lockean position that silver is the standard metal; because English monetary
policy toward Ireland has overvalued gold in proportion to silver, the solution to Irish
economic woes is lowering the value of gold.11 In other words, just as Swift had
supported decreasing the value of the guinea in 1728, so Locke would have pressed for
the reduction in 1737; thus Swifts anonymous critic is able to argue for the adjustment
"Upon the Principles of the Dean of St. Patrick's and Mr. Lock
That a clash between Swift and the English government should in some measure
take shape around Lockes monetary theories ought to be of considerable interest to
cultural and literary historians, but scholarship has been silent on the point. There are, of
course, any number of insightful studies examining Lockes impact on Swift, but these
focus attention on either the epistemological questions raised by the Essay Concerning
Human Understanding (1690) or the political theory advanced by the Two Treatises of
Government (1690).12 An altogether different line of inquiry, though, is suggested by
Some Reflections, which offers intriguing evidence that Swift was actively engaged with
Lockes monetary theories, and that his contemporaries, in this instance an enemy,
recognized a connection. This evidence alone justifies another look at Swifts interest in
Locke, focusing instead on the monetary writings. Powerful corroboration that such an
investigation might yield significant results, however, comes from another overlooked yet


5
critically important fact: when Swifts library was sold at his death, it included neither the
Essay nor the Two Treatises, but rather Lockes Tracts relating to Money, Interest, and
Trade (1696), a collection of the pamphlets he published during the controversy
surrounding the Great Recoinage of 1695-99.13
As this evidence strongly suggests, more is at stake in the black flag incident than
Swifts supposed economic paranoia. Indeed, I would assert that the entire affairand the
silence that has accompanied itposes fundamental questions about our interpretations of
eighteenth-century political and economic thought, questions concerning both the political
significance of coinage during the era and, more particularly, the cultural legacy of
Lockes Recoinage writings. Why, for instance, would Swift, by any measure a major
figure in the political and literary life of his day, respond so vehemently to the decision to
lower the value of gold coin? How might Lockean monetary theory have impacted
Swifts perennial concerns about the Irish economy, including his calls for boycotts in The
Proposalfor the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture (1719) and Drapiers Letters
(1724), as well as his backing of an Irish mint? What does it mean that, more than forty
years after their initial publication, Lockes monetary treatises could be invoked by an
anonymous Dublin pamphleteer who fully expected the allusion to be understood?
Considered separately, these questions seem relevant to only a few disparate areas of
historical and literary inquiry. Taken together, however, they reveal in current
historiography of eighteenth-century British culture certain blind spots, areas concealed
from view by a hermeneutic method I will call the discourse of credit . Initially brought
to prominence in the work of J. G. A. Pocock, this hermeneutic has increasingly


dominated economically-oriented interpretations of the period, often achieving valuable
results. However, precisely because of its emphasis on the emergence of public finance,
the discourse of credit has overlooked fundamental issues involving coinage, and it has
done so at Lockes expense.
Pocock. Locke, and the Discourse of Credit
Thirty years ago scholars confidently assumed the decisive influence of Locke and
his Two Treatises on eighteenth-century political discourse, but this once-bedrock
assumption in analyses of Enlightenment political thought has undergone nothing less than
a seismic upheaval. Thanks to a series of studies, most notably Pococks The
Machiavellian Moment and several of his shorter essays, many now collected in Virtue,
Commerce, and History, the notion of Lockes pre-eminence has been buried beneath a
solid layer of Aristotelian and Machiavellian civic humanism.11 For Pocock and others,
political language in the period between the Glorious and American Revolutions derived
less from Locke and the liberal tradition than it did from Ancient and Renaissance
concepts of classical republicanism. Thus writers as diverse as Swift, Charles Davenant,
John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon (authors of the influential political periodical Cato's
Letters), and Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, could be seen to frame their
arguments not in Lockean terms of natural rights and government by consent, but in
Machiavellian conceptions of the balance of powers and civic virtue and corruption. In
Pococks words, this reappraisal necessitated a shattering demolition of [Lockes]
myth; it was not that he was other than a great and authoritative thinker, but that his


7
greatness and authority [had] been wildly distorted by a habit of taking them unhistorically
for granted.15 As is well known, Pococks claim has come under scrutiny, and in the last
ten years a host of scholars, in a movement dubbed neo-Lockeanism, have reclaimed
some of the turf lost to the neo-Machiavellians.16 However, in the course of the debate
neither party has paid much attention to the tracts Locke published prior to and during the
Recoinage controversy.
It is a puzzling oversight, especially in the case of Lockes defenders, who have
generally limited the debates scope to the influence of the Two Treatises. This self-
imposed limitation stems in part, I believe, from the disciplinary configuration of modern
universities, which sub-divide and professionalize the production and dissemination of
knowledge in a manner the first decades of the eighteenth century would have found quite
alien. The case of a writer such as John Arbuthnot is instructive: though modern scholars
most often approach him as a literary figure, he made his name as a medical doctor and
mathematician long before he began writing satire with the Scriblerians. It was as a
mathematician that Arbuthnot produced his Tables of the Grecian, Roman, and Jewish
Measures, Reduced to the English Standard (1705), which, as the title indicates, provided
charts for the conversion of ancient weights, measures, and monetary denominations into
their equivalent modem units. He later expanded the book into the lengthy treatise Tables
of Ancient Coins, Weights, and Measures (1727), which offered further research on the
subject. We might very well view Arbuthnots efforts in these volumes as antiquarian
dabbling unworthy of our attention, except that they achieved prominent status among
contemporaries-including, most notably, David Hume.17 In his 1752 essay On the


8
Balance of Trade (regarded as a classic by historians of economic thought because of its
innovative price-specie-flow theory), Hume uses Arbuthnots Tables to convert ancient
Egyptian talents into English pounds: The account given by APPIAN of the treasure of the
PTOLEMIES, is so prodigious, that one cannot admit of it... The sum he mentions is
740,000 talents, or 191,166,666 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence, according to Dr.
Arbuthnots computation.18 Arbuthnots research makes it possible for Hume not only
to give ancient sources and examples a modern factual immediacy, but also to prove his
point that the hoarding of treasure is economically counterproductive. In the very same
essay, moreover, Hume cites Swiftat first disapprovingly, then approvinglyon the Irish
balance of trade.15 That Hume would consult Arbuthnot (and Swift) for expertise on
matters economic underscores my point: we can ill afford to treat early-modern authors as
operating within the same boundaries of specialization that circumscribe twentieth-century
professionals.
Unfortunately, such compartmentalization seems to have beset Lockes monetary
writings, which, even by Lockeans, have all too often been treated as mere occasional
pieces answering the exigencies of a one-time coinage dilemma. Although books by
Karen Iversen Vaughn and Neal Wood20 have called attention to Lockes contributions to
and position within economic thought, discussion of his Recoinage writings remains
almost exclusively confined to writings by historians of economics.21 Indeed, though many
book-length economic studies of the period devote a chapter, often more, to Lockes
monetary theories and his pivotal role in the Recoinage controversy,22 general studies of
Locke give the monetary writings short shrift.23 The recent Cambridge Companion to


9
Locke, to name just one notable instance, opts not to engage the topic in any significant
way, briefly mentioning Lockes Recoinage involvement only in the biographical
introduction.24 This neglect does Locke a great disservice, for it severely underestimates
the social and political repercussions of his decisive role in the Recoinage debate. Not
only did Locke have the ear of the King and Lords Justices as no one else at a time of
national emergency, but his proposals on the matter, once adopted, had economic
consequences for all levels of English society in every comer of the kingdom. Even if
cultural historians (somehow) manage to dismiss the immediate historical impact of
Lockes views, the fact that major figuresthinkers like Hume, Cantillon, Montesquieu,
Smith, and Ricardoread and absorbed Lockes monetary theories needs to be addressed
more thoroughly than it has. Indeed, Joyce Oldham Appleby, assessing the impact of
Lockes Recoinage writings, has claimed they laid the foundation for the gold standard
edifice that was to stand for the next two centuries.25
While the neglect of Lockes Recoinage writings certainly reflects the disciplinary
division of the modem academy, their continued disregard has more to do, I believe, with
the discourse of credit first expounded by Pocock and then furthered by a number of
cultural critics writing in his wake. Soon after the publication of P. G. M. Dicksons
landmark study of eighteenth-century English public credit, The Financial Revolution
(which, due largely to its subject, allots the Recoinage only a paragraph),26 social and
economic historians began spending the bulk of their energies focusing on the massive
financial apparatus constructed to fund Englands military and economic expansionism.
This focus has resulted in a number of perceptive interpretations of the era, none more


10
influential than Pococks work on the topic.27 I can hardly do justice to the staggering
breadth of Pococks treatment of the subject here, but in essence it explores: 1) the
growing division between an aristocratic, landed class, grounded in an old (basically
feudal) order, and a new monied class, enriched by the emerging market economy; and
2) the crises in the concepts of civic virtue and the individual consciousness which that
division between real and mobile property entailed.
Pococks powerful interpretation of early-modern England derives from a wide
range of oppositional propaganda such as Cato's Letters and The Craftsman, but he gives
considerable prominence as well to the political writing Swift undertook for the Harley-St.
John ministry between 1710 and 1714, including Swifts contributions to the Examiner
(1710-13), his Conduct of the Allies (1711), and his History of the Four Last Years of the
Queen (composed during 1710-14 but published posthumously in 1758).28 In these
important and immensely popular tracts (The Conduct of the Allies sold well over 11,000
copies [Ehrenpreis, 11:485], an astonishing number by eighteenth-century standards), Swift
sought to divide and conquer public opinion by playing up the opposition between the
Tory landed interest, which had Englands true good at heart, and the Whig monied
interest (especially Godolphin and Marlborough),29 which was corrupt and self-seeking.
A classic statement of this division may be found in Examiner 13, Swifts first number,
dated 2 November 1710:
Let any Man observe the Equipages in this Town; he shall find the greater
Number of those who make a Figure, to be a Species of Men quite
different from any that were ever known before the Revolution; consisting
either of Generals and Colonels, or of such whose whole Fortunes lie in


11
Funds and Stocks: So that Power, which, according to the old Maxim, was
used to follow Land, is now gone over to Money.
(PW\ 11:5)
As quite a few commentators, including Pocock, have noted, Swifts dichotomy has more
to do with political ideology than with economic fact: many members of the country
gentry speculated in the market, and even Swift himself invested several hundred pounds
in both the Bank of England and the South Sea Company (Ehrenpreis 11:556).
Nevertheless, Swifts rhetoric exemplifies a polarity basic to much early eighteenth-
century political discourse-landed wealth versus monied wealth, the latter usually tainted
(at least in the eyes of the gentry) by association with the funds.
Fundamental as the opposition between land and credit was to the political
discourse of the period, however, we need to recognize that historical inquiry
concentrating on public credit risks excluding issues surrounding coinage. In the case of
Swift, emphasis has fallen on pamphlets like the Examiner or The Conduct of the Allies in
lieu of works such as The Drapier 's Letters, Intelligencer 19, and A Letter on Maculla s
Project (1729), all of which specifically address coinage problems. These tracts, and
others like them, display little concern with public credit; rather, they are both directly and
indirectly engaged with thinking about the nature of money, and, as it happens, with the
Recoinage treatises of Locke. Of course concepts of money and finance have always been
closely related, and were especially so in the early-modern era.30 But while Pocock has
contributed vastly to our understanding of the cultural ramifications of the credit
economy, little has been written about contemporary theories of value, specifically the


12
discourses that determined the cultural logic of gold and silver. It is, so to speak, this
side of the coin we will examine in the present study.
For Pocock, of course, the conflict between landed wealth and monied wealth
(feudalism and capitalism) is disputed in the language of classical republicanism, but his
analysis of property and credit suggests the need to re-examine the significance of Lockes
Recoinage writings. In a discussion of ways in which major changes . occurred in the
character of property itself, and consequently in the structure, the morality, and even the
psychology of politics, Pocock remarks:
All these things began, with spectacular abruptness, to be discussed in the
middle 1690s; and compared with this great breakthrough in the secular
consciousness of political society, the attempt to discover market
connotations in Hobbes, or even Locke, sometimes looks rather like
shadow play. There are some reasons for thinking that the great debate
over property and virtue was conducted on premises not apparent to
Hobbes or even [Matthew] Wren; as for Locke, the point to be made is
that the debate seems to have been conducted with very little reference to
anything he had said.31
Although Pocock begins with what appears to be an oblique reference to the Recoinage,
he opts to pursue neither a discussion of its significance nor the crucial role Locke played
in it. Pocock states again in the essay The Mobility of Property and the Rise of
Eighteenth-Century Sociology: Though Locke took a hand in the Recoinage of 1696,
one of the major proceedings of the Financial Revolution, he did not engage in the
ideological manoeuvres which characterise the defence of credit politics.32 As keenly
aware of the significance of the Recoinage as Pocock appears to be, the issues
surrounding it should not be treated as separate and distinct from public credit. In the first
place, the monetary pressures that brought about the Recoinage were important causal


13
factors of the Financial Revolution. At the beginning, public credit was viewed primarily
as alleviating a need for gold and silver currency, and the myriad bank proposals of the
1690s were, without exception, responses to the scarcity of coin.
In the second place, Pocock seems to assume-and in this he would probably be
joined by most historians writing todaythat as a Whig Locke would have unequivocally
mounted a defence of credit politics. This assumption is based largely upon the fact that
Locke was one of the initial subscribers to the Bank of England.33 However, Lockes
Bank subscription cannot be construed (any more than Swifts) as an endorsement of what
would become, in Dicksons phrase, the Financial Revolution. Locke harbored deep
suspicions about government-issued paper currency, and his little-known manuscript
Dialogues on Banks (1694) expresses concern that the funds deposited in a national
bank might prove an easy target for government confiscation. As J. K. Horsefield
observes: In some draft Dialogues about banks [Locke] argued that no one who wished
to retain access to his money should entrust it to the Bank of England. This was partly
because there was nothing to stop the Ministry from stripping the Bank of any deposits by
means of a Quo Warranto; but mainly because the Bank would have a cash reserve only if
it borrowed one, which, he considered, it could not afford to do.34 Patrick Kelly likewise
notes that Locke disapproved both of the Banks potential monopoly over the supply of
money in England and of the political danger it represented in the form of a large sum
which the king might seize and use to defy Parliament (103). Clearly Locke had serious
misgivings about a national bank.


14
Pocock is absolutely correct to maintain that in a history of property theory
organised around the duality of classical and commercial politics, it is difficult to retain the
image of Locke as the hinge on which history turned. One would indeed be hard-pressed
to prove the Two Treatises a truly pivotal book, at least in the half-century following its
publication.35 But to say at the same time that Locke cared nothing for the virtue of
independence threatened by corruption36 is, I think, to overlook his arguments about
money. It is not just that Locke thought the burthen of economic growth unavoidably
settles on the Land first (SC 278); he was also concerned that the multiplying of Brokers
hinders the Trade of any Country, by making the Circuit, which the Money goes, larger. .
. Besides that, they Eat up too great a share of the Gains of Trade, by that means Starving
the Labourer, and impoverishing the Landholder (SC 241). Because he worried that
these Brokers might Ingross so much of the nations cash in their hands, Locke
strongly advocated a ceiling for interest rates so that young Men and those in Want,
might not too easily be exposed to Extortion and Oppression; and the dextrous and
combining Money Jobbers not have too great and unbounded Power, to Prey upon the
Ignorance or Necessity of Borrowers (SC 282).
In the Dedication to Further Considerations Concerning Raising the Value of
Money (1696), Locke additionally expresses fear that lessening the silver content of the
coin would deprive great Numbers of blameless Men [i.e., landholding government
creditors] a Fifth Part of their Estates. He goes on to pillory money-changers in language
befitting Swifts Examiner essays:


15
I doubt not but there are many, who, for the Service of their Countrey, and
for the Support of the Government, would gladly part with, not only one
Fifth, but a much larger Portion of their Estates. But when it shall be taken
from them, only to be bestowed on Men [i.e., Money Jobbers] in their,
and the common Opinion, no better deserving of their Countrey than
themselves; (unless growing exceedingly rich by the publick Necessities,
whilst every body else finds his Fortune streightned by them, be a publick
Merit, that deserves a publick and signal Reward;) This Loss, of one Fifth
of their Debts and Income, will sit heavy on them.
(404)37
A pattern begins to emerge: placed alongside Lockes (apparent) sentiments in the
Dialogues on Banks, this attack on Brokers demonstrates that he feared both the
economic and political corruption that could arise through domination of the money
market.
But as this attack also demonstrates, Lockes designation of the intrinsick value
of the precious metals made coinage crucial to contemporary debates about property. The
overtones of the Two Treatises in the phrase a Fifth Part of their Estates are too clear to
be missed. While this notion has not always received its due in the recent discourse of
credit, Pocock does touch upon the issue:
Once property was seen to have a symbolic value, expressed in coin or in
credit, the foundations of personality themselves appeared imaginary or at
best consensual: the individual could exist, even in his own sight, only at
the fluctuating value imposed upon him by his fellows, and these
evaluations, though constant and public, were too irrationally performed to
be seen as acts of political decision or virtue.38
Pococks insight here is profound (if perhaps overly secular): in many ways the modern
era has increasingly been one of flux, uncertainty, and inability (or unwillingness) to
elaborate cultural norms. However, by subsuming coin and credit under the single heading
of symbolic value, Pocock elides the important distinction between the two that had


16
developed in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century monetary theory, a distinction
highlighted by Locke and the Recoinage debate. Silver and gold possessed intrinsic value;
paper credit (bills of exchange, Exchequer bills, stock certificates, etc.) had only extrinsic
value. And while Locke did define intrinsic value as being based upon consent, I will
argue in the next chapter that his conception entailed much more than valuation predicated
upon the fluctuations and irrationality of fancy and agreement; it was grounded in
natural law and was intended to provide a single standard by which value could be judged.
It was this distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic valuewith all that it symbolized in
terms of liberty, identity, authenticity, and powerthat became a point of contention for
Swift and the Scriblerians.
Revisiting Charles Davenant
This distinction between the intrinsically valued precious metals and the
extrinsically valued instruments of credit is especially revealing when approaching the
work of Charles Davenant, who, like Locke, was one of the small group of advisers whom
the government consulted about the currency problem. Davenant is central to neo-
Machiavellian arguments about the cultural ramifications of credit in the era of the
Financial Revolution; Istvan Hont has gone so far as to call him probably the most
influential English analyst of trade and its implications in the closing years of the
seventeenth century.39 Following the lead of scholars such as Pocock and Hont, literary
critics have cited Davenant with increasing frequency, contributing to his rising
prominence as an avatar of the credit economy.40 However, Davenants role in the


17
Recoinage, the parallels between his thought and Lockes, and his grounding of value in
the stability of coinage have not been sufficiently taken into account by modern
scholarship.
At the time of the Recoinage, Davenant was a former M.P. and Commissioner of
the Excise who had been ousted by the Glorious Revolution. His publishing careerin
which he more than once changed factions to curry political favorspanned more than
fifteen years, beginning with An Essay upon the Ways and Means of Supplying the War
(1694), and ending with New Dialogues upon the Present Posture of Affairs (1710).41
Most ofDavenants output was collected in the five-volume Works of 1771, but several of
his essays, including, significantly, A Memorial Concerning the Coyn of England (1695)
and A Memoriall Concerning Creditt (1696) were apparently unavailable to Charles
Whitworth, Davenants eighteenth-century editor, and thus they were omitted from the
collection.42 The 1695 pamphlet, prepared at the behest of the ministry, consists
principally of Davenants argument that, while a recoinage was desirable, it was unwise to
undertake so drastic a measure during wartime (his counsel was not followed); the 1696
pamphlet deals with the aftermath of the decision to remint the coin. Significantly, these
two tracts consistently demonstrate that much ofDavenants thinking on credit was
derived from the experience of the Recoinage, and that he may have drawn from Lockes
published monetary writings.
Davenants conception of the fickleness of Creditwhich anticipates the
gendered caricatures of Defoes Review and Addisons Spectator 343is a mainstay of
Pococks chapter Neo-Machiavellian Political Economy: The Augustan Debate over


18
Land, Trade, and Credit in The Machiavellian Moment, but its connection to the
Recoinage (and Locke) has not been recognized. In the key passage Davenant surpasses
himself, becoming almost lyrical:
Of all beings that have existence only in the minds of men, nothing is more
fantastical and nice than Credit; it is never to be forced; it hangs upon
opinion; it depends upon our passions of hope and fear; it comes many
times unsought for, and often goes away without reason; and when once
lost, is hardly to be quite recovered.
It very much resembles, and, in many instances, is near a kin to that
fame and reputation which men obtain by wisdom in governing state
affairs, or by valour and conduct in the field. An able statesman, and a
great captain, may, by some ill accident, slip, or misfortune, be in disgrace,
and lose the present vogue and opinion; yet this, in time, will be regained,
where there is shining worth, and a real stock of merit. In [t]he same
manner, Credit, though it may be for a while obscured, and labour under
some difficulties, yet it may, in some measure, recover, where there is a
safe and good foundation at the bottom.14
As Pocock observes, Davenant enters upon sociology of knowledge: he is discussing for
us the epistemology of the investing society . Significantly, however, Pocock cites this
passage from Davenants Discourses on the Public Revenues (1698),15 not recognizing
that Davenant copied it verbatim from the unpublished tract he had written two years
earlier, the Memoriall Concerning Creditt (75). This Memoriall, as we have seen,
was a counterpart to the Memorial Concerning the Coyn of England, the Recoinage
advice he had written for the Lords Justices in 1695.
In 1695 Davenant had argued, along with Locke and against Treasurer William
Lowndes, that the reminted money must retain its true Naturall and Intrinsick value (i.e.,
it should be reminted at its full weight). He continues: Denomination Stamp and Coin is
no more then a Declaration from y Soveraign that such a piece is of such a weight and


19
fineness and serves only to prevent uncertainty and fraud and in no other Sence can be
said to put a value upon it (Coyn 15). This, in capsule version, is Lockes position, or
as he phrased it:
The Stamp [is] a Warranty of the publick, that under such a denomination
they should receive a piece of such a weight, and such a fineness; that is,
they should receive so much Silver. . The Royal Authority gives the
stamp; the Law allows and confirms the denomination: And both together
give, as it were, the publick faith, as a security, that Sums of Money. .
shall be of such a value, that is, shall have in them so much Silver. For tis
Silver and not Names that pay Debts and purchase Commodities.
(SC 312)
The parallels between the two analyses are striking, and, since Some Considerations had
been published in 1692, it is quite reasonable to suggest that Davenant may have been
influenced by Lockes arguments. It might be argued, to be sure, that Locke was not
alone in using such language to describe the function of monetary denominations, but he
was certainly the ideas most vocal spokesperson, and Davenant could scarcely have been
unaware of Lockes position.
By the time of Davenants 1696 Memoriall, the Recoinage (particularly the
decision to follow Lockes advice and maintain the existing monetary standard)46 had
resulted in a debilitating loss of the circulating coin. Confronting this severe want of
Species, Davenant suggests that paper notes should temporarily be made payable for all
government revenues:
In this Interval of Parliament Paper Credit ought to receive all possible
favour and Countenance from the Government, in order to which Bank
Bills should have a free Course in all the Kings Revenues and goe in
payment of Taxes, Customes, Excise and other Dutyes, both in Towne and
in the Country, and peradventure it might not be amiss, if the severall


20
offices were directed here in London, to receive payment, Bills from some
of y most Apparent Goldsmiths.
(Creditt 99)
On the surface, at least, this is a remarkable turnabout: Davenant has gone from denying
that government stamp can create value to advocating government acceptance of paper
bills. Davenant was hardly known for consistency of conviction-as Pocock wryly
remarks, he changed positions and allegiances for reasons which may not bear very much
inspection47but it is worth pointing out that Davenants suggestion was not without
parallel in Lockes published writings. Locke was fundamentally opposed to paper
instruments because they are liable to unavoidable Doubt, Dispute, and Counterfeiting,
and require other Proofs to assure us that they are true and good Security, than our Eyes
or a Touchstone, but he also recognized that in times of monetary emergency (such as
existed in 1696) England would be better off using paper than letting any part of our
Trade fall for want of current Pledges; and better too than borrowing Money of our
Neighbours upon Use, if this way of Assigning Bills can be made so easie, safe and
universal at home (SC 234-35). In 1696 Locke did not recommend resorting to paper,
almost certainly because he felt using bills would not hinder us from being Poor; but may
be suspected to help make us so, by keeping us from feeling our Poverty (SC 235). At
the same time, and especially in light of Davenants meteoric rise to prominence in recent
scholarship, it is interesting to note that Locke considered some form of paper credit
within the realm of possibility.48
Even if Davenant did not take his cue from Locke (and it must be admitted that, at
least under the monetary circumstances that prevailed in 1696, Davenant was more


21
daring), we need to recognize that Davenant never entirely separated the ability of paper
credit to properly function from the presence and quality of specie-based coin.49 To
Davenants mind, credit is ancillary to gold and silver ready money: Money and Credit
must mutually help one another, money is the Foundation of Credit where there is none
there can be no Credit, and where Credit obtaines, money will Circulate the better
(Creditt 96). The precious metals constitute the real wealth on which credit must
subsist; thus Davenant draws an important distinction between coin and credit:
For suppose (as perhapps the Case will prove) that wee have in dipt
money four Millions; and four more in Artifician Treasure, such as in some
sence Wee may call Tallyes and Bank bills because there is not Species in
the nation to pay of the whole, tho each individuall can be answered w"1
money. In all probability will not mens fears of the publick, or y'
Necessityes of Trade make them desire to turne this fictitious Wealth into
that which is certaine and substantiall?
(Coyn 35-6)
Davenant is very much concerned with the capricious nature of credit, a measure of value
all too subject to fancy and whim. But here he makes abundantly clear the difference
between the fictitious Wealth supplied by credit, and the certaine and substantiall
wealth inherent in gold and silver.
Davenants experience with the Recoinage reappears in his True Picture of a
Modern Whig (1701). As the title indicates, Davenant had come to align himself with the
Old Whigs and moderate Tories, and in the pamphlet Tom Double, the diabolical
Modem Whig, represents the consummate money-jobber. In discussing this tract
Pocock rightly perceives the constitutional threat posed, in Davenants estimation, by
Modern Whiggery: By the end of the dialogue the confederates are discussing plans to


22
stop the exchequer and dose up parliament. For Pocock, the villains power is founded
upon public finance: Everything has become dependent upon public credit, but the public
debts have become a form of movable property. Those who own and manage it may own
and manage everything.50 Rather surprisingly, however, Davenant traces Doubles
wealth, and hence his power, not to the emerging credit markets, but to the deterioration
of the coin. In the early 1690s, Double recounts, he and his cronies recognized that tax
receivers could reap extravagant profits by clipping the coin in their possession before
submitting it to the Exchequer. When the money was recoining, Double explains to
Whiglove, I myself paid into the exchequer several thousand pounds, of which the 100/.
bags, one with another, weighed not above 9 pound, which ought to have weighed 33, by
which you may guess how much stuck in our paws.sl Double and his wife, as dexterous
a clipper as any in London, thus managed to amass a fortune of £50,000. This satiric
indictment of clipping is important on two points. First, it confirms Davenants persistent
identification of adulterated coin with political and social corruption. Second, and perhaps
more important, it adopts Lockes view that the Exchequer should only accept coin by
weight in order to prevent further monetary piracy by the likes of Tom Double (cf.
Guineas 364). Indeed, as we shall see in subsequent chapters, preventing such monetary
piracy was one of Lockes primary concerns in fashioning recoinage legislation.
Davenants last effort, New Dialogues upon the Present Posture of Affairs (also
omitted from his Works), was published during the financial crunch that saw the creation
of the South Sea Company, and in the pamphlet credit is yet again tied to coinage: The
Species in Silver and Gold . [are] the Foundations of Credit.52 After a lengthy analysis


23
of the amount of money recoined in 1695-99, Sir Richard Comover, the Tory protagonist
of the dialogue, looks back to the Recoinage and suggests that Exchequer Bills be made
legal tender to increase circulation. There is, Comover anticipates, a danger in such a
plan: if the Species itself by Corruption, should become of uncertain Value, it would
imbroil and interrupt all the Business of that Country.53 Corruption, in other words,
arises from diseased coin, what Davenant had in 1695 termed the dangerous Ulcer in
the Body Politick which is never to be throughly Cured by applying Remedies to the Part,
but by mending the whole Mass of Blood which is corrupted (Coyn 8). Even at this
late stage of his career, then, Davenant has not veered too far from his 1695 position: to
maintain its credit, England must safeguard its specie standard. He has also remained
surprisingly Lockean in his views.
Cultural History and the Legacy of Coinage
Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions, cultural history, like any institution,
participates in a subtle process of self-replication, and therefore little attempt has yet been
made to situate the language of the Recoinage, especially Lockes contributions to it, in a
broader cultural context. Hence Pococks undeniably brilliant work has yielded to a mode
of interpretation (in literary studies, at least) that all too easily becomes a quest to pinpoint
the origins of the (post)modern flux of personal identity. This hermeneutic comes to
fruition in the work of a critic like Sandra Sherman, who frames the pamphlet literature
surrounding the South Sea Bubble within the context of postmodern theories of textuality.
Almost predictably, Shermans method overlooks the monetary discourses which surfaced


24
even in debates over stockjobbing. In Shermans view, Like so much else that is British,
the discourse of early modern finance lacked a vocabulary that was purpose-built,
sufficient to describe the phenomena [of public finance] whose rapid, radical progress
outpaced linguistic convention.54 Undoubtedly the men and women of eighteenth-
century Britain had difficulty grasping the riddles and mysteries of the stock market (they
still perplex us today); people knew, however, when they had been bilked, and on such
occasions they quickly resorted to the established language of coinage. Thus the writer of
The Pangs of Credit (1722) could claim: [I]t is very plain that selling Stock above
Intrinsick is the same kind of cheat as passing bad Money.55 This language clearly
alludes to clipped or counterfeit coin, problems that peaked in 1695-96 and which the
Recoinage was meant to redress, points Sherman neglects even to mention. By itself, such
an oversight is relatively insignificant; it becomes of greater consequence, however, when
Shermanwith no comment indicating the phrases coinage contextcites passage after
passage from contemporary pamphlets that speak of intrinsick value.56 For Sherman,
the logic of these passages culminates in what she calls the ideology of contract,
exemplified in a pamphlet such as Sir D. Dalrymples Time Bargains Tryed by the Rules of
Equity and Principles of Civil Law (1720): the Buyer, by the Law of Nature, which
requires an Equality in all Contracts, is free from his Bargain in as far as the Price exceeds
the real Value of the thing bought.57 Unfortunately, we are not told that such language
derives from the natural law arguments of political philosophers like Grotius and Locke, a
presence that calls into question Shermans assertion that the discourse of debt
consistently employed a metaphysics of absence.


25
But Sherman is not alone To read much current criticism of the early eighteenth
century, one might easily conclude that at some point during the quarter-century between
the founding of the Bank of England (1694) and the South Sea Bubble (1720) the Royal
Mint shut down, the moneyers were put out of work, and paper credit abruptly prevailed
as the only means of economic transaction. At the very least, such an approach flies in the
face of monetary history: a specie standard was in place in England well into the twentieth
century, and to assume that the current floating standard will never collapse is to ignore
the very sort of historical contingency that ought to be a principal object of our study. In
fact, the transition to paper money occurred far more tentatively than is often portrayed.
Whereas for centuries the sentence for counterfeiting coin had been death (usually
preceded by particularly gruesome torture), it was not until 1773 that forging paper
currency was considered a capital offense.58 Still another sixty years would pass (1833)
before Bank of England notes were declared legal tender.59
More subtly, the absorption with credit conceals, ironically enough, a class-specific
hermeneutic. Throughout the period in question (1695-1750), government-backed paper
instruments were issued in denominations far exceeding the means of a majority of
Londoners. Although Bank of England notes were printed with blank spaces, as of an
Order of 1696 these were never to be filled out in amounts of less than £50, and the
earliest surviving Bank note was made out for the considerable sum of £555 Exchequer
Bills, another primary form of paper credit (beginning in 1707 they were underwritten by
the Bank), were similarly issued in surprisingly large denominations. It is true that in
1696-97, at the extremity of the hiatus of specie caused by the Great Recoinage,
I


26
Exchequer Bills were circulated in amounts as low as £5, and a few were actually issued
with blank spaces.61 But in 1707, when Exchequer Bills were next issued, they were
printed in denominations of £25, £50, and £100. Although in 1709 an additional
denomination of £12 10s. was introduced, after that year Bills were issued solely in
denominations of £100 or greater.62
These figures must be placed in the context of contemporary income before their
magnitude can be fully appreciated. Although estimates of eighteenth-century wages,
annual income, and standards of living are notoriously difficult to establish with certainty,
approximations are illuminating. In the early years of the century, a common laborer in
London (and it must be remembered that, like today, both wages and cost of living were
higher in a metropolitan area) earned £15-25 per year, just enough to stay out of the
poorhouse; a journeyman (carpenter, mason, etc.) brought in £30-40 per year, enough to
qualify for the fringes of the middling sort .63 Although these figures are rough
estimates, they coincide nicely with Johnsons intimation to Boswell that in 1737 a single
man could live in London on £30 a year without being contemptible.64 When we
consider annual incomes on the order of £35 (or much less), we begin to grasp just how
large an amount a £25 or £50 note truly signified. Even the early £5 Exchequer Bills
cannot be considered a small sum by late seventeenth-century standards, especially in an
economy experiencing massive deflation, as was the case when the Bills were issued in
1697. Clearly, only the extremely wealthy could have afforded to use paper Bills in these
amounts; coins, especially the smaller variety of shillings, groats, and halfpence, remained
the currency of the common people.


27
Compared to the wide-ranging social impact of the institutions of public finance
and the national debt, issues of coinage and Lockes monetary theories may seem rather
arcane. It ought to be recognized, however, that in a non-bartering economy, the principle
of exchangebe it commercial (a retail sale), financial (the sale of stock, for instance), or
otherwisedoes not take place outside a theory of money. Thus an understanding of the
way a culture conceives of and represents its money should be indispensable for any
discussion of social and economic value or exchange within that culture. Moreover, since
the standard medium of exchange throughout Europe was silver coin (or bullion), all other
vehicles were judged in relation to its enduring intrinsick value. This could be true even
of language itself: Swift, in his Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the
English Tongue (1712) would have our Language, after it is duly correct, always to last;
. . Because then the old Books will yet be always valuable according to their intrinsick
Worth, and not thrown aside on Account of unintelligible Words and Phrases, which
appear harsh and uncouth, only because they are out of Fashion (PJFTV:15, emphasis
added). The link between language and money was similarly signified by the verb to
utter, a word that bridged the ideas of expression, disclosure, and, significantly, the
power to issue currency.155
For these reasons, the perennial shortage of specie (the scarcity of coin,
pamphlet after pamphlet termed it) became linked with anxieties about the status of any
number of endangered cultural institutions (history, law, literature, aesthetics). It is no
coincidence, I would suggest, that in England a flowering of numismatic studies occurred
on the heels of the Recoinage, with the publication of works such as John Evelyns


28
Numismata: A Discourse of Medals (1697), Roger Gales translation of a French
numismatic handbook, The Knowledge of Medals; or Instructions for Those Who Apply
Themselves to the Study of Medals Both Ancient and Modern (1697), James Coninghams
A Critical Essay on the Modern Medals. With Some Reflections on the Taste and
Judgment of the Ancients (1704), Arbuthnots Tables (1705; 1727), Joseph Addisons
new translation of The Knowledge of Medals (1716), and Stephen Martin Leakes Nummi
Britannica Historia (1726, with subsequent editions in 1745 and 1763). In a similar vein,
William Fleetwood, Bishop of Ely, who in 1694 had delivered a sermon on the evils of
clipping coin,66 delineated the inflationary tendencies in 600 years of English prices in his
Chronicon Preciosum (1707).67 In this climate, gold and silver came to represent far more
than a measure of economic value: they became symbolic of liberty and virtue, on the one
hand, and, on the other, the declining status of culture itself. Thus when in The First
Epistle of the First Book of Horace Imitated (1738) Pope writes, Seek Virtue first! be
bold! / As Gold to Silver, Virtue is to Gold,68 his equation resonates with a profound
anxiety about the status of both coin and culture.
The Presence of Lockes Monetary Theories in the Eighteenth Century
Thus far I have argued that Lockes monetary writings played a larger role in
eighteenth-century England than has generally been acknowledged, but the only tangible
evidence I have offered to support the assertion has been the case of Swift. That Lockes
Tracts were still circulating after 171569 and could be found in the library of an Anglican
Dean in Dublin (as opposed to that of a merchant or banker in London) certainly suggests


29
the continuing importance and widespread influence of Lockes monetary ideas, but, as
interesting as the evidence of Swifts library~or even of a tract like Some Reflections
Concerning the Reduction of Gold Coin in Ireland may be, it does not conclusively
demonstrate that Lockes monetary tracts were widely known and read. Coinage, it might
be argued, may simply have been a pet issue for Swift. Moreover, even though historians
of economic thought have long noted the responses to Lockes monetary theories among
contemporary economic writers such as J. Jocelyn, Andrew Justice, and John Law, to cite
their knowledge of Lockes ideas as evidence of broad cultural influence finally begs the
question. For my argument to have any validity, it must be demonstrated that Lockes
Recoinage writings had considerable influence among eighteenth-century intellectuals
outside specifically mercantile circles. In order to better substantiate this claim, then, let
me now offer a brief survey of some of the major political periodicals that made mention
of Lockes monetary theories.
Joseph Addisons Freeholder 18 (20 February 1716) attacks the French
government of the young Louis XV for arbitrarily raising and lowering the value of coin in
order to expand tax revenues, with Locke and the Recoinage clearly in the background. I
will discuss the substance of Lockes monetary theories at length in the next chapter, but
suffice it now to say that Locke regarded any attempt by the crown to raise the value of
coin above its intrinsick value (the quantity of gold or silver in a given denomination) as
an arbitrary confiscation of property (in this case the gold or silver content of the coin).
For Lockeas for other natural law theorists such as Hugo Grotius and Samuel
Pufendorf-raising the value of coin over its intrinisck value violated natural law. Thus


30
Freeholder 18 satirically depicts the Kings inflationary measure as an attempt to defy
nature, in the form of mathematical and physical law:
This ... is a secret of Multiplication without Addition. It is natural enough
however for the Vanity of the French Nation to grow Insolent upon this
imaginary Wealth, not considering that their Neighbours think them no
more Rich by Virtue of an Edict to make Fourteen Twenty, than they
woud think em more Formidable should there be another Edict to make
every Man in the Kingdom Seven Foot high.
Significantly, James Leheny (editor of the modern critical edition of The Freeholder)
traces this language to one of Lockes Recoinage tracts, Further Considerations
Concerning Raising the Value of Money (1696): One may as rationally hope to lengthen
a foot by dividing it into Fifteen parts, instead of Twelve; and calling them inches; as to
increase the value of Silver that is in a Shilling, by dividing it into Fifteen parts instead of
Twelve, and calling them Pence.71 For Addison, French attempts to defy natural law are
directly related to their absolute monarchy, and his commentary becomes a paean to the
English political system: This Method of lowering or advancing Money, we, who have
the Happiness to be in another Form of Government, should look upon as an
unwarrantable Kind of Clipping and Coining.72
Four years later, in The Theatre 17 (27 February 1720), Sir Richard Steele
similarly draws on Lockes monetary writings to expose the corruption of the South Sea
Company Directors, whom he accuses of manipulating value in order to gain a monopoly
over the money supply. Writing under the pseudonym Sir John Edgar, Steele describes
credit as a Belief, that Money is as safe and more commodious in the Possession of
another, than in a Mans own Hands" Credit, however, cannot subsist without a


31
Store, or an imagind Store of gold and silver, which have exchange value because of
their intrinsick Worth.74 The South Sea Company is dangerous precisely because it
visibly increases Paper-Credit beyond its present Bounds, that is, beyond its ability to
refund payments in gold and silver.75 This inflationary tactic, in turn, threatens the stability
of the money supply. To support his point, Steele specifically cites Lockes Some
Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest, and Raising the Value of
Money (first published in 1692), claiming to speak according to the philosophers
Sentiments:
[W]hen the Value of Money is cheap, Bankers will, by the assistance of
Paper-Credit, draw it into their own Hands, and by draining the Country of
it, render it scarce. Their Power for this Purpose is clear, from an Instance
Mr. Lock, according to whose Sentiments I now speak, mentions of one
Banker .v having Credit, by Notes under a Servants Hand, for eleven
hundred thousand Pounds at once 76
The South Sea Directors, in Steeles view, were guilty of flooding the economy with
their own Coinage in Paper.77 They have insidiously set themselves up as a parallel Mint
with no means of constraint by the public. Thus, after hoarding all the gold and silver
money in the kingdom, they could hold the government hostage. Steeles argument
derives not from Machiavelli, who, far from offering a theory of money, does not find it
necessary to warn princes against debasement of their coinage; it does rely considerably on
Locke.
Nor were Addison and Steele the only popular polemicists to draw on Lockes
monetary writings. Two of Trenchard and Gordons Cato's Letters, 87 and 88 (28 July
and 4 August 1722), addressing the problem of bullion imports and exports, do so as well.


32
The first pamphlet, Gold and Silver in a Country to be considered only as Commodities,
echoes the language Locke uses to describe the etiology of gold and silver money in both
the Two Treatises and the Recoinage tracts: Indeed, by the universal Consent of
Mankind, Cato writes, Silver and Gold is become the Medium of all Commerce; and
every State, as well as private Man, is rich and powerful in Proportion, as he possesses or
can command more or less of this universal Commodity.78 Lockes Recoinage writings
also figure prominently in the second letter, The Reasonableness and Advantage of
allowing the Exportation of Gold and Silver, with the Impossibility of preventing the
same. Concerned about a disparity in the international exchange rate between the value of
bullion and the value of coin that favored the exportation of bullion (causing coin to be
melted into bullion for trade), Cato arguesas had Locke in the 1690sthat legislative
prohibitions against the exportation of coin were ultimately futile, since the balance of
trade could be rectified only through the concerted diligence and frugality of the nation.
For Cato, as for Locke once again, it was a question of both natural law (There is no
Way in Nature to hinder Money from being exported, but by hindering the Occasions of it;
that is, by hindering the Use and Consumption of those Things which it is sent out to
buy) and free exchange (Since then Money or Bullion must be exported, when Debts are
contracted Abroad, I think it is eligible to send out the first rather than the latter, or at
least to leave People at Liberty to export which they please).79 Once again, the argument
is underwritten not by classical republicanism, nor even by the doctrine of consent found
in the Two Treatises', it is rather the language of Lockes monetary treatises.


33
Let me offer one final example of the continuing influence of Lockes monetary
theories in eighteenth-century political thought, The Craftsman, the anti-Walpole journal
that ran under Bolingbrokes sponsorship from 1726 to 1736. Proponents of the civic
republican thesis have called attention to The Craftsman's, sustained assault on Walpole,
the national debt, and stock-jobbing ventures like the South Sea Company, a campaign
that demonized the institution of public credit for introducing corruption into the political
sphere. As often as the attack on corruption centers around public credit, though, it is
important to note that the language of monetary theory as Locke helped define it (phrases
such as intrinsic worth, real value, ideal value) enters the debate as well. Moreover,
coinage serves for a marker of the present ages debasement.
The Liberty of the Press, and the Act of Toleration, those two inestimable
Blessings, date their Commencement from this happy Period [i.e.,
Williams reign]. The retrieving of our Coin when sunk so low in its
Value, that the most sanguine Friends of the Government despaird of ever
remedying so fatal an Evil, will always be a standing Proof of his superior
Genius.80
Although we might find a Tory eulogy of Williamespecially one proclaiming an
Attachment to the present Royal Family, which, by his Care and unwearied Labours for
our Good, is now established on the Throne81~rather duplicitous, there is little reason to
doubt the praise for liberty of the press (a theme of The Craftsman dating back to the first
number), the Act of Toleration, or the Recoinage. One of the few things Whig and Tory
seem to have agreed upon was that the restoration of the coinage to its previous
standard-a measure, as we shall see in the next chapter, permanently associated with


34
Locke-reflected principles of liberty unique to England. This is Addisons point in
Freeholder 18.
Craftsman 71 (26 November 1727), a contribution from Bolingbroke himself,
more directly uses Locke to expose the corruption of the credit economy. In this letter Sir
Charles Freeport (one of Bolingbrokes pseudonyms) enlists Locke against the South Sea
Companys trading policies:
The Judicious Mr Lock observes that, When Trade is once lost, it will be
too late, by a mis-timd Care, easily to retrieve it again; for the Currents of
Trade, like those of Waters, make themselves Channels, out of which they
are afterwards as hard to be diverted, as Rivers that have worn themselves
deep within their Banks.82
The point to be made here is not just that Bolingbroke is quoting Locke, but that he cites
Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest, and Raising the
Value of Money. Craftsman 336 repeats this tactic, quoting verbatim several pages of
Lockes remarks in Some Considerations on the land tax, and 370 appeals to Locke yet
again.83 Many scholars would be surprised to discover that when The Craftsman makes
an overt (albeit rare) reference to Locke, it is more often to the economic writings than to
the Two Treatises. These recurrent allusions to Lockes Recoinage pamphletsoften in
the absence of similar references to the Two Treatisesbespeak the widespread influence
of tracts like Some Considerations on contemporary political discourse. At the very least,
they clearly demonstrate that Swift was not alone in owning and reading Lockes Tracts.
I by no means wish to disregard the importance of the emergence of the credit
economy; the diatribes against public finance in Catos Letters and The Craftsman are
evidence enough that profound changes (as they always are) were taking place. I do


35
believe, however, that credit-based interpretations of early eighteenth-century British
culture need to be supplemented. Coinage influenced and was subject to a variety of
discourses, sometimes parallel to but usually divergent from those concerning credit. Just
as Exchange Alley could serve as a vehicle for criticism of Walpole, so too could the
Tower Minta well-guarded symbol of royal authenticity and prerogative associated not
with credit, but with coin.84 Hence Lockes arguments about the dangers of debased
coinage afforded Craftsman 114 (7 September 1728) the language for an extended attack
upon the ministry:
[I]f a very dull Fellow, or, perhaps two very dull Fellows, should at any
Time be made Secretaries of State, it would be just the same Thing as if an
arbitrary Prince should coin leaden shillings and order them to pass
currently in his Dominions. . Such false, adulterated, or imaginary
Money as This, may do well enough for domestick Use under absolute
Governments, but, in free Countries, the People expect something of a
real, intrinsick Value. And tho it may be objected, that even we of this
Kingdom have had such Coin imposed upon us in former Reigns', yet our
Eyes are at present too much opend to take meer Dross for true Sterling',
it being fresh in every Bodys Memory how a late Brazen Project, of this
Nature, was rejected, in a neighbouring Kingdom, with universal
Indignation.85
This sort of language goes a long way toward explaining precisely why the Opposition
impugned Walpole as the minister of brass. It was not simply that he was an untitled
interloper in the halls of power, though this sort of snobbery certainly played a part in the
attacks. It was also that he was abusing his authority to place unqualified people (often to
purchase their support, as in the well known case of Thomas Gordon) in important
government positions. In the Lockean terms of the metaphor, Walpole was a tyrant
forcing the English people to accept substandard ministers, who would then be rejected in


36
freer markets elsewhere. An incident such as the Woods halfpence affairand we shall
see in Chapter 4 the crucial role Lockes monetary theories played in Swifts Drapier
campaignsplendidly illustrated the point.
In approaching Scriblerian satire from the standpoint of coinage, I adopt a very
different method from that employed by Colin Nicholson in Writing and the Rise of
Finance. Nicholsons mode of inquiry represents, at bottom, a desire to uncover origins,
specifically the origins of those structures of motive and systems of wealth-creation we
now denote as capitalist.86 A method focusing on coinage and its metaphors, having little
concern with economic origins, approaches the age very differently, and it therefore
reveals modes of discourse that have largely escaped notice. If history is approachedand
here I quote Herbert Butterfieldnot as a question of origins but as a question of
transitions, not as the subject ofcauses but as the subject ofmediations, then
historical change would seem less cataclysmic.87 Unfortunately, the quest for origins
latent in the discourse of credit ultimately denies the eighteenth century the very otherness
to which it is (ethically) entitled. If we desire to comprehend a culture separated from
ours by over two centuries, we need to balance our analyses of public credit with
interpretations of the monetary form more common to their everyday existencecoinage
and the standard it entailed.
Swifts black flag calls us to account.


37
Notes
1. The most thorough account of the affair can be found in Ehrenpreis, 111:839-43,
853-62.
2. Quoted in F. Elrington Ball, ed. The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, D.D., 6 vols.
(London: G. Bell and Sons, 1914), VI:47, 3.
3. Quoted in J. A. Downie, Jonathan Swift: Political Writer (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1984), 329. See also the headnotes to A Ballad and Ay and No: A Tale
from Dublin in Poems, 840-42.
4. In Hugh Boulter, Letters Written by His Excellency Hugh Boulter, D.D.,2 vols.
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1769-70), 11:243/1, The Latin phrase telum imbelle sine ictu
translates literally as harmless weapon without force; cf. Aeneid, 11.544.
5. On 2 February 1737/38, Swift wrote to the Earl of Orrery that we have not an ounce
of Silver nor any Gold but four Pound pieces [i.e. Portuguese gold coins], since the
Reduction of gold (Corr V:90). This is in stark contrast to Boulters perception of the
matter. Just nine days after Swifts communication to Orrery, Boulter, in a letter to the
Duke of Dorset expressing gratitude for his support of the measure, reported that The
effect of this alteration is already felt in having guineas, half-guineas, and pistoles very
common, instead of 4/. pieces: and silver is in much greater plenty than it was; and the
clamour that had been raised is very near over (Boulter, 11:247).
6. Downie, 333, emphasis added; Ehrenpreis, 111:853, emphasis added. In characterizing
Swifts position as economically unfeasible, both Downie and Ehrenpreis appear to be
following Oliver W. Fergusons assessment that Swifts objection to the measure was ill-
founded (Jonathan Swift and Ireland [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962], 184).
Ferguson finds Boulter both disinterested and correct in advocating the adjustment, but
he seems to base this judgment entirely on Boulters own correspondence (184 13),
edited, no less, by Philips, who probably still smarted from Swifts unwillingness to
advance his career in the 1710s (Ehrenpreis, 11:435-36). (Moreover, Pope had attacked
Philips by name in the then-recently published Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, no doubt adding
fuel to Philipss fire.) While there is certainly no reason we should take Swifts word on
the affair, it seems clear that no contemporary account can be deemed disinterested.
Joseph Johnstons Irish Currency in the Eighteenth Century (a misleading title, since half
the article dwells on seventeenth-century coinage, and the analysis stops at 1737) clearly
demonstrates that there were a number of competing ideas--put forth by Thomas Prior and
Bishop Berkeley, among others-about the best way to adjust the exchange (lowering gold
and raising silver, for instance), a fact which by itself suggests that Swift was hardly as
isolated in opposition as he has been portrayed. Johnston concludes that after the
alteration Sterling money of both metals must henceforth have circulated more easily in
Ireland, but he provides no evidence for the assertion (Hermathena 52 [1938]: 26), and


38
we are left with Swifts word against Boulters. In any case, a cloud of confusion and
misinformation surrounds the entire affair: while Ehrenpreis presents the adjustment as
inflationary, Swift states in The Rev. Dean Swift .s Reasons Against Lowering the Gold
and Silver Coin (PW XIII: 119-20) that he considered the new policy deflationary.
7. (Dublin, 1737). So far as I know, James Woolley is the only Swift critic to mention this
pamphlet; see Jonathan Swift and Thomas Sheridan, The Intelligencer, ed. Woolley
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 334.
8. Swift and Sheridan, 209. Basing its decision on Isaac Newtons calculations at the
Mint, the English government had lowered the official rate at which a guinea circulated in
England (but not in Ireland) in 1717. Thus it is of interest that a pamphlet entitled/! Short
Essay on Coin (Dublin, 1737)which reprints three of Newtons Mint Reports, including
the Report of 1717also appeared anonymously in 1737.
9. Swift and Sheridan, 209. It is significant that Swift does not demand absolute equality
between the two exchange rates, a point which he may have suspected the English
government, for political purposes, would have been unwilling to accept. By suggesting a
difference of a farthing (a quarter of a penny), however, Swift does attempt to bring the
value of the guinea within the range of the specie points, a move which would keep Irish
silver at home. On specie points and the commercial price of silver, see Chapter 2,
below.
10. Swift, however, might not have thought this accusation to be true. It may be that his
primary interest in the matter was to gain an Irish mint, a recurrent topic in his writings
throughout the 1720s and 1730s, one, as I argue in Chapter 4, derived in part from Locke.
The author of Some Reflections clearly has the issue of an Irish mint in mind as well: by
this Means [lowering the gold] we shall enjoy all the Benefits of the English Mint without
sharing the Tax which supports it (11).
11. Some Reflections, 5-9. Significantly, the writer assumes that Lockes view on the
primacy of silver is so well known that it isnt necessary to mention his name after the title
page. To knowledgeable contemporaries, parallels between the anonymous authors
language and Lockes (e g., Money ... is the Thing bargained for, as well as the Measure
of the Bargain [7; cf. FC 412]) would have been unmistakable. For Lockes arguments
about the proper relation between gold and silver, see esp. SC 324-26.
12. E g., Ricardo Quintana, Two Augustans: John Locke, Jonathan Swift (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1978); F. P. Lock, Swifts Tory Politics (Newark:
University of Delaware Press, 1983); Downie; Christopher Fox, Locke and the
Scriblerians (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988); Nicholas Hudson,
Gulliver's Travels and Lockes Radical Nominalism, in Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries
in the Early Modem Era, 1650-1850, ed. Kevin Cope (New York: AMS, 1994), 247-66;
Ian Higgins, Swift's Politics: A Study in Disaffection (Cambridge: Cambridge University


39
Press, 1994).
13.1 have recorded here the title as it appears in the sale catalogue facsimile published in
DSL, item 300. Lockes book was actually titled Several Papers Relating to Money,
Interest, and Trade, &c. Writ upon several Occasions, and Published at different Times
and first appeared in mid-July of 1696; a second edition was published later that year. See
the Checklist of Printings in Kelly, 159-62. I will have more to say about the content of
Several Papers in the next chapter.
14. J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the
Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); Virtue,
Commerce, and History: Essays on Political Thought and History, Chiefly in the
Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); and The Political
Limits to Premodern Economics in John Dunn, ed. The Economic Limits to Modern
Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 121-41. See also Caroline
Robbins, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman: Studies in the Transmission,
Development and Circumstances of English Liberal Thought from the Restoration of
Charles II until the War with the Thirteen Colonies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1959).
15. Pocock, Machiavellian Moment, 424.
16. Jack Fruchtman, Jr. offers a concise, recent summary of the Locke-Machiavelli debate
in his review essay, Classical Republicanism, Whig Political Science, Tory History: The
State of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought (Eighteenth-Century Life 20 [1996]: 94-
103). For obvious reasons, I will not go into depth about the status of the debate as it
pertains to American political thought, but for a recent synopsis of that discussion, see
Jerome Huyler, Locke in America: The Moral Philosophy of the Founding Era
(Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995), 1-28.
17. In John Arbuthnot: Mathematician and Satirist (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1935), Lester M. Beattie notes that Arbuthnots Tables, though flawed in parts,
were commonly used in eighteenth-century school books and were even cited in
Lemprire's Classical Dictionary (349), but Beattie does not report Humes reference.
Robert C. Steensmas more recent Dr. John Arbuthnot (Boston: Twayne, 1979) likewise
omits mention of Humes essay.
18. David Hume, Essay on the Balance of Trade, in Political Essays, ed. Knud
Haakonssen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 147-48 and n.
19. Hume, 137-38; 148. Hume initially takes Swift to task for providing faulty import-
export data, but Haakonssens note shows that Hume considerably twisted the Deans
figures (301 4; for the parallel passages in Swift see PWXH.9, 11, 12). Humes second
allusion to Swift is amusing enough to bear quoting here: We ought, however, always to


40
remember the maxim of Dr. Swift, That, in the arithmetic of the customs, two and two
make not four, but often make only one (148; cf. PWX11:21). Adam Smith would later
quote the same passage in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of
Nations (ed. R. H. Campbell, A. K. Skinner, and W. B. Todd, 2 vols. The Glasgow
Edition of the Works of Adam Smith [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976], 882).
20. Karen Iversen Vaughn, John Locke: Economist and Social Scientist (Chicago and
London: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Neal Wood, John Locke and Agrarian
Capitalism (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984). As Vaughn
notes in her Preface, very little is actually known about the influence Lockes economic
writings had on these eighteenth-century economists, or if his work was read at all by
many others (xi). It is my hope the present dissertation will help clarify the latter point.
21. A notable exception is James Thompsons recent Models of Value: Eighteenth-
Century Political Economy and the Novel (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996).
Thompson contends that the shift from Lockes notion of intrinsic value to the more
modem concept of extrinsically valued currency informs the development of the novel in
England from Defoe to Austen. Thompson is to be applauded for initiating discussion of
the broad cultural influence of Lockes monetary theories, but, as I argue in the next
chapter, his reading of Locke is flawed in certain fundamental ways.
22. See, for instance, Brian Vickers, Studies in the Theory of Money, 1690-1776
(Philadelphia: Chilton, 1959); J. Keith Horsefield, British Monetary Experiments, 1650-
1710 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960); William Letwin, The Origins of
Scientific Economics: English Economic Thought, 1660-1776 (London: Methuen, 1963);
Joyce Oldham Appleby, Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century
England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978); and Terence Hutchison, Before
Adam Smith (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988).
23. One of the few treatments of Lockes involvement with the Recoinage is Peter
Lasletts John Locke, the Great Recoinage, and the Origins of the Board of Trade: 1695-
1698, in John Locke: Problems and Perspectives, ed. John W. Yolton (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1969), 137-65 (though it must be said that the bulk of the
essay examines issues surrounding Lockes dealings as a member the Board of Trade). A
more recent exception is Huyler, who does briefly incorporate Lockes monetary ideas
into the body of his political thought (164-71).
24. Vere Chappell, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Locke (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1994), 21.
25. Appleby, 221.
26. P G M. Dickson, The Financial Revolution in England: A Study in the Development
of Public Credit, 1688-1756 (New York: St. Martins Press, 1967), 349.


41
27. For an excellent study built upon Dicksons work, see John Brewer, The Sinews of
Power: War, Money, and the English State, 1688-1783 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1990).
28. The extent of Pococks reliance upon these tracts is suggested by a note in The
Machiavellian Moment, 447-48, 57.
29. For particular examples of Swifts vitriolic treatment of Godolphin and Marlborough,
see The Virtues of Sid Hamet the Magicians Rod (1710) and A Satirical Elegy on the
Death of a Late Famous General (1722) in Poems, 131-35; 295-97.
30. The best example of the relationship between monetary theory and finance is probably
that of David Ricardo and the Bullion Report of 1810, but for a study of this relationship
in England in the early modem period, see Horsefield. For a broad overview of the role of
money in Europe and the way it touched upon financial matters, see Pierre Vilar, A
History of Gold and Money, 1450-1920, trans. Judith White (1976; rpt. London: Verso,
1991), passim.
31. Pocock, Authority and Property: The Question of Liberal Origins, in Virtue, 67.
32. Pocock, Virtue, 110. Pocock earlier states, when the great debate [over the Financial
Revolution] began it is hard to detect Lockes presence in it (108).
33. Both Isaac Kramnick, in Bolingbroke and His Circle: The Politics of Nostalgia in the
Age of Walpole (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1968), 42; and Pocock, in
Machiavellian, 451, cite this fact as evidence of Lockes support for the credit economy.
34. Horsefield, 129. The Dialogue apparently remained unfinished; see item 532 in
Horsefields extensive bibliography.
35. In Bolingbroke and His Circle Kramnick aligned himself with the neo-Machiavellians,
thereby discounting Lockes importance in the eighteenth century. His more recent work,
however, has taken the position that, at least after 1760, Lockes influence was
considerable. See Chapters 1 and 6 of Republicanism and Bourgeois Radicalism:
Political Ideology in Late Eighteenth-Century England and America (Ithaca and London:
Cornell University Press, 1990).
36. Pocock, Virtue, 108.
37. Cf Trumbull: by the makeing clipd money go for its weight only the greatest part
of the losse falling [i.e., will fall] upon the Changers of Money who have got great estates
by that Trade (370). The word estate is directly linked, of course, to Lockes theory of
property (7T, II, §§87, 123).
38.Pocock, Machiavellian, 464.


42
39. Istvan Hont, Free Trade and the Economic Limits to National Politics: Neo-
Machiavellian Political Economy Reconsidered in John Dunn, ed. The Economic Limits
to Modem Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 57-8. This verdict
may be somewhat overzealous; despite Honts claim for Davenants importance, his
impact cannot realistically be compared to Lockes. Take, for instance, the anonymous
pamphlet Some Thoughts on the Interest of Money in General, and Particularly in the
Publick Funds, which went through three editions in the eighteenth century (1728?, 1738,
1750): it cites Locke 22 times, but Davenant only four. Although tallying up citations is a
practice usually to be avoided, in this instance, I think, the disparity is telling. Moreover,
although Hont has attempted to find in Davenants writings a systematic and path
breaking economic theory, such a treatment ignores both Davenants own frequent
changes of opinion (see, for instance, Horsefields note to Appendix 2, Table E [256]) and
the generally mercantilist tenor of his work. While there is little doubt that Davenant
sometimes used Machiavellian language in his approach to economic issues, much of
what he wrote was specifically occasional in nature and did not spring from a coherent
theory.
40. See, for instance, Colin Nicholson, Writing and the Rise of Finance: Capital Satires
of the Early Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 5, 48,
97, 185; Sandra Sherman, Finance andFictionality in the Early Eighteenth Century:
Accounting for Defoe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 26-7; Richard
Brantlinger, Fictions of State: Culture and Credit in Britain, 1694-1994 (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1996), 54.
41. Aside from the DNB entry, the primary study of Davenants life appears to be D.
Waddell, Charles Davenant (1656-1714)~A Biographical Sketch Economic History
Review 2nd ser., 11.2 (1958): 279-88.
42. The two Memorials circulated in manuscript only but were published in Two
Manuscripts by Charles Davenant, ed. A. P. Usher (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1942). Hereafter cited in text as Coyn and Creditt . Although published in
1710, New Dialogues was apparently rare enough by 1771 that Whitworth could not
obtain a copy. For a full description of Davenants publishing career, see D. Waddell,
The Writings of Charles Davenant The Library, 5th ser., 11 (1956): 206-212.
43. On Defoes depiction of Credit, see Paula Backscheider, Defoes Lady Credit
Huntington Library Quarterly 44.2 (1981): 89-100; Sherman, 40-54; and her Lady
Credit No Lady; or, The Case of Defoes Coy Mistress, Truly Statd Texas Studies in
Literature and Language 31.2 (1995): 185-214.
44. Charles Davenant, The Political and Commercial Works of that celebrated Writer,
Charles Davenant, ed. Charles Whitworth, 5 vols. (1771; rpt. Westmead: Gregg
International, 1967), 1:151. Pocock records this passage in Machiavellian, 439-40.


43
45. Pocock, Machiavellian, 440, 46.
46. Or at least a portion of Lockes advice; see Chapter 2, below.
47. Pocock, Machiavellian, 437.
48. Vickers finds Locke inconsistent on the point: Locke had thus, however, opened a
chink in his arguments, or more particularly, we may say, a chink in the very premises on
which his arguments rested (73).
49. Cf. James Hodges: There are others who are of Opinion, that all the present
Difficulties may be helped by some special ways of advancing Credit, which they project
without minding the necessary thing, Money, but this Notion must run in a Circle, and so
never come to an end, seeing there is an equal need of Money for obtaining Credit, as
there is of Credit for obtaining Money (The Present State of England as to Coin and
Publick Charges [London: Andr. Bell, 1697], 7).
50. Pocock, Machiavellian, 439.
51. Davenant, Works, IV:148-9.
52. Davenant, New Dialogues upon the Present Posture of Affairs (London: John
Morphew, 1710), 70.
53.Davenant, New Dialogues, 132.
54. Sandra Sherman, Credit, Simulation, and the Ideology of Contract in the Early
Eighteenth Century Eighteenth-Century Life 19 (1995): 86. Why this failure should be
seen as particularly British defies comprehension.
55. Quoted in Sherman, 92.
56. Sherman, 88, 90, 91, 92, 93. For the parallel passages in Shermans subsequent book,
see Finance, 29-34. I should note here that the South Sea Bubble spawned a number of
pamphlets and broadsheets seeking, in one fashion or another, to reclaim the intrinsick
value of the fallen stock. See, for instance, An Estimate of the Intrinsick Value of South
Sea Stock (London, 1720) and Ways and Means to Make South-Sea Stock More
Intriniscally Worth than Ready Money (London: T. Bickerton, 1720).
57. Quoted in Sherman, 92.
58. Vilar, 281.
59. Maria Cristina Marcuzzo and Annalisa Rosselli, Ricardo and the Gold Standard: The
Foundations of the International Monetary Order, trans. Joan Hall (New York:
MacMillan, 1991), 31.


44
60. A. D. Mackenzie, The Bank of England Note: A History of Its Printing (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1953), 10-11 (and frontispiece). Bank officials had originally
intended to print notes in denominations of £5, £10, £20, £50, and £100, but these
appeared susceptible to counterfeiting and so were withheld (5).
61. Dickson, 372. Dickson reproduces a photograph of one of the blank Exchequer
Bills made out in the amount of £5 (opp. 395). However, it seems highly unlikely that
many of these bills were made out for less than £5; most of these were probably made out
for significantly more. Cf. Sir John Clapham, who reproduces one made out for £50 (The
Bank of England: A History [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966], opp. 38).
62. Dickson, 376, 384.
63.1 am following the estimates in Elizabeth W. Gilboy, Wages in Eighteenth Century
England (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1934), 7-11. Although published
over 60 years ago and nearly forgotten since, Gilboys statistics remain the best available
(Donald McCloskey, 1780-1860: A Survey in Roderick Floud and McCloskey, eds. The
Economic History of Britain since 1700, 2nd ed., 3 vols. [Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1994], 1:252). I have extrapolated the laborers daily wage of Is. 8d.
and the journeymans daily wage of around 3s. into a rough annual salary by assuming a
generous 250-day work year (a six-day work week interrupted by holidays, bad weather,
and illness). I should note, however, Gilboys caveat that transposing daily rates into
weekly or yearly figures.... involves a great deal of approximation and the original
figures are subject to sufficient error without adding more (21). Because I am not
attempting a precise statistical analysis or computation of the standard of living, but rather
a ballpark figure of an annual income, the extrapolation seems justified (and rather liberal).
64. James Boswell, Boswells Life of Johnson, ed. George Birkbeck Hill and L. F. Powell,
6 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934), 1:105.
65. Johnsons Dictionary (1755), s.v. Utter, sense 4: To disperse; to emit at large, for
which SwiftsDrapier'sLetters is cited: To preserve us from ruin, the whole kingdom
should continue in a firm resolution never to receive or utter this fatal coin. Daniel Eilon
has argued that Locke exerted considerable influence on Swifts theory of language, but
he does not mention the Recoinage treatises as a possible source. See Factions Fictions:
Ideological Closure in Swifts Satire (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991), 67-
73.
66. William Fleetwood, A Sermon against Clipping (London: Tho. Hodgkin, 1694).
67. (London: C. Harper, 1707). Swift owned copies of both Chronicon Preciosum and,
not surprisingly, Arbuthnots Tables, see DSL, items 417 and 397.
68. Alexander Pope, The First Epistle of the First Book of Horace Imitated, in Imitations
of Horace, ed. John Butt, vol. VI of The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander


45
Pope, 2nd ed. corrected (London: Methuen, 1961), 11. 77-8.
69. Since a copy of Lockes Tracis does not appear in the autograph inventory Swift took
of his library in the summer of 1715 (William LeFanu, ed., A Catalogue of Books
belonging to Dr Jonathan Swift [Cambridge: Cambridge Bibliographic Society, 1988]),
the book almost certainly entered his collection sometime later.
70. Joseph Addison, The Freeholder, ed. James Leheny (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979),
115.
71. FC 417; Cf. Addison, 115 n4.
72. Addison, 116. Again, Lehenys note (7) to this passage highlights the comparison
between the way the Whigs successfully overcame the coinage crisis of 1695 and the way
Louis XV manipulated French currency.
73. Richard Steele, The Theater 1720, ed. John Loftis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962),
75.
74. Steele, 76, 75. Steele also mentions jewels as having an intrinsick Price (76).
75. Steele, 76.
76. Steele, 78. For the parallel passage see SC 216.
77. Steele, 76. Elsewhere in The Theater Steele uses the phrase paper coiners.
78. John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Cato's Letters, 4 vols. in 2 (1733; rpt. New
York: Russell & Russell, 1969), 111:178.
79. Trenchard and Gordon, 111:186-7, 188.
80. Caleb DAnvers [Nicholas Amhurst], The Craftsman 14 vols. (London: R. Francklin,
1731-7), V: 168.
81. DAnvers, V:166.
82. DAnvers, 11:200. Cf. also Lord Bolingbroke, Contributions to The Craftsman" ed.
Simon Varey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 37.
83. DAnvers, X:52-62; XI: 113.
84. Significantly, the Mint had been housed in the Tower of London since the 13th
century.
85.DAnvers, III:[233],


46
86. Nicholson, xi. As Nicholson points out, his book begins with John Pococks study of
political thought, and thereafter touches base with it from time to time (xiii).
87. Herbert Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History (1931; rpt. London: G. Bell
and Sons, 1963), 61.


CHAPTER 2
LOCKE, THE GREAT RECOINAGE,
AND INTRINSIC VALUE
But tis no wonder if the price and value of
things be confounded and uncertain when the
Measure it self is lost.
--John Locke
Further Considerations concerning
Raising the Value of Money (1695)
Act I of John Gays Newgate pastoral The Beggars Opera (1728) begins with
Peachum sitting at a table, a large Book of Accounts open before him.1 A few scenes
later he reads from one of these Registers:
Crook-fingerd Jack. A Year and a half in the Service; Let me see how
much the Stock owes to his Industry; one, two, three, four, five Gold
Watches, and seven Silver ones. A mighty clean-handed Fellow! Sixteen
Snuff-boxes, five of them of true Gold. Six dozen of Handkerchiefs, four
silver-hiked Swords, half a dozen of Shirts, three Tye-perriwigs, and a
Piece of Broad Cloth.2
As the play unfolds, ledger books and calls on debts become recurrent themes, for
Peachum, Lockit, Macheath, and crew are all socially uncertified but thoroughly
professional accountants: they barter love and lives as coolly as they fence stolen cloth or
jewelry.3 Gay almost certainly intended such underworld bookkeeping as an attack on
government corruption, and those in attendance on opening night evidently recognized the
satire. Particularly conspicuous-or so it seemed to contemporary spectators-was Act II,
47


48
Scene 10, in which Peachum and Lockit (allegedly Walpole and Townsend) nearly come
to blows while inspecting accounts. According to tradition, after the song in this scene the
audience turned to face the box of first minister Walpole and mockingly demanded an
encore. As Swift later wrote to Gay: [W]e hear a million of Storys about the opera, of
the ancore at the Song, That was levelled at me, when 2 great Ministers were in a Box
together, and all the world staring at them (Corr III:276).4 David Nokes has cast
legitimate doubt on the traditional interpretation that the scene satirized a recent conflict
between Walpole and Townsend,5 but Swifts letter clearly indicates that he and many
others perceived a direct attack on Walpole. More particularly, the audiences response to
the scene suggests that the act of settling accounts had satiric force and was, moreover,
easily interpretable-Walpole bought and sold placemen after the fashion of criminals.
Four years later, in the fable The Ant in Office (probably written in 1732, but
published posthumously in 1738), Gay would again use the analogy of accounting to
attack the corruption of the great man. In the allegory of the anthill, an ambitious ant
with a forward prate rises through the ranks until his drift attain: / Hes made chief
treasrer of the grain.6 Each year the anthills auditors attempt to curb public rapine
through inspections of state records, and require that The granry-keeper.. explain /
And balance his account of grain.7 When questioned about the colonys mysteriously
empty coffers, however, the ant in office, with wonted arrogance and pride, claims that
all thexpence / (Though vast) was for the swarms defence.8 Perennially offering the
same excuse, the grain-hoarding ant surreptitiously plunders the public funds, until a lone


49
auditor-ant finally convinces the colony to examine accounts more closely. The tale
abruptly concludes when the audit exposes the cheat:
They vote thaccounts shall be inspected;
The cunning plundrer is detected:
The fraud is sentencd, and his hoard,
As due, to public use restord.9
Like much of Gays satire, what initially appears a rather transparent method of
attacking a corrupt minister for lining his pockets at taxpayer expense is in fact
considerably more ironic and complex than first glance might indicate. In both The
Beggars Opera and The Ant in Office, Gay, as author, acts in a double Capacity,10
mirroring the work of the accountant by demonstrating satires potential for public
disclosure. Thus, in an irony brought to bear on both Peachum and the ant, false and
unscrupulous bookkeeping is ultimately laid open by the economy, financial or moral, of
the satirist. Put another way, the satirist acts as an external auditor come to right (write)
the books.
We have grown accustomed to thinking of eighteenth-century satire as a genre
seeking to measure and apportion. The most obvious instances of this mode are Gullivers
voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag, but perhaps Sterne captures the principle most
succinctly in Tristram Shandy. A dwarf who brings a standard along with him to measure
his own size-take my word, is a dwarf in more articles than one.11 Although these
examples denote physical measurement, Gays play and fable suggest an alternate, though
related, function-satire as a taking of account. This formulation conceives of satire not
only as a measuring device, but also as an evaluative device, a mode of assaying. The


50
parallel between the work of the accountant and that of the satirist seems especially
appropriate when applied to members of the Scriblerus Club. One need only consider
Swifts extensive account books, filled as they are with the minutiae of daily expenses, to
realize that he was deeply invested, in the full sense of the word, in accounting.12
Principles of accounting, though, are more broadly reflective of Scriblerian satire. When
we characterize the Scriblerians as attempting to identify and define a balance, as
twentieth-century literary critics so often do, we do not depart from the language of
accounting.
As with any evaluative operation, accounting relies upon a set of theoretical
presuppositions which guide and in part determine its outcomes. Conceptions of property,
of profit and loss, of appreciation and depreciation are everywhere implied in the dualistic
and highly taxonomic method of double-entry bookkeeping.13 Moreover, accounting is, in
a very real sense, a narrative process seeking to tell (a word with banking connotations of
its own) the story of an individuals or a firms acquisition or loss of money or goods.
Although in the early-modern period such theoretical aspects more often than not went
unstated, the dualistic notion of balanced books came to hold sway over economic
thinking as did no other single concept. Combined with a growing consciousness of the
corporate character of the nation-state, the advent of double-entry bookkeeping gave rise
to the idea of something like a national account book.14 Edward Misseldens Circle of
Commerce (1618) offered the first English usage of the phrase balance of trade, and the
principle soon took hold in other early seventeenth-century economic treatises. The
concept had important repercussions: Unquestionably, the idea of a balance taken from


51
the ledger had a powerful influence on economic writers who developed from it a theory
of national equilibrium, with the rider that any disequilibrium had to be remedied by
payments in cash.15 It is this last, all-important rider which most concerns us here, for
it involves one of the basic (but often unspoken) premises of accountingthe aspect of
measurement.
Any account must ultimately be expressed in a monetary unit that measures debit
and credit. In a closed system this unit can be arbitrary, but when separate systems are
involved in the equation, some sort of common measurement must be agreed upon. When
seventeenth-century economists, known today as mercantilists, sought to restore
equilibrium to the national balance of trade, they therefore had to clarify the terms of
exchange by which payments in cashand throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, cash denoted silver and gold coinwould be made. There would seem to be
little ground for dispute in such an arrangement: any debts among traders would ultimately
be settled (even through the mediating device of a bill of exchange) by specie payments.
Difficulties arose, however, when traders had to deal with the valuations of different
currencies. In the late twentieth century, few of us encounter foreign money in our daily
affairs, but in early-modern Europe, with silver and gold serving as a universal basis of
exchange value, such transactions were common. As world trade burgeoned, international
monetary exchange increasingly became a fact of life, and even in relatively isolated
England foreign coins circulated with some frequency. This is why we find Roxana,
throughout Defoes The Fortunate Mistress (1724), itemizing sums of Dutch rixdollars,
French livres, and Spanish pistoles, without having to explain rates of exchange to the


52
reader. In Ireland, denied a mint of its own, the issue of currency exchange was of acute
importance; as we have already seen, an adjustment of three pence in the exchange rate
could not only have a major impact on the Irish economy, but also provoke the
considerable ire of Dean Swift.
Establishing an exchange rate was a complicated procedure, however, because it
entailed a question of profound significance: Was monetary value predicated on a coins
specie content or on what a particular government said its coin was worth? Or as
contemporaries phrased the question: Did money have an intrinsick value based on its
bullion weight or an extrinsick value based on the so-called money of account, the
official value which a nations mint placed on it? At stake in the answer were issues of
both political and philosophical consequence. On the one hand, the problem of monetary
value broached issues of government intrusion in the economic sphere and the limits of
royal power. Could a monarch arbitrarily declare paper, for instance, full legal tender?
And who outside his or her dominion might accept it? On the other hand, as James
Thompson has noted, the issue pitted a realist conception of value against a nominalist
conception.16 Was value grounded in the concrete substance of the coin or in its abstract
denomination? Encounters with non-European cultures that accepted beads or shells in
exchange for land or gold~a problem which particularly exercised Locke in the Second
Treatise (see, for example, 7TII, §§ 49, 184)-only confounded the issue. To what extent
might value be a matter of social faith and consent?
For a variety of reasons, including imperfections in the minting process, economic
conditions intensified by the Nine Years War, and Parliamentary procrastination, these


53
questions came to a head in England during the Recoinage debate of 1695-96.
Precipitated by a crisis in monetary representationthe coin in circulation contained only
half the denominated amount of silver, yet it had been passing at nominal valuethe
argument turned on whether the coin should be reminted at its full weight or recoined at
the same face value but with less silver, that is, to suffer devaluation. What was ostensibly
a matter of policy rapidly escalated into a philosophical dispute about the nature of money.
Indeed, never before had the theory of money been as vigorously and publicly debated as
it was in these two years. In the 1620s, to be sure, Misselden, Gerard de Malynes, and
Thomas Mun had addressed currency issues in their writings on trade, but, as Terence
Hutchison concludes, The boom of the 1690s was on a much larger scale, and included
a comparatively new, explicit methodological and theoretical dimension. The 1690s might
well be regarded as the first major concentrated burst of development in the history of
[monetary policy].17 The scope of the debate was unprecedented, ranging from
internationally known intellectuals and prominent government officials to a host of
pamphleteers whose names have been lost to history. In addition to Locke, Davenant, and
Secretary of the Treasury William Lowndes, the government solicited advice from a group
that included Christopher Wren and Isaac Newton (who would serve first as Warden and
then as Master of the Mint from 1697 until his death in 1727).18 Meanwhile scores of
pamphlets, many of them anonymous, issued forth from the public.19 These tracts included
ambitious schemes (projects) for banks, accusatory pieces blaming Jacobites (and other
despised groups) for Englands economic woes, some relatively practical remedies for the
coinage, and a few serious economic analyses of the situation. Among the most


54
memorable combatants in this pamphlet war were Nicholas Barbn, Sir Richard Temple,
and William Wood, Swifts antagonist in The Drapiers Letters.
The conflict between intrinsic and extrinsic value at the center of the Recoinage
controversy almost certainly indicates that the discourses defining the nature of money
were becoming points of contention. Although it is tempting to locate the origins of
capitalism (or at least the capitalization of money) in the issue, such assertions must be
made with extreme caution.20 As W. R. Scott long ago showed, joint-stock companies
came into existence in England in the 1550s, and capital was used in its financial sense
soon thereafter.21 Nevertheless, the fact that the nature of valuation was being so hotly
debated in the economic domain suggests that many of the cultural and political values and
institutions monetary tropes had helped represent became sites of conflict as well. If, as
Pope declared in The First Epistle of the First Book of Horace Imitated, As Gold to
Silver, Virtue is to Gold,22 what gave silver and goldlet alone virtuetheir value?
It is quite significant, then, that victory in the Recoinage debate went to Locke and
intrinsic value, establishing in the process a monetary standard which would remain
virtually unchallenged throughout the eighteenth century. For the Scriblerians, satirists
interested in balance and measurement, the triumph of intrinsic value meant the
preservation of a standard by which the adulterated, counterfeit, and debased could
be judged. Indeed, satire trades on just such a shared measure of value: in its essence, the
genre is predicated upon the hope that readers, however few, will understand that a
communal standard-moral, political, aesthetic-has collapsed and must be restored.23 The
concept of intrinsic value as Locke presented it, however, extends beyond the mere


55
preservation of standards. At bottom, intrinsic value relies on an appeal to natural law
and hence to a theistic (almost always Christian) universe governed by certain immutable
laws discernible to human reason. In this ordered universe, moreover, liberty and property
are birthrights (at least to a privileged few), and virtue is not only desirable but eternally
rewarded. Liberty and virtue are, of course, Scriblerian key words, and often
commented upon, but their place within the larger framework of Lockes conception of
intrinsic value has not yet been explored. However, in order to comprehend exactly what
was being debated and why Locke and intrinsic value prevailed, we need to investigate
first the historical circumstances that made the Recoinage necessary, and second, the
substance of Lockes monetary thought.
The Minting Process and the Deterioration of the Coinage
The Great Recoinage of 1696-99 was not the first recoinage to occur in England,
nor would it be the last. Records of recoinages survive from the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries, when they occurred as often as every seventeen years, and, though less frequent
thereafter, they continued to be needed even into the early nineteenth century. In 1817,
for instance, we find Jane Austen writing to her niece Fanny Knight: You are worth your
weight in Gold, or even in the new Silver Coinage.24 The advent in the twentieth century
of token currencies and an integrated banking system has obviated the need for
recoinages, but in the early-modern era the use of precious metals and the absence of a
national bank made them an inevitable, if sporadic, aspect of life. Coining money was an
expensive and time-consuming process, and since there was no centralized mechanism to


56
withdraw and replace worn currency, a coin would circulate for decades until the image
and superscription on its surface were barely legible. To rectify the currency,
governments would periodically declare all worn, light money unacceptable and allow
only newly-minted, heavy coin to pass. This policy forced quantities of old coin to be
brought to the Mint and recoined until all the money was restored to a standard (which
was not, as we shall see, unalterable) weight and purity. A recoinage usually took years to
complete, and, once all the coin had been reminted, the decades-long process of monetary
deterioration would begin again, lasting until another recoinage was decreed. This
sequence of decline and restoration was one of many cycles (along with liturgical and
agricultural cycles, for instance) fundamental to the early-modern world that twentieth-
century eyes often have difficulty seeing, and it had its roots, ironically enough, in the
minting techniques themselves.
Throughout most of the seventeenth century, methods of manufacturing coin from
precious metals varied little from those that had existed in ancient times.25 First, silver
brought to the mint for coining (since silver was more common than gold, it was the
standard metal) had to be assayed, a trial by fire in which it was melted with lead and bone
ash in containers called cupels. While the cupels were in the furnace, the molten lead
absorbed and carried off any base metals, leaving pure silver. This was in effect a refining
process; as Newton wrote during his tenure at the Mint, Assaying and refining are
operations of one kind.26 Silver that had passed the assaymasters test was then melted in
crucibles of iron (because gold reacted with iron, it was melted in earthenware pots),
alloyed with a specified proportion of base metal, and cast into rods roughly the diameter


57
of the intended coin. These bars were then sent to a group of workers who used bulky
shears to cut each bar into blanks generally of slightly greater weight than intended for the
coin. Overweight blanks were preferable because they could easily be filed down to the
proper standard; underweight blanks had to have small fragments of silver beaten into
them with hammer and anvil to adjust their weight to within specific tolerances allowed
the mint by the crown. These tolerances were directly proportional to the overall value of
the coin; a gold coin, therefore, was allowed only a one- or two-grain variation (called the
remedy) from the official standard, while a copper coin was given greater leniency.
Anything more exact was simply impracticable, especially in the case of smaller
denominations, which were more expensive to produce on a per coin basis (it took twelve
times as much labor to mint the equivalent number of pence as a single shilling).
Significantly, then, even with the frequent weighings, there remained inconsistencies in the
weight of the blanks.
After the blanks had been flattened out and rounded off, they were often sent to be
blanched, an acid treatment which cleaned the surface of the coin and, in the case of base
silver, helped conceal the poor quality of the coin. The blanks then went to the moneyers,
who worked in pairs to hammer the official impression on the coin. The first moneyer
placed a blank on the obverse die, which was anchored in position on either the floor or a
table. Using a heavy sledgehammer, the second moneyer struck the top of the reverse die,
driving it into the blank and thereby stamping emblems on both sides of the coin with a
single blow.27 Included in the design of each die was a circle around the emblem which,
ideally, would delineate the intended circumference of the coin. Unfortunately, however,


58
the moneyers worked with such rapidity that many coins were struck off-center, often
leaving a portion of this ring, as it was called, incomplete. Even when the blank was
properly centered, moreover, the impact of the hammer blow forced silver beyond the
ring, producing coins with irregular edges.
Despite precautionary measures by Mint officials, the defects in the manufacturing
process left the coin vulnerable to two forms of attack, culling and clipping. Culling
involved sifting through large quantities of coin to sort out the heavier pieces, which were
then melted down and either sold as bullion or taken for reminting (in hopes of gaining
lighter coin with the same face value). Although we know very little about the profits
associated with culling, it was apparently quite lucrative: in 1635 the Star Chamber fined a
London merchant who confessed that in £100 of coin, £14 to £16 were heavy enough to
sell by weight at a 3% profit. In a typical year he made over £7,000a staggering sum at
the timeby having his servants weigh as much as £500,000 in newly-minted coin.28 More
insidious, though, was the practice of clipping the uneven edges of the hammered coin in
order to melt the resultant slivers into bullion for resale. In order to gather enough coin to
make the clipping profitable and to find an outlet for the bullion, clippers apparently
developed a fairly complex three-way network in which they usually served as middlemen.
The first part of the network involved the coin dealers, those merchants, landholders, and
even clergy who had sufficient revenue that they could sort through their cash holdings for
coin heavy enough to clip. They then turned over the coin to the clippers, who, with their
shears and melting pots, cut the edges of the coin and melted the trimmings. The molten
silver was next taken to the third part of the network, the goldsmiths, who bought the


59
bullion at a discount, paying between 45. and 45. 6d. per ounce (compared to the mint
price of 55. 2d. per ounce). Finally the clippers, once they had clipped a little extra for
their own pockets, paid the dealers back the remains of their coin at a rate of 215. 6d. to
245. per pound.29
By devaluing the circulating medium, clipping wreaked havoc on the currency
system in two ways. First, it helped create a discrepancy between intrinsic and extrinsic
worth that ultimately forced merchants (and others) to weigh coin rather than accept it at
face value. For reasons such as this, scales were a regular feature of the mercantile
landscape in the late seventeenth century. Second, clipping could promote rising prices in
a monetary system that was ordinarily highly resistant to inflation. Although the influx of
South American silver in the sixteenth century had raised prices throughout Europe,30
specie-based currencies tend toward stability: in the two centuries prior to leaving the gold
standard in 1931, Britain averaged an inflation rate of just 0.1% per year.31 Were the
amount of silver decreased through clipping, however, prices in terms of the money of
account could rise dramatically. As one contemporary put it, passing clipped coin is, in
effect and truth, raising our Money, and making that to go for Thirty Pence, which is
indeed but worth Twenty.32 The reduction was an especially threatening prospect to
creditors, who stood to lose part of their investments, and those on fixed incomes, who
could ultimately face impoverishment.33
But to approach clipping from a purely monetary standpoint is to overlook its far
more powerful symbolic aspects. In our era of token currencies and democratically
elected governments, it is difficult to grasp the magnitude of the crime of clipping, but in


60
early-modern England silver and gold coin were indissolubly linked to the crown as a
political and religious institution. The connection involved more than the ancient and
jealously guarded royal prerogative of coining money; in addition to an image of the king
or queen, each coin was stamped with both a cross and the words DEI gratia (by the
grace of God).34 In this way political and religious spheres overlapped on the very face of
English money. Moreover, to contemporaries clipping violated an ethical dimension that
culling did not, and the language they used to characterize clipped coin-words such as
adulterated, corrupted, and evilassumed a distinctly moralistic tone. Put simply,
clipping transgressed several categories at a stroke. To better illustrate the extent to
which these categories were related, let me draw upon two examples which demonstrate
the association: a metaphor from Thomas Hobbess Leviathan (1651), and William
Fleetwoods Sermon against Clipping (1694).
For Hobbes, money is the Bloud of a Commonwealth. Combining the ancient
concept of the body politic with the then-recent discovery of the circulation of the blood
(first demonstrated by William Harvey in 1628), Hobbes draws extensive parallels between
the two, managing to include within his scope everything from monetary distribution (the
circulation of currency nourishes every Member of the Body of Man) to warfare and the
international balance of payments. The metaphor becomes particularly graphic when
Hobbes delineates two sorts of Conduits and Wayes for money to flowfrom tax
collectors who convey money to the royal Treasury, and from the Treasurers who disperse
it throughout the body. And in this also, he suggests, the Artifician Man maintains his
resemblance with the Naturall; whose veins receiving the Bloud from the several parts of



61
the Body, carry it to the Heart; where, being made Vitall, the Heart by the Arteries sends
it out again, to enliven, and enable for motion all the Members of the same.35 In this
system, the Treasury is an essential organ (the heart) for the survival of the state, and a
sufficient supply of coin (the blood) is required for the well-being of each and every
citizen. We do not have to extrapolate very far to understand how the crime of clipping
might figure into Hobbess analogy: if money is the blood of the body politic, and the
monarch the head of that body, clipping coin constitutes an attack on the king or queen.
(It is worth noting that the connection between chief executive and the nations currency
persists today in the U.S., where the Secret Service is in charge of both protecting the
Presidents life and policing counterfeiting.) This link helps explain why clipping was most
often associated with traitorous Jews who were denied participation in lawful
businesses. Not only was clipping likened to the Jewish ritual of circumcision,36 but it also
represented, implicitly, the refusal to recognize the model of all legitimate authority, that
of Christ .37 Both clipping and Judaism, as they were understood by many in seventeenth-
century England, were assaults on the nature of sovereignty.
Fleetwoods Sermon similarly suggests how clipping struck several cultural chords
at once. Chaplain in Ordinary to William and Mary, Fleetwood was almost certainly
solicited to speak out publicly against the offense, and his sermon is remarkable because it
so effectively blends monetary theory with moral and legal arguments against clipping.
Taking as his text Genesis 23:16 (And Abraham weighed to Ephron the Silver which he
had named, in the audience of the Sons of Heth, four hundred Shekels of Silver, currant
Money with the Merchant), Fleetwood divides his sermon into three parts: a brief
A


62
discourse on the origin and necessity of money, an explanation of the public damage
incurred by clipping, and a justification of laws punishing the crime. In the first portion
which the economist F. A. Hayek (writing ca. 1929) found so sophisticated that it could
easily pass today as a lecture in economicsFleetwood ties monetary value directly to
specie content.38 When Abraham agrees with Ephron to exchange shekels by weight,
according to Fleetwood, it is because weight is Mens security, and the true intrinsick
worth of Money (4).39 What enables merchants to forgo the trouble of constantly
weighing and assaying coin is the fact that Kings and Governours of Nations, who are
set up by God and Man, guarantee the currencys quality so that it may pass at nominal
value. In this, civil authority is paramount:
And for this cause it has been always highly Penal to Counterfeit the
Publick Stamp, to Coin Money, tho of equal Weight and Goodness with
the Kings: Not that any great evil is hereby done to any Man, but that if
this were indulgd to private People, the World would fall into distrust and
fear, into suspicion and uncertainty about their Money, and return anew to
weighing and trying all they took.
(5-6)
Much as in the case of Hobbes, clipping infringes upon royal prerogative; because it is
performed by private People rather than lawfiil authority, moreover, it risks casting the
civilized world into an anarchic (one is tempted to say Hobbesian) state of nature. If this
passage implicitly suggests that clipping destabilizes the monetary system, Fleetwood
subsequently issues the more damning contention that clipping is fundamentally equivalent
to counterfeiting: they both alike defraud the Receiver of what is his due; for there the
injustice lies: that is the Sin at the bottom; there is so much stollen from every Man as
there is less given than he should receive (9).


63
Fleetwoods equation here functions in two significant ways. On one level, it
resonates with Christian conceptions of debt and repayment, a connection Fleetwood later
makes explicit by linking monetary worth and Christs words on the payment of tribute to
Rome: it is not Caesar's Face and Titles, but Weight and Goodness that procure Credit
(11).40 On another level, it underscores the extent to which money was linked to property
issues. Unlike modem token currencies, gold and silver coin were considered stores of
value in themselves, and clipping coin was viewed as an attack on private property. In this
respect, claims Fleetwood, clippers are no different from Thieves and Robbers and do
as well deserve their Chains and Halters (17). Fleetwood is at some pains to demonstrate
this point to his audience, since in the case of clipping (as opposed to burglary):
we think immediately only of a Dammage to the Treasury, which we
esteem above our Pity: Or we conceive a Dammage publick and general,
which excites no pitiful Resentments in us, because we have our Eye on no
particular Man as mind or undone thereby.
(21-2)
Such reasoning is fallacious, he argues, because individuals are finally liable for the burden
of public arrears. Clipping will damnifie every particular Man . and fall at last with a
most deadly weight somewhere or other, and, to be sure, with greater violence on the
Poor and Mean, who are least able to endure it (25). In this manner, along with recourse
to Roman, Visigoth, and ancient English precedents, Fleetwood proves the Reason and
Justice of such Laws, as doom to Death such Malefactors (20).
Despite the metaphorical links to royal authority, and despite the dire
pronouncements of powerful voices like Fleetwoods, clipping would persist as long as it
was profitable, and it would remain profitable as long as coin was hammered. But in


64
1663 the Restoration government hired a Frenchman, Pierre Blondeau, to place in the
Tower Mint machinery which radically altered the coining process: for the first time,
English coin was manufactured with milled edges.41 The new mechanized techniques
differed substantially from the old. To begin with, the molten silver and gold were cast
into sheets (rather than rods) of approximately the thickness of the coin. Next, machines
cut blanks from the sheets; the blanks were then flattened in a drop press. The step that
followed-the all-important milling processwas (and remains) shrouded in mystery, for
apparently Blondeau performed it by himself. Blondeaus machine rounded the blanks
uniformly and imprinted along their rims either lines of graining (milling) or words such
as Decus et Tutamen (ornament and safeguard). In either case the money was
protected from clipping, since any cutting so obviously defaced the coin that it would no
longer pass. As with the old method, blanks were checked for weight; those below the
tolerance were sent for remelting, those above filed down. After having been annealed
and blanched, the blanks were then sent to the coining room, where teams of three to five
moneyers operated the coining presses. These machines, designed along the lines of
contemporary printing presses, required multiple workers to rotate 300-pound leaden
weights for each blow. Another moneyer sat in a pit at the base of the press, flicking away
the struck coin and inserting a fresh blank on the lower die.42 The teams worked with
incredible speed, producing as many as 30 shillings a minute. It was hazardous work, too-
-one visitor observed that every moneyer had lost at least one finger joint.
In what was to become a cruel irony, the mechanization intended to protect the
currency inadvertently contributed to its demise. By introducing a new class of cointhat


65
which could not be clipped, as opposed to that which couldthe milling press ultimately
paved the way for Greshams Law (bad money drives out good) to operate. The
creation of a new coin, soon dubbed the guinea, would play a key role in the formation of
this two-tiered monetary system. At about the same time that Blondeaus machinery was
being installed, the Royal Africa Company began shipping West African gold to the Mint,
and it was decided that a 20-shilling piece, produced with the new equipment, would be
introduced.43 By late 1663 the coins were being disseminated; by the end of that year dies
depicting a tiny elephant-denoting the golds origin on the coast of Guinea (hence the
popular appellation) and advertising the prowess of the Royal Africa Company in
obtaining itwere ordered (Thus, by having young Moll Flanders pocket guineas long
before any were actually minted, Defoe commits an interesting numismatic anachronism.)44
Significantly, even though the guinea originated as a 20-shilling piece, almost immediately
market pressures drove it to a rating of 21s. 6d., a mark around which it usually hovered
until Newton set it at a firm 21s. in 1717 (a decision which, as we have seen, had such
extensive ramifications on Irelands monetary situation). This increase in value reflected a
larger and unanticipated problem: once guineas left the Mint, they were often either
hoarded or melted down for resale.45 This took place partly because guineas were
invulnerable to clipping and therefore could serve as a store of value impervious to
inflation or deflation (which could occur either in the form of general price increases or a
government decision to recoin money by weight, not face value). More problematic,
however, were continued irregularities in the production of the coin which made culling
even more fruitful. Apparently there were difficulties in controlling the thickness of the


66
sheets, so that variations in weight had actually increased.46 In short, guineas and other
coins produced by the new methods disappeared from circulation, while old, worn,
hammered money continued to circulate at its nominal value.
For these reasons English currency began to deteriorate even more noticeably.
Since the last recoinage had been carried out during Elizabeths reign, by the 1680s some
of the coin was already over a century old and showing signs of substantial wear. Serious
discussion about restoring the coin must have been going on as early as 1682, when Sir
William Petty published his Quanlulumcunque concerning Money, which was calculated
to sway government opinion into recoining money at its current standard weight. The
pamphlet begins with a few brief suppositions:
Suppose that 20s. of new milld Money doth weigh 4 Ounces Troy,
according to Custom or Statute. Suppose that 20s. of old Elk. and
Jamess Money, which ought also to weigh four Ounces Troy, doth weigh
three Ounces Troy; and variously between 3 and 4 Ounces, viz. none under
3, and none lull 4.
Suppose that much of the new milld regular Money is carried into
the East-Indies, but none of the old light and unequal Money .47
Having correctly diagnosed the problems of the two-tiered monetary system created by
the milling press, Petty proceeds to ask and respond to a series of thirty-two queries about
the best method of undertaking a recoinage, concluding that weight and purity (fineness)
must be maintained to preserve the nations Honour and keep a Rule and Measure of
trade.48 For reasons that remain unclear, however, action was delayed until after the
onset of the Nine Years War. The procrastination would prove costly.


67
War Supply. Currency Exchange, and Monetary Collapse
In 1689, just months after William and Mary had taken the throne from James II,
England entered a period of warfare that rapidly accelerated the deterioration of its
currency. Between the war against Louis XIV on the Continent, which continued until
1697, and, to a lesser extent, the subjugation of the Jacobite army in Ireland, completed
with the Battle of Aughrim in 1691, the new government had to manage the ponderous
burden of war supply. The magnitude of the effort was unprecedented in English history,
as the army alone swelled from approximately 15,000 troops circa 1680 to an average of
more than 75,000 during the Nine Years War.19 Even if we take into account false
mustering, whereby officers reported non-existent troops and pocketed the extra salaries,
the growth is enormous. Paying for this massive build-up was no easy task: in addition to
allocating moneys for the considerable hardware costs (cannon, mortars, ammunition)
necessary for seventeenth-century siege warfare, the government had to provide food,
clothing, and salaries for regular soldiers and officers (and oats and straw for their horses).
Distributing salaries and supplies was no mean feat, either, with the complex system of
paymasters, victuallers, contractors, and others comprising a small army unto itself.
Because it could not feasibly manage to engage in direct supply, which involved all the
risks (storms, privateers, spoilage, etc.) of shipping food and supplies overseas, the
English armyunlike its allieshad no option but to pay locals to bake its bread and brew
its beer. Since these expenditures neither produced tax revenue nor stimulated home
industry, they were all but lost to the English economy, which was strained to the breaking
point.50


68
The first effect of indirect supply was a potentially devastating outflow of silver
bullion. According to D. W. Jones, Over the years 1688-95 fully 1,225,944 ozs. in silver
in foreign coin and 6,754,649 ozs. in molten silver were exported to Europe, amounting
to some £2,127,000s worth in all. Significantly, the worst year of export was 1694, in
which 168,834 ozs. in foreign coin and 2,444,149 ozs. of molten silver (totaling £698,896)
were shipped to the Continent.51 For a monetary system based on a silver standard, this
outflow had grievous consequences, and politicians and economists alike were alarmed by
the situation. Seventy years later Adam Smith would deride such mercantilist concerns
for what he considered an obsession with the hoarding of silver and gold,52 but a lack of
silver bullion meant a shortage of shillings and other coin needed for many business
transactions. What B. E. Supple wrote regarding efforts to arrest specie outflow in the
1620s is no less true of the 1690s: These piecemeal and anxious steps [to adjust specie
flow] have subsequently been stigmatized as bullionist and as reflecting a coherent but
invalid economic policy merely designed to hoard treasure. But this latter-day
construction is a policy which contemporaries, in their real concern for the mundane
affairs of coinage and currency, would have had difficulty in recognizing as their own.53
Over time the bullion outflow triggered a second effect, a corresponding upheaval in the
exchange rates of silver and gold coin. As we shall see, in 1695 a poor rate of exchange
ground Mint production of silver coin to a halt, but to fully grasp why this imbalance
occurred we must first enter into the intricate and arcane world of seventeenth-century
currency exchange.


69
Merchants and money-changers had to stay acutely aware of three different price
indices for coin and bullion: the mint (or legal) price, the market price, and the commercial
price.51 A slight increase in the mint price of silver in Amsterdam, for instance, could
mean that an ounce of silver was suddenly worth more schellingen and had greater
purchasing power there. Dealers, then, would hastily arrange transfers, either via bills of
exchange or direct shipments of bullion, from other markets (London, for example) to
Amsterdam. This form of speculationmore specifically known as arbitrage-produced
income not only for the thriving industry of cashkeepers and money-changers, but for
savvy merchants as well. In fact, gambling on rises and falls in these three exchange rates
often made the difference between profit and loss, and more than one commercial house
went bankrupt by predicting wrongly.
The legal exchange rate offered by the mint for coining silver was often called by
contemporaries imaginary money or, less confusingly, money of account .55
Periodically the Mint would conduct an assay of foreign coin and announce the official
exchange rating, as Newton would do in 1712 and 1717. Such a rating enabled foreign
coin to circulate in England and pass at an English equivalency. To use a crude example,
if a troy ounce of silver was set at, say, five shillings in England, and at two pistoles in
Spain, then two pistoles were worth five shillings, and this was called the mint parity, or
par. The mint rating, however, was often a political tool. If during times of peace the
crown had to adjust the mint rating too frequently, it was considered by foes a sign of
internal economic weakness. During wartime, however, increasing the mint rating by a
few pence (without corresponding increases in silver content) was advantageous because


70
it stretched the same ounce of silver further in terms of the money of account. (After a
10% increase, the silver required to make 10 shillings, or 120 pence, would be worth 11
shillings, or 132 pence.) Although inflation would eventually set in and erode such gains,
rising prices usually lagged a few months behind the revaluation, and the government
profited in the meantime because the adjustment freed up extra silver with which to make
war payments. Between 1688 and 1693, mints throughout northern Europe (including
France, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands) often resorted to this measure.56
Locke, as we shall see, disparaged this form of currency manipulation as clipping
by publick authority, which in effect it was, since both activities kindled inflation.
Indeed, in an irony that Jones has confirmed, clippingdespite the public outcryalmost
certainly generated the extra bullion needed to fund Englands war effort. Where trade
failed, according to Jones, England survived by clipping the coin. It was by clipping that
[England] obtained the bullion needed to pay [its] debts. Normally such bullion export
would force an intense monetary squeeze, but clipping provided an escape, since down to
late 1694, clipped coin still passed at face value, leaving ... the money stock
unchanged.57 Whether clipping by public authority or not, raising the coin (as
increasing the mint rate was called) had the additional benefit of drawing silver into the
mint to be coined. Thus shifts in mint prices prompted international bullion inflows and
outflows, and governments could to a certain extent regulate their money supplies by
adjusting mint values. Adjustments such as these made arbitrage lucrative.
Although within its borders the state established the official value of a coin via the
mint rating, the government did not determine the price at which bullion was sold by


71
dealers either within the nation or across international markets. This market price was
often influenced by shifts in mint valuation, but under normal circumstances market price
was based primarily on a nations import-export balance: with an even balance of trade,
merchants would settle their international accounts via bills of exchange at an even par (no
coin would be shipped; indeed, exporting coin was usually prohibited by law). However,
if one or the other nations balance of trade fell or rose, the exchange adjusted
accordingly. In other words, if England suffered a trade deficit, and payment was required
abroad, the exchange fell, meaning the price of silver rose above the mint rating (par),
and the pound exchanged for less against the foreign currency. The nascent financial
presspublications like Thomas Houghtons bi-weekly Collection for the Improvement of
Husbandry and Trade, which prominently featured a section called The Course of the
Exchangekept dealers and traders informed of fluctuating rates, whether below or
above par. As Locke explained the system:
The Par is a certain number of pieces of the Coin of one Country,
containing in them an equal quantity of Silver to that in another number of
pieces of the Coin of another Country: v.g. supposing 36 Skillings in
Holland to have just as much Silver in them as 20 English shillings [i.e.,
one pound], [Then] Bills of Exchange drawn from England to Holland at
the rate of 36 Skillings Dutch for each pound Sterling, is according to the
Par. He that pays the Money here, and receives it there, neither gets nor
loses by the Exchange; but receives just the same quantity of Silver in the
one place, that he parts with in the other. But if he pays one pound
Sterling [20 shillings] here to receive but 30 Skillings in Holland, he pays
one sixth more than the Par and so pays one sixth more Silver for the
Exchange [than he receives], the Sum be what it will.
(FC 420-21)
Having lived in exile in Holland from 1683-88 and having received income from his
English rents while there, Locke was well acquainted with the workings of exchange rates.


72
As Karen Iversen Vaughn points out, Lockes personal diaries are full of notes on the
weight and fineness of foreign coins and the fluctuations in the rate of exchange. These
notes are most prevalent during the years he spent in France and the years he was in hiding
in Holland.58 More particularly, Lockes scenario indicates a thorough knowledge of bills
of exchange (he that pays the money here and receives it there), and it is important to
understand exactly how they functioned in late seventeenth-century international trade.
If an English cloth merchant required payment for £100 of cloth sold to a Dutch
trading partner, he would seek out a dealer (cashkeeper, money-changer) in London
who had both a substantial reserve of home currency and significant holdings of Dutch
currency with a corresponding cashkeeper in Amsterdam.59 The cloth merchant would
then draw up a bill on the Dutch buyerpayable to the Dutch money-changerat the
current exchange rate and (assuming the exchange was at a par of 36 schellingen to the
pound)60 accept £100 on the spot from his London dealer. The bill would subsequently be
sent to Amsterdam, where the Dutch cashkeeper would present it to the cloth trader and
collect the 3600 schellingen when due (bills could be made payable either on sight or
after a period of time, usually 30, 60, or 90 days). Depending on the status of the
exchangeand hence the balance of tradeeither merchant (and the cashkeepers) could
gain or lose by the deal. And if the Dutch cloth buyer did not have sufficient funds to
cover the bill, he could endorse it over to one of his own debtors.
Bills of exchange worked efficiently as long as the balance of trade was relatively
close to parity, but in cases of more severe deficits bullion had to be shipped from one
trading partner to the other. Transporting bullion, however, entailed the added costs of


73
shipping and insurance, which meant that the market rate had to fall below or rise above
certain values (often called specie points) before dealers were willing to undertake
shipment. This brings us to the last of the three prices of silver, the commercial price, or
the market rate of bullion plus shipping costs and insurance.61 In Swifts Intelligencer 19
we have already encountered a prime example of the importance of the commercial price:
in that case, a three-pence overvaluation of the guinea in Ireland was sufficient to prompt
Irish bankers (and even Tradesmen) to export silver to England, exchange it there for
gold, and re-import the gold because of its greater purchasing power in Ireland. In the
Intelligencer essay Swift advocates reducing the guineas rating to a point slightly above
the English value, but well below the commercial price (or well within the specie point
range) 62 Since during the Nine Years War the English undertook indirect supply, the
resulting trade imbalance meant that bullionnot bills of exchangewould have to be
shipped to the Low Countries. This problem was intensified by the fact that the range
between specie points was narrower at the Amsterdam exchange banks than at any other
commercial center in Europe:
The Amsterdam Exchange Bank became an enormous storehouse from
which all the desired international specie could be obtained immediately
and flexibly. .. Amsterdam exchange rates became uncommonly stable:
the specie points drew closer together, because in Amsterdam the costs of
replacing bills of exchange by a shipment of precious metals in any desired
coinage were reduced.63
Unfortunately, Amsterdams proficiency in the specie trade worked to the detriment of
Englands currency.


74
The Worsening Crisis and Parliamentary Intervention
With the bullion outflow already affecting the money supply by the second year of
the war, Parliament, in its 1690-91 session, considered two bills intended to address the
problem.64 The first bill dealt with a reduction of the legal rate of interest from 6% to 4%,
and it was advocated by the East India Company, with the powerful merchant economist
Sir Josiah Child leading the lobbying effort. Having written on the same topic in 1668,
Child brought out a pamphlet entitled A Discourse about Trade (1690) to support the
measure.65 Since money was scarce, Child reasoned, a reduction in the interest rate would
lure surplus funds out of savings and into the investment market. For the time being,
however, Childs bid fell short of the necessary votes, and the bill failed. The second bill
before Parliament called for raising the coinor increasing the mint rating of a crown
piece from 5s. to 5s. 3d., a move designed to bring more silver into the Mint for coining.
Because the bill was sponsored by Thomas Neale, Master of the Mint (and from whom we
shall hear again), many suspected the adjustment was being promoted to benefit Mint
officials, who were paid by the ounce coined. Although the bill passed its third reading in
mid-November, by the end of the year it had apparently been pigeonholed.
Support for the two bills did not wane, and in the 1691-92 session both issues
were again brought before Parliament. It was at this juncture that Locke first intervened
with Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and Raising
the Value of Money (published in November of 1691 but dated 1692). This 192-page
pamphlet consisted of two separate (but related) sections-a reworked version of some
draft papers on interest Locke had written (but never published) against Child in the late


75
1660s, and new material opposing any alteration in the mint rating of silver. I will more
thoroughly discuss the substance of this pamphlet below, but suffice it now to say that
Lockes input evidently had little effect: despite the efforts of the College (Edward
Clarke and John Freke, Lockes friends and Parliamentary lobbyists), the Commons
passed a compromise bill lowering the interest rate to 5% (the Lords later rejected it), and
the second bill probably lacked the necessary votes to begin with.66 Similar proposals
introduced in both the 1692-93 and 1693-94 sessions were likewise allowed to lapse.
Parliaments failure to enact legislation solving the currency question enabled the
clipping industry to thrive, and thus the spiral of monetary deterioration accelerated. As
long as a coins ring remained intact, little could be clipped from it, but as the ring
increasingly became effaced, more and more of the coin could be removed. To compound
matters, the fact that the circulating money was so corrupted (and in 1695 Treasury
officials estimated it had lost fully half its nominal silver content)67 made counterfeiting
easieronce most of the coin was badly defaced, forgeries no longer had to be very
exacting. Because the state of the coin was so poor, the exchange rate with the Low
Countries fell 15% between January 1694/5 and August 1695.68 There was, moreover, no
inducement to bring silver bullion to the Mint for coining: in England the mint value of a
troy ounce was 5x. 2d., but the same ounce was worth the equivalent of 6.v. 3d. in
Holland; this difference offered ample incentive for money-changers to export bullion and
take advantage of the exchange. In fact, the market price of silver in England would rise
as high as 6s. 5d. in the latter half of 1695.


76
The problem of silver outflow was exacerbated by the fact that gold fetched a
higher price in England than across the Channel. While silver coin emigrated, gold entered
the country and was coined into guineas, which had risen precipitously in market value
from 22s. 7d. in early 1694/5 to nearly 30s. in June 65 Concomitantly, the number of
guineas coined also rose at a dramatic rate. In the period 1689-94, some 437,000 guineas
were coined, an average of a little more than 72,800 a year. In 1695, however, this figure
increased nearly tenfold, to 717,000, and, although it dropped to 138,000 in 1696, the
number of guineas coined per annum remained well above the figures for the first half of
the decade. The rise in value (and number) of guineas had disastrous effects on
circulation; even at the relatively low 22-shilling rate, guineas simply had too high a value
to function for the everyday transactions conducted with shillings and sixpence. Gold, in
modern economic terminology, did not have a sufficient velocity of circulation to meet
currency demand. Or, as Sir Richard Blackmore phrased it in his Short History of the Last
Parliament (1699), England was in danger of being impoverishd and undone by [its]
Plenty of Gold.71
When Parliament convened for its 1694-95 session, it was plain to all that a
decision on the currency could be postponed no longer. On the one hand, England was
suffering from a crippling outflow of silver bullionso much so that Mint production of
silver coin had reached a standstillon the other hand, the coin remaining in circulation
had deteriorated to the point where a systemic breakdown was imminent. To be sure, the
newly-formed Bank of England had issued notes which could be used as negotiable
instruments, but these went primarily to Flanders for war payments (where they totaled


77
less than one-seventh of remittances),72 and in any case the denominations of these notes
were too large for small-scale transactions (it would not be until the paper pound of
1797-1821 that notes would be issued in denominations of 1£ and £2, and even then the
notes were not declared legal tender).73 With the monetary system on the verge of
collapse, Parliament assigned a committee to solicit opinions on the best means of
conducting a recoinage. Within this committee two factions began to form: one in favor
of devaluation and supported by Charles Montague, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the
other opposed to devaluation, and backed by Lockes allies, Edward Clarke and Sir
Francis Masham. In February of 1694/5 Locke responded to another pamphlet by Thomas
Neale with Short Observations on a Printed Paper, Intituled, For encouraging the
Coining of Silver Money in England, and after for keeping it here, which was intended to
influence members of the committee into maintaining the current standard.74 In March,
however, having heard proposals from merchants, goldsmiths, and Mint officials, the
committee issued a series of Fourteen Resolutions that proposed raising the mint price of
silver to correspond to its market price (a devaluation of about 9%). Another key point
was that clipped coin would be accepted at the Mint only by weight, but that a fund of £1
million would be raised to reimburse losses up to the face value of the underweight coin.
Although the Fourteen Resolutions were eventually rejected, they had a major
impact on circulation of the already anemic currency. According to Patrick Kelly:
Publication of the Fourteen Resolutions in the Votes and the Commons
later resolution in favour of compensating holders of clipped money
encouraged belief that Parliament would eventually opt for devaluation.
This stimulated speculative hoarding of full-weight coin and also led to


78
fears of being left holding clipped money that helped ... to push up the
price of guineas in the summer of 1695.
(Kelly 21-2)
Here was Greshams Law with a vengeance: because people feared a proclamation
declaring that coin should go not by face value but by weight, they hoarded any milled or
heavy money they came across, and within a matter of months light and counterfeit coin
were all that remained in circulation. As long as merchants and shopkeepers were willing
to accept the bad coin, the wartime home economy could function, albeit feebly; once
people refused to accept a clipped coin at face value, however, circulation would grind to
a halt. Meanwhile, in April of 1695 the Licensing Act was allowed to lapse (less on
grounds of civil liberty than on the point of avoiding a Stationers Company monopoly),
and, with nothing to hold the floodwaters back, a torrent of pamphlets and broadsheets
offering solutions to the currency crisis was unleashed.
As the coinage crisis deepened during the summer months, the Treasury asked its
Secretary, William Lowndes (who would serve in that capacity until 1724, becoming one
of the stabilizing factors in the financial history of the period),75 to restate the arguments
for devaluation, adhering to the essentials of the Fourteen Resolutions. Knowing that
devaluation was a time-honored method of dealing with war finance, Lowndes consulted
Mint records for supporting evidence, which he found in abundance. The crown, he
determined, had often resorted to devaluation in emergencies. Considering these
precedents, he advised that a 20% reduction in the extrinsick value (mint rating) of
silver coin would bring it in line with the market value of silver, which, as we have seen,
was nearing 6s. 5d.76 In September Lowndes presented his findings to the Lords Justices,


79
but they remained unpersuaded that devaluation was the best remedy. It was at this
juncture that they called upon Locke, Newton, Wren, Davenant, Child, and seven others
to offer their opinions on the subject.77 These reports were delivered to the Regency
Council throughout the fall, but no consensus was reached. Locke, of course, strongly
opposed devaluation, but it was Williams personal intervention that finally decided in
favour of maintaining the existing monetary standard rather than devaluing. The King,
moreover, felt the recoinage should be undertaken if at all possible without recourse to
Parliament, a point which, Kelly notes, brings out a constitutional dimension generally
ignored: clearly William did not wish to surrender the Crowns prerogative on coinage
(27). Despite Williams desire to avoid engaging Parliament over the issue, however, the
ministry felt the assembly would simply refuse to be circumvented. Thus it is of critical
importance to distinguish between Lockes proposals as initially promoted by the
government and the plan actually sent to (and ultimately implemented by) Parliament.
Because he feared money-jobbers would simply clip more coin to gain reimbursement at
public expense, Locke had contended that clipped money should only be accepted by
weight,78 but the bill before Parliament reverted to the plan of compensating holders of
clipped coin, the plan that had initially been laid out in the Fourteen Resolutions.
These, then, were the political circumstances in November of 1695-going on
behind the scenes was ministerial wrangling between Montague (in support of
devaluation) and Somers and the King in opposition.75 But what emerged before the
public was an altogether different scenario. The tracts that had poured forth since the
lapse of the Licensing Act lacked a defining point of contention and so were too disjointed


80
to be properly termed a pamphlet war, but in November a true controversy began brewing
with the publication of Lowndes Report containing an Essay for the Amendment of the
Silver Coin, which included a thinly veiled challenge directed at Locke to publish his
Thoughts for Rendring the Design here aimd at more perfect or Agreeable to the Public
Service.80 Locke responded in December with the last of his three monetary writings,
Further Considerations Concerning Raising the Value of Money. Wherein Mr Lowndess
Arguments for it in his late Report concerning An Essay for the Amendment of the Silver
Coins, are particularly Examined. As the Recoinage debate entered 1696, then, it was
developing into a full-fledged pamphlet war.
Ironically, passage of the Recoinage Act-which called for maintaining the existing
standard and the gradual demonetization of the clipped coinonly re-opened the question
of devaluation. Because the Mint could not keep up with the demand for coin (despite a
temporary increase in workers and facilities), people were nearly forced to revert to barter,
and even William came to view the decision to maintain the standard as a disastrous
mistake (Kelly 65). In light of the situation, Parliament began to renew demands to
raise the coin. In July Locke responded to these calls with the publication of Several
Papers relating to Money, Interest and Trade (the volume Swift owned), which included
revised versions of the three pamphlets he had already published; as Kelly has suggested,
Locke almost certainly intended this collection as his final say on money.


81
The Recoinaae Controversy
We began our discussion of the Great Recoinage with the concept of accounting,
for measurement-accountability, in a sensewas precisely the issue at stake between the
factions that clustered around Lowndes and Locke. Did money function first and
foremost by its denomination, rendering silver content subsidiary (and potentially
irrelevant) to the stamp of the crown? Or was money primarily a repository of value,
denomination merely reflecting the specie content of the coin? Asked another way, could
the standard of valuethe measure of goods, services, and above all credit and debtbe
altered without defrauding the citizen (particularly creditors) and, more importantly,
without casting valuation itself into uncertainty? There were a host of other
considerations involved in the issue, particularly the economic and social consequences of
whatever form the final course of action might take. Opting for extrinsick value, on the
one hand, involved not only abandoning a monetary standard well over a century old (and
dimly associated with the glory of Queen Elizabeth), but also triggering a potentially
damaging inflationary spiral; on the other hand, choosing intrinsick value preserved a
clearly definable monetary standard, but it meant a depression almost certainly would
follow hard upon the start of the recoinage. Political power entered into the choice
between inflation and deflation as well. Adopting a new standard meant that those
wealthy enough to lend money received less silver in exchange, whereas maintaining the
status quo placed the burden of the recoinage on those living near subsistence with little
money to spare.81


82
The case for raising the standard was publicly initiated by Lowndes Report, which
sought to examine the most Practicable Methods for New Coining the [money], and
Supplying, in the mean time, sufficient Coins to pay the Kings Taxes and Revenues, and to
carry on the Publick Commerce (3). Lowndes immediately ruled out an actual
debasement (a reduction in the purity of the silver by adding more copper to the coin), a
solution widely associated with tyranny. Such a measure was to be avoided at all costs,
Because making of Base Moneys will Disgrace this Government in future
Generations, the Criticks in every Age being apt to Estimate the Goodness
or Badness of Ancient Governments by their Coin, as hath been done,
especially in the Case of the Romans, and a Temptation of this kind ought
not to be left for future Ages, to the prejudice and Honour of the present
King.
(Report 30)
Although Lowndes feared the judgment of posterity (like any good political adviser, he
was interested in managing spin), he was astute enough to recognize that what history
took away through infamous example it could also give in the form of precedent. Thus he
enumerated, in impressive detail, the many instances from English history in which the
monarch had resorted to raising the coin (Report 3-56).
With the considerable weight of tradition on his side, then, Lowndes concluded
that it has been a policy constantly Practised in the Mints of England (the like having
been done in all Foreign Mints belonging to other Governments) to Raise the Value of the
Coin in its Extrinsick Denomination, from time to time, as any Exigence or Occasion
required; and more especially to Encourage the bringing of Bullion into the Realm to be
Coined (Report 56). Moreover, Raising the Extrinsick Value of the Gold and Silver, in
the Denominations of the Coins, as it hath been constant almost in every Reign of every


83
King had never caused any Inconvenience, Disgrace or Mischief. . when a Just,
Necessary or Reasonable Cause gave Occasion thereunto (Report 58). Though by no
means ideal in Lowndes view, the most practical way to recoin money during war was to
decrease the silver content in order to bring the Mint value of the coin in line with the
market value of silver bullion.
Lowndes therefore proposed raising the Extrinsick Value of the crown piece
from its current rating of 60d. to 75d., or from 5s. to 6s. 3d. This strategy had two
advantages. First, it brought the Mint price of silver close enough to its market value of
6s. 5d. that, for the time being at least, the incentives to export bullion would end and
silver, it was hoped, would be brought to the Mint for coining. Theoretically, by removing
the motivation to melt coin into bullion for export (that is, bringing the legal price of silver
within the specie points), the adjustment would also serve as a hedge against further
clipping. Lowndes claimed this aspect of his plan was
grounded chiefly upon a Truth so Apparent, that it may well be compared
to an Axiom even in Mathematical Reasoning, to wit, That whensoever the
Extrinsick Value of Silver in the Coin hath been, or shall be less than the
price of Silver in Bullion, the Coin hath been, and will be Melted down.
(Report 68; emphasis in original)
Second, raising the nominal value of the coin would (at least temporarily) increase the
purchasing power of an ounce of silver, thereby easing the hiatus of specie a recoinage
would inevitably produce. In other words, instead of decreasing monetary circulation by
50% (as preserving the existing standard would do), the proposed devaluation would
reduce it by only 37.5%.82


84
Whereas Lowndes located value in denomination, Locke placed it squarely on the
metallic substance of the coin. Money, Locke acknowledged, was a counter of value, but
only by virtue of its silver content: Silver is the Measure of Commerce by its Quantity,
which is the Measure also of its intrinsick value. If one grain of Silver has an intrinsick
value in it, two grains of Silver have double that intrinsick value (FC 410).83 Because
silver was the sole measure of value, it could not be said to have risen in respect of
itself:
Those who say Bullion is Risen, I desire to tell me; What they mean by
Risen'! Any Commodity, I think, is properly said to be Risen when the
same quantity will exchange for a greater quantity of another thing; but
more particularly of that thing which is the Measure of Commerce in the
Country.
(FC 426)
Thus he countered Lowndes mathematical Axiom with one of his own: an Ounce of
Silver will always be of equal value to an Ounce of Silver (FC 427).84 This, of course,
would be the point on which Lockes analysis of the situation foundered; he did not
adequately account for the market price of silver, even though in Some Considerations he
had written that silver is not of the same value at the same time, in several parts of the
World, but is of most worth in that Country where there is least Money, in proportion to
its Trade: And therefore Men may afford to give 20 Ounces of Silver in one place, to
receive 18 or 19 Ounces in another (267).
Because Locke overlooked the impact of the market on the price of silver, he felt
raising the denomination was futile. Englands currency problem was not to be solved by
raising the coin, he believed, but by rectifying the balance of trade. Silver would only be


85
brought to the Mint by the Regulation and Ballance of our Trade. For be your Coin what
it will, our Neighbours, if they over-ballance us in Trade, will not only havea great value
for our Silver, but get it too (SC 335; emphasis in original). To Lockes mind, nowhere
was the fallacy of extrinsic value more evident than in international trade, when All our
Names (if they are any more to us) are to them [foreign traders] but bare Sounds; and our
Coin, as theirs to us, but meer Bullion, valued only by its weight (FC 442). Names were,
in the long run, of little consequence, and simply calling an ounce of silver by another
name was a type of prevarication. Raising the coin was venturing onto the slippery
slope of government-instigated inflation:
If this be not so, when the necessity of our affairs abroad, or ill husbandry
at home, has carried away half our Treasure; and a moiety of our Money is
gone out of England, tis but to issue a Proclamation, that a Penny shall go
for Two-pence, Six-pence for a Shilling, half a Crown for a Crown, &c.
and immediately without any more ado we are as Rich as before. And
when half the remainder is gone, tis but doing the same thing again, and
raising the Denomination anew, and we are where we were, and so on.
(FC 453)
This argument played especially upon the fears of the poor, and, though fallacious, it was
difficult to refute. Who was to guarantee that the laborers annual wage of £25 would
purchase as much after the revaluation?
Although Lowndes proposals were eminently practical, they were not
invulnerable, and Locke skilfully exploited his opponents lapses. To begin with,
Lowndes plan called for a complete monetary overhaul, with the creation of awkward
new denominations called Sceptres and Unites. I imagine there is not one Country
man of three, Locke protested, but may have it for his Pains, if he can tell an Hundred


86
Pounds made up of a promiscuous Mixture of the Species of this new raised Money . in
a days time (FC 465). More damaging were Lowndes analyses of the aftermath of
revaluation. Early in the Repon he had admitted that when the Causes which at present
make Silver Scarce and Dear shall cease, Silver it self will fall in its Price (31). But if
silver would return to its pre-war value once the balance of trade had been righted, why
meddle with either the traditional denominations or, more importantly, the traditional
standard? Via his appeal to history, Lowndes could sidestep this critique, but the
economic consequences of devaluation posed greater problems. Would there be any real
monetary gain by raising the coin? His arguments against debasement were particularly
susceptible to this question. Foreigners that deal with us, Lowndes observes, regard the
Intrinsick Value more than the Extrinsick Denomination, and Exchange accordingly. If
Base Money should be made, the Intrinsick Value thereof would be uncertain, or might be
disputed; and in Disputes of such a Nature, it is more likely that they will gain upon us,
than we upon them (Report 32). At this point there is little to distinguish Lowndes
language from Lockes, but the parallels grow even more distinct. Recalling Englands
Great Debasement of the early sixteenth century, Lowndes expresses the reservation that
if the value of the Silver in the Coins should (by any extrinsick denomination) be raised
above the value or Market price of the same Silver reduced to Bullion, the Subject would
be proportionably injured and defrauded (Report 78-9). To Lowndes, this concession
was a tactical necessity in the argument against debasement, but in Lockes view it
undermined the very foundation of the devaluationist positionone form of depreciation
was as fraudulent as the other (FC 455-56).


87
As Locke and Lowndes exchanged salvos in print, they were joined by a host of
others who helped carry on the debate. The anonymous author of A Review of the
Universal Remedy for All Diseases Incident to Coin, for instance, supported Locke. The
Ground of all these Mischiefs, the writer believed, lies in the difference of the intrinsick
Value of the several pieces of our Coin that go under the same Denomination.85 Simon
Clement, in his Discourse of the General Notions of Money, Trade, & Exchanges, also
proposed maintaining the standard, suggesting that raising the coin was an Infallible
Demonstration of the decay of Wealth in any Countrey. Reciting a familiar refrain,
Clement felt the only solution to the problem was to bring our Affairs into such a posture
as that our Expences Abroad may be kept within the Compass of the Ballance of Trade.86
Locke even drew support from the dead: his publishers, Awnsham and John Churchill,
reprinted Pettys Quantulumcunque to help thwart the renewed calls for devaluation.
Entering the lists on the side of Lowndes, however, were a number of formidable
opponents. Some, like the anonymous author of A Letter Humbly Offer 'd to the
Consideration of all Gentlemen, Yeomen, Citizens, Freeholders, &c., had a satiric bite.
Locke, the writer accused, had misled the nation through Sophistry, and he hoped that
the eyes of the Kingdom the experience of deflation had unLOCKt. How could anyone
believe, he wondered, that our Money had of the same weight it now is ever since Noahs
Flood?87 A more serious attack came from Sir Richard Temple, who argued that no one
disputed that an ounce of silver was equal to an ounce of silver. This, according to
Temple, was an absurd Proposition, since there is no occasion for any Barter or
Exchange. Temple continued:


88
That the intrinsick Value of Silver is the true Instrument and Measure of
Commerce, is partly True, and partly False; for the Mony of every Country,
and not the Ounce of Silver, or the intrinsick value, is the Instrument and
Measure of Commerce there, according to its Denomination, and the
Standard of the Coin of each Nation is very different, and does often vary
according to Time, Place, and Circumstances.88
According to Temple, Locke had failed to understand that Bullion is a Commodity, and
has no certain universal stated Price or Value.89
By far the most trenchant critiques of Locke, however, came from Nicholas
Barbons A Discourse Concerning Coining the New Money Lighter and James Flodges
The Present Stale of England as to Coin and Publick Charges. Barbn, after
summarizing Lockes major points, drew a key distinction between Intrinsick Value and
what he termed Intrinsick Vertue:
Value is only the Price of Things: That can never be certain, because it
must be then at all times, and in all places, of the same Value; therefore
nothing can have an Intrinsick Value.
But things have an Intrinsick Vertue in themselves, which in all
places have the same Vertue; as the Loadstone to attract Iron .... But
these things, though they may have great Virtues, may be of small Value or
Price, according to the place where they are plenty or scarce.90
For Barbn, the value of things depend[s] only on their use (5), and therefore is always
subject to market fluctuations. His ultimate target, however, was the idea that
government had no role in establishing value: Money is commonly made of some Metal,
but it is more for conveniency, than of absolute necessity. For the Value arising from
Publick Authority, it may as well be set to any thing else that is as convenient, and can be
preservd from being counterfeited (13). By denying the necessity of gold and silver as


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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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SWIFT AND LOCKE:
SATIRE, MONETARY THEORY, AND INTRINSIC VALUE
By
STEPHEN E. SOUD
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1998

Copyright 1998
by
Stephen E. Soud

Dedicated to Cathy, Natalie, Paul,
and our newest arrival, Jonathan

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The completion of a doctoral dissertation might well be described as a process of
accruing debts—and not only in the financial sense. I owe the greatest debt to my director,
Mel New. He has worked tirelessly, raising thought-provoking questions, returning drafts
swiftly, and giving invaluable critical and professional advice. I simply cannot say enough.
I am also particularly indebted to Pat Craddock, whose wisdom, kindness, and good sense
have helped buoy me more than she knows. Brian McCrea has also given excellent
advice, as have the other members of my committee, Brandy Kershner (who graciously
lent his services late in the process) and David Denslow. As 1 hope the list of references
indicates, I spent more than a little time in the Smathers Libraries, where John Van Hook
was of inestimable support and assistance. John always found time to answer questions
and help locate obscure sources. I must also thank Frank DiTrolio, who often proved a
valuable resource, and Todd Chisholm and Jennifer Johnson, who patiently renewed
hundreds of books for me. Also, for the Aubrey Williams Research Travel Fellowship,
thanks are due to the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.
Several of my colleagues at Maryville College have played an important role in the
completion of the dissertation. Susan Schneibel and Dean Boldon have been exceptionally
patient and supportive of me and my family as we have struggled through an
IV

extraordinarily difficult and then exciting two years. Sherry Kasper has taught me much
about the history of economics and, more importantly, been a good friend; Sam
Overstreet, a wonderful colleague, has provided stimulating conversation about literature,
theory, and intrinsic and extrinsic value.
To conclude, debts to family are often the least prominent but most extensive. I
cannot overestimate the contribution of my mother and father, who provided the sort of
home environment that makes learning and writing habits of being. Also, without the
generous support of Ash Verlander, none of this would have been possible. Finally, I can
only hope that, for the innumerable hours spent on this dissertation, the Dedication to
Cathy and the children will suffice.
v

TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iv
ABSTRACT viii
KEY TO ABBREVIATIONS x
CHAPTERS
1 SWIFT’S BLACK FLAG 1
Pocock, Locke, and the Discourse of Credit 6
Revisiting Charles Davenant 16
Cultural History and the Legacy of Coinage 23
The Presence of Locke’s Monetary Theories in the Eighteenth Century 28
Notes 37
2 LOCKE, THE GREAT RECOINAGE, AND INTRINSIC VALUE 47
The Minting Process and the Deterioration of the Coinage 54
War Supply, Currency Exchange, and Monetary Collapse 67
The Worsening Crisis and Parliamentary Intervention 74
The Recoinage Controversy 81
Locke, Intrinsic Value, and the Significance of Consent 93
Conclusion 108
Notes 109
3 A TALE OF A TUB. WIT, WEIGHT, AND INTRINSIC VALUE 120
Swift, Temple, and the Great Recoinage 124
Wit, Weight, and the Ancients: Sir William Temple 131
Wit, Weight, and the Modems: Sir Richard Blackmore 136
Intrinsic Value and Abuses in Learning 146
Intrinsic Value and Abuses in Religion 166
Madmen, Knaves, and Fools 175
vi

Conclusion 178
Notes 179
4 FORCE OF LAW: LINDALINO AND THEDRAPIER'SLETTERS 189
The Recoinage and the Irish Economy of the 1720s 195
Monetary Theory and the Irish Coinage Crisis 200
Locke and The Drapier 's Letters 209
Royal Prerogative and Lindalino 220
Notes 226
REFERENCES 232
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 251
vii

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
SWIFT AND LOCKE:
SATIRE, MONETARY THEORY, AND INTRINSIC VALUE
By
Stephen E. Soud
August, 1998
Chair: Melvyn New
Major Department: English
By exploring relationships between the monetary theories of John Locke and the
satires of Jonathan Swift-with particular emphasis on the concept of intrinsic value—this
dissertation challenges prevailing interpretations of British culture and literature in the
early eighteenth century. Chapter 1 establishes ways the neo-Machiavellian “discourse of
credit,” a hermeneutic widely associated with J. G. A. Pocock, has overlooked issues
concerning coinage, and thus downplayed the significance of the treatises Locke wrote
during the Great Recoinage of 1695-99. Locke’s theory of the intrinsic value of gold and
silver money was dominant in eighteenth-century Britain, and re-establishing the
importance of coinage and its metaphors is vital for our properly understanding the culture
of the era. Hence recent economically based studies of literature, which focus primarily on
the workings of public credit, need to be supplemented. Chapter 2 details the processes

by which English coin was minted in the seventeenth century, the monetary problems
associated with clipping, war finance, and international exchange, and the conflicting
positions in the Recoinage debate. It concludes with an exposition of Locke’s theory of
intrinsic value, paradoxically founded on general consent. Chapter 3 places Swift’s .4 Tale
of a Tub, written during the late 1690s, in the context of the Recoinage. Coinage
metaphors and the language of value played a significant part in the Battle of the Books,
and these figure into the Tale. In addition to parodying Sir Richard Blackmore’s Satyr
against Wit (1699), Swift uses the language of value to help establish Martin as the via
media of the satire. However, like Locke, Swift finds himself caught in the paradox of
defining intrinsic value by general consent. Chapter 4 examines Swift’s use of Locke’s
natural law theory of money in The Drapier 's Letters (1724) to lead the Irish boycott of
Wood’s halfpence. Swift transformed what had been an economic objection to the
halfpence into a powerful legal argument that implicitly threatened England’s claims to
monetary sovereignty over Ireland. I also contend that an appreciation of Swift’s ironic
use of Locke’s theories is necessary to understanding the Lindalino allegory of Gulliver’s
Travels (1726).
IX

KEY TO ABBREVIATIONS
Swift
I have used the following abbreviations in the text for Swift’s primary works and
selected secondary materials:
Corr
The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift. Ed. Harold Williams. 5 vols.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963.
DSL
Dean Swift's Library. Ed. Harold Williams. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1932.
Ehrenpreis
Ehrenpreis, Irvin. Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age. 3 vols.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962-83.
Poems
The Poems of Jonathan Swift. Ed. Harold Williams. 3 vols. 2nd ed.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958.
PW
The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift. Ed. Herbert Davis. 16 vols. Oxford:
Basil Blackwell, 1939-74.
Tale
Swift, Jonathan. A Tale of a Tub. To Which Is Added "The Battle of the
Books" and the "Mechanical Operation of the Spirit. ” Ed. A. C.
Guthkelch and D. Nichol Smith. 2nd ed., corrected. Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1973.
TDL
Swift, Jonathan. The Drapier’s Letters to the People of Ireland. Ed.
Herbert Davis. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935.
x

Locke
With the exception of the first printing of Some Considerations, which is cited
individually in the text, all of Locke’s monetary writings have been drawn from Patrick
Kelly’s splendid edition, Locke on Money. I have keyed these references, with title and
page numbers corresponding to the Kelly edition, as follows:
“Draft”
“Transcript of Final Manuscript Draft of Some Considerations." Appendix
A, 503-612.
“Early”
“Early Writings on Interest, 1668-1674.” 167-202.
FC
Further Considerations Concerning Raising the Value of Money. Wherein
Mr Lowndes’s Arguments for it in his late "Report Concerning An Essay
for the Amendment of the Silver Coins, ” are Particularly Examined. 402-
81.
“Guineas”
“Guineas.” 363-4.
Kelly
“Introduction.” In John Locke, Locke on Money. Ed. Kelly. 2 vols.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991. 1-162.
SC
Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest, and
Raising the Value of Money. 209-342.
SO
Short Observations on a Printed Paper, Intituled, "For encouraging the
Coining Silver Money in England and after for keeping it here. ” 345-59.
“Trumbull”
“A Paper Given to Sir William Trumbull Which Was Written at His
Request September 1695.” 365-73.
Two other frequently cited works by Locke are abbreviated as follows:
ECHU
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Ed. Peter H. Nidditch.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.
TT
Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government. Ed. Peter Laslett.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
xi

CHAPTER 1
SWIFT’S BLACK FLAG
In the Spring of 1737, after years of lobbying by Irish Primate Hugh Boulter, the
English government agreed to lower the value of the gold coin circulating in Ireland. In
August of that year, the Irish Lords Justices and Privy Council issued a proclamation
lowering the official rate of a guinea from 1/. 3s. to 1/. 2s. 9d. Boulter and many others
viewed the adjustment as a hard-fought victory for the beleaguered Irish economy, but
Dean Swift, always distrustful of Boulter’s political motives, held a contrary opinion.
Convinced the alteration would “pave a Bridge of Gold” across the Irish Sea, further
lining the pockets of absentee landlords and leaving “hundreds of thousands . . . starving at
home, for want of Employment” (PW XIII: 120), Swift ordered the bells of St. Patrick’s
muffled to ring mourning and flew from the Cathedral steeple a black flag.1 A month later
a London newspaper received a suspiciously anonymous letter from Dublin describing
reaction to the incident:
All we can say is that the citizens were greatly alarmed when they saw the
black flag, imagining that our patriot, who had been ill, was dead. Many of
them ran in great consternation to the church, where they learned that their
Dean lived, and to their great consolation was happily recovered from his
late illness. The signs of mourning were on account of the lowering of the
gold.2
1

2
Other contemporary responses to Swift’s gesture were decidedly less sympathetic.
At least one spectator was embarrassed by what he considered eccentric behavior from the
aging satirist: “The Dean of St. Patrick’s involves himself in such strange, improper,
insignificant oppositions to matters of a public nature,” Baron Wainwright of the Irish
Exchequer wrote to the Earl of Oxford, “that, by hanging out black flags and putting his
bells in mourning, he makes it impossible for one in my station to converse much with
him.”3 Ambrose Philips, Boulter’s secretary and editor of his correspondence (and who
had ample reason to hold a grudge), responded with greater venom: “Dean Swift not long
after this cruel, though feeble effort, this telum imbelle sine ictu, became one of his own
meer doting Slruldbrugs, an event which some people say he used to be apprehensive of in
his more melancholy moments, and this way of thinking perhaps was the first motive to
make that noble charity, which to his great honour he founded in Dublin for lunatics and
idiots.”4 Although Swift—never one to be swayed by public opinion—steadfastly
maintained that the new policy was a failure,5 modem biographers have followed
Wainwright and Philips, usually adopting a less caustic version of the latter’s
psychologizing. J. A. Downie, for instance, declares that Swift was “tilting at windmills,”
exhibiting an “ill-considered, almost paranoid response” to the alteration of the coin. And
while Swift’s most meticulous biographer, Irvin Ehrenpreis, does indeed discuss Swift’s
economic reasons for opposing the adjustment, he too resorts to psychoanalytic language
to explain the force of Swift’s objection, suggesting it grew out of a “characteristic
personal obsession with finance, his anxiety concerning the perpetual inflation of money.”6

3
Curiously, however, commentators have overlooked one of the most trenchant
rejoinders to Swift’s protest, an anonymous pamphlet entitled Some Reflections
Concerning the Reduction of Gold Coin in Ireland Upon the Principles of the Dean of
St. Patrick's and Mr. Lock1 Siding with Boulter, this tract chides Swift—“the Watchfull
Dragon that ever Wakes to Guard the Hesperian Gold”—for renouncing the monetary
principles he had set forth nine years earlier in Intelligencer 19 (1728). There he had
argued that a reduction of three pence in the value of a guinea would be the most sensible
solution to Ireland’s loss of silver coin:
When the value of Guineas was lowred in England [in 1717], from 21 s. 6
d. to only 21 s. the Consequences to this Kingdom, were obvious, and
manifest to us all; and a sober Man, may be allowed at least to wonder,
though he dare not complain, why a new Regulation of Coin among us,
was not then made; much more, why it hath never been since. It would
surely require no very profound skill in Algebra, to reduce the difference of
nine Pence in thirty Shillings, or three Pence in a Guinea, to less than a
Farthing.*
By reducing the difference in the exchange rate to “so small a Fraction” as a farthing,
Swift continues, the advantage of trading silver for gold in England and bringing the gold
back to Ireland, where it had greater purchasing power, would be eliminated. Then
“Bankers” would no longer be tempted “to hazard their Silver at Sea, or Tradesmen to
load themselves with [silver], in their Journeys to England”9 This very reduction, Some
Reflections satirically points out (hence the irony hinted at in the pamphlet’s title), was
precisely what Swift protested by flying the black flag.
While the public demonstration of a Swiftian volte-face is not to be discounted,
there is, in my view, a more significant component of the pamphlet’s ironic attack. As its

4
title further hints, Some Reflections implies that Swift, in reversing his earlier position, was
thereby abandoning his long-standing advocacy of the monetary ideas associated with
John Locke.10 In capsule form, the pamphlet’s argument runs something like this: If the
Dean wished to avoid hypocrisy and remain faithful to his prior opinion, he would
maintain the Lockean position that silver is the standard metal; because English monetary
policy toward Ireland has overvalued gold in proportion to silver, the solution to Irish
economic woes is lowering the value of gold.11 In other words, just as Swift had
supported decreasing the value of the guinea in 1728, so Locke would have pressed for
the reduction in 1737; thus Swift’s anonymous critic is able to argue for the adjustment
"Upon the Principles of the Dean of St. Patrick's and Mr. Lock”
That a clash between Swift and the English government should in some measure
take shape around Locke’s monetary theories ought to be of considerable interest to
cultural and literary historians, but scholarship has been silent on the point. There are, of
course, any number of insightful studies examining Locke’s impact on Swift, but these
focus attention on either the epistemological questions raised by the Essay Concerning
Human Understanding (1690) or the political theory advanced by the Two Treatises of
Government (1690).12 An altogether different line of inquiry, though, is suggested by
Some Reflections, which offers intriguing evidence that Swift was actively engaged with
Locke’s monetary theories, and that his contemporaries, in this instance an enemy,
recognized a connection. This evidence alone justifies another look at Swift’s interest in
Locke, focusing instead on the monetary writings. Powerful corroboration that such an
investigation might yield significant results, however, comes from another overlooked yet

5
critically important fact: when Swift’s library was sold at his death, it included neither the
Essay nor the Two Treatises, but rather Locke’s Tracts relating to Money, Interest, and
Trade (1696), a collection of the pamphlets he published during the controversy
surrounding the Great Recoinage of 1695-99.13
As this evidence strongly suggests, more is at stake in the black flag incident than
Swift’s supposed economic paranoia. Indeed, I would assert that the entire affair—and the
silence that has accompanied it—poses fundamental questions about our interpretations of
eighteenth-century political and economic thought, questions concerning both the political
significance of coinage during the era and, more particularly, the cultural legacy of
Locke’s Recoinage writings. Why, for instance, would Swift, by any measure a major
figure in the political and literary life of his day, respond so vehemently to the decision to
lower the value of gold coin? How might Lockean monetary theory have impacted
Swift’s perennial concerns about the Irish economy, including his calls for boycotts in The
Proposalfor the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture (1719) and Drapier’s Letters
(1724), as well as his backing of an Irish mint? What does it mean that, more than forty
years after their initial publication, Locke’s monetary treatises could be invoked by an
anonymous Dublin pamphleteer who fully expected the allusion to be understood?
Considered separately, these questions seem relevant to only a few disparate areas of
historical and literary inquiry. Taken together, however, they reveal in current
historiography of eighteenth-century British culture certain “blind spots,” areas concealed
from view by a hermeneutic method I will call the “discourse of credit .” Initially brought
to prominence in the work of J. G. A. Pocock, this hermeneutic has increasingly

dominated economically-oriented interpretations of the period, often achieving valuable
results. However, precisely because of its emphasis on the emergence of public finance,
the discourse of credit has overlooked fundamental issues involving coinage, and it has
done so at Locke’s expense.
Pocock. Locke, and the Discourse of Credit
Thirty years ago scholars confidently assumed the decisive influence of Locke and
his Two Treatises on eighteenth-century political discourse, but this once-bedrock
assumption in analyses of Enlightenment political thought has undergone nothing less than
a seismic upheaval. Thanks to a series of studies, most notably Pocock’s The
Machiavellian Moment and several of his shorter essays, many now collected in Virtue,
Commerce, and History, the notion of Locke’s pre-eminence has been buried beneath a
solid layer of Aristotelian and Machiavellian civic humanism.11 For Pocock and others,
political language in the period between the Glorious and American Revolutions derived
less from Locke and the liberal tradition than it did from Ancient and Renaissance
concepts of classical republicanism. Thus writers as diverse as Swift, Charles Davenant,
John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon (authors of the influential political periodical Cato's
Letters), and Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, could be seen to frame their
arguments not in Lockean terms of natural rights and government by consent, but in
Machiavellian conceptions of the balance of powers and civic virtue and corruption. In
Pocock’s words, this reappraisal necessitated a “shattering demolition of [Locke’s]
myth”; it was “not that he was other than a great and authoritative thinker, but that his

7
greatness and authority [had] been wildly distorted by a habit of taking them unhistorically
for granted.”15 As is well known, Pocock’s claim has come under scrutiny, and in the last
ten years a host of scholars, in a movement dubbed “neo-Lockeanism,” have reclaimed
some of the turf lost to the “neo-Machiavellians.”16 However, in the course of the debate
neither party has paid much attention to the tracts Locke published prior to and during the
Recoinage controversy.
It is a puzzling oversight, especially in the case of Locke’s defenders, who have
generally limited the debate’s scope to the influence of the Two Treatises. This self-
imposed limitation stems in part, I believe, from the disciplinary configuration of modern
universities, which sub-divide and professionalize the production and dissemination of
knowledge in a manner the first decades of the eighteenth century would have found quite
alien. The case of a writer such as John Arbuthnot is instructive: though modern scholars
most often approach him as a literary figure, he made his name as a medical doctor and
mathematician long before he began writing satire with the Scriblerians. It was as a
mathematician that Arbuthnot produced his Tables of the Grecian, Roman, and Jewish
Measures, Reduced to the English Standard (1705), which, as the title indicates, provided
charts for the conversion of ancient weights, measures, and monetary denominations into
their equivalent modem units. He later expanded the book into the lengthy treatise Tables
of Ancient Coins, Weights, and Measures (1727), which offered further research on the
subject. We might very well view Arbuthnot’s efforts in these volumes as antiquarian
dabbling unworthy of our attention, except that they achieved prominent status among
contemporaries-including, most notably, David Hume.17 In his 1752 essay On the

8
Balance of Trade (regarded as a classic by historians of economic thought because of its
innovative “price-specie-flow” theory), Hume uses Arbuthnot’s Tables to convert ancient
Egyptian talents into English pounds: “The account given by APPIAN of the treasure of the
PTOLEMIES, is so prodigious, that one cannot admit of it... . The sum he mentions is
740,000 talents, or 191,166,666 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence, according to Dr.
Arbuthnot’s computation.”18 Arbuthnot’s research makes it possible for Hume not only
to give ancient sources and examples a modern factual immediacy, but also to prove his
point that the hoarding of treasure is economically counterproductive. In the very same
essay, moreover, Hume cites Swift—at first disapprovingly, then approvingly—on the Irish
balance of trade.15 That Hume would consult Arbuthnot (and Swift) for expertise on
matters economic underscores my point: we can ill afford to treat early-modern authors as
operating within the same boundaries of specialization that circumscribe twentieth-century
professionals.
Unfortunately, such compartmentalization seems to have beset Locke’s monetary
writings, which, even by Lockeans, have all too often been treated as mere occasional
pieces answering the exigencies of a one-time coinage dilemma. Although books by
Karen Iversen Vaughn and Neal Wood20 have called attention to Locke’s contributions to
and position within economic thought, discussion of his Recoinage writings remains
almost exclusively confined to writings by historians of economics.21 Indeed, though many
book-length economic studies of the period devote a chapter, often more, to Locke’s
monetary theories and his pivotal role in the Recoinage controversy,22 general studies of
Locke give the monetary writings short shrift.23 The recent Cambridge Companion to

9
Locke, to name just one notable instance, opts not to engage the topic in any significant
way, briefly mentioning Locke’s Recoinage involvement only in the biographical
introduction.24 This neglect does Locke a great disservice, for it severely underestimates
the social and political repercussions of his decisive role in the Recoinage debate. Not
only did Locke have the ear of the King and Lords Justices as no one else at a time of
national emergency, but his proposals on the matter, once adopted, had economic
consequences for all levels of English society in every comer of the kingdom. Even if
cultural historians (somehow) manage to dismiss the immediate historical impact of
Locke’s views, the fact that major figures—thinkers like Hume, Cantillon, Montesquieu,
Smith, and Ricardo—read and absorbed Locke’s monetary theories needs to be addressed
more thoroughly than it has. Indeed, Joyce Oldham Appleby, assessing the impact of
Locke’s Recoinage writings, has claimed they laid the foundation for “the gold standard
edifice that was to stand for the next two centuries.”25
While the neglect of Locke’s Recoinage writings certainly reflects the disciplinary
division of the modem academy, their continued disregard has more to do, I believe, with
the discourse of credit first expounded by Pocock and then furthered by a number of
cultural critics writing in his wake. Soon after the publication of P. G. M. Dickson’s
landmark study of eighteenth-century English public credit, The Financial Revolution
(which, due largely to its subject, allots the Recoinage only a paragraph),26 social and
economic historians began spending the bulk of their energies focusing on the massive
financial apparatus constructed to fund England’s military and economic expansionism.
This focus has resulted in a number of perceptive interpretations of the era, none more

10
influential than Pocock’s work on the topic.27 I can hardly do justice to the staggering
breadth of Pocock’s treatment of the subject here, but in essence it explores: 1) the
growing division between an aristocratic, landed class, grounded in an old (basically
feudal) order, and a new “monied” class, enriched by the emerging market economy; and
2) the crises in the concepts of civic virtue and the individual consciousness which that
division between real and mobile property entailed.
Pocock’s powerful interpretation of early-modern England derives from a wide
range of oppositional propaganda such as Cato's Letters and The Craftsman, but he gives
considerable prominence as well to the political writing Swift undertook for the Harley-St.
John ministry between 1710 and 1714, including Swift’s contributions to the Examiner
(1710-13), his Conduct of the Allies (1711), and his History of the Four Last Years of the
Queen (composed during 1710-14 but published posthumously in 1758).28 In these
important and immensely popular tracts (The Conduct of the Allies sold well over 11,000
copies [Ehrenpreis, 11:485], an astonishing number by eighteenth-century standards), Swift
sought to divide and conquer public opinion by playing up the opposition between the
Tory “landed interest,” which had England’s true good at heart, and the Whig “monied
interest” (especially Godolphin and Marlborough),29 which was corrupt and self-seeking.
A classic statement of this division may be found in Examiner 13, Swift’s first number,
dated 2 November 1710:
Let any Man observe the Equipages in this Town; he shall find the greater
Number of those who make a Figure, to be a Species of Men quite
different from any that were ever known before the Revolution; consisting
either of Generals and Colonels, or of such whose whole Fortunes lie in

11
Funds and Stocks: So that Power, which, according to the old Maxim, was
used to follow Land, is now gone over to Money.
(PWl H:5)
As quite a few commentators, including Pocock, have noted, Swift’s dichotomy has more
to do with political ideology than with economic fact: many members of the country
gentry speculated in the market, and even Swift himself invested several hundred pounds
in both the Bank of England and the South Sea Company (Ehrenpreis 11:556).
Nevertheless, Swift’s rhetoric exemplifies a polarity basic to much early eighteenth-
century political discourse-landed wealth versus monied wealth, the latter usually tainted
(at least in the eyes of the gentry) by association with “the funds.”
Fundamental as the opposition between land and credit was to the political
discourse of the period, however, we need to recognize that historical inquiry
concentrating on public credit risks excluding issues surrounding coinage. In the case of
Swift, emphasis has fallen on pamphlets like the Examiner or The Conduct of the Allies in
lieu of works such as The Drapier 's Letters, Intelligencer 19, and A Letter on Maculla's
Project (1729), all of which specifically address coinage problems. These tracts, and
others like them, display little concern with public credit; rather, they are both directly and
indirectly engaged with thinking about the nature of money, and, as it happens, with the
Recoinage treatises of Locke. Of course concepts of money and finance have always been
closely related, and were especially so in the early-modern era.30 But while Pocock has
contributed vastly to our understanding of the cultural ramifications of the credit
economy, little has been written about contemporary theories of value, specifically the

12
discourses that determined the “cultural logic” of gold and silver. It is, so to speak, this
side of the coin we will examine in the present study.
For Pocock, of course, the conflict between landed wealth and monied wealth
(feudalism and capitalism) is disputed in the language of classical republicanism, but his
analysis of property and credit suggests the need to re-examine the significance of Locke’s
Recoinage writings. In a discussion of ways in which “major changes . . . occurred in the
character of property itself, and consequently in the structure, the morality, and even the
psychology of politics,” Pocock remarks:
All these things began, with spectacular abruptness, to be discussed in the
middle 1690s; and compared with this great breakthrough in the secular
consciousness of political society, the attempt to discover market
connotations in Hobbes, or even Locke, sometimes looks rather like
shadow play. There are some reasons for thinking that the great debate
over property and virtue was conducted on premises not apparent to
Hobbes or even [Matthew] Wren; as for Locke, the point to be made is
that the debate seems to have been conducted with very little reference to
anything he had said.31
Although Pocock begins with what appears to be an oblique reference to the Recoinage,
he opts to pursue neither a discussion of its significance nor the crucial role Locke played
in it. Pocock states again in the essay “The Mobility of Property and the Rise of
Eighteenth-Century Sociology”: “Though Locke took a hand in the Recoinage of 1696,
one of the major proceedings of the Financial Revolution, he did not engage in the
ideological manoeuvres which characterise the defence of credit politics.”32 As keenly
aware of the significance of the Recoinage as Pocock appears to be, the issues
surrounding it should not be treated as separate and distinct from public credit. In the first
place, the monetary pressures that brought about the Recoinage were important causal

13
factors of the Financial Revolution. At the beginning, public credit was viewed primarily
as alleviating a need for gold and silver currency, and the myriad bank proposals of the
1690s were, without exception, responses to the scarcity of coin.
In the second place, Pocock seems to assume-and in this he would probably be
joined by most historians writing today—that as a Whig Locke would have unequivocally
mounted a “defence of credit politics.” This assumption is based largely upon the fact that
Locke was one of the initial subscribers to the Bank of England.33 However, Locke’s
Bank subscription cannot be construed (any more than Swift’s) as an endorsement of what
would become, in Dickson’s phrase, the Financial Revolution. Locke harbored deep
suspicions about government-issued paper currency, and his little-known manuscript
“Dialogues on Banks” (1694) expresses concern that the funds deposited in a national
bank might prove an easy target for government confiscation. As J. K. Horsefield
observes: “In some draft ‘Dialogues’ about banks [Locke] argued that no one who wished
to retain access to his money should entrust it to the Bank of England. This was partly
because there was nothing to stop the Ministry from stripping the Bank of any deposits by
means of a Quo Warranto; but mainly because the Bank would have a cash reserve only if
it borrowed one, which, he considered, it could not afford to do.”34 Patrick Kelly likewise
notes that Locke disapproved “both of the Bank’s potential monopoly over the supply of
money in England and of the political danger it represented in the form of a large sum
which the king might seize and use to defy Parliament” (103). Clearly Locke had serious
misgivings about a national bank.

14
Pocock is absolutely correct to maintain that “in a history of property theory
organised around the duality of classical and commercial politics, it is difficult to retain the
image of Locke as the hinge on which history turned.” One would indeed be hard-pressed
to prove the Two Treatises a truly pivotal book, at least in the half-century following its
publication.35 But to say at the same time that Locke “cared nothing for the virtue of
independence threatened by corruption”36 is, I think, to overlook his arguments about
money. It is not just that Locke thought the “burthen” of economic growth “unavoidably
settles on the Land first” (SC 278); he was also concerned that “the multiplying of Brokers
hinders the Trade of any Country, by making the Circuit, which the Money goes, larger. .
. Besides that, they Eat up too great a share of the Gains of Trade, by that means Starving
the Labourer, and impoverishing the Landholder” (SC 241). Because he worried that
these “Brokers” might “Ingross” so much of the nation’s cash in their hands, Locke
strongly advocated a ceiling for interest rates so that “young Men and those in Want,
might not too easily be exposed to Extortion and Oppression; and the dextrous and
combining Money Jobbers not have too great and unbounded Power, to Prey upon the
Ignorance or Necessity of Borrowers” (SC 282).
In the Dedication to Further Considerations Concerning Raising the Value of
Money (1696), Locke additionally expresses fear that lessening the silver content of the
coin would “deprive great Numbers of blameless Men [i.e., landholding government
creditors] a Fifth Part of their Estates.” He goes on to pillory money-changers in language
befitting Swift’s Examiner essays:

15
I doubt not but there are many, who, for the Service of their Countrey, and
for the Support of the Government, would gladly part with, not only one
Fifth, but a much larger Portion of their Estates. But when it shall be taken
from them, only to be bestowed on Men [i.e., “Money Jobbers”] in their,
and the common Opinion, no better deserving of their Countrey than
themselves; (unless growing exceedingly rich by the publick Necessities,
whilst every body else finds his Fortune streightned by them, be a publick
Merit, that deserves a publick and signal Reward;) This Loss, of one Fifth
of their Debts and Income, will sit heavy on them.
(404)37
A pattern begins to emerge: placed alongside Locke’s (apparent) sentiments in the
“Dialogues on Banks,” this attack on “Brokers” demonstrates that he feared both the
economic and political corruption that could arise through domination of the money
market.
But as this attack also demonstrates, Locke’s designation of the “intrinsick value”
of the precious metals made coinage crucial to contemporary debates about property. The
overtones of the Two Treatises in the phrase “a Fifth Part of their Estates” are too clear to
be missed. While this notion has not always received its due in the recent discourse of
credit, Pocock does touch upon the issue:
Once property was seen to have a symbolic value, expressed in coin or in
credit, the foundations of personality themselves appeared imaginary or at
best consensual: the individual could exist, even in his own sight, only at
the fluctuating value imposed upon him by his fellows, and these
evaluations, though constant and public, were too irrationally performed to
be seen as acts of political decision or virtue.38
Pocock’s insight here is profound (if perhaps overly secular): in many ways the modern
era has increasingly been one of flux, uncertainty, and inability (or unwillingness) to
elaborate cultural norms. However, by subsuming coin and credit under the single heading
of “symbolic value,” Pocock elides the important distinction between the two that had

16
developed in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century monetary theory, a distinction
highlighted by Locke and the Recoinage debate. Silver and gold possessed intrinsic value;
paper credit (bills of exchange, Exchequer bills, stock certificates, etc.) had only extrinsic
value. And while Locke did define intrinsic value as being based upon consent, I will
argue in the next chapter that his conception entailed much more than valuation predicated
upon the “fluctuations” and “irrationality” of “fancy and agreement”; it was grounded in
natural law and was intended to provide a single standard by which value could be judged.
It was this distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic value—with all that it symbolized in
terms of liberty, identity, authenticity, and power—that became a point of contention for
Swift and the Scriblerians.
Revisiting Charles Davenant
This distinction between the intrinsically valued precious metals and the
extrinsically valued instruments of credit is especially revealing when approaching the
work of Charles Davenant, who, like Locke, was one of the small group of advisers whom
the government consulted about the currency problem. Davenant is central to neo-
Machiavellian arguments about the cultural ramifications of credit in the era of the
Financial Revolution; Istvan Hont has gone so far as to call him “probably the most
influential English analyst of trade and its implications in the closing years of the
seventeenth century.”39 Following the lead of scholars such as Pocock and Hont, literary
critics have cited Davenant with increasing frequency, contributing to his rising
prominence as an avatar of the credit economy.40 However, Davenant’s role in the

17
Recoinage, the parallels between his thought and Locke’s, and his grounding of value in
the stability of coinage have not been sufficiently taken into account by modern
scholarship.
At the time of the Recoinage, Davenant was a former M.P. and Commissioner of
the Excise who had been ousted by the Glorious Revolution. His publishing career—in
which he more than once changed factions to curry political favor—spanned more than
fifteen years, beginning with An Essay upon the Ways and Means of Supplying the War
(1694), and ending with New Dialogues upon the Present Posture of Affairs (1710).41
Most ofDavenant’s output was collected in the five-volume Works of 1771, but several of
his essays, including, significantly, “A Memorial Concerning the Coyn of England” (1695)
and “A Memoriall Concerning Creditt” (1696) were apparently unavailable to Charles
Whitworth, Davenant’s eighteenth-century editor, and thus they were omitted from the
collection.42 The 1695 pamphlet, prepared at the behest of the ministry, consists
principally of Davenant’s argument that, while a recoinage was desirable, it was unwise to
undertake so drastic a measure during wartime (his counsel was not followed); the 1696
pamphlet deals with the aftermath of the decision to remint the coin. Significantly, these
two tracts consistently demonstrate that much ofDavenant’s thinking on credit was
derived from the experience of the Recoinage, and that he may have drawn from Locke’s
published monetary writings.
Davenant’s conception of the fickleness of “Credit”—which anticipates the
gendered caricatures of Defoe’s Review and Addison’s Spectator 343—is a mainstay of
Pocock’s chapter “Neo-Machiavellian Political Economy: The Augustan Debate over

18
Land, Trade, and Credit” in The Machiavellian Moment, but its connection to the
Recoinage (and Locke) has not been recognized. In the key passage Davenant surpasses
himself, becoming almost lyrical:
Of all beings that have existence only in the minds of men, nothing is more
fantastical and nice than Credit; it is never to be forced; it hangs upon
opinion; it depends upon our passions of hope and fear; it comes many
times unsought for, and often goes away without reason; and when once
lost, is hardly to be quite recovered.
It very much resembles, and, in many instances, is near a kin to that
fame and reputation which men obtain by wisdom in governing state
affairs, or by valour and conduct in the field. An able statesman, and a
great captain, may, by some ill accident, slip, or misfortune, be in disgrace,
and lose the present vogue and opinion; yet this, in time, will be regained,
where there is shining worth, and a real stock of merit. In [t]he same
manner, Credit, though it may be for a while obscured, and labour under
some difficulties, yet it may, in some measure, recover, where there is a
safe and good foundation at the bottom.14
As Pocock observes, Davenant enters “upon sociology of knowledge: he is discussing for
us the epistemology of the investing society .” Significantly, however, Pocock cites this
passage from Davenant’s Discourses on the Public Revenues (1698),15 not recognizing
that Davenant copied it verbatim from the unpublished tract he had written two years
earlier, the “Memoriall Concerning Creditt” (75). This “Memoriall,” as we have seen,
was a counterpart to the “Memorial Concerning the Coyn of England,” the Recoinage
advice he had written for the Lords Justices in 1695.
In 1695 Davenant had argued, along with Locke and against Treasurer William
Lowndes, that the reminted money must retain its “true Naturall and Intrinsick value” (i.e.,
it should be reminted at its full weight). He continues: “Denomination Stamp and Coiné is
no more then a Declaration from y° Soveraign that such a piece is of such a weight and

19
fineness and serves only to prevent uncertainty and fraud and in no other Sence can be
said to put a value upon it” (“Coyn” 15). This, in capsule version, is Locke’s position, or
as he phrased it:
The Stamp [is] a Warranty of the publick, that under such a denomination
they should receive a piece of such a weight, and such a fineness; that is,
they should receive so much Silver. . . . The Royal Authority gives the
stamp; the Law allows and confirms the denomination: And both together
give, as it were, the publick faith, as a security, that Sums of Money. . .
shall be of such a value, that is, shall have in them so much Silver. For ’tis
Silver and not Names that pay Debts and purchase Commodities.
(SC 312)
The parallels between the two analyses are striking, and, since Some Considerations had
been published in 1692, it is quite reasonable to suggest that Davenant may have been
influenced by Locke’s arguments. It might be argued, to be sure, that Locke was not
alone in using such language to describe the function of monetary denominations, but he
was certainly the idea’s most vocal spokesperson, and Davenant could scarcely have been
unaware of Locke’s position.
By the time of Davenant’s 1696 “Memoriall,” the Recoinage (particularly the
decision to follow Locke’s advice and maintain the existing monetary standard)46 had
resulted in a debilitating loss of the circulating coin. Confronting this severe “want of
Species,” Davenant suggests that paper notes should temporarily be made payable for all
government revenues:
In this Interval of Parliament Paper Credit ought to receive all possible
favour and Countenance from the Government, in order to which Bank
Bills should have a free Course in all the Kings Revenues and goe in
payment of Taxes, Customes, Excise and other Dutyes, both in Towne and
in the Country, and peradventure it might not be amiss, if the severall

20
offices were directed here in London, to receive payment, Bills from some
of y° most Apparent Goldsmiths.
(“Creditt” 99)
On the surface, at least, this is a remarkable turnabout: Davenant has gone from denying
that government stamp can create value to advocating government acceptance of paper
bills. Davenant was hardly known for consistency of conviction--as Pocock wryly
remarks, “he changed positions and allegiances for reasons which may not bear very much
inspection”47—but it is worth pointing out that Davenant’s suggestion was not without
parallel in Locke’s published writings. Locke was fundamentally opposed to paper
instruments because “they are liable to unavoidable Doubt, Dispute, and Counterfeiting,
and require other Proofs to assure us that they are true and good Security, than our Eyes
or a Touchstone,” but he also recognized that in times of monetary emergency (such as
existed in 1696) England would be better off using paper “than letting any part of our
Trade fall for want of current Pledges; and better too than borrowing Money of our
Neighbours upon Use, if this way of Assigning Bills can be made so easie, safe and
universal at home” (SC 234-35). In 1696 Locke did not recommend resorting to paper,
almost certainly because he felt using bills would not “hinder us from being Poor; but may
be suspected to help make us so, by keeping us from feeling our Poverty” (SC 235). At
the same time, and especially in light of Davenant’s meteoric rise to prominence in recent
scholarship, it is interesting to note that Locke considered some form of paper credit
within the realm of possibility.48
Even if Davenant did not take his cue from Locke (and it must be admitted that, at
least under the monetary circumstances that prevailed in 1696, Davenant was more

21
daring), we need to recognize that Davenant never entirely separated the ability of paper
credit to properly function from the presence and quality of specie-based coin.49 To
Davenant’s mind, credit is ancillary to gold and silver “ready money”: “Money and Credit
must mutually help one another, money is the Foundation of Credit where there is none
there can be no Credit, and where Credit obtaines, money will Circulate the better”
(“Creditt” 96). The precious metals constitute the “real” wealth on which credit must
subsist; thus Davenant draws an important distinction between coin and credit:
For suppose (as perhapps the Case will prove) that wee have in dipt
money four Millions; and four more in Artifician Treasure, such as in some
sence Wee may call Tallyes and Bank bills because there is not Species in
the nation to pay of the whole, tho’ each individuall can be answered w"1
money. In all probability will not mens fears of the publick, or y'
Necessityes of Trade make them desire to turne this fictitious Wealth into
that which is certaine and substantiall?
(“Coyn” 35-6)
Davenant is very much concerned with the capricious nature of credit, a measure of value
all too subject to fancy and whim. But here he makes abundantly clear the difference
between the “fictitious Wealth” supplied by credit, and the “certaine and substantiall”
wealth inherent in gold and silver.
Davenant’s experience with the Recoinage reappears in his True Picture of a
Modem Whig (1701). As the title indicates, Davenant had come to align himself with the
“Old Whigs” and moderate Tories, and in the pamphlet Tom Double, the diabolical
“Modem Whig,” represents the consummate money-jobber. In discussing this tract
Pocock rightly perceives the constitutional threat posed, in Davenant’s estimation, by
Modem Whiggery: “By the end of the dialogue the confederates are discussing plans to

22
stop the exchequer and close up parliament.” For Pocock, the villains’ power is founded
upon public finance: “Everything has become dependent upon public credit, but the public
debts have become a form of movable property. Those who own and manage it may own
and manage everything.”50 Rather surprisingly, however, Davenant traces Double’s
wealth, and hence his power, not to the emerging credit markets, but to the deterioration
of the coin. In the early 1690s, Double recounts, he and his cronies recognized that tax
receivers could reap extravagant profits by clipping the coin in their possession before
submitting it to the Exchequer. “When the money was recoining,” Double explains to
Whiglove, “I myself paid into the exchequer several thousand pounds, of which the 100/.
bags, one with another, weighed not above 9 pound, which ought to have weighed 33, by
which you may guess how much stuck in our paws.”sl Double and his wife, “as dexterous
a clipper as any in London,” thus managed to amass a fortune of £50,000. This satiric
indictment of clipping is important on two points. First, it confirms Davenant’s persistent
identification of adulterated coin with political and social corruption. Second, and perhaps
more important, it adopts Locke’s view that the Exchequer should only accept coin by
weight in order to prevent further monetary piracy by the likes of Tom Double (cf.
“Guineas” 364). Indeed, as we shall see in subsequent chapters, preventing such monetary
piracy was one of Locke’s primary concerns in fashioning recoinage legislation.
Davenant’s last effort, New Dialogues upon the Present Posture of Affairs (also
omitted from his Works), was published during the financial crunch that saw the creation
of the South Sea Company, and in the pamphlet credit is yet again tied to coinage: “The
Species in Silver and Gold . . . [are] the Foundations of Credit.”52 After a lengthy analysis

23
of the amount of money recoined in 1695-99, Sir Richard Comover, the Tory protagonist
of the dialogue, looks back to the Recoinage and suggests that Exchequer Bills be made
legal tender to increase circulation. There is, Comover anticipates, a danger in such a
plan: “if the Species itself by Corruption, should become of uncertain Value, it would
imbroil and interrupt all the Business of that Country.”53 Corruption, in other words,
arises from “diseased” coin, what Davenant had in 1695 termed the “dangerous Ulcer in
the Body Politick which is never to be throughly Cured by applying Remedies to the Part,
but by mending the whole Mass of Blood which is corrupted” (“Coyn” 8). Even at this
late stage of his career, then, Davenant has not veered too far from his 1695 position: to
maintain its credit, England must safeguard its specie standard. He has also remained
surprisingly Lockean in his views.
Cultural History and the Legacy of Coinage
Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions, cultural history, like any institution,
participates in a subtle process of self-replication, and therefore little attempt has yet been
made to situate the language of the Recoinage, especially Locke’s contributions to it, in a
broader cultural context. Hence Pocock’s undeniably brilliant work has yielded to a mode
of interpretation (in literary studies, at least) that all too easily becomes a quest to pinpoint
the origins of the (post)modern flux of personal identity. This hermeneutic comes to
fruition in the work of a critic like Sandra Sherman, who frames the pamphlet literature
surrounding the South Sea Bubble within the context of postmodern theories of textuality.
Almost predictably, Sherman’s method overlooks the monetary discourses which surfaced

24
even in debates over stockjobbing. In Sherman’s view, “Like so much else that is British,
the discourse of early modern finance lacked a vocabulary that was ‘purpose-built,’
sufficient to describe the phenomena [of public finance] whose rapid, radical progress
outpaced linguistic convention.”54 Undoubtedly the men and women of eighteenth-
century Britain had difficulty grasping the riddles and mysteries of the stock market (they
still perplex us today); people knew, however, when they had been bilked, and on such
occasions they quickly resorted to the established language of coinage. Thus the writer of
The Pangs of Credit (1722) could claim: “‘[I]t is very plain that selling Stock above
Intrinsick is the same kind of cheat as passing bad Money.’”55 This language clearly
alludes to clipped or counterfeit coin, problems that peaked in 1695-96 and which the
Recoinage was meant to redress, points Sherman neglects even to mention. By itself, such
an oversight is relatively insignificant; it becomes of greater consequence, however, when
Sherman—with no comment indicating the phrase’s coinage context—cites passage after
passage from contemporary pamphlets that speak of “intrinsick value.”56 For Sherman,
the logic of these passages culminates in what she calls “the ideology of contract,”
exemplified in a pamphlet such as Sir D. Dalrymple’s Time Bargains Tryed by the Rules of
Equity and Principles of Civil Law (1720): ‘“the Buyer, by the Law of Nature, which
requires an Equality in all Contracts, is free from his Bargain in as far as the Price exceeds
the real Value of the thing bought.’”57 Unfortunately, we are not told that such language
derives from the natural law arguments of political philosophers like Grotius and Locke, a
presence that calls into question Sherman’s assertion that the discourse of debt
consistently employed a metaphysics of absence.

25
But Sherman is not alone To read much current criticism of the early eighteenth
century, one might easily conclude that at some point during the quarter-century between
the founding of the Bank of England (1694) and the South Sea Bubble (1720) the Royal
Mint shut down, the moneyers were put out of work, and paper credit abruptly prevailed
as the only means of economic transaction. At the very least, such an approach flies in the
face of monetary history: a specie standard was in place in England well into the twentieth
century, and to assume that the current “floating standard” will never collapse is to ignore
the very sort of historical contingency that ought to be a principal object of our study. In
fact, the transition to paper money occurred far more tentatively than is often portrayed.
Whereas for centuries the sentence for counterfeiting coin had been death (usually
preceded by particularly gruesome torture), it was not until 1773 that forging paper
currency was considered a capital offense.58 Still another sixty years would pass (1833)
before Bank of England notes were declared legal tender.59
More subtly, the absorption with credit conceals, ironically enough, a class-specific
hermeneutic. Throughout the period in question (1695-1750), government-backed paper
instruments were issued in denominations far exceeding the means of a majority of
Londoners. Although Bank of England notes were printed with blank spaces, as of an
Order of 1696 these were never to be filled out in amounts of less than £50, and the
earliest surviving Bank note was made out for the considerable sum of £555 “ Exchequer
Bills, another primary form of paper credit (beginning in 1707 they were underwritten by
the Bank), were similarly issued in surprisingly large denominations. It is true that in
1696-97, at the extremity of the “hiatus of specie” caused by the Great Recoinage,
I

26
Exchequer Bills were circulated in amounts as low as £5, and a few were actually issued
with blank spaces.61 But in 1707, when Exchequer Bills were next issued, they were
printed in denominations of £25, £50, and £100. Although in 1709 an additional
denomination of £12 10s. was introduced, after that year Bills were issued solely in
denominations of £100 or greater.62
These figures must be placed in the context of contemporary income before their
magnitude can be fully appreciated. Although estimates of eighteenth-century wages,
annual income, and standards of living are notoriously difficult to establish with certainty,
approximations are illuminating. In the early years of the century, a common laborer in
London (and it must be remembered that, like today, both wages and cost of living were
higher in a metropolitan area) earned £15-25 per year, just enough to stay out of the
poorhouse; a journeyman (carpenter, mason, etc.) brought in £30-40 per year, enough to
qualify for the fringes of the “middling sort .”63 Although these figures are rough
estimates, they coincide nicely with Johnson’s intimation to Boswell that in 1737 a single
man could live in London on £30 a year “without being contemptible.”64 When we
consider annual incomes on the order of £35 (or much less), we begin to grasp just how
large an amount a £25 or £50 note truly signified. Even the early £5 Exchequer Bills
cannot be considered a small sum by late seventeenth-century standards, especially in an
economy experiencing massive deflation, as was the case when the Bills were issued in
1697. Clearly, only the extremely wealthy could have afforded to use paper Bills in these
amounts; coins, especially the smaller variety of shillings, groats, and halfpence, remained
the currency of the common people.

27
Compared to the wide-ranging social impact of the institutions of public finance
and the national debt, issues of coinage and Locke’s monetary theories may seem rather
arcane. It ought to be recognized, however, that in a non-bartering economy, the principle
of exchange—be it commercial (a retail sale), financial (the sale of stock, for instance), or
otherwise—does not take place outside a theory of money. Thus an understanding of the
way a culture conceives of and represents its money should be indispensable for any
discussion of social and economic value or exchange within that culture. Moreover, since
the standard medium of exchange throughout Europe was silver coin (or bullion), all other
vehicles were judged in relation to its enduring “intrinsick value.” This could be true even
of language itself: Swift, in his Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the
English Tongue (1712) “would have our Language, after it is duly correct, always to last;
. . . Because then the old Books will yet be always valuable according to their intrinsick
Worth, and not thrown aside on Account of unintelligible Words and Phrases, which
appear harsh and uncouth, only because they are out of Fashion” (P1FIV:15, emphasis
added). The link between language and money was similarly signified by the verb “to
utter,” a word that bridged the ideas of expression, disclosure, and, significantly, the
power to issue currency.155
For these reasons, the perennial shortage of specie (the “scarcity of coin,”
pamphlet after pamphlet termed it) became linked with anxieties about the status of any
number of “endangered” cultural institutions (history, law, literature, aesthetics). It is no
coincidence, I would suggest, that in England a flowering of numismatic studies occurred
on the heels of the Recoinage, with the publication of works such as John Evelyn’s

28
Numismata: A Discourse of Medals (1697), Roger Gale’s translation of a French
numismatic handbook, The Knowledge of Medals; or Instructions for Those Who Apply
Themselves to the Study of Medals Both Ancient and Modern (1697), James Coningham’s
A Critical Essay on the Modern Medals. With Some Reflections on the Taste and
Judgment of the Ancients (1704), Arbuthnot’s Tables (1705; 1727), Joseph Addison’s
new translation of The Knowledge of Medals (1716), and Stephen Martin Leake’s Nummi
Britannica Historia (1726, with subsequent editions in 1745 and 1763). In a similar vein,
William Fleetwood, Bishop of Ely, who in 1694 had delivered a sermon on the evils of
clipping coin,66 delineated the inflationary tendencies in 600 years of English prices in his
Chronicon Preciosum (1707).67 In this climate, gold and silver came to represent far more
than a measure of economic value: they became symbolic of liberty and virtue, on the one
hand, and, on the other, the declining status of culture itself. Thus when in The First
Epistle of the First Book of Horace Imitated (1738) Pope writes, ‘“Seek Virtue first! be
bold! / As Gold to Silver, Virtue is to Gold,”’68 his equation resonates with a profound
anxiety about the status of both coin and culture.
The Presence of Locke’s Monetary Theories in the Eighteenth Century
Thus far I have argued that Locke’s monetary writings played a larger role in
eighteenth-century England than has generally been acknowledged, but the only tangible
evidence I have offered to support the assertion has been the case of Swift. That Locke’s
Tracts were still circulating after 171569 and could be found in the library of an Anglican
Dean in Dublin (as opposed to that of a merchant or banker in London) certainly suggests

29
the continuing importance and widespread influence of Locke’s monetary ideas, but, as
interesting as the evidence of Swift’s library~or even of a tract like Some Reflections
Concerning the Reduction of Gold Coin in Ireland— may be, it does not conclusively
demonstrate that Locke’s monetary tracts were widely known and read. Coinage, it might
be argued, may simply have been a pet issue for Swift. Moreover, even though historians
of economic thought have long noted the responses to Locke’s monetary theories among
contemporary economic writers such as J. Jocelyn, Andrew Justice, and John Law, to cite
their knowledge of Locke’s ideas as evidence of broad cultural influence finally begs the
question. For my argument to have any validity, it must be demonstrated that Locke’s
Recoinage writings had considerable influence among eighteenth-century intellectuals
outside specifically mercantile circles. In order to better substantiate this claim, then, let
me now offer a brief survey of some of the major political periodicals that made mention
of Locke’s monetary theories.
Joseph Addison’s Freeholder 18 (20 February 1716) attacks the French
government of the young Louis XV for arbitrarily raising and lowering the value of coin in
order to expand tax revenues, with Locke and the Recoinage clearly in the background. I
will discuss the substance of Locke’s monetary theories at length in the next chapter, but
suffice it now to say that Locke regarded any attempt by the crown to raise the value of
coin above its “intrinsick value” (the quantity of gold or silver in a given denomination) as
an arbitrary confiscation of property (in this case the gold or silver content of the coin).
For Locke—as for other natural law theorists such as Hugo Grotius and Samuel
Pufendorf-raising the value of coin over its “intrinisck value” violated natural law. Thus

30
Freeholder 18 satirically depicts the King’s inflationary measure as an attempt to defy
nature, in the form of mathematical and physical law:
This ... is a secret of Multiplication without Addition. It is natural enough
however for the Vanity of the French Nation to grow Insolent upon this
imaginary Wealth, not considering that their Neighbours think them no
more Rich by Virtue of an Edict to make Fourteen Twenty, than they
wou’d think ’em more Formidable should there be another Edict to make
every Man in the Kingdom Seven Foot high.â„¢
Significantly, James Leheny (editor of the modern critical edition of The Freeholder)
traces this language to one of Locke’s Recoinage tracts, Further Considerations
Concerning Raising the Value of Money (1696): “One may as rationally hope to lengthen
a foot by dividing it into Fifteen parts, instead of Twelve; and calling them inches; as to
increase the value of Silver that is in a Shilling, by dividing it into Fifteen parts instead of
Twelve, and calling them Pence.”71 For Addison, French attempts to defy natural law are
directly related to their absolute monarchy, and his commentary becomes a paean to the
English political system: “This Method of lowering or advancing Money, we, who have
the Happiness to be in another Form of Government, should look upon as an
unwarrantable Kind of Clipping and Coining.”72
Four years later, in The Theatre 17 (27 February 1720), Sir Richard Steele
similarly draws on Locke’s monetary writings to expose the corruption of the South Sea
Company Directors, whom he accuses of manipulating value in order to gain a monopoly
over the money supply. Writing under the pseudonym Sir John Edgar, Steele describes
credit as a “Belief, that Money is as safe and more commodious in the Possession of
another, than in a Man’s own Hands"™ Credit, however, “cannot subsist without a

31
Store, or an imagin’d Store” of gold and silver, which have exchange value because of
their “intrinsick Worth.”74 The South Sea Company is dangerous precisely because it
“visibly increases Paper-Credit beyond its present Bounds,” that is, beyond its ability to
refund payments in gold and silver.75 This inflationary tactic, in turn, threatens the stability
of the money supply. To support his point, Steele specifically cites Locke’s Some
Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest, and Raising the Value of
Money (first published in 1692), claiming to speak according to the philosopher’s
“Sentiments”:
[W]hen the Value of Money is cheap, Bankers will, by the assistance of
Paper-Credit, draw it into their own Hands, and by draining the Country of
it, render it scarce. Their Power for this Purpose is clear, from an Instance
Mr. Lock, according to whose Sentiments I now speak, mentions of one
Banker ’.v having Credit, by Notes under a Servant’s Hand, for eleven
hundred thousand Pounds at once 76
The South Sea Directors, in Steele’s view, were guilty of flooding the economy with
“their own Coinage in Paper.”77 They have insidiously set themselves up as a parallel Mint
with no means of constraint by the public. Thus, after hoarding all the gold and silver
money in the kingdom, they could hold the government hostage. Steele’s argument
derives not from Machiavelli, who, far from offering a theory of money, does not find it
necessary to warn princes against debasement of their coinage; it does rely considerably on
Locke.
Nor were Addison and Steele the only popular polemicists to draw on Locke’s
monetary writings. Two of Trenchard and Gordon’s Cato's Letters, 87 and 88 (28 July
and 4 August 1722), addressing the problem of bullion imports and exports, do so as well.

32
The first pamphlet, Gold and Silver in a Country to be considered only as Commodities,
echoes the language Locke uses to describe the etiology of gold and silver money in both
the Two Treatises and the Recoinage tracts: “Indeed, by the universal Consent of
Mankind,” Cato writes, “Silver and Gold is become the Medium of all Commerce; and
every State, as well as private Man, is rich and powerful in Proportion, as he possesses or
can command more or less of this universal Commodity.”78 Locke’s Recoinage writings
also figure prominently in the second letter, The Reasonableness and Advantage of
allowing the Exportation of Gold and Silver, with the Impossibility of preventing the
same. Concerned about a disparity in the international exchange rate between the value of
bullion and the value of coin that favored the exportation of bullion (causing coin to be
melted into bullion for trade), Cato argues—as had Locke in the 1690s—that legislative
prohibitions against the exportation of coin were ultimately futile, since the balance of
trade could be rectified only through the concerted diligence and frugality of the nation.
For Cato, as for Locke once again, it was a question of both natural law (“There is no
Way in Nature to hinder Money from being exported, but by hindering the Occasions of it;
that is, by hindering the Use and Consumption of those Things which it is sent out to
buy”) and free exchange (“Since then Money or Bullion must be exported, when Debts are
contracted Abroad, I think it is eligible to send out the first rather than the latter, or at
least to leave People at Liberty to export which they please”).79 Once again, the argument
is underwritten not by classical republicanism, nor even by the doctrine of consent found
in the Two Treatises', it is rather the language of Locke’s monetary treatises.

33
Let me offer one final example of the continuing influence of Locke’s monetary
theories in eighteenth-century political thought, The Craftsman, the anti-Walpole journal
that ran under Bolingbroke’s sponsorship from 1726 to 1736. Proponents of the civic
republican thesis have called attention to The Craftsman's, sustained assault on Walpole,
the national debt, and stock-jobbing ventures like the South Sea Company, a campaign
that demonized the institution of public credit for introducing corruption into the political
sphere. As often as the attack on corruption centers around public credit, though, it is
important to note that the language of monetary theory as Locke helped define it (phrases
such as “intrinsic worth,” “real value,” “ideal value”) enters the debate as well. Moreover,
coinage serves for a marker of the present age’s debasement.
The Liberty of the Press, and the Act of Toleration, those two inestimable
Blessings, date their Commencement from this happy Period [i.e.,
William’s reign]. The retrieving of our Coin when sunk so low in its
Value, that the most sanguine Friends of the Government despair’d of ever
remedying so fatal an Evil, will always be a standing Proof of his superior
Genius.80
Although we might find a Tory eulogy of William—especially one proclaiming an
“Attachment to the present Royal Family, which, by his Care and unwearied Labours for
our Good, is now established on the Throne”81~rather duplicitous, there is little reason to
doubt the praise for liberty of the press (a theme of The Craftsman dating back to the first
number), the Act of Toleration, or the Recoinage. One of the few things Whig and Tory
seem to have agreed upon was that the restoration of the coinage to its previous
standard-a measure, as we shall see in the next chapter, permanently associated with

34
Locke-reflected principles of liberty unique to England. This is Addison’s point in
Freeholder 18.
Craftsman 71 (26 November 1727), a contribution from Bolingbroke himself,
more directly uses Locke to expose the corruption of the credit economy. In this letter Sir
Charles Freeport (one of Bolingbroke’s pseudonyms) enlists Locke against the South Sea
Company’s trading policies:
The Judicious Mr Lock observes that, “When Trade is once lost, it will be
too late, by a mis-tim’d Care, easily to retrieve it again; for the Currents of
Trade, like those of Waters, make themselves Channels, out of which they
are afterwards as hard to be diverted, as Rivers that have worn themselves
deep within their Banks.”82
The point to be made here is not just that Bolingbroke is quoting Locke, but that he cites
Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest, and Raising the
Value of Money. Craftsman 336 repeats this tactic, quoting verbatim several pages of
Locke’s remarks in Some Considerations on the land tax, and 370 appeals to Locke yet
again.83 Many scholars would be surprised to discover that when The Craftsman makes
an overt (albeit rare) reference to Locke, it is more often to the economic writings than to
the Two Treatises. These recurrent allusions to Locke’s Recoinage pamphlets—often in
the absence of similar references to the Two Treatises—bespeak the widespread influence
of tracts like Some Considerations on contemporary political discourse. At the very least,
they clearly demonstrate that Swift was not alone in owning and reading Locke’s Tracts.
I by no means wish to disregard the importance of the emergence of the credit
economy; the diatribes against public finance in Cato’s Letters and The Craftsman are
evidence enough that profound changes (as they always are) were taking place. I do

35
believe, however, that credit-based interpretations of early eighteenth-century British
culture need to be supplemented. Coinage influenced and was subject to a variety of
discourses, sometimes parallel to but usually divergent from those concerning credit. Just
as Exchange Alley could serve as a vehicle for criticism of Walpole, so too could the
Tower Mint—a well-guarded symbol of royal authenticity and prerogative associated not
with credit, but with coin.84 Hence Locke’s arguments about the dangers of debased
coinage afforded Craftsman 114 (7 September 1728) the language for an extended attack
upon the ministry:
[I]f a very dull Fellow, or, perhaps two very dull Fellows, should at any
Time be made Secretaries of State, it would be just the same Thing as if an
arbitrary Prince should coin leaden shillings and order them to pass
currently in his Dominions. . . . Such false, adulterated, or imaginary
Money as This, may do well enough for domestick Use under absolute
Governments, but, in free Countries, the People expect something of a
real, intrinsick Value. And tho’ it may be objected, that even we of this
Kingdom have had such Coin imposed upon us in former Reigns', yet our
Eyes are at present too much open’d to take meer Dross for true Sterling',
it being fresh in every Body’s Memory how a late Brazen Project, of this
Nature, was rejected, in a neighbouring Kingdom, with universal
Indignation.85
This sort of language goes a long way toward explaining precisely why the Opposition
impugned Walpole as the minister of “brass.” It was not simply that he was an untitled
interloper in the halls of power, though this sort of snobbery certainly played a part in the
attacks. It was also that he was abusing his authority to place unqualified people (often to
purchase their support, as in the well known case of Thomas Gordon) in important
government positions. In the Lockean terms of the metaphor, Walpole was a tyrant
forcing the English people to accept substandard ministers, who would then be rejected in

36
“freer” markets elsewhere. An incident such as the Wood’s halfpence affair—and we shall
see in Chapter 4 the crucial role Locke’s monetary theories played in Swift’s Drapier
campaign—splendidly illustrated the point.
In approaching Scriblerian satire from the standpoint of coinage, I adopt a very
different method from that employed by Colin Nicholson in Writing and the Rise of
Finance. Nicholson’s mode of inquiry represents, at bottom, a desire to uncover origins,
specifically the “origins of those structures of motive and systems of wealth-creation we
now denote as capitalist.”86 A method focusing on coinage and its metaphors, having little
concern with economic origins, approaches the age very differently, and it therefore
reveals modes of discourse that have largely escaped notice. If history is approached—and
here I quote Herbert Butterfield—“not as a question of origins but as a question of
transitions, not as the subject of‘causes’ but as the subject of‘mediations,’” then
historical change “would seem less cataclysmic.”87 Unfortunately, the quest for origins
latent in the discourse of credit ultimately denies the eighteenth century the very otherness
to which it is (ethically) entitled. If we desire to comprehend a culture separated from
ours by over two centuries, we need to balance our analyses of public credit with
interpretations of the monetary form more common to their everyday existence—coinage—
and the standard it entailed.
Swift’s black flag calls us to account.

37
Notes
1. The most thorough account of the affair can be found in Ehrenpreis, 111:839-43,
853-62.
2. Quoted in F. Elrington Ball, ed. The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, D.D., 6 vols.
(London: G. Bell and Sons, 1914), VI:47, «3.
3. Quoted in J. A. Downie, Jonathan Swift: Political Writer (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1984), 329. See also the headnotes to “A Ballad” and “Ay and No: A Tale
from Dublin” in Poems, 840-42.
4. In Hugh Boulter, Letters Written by His Excellency Hugh Boulter, D.D.,2 vols.
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1769-70), 11:243/1, The Latin phrase telum imbelle sine ictu
translates literally as “harmless weapon without force”; cf. Aeneid, 11.544.
5. On 2 February 1737/38, Swift wrote to the Earl of Orrery that “we have not an ounce
of Silver nor any Gold but four Pound pieces [i.e. Portuguese gold coins], since the
Reduction of gold” (Corr V:90). This is in stark contrast to Boulter’s perception of the
matter. Just nine days after Swift’s communication to Orrery, Boulter, in a letter to the
Duke of Dorset expressing gratitude for his support of the measure, reported that “The
effect of this alteration is already felt in having guineas, half-guineas, and pistoles very
common, instead of 4/. pieces: and silver is in much greater plenty than it was; and the
clamour that had been raised is very near over” (Boulter, 11:247).
6. Downie, 333, emphasis added; Ehrenpreis, 111:853, emphasis added. In characterizing
Swift’s position as economically unfeasible, both Downie and Ehrenpreis appear to be
following Oliver W. Ferguson’s assessment that Swift’s objection to the measure was “ill-
founded” (Jonathan Swift and Ireland [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962], 184).
Ferguson finds Boulter “both disinterested and correct” in advocating the adjustment, but
he seems to base this judgment entirely on Boulter’s own correspondence (184 «13),
edited, no less, by Philips, who probably still smarted from Swift’s unwillingness to
advance his career in the 1710s (Ehrenpreis, 11:435-36). (Moreover, Pope had attacked
Philips by name in the then-recently published Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, no doubt adding
fuel to Philips’s fire.) While there is certainly no reason we should take Swift’s word on
the affair, it seems clear that no contemporary account can be deemed “disinterested.”
Joseph Johnston’s “Irish Currency in the Eighteenth Century” (a misleading title, since half
the article dwells on seventeenth-century coinage, and the analysis stops at 1737) clearly
demonstrates that there were a number of competing ideas--put forth by Thomas Prior and
Bishop Berkeley, among others-about the best way to adjust the exchange (lowering gold
and raising silver, for instance), a fact which by itself suggests that Swift was hardly as
isolated in opposition as he has been portrayed. Johnston concludes that after the
alteration “Sterling money of both metals must henceforth have circulated more easily in
Ireland,” but he provides no evidence for the assertion (Hermathena 52 [1938]: 26), and

38
we are left with Swift’s word against Boulter’s. In any case, a cloud of confusion and
misinformation surrounds the entire affair: while Ehrenpreis presents the adjustment as
inflationary, Swift states in “The Rev. Dean Swift ’.s Reasons Against Lowering the Gold
and Silver Coin” (PW XIII: 119-20) that he considered the new policy deflationary.
7. (Dublin, 1737). So far as I know, James Woolley is the only Swift critic to mention this
pamphlet; see Jonathan Swift and Thomas Sheridan, The Intelligencer, ed. Woolley
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 334.
8. Swift and Sheridan, 209. Basing its decision on Isaac Newton’s calculations at the
Mint, the English government had lowered the official rate at which a guinea circulated in
England (but not in Ireland) in 1717. Thus it is of interest that a pamphlet entitled/! Short
Essay on Coin (Dublin, 1737)—which reprints three of Newton’s Mint Reports, including
the Report of 1717—also appeared anonymously in 1737.
9. Swift and Sheridan, 209. It is significant that Swift does not demand absolute equality
between the two exchange rates, a point which he may have suspected the English
government, for political purposes, would have been unwilling to accept. By suggesting a
difference of a farthing (a quarter of a penny), however, Swift does attempt to bring the
value of the guinea within the range of the “specie points,” a move which would keep Irish
silver at home. On specie points and the “commercial price” of silver, see Chapter 2,
below.
10. Swift, however, might not have thought this accusation to be true. It may be that his
primary interest in the matter was to gain an Irish mint, a recurrent topic in his writings
throughout the 1720s and 1730s, one, as I argue in Chapter 4, derived in part from Locke.
The author of Some Reflections clearly has the issue of an Irish mint in mind as well: “by
this Means [lowering the gold] we shall enjoy all the Benefits of the English Mint without
sharing the Tax which supports it” (11).
11. Some Reflections, 5-9. Significantly, the writer assumes that Locke’s view on the
primacy of silver is so well known that it isn’t necessary to mention his name after the title
page. To knowledgeable contemporaries, parallels between the anonymous author’s
language and Locke’s (e g., “Money ... is the Thing bargained for, as well as the Measure
of the Bargain” [7; cf. FC 412]) would have been unmistakable. For Locke’s arguments
about the proper relation between gold and silver, see esp. SC 324-26.
12. E g., Ricardo Quintana, Two Augustans: John Locke, Jonathan Swift (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1978); F. P. Lock, Swift’s Tory Politics (Newark:
University of Delaware Press, 1983); Downie; Christopher Fox, Locke and the
Scriblerians (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988); Nicholas Hudson,
“Gulliver's Travels and Locke’s Radical Nominalism,” in Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries
in the Early Modem Era, 1650-1850, ed. Kevin Cope (New York: AMS, 1994), 247-66;
Ian Higgins, Swift's Politics: A Study in Disaffection (Cambridge: Cambridge University

39
Press, 1994).
13.1 have recorded here the title as it appears in the sale catalogue facsimile published in
DSL, item 300. Locke’s book was actually titled Several Papers Relating to Money,
Interest, and Trade, &c. Writ upon several Occasions, and Published at different Times
and first appeared in mid-July of 1696; a second edition was published later that year. See
the “Checklist of Printings” in Kelly, 159-62. I will have more to say about the content of
Several Papers in the next chapter.
14. J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the
Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); Virtue,
Commerce, and History: Essays on Political Thought and History, Chiefly in the
Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); and “The Political
Limits to Premodern Economics” in John Dunn, ed. The Economic Limits to Modern
Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 121-41. See also Caroline
Robbins, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman: Studies in the Transmission,
Development and Circumstances of English Liberal Thought from the Restoration of
Charles LI until the War with the Thirteen Colonies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1959).
15. Pocock, Machiavellian Moment, 424.
16. Jack Fruchtman, Jr. offers a concise, recent summary of the Locke-Machiavelli debate
in his review essay, “Classical Republicanism, Whig Political Science, Tory History: The
State of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought” (Eighteenth-Century Life 20 [1996]: 94-
103). For obvious reasons, I will not go into depth about the status of the debate as it
pertains to American political thought, but for a recent synopsis of that discussion, see
Jerome Huyler, Locke in America: The Moral Philosophy of the Founding Era
(Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995), 1-28.
17. In John Arbuthnot: Mathematician and Satirist (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1935), Lester M. Beattie notes that Arbuthnot’s Tables, though flawed in parts,
were commonly used in eighteenth-century school books and were even cited in
Lempriére's Classical Dictionary (349), but Beattie does not report Hume’s reference.
Robert C. Steensma’s more recent Dr. John Arbuthnot (Boston: Twayne, 1979) likewise
omits mention of Hume’s essay.
18. David Hume, Essay on the Balance of Trade, in Political Essays, ed. Knud
Haakonssen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 147-48 and n.
19. Hume, 137-38; 148. Hume initially takes Swift to task for providing faulty import-
export data, but Haakonssen’s note shows that Hume considerably twisted the Dean’s
figures (301 «4; for the parallel passages in Swift see PWXH.9, 11, 12). Hume’s second
allusion to Swift is amusing enough to bear quoting here: “We ought, however, always to

40
remember the maxim of Dr. Swift, That, in the arithmetic of the customs, two and two
make not four, but often make only one” (148; cf. PWX11:21). Adam Smith would later
quote the same passage in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of
Nations (ed. R. H. Campbell, A. K. Skinner, and W. B. Todd, 2 vols. The Glasgow
Edition of the Works of Adam Smith [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976], 882).
20. Karen Iversen Vaughn, John Locke: Economist and Social Scientist (Chicago and
London: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Neal Wood, John Locke and Agrarian
Capitalism (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984). As Vaughn
notes in her Preface, “very little is actually known about the influence Locke’s economic
writings had on these eighteenth-century economists, or if his work was read at all by
many others” (xi). It is my hope the present dissertation will help clarify the latter point.
21. A notable exception is James Thompson’s recent Models of Value: Eighteenth-
Century Political Economy and the Novel (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996).
Thompson contends that the shift from Locke’s notion of intrinsic value to the more
modem concept of extrinsically valued currency informs the development of the novel in
England from Defoe to Austen. Thompson is to be applauded for initiating discussion of
the broad cultural influence of Locke’s monetary theories, but, as I argue in the next
chapter, his reading of Locke is flawed in certain fundamental ways.
22. See, for instance, Brian Vickers, Studies in the Theory of Money, 1690-1776
(Philadelphia: Chilton, 1959); J. Keith Horsefield, British Monetary Experiments, 1650-
1710 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960); William Letwin, The Origins of
Scientific Economics: English Economic Thought, 1660-1776 (London: Methuen, 1963);
Joyce Oldham Appleby, Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century
England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978); and Terence Hutchison, Before
Adam Smith (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988).
23. One of the few treatments of Locke’s involvement with the Recoinage is Peter
Laslett’s “John Locke, the Great Recoinage, and the Origins of the Board of Trade: 1695-
1698,” in John Locke: Problems and Perspectives, ed. John W. Yolton (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1969), 137-65 (though it must be said that the bulk of the
essay examines issues surrounding Locke’s dealings as a member the Board of Trade). A
more recent exception is Huyler, who does briefly incorporate Locke’s monetary ideas
into the body of his political thought (164-71).
24. Vere Chappell, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Locke (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1994), 21.
25. Appleby, 221.
26. P G M. Dickson, The Financial Revolution in England: A Study in the Development
of Public Credit, 1688-1756 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1967), 349.

41
27. For an excellent study built upon Dickson’s work, see John Brewer, The Sinews of
Power: War, Money, and the English State, 1688-1783 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1990).
28. The extent of Pocock’s reliance upon these tracts is suggested by a note in The
Machiavellian Moment, 447-48, «57.
29. For particular examples of Swift’s vitriolic treatment of Godolphin and Marlborough,
see “The Virtues of Sid Hamet the Magician’s Rod” (1710) and “A Satirical Elegy on the
Death of a Late Famous General” (1722) in Poems, 131-35; 295-97.
30. The best example of the relationship between monetary theory and finance is probably
that of David Ricardo and the Bullion Report of 1810, but for a study of this relationship
in England in the early modem period, see Horsefield. For a broad overview of the role of
money in Europe and the way it touched upon financial matters, see Pierre Vilar, A
History of Gold and Money, 1450-1920, trans. Judith White (1976; rpt. London: Verso,
1991), passim.
31. Pocock, “Authority and Property: The Question of Liberal Origins,” in Virtue, 67.
32. Pocock, Virtue, 110. Pocock earlier states, “when the great debate [over the Financial
Revolution] began it is hard to detect Locke’s presence in it” (108).
33. Both Isaac Kramnick, in Bolingbroke and His Circle: The Politics of Nostalgia in the
Age of Walpole (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1968), 42; and Pocock, in
Machiavellian, 451, cite this fact as evidence of Locke’s support for the credit economy.
34. Horsefield, 129. The “Dialogue” apparently remained unfinished; see item 532 in
Horsefield’s extensive bibliography.
35. In Bolingbroke and His Circle Kramnick aligned himself with the neo-Machiavellians,
thereby discounting Locke’s importance in the eighteenth century. His more recent work,
however, has taken the position that, at least after 1760, Locke’s influence was
considerable. See Chapters 1 and 6 of Republicanism and Bourgeois Radicalism:
Political Ideology in Late Eighteenth-Century England and America (Ithaca and London:
Cornell University Press, 1990).
36. Pocock, Virtue, 108.
37. Cf “Trumbull”: “by the makeing clipd money go for its weight only the greatest part
of the losse falling [i.e., will fall] upon the Changers of Money who have got great estates
by that Trade” (370). The word “estate” is directly linked, of course, to Locke’s theory of
property (7T, II, §§87, 123).
38.Pocock, Machiavellian, 464.

42
39. Istvan Hont, “Free Trade and the Economic Limits to National Politics: Neo-
Machiavellian Political Economy Reconsidered” in John Dunn, ed. The Economic Limits
to Modem Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 57-8. This verdict
may be somewhat overzealous; despite Hont’s claim for Davenant’s importance, his
impact cannot realistically be compared to Locke’s. Take, for instance, the anonymous
pamphlet Some Thoughts on the Interest of Money in General, and Particularly in the
Publick Funds, which went through three editions in the eighteenth century (1728?, 1738,
1750): it cites Locke 22 times, but Davenant only four. Although tallying up citations is a
practice usually to be avoided, in this instance, I think, the disparity is telling. Moreover,
although Hont has attempted to find in Davenant’s writings a systematic and path¬
breaking economic theory, such a treatment ignores both Davenant’s own frequent
changes of opinion (see, for instance, Horsefield’s note to Appendix 2, Table E [256]) and
the generally “mercantilist” tenor of his work. While there is little doubt that Davenant
sometimes used “Machiavellian” language in his approach to economic issues, much of
what he wrote was specifically occasional in nature and did not spring from a coherent
“theory.”
40. See, for instance, Colin Nicholson, Writing and the Rise of Finance: Capital Satires
of the Early Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 5, 48,
97, 185; Sandra Sherman, Finance andFictionality in the Early Eighteenth Century:
Accounting for Defoe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 26-7; Richard
Brantlinger, Fictions of State: Culture and Credit in Britain, 1694-1994 (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1996), 54.
41. Aside from the DNB entry, the primary study of Davenant’s life appears to be D.
Waddell, “Charles Davenant (1656-1714)~A Biographical Sketch” Economic History
Review 2nd ser., 11.2 (1958): 279-88.
42. The two “Memorials” circulated in manuscript only but were published in Two
Manuscripts by Charles Davenant, ed. A. P. Usher (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1942). Hereafter cited in text as “Coyn” and “Creditt .” Although published in
1710, New Dialogues was apparently rare enough by 1771 that Whitworth could not
obtain a copy. For a full description of Davenant’s publishing career, see D. Waddell,
“The Writings of Charles Davenant” The Library, 5th ser., 11 (1956): 206-212.
43. On Defoe’s depiction of Credit, see Paula Backscheider, “Defoe’s Lady Credit”
Huntington Library Quarterly 44.2 (1981): 89-100; Sherman, 40-54; and her “Lady
Credit No Lady; or, The Case of Defoe’s ‘Coy Mistress,’ Truly Stat’d” Texas Studies in
Literature and Language 31.2 (1995): 185-214.
44. Charles Davenant, The Political and Commercial Works of that celebrated Writer,
Charles Davenant, ed. Charles Whitworth, 5 vols. (1771; rpt. Westmead: Gregg
International, 1967), 1:151. Pocock records this passage in Machiavellian, 439-40.

43
45. Pocock, Machiavellian, 440, «46.
46. Or at least a portion of Locke’s advice; see Chapter 2, below.
47. Pocock, Machiavellian, 437.
48. Vickers finds Locke inconsistent on the point: “Locke had thus, however, opened a
chink in his arguments, or more particularly, we may say, a chink in the very premises on
which his arguments rested” (73).
49. Cf. James Hodges: “There are others who are of Opinion, that all the present
Difficulties may be helped by some special ways of advancing Credit, which they project
without minding the necessary thing, Money, but this Notion must run in a Circle, and so
never come to an end, seeing there is an equal need of Money for obtaining Credit, as
there is of Credit for obtaining Money” (The Present State of England as to Coin and
Publick Charges [London: Andr. Bell, 1697], 7).
50. Pocock, Machiavellian, 439.
51. Davenant, Works, IV:148-9.
52. Davenant, New Dialogues upon the Present Posture of Affairs (London: John
Morphew, 1710), 70.
53.Davenant, New Dialogues, 132.
54. Sandra Sherman, “Credit, Simulation, and the Ideology of Contract in the Early
Eighteenth Century” Eighteenth-Century Life 19 (1995): 86. Why this failure should be
seen as particularly “British” defies comprehension.
55. Quoted in Sherman, 92.
56. Sherman, 88, 90, 91, 92, 93. For the parallel passages in Sherman’s subsequent book,
see Finance, 29-34. I should note here that the South Sea Bubble spawned a number of
pamphlets and broadsheets seeking, in one fashion or another, to reclaim the “intrinsick
value” of the fallen stock. See, for instance, An Estimate of the Intrinsick Value of South
Sea Stock (London, 1720) and Ways and Means to Make South-Sea Stock More
Intriniscally Worth than Ready Money (London: T. Bickerton, 1720).
57. Quoted in Sherman, 92.
58. Vilar, 281.
59. Maria Cristina Marcuzzo and Annalisa Rosselli, Ricardo and the Gold Standard: The
Foundations of the International Monetary Order, trans. Joan Hall (New York:
MacMillan, 1991), 31.

44
60. A. D. Mackenzie, The Bank of England Note: A History of Its Printing (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1953), 10-11 (and frontispiece). Bank officials had originally
intended to print notes in denominations of £5, £10, £20, £50, and £100, but these
appeared susceptible to counterfeiting and so were withheld (5).
61. Dickson, 372. Dickson reproduces a photograph of one of the “blank” Exchequer
Bills made out in the amount of £5 (opp. 395). However, it seems highly unlikely that
many of these bills were made out for less than £5; most of these were probably made out
for significantly more. Cf. Sir John Clapham, who reproduces one made out for £50 (The
Bank of England: A History [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966], opp. 38).
62. Dickson, 376, 384.
63.1 am following the estimates in Elizabeth W. Gilboy, Wages in Eighteenth Century
England (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1934), 7-11. Although published
over 60 years ago and nearly forgotten since, Gilboy’s statistics remain the best available
(Donald McCloskey, “1780-1860: A Survey” in Roderick Floud and McCloskey, eds. The
Economic History of Britain since 1700, 2nd ed., 3 vols. [Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1994], 1:252). I have extrapolated the laborer’s daily wage of Is. 8d.
and the journeyman’s daily wage of around 3s. into a rough annual salary by assuming a
generous 250-day work year (a six-day work week interrupted by holidays, bad weather,
and illness). I should note, however, Gilboy’s caveat that transposing “daily rates into
weekly or yearly figures.... involves a great deal of approximation and the original
figures are subject to sufficient error without adding more” (21). Because I am not
attempting a precise statistical analysis or computation of the standard of living, but rather
a ballpark figure of an annual income, the extrapolation seems justified (and rather liberal).
64. James Boswell, Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. George Birkbeck Hill and L. F. Powell,
6 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934), 1:105.
65. Johnson’s Dictionary (1755), s.v. “Utter,” sense 4: “To disperse; to emit at large,” for
which Swift’s Drapier’s Letters is cited: “To preserve us from ruin, the whole kingdom
should continue in a firm resolution never to receive or utter this fatal coin.” Daniel Eilon
has argued that Locke exerted considerable influence on Swift’s theory of language, but
he does not mention the Recoinage treatises as a possible source. See Factions ’ Fictions:
Ideological Closure in Swift's Satire (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991), 67-
73.
66. William Fleetwood, A Sermon against Clipping (London: Tho. Hodgkin, 1694).
67. (London: C. Harper, 1707). Swift owned copies of both Chronicon Preciosum and,
not surprisingly, Arbuthnot’s Tables, see DSL, items 417 and 397.
68. Alexander Pope, The First Epistle of the First Book of Horace Imitated, in Imitations
of Horace, ed. John Butt, vol. VI of The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander

45
Pope, 2nd ed. corrected (London: Methuen, 1961), 11. 77-8.
69. Since a copy of Locke’s Tracis does not appear in the autograph inventory Swift took
of his library in the summer of 1715 (William LeFanu, ed., A Catalogue of Books
belonging to Dr Jonathan Swift [Cambridge: Cambridge Bibliographic Society, 1988]),
the book almost certainly entered his collection sometime later.
70. Joseph Addison, The Freeholder, ed. James Leheny (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979),
115.
71. FC 417; Cf. Addison, 115 n4.
72. Addison, 116. Again, Leheny’s note («7) to this passage highlights “the comparison
between the way the Whigs successfully overcame the coinage crisis of 1695 and the way
Louis XV manipulated French currency.”
73. Richard Steele, The Theater 1720, ed. John Loftis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962),
75.
74. Steele, 76, 75. Steele also mentions jewels as having an “intrinsick Price” (76).
75. Steele, 76.
76. Steele, 78. For the parallel passage see SC 216.
77. Steele, 76. Elsewhere in The Theater Steele uses the phrase “paper coiners.”
78. John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Cato's Letters, 4 vols. in 2 (1733; rpt. New
York: Russell & Russell, 1969), 111:178.
79. Trenchard and Gordon, 111:186-7, 188.
80. Caleb D’Anvers [Nicholas Amhurst], The Craftsman 14 vols. (London: R. Francklin,
1731-7), V: 168.
81. D’Anvers, V:166.
82. D’Anvers, 11:200. Cf. also Lord Bolingbroke, Contributions to “The Craftsman" ed.
Simon Varey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 37.
83. D’Anvers, X:52-62; XI: 113.
84. Significantly, the Mint had been housed in the Tower of London since the 13th
century.
85.D’Anvers, III:[233],

46
86. Nicholson, xi. As Nicholson points out, his book “begins with John Pocock’s study of
political thought, and thereafter touches base with it from time to time” (xiii).
87. Herbert Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History (1931; rpt. London: G. Bell
and Sons, 1963), 61.

CHAPTER 2
LOCKE, THE GREAT RECOINAGE,
AND INTRINSIC VALUE
But ’tis no wonder if the price and value of
things be confounded and uncertain when the
Measure it self is lost.
--John Locke
Further Considerations concerning
Raising the Value of Money (1695)
Act I of John Gay’s “Newgate pastoral” The Beggar’s Opera (1728) begins with
Peachum sitting at a table, “a large Book of Accounts” open before him.1 A few scenes
later he reads from one of these “Registers”:
Crook-finger’d Jack. A Year and a half in the Service; Let me see how
much the Stock owes to his Industry; one, two, three, four, five Gold
Watches, and seven Silver ones. A mighty clean-handed Fellow! Sixteen
Snuff-boxes, five of them of true Gold. Six dozen of Handkerchiefs, four
silver-hiked Swords, half a dozen of Shirts, three Tye-perriwigs, and a
Piece of Broad Cloth.2
As the play unfolds, ledger books and calls on debts become recurrent themes, for
Peachum, Lockit, Macheath, and crew are all socially uncertified but thoroughly
professional accountants: they barter love and lives as coolly as they fence stolen cloth or
jewelry.3 Gay almost certainly intended such underworld bookkeeping as an attack on
government corruption, and those in attendance on opening night evidently recognized the
satire. Particularly conspicuous-or so it seemed to contemporary spectators-was Act II,
47

48
Scene 10, in which Peachum and Lockit (allegedly Walpole and Townsend) nearly come
to blows while inspecting accounts. According to tradition, after the song in this scene the
audience turned to face the box of first minister Walpole and mockingly demanded an
encore. As Swift later wrote to Gay: “[W]e hear a million of Storys about the opera, of
the ancore at the Song, That was levelled at me, when 2 great Ministers were in a Box
together, and all the world staring at them” (Corr III:276).4 David Nokes has cast
legitimate doubt on the traditional interpretation that the scene satirized a recent conflict
between Walpole and Townsend,5 but Swift’s letter clearly indicates that he and many
others perceived a direct attack on Walpole. More particularly, the audience’s response to
the scene suggests that the act of settling accounts had satiric force and was, moreover,
easily interpretable-Walpole bought and sold placemen after the fashion of criminals.
Four years later, in the fable The Ant in Office (probably written in 1732, but
published posthumously in 1738), Gay would again use the analogy of accounting to
attack the corruption of the “great man.” In the allegory of the anthill, an ambitious ant
with a “forward prate” rises through the ranks until “his drift attain: / He’s made chief
treas’rer of the grain.”6 Each year the anthill’s auditors attempt to curb “public rapine”
through inspections of state records, and require that “The gran’ry-keeper.. . explain /
And balance his account of grain.”7 When questioned about the colony’s mysteriously
empty coffers, however, the ant in office, “with wonted arrogance and pride,” claims that
“all th’expence / (Though vast) was for the swarm’s defence.”8 Perennially offering the
same excuse, the grain-hoarding ant surreptitiously plunders the public funds, until a lone

49
auditor-ant finally convinces the colony to examine accounts more closely. The tale
abruptly concludes when the audit exposes the cheat:
They vote th’accounts shall be inspected;
The cunning plund’rer is detected:
The fraud is sentenc’d, and his hoard,
As due, to public use restor’d.9
Like much of Gay’s satire, what initially appears a rather transparent method of
attacking a corrupt minister for lining his pockets at taxpayer expense is in fact
considerably more ironic and complex than first glance might indicate. In both The
Beggar’s Opera and The Ant in Office, Gay, as author, acts in a “double Capacity,”10
mirroring the work of the accountant by demonstrating satire’s potential for public
disclosure. Thus, in an irony brought to bear on both Peachum and the ant, false and
unscrupulous bookkeeping is ultimately laid open by the economy, financial or moral, of
the satirist. Put another way, the satirist acts as an external auditor come to right (write)
the books.
We have grown accustomed to thinking of eighteenth-century satire as a genre
seeking to measure and apportion. The most obvious instances of this mode are Gulliver’s
voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag, but perhaps Sterne captures the principle most
succinctly in Tristram Shandy. “A dwarf who brings a standard along with him to measure
his own size-take my word, is a dwarf in more articles than one.”11 Although these
examples denote physical measurement, Gay’s play and fable suggest an alternate, though
related, function-satire as a taking of account. This formulation conceives of satire not
only as a measuring device, but also as an evaluative device, a mode of assaying. The

50
parallel between the work of the accountant and that of the satirist seems especially
appropriate when applied to members of the Scriblerus Club. One need only consider
Swift’s extensive account books, filled as they are with the minutiae of daily expenses, to
realize that he was deeply invested, in the full sense of the word, in accounting.12
Principles of accounting, though, are more broadly reflective of Scriblerian satire. When
we characterize the Scriblerians as attempting to identify and define a balance, as
twentieth-century literary critics so often do, we do not depart from the language of
accounting.
As with any evaluative operation, accounting relies upon a set of theoretical
presuppositions which guide and in part determine its outcomes. Conceptions of property,
of profit and loss, of appreciation and depreciation are everywhere implied in the dualistic
and highly taxonomic method of double-entry bookkeeping.13 Moreover, accounting is, in
a very real sense, a narrative process seeking to tell (a word with banking connotations of
its own) the story of an individual’s or a firm’s acquisition or loss of money or goods.
Although in the early-modern period such theoretical aspects more often than not went
unstated, the dualistic notion of balanced books came to hold sway over economic
thinking as did no other single concept. Combined with “a growing consciousness of the
corporate character of the nation-state,” the advent of double-entry bookkeeping gave rise
to the idea of something like a national account book.14 Edward Misselden’s Circle of
Commerce (1618) offered the first English usage of the phrase “balance of trade,” and the
principle soon took hold in other early seventeenth-century economic treatises. The
concept had important repercussions: “Unquestionably, the idea of a ‘balance’ taken from

51
the ledger had a powerful influence on economic writers who developed from it a theory
of national equilibrium, with the rider that any disequilibrium had to be remedied by
payments in cash.”15 It is this last, all-important “rider” which most concerns us here, for
it involves one of the basic (but often unspoken) premises of accounting—the aspect of
measurement.
Any account must ultimately be expressed in a monetary unit that measures debit
and credit. In a closed system this unit can be arbitrary, but when separate systems are
involved in the equation, some sort of common measurement must be agreed upon. When
seventeenth-century economists, known today as “mercantilists,” sought to restore
equilibrium to the national balance of trade, they therefore had to clarify the terms of
exchange by which “payments in cash”—and throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, “cash” denoted silver and gold coin—would be made. There would seem to be
little ground for dispute in such an arrangement: any debts among traders would ultimately
be settled (even through the mediating device of a bill of exchange) by specie payments.
Difficulties arose, however, when traders had to deal with the valuations of different
currencies. In the late twentieth century, few of us encounter foreign money in our daily
affairs, but in early-modern Europe, with silver and gold serving as a universal basis of
exchange value, such transactions were common. As world trade burgeoned, international
monetary exchange increasingly became a fact of life, and even in relatively isolated
England foreign coins circulated with some frequency. This is why we find Roxana,
throughout Defoe’s The Fortunate Mistress (1724), itemizing sums of Dutch rixdollars,
French livres, and Spanish pistoles, without having to explain rates of exchange to the

52
reader. In Ireland, denied a mint of its own, the issue of currency exchange was of acute
importance; as we have already seen, an adjustment of three pence in the exchange rate
could not only have a major impact on the Irish economy, but also provoke the
considerable ire of Dean Swift.
Establishing an exchange rate was a complicated procedure, however, because it
entailed a question of profound significance: Was monetary value predicated on a coin’s
specie content or on what a particular government said its coin was worth? Or as
contemporaries phrased the question: Did money have an “intrinsick value” based on its
bullion weight or an “extrinsick value” based on the so-called “money of account,” the
official value which a nation’s mint placed on it? At stake in the answer were issues of
both political and philosophical consequence. On the one hand, the problem of monetary
value broached issues of government intrusion in the economic sphere and the limits of
royal power. Could a monarch arbitrarily declare paper, for instance, full legal tender?
And who outside his or her dominion might accept it? On the other hand, as James
Thompson has noted, the issue pitted a “realist” conception of value against a nominalist
conception.16 Was value grounded in the concrete substance of the coin or in its abstract
denomination? Encounters with non-European cultures that accepted beads or shells in
exchange for land or gold~a problem which particularly exercised Locke in the Second
Treatise (see, for example, 7TII, §§ 49, 184)-only confounded the issue. To what extent
might value be a matter of social faith and consent?
For a variety of reasons, including imperfections in the minting process, economic
conditions intensified by the Nine Years War, and Parliamentary procrastination, these

53
questions came to a head in England during the Recoinage debate of 1695-96.
Precipitated by a crisis in monetary representation—the coin in circulation contained only
half the denominated amount of silver, yet it had been passing at nominal value—the
argument turned on whether the coin should be reminted at its full weight or recoined at
the same face value but with less silver, that is, to suffer devaluation. What was ostensibly
a matter of policy rapidly escalated into a philosophical dispute about the nature of money.
Indeed, never before had the theory of money been as vigorously and publicly debated as
it was in these two years. In the 1620s, to be sure, Misselden, Gerard de Malynes, and
Thomas Mun had addressed currency issues in their writings on trade, but, as Terence
Hutchison concludes, “The ‘boom’ of the 1690s was on a much larger scale, and included
a comparatively new, explicit methodological and theoretical dimension. The 1690s might
well be regarded as the first major concentrated burst of development in the history of
[monetary policy].”17 The scope of the debate was unprecedented, ranging from
internationally known intellectuals and prominent government officials to a host of
pamphleteers whose names have been lost to history. In addition to Locke, Davenant, and
Secretary of the Treasury William Lowndes, the government solicited advice from a group
that included Christopher Wren and Isaac Newton (who would serve first as Warden and
then as Master of the Mint from 1697 until his death in 1727).18 Meanwhile scores of
pamphlets, many of them anonymous, issued forth from the public.19 These tracts included
ambitious schemes (“projects”) for banks, accusatory pieces blaming Jacobites (and other
despised groups) for England’s economic woes, some relatively practical remedies for the
coinage, and a few serious economic analyses of the situation. Among the most

54
memorable combatants in this pamphlet war were Nicholas Barbón, Sir Richard Temple,
and William Wood, Swift’s antagonist in The Drapier’s Letters.
The conflict between intrinsic and extrinsic value at the center of the Recoinage
controversy almost certainly indicates that the discourses defining the nature of money
were becoming points of contention. Although it is tempting to locate the origins of
capitalism (or at least the capitalization of money) in the issue, such assertions must be
made with extreme caution.20 As W. R. Scott long ago showed, joint-stock companies
came into existence in England in the 1550s, and “capital” was used in its financial sense
soon thereafter.21 Nevertheless, the fact that the nature of valuation was being so hotly
debated in the economic domain suggests that many of the cultural and political values and
institutions monetary tropes had helped represent became sites of conflict as well. If, as
Pope declared in The First Epistle of the First Book of Horace Imitated, “As Gold to
Silver, Virtue is to Gold,”22 what gave silver and gold—let alone virtue—their value?
It is quite significant, then, that victory in the Recoinage debate went to Locke and
intrinsic value, establishing in the process a monetary standard which would remain
virtually unchallenged throughout the eighteenth century. For the Scriblerians, satirists
interested in balance and measurement, the triumph of intrinsic value meant the
preservation of a standard by which the “adulterated,” “counterfeit,” and “debased” could
be judged. Indeed, satire trades on just such a shared measure of value: in its essence, the
genre is predicated upon the hope that readers, however few, will understand that a
communal standard-moral, political, aesthetic-has collapsed and must be restored.23 The
concept of intrinsic value as Locke presented it, however, extends beyond the mere

55
preservation of standards. At bottom, intrinsic value relies on an appeal to natural law—
and hence to a theistic (almost always Christian) universe governed by certain immutable
laws discernible to human reason. In this ordered universe, moreover, liberty and property
are birthrights (at least to a privileged few), and virtue is not only desirable but eternally
rewarded. “Liberty” and “virtue” are, of course, Scriblerian key words, and often
commented upon, but their place within the larger framework of Locke’s conception of
intrinsic value has not yet been explored. However, in order to comprehend exactly what
was being debated and why Locke and intrinsic value prevailed, we need to investigate
first the historical circumstances that made the Recoinage necessary, and second, the
substance of Locke’s monetary thought.
The Minting Process and the Deterioration of the Coinage
The Great Recoinage of 1696-99 was not the first recoinage to occur in England,
nor would it be the last. Records of recoinages survive from the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries, when they occurred as often as every seventeen years, and, though less frequent
thereafter, they continued to be needed even into the early nineteenth century. In 1817,
for instance, we find Jane Austen writing to her niece Fanny Knight: “You are worth your
weight in Gold, or even in the new Silver Coinage.”24 The advent in the twentieth century
of token currencies and an integrated banking system has obviated the need for
recoinages, but in the early-modern era the use of precious metals and the absence of a
national bank made them an inevitable, if sporadic, aspect of life. Coining money was an
expensive and time-consuming process, and since there was no centralized mechanism to

56
withdraw and replace worn currency, a coin would circulate for decades until the image
and superscription on its surface were barely legible. To rectify the currency,
governments would periodically declare all worn, “light” money unacceptable and allow
only newly-minted, “heavy” coin to pass. This policy forced quantities of old coin to be
brought to the Mint and recoined until all the money was “restored” to a standard (which
was not, as we shall see, unalterable) weight and purity. A recoinage usually took years to
complete, and, once all the coin had been reminted, the decades-long process of monetary
deterioration would begin again, lasting until another recoinage was decreed. This
sequence of decline and restoration was one of many cycles (along with liturgical and
agricultural cycles, for instance) fundamental to the early-modern world that twentieth-
century eyes often have difficulty seeing, and it had its roots, ironically enough, in the
minting techniques themselves.
Throughout most of the seventeenth century, methods of manufacturing coin from
precious metals varied little from those that had existed in ancient times.25 First, silver
brought to the mint for coining (since silver was more common than gold, it was the
standard metal) had to be assayed, a trial by fire in which it was melted with lead and bone
ash in containers called “cupels.” While the cupels were in the furnace, the molten lead
absorbed and carried off any base metals, leaving pure silver. This was in effect a refining
process; as Newton wrote during his tenure at the Mint, “Assaying and refining are
operations of one kind.”26 Silver that had passed the assaymaster’s test was then melted in
crucibles of iron (because gold reacted with iron, it was melted in earthenware pots),
alloyed with a specified proportion of base metal, and cast into rods roughly the diameter

57
of the intended coin. These bars were then sent to a group of workers who used bulky
shears to cut each bar into blanks generally of slightly greater weight than intended for the
coin. Overweight blanks were preferable because they could easily be filed down to the
proper standard; underweight blanks had to have small fragments of silver beaten into
them with hammer and anvil to adjust their weight to within specific tolerances allowed
the mint by the crown. These tolerances were directly proportional to the overall value of
the coin; a gold coin, therefore, was allowed only a one- or two-grain variation (called the
“remedy”) from the official standard, while a copper coin was given greater leniency.
Anything more exact was simply impracticable, especially in the case of smaller
denominations, which were more expensive to produce on a per coin basis (it took twelve
times as much labor to mint the equivalent number of pence as a single shilling).
Significantly, then, even with the frequent weighings, there remained inconsistencies in the
weight of the blanks.
After the blanks had been flattened out and rounded off, they were often sent to be
blanched, an acid treatment which cleaned the surface of the coin and, in the case of base
silver, helped conceal the poor quality of the coin. The blanks then went to the moneyers,
who worked in pairs to hammer the official impression on the coin. The first moneyer
placed a blank on the obverse die, which was anchored in position on either the floor or a
table. Using a heavy sledgehammer, the second moneyer struck the top of the reverse die,
driving it into the blank and thereby stamping emblems on both sides of the coin with a
single blow.27 Included in the design of each die was a circle around the emblem which,
ideally, would delineate the intended circumference of the coin. Unfortunately, however,

58
the moneyers worked with such rapidity that many coins were struck off-center, often
leaving a portion of this “ring,” as it was called, incomplete. Even when the blank was
properly centered, moreover, the impact of the hammer blow forced silver beyond the
ring, producing coins with irregular edges.
Despite precautionary measures by Mint officials, the defects in the manufacturing
process left the coin vulnerable to two forms of attack, “culling” and “clipping.” Culling
involved sifting through large quantities of coin to sort out the heavier pieces, which were
then melted down and either sold as bullion or taken for reminting (in hopes of gaining
lighter coin with the same face value). Although we know very little about the profits
associated with culling, it was apparently quite lucrative: in 1635 the Star Chamber fined a
London merchant who confessed that in £100 of coin, £14 to £16 were heavy enough to
sell by weight at a 3% profit. In a typical year he made over £7,000—a staggering sum at
the time—by having his servants weigh as much as £500,000 in newly-minted coin.28 More
insidious, though, was the practice of clipping the uneven edges of the hammered coin in
order to melt the resultant slivers into bullion for resale. In order to gather enough coin to
make the clipping profitable and to find an outlet for the bullion, clippers apparently
developed a fairly complex three-way network in which they usually served as middlemen.
The first part of the network involved the coin dealers, those merchants, landholders, and
even clergy who had sufficient revenue that they could sort through their cash holdings for
coin heavy enough to clip. They then turned over the coin to the clippers, who, with their
shears and melting pots, cut the edges of the coin and melted the trimmings. The molten
silver was next taken to the third part of the network, the goldsmiths, who bought the

59
bullion at a discount, paying between 45. and 45. 6d. per ounce (compared to the mint
price of 55. 2d. per ounce). Finally the clippers, once they had clipped a little extra for
their own pockets, paid the dealers back the remains of their coin at a rate of 215. 6d. to
245. per pound.29
By devaluing the circulating medium, clipping wreaked havoc on the currency
system in two ways. First, it helped create a discrepancy between intrinsic and extrinsic
worth that ultimately forced merchants (and others) to weigh coin rather than accept it at
face value. For reasons such as this, scales were a regular feature of the mercantile
landscape in the late seventeenth century. Second, clipping could promote rising prices in
a monetary system that was ordinarily highly resistant to inflation. Although the influx of
South American silver in the sixteenth century had raised prices throughout Europe,30
specie-based currencies tend toward stability: in the two centuries prior to leaving the gold
standard in 1931, Britain averaged an inflation rate of just 0.1% per year.31 Were the
amount of silver decreased through clipping, however, prices in terms of the money of
account could rise dramatically. As one contemporary put it, passing clipped coin “is, in
effect and truth, raising our Money, and making that to go for Thirty Pence, which is
indeed but worth Twenty.’'31 The reduction was an especially threatening prospect to
creditors, who stood to lose part of their investments, and those on fixed incomes, who
could ultimately face impoverishment.33
But to approach clipping from a purely monetary standpoint is to overlook its far
more powerful symbolic aspects. In our era of token currencies and democratically
elected governments, it is difficult to grasp the magnitude of the crime of clipping, but in

60
early-modern England silver and gold coin were indissolubly linked to the crown as a
political and religious institution. The connection involved more than the ancient and
jealously guarded royal prerogative of coining money; in addition to an image of the king
or queen, each coin was stamped with both a cross and the words “DEI gratia” (by the
grace of God).34 In this way political and religious spheres overlapped on the very face of
English money. Moreover, to contemporaries clipping violated an ethical dimension that
culling did not, and the language they used to characterize clipped coin-words such as
“adulterated,” “corrupted,” and “evil”—assumed a distinctly moralistic tone. Put simply,
clipping transgressed several categories at a stroke. To better illustrate the extent to
which these categories were related, let me draw upon two examples which demonstrate
the association: a metaphor from Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651), and William
Fleetwood’s Sermon against Clipping (1694).
For Hobbes, money is the “Bloud of a Commonwealth.” Combining the ancient
concept of the body politic with the then-recent discovery of the circulation of the blood
(first demonstrated by William Harvey in 1628), Hobbes draws extensive parallels between
the two, managing to include within his scope everything from monetary distribution (the
circulation of currency nourishes “every Member of the Body of Man”) to warfare and the
international balance of payments. The metaphor becomes particularly graphic when
Hobbes delineates two sorts of “Conduits and Wayes” for money to flow—from tax
collectors who convey money to the royal Treasury, and from the Treasurers who disperse
it throughout the body. “And in this also,” he suggests, “the Artifician Man maintains his
resemblance with the Naturall; whose veins receiving the Bloud from the several parts of
Á

61
the Body, carry it to the Heart; where, being made Vitall, the Heart by the Arteries sends
it out again, to enliven, and enable for motion all the Members of the same.”35 In this
system, the Treasury is an essential organ (the heart) for the survival of the state, and a
sufficient supply of coin (the blood) is required for the well-being of each and every
citizen. We do not have to extrapolate very far to understand how the crime of clipping
might figure into Hobbes’s analogy: if money is the blood of the body politic, and the
monarch the head of that body, clipping coin constitutes an attack on the king or queen.
(It is worth noting that the connection between chief executive and the nation’s currency
persists today in the U.S., where the Secret Service is in charge of both protecting the
President’s life and policing counterfeiting.) This link helps explain why clipping was most
often associated with “traitorous” Jews who were denied participation in lawful
businesses. Not only was clipping likened to the Jewish ritual of circumcision,36 but it also
represented, implicitly, the refusal to recognize the model of all legitimate authority, that
of Christ .37 Both clipping and Judaism, as they were understood by many in seventeenth-
century England, were assaults on the nature of sovereignty.
Fleetwood’s Sermon similarly suggests how clipping struck several cultural chords
at once. Chaplain in Ordinary to William and Mary, Fleetwood was almost certainly
solicited to speak out publicly against the offense, and his sermon is remarkable because it
so effectively blends monetary theory with moral and legal arguments against clipping.
Taking as his text Genesis 23:16 (“And Abraham weighed to Ephron the Silver which he
had named, in the audience of the Sons of Heth, four hundred Shekels of Silver, currant
Money with the Merchant”), Fleetwood divides his sermon into three parts: a brief
A

62
discourse on the origin and necessity of money, an explanation of the public damage
incurred by clipping, and a justification of laws punishing the crime. In the first portion—
which the economist F. A. Hayek (writing ca. 1929) found so sophisticated “that it could
easily pass today as a lecture in economics”—Fleetwood ties monetary value directly to
specie content.38 When Abraham agrees with Ephron to exchange shekels by weight,
according to Fleetwood, it is because “weight is Mens security, and the true intrinsick
worth of Money” (4).39 What enables merchants to forgo the trouble of constantly
weighing and assaying coin is the fact that “Kings and Governours of Nations,” who are
“set up by God and Man,” guarantee the currency’s quality so that it may pass at nominal
value. In this, civil authority is paramount:
And for this cause it has been always highly Penal to Counterfeit the
Publick Stamp, to Coin Money, tho’ of equal Weight and Goodness with
the King’s: Not that any great evil is hereby done to any Man, but that if
this were indulg’d to private People, the World would fall into distrust and
fear, into suspicion and uncertainty about their Money, and return anew to
weighing and trying all they took.
(5-6)
Much as in the case of Hobbes, clipping infringes upon royal prerogative; because it is
performed by “private People” rather than lawful authority, moreover, it risks casting the
civilized world into an anarchic (one is tempted to say Hobbesian) state of nature. If this
passage implicitly suggests that clipping destabilizes the monetary system, Fleetwood
subsequently issues the more damning contention that clipping is fundamentally equivalent
to counterfeiting: “they both alike defraud the Receiver of what is his due; for there the
injustice lies: that is the Sin at the bottom; there is so much stollen from every Man as
there is less given than he should receive” (9).

63
Fleetwood’s equation here functions in two significant ways. On one level, it
resonates with Christian conceptions of debt and repayment, a connection Fleetwood later
makes explicit by linking monetary worth and Christ’s words on the payment of tribute to
Rome: “it is not Caesar's Face and Titles, but Weight and Goodness that procure Credit”
(11).40 On another level, it underscores the extent to which money was linked to property
issues. Unlike modem token currencies, gold and silver coin were considered stores of
value in themselves, and clipping coin was viewed as an attack on private property. In this
respect, claims Fleetwood, clippers are no different from “Thieves and Robbers” and “do
as well deserve their Chains and Halters” (17). Fleetwood is at some pains to demonstrate
this point to his audience, since in the case of clipping (as opposed to burglary):
we think immediately only of a Dammage to the Treasury, which we
esteem above our Pity: Or we conceive a Dammage publick and general,
which excites no pitiful Resentments in us, because we have our Eye on no
particular Man as min’d or undone thereby.
(21-2)
Such reasoning is fallacious, he argues, because individuals are finally liable for the burden
of public arrears. Clipping will “damnifie every particular Man . . . and fall at last with a
most deadly weight somewhere or other, and, to be sure, with greater violence on the
Poor and Mean, who are least able to endure it” (25). In this manner, along with recourse
to Roman, Visigoth, and ancient English precedents, Fleetwood proves the “Reason and
Justice of such Laws, as doom to Death such Malefactors” (20).
Despite the metaphorical links to royal authority, and despite the dire
pronouncements of powerful voices like Fleetwood’s, clipping would persist as long as it
was profitable, and it would remain profitable as long as coin was “hammered.” But in

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1663 the Restoration government hired a Frenchman, Pierre Blondeau, to place in the
Tower Mint machinery which radically altered the coining process: for the first time,
English coin was manufactured with “milled” edges.41 The new mechanized techniques
differed substantially from the old. To begin with, the molten silver and gold were cast
into sheets (rather than rods) of approximately the thickness of the coin. Next, machines
cut blanks from the sheets; the blanks were then flattened in a drop press. The step that
followed-the all-important milling process—was (and remains) shrouded in mystery, for
apparently Blondeau performed it by himself. Blondeau’s machine rounded the blanks
uniformly and imprinted along their rims either lines of graining (“milling”) or words such
as “Decus et Tutamen” (“ornament and safeguard”). In either case the money was
protected from clipping, since any cutting so obviously defaced the coin that it would no
longer pass. As with the old method, blanks were checked for weight; those below the
tolerance were sent for remelting, those above filed down. After having been annealed
and blanched, the blanks were then sent to the coining room, where teams of three to five
moneyers operated the coining presses. These machines, designed along the lines of
contemporary printing presses, required multiple workers to rotate 300-pound leaden
weights for each blow. Another moneyer sat in a pit at the base of the press, flicking away
the struck coin and inserting a fresh blank on the lower die.42 The teams worked with
incredible speed, producing as many as 30 shillings a minute. It was hazardous work, too-
-one visitor observed that every moneyer had lost at least one finger joint.
In what was to become a cruel irony, the mechanization intended to protect the
currency inadvertently contributed to its demise. By introducing a new class of coin—that

65
which could not be clipped, as opposed to that which could—the milling press ultimately
paved the way for Gresham’s Law (“bad money drives out good”) to operate. The
creation of a new coin, soon dubbed the guinea, would play a key role in the formation of
this two-tiered monetary system. At about the same time that Blondeau’s machinery was
being installed, the Royal Africa Company began shipping West African gold to the Mint,
and it was decided that a 20-shilling piece, produced with the new equipment, would be
introduced.43 By late 1663 the coins were being disseminated; by the end of that year dies
depicting a tiny elephant-denoting the gold’s origin on the coast of Guinea (hence the
popular appellation) and advertising the prowess of the Royal Africa Company in
obtaining it—were ordered (Thus, by having young Moll Flanders pocket guineas long
before any were actually minted, Defoe commits an interesting numismatic anachronism.)44
Significantly, even though the guinea originated as a 20-shilling piece, almost immediately
market pressures drove it to a rating of 21s. 6d., a mark around which it usually hovered
until Newton set it at a firm 21s. in 1717 (a decision which, as we have seen, had such
extensive ramifications on Ireland’s monetary situation). This increase in value reflected a
larger and unanticipated problem: once guineas left the Mint, they were often either
hoarded or melted down for resale.45 This took place partly because guineas were
invulnerable to clipping and therefore could serve as a store of value impervious to
inflation or deflation (which could occur either in the form of general price increases or a
government decision to recoin money by weight, not face value). More problematic,
however, were continued irregularities in the production of the coin which made culling
even more fruitful. Apparently there were difficulties in controlling the thickness of the

66
sheets, so that variations in weight had actually increased.46 In short, guineas and other
coins produced by the new methods disappeared from circulation, while old, worn,
“hammered money” continued to circulate at its nominal value.
For these reasons English currency began to deteriorate even more noticeably.
Since the last recoinage had been carried out during Elizabeth’s reign, by the 1680s some
of the coin was already over a century old and showing signs of substantial wear. Serious
discussion about restoring the coin must have been going on as early as 1682, when Sir
William Petty published his Quanlulumcunque concerning Money, which was calculated
to sway government opinion into recoining money at its current standard weight. The
pamphlet begins with a few brief suppositions:
Suppose that 20s. of new mill’d Money doth weigh 4 Ounces Troy,
according to Custom or Statute. Suppose that 20s. of old Elk. and
James’s Money, which ought also to weigh four Ounces Troy, doth weigh
three Ounces Troy; and variously between 3 and 4 Ounces, viz. none under
3, and none lull 4.
Suppose that much of the new mill’d regular Money is carried into
the East-Indies, but none of the old light and unequal Money .47
Having correctly diagnosed the problems of the two-tiered monetary system created by
the milling press, Petty proceeds to ask and respond to a series of thirty-two queries about
the best method of undertaking a recoinage, concluding that weight and purity (“fineness”)
must be maintained to preserve the nation’s “Honour” and keep “a Rule and Measure of
trade.”48 For reasons that remain unclear, however, action was delayed until after the
onset of the Nine Years War. The procrastination would prove costly.

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War Supply. Currency Exchange, and Monetary Collapse
In 1689, just months after William and Mary had taken the throne from James II,
England entered a period of warfare that rapidly accelerated the deterioration of its
currency. Between the war against Louis XIV on the Continent, which continued until
1697, and, to a lesser extent, the subjugation of the Jacobite army in Ireland, completed
with the Battle of Aughrim in 1691, the new government had to manage the ponderous
burden of war supply. The magnitude of the effort was unprecedented in English history,
as the army alone swelled from approximately 15,000 troops circa 1680 to an average of
more than 75,000 during the Nine Years War.19 Even if we take into account “false
mustering,” whereby officers reported non-existent troops and pocketed the extra salaries,
the growth is enormous. Paying for this massive build-up was no easy task: in addition to
allocating moneys for the considerable hardware costs (cannon, mortars, ammunition)
necessary for seventeenth-century siege warfare, the government had to provide food,
clothing, and salaries for regular soldiers and officers (and oats and straw for their horses).
Distributing salaries and supplies was no mean feat, either, with the complex system of
paymasters, victuallers, contractors, and others comprising a small army unto itself.
Because it could not feasibly manage to engage in “direct supply,” which involved all the
risks (storms, privateers, spoilage, etc.) of shipping food and supplies overseas, the
English army—unlike its allies—had no option but to pay locals to bake its bread and brew
its beer. Since these expenditures neither produced tax revenue nor stimulated home
industry, they were all but lost to the English economy, which was strained to the breaking
point.50

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The first effect of indirect supply was a potentially devastating outflow of silver
bullion. According to D. W. Jones, “Over the years 1688-95 fully 1,225,944 ozs. in silver
in foreign coin , and 6,754,649 ozs. in molten silver were exported to Europe, amounting
to some £2,127,000’s worth in all.” Significantly, the worst year of export was 1694, in
which 168,834 ozs. in foreign coin and 2,444,149 ozs. of molten silver (totaling £698,896)
were shipped to the Continent.51 For a monetary system based on a silver standard, this
outflow had grievous consequences, and politicians and economists alike were alarmed by
the situation. Seventy years later Adam Smith would deride such “mercantilist” concerns
for what he considered an obsession with the hoarding of silver and gold,52 but a lack of
silver bullion meant a shortage of shillings and other coin needed for many business
transactions. What B. E. Supple wrote regarding efforts to arrest specie outflow in the
1620s is no less true of the 1690s: “These piecemeal and anxious steps [to adjust specie
flow] have subsequently been stigmatized as ‘bullionist’ and as reflecting a coherent but
invalid economic policy merely designed to hoard treasure. But this latter-day
construction is a policy which contemporaries, in their real concern for the mundane
affairs of coinage and currency, would have had difficulty in recognizing as their own.”53
Over time the bullion outflow triggered a second effect, a corresponding upheaval in the
exchange rates of silver and gold coin. As we shall see, in 1695 a poor rate of exchange
ground Mint production of silver coin to a halt, but to fully grasp why this imbalance
occurred we must first enter into the intricate and arcane world of seventeenth-century
currency exchange.

69
Merchants and money-changers had to stay acutely aware of three different price
indices for coin and bullion: the mint (or legal) price, the market price, and the commercial
price.54 A slight increase in the mint price of silver in Amsterdam, for instance, could
mean that an ounce of silver was suddenly worth more schellingen and had greater
purchasing power there. Dealers, then, would hastily arrange transfers, either via bills of
exchange or direct shipments of bullion, from other markets (London, for example) to
Amsterdam. This form of speculation—more specifically known as arbitrage-produced
income not only for the thriving industry of “cashkeepers” and “money-changers,” but for
savvy merchants as well. In fact, gambling on rises and falls in these three exchange rates
often made the difference between profit and loss, and more than one commercial house
went bankrupt by predicting wrongly.
The legal exchange rate offered by the mint for coining silver was often called by
contemporaries “imaginary money” or, less confusingly, “money of account .”55
Periodically the Mint would conduct an assay of foreign coin and announce the official
exchange rating, as Newton would do in 1712 and 1717. Such a rating enabled foreign
coin to circulate in England and pass at an English equivalency. To use a crude example,
if a troy ounce of silver was set at, say, five shillings in England, and at two pistoles in
Spain, then two pistoles were worth five shillings, and this was called the mint parity, or
“par.” The mint rating, however, was often a political tool. If during times of peace the
crown had to adjust the mint rating too frequently, it was considered by foes a sign of
internal economic weakness. During wartime, however, increasing the mint rating by a
few pence (without corresponding increases in silver content) was advantageous because

70
it stretched the same ounce of silver further in terms of the money of account. (After a
10% increase, the silver required to make 10 shillings, or 120 pence, would be worth 11
shillings, or 132 pence.) Although inflation would eventually set in and erode such gains,
rising prices usually lagged a few months behind the revaluation, and the government
profited in the meantime because the adjustment freed up extra silver with which to make
war payments. Between 1688 and 1693, mints throughout northern Europe (including
France, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands) often resorted to this measure.56
Locke, as we shall see, disparaged this form of currency manipulation as “clipping
by publick authority,” which in effect it was, since both activities kindled inflation.
Indeed, in an irony that Jones has confirmed, clipping—despite the public outcry—almost
certainly generated the extra bullion needed to fund England’s war effort. “Where trade
failed,” according to Jones, England “survived by clipping the coin. It was by clipping that
[England] obtained the bullion needed to pay [its] debts. Normally such bullion export
would force an intense monetary squeeze, but clipping provided an escape, since down to
late 1694, clipped coin still passed at face value, leaving ... the money stock
unchanged.”57 Whether clipping by public authority or not, “raising the coin” (as
increasing the mint rate was called) had the additional benefit of drawing silver into the
mint to be coined. Thus shifts in mint prices prompted international bullion inflows and
outflows, and governments could to a certain extent regulate their money supplies by
adjusting mint values. Adjustments such as these made arbitrage lucrative.
Although within its borders the state established the official value of a coin via the
mint rating, the government did not determine the price at which bullion was sold by

71
dealers either within the nation or across international markets. This “market price” was
often influenced by shifts in mint valuation, but under normal circumstances market price
was based primarily on a nation’s import-export balance: with an even balance of trade,
merchants would settle their international accounts via bills of exchange at an even par (no
coin would be shipped; indeed, exporting coin was usually prohibited by law). However,
if one or the other nation’s balance of trade fell or rose, the exchange adjusted
accordingly. In other words, if England suffered a trade deficit, and payment was required
abroad, the exchange “fell,” meaning the price of silver rose above the mint rating (“par”),
and the pound exchanged for less against the foreign currency. The nascent financial
press—publications like Thomas Houghton’s bi-weekly Collection for the Improvement of
Husbandry and Trade, which prominently featured a section called “The Course of the
Exchange”—kept dealers and traders informed of fluctuating rates, whether below or
above par. As Locke explained the system:
The Par is a certain number of pieces of the Coin of one Country,
containing in them an equal quantity of Silver to that in another number of
pieces of the Coin of another Country: v.g. supposing 36 Skillings in
Holland to have just as much Silver in them as 20 English shillings [i.e.,
one pound], [Then] Bills of Exchange drawn from England to Holland at
the rate of 36 Skillings Dutch for each pound Sterling, is according to the
Par. He that pays the Money here, and receives it there, neither gets nor
loses by the Exchange; but receives just the same quantity of Silver in the
one place, that he parts with in the other. But if he pays one pound
Sterling [20 shillings] here to receive but 30 Skillings in Holland, he pays
one sixth more than the Par and so pays one sixth more Silver for the
Exchange [than he receives], the Sum be what it will.
(FC 420-21)
Having lived in exile in Holland from 1683-88 and having received income from his
English rents while there, Locke was well acquainted with the workings of exchange rates.

72
As Karen Iversen Vaughn points out, Locke’s “personal diaries are full of notes on the
weight and fineness of foreign coins and the fluctuations in the rate of exchange. These
notes are most prevalent during the years he spent in France and the years he was in hiding
in Holland.”58 More particularly, Locke’s scenario indicates a thorough knowledge of bills
of exchange (“he that pays the money here and receives it there”), and it is important to
understand exactly how they functioned in late seventeenth-century international trade.
If an English cloth merchant required payment for £100 of cloth sold to a Dutch
trading partner, he would seek out a dealer (“cashkeeper,” “money-changer”) in London
who had both a substantial reserve of home currency and significant holdings of Dutch
currency with a corresponding cashkeeper in Amsterdam.59 The cloth merchant would
then draw up a bill on the Dutch buyer—payable to the Dutch money-changer—at the
current exchange rate and (assuming the exchange was at a par of 36 schellingen to the
pound)60 accept £100 on the spot from his London dealer. The bill would subsequently be
sent to Amsterdam, where the Dutch cashkeeper would present it to the cloth trader and
collect the 3600 schellingen when due (bills could be made payable either “on sight” or
after a period of time, usually 30, 60, or 90 days). Depending on the status of the
exchange—and hence the balance of trade—either merchant (and the cashkeepers) could
gain or lose by the deal. And if the Dutch cloth buyer did not have sufficient funds to
cover the bill, he could endorse it over to one of his own debtors.
Bills of exchange worked efficiently as long as the balance of trade was relatively
close to parity, but in cases of more severe deficits bullion had to be shipped from one
trading partner to the other. Transporting bullion, however, entailed the added costs of

73
shipping and insurance, which meant that the market rate had to fall below or rise above
certain values (often called “specie points”) before dealers were willing to undertake
shipment. This brings us to the last of the three prices of silver, the “commercial price,” or
the market rate of bullion plus shipping costs and insurance.61 In Swift’s Intelligencer 19
we have already encountered a prime example of the importance of the commercial price:
in that case, a three-pence overvaluation of the guinea in Ireland was sufficient to prompt
Irish bankers (and even “Tradesmen”) to export silver to England, exchange it there for
gold, and re-import the gold because of its greater purchasing power in Ireland. In the
Intelligencer essay Swift advocates reducing the guinea’s rating to a point slightly above
the English value, but well below the commercial price (or well within the specie point
range).62 Since during the Nine Years War the English undertook indirect supply, the
resulting trade imbalance meant that bullion—not bills of exchange—would have to be
shipped to the Low Countries. This problem was intensified by the fact that the range
between specie points was narrower at the Amsterdam exchange banks than at any other
commercial center in Europe:
The Amsterdam Exchange Bank became an enormous storehouse from
which all the desired international specie could be obtained immediately
and flexibly. . .. Amsterdam exchange rates became uncommonly stable:
the specie points drew closer together, because in Amsterdam the costs of
replacing bills of exchange by a shipment of precious metals in any desired
coinage were reduced.63
Unfortunately, Amsterdam’s proficiency in the specie trade worked to the detriment of
England’s currency.

74
The Worsening Crisis and Parliamentary Intervention
With the bullion outflow already affecting the money supply by the second year of
the war, Parliament, in its 1690-91 session, considered two bills intended to address the
problem.64 The first bill dealt with a reduction of the legal rate of interest from 6% to 4%,
and it was advocated by the East India Company, with the powerful merchant economist
Sir Josiah Child leading the lobbying effort. Having written on the same topic in 1668,
Child brought out a pamphlet entitled A Discourse about Trade (1690) to support the
measure.65 Since money was scarce, Child reasoned, a reduction in the interest rate would
lure surplus funds out of savings and into the investment market. For the time being,
however, Child’s bid fell short of the necessary votes, and the bill failed. The second bill
before Parliament called for “raising the coin”—or increasing the mint rating of a crown
piece from 5s. to 5s. 3d., a move designed to bring more silver into the Mint for coining.
Because the bill was sponsored by Thomas Neale, Master of the Mint (and from whom we
shall hear again), many suspected the adjustment was being promoted to benefit Mint
officials, who were paid by the ounce coined. Although the bill passed its third reading in
mid-November, by the end of the year it had apparently been pigeonholed.
Support for the two bills did not wane, and in the 1691-92 session both issues
were again brought before Parliament. It was at this juncture that Locke first intervened
with Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and Raising
the Value of Money (published in November of 1691 but dated 1692). This 192-page
pamphlet consisted of two separate (but related) sections-a reworked version of some
draft papers on interest Locke had written (but never published) against Child in the late

75
1660s, and new material opposing any alteration in the mint rating of silver. I will more
thoroughly discuss the substance of this pamphlet below, but suffice it now to say that
Locke’s input evidently had little effect: despite the efforts of the “College” (Edward
Clarke and John Freke, Locke’s friends and Parliamentary “lobbyists”), the Commons
passed a compromise bill lowering the interest rate to 5% (the Lords later rejected it), and
the second bill probably lacked the necessary votes to begin with.66 Similar proposals
introduced in both the 1692-93 and 1693-94 sessions were likewise allowed to lapse.
Parliament’s failure to enact legislation solving the “currency question” enabled the
clipping industry to thrive, and thus the spiral of monetary deterioration accelerated. As
long as a coin’s ring remained intact, little could be clipped from it, but as the ring
increasingly became effaced, more and more of the coin could be removed. To compound
matters, the fact that the circulating money was so corrupted (and in 1695 Treasury
officials estimated it had lost fully half its nominal silver content)67 made counterfeiting
easier—once most of the coin was badly defaced, forgeries no longer had to be very
exacting. Because the state of the coin was so poor, the exchange rate with the Low
Countries fell 15% between January 1694/5 and August 1695.68 There was, moreover, no
inducement to bring silver bullion to the Mint for coining: in England the mint value of a
troy ounce was 5x. 2d., but the same ounce was worth the equivalent of 6.v. 3d. in
Holland; this difference offered ample incentive for money-changers to export bullion and
take advantage of the exchange. In fact, the market price of silver in England would rise
as high as 6s. 5d. in the latter half of 1695.

76
The problem of silver outflow was exacerbated by the fact that gold fetched a
higher price in England than across the Channel. While silver coin emigrated, gold entered
the country and was coined into guineas, which had risen precipitously in market value
from 22s. 7d. in early 1694/5 to nearly 30s. in June 65 Concomitantly, the number of
guineas coined also rose at a dramatic rate. In the period 1689-94, some 437,000 guineas
were coined, an average of a little more than 72,800 a year. In 1695, however, this figure
increased nearly tenfold, to 717,000, and, although it dropped to 138,000 in 1696, the
number of guineas coined per annum remained well above the figures for the first half of
the decade.70 The rise in value (and number) of guineas had disastrous effects on
circulation; even at the relatively low 22-shilling rate, guineas simply had too high a value
to function for the everyday transactions conducted with shillings and sixpence. Gold, in
modern economic terminology, did not have a sufficient velocity of circulation to meet
currency demand. Or, as Sir Richard Blackmore phrased it in his Short History of the Last
Parliament (1699), England was in danger of being “impoverish’d and undone by [its]
Plenty of Gold.”71
When Parliament convened for its 1694-95 session, it was plain to all that a
decision on the currency could be postponed no longer. On the one hand, England was
suffering from a crippling outflow of silver bullion—so much so that Mint production of
silver coin had reached a standstill—on the other hand, the coin remaining in circulation
had deteriorated to the point where a systemic breakdown was imminent. To be sure, the
newly-formed Bank of England had issued notes which could be used as negotiable
instruments, but these went primarily to Flanders for war payments (where they totaled

77
less than one-seventh of remittances),72 and in any case the denominations of these notes
were too large for small-scale transactions (it would not be until the “paper pound” of
1797-1821 that notes would be issued in denominations of 1£ and £2, and even then the
notes were not declared legal tender).73 With the monetary system on the verge of
collapse, Parliament assigned a committee to solicit opinions on the best means of
conducting a recoinage. Within this committee two factions began to form: one in favor
of devaluation and supported by Charles Montague, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the
other opposed to devaluation, and backed by Locke’s allies, Edward Clarke and Sir
Francis Masham. In February of 1694/5 Locke responded to another pamphlet by Thomas
Neale with Short Observations on a Printed Paper, Intituled, For encouraging the
Coining of Silver Money in England, and after for keeping it here, which was intended to
influence members of the committee into maintaining the current standard.74 In March,
however, having heard proposals from merchants, goldsmiths, and Mint officials, the
committee issued a series of Fourteen Resolutions that proposed raising the mint price of
silver to correspond to its market price (a devaluation of about 9%). Another key point
was that clipped coin would be accepted at the Mint only by weight, but that a fund of £1
million would be raised to reimburse losses up to the face value of the underweight coin.
Although the Fourteen Resolutions were eventually rejected, they had a major
impact on circulation of the already anemic currency. According to Patrick Kelly:
Publication of the Fourteen Resolutions in the Votes and the Commons’
later resolution in favour of compensating holders of clipped money
encouraged belief that Parliament would eventually opt for devaluation.
This stimulated speculative hoarding of full-weight coin and also led to

78
fears of being left holding clipped money that helped ... to push up the
price of guineas in the summer of 1695.
(Kelly 21-2)
Here was Gresham’s Law with a vengeance: because people feared a proclamation
declaring that coin should go not by face value but by weight, they hoarded any milled or
heavy money they came across, and within a matter of months “light” and counterfeit coin
were all that remained in circulation. As long as merchants and shopkeepers were willing
to accept the bad coin, the wartime home economy could function, albeit feebly; once
people refused to accept a clipped coin at face value, however, circulation would grind to
a halt. Meanwhile, in April of 1695 the Licensing Act was allowed to lapse (less on
grounds of civil liberty than on the point of avoiding a Stationers’ Company monopoly),
and, with nothing to hold the floodwaters back, a torrent of pamphlets and broadsheets
offering solutions to the currency crisis was unleashed.
As the coinage crisis deepened during the summer months, the Treasury asked its
Secretary, William Lowndes (who would serve in that capacity until 1724, becoming “one
of the stabilizing factors in the financial history of the period”),75 to restate the arguments
for devaluation, adhering to the essentials of the Fourteen Resolutions. Knowing that
devaluation was a time-honored method of dealing with war finance, Lowndes consulted
Mint records for supporting evidence, which he found in abundance. The crown, he
determined, had often resorted to devaluation in emergencies. Considering these
precedents, he advised that a 20% reduction in the “extrinsick value” (mint rating) of
silver coin would bring it in line with the market value of silver, which, as we have seen,
was nearing 6s. 5d.76 In September Lowndes presented his findings to the Lords Justices,

79
but they remained unpersuaded that devaluation was the best remedy. It was at this
juncture that they called upon Locke, Newton, Wren, Davenant, Child, and seven others
to offer their opinions on the subject.77 These reports were delivered to the Regency
Council throughout the fall, but no consensus was reached. Locke, of course, strongly
opposed devaluation, but “it was William’s personal intervention that finally decided in
favour of maintaining the existing monetary standard rather than devaluing.” The King,
moreover, felt the recoinage should be undertaken if at all possible without recourse to
Parliament, a point which, Kelly notes, “brings out a constitutional dimension generally
ignored: clearly William did not wish to surrender the Crown’s prerogative on coinage”
(27). Despite William’s desire to avoid engaging Parliament over the issue, however, the
ministry felt the assembly would simply refuse to be circumvented. Thus it is of critical
importance to distinguish between Locke’s proposals as initially promoted by the
government and the plan actually sent to (and ultimately implemented by) Parliament.
Because he feared “money-jobbers” would simply clip more coin to gain reimbursement at
public expense, Locke had contended that clipped money should only be accepted by
weight,78 but the bill before Parliament reverted to the plan of compensating holders of
clipped coin, the plan that had initially been laid out in the Fourteen Resolutions.
These, then, were the political circumstances in November of 1695-going on
behind the scenes was ministerial wrangling between Montague (in support of
devaluation) and Somers and the King in opposition.75 But what emerged before the
public was an altogether different scenario. The tracts that had poured forth since the
lapse of the Licensing Act lacked a defining point of contention and so were too disjointed

80
to be properly termed a pamphlet war, but in November a true controversy began brewing
with the publication of Lowndes’ Report containing an Essay for the Amendment of the
Silver Coin, which included a thinly veiled challenge directed at Locke to publish his
“Thoughts for Rendring the Design here aim’d at more perfect or Agreeable to the Public
Service.”80 Locke responded in December with the last of his three monetary writings,
Further Considerations Concerning Raising the Value of Money. Wherein Mr Lowndes’s
Arguments for it in his late Report concerning An Essay for the Amendment of the Silver
Coins, are particularly Examined. As the Recoinage debate entered 1696, then, it was
developing into a full-fledged pamphlet war.
Ironically, passage of the Recoinage Act-which called for maintaining the existing
standard and the gradual demonetization of the clipped coin—only re-opened the question
of devaluation. Because the Mint could not keep up with the demand for coin (despite a
temporary increase in workers and facilities), people were nearly forced to revert to barter,
and even William came to view the decision to maintain the standard as a “disastrous
mistake” (Kelly 65). In light of the situation, Parliament began to renew demands to
“raise the coin.” In July Locke responded to these calls with the publication of Several
Papers relating to Money, Interest and Trade (the volume Swift owned), which included
revised versions of the three pamphlets he had already published; as Kelly has suggested,
Locke almost certainly intended this collection as his final say on money.

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The Recoinaae Controversy
We began our discussion of the Great Recoinage with the concept of accounting,
for measurement-accountability, in a sense—was precisely the issue at stake between the
factions that clustered around Lowndes and Locke. Did money function first and
foremost by its denomination, rendering silver content subsidiary (and potentially
irrelevant) to the stamp of the crown? Or was money primarily a repository of value,
denomination merely reflecting the specie content of the coin? Asked another way, could
the standard of value—the measure of goods, services, and above all credit and debt—be
altered without defrauding the citizen (particularly creditors) and, more importantly,
without casting valuation itself into uncertainty? There were a host of other
considerations involved in the issue, particularly the economic and social consequences of
whatever form the final course of action might take. Opting for “extrinsick value,” on the
one hand, involved not only abandoning a monetary standard well over a century old (and
dimly associated with the glory of Queen Elizabeth), but also triggering a potentially
damaging inflationary spiral; on the other hand, choosing “intrinsick value” preserved a
clearly definable monetary standard, but it meant a depression almost certainly would
follow hard upon the start of the recoinage. Political power entered into the choice
between inflation and deflation as well. Adopting a new standard meant that those
wealthy enough to lend money received less silver in exchange, whereas maintaining the
status quo placed the burden of the recoinage on those living near subsistence with little
money to spare.81

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The case for raising the standard was publicly initiated by Lowndes’ Report, which
sought to examine the “most Practicable Methods for New Coining the [money], and
Supplying, in the mean time, sufficient Coins to pay the Kings Taxes and Revenues, and to
carry on the Publick Commerce” (3). Lowndes immediately ruled out an actual
debasement (a reduction in the purity of the silver by adding more copper to the coin), a
solution widely associated with tyranny. Such a measure was to be avoided at all costs,
Because making of Base Moneys will Disgrace this Government in future
Generations, the Criticks in every Age being apt to Estimate the Goodness
or Badness of Ancient Governments by their Coin, as hath been done,
especially in the Case of the Romans, and a Temptation of this kind ought
not to be left for future Ages, to the prejudice and Honour of the present
King.
(Report 30)
Although Lowndes feared the judgment of posterity (like any good political adviser, he
was interested in managing “spin”), he was astute enough to recognize that what history
took away through infamous example it could also give in the form of precedent. Thus he
enumerated, in impressive detail, the many instances from English history in which the
monarch had resorted to raising the coin (Report 3-56).
With the considerable weight of tradition on his side, then, Lowndes concluded
that “it has been a policy constantly Practised in the Mints of England (the like having
been done in all Foreign Mints belonging to other Governments) to Raise the Value of the
Coin in its Extrinsick Denomination, from time to time, as any Exigence or Occasion
required; and more especially to Encourage the bringing of Bullion into the Realm to be
Coined” (Report 56). Moreover, “Raising the Extrinsick Value of the Gold and Silver, in
the Denominations of the Coins, as it hath been constant almost in every Reign of every

83
King” had never caused any “Inconvenience, Disgrace or Mischief. . . when a Just,
Necessary or Reasonable Cause gave Occasion thereunto” (Report 58). Though by no
means ideal in Lowndes’ view, the most practical way to recoin money during war was to
decrease the silver content in order to bring the Mint value of the coin in line with the
market value of silver bullion.
Lowndes therefore proposed raising the “Extrinsick Value” of the crown piece
from its current rating of 60d. to 75d., or from 5s. to 6s. 3d. This strategy had two
advantages. First, it brought the Mint price of silver close enough to its market value of
6s. 5d. that, for the time being at least, the incentives to export bullion would end and
silver, it was hoped, would be brought to the Mint for coining. Theoretically, by removing
the motivation to melt coin into bullion for export (that is, bringing the legal price of silver
within the specie points), the adjustment would also serve as a hedge against further
clipping. Lowndes claimed this aspect of his plan was
grounded chiefly upon a Truth so Apparent, that it may well be compared
to an Axiom even in Mathematical Reasoning, to wit, That whensoever the
Extrinsick Value of Silver in the Coin hath been, or shall be less than the
price of Silver in Bullion, the Coin hath been, and will be Melted down.
(Report 68; emphasis in original)
Second, raising the nominal value of the coin would (at least temporarily) increase the
purchasing power of an ounce of silver, thereby easing the “hiatus of specie” a recoinage
would inevitably produce. In other words, instead of decreasing monetary circulation by
50% (as preserving the existing standard would do), the proposed devaluation would
reduce it by only 37.5%.82

84
Whereas Lowndes located value in denomination, Locke placed it squarely on the
metallic substance of the coin. Money, Locke acknowledged, was a counter of value, but
only by virtue of its silver content: “Silver is the Measure of Commerce by its Quantity,
which is the Measure also of its intrinsick value. If one grain of Silver has an intrinsick
value in it, two grains of Silver have double that intrinsick value” (FC 410).83 Because
silver was the sole measure of value, it could not be said to have “risen” in respect of
itself:
Those who say Bullion is Risen, I desire to tell me; What they mean by
Riserfl Any Commodity, I think, is properly said to be Risen when the
same quantity will exchange for a greater quantity of another thing; but
more particularly of that thing which is the Measure of Commerce in the
Country.
(FC 426)
Thus he countered Lowndes’ mathematical “Axiom” with one of his own: “an Ounce of
Silver will always be of equal value to an Ounce of Silver” (FC 427).84 This, of course,
would be the point on which Locke’s analysis of the situation foundered; he did not
adequately account for the market price of silver, even though in Some Considerations he
had written that silver is “not of the same value at the same time, in several parts of the
World, but is of most worth in that Country where there is least Money, in proportion to
its Trade: And therefore Men may afford to give 20 Ounces of Silver in one place, to
receive 18 or 19 Ounces in another” (267).
Because Locke overlooked the impact of the market on the price of silver, he felt
raising the denomination was futile. England’s currency problem was not to be solved by
raising the coin, he believed, but by rectifying the balance of trade. Silver would only be

85
brought to the Mint “by the Regulation and Ballance of our Trade. For be your Coin what
it will, our Neighbours, if they over-ballance us in Trade, will not only havea great value
for our Silver, but get it too” (SC 335; emphasis in original). To Locke’s mind, nowhere
was the fallacy of extrinsic value more evident than in international trade, when “All our
Names (if they are any more to us) are to them [foreign traders] but bare Sounds; and our
Coin, as theirs to us, but meer Bullion, valued only by its weight” (FC 442). Names were,
in the long run, of little consequence, and simply calling an ounce of silver by another
name was a type of prevarication. “Raising the coin” was venturing onto the slippery
slope of government-instigated inflation:
If this be not so, when the necessity of our affairs abroad, or ill husbandry
at home, has carried away half our Treasure; and a moiety of our Money is
gone out of England, ’tis but to issue a Proclamation, that a Penny shall go
for Two-pence, Six-pence for a Shilling, half a Crown for a Crown, &c.
and immediately without any more ado we are as Rich as before. And
when half the remainder is gone, ’tis but doing the same thing again, and
raising the Denomination anew, and we are where we were, and so on.
(FC 453)
This argument played especially upon the fears of the poor, and, though fallacious, it was
difficult to refute. Who was to guarantee that the laborer’s annual wage of £25 would
purchase as much after the revaluation?
Although Lowndes’ proposals were eminently practical, they were not
invulnerable, and Locke skilfully exploited his opponent’s lapses. To begin with,
Lowndes’ plan called for a complete monetary overhaul, with the creation of awkward
new denominations called “Sceptres” and “Unites.” “I imagine there is not one Country¬
man of three,” Locke protested, “but may have it for his Pains, if he can tell an Hundred

86
Pounds made up of a promiscuous Mixture of the Species of this new raised Money . . . in
a days time” (PC 465). More damaging were Lowndes’ analyses of the aftermath of
revaluation. Early in the Repon he had admitted that “when the Causes which at present
make Silver Scarce and Dear shall cease, Silver it self will fall in its Price” (31). But if
silver would return to its pre-war value once the balance of trade had been righted, why
meddle with either the traditional denominations or, more importantly, the traditional
standard? Via his appeal to history, Lowndes could sidestep this critique, but the
economic consequences of devaluation posed greater problems. Would there be any real
monetary gain by “raising” the coin? His arguments against debasement were particularly
susceptible to this question. “Foreigners that deal with us,” Lowndes observes, “regard the
Intrinsick Value more than the Extrinsick Denomination, and Exchange accordingly. If
Base Money should be made, the Intrinsick Value thereof would be uncertain, or might be
disputed; and in Disputes of such a Nature, it is more likely that they will gain upon us,
than we upon them” (Report 32). At this point there is little to distinguish Lowndes’
language from Locke’s, but the parallels grow even more distinct. Recalling England’s
Great Debasement of the early sixteenth century, Lowndes expresses the reservation that
“if the value of the Silver in the Coins should (by any extrinsick denomination) be raised
above the value or Market price of the same Silver reduced to Bullion, the Subject would
be proportionably injured and defrauded” (Report 78-9). To Lowndes, this concession
was a tactical necessity in the argument against debasement, but in Locke’s view it
undermined the very foundation of the devaluationist position—one form of depreciation
was as fraudulent as the other (FC 455-56).

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As Locke and Lowndes exchanged salvos in print, they were joined by a host of
others who helped carry on the debate. The anonymous author of A Review of the
Universal Remedy for All Diseases Incident to Coin, for instance, supported Locke. “The
Ground of all these Mischiefs,” the writer believed, “lies in the difference of the intrinsick
Value of the several pieces of our Coin that go under the same Denomination.”85 Simon
Clement, in his Discourse of the General Notions of Money, Trade, & Exchanges, also
proposed maintaining the standard, suggesting that raising the coin was an “Infallible
Demonstration of the decay of Wealth in any Countrey.” Reciting a familiar refrain,
Clement felt the only solution to the problem was to bring “our Affairs into such a posture
as that our Expences Abroad may be kept within the Compass of the Ballance of Trade.”86
Locke even drew support from the dead: his publishers, Awnsham and John Churchill,
reprinted Petty’s Quantulumcunque to help thwart the renewed calls for devaluation.
Entering the lists on the side of Lowndes, however, were a number of formidable
opponents. Some, like the anonymous author of A Letter Humbly Offer'd to the
Consideration of all Gentlemen, Yeomen, Citizens, Freeholders, &c., had a satiric bite.
Locke, the writer accused, had misled the nation through “Sophistry,” and he hoped that
the eyes of the Kingdom the experience of deflation had “unLOCKt.” How could anyone
believe, he wondered, “that our Money had of the same weight it now is ever since Noah’s
Flood”?87 A more serious attack came from Sir Richard Temple, who argued that no one
disputed that an ounce of silver was equal to an ounce of silver. This, according to
Temple, was “an absurd Proposition, since there is no occasion for any Barter or
Exchange.” Temple continued:

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That the intrinsick Value of Silver is the true Instrument and Measure of
Commerce, is partly True, and partly False; for the Mony of every Country,
and not the Ounce of Silver, or the intrinsick value, is the Instrument and
Measure of Commerce there, according to its Denomination, and the
Standard of the Coin of each Nation is very different, and does often vary
according to Time, Place, and Circumstances.88
According to Temple, Locke had failed to understand that “Bullion is a Commodity, and
has no certain universal stated Price or Value.”89
By far the most trenchant critiques of Locke, however, came from Nicholas
Barbon’s A Discourse Concerning Coining the New Money Lighter and James Flodges’
The Present Stale of England as to Coin and Publick Charges. Barbón, after
summarizing Locke’s major points, drew a key distinction between “Intrinsick Value” and
what he termed “Intrinsick Vertue”:
Value is only the Price of Things: That can never be certain, because it
must be then at all times, and in all places, of the same Value; therefore
nothing can have an Intrinsick Value.
But things have an Intrinsick Vertue in themselves, which in all
places have the same Vertue; as the Loadstone to attract Iron .... But
these things, though they may have great Virtues, may be of small Value or
Price, according to the place where they are plenty or scarce.90
For Barbón, “the value of things depend[s] only on their use” (5), and therefore is always
subject to market fluctuations. His ultimate target, however, was the idea that
government had no role in establishing value: “Money is commonly made of some Metal,
but it is more for conveniency, than of absolute necessity. For the Value arising from
Publick Authority, it may as well be set to any thing else that is as convenient, and can be
preserv’d from being counterfeited” (13). By denying the necessity of gold and silver as

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monetary metals and insisting only that the material be difficult to counterfeit, Barbón was
exceedingly dose to developing a modem conception of money.
Hodges accused a “late ingenious Author” of “charming and bewitching” the
populace into an “idolatrous” reverence for the monetary standard.91 Although Hodges
wanted eventually to return to the “present Standard” (78), he thought it absolutely
necessary under the circumstances to expand the money supply: “If the Money be on this
Occasion raised to double Value, then the Nation doth thereby immediately receive an
equivalent to double Tale of Money, and every one have their Share in the Profit and Use
of this doubling” (91). Raising the coin “putteth Money in twice as many Hands as
formerly had it; so that the Tale of Money is really doubled and spread amongst the
People” (92). To those fearful of inflation, Hodges countered that “all Persons of all
sorts, may have great Profit by such a Raising of Money” (90); to those apprehensive of
property loss, he issued a challenge to prevent “some imminent Danger of a great Loss,
which it is every one’s Concern to lend his Assistance to, though it were with one half of
all his Estate” (91).
Like Barbón, Hodges held that “Silver, considered as Money, hath, speaking
properly, no real intrinsick Value at all” (146). Money, in fact, was only valued because
of the “Estimation put upon it by the supream Magistrate” (147). The Dutch, he pointed
out, suffered no loss of trade by maintaining two separate coinages, the “Bank-Money”
with which they conducted foreign exchange, and the “current Money' which circulated
domestically. Locating the problem purely in the balance of trade was misguided, because
raising the coin would right the imbalance, placing “a certain Loss or Fine upon

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Exportation of Money; seeing as when Money is raised, the Mints will always be able to
give more than usual Profit upon all Foreign Money brought in to be coined” (110).
Hodges was even less charitable to Locke’s “mathematical” reasoning, which he found
patently specious: “For it is arguing from a part to the whole, from one Ounce of Silver in
one Circumstance, to one Ounce in all Circumstances” (140).
Despite the cogent arguments of Lowndes, Barbón, Hodges and others, and
despite the obviously disastrous effects of maintaining the standard, Locke and the idea of
intrinsic value carried the day. But why? Joyce Oldham Appleby has argued that Locke’s
theory of money was ideologically enticing because of its reliance on natural law; thus
Locke “made way for the nineteenth-century belief in natural economic laws beyond the
reach of political authority .”92 As such, his theory was “simultaneously a rejection of an
economic model that incorporated all the variables of rising demand, imaginary wants, and
cavalier acts of sovereign authority.”93 More recently, James Thompson has suggested
that Locke’s “simple tautology, silver is silver, works on a law of conservation: that
nothing is ever lost.” He continues:
It is also a law of continuity: that material substance is the same from
moment to moment. Equity, public confidence, and the continuance of
commerce turn on this conservation, that silver is silver, and one gets silver
for silver in each exchange. . . . These laws of conservation and continuity
are also connected with an aristocratic ideology of genealogical and
possessive continuity.
This aristocratic ideology ensures “the present disposition of power and property; those
families which now control land, wealth, and power will be the same families controlling
land, wealth, and power in the future.”94

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Thompson is corred that Locke’s arguments held an all too material appeal to the
landed members of Parliament, who more often than not were government creditors.
Locke himself was a landowning govermnent creditor, one with a particular affinity for
money: in the year prior to the Recoinage debate, to cite a telling incident, we find him
crassly asking a bereaved son for the money and books owed by the recently deceased
father.95 Nevertheless, as acquisitive as Locke may have been (and in fairness to him it
must also be said that he gave significant amounts of money away),96 it is unwise to place
undue emphasis on his “conservatism.” Both the Second Treatise and Locke’s
involvement with radical political groups before and after the Exclusion Crisis would seem
to indicate that he had no particular commitment to continuity per ,ve .97
More to the point, reducing the complexity of Locke’s arguments to a banal truism
(“As John Locke never tired of saying, ‘Silver is silver’”98) removes the element of
abstract measurement from Locke’s arguments, thereby overemphasizing his “metallism”
in certain fundamental ways. Locke never said “silver is silver” but rather “an ounce of
silver is an ounce of silver” (here paraphrased, but cf. “Early” 197; SC 267, 305; SO 351,
354; FC 422,427). The difference is crucial, for it suggests that Locke was as interested
in the abstract measurement of the coin’s content as he was in its “materiality.” Thus
Locke repeats in any number of variations the same theme: “An Ounce of Standard Silver
can never be worth an Ounce and a Quarter of Standard Silver; nor one Ounce of
uncoin’d Silver, exchange for one ounce and a Quarter of Coin’d Silver: The Stamp
cannot so much debase its value” (FC 427). Considering a statement such as this, it might
well be said that for Lowndes and his supporters the abstract unit of account was the

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pound, whereas for Locke it was the ounce. To Locke’s mind, the way contractual
obligations would be measured was a principal issue in the Recoinage: “The Harm comes
by the change, which unreasonably and unjustly gives away and transfers Mens properties,
disorders Trade, Puzzels Accounts, and needs a new Arithmetick to cast up Reckonings”
(FC 463). As I suggested at the outset, it was precisely this emphasis on standards and
measurement that held appeal for the Scriblerians. Standards are not, it must be added,
inherently conservative, for—especially in the hands of the ironist—they are potentially
two-edged weapons: they can be used to maintain the status quo through exclusion, or
(via the standard of justice, for instance) they can be used to promote reform and demand
inclusion.
Locke’s emphasis on the silver content of the coin also needs to be treated
cautiously. Contrary to Thompson’s assertion that Locke’s formulation “may owe
something to New Science” because “Old science certainly did not insist that silver is
silver; rather, it claimed that base substances could be transformed into precious metals,”99
Locke expressed genuine interest in Robert Boyle’s alchemical musings.100 Nor were the
political possibilities of alchemy discredited by the government, which must have viewed
the possibility of transmutation of metals as something akin to the Manhattan Project. As
Kelly notes: “In 1689, partly as a result of lobbying by Boyle, the [fifteenth-century]
statute against ‘multiplying gold and silver’ had been repealed, with a specific proviso that
any alchemical gold should be sent to the Mint for coinage” (SC 299n). Indeed, I would
assert that a careful reading of Locke reveals that he was not quite the uncompromising
“bullionist” he is often portrayed to have been. Locke well knew that the use of silver as

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the primary monetary instrument was ultimately arbitrary, and thus he was impelled by
political considerations to ground his “intrinsick value” arguments in natural law. To
justify this assertion, however, it will be necessary to explore his conception of intrinsic
value in greater detail.
Locke. Intrinsic Value, and the Significance of Consent
It has been implicit throughout my discussion that the “extrinsick” and “intrinsick”
positions were not as sharply divided as we might like to suppose, that there are tensions
on either side of the issue not easily resolved. On the one hand, even though merchants
often weighed money prior to accepting it, calculations of the money of account were of
vital importance to their trade; as we have seen, a monetary adjustment in a foreign market
meant that, quite suddenly, English money could be worth proportionately more or less in
that market without any change in the official weight of English coin (and it might take
months for the alteration to be officially recognized). Even under “normal” monetary
circumstances tax-paying citizens took advantage of nominal value by paying the
Exchequer in the “lightest” money at their disposal. On the other hand, Locke was
certainly correct that, whatever their temporary fluctuations, mint ratings were ultimately
derived from the amount of silver in the coin. For these reasons, we encounter numerous
inconsistencies and contradictions on either side of the dilemma; even a committed
devaluationist such as James Hodges (or William Lowndes, for that matter) wanted to
return to the Elizabethan standard once the economy stabilized. That distinctions blurred
and terms were confused under such circumstances is hardly surprising. Locke professed

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to be clarifying the discourse about coinage; in language clearly reminiscent of the
EssayConcerning Human Understanding, he states, “I wish those that use the Phrase of
raising our Money, had some clear Notion annexed to it; and that then they would
examine, Whether, that being true, it would at all serve to those Ends, for which [it] is
propos’d” (SC 304).101 Whether or not Locke achieved his aim is open to question, for his
conception of intrinsic value is fraught with tensions and contradictions of its own.
Two key passages—one from Some Considerations, the other from Further
Considerations—form the foundation of Locke’s monetary theory. These two passages
represent the culmination of nearly thirty years’ thought about the nature of money,
ranging from the “Early Writings” of 1668 to the second edition of Some Considerations
in 1696—which, it is critical to point out, postdates Further Considerations—and so are
closely related, but they also evidence the growth and development we would ordinarily
expect of work composed, sporadically, over some three decades. Since the two passages
are in important respects interdependent, I want to cite both now, but I intend to dwell on
the second precisely because it brings to the fore ways Locke modified and adjusted his
theory during the 1690s. The first passage comprises the opening sequence of Further
Considerations'.
Silver is the Instrument and Measure of Commerce in all the Civilized
and Trading Parts of the World.
It is the Instrument of Commerce by its intrinsick value.
The intrinsick value of Silver consider’d as Money, is that
estimate which common consent has placed on it, whereby it is made
Equivalent to all other things, and consequently is the universal Barter or
Exchange which Men give and receive for other things they would
purchase or part with for a valuable consideration ....

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Silver is the Measure of Commerce by its quantity, which is the
Measure also of its intrinsick value.
(FC 410)
The second passage occurs in the discussion of interest rates in Some
Considerations and is, significantly, more often cited by recent scholars. “Now Money is
necessary,” Locke writes,
to all these sorts ofMen [i.e., brokers, merchants, and shopkeepers], as
serving both for Counters and for Pledges, and so carrying with it even
Reckoning, and Security, that he, that receives it, shall have the same Value
for it again, of other things that he wants, whenever he pleases. The one of
these it does by its Stamp and Denomination; the other by its intrinsick
Value, which is its Quantity.
For Mankind, having consented to put an imaginary Value upon
Gold and Silver by reason of their durableness, Scarcity, and not being very
liable to be Counterfeited, have made them by general consent the common
Pledges, whereby Men are assured, in Exchange for them to receive equally
valuable things to those they parted with for any quantity of these Metals.
(SC 233)
This highly complex statement can be separated into two basic components. The first
portion addresses the way money functions in society, and it proceeds by a series of pairs—
“Counters”/“Pledges,” “Reckoning”/“Security,” and “Stamp and
Denomination’7“intrinsick Value”—culminating in the definition of intrinsic value as
"Quantity’’ By now we ought easily to recognize the coupling of extrinsic and intrinsic
value, but it is especially significant that, through parallel structure, Locke specifically
links the words “Pledge” and “Security” with “intrinsick Value.” The second component
deals with the origin of money. Having said that money has an intrinsic value, he must
justify the assertion, and he does so partly by reference to the physical properties of silver
and gold (“their durableness, Scarcity, and not being very liable to be Counterfeited”) and

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partly by the “general consent” of humankind. It is at this juncture that Locke makes his
most significant advance over both tradition and his own, earlier thought on monetary
value.
The idea that gold and silver were ideally suited for the monetary substance
because of “their durableness, Scarcity, and not being very liable to be Counterfeited,”
with its roots in Aristotle’s discussion of the origin of money in the Politics'02 was a
commonplace of later Scholastic monetary thought. The notion was current among a
number of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century writers, including Jean Buridan (fl. 1328-58)
and Gabriel Biel (14257-95), but it is most often associated with the French monk
Nicholas of Oresme (13207-82), whose De Momia (ca. 1360) is usually considered the
first treatise devoted entirely to money.103 Although we have no tangible evidence that
Locke read any of these writers (unlike Swift, for instance, Locke did not own a copy of
Aquinas, though he was definitely familiar with the Summa),'04 he certainly could have
encountered them as a student or teacher at Oxford, and his brief paper “Venditio,”
composed in 1695, clearly demonstrates that he was well versed in Scholastic theories of
the Just Price.105 Significantly, throughout the Aristotelian monetary tradition there is a
strong antinomian strain (I am using “antinomian” quite literally here, because its root,
nomos [law], was held by Aristotle to be etymologically related to the institution of
nomisma [money]),106 directed against Plato’s advocacy of state-decreed token currency in
the Republic.107 We see this monetary antinomianism in Oresme:
Although it is the duty of the prince to put his stamp on the money for the
common good, he is not the lord or owner of the money current in his
principality. For money is a balancing instrument for the exchange of

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natural wealth.... It is therefore the property of those who possess such
wealth. For if a man gives bread or bodily labour in exchange for money,
the money he receives is as much his as the bread or bodily labour of which
he (unless he were a slave) was free to dispose. For it was not to princes
alone that God gave freedom to possess property, but to our first
parents.108
The parallels between this and the Two Treatises are too obvious to be missed, reminding
us that natural law was by and large a medieval and Renaissance Catholic development.
As Joseph A. Schumpeter remarks of Aquinas, “St. Thomas’ sociology of institutions,
political and other, is not what readers will expect who are in the habit of tracing the
political and social doctrines of the nineteenth century to Locke or to the writers of the
French Enlightenment or the English utilitarians.”109 In any case, the connection between
money and property, one we have seen elsewhere in Locke’s Recoinage writings, suggests
ways Locke’s political philosophy could be transmitted through the monetary writings.
If Locke’s “metallist” stance was in the mainstream of early-modern monetary
thought, his emphasis on “general consent” in the creation of value was very much his
own innovation. Locke’s departure from tradition can briefly be illustrated by way of
Petty’s Quantulumcunque: although Petty, a highly original thinker himself, opposed
devaluation, he did so merely on the grounds that it would jeopardize England’s
“Honour.”110 Reliance on consent, of course, was a mainstay of the natural law tradition,
given its first prominent English form by Richard Hooker. (Amidst the din about Locke
versus Hobbes or—more accurately—Filmer, the frequency with which Locke calls upon
the “judicious Hooker” is easily drowned out.) In post-Restoration England we even see
the idea of “universal consent” in Edward Stillingfleet’s Origines Sacrae as proof of the

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existence of God,111 but in applying the principle to the origin of monetary value Locke
was breaking new ground.112 Unfortunately for Locke, however, the principle of “general
consent” was by definition impossible to reconcile with that of “intrinsick value.”
Locke’s antagonists used two methods to dismantle this contradiction, although
one method was less damaging than the other. The first was a stock objection questioning
the historical verifiability of state-of-nature contracts. Nicholas Barbón adopted this
approach, demanding to know “how and when [humankind] made such an agreement; I
must confess I never heard of any; if there was any such, it must have been lately.”113
Locke had more or less effectively countered such objections in the Second Treatise: “And
if we may not suppose Men ever to have been in the State of Nature, because we hear not
much of them in such a State, we may as well suppose the Armies of Salmanasser, or
Xerxes were never Children, because we hear little of them, till they were Men, and
imbodied in Armies” (§101, 6-11). More difficult to refute, however, was the second
method of attacking Locke’s premises—simply accusing him of blatant illogic and
confusion of terms. James Hodges deftly took this tack, satirically using Scholastic
argumentation to exploit Locke’s contradiction. “That to call that an intrinsick Value,
which yet we confess is put upon the thing,... as in [Locke’s] Proposition,” Hodges
argued, “must be as contradictory and repugnant both in Reason and in the right Use of
Language, as if one should contend that every one who puts on his Clothes, swallows
them down into his stomach; and that every Porter putteth the Load into his Belly when he
puts it on his Back.”114 Hodges is, of course, correct-Locke is guilty of either a faulty
syllogism or an appallingly lax use of language.

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Hodges’ critique underscores a troublesome dilemma for a theorist attempting to
preserve a consensual standard, the matter of popular opinion and misplaced dissent.
Locke directly addresses this issue in the Essay.
There is another [instance], I confess, which though by it self it be no true
ground of Probability, yet is often made use of for one, by which Men
most commonly regulate their Assent, and upon which they pin their Faith
more than any thing else, and, that is, the Opinion of others', though there
cannot be a more dangerous thing to rely on, nor more likely to mislead
one; since there is much more Falshood and Errour amongst Men, than
Truth and Knowledge.
(ECHU IV.xv.6)
In the Essay Locke could appeal to reason and logic (and, in the case of enthusiasm,
Scripture) as measures of an idea’s worth, but his theory of monetary value was especially
vulnerable to the criticism that public sentiment could determine the standard. The people
of England, his opponents hastened to point out, had obviously been willing to accept
(consent to) silver coin at its extrinsic rather than its intrinsic value. This fact posed a
significant problem for Locke: he would have to demonstrate, one way or another, that
this type of consent was economically absurd, that the people who accepted underweight
coin were unreasonable or misguided. It is no overstatement to claim that Locke’s
skepticism about public comprehension of monetary affairs was the driving impulse behind
the monetary tracts, which were published for the express purpose of forging the broad
consent necessary to preserve the Elizabethan standard. As he states in Further
Considerations, plainly echoing the Essay, “The business of Money, as in all times, even in
this our quick-sighted Age, hath been thought a Mystery” (EC 461). Indeed, much of
what Locke says in Further Considerations implies that raising the coin is self-defeating

100
and irrational, and he appeals to the market (rather than to reason) to bear such
foolishness out. If denominations could be manipulated so easily, “we might, as every one
sees, raise Silver to the value of Gold, and make our selves as Rich as we please. But ’tis
but going to Market with an Ounce of Silver of One hundred and twenty pence, to be
convinc’d that it will purchase no more than an Ounce of Silver of sixty Pence” (455).
Despite such satirical indictments of the devaluationist position, Locke, I suspect,
wrestled at length with the dilemma of deriving intrinsic value from common consent. At
the very least, we glimpse what seem to be efforts to contain the discordance in the
emendations he made to Some Considerations between the first (1692) and second (1696)
editions. Up to this point we have examined only the latter text, but let us now turn to the
passage as it initially appeared in 1692:
Now Money is necessary to all these sorts of Men, as serving both for
Counters and for Pledges, and so carrying with it even Reckoning and
Security that he that receives it shall have the same Value for it again, of
other things that he wants, whenever he pleases. The one of these it does
by its Stamp and Denomination; the other by its intrinsick Value, which is
nothing else but its Durablenesse, Scarcity, and not being apt to be
counterfeited. Which intrinsick Value, though it be not natural, but is only
in the Opinion of men consenting to it, yet being universal, has generally,
but not always, (for we see that in a Siege or Man of War Silver may not
be of equal Value to Gunpowder, and in a Famine Gold may not be worth
its Weight in Bran) the same effect as if it were natural.115
The phrasing here is virtually identical to what Locke had written in 1668 (cf. “Early”
172-3), suggesting that as late as the autumn of 1691 he was basically content with his
earlier definition of intrinsic value. Four years later, however, when preparing the second
edition of Some Considerations, Locke apparently found the definition unsatisfactory. We
need not look far for the source which prompted the revision—as Patrick Kelly points out

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(SC 233ri), Locke’s alterations were based on what he had written in the opening pages of
Further Considerations—but of particular interest here are the nature of Locke’s revisions
and what they might tell us about his conception of intrinsic value.
Aside from the insertion of a paragraph break between the two components we
earlier identified in the text, Locke made three fundamental changes for the second
edition. The first modification was to define “intrinsick Value” as “Quantitythus
introducing the aspect of measurement on the side of “Pledges” and “Security.” We will
pick up this thread again in a moment, but for the present I want to look at the other two
emendations. Locke’s second and third changes were to delete the rather equivocal
definition of intrinsic value he had originally written in 1668—“though it be not natural, but
is only in the Opinion of men consenting to it, yet being universal, has generally, but not
always . . . the same effect as if it were natural”—and replace it with the more decisive
claim that gold and silver served “by general consent” as “the common Pledges, whereby
Men are assured, in Exchange for them to receive equally valuable things.”
In the absence of any secondary evidence, imputing to Locke’s revisions any
particular motives—political or otherwise—is necessarily speculative, but the extent of the
changes is such that the issue cannot be avoided. I would suggest that Locke recognized
the major weakness in his argument and attempted to shore it up through a more direct
appeal to natural law. If “intrinsick Value” were in fact “not natural,” then money was
exactly what Barbón, Hodges, and Locke’s other opponents said it was—an instrument of
royal prerogative the crown could vary at whim. For Locke this position was politically
untenable. Like Oresme and the other late Scholastics, he was determined to preserve the

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intrinsic value of the coinage (its silver content as property) from the reach of a tyrant
(recall also Lowndes’ arguments against debasement). Money, Locke believed, must have
a sovereignty all its own. In order to grant money this political autonomy, however, he
had to posit a “general consent” the monarch could not arbitrarily transgress.
Locke’s gambit leads us to the account of the origin of money in the Second
Treatise, which, because of its emphasis on consent, is crucial to interpreting the passage
in Some Considerations116 Significantly, his first mention of money in the Second
Treatise is associated with the measurement of property. He states that “Nature” had
initially set the “measure of Property ... by the Extent of Mens Labour, and the
Conveniency of Life" so that “This measure did confine every Man’s Possession, to a very
moderate Proportion” (7TII, §36,1-2, 9-10). The "Invention of Money, and the tacit
Agreement of Men to put a value on it,” however, disrupts the fimction formerly
performed by Nature, establishing money as the measure and introducing “(by Consent)
larger Possessions and a Right to them” (7TII, §36, 37-9). Money, then, circumvents the
spoliation limit by consent. In the next paragraph Locke continues his account of the
transformation wrought by the advent of money:
This is certain, That in the beginning, before the desire of having more than
Men needed, had altered the intrinsick value of things, which depends only
on their usefulness to the Life of Man; or [Men] had agreed, that a little
piece of yellow Metal, which would keep without wasting or decay, should
be worth a great piece of Flesh, or a whole heap of Com.
(7TII, §37, 1-6; brackets in original)
The equation of “intrinsick value” with “usefulness” in this passage appears to differ from
its denotation as "Quantity" in the second edition of Some Considerations, but the

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language that follows—“without wasting or decay”—indicates how Locke associated
intrinsic value with the “durableness” of gold and silver in the first edition of the pamphlet.
Locke restates this relationship more explicitly in one of the shortest paragraphs of the
Second Treatise: “And thus came in the use of Money, some lasting thing that Men might
keep without spoiling, and that by mutual consent Men would take in exchange for the
truly useful, but perishable Supports of Life” (7TII, §47).
Thus far Locke’s account suggests that gold and silver money has value only
according to its substantial qualities, specifically its ability to withstand decay. As
numerous commentators have shown, this attribute of the precious metals gives Locke the
leeway to justify the unequal distribution of property (see especially §50), but, as
important as this explanation of inequity is for working out Locke’s theory of property, it
says little about his theory of money and exchange. For our purposes, more significant is
the deprecating attitude toward gold (“a little piece of yellow melat') Locke evinces in
these passages. He later repeats this sentiment in different language: “Gold, Silver, and
Diamonds, are things, that Fancy or Agreement hath put the Value on, more then real Use,
and the necessary support of Life” (7TII, §46, 5-7). Locke’s tone in these lines rather
clearly demonstrates that he was dismissive of the non-monetary uses of the precious
metals: intrinsic value could not be considered a natural property of gold and silver. A
comment in the very early Essays on the Law of Nature (ca. 1662) confirms this view: “if
among all men gold were more highly valued than lead, it would not follow that this is
decreed by natural law.”117

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Locke’s distinction between the non-monetary precious metals and the intrinsic
value of money raises a fundamental question about the revisions made in the second
edition of Some Considerations: if value did not inhere in the substance itself, whence did
it arise? For Locke, what invested silver and gold with intrinsic value was the act of
consent—as he (and other natural law theorists) understood it. Locke’s notion of consent
cannot be construed merely as a meeting of the minds among autonomous individuals, but
as an act that had transformative power. In the discussion of “Assurance” in the Essay,
for example, common agreement not only raises probability to near certainty, but also
suffices to designate certain operations as “natural” without firsthand knowledge of the
things themselves:
The first therefore, and highest degree of Probability, is, when the general
consent of all Men, in all Ages, as far as it can be known, concurrs with a
Man’s constant and never-failing Experience in like cases, to confirm the
Truth of any particular matter of fact attested by fair Witnesses: such are all
the stated Constitutions and Properties of Bodies, and the regular
proceedings of Causes and Effects in the ordinary course of Nature. This
we call an Argument from the nature of Things themselves.
(ECHU IV.xvi.6)
By a sleight of hand that parallels the definition of value in the monetary tracts, Locke uses
“general consent” extrinsic to the thing itself to deduce its intrinsic nature. In Locke’s
epistemology, to be sure, assurance remains subsidiary to actual knowledge, but the
artifice here reveals much about his conception of the power of consent. He held free
consent to be ordained by God, a sacrosanct aspect of civil society. On this point John
Dunn’s judgment regarding the meaning of the word in the Two Treatises bears repeating:
“Consent cannot be simply understood as a subjective fact about the psychology of the

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individual. It has to be understood primarily as a legal fact about the divine order of
nature.”118 This metaphysical view of consent was central to the natural law tradition;
when in 1703 Basil Kennet translated Samuel Pufendorf s De iure naturae et gentium into
English, he rendered the Latin pactum as “covenant,” with clear overtones of Biblical
testament.119
Gold and silver obtained their intrinsic value precisely because “all the Civilized
and Trading parts of the World” (FC 410) consented to their use as money. Hence, in the
opening lines of Further Considerations, Locke writes: “The intrinsick value of Silver
consider’d as Money, is that estimate which common consent has placed on it” (410). The
key element here is the phrase “consider’d as Money,” in which, as Kelly notes, “Locke
comes near to the modern notion that what makes money ‘money’ is acceptability” (87
tú). Locke hints at this functional definition in Some Considerations: “the Intrinsick
Natural Worth of any Thing, consists in its fitness to supply the Necessities or serve the
Conveniencies of human Life; and the more necessary it is to our Being, or the more it
contributes to our Well-being the greater is its worth” (258). The fact that in his earliest
notes for this passage Locke had written “first original” instead of “intrinsick” (cf. “Draft”
541//) suggests that his interest lay less in the monetary substance than in the founding
moment of consent. Karen Iversen Vaughn is one of the few to have recognized how this
foundational contract figures into Locke’s monetary theories: “Consent. . . indicates that
money is not a ‘natural’ institution, that is, not deducible from natural law, but rather a
man-made institution in keeping with natural law.”120 Thus, to return to a point I made in
Chapter 1, the intrinsic value of gold and silver money was elevated, via the notion of

106
consent integral to the natural law tradition, above mere “fancy and agreement,” and
coinage cannot be understood to have been subject to the same discourses of capricious
fluctuation used to describe paper credit. Nor should we understimate the extensive
political ramifications of Locke’s theory: because the establishment of money by common
consent (whether tacit or not) antedates the formation of civil government, it follows that
the state cannot alter money without infringing on the rights of the citizen.
All this is not to say that, contrary to his public protests about the creditor’s loss of
silver in a devaluation, Locke was in reality a cartalist.121 But it is to place greater weight
on the contractual aspect of his theory of monetary value, and it calls for picking up a
thread we earlier laid aside. As we have seen, Locke constructed his definition of money
in Some Considerations so that “Security” and “Pledge” were directly identified with
“intrinsick Value.” As the treatise progresses, these two words become increasingly
important in defining exchange value, which
depends on Money not as Counters, for the Reckoning may be kept, or
transferred by Writing; but on Money as a Pledge, which Writing cannot
supply the place of: Since the Bill, Bond, or other Note of Debt, I receive
from one Man will not be accepted as Security by another, he not knowing
that the Bill or Bond is true or legal, or that the Man bound to me is honest
or responsible; and so is not valuable enough to become a current Pledge,
nor can any publick Authority be well made so, as in the Case of Assigning
of Bills. Because a Law cannot give to Bills that intrinsick Value, which
the universal consent of Mankind has annexed to Silver and Gold.
(SC 234)
Locke is speaking here less of the workings of the national economy than he is of human
nature and social relationships: accountants might be able to compute and transfer
balances, but they cannot supply the “Security” that is the essence of money, a security

107
derived from universal consent. Human beings are simply too depraved for a merchant to
trust a stranger (“he not knowing that .the Man bound to me is honest or responsible”);
another’s word cannot serve as a bond. Positive law, moreover, is powerless to override
the dictates of a prior, natural consent and substitute paper for silver.
In no way did Locke believe that “intrinsick value” was an unalterable quality of
the thing itself; he unequivocally states that “there is no such Intrinsick Natural settled
value in any Thing, as to make any assign’d quantity of it, constantly worth any assigned
quantity of another” (SC 258). But because money is a pledge between creditors and
debtors, both individual and collective, Locke felt it crucial that the measurement of the
contractual obligation remain constant, lest exchange be thrown into disarray. “Men make
their Estimate and Contracts according to the Standardhe argues, “upon the
Supposition they shall receive good and lawfitl Money, which is that of full Weight” (SC
319; emphasis in original). Even if the price of money fluctuated, and wheat provided a
better long-term measure of value, custom had established money as the common referent:
“For Money being look’d upon as the standing measure of other Commodities, Men
consider and speak of it still, as if it were a standing measure, though when it has varied its
quantity, ’tis plain it is not” (SC 260). It was this emphasis on the measurement of
contracts that led Locke to make his most direct statement in support of maintaining the
monetary standard:
Only this I will confidently affirm, That it is the Interest of every Country,
that all the current Money of it should be of one and the same Metal; That
the several Species should be all of the same Alloy, and none of a baser
mixture: And that the Standard once thus settled, should be Inviolably and

108
Immutably kept to perpetuity. For whenever that is alter’d, upon what
pretence soever, the Publick will lose by it.
(SC 329; emphasis in original)
“Inviolably and Immutably kept to perpetuity"', these are adamant words. For Locke, the
“intrinsick Value” of the coin was the measure of the contractual “Pledge” and “Security”
signified by money, and a government that encroached upon this standard was trespassing
upon the natural rights of its citizens.
Conclusion
We have covered a lot of ground, and, at least for the purposes of economic
history, there are a few loose ends to tie up. The immediate effects of maintaining the
standard were, as we have seen, economically disastrous, and, for better or worse,
England was soon forced to negotiate peace with France. Contemporaries seem to have
regarded the Recoinage decision favorably: in 1707 Alexander Justice, echoing Petty,
would proclaim that maintaining the standard “restor’d the Honour of the English,
confirm’d the Shaking Government, and laid the Foundation of that Honourable Peace,
which after ensued.”122 Ironically, however, Locke’s insistence on keeping the standard
also held the mint rate of silver below the market rate, so that during the eighteenth
century little silver was brought in for coining, and the Mint produced gold coin almost
exclusively. This development in turn paved the way for the shift to a gold standard.
As much ground as we have traversed, however, for the purposes of literary
criticism and interpretation our work has only begun. Coinage and the discourses of
monetary theory permeate Scriblerian satire, and so it has been necessary to reconstruct,

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within the limitations of a single chapter, the world of early-modern money. Naturally
there is the matter of measurement: we began with satire as a genre of evaluation, and we
concluded with Locke’s emphasis on intrinsic value as a measurement of contractual
obligations. Equally important, though, has been learning the languages of minting,
clipping, and money-changing. As we shall see in the chapters that follow, coinage and its
discourses provided Swift with metaphors and ironies that must have given his satires a
devastating subtlety in his own age. Indeed, once the language of eighteenth-century
monetary theory is recovered, the brilliance of Swift’s satires becomes all the more
appreciable in our age.
Notes
1. John Gay, Dramatic Works, ed. John Fuller, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983),
11:4.
2. Gay, 11:6.
3. See the discussion in David Nokes, John Gay: A Profession of Friendship (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1995), 436-37. According to Nokes, “The word ‘business’
occurs fifteen times in the opera; ‘money’ occurs nineteen times, along with its variants
and synonyms, fees, guineas, price, garnish, and so on. ‘Account’ is used nine times, and
other financial words, ‘interest,’ ‘profit,’ ‘debt,’ and ‘credit,’ run all through it.” He goes
on to discuss the “satiric commodification” the word “account” implies, specifically with
regards to Polly (437-38).
4. The letter is dated 28 March 1728. For an account of the episode, see William Eben
Schultz, Gay's "Beggar’s Opera": Its Content and Influence (1923; rpt. New York:
Russell and Russell, 1967), 186-87.
5. Nokes, 436.
6. John Gay, Poetry and Prose, ed. Vinton A. Dearing, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1974), 11:392; 11 81,89-90.

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7. Gay, Poetry, 11:392-3; 11. 101-2.
8. Gay, Poetry, II: 393; 11 111, 119-20. In thus impugning military expenditure—and by
extension public finance as a whole—Gay is participating in a critique running from Swift’s
Examiner essays to the Craftsman, a critique that linked the national debt with
government corruption.
9. Gay, Poetry, 11:394.
10.1 allude to one of the opening lines of The Beggar’s Opera, see Gay, Dramatic Works,
11:4; 1110.
11. The Florida Edition of the Works of Laurence Sterne: “Tristram Shandy,” ed. Melvyn
New and Joan New, (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1978), IV.xxv.375.
12. See The Account Books of Jonathan Swift, transcribed by Paul V. Thompson and
Dorothy Jay Thompson (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1984), esp. xii-xiii; ci-cv.
13. A. C. Littleton provides a useful discussion of some of these issues in Accounting
Evolution to 1900 (1933; rpt. New York: Russell and Russell, 1966). It is worth noting
that the concept of depreciation existed in England at least as early as the seventeenth
century (223).
14. Rich, E. E. and C. H. Wilson, eds. The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, vol.
4 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 500.
15. Rich and Wilson, 500.
16. James Thompson Models of Value: Eighteenth-Century Political Economy and the
Novel (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996), 16-7. See also his essay, ‘“Sure I Have
Seen That Face Before’: Representation and Value in Eighteenth-Century Drama,” in
Cultural Readings of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century English Theater, ed. J.
Douglas Canfield and Deborah C. Payne (Athens and London: University of Georgia
Press, 1995), 287.
17. Terence Hutchison, Before Adam Smith: The Emergence of Political Economy, 1662-
1776 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), 56.
18 For more on this group, see below.
19. A clear sense of the extent of the debate can be had by consulting the bibliographies in
Ming-Hsun Li’s The Great Recoinage of 1696-99 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson,
1963), 243-52; and J. Keith Horsefield, British Monetary Experiments, ¡650-1710
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960), 275-334. Li’s study remains the only
book devoted entirely to the Recoinage and, though it has been surpassed by Kelly’s

Ill
outstanding research, Li remains a sound introduction to the subject.
20. On the problems associated with the historian’s search for “origins” of the modern
world, see the discussion at the conclusion of Chapter 1, above. Cf. also Karen Iversen
Vaughn: “The problem with interpreting Locke on this issue is that he understood and
described the two separate phenomena, money as medium of exchange and money to
invest in real capital, but he called them by the same name. As far as he was concerned,
both were attributes of the same commodity, precious metals, which happened to serve
two functions in economic life” (John Locke: Economist and Social Scientist [Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1980], 56).
21. W. R. Scott, The Constitution and Finance of English, Scottish and Irish Joint-Stock
Companies to 1720 (3 vols. [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1912-14]), Chapter
1. On use of the word capital, see Edwin Cannan, “Early History of the Term Capital”
Quarterly Journal of Economics 35 (1921): 469-81. Cf. also Peter Laslett: “Capitalism . .
. was a conspicuous feature of the system [in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries], that
store of wealth and raw materials in the hands of the clothier which made it possible for
him to give work to the villagers and yet not move them from the village” (The World We
Have Lost: England before the Industrial Age, 3rd. ed. [New York: Scribner’s, 1984],
16).
22. Alexander Pope, The First Epistle of the First Book of Horace Imitated, in Imitations
of Horace, ed. John Butt, vol. VI of The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander
Pope, 2nd ed. corrected (London: Methuen, 1961), 11. 77-8.
23. One might plausibly claim that the satirist can create his or her own evaluative
standard independent of the community; nevertheless, satire, even at its most negative and
corrosive, seems unremittingly to operate within a specific framework of value.
24. Quoted in John Halperin, The Life of Jane Austen (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1984), 322-23.
25. For the discussion of the minting process which follows, I have relied upon Sir John
Craig, The Mint: A History of the London Mint from A.D. 287 to 1948 (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1953), passim, and Philip Grierson, Numismatics (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1975), 94-123.
26. Quoted in Craig, 23.
27. Obverse and reverse are basically arbitrary distinctions. As Grierson notes, “‘Obverse’
is normally used for the face that bears the principal type, but some numismatists apply the
term to that bearing the principal inscription, since this defines the authority by which the
coin is issued. Others again, particularly in the field of ancient coins, use it for the face
which took the impression of the lower (anvil) die when the coin was struck. Sometimes
the three elements coincide” (86).

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28. Craig, 145.
29. D. W. Jones, War and Economy in the Age of William III and Marlborough (Oxford:
Basil Blackwell, 1988), 229-30.
30. On the role South American silver had on European economies, see Vilar; and
Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson, The School of Salamanca: Readings in Spanish Monetary
Theory, 1544-1694 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952), 51-2. This inflationary
trend is linked to what economists call the quantity theory of money; that is, the greater
the quantity of money in circulation, the less its value.
31. Walter Eltis, “John Locke, the Quantity Theory of Money and the Establishment of a
Sound Currency” in Mark Blaug et al., eds. The Quantity Theory of Money: From Locke
to Keynes and Friedman (n.p.: Edward Elgar, 1995), 23.
32. William Fleetwood, A Sermon against Clipping (London: Tho. Hodgkin, 1694), 10.
Hereafter cited in text.
33. For a comparable recent instance in the U.S., consider the inflationary spiral of the late
1970s, when people were advised to make credit card purchases because the money they
repaid the debt with would be worth less than the money with which they had originally
made the purchase. Also, among those hardest hit by “stagflation” (as it was called) were
retirees and others on fixed incomes.
34. Depending on the surface area of the coin, this was often shortened to “DEIGRA,” or,
more simply, “D.G.”
35.Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1991), 174-75.
36. See Frank Felsenstein, Anti-Semitic Stereotypes: A Paradigm of Otherness in English
Popular Culture, 1660-1830 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), 140-41.
37. Although Swift does not specifically link Jews to clipping, see his early poem “Ode to
Sancroft” (1692) for a similar image of recalcitrant Jews unwilling to accept the legitimate
authority of Christ. A more famous example is Drydcn’s Absalom and Achitophel (1681),
which compares Absalom’s supporters to Jewish followers of a false messiah.
38. F. A. Hayek, “Genesis of the Gold Standard in Response to English Coinage Policy in
the 17th and 18th Centuries” in The Collected Works ofF. A. Hayek, ed. W. W. Bartley
III and Stephen Kresge, vol. 3 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 135.
Hayek’s essay, part of a larger work he was planning, remained unpublished until this
edition.

113
39. Cf. also John Arbuthnot’s Tables of Ancient Coins, Weights, and Measures (London:
J. Tonson, 1727), which indicates that the word shekel “comes from a verb sakal, which
signifies to weigh” (36).
40. Cf. Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25.
41. In the discussion of the milling process, I have followed closely the account in Craig,
161-5.
42. See Grierson, Fig. 53 (p. 115) for a reproduction of a screw press.
43. For the text of the warrant, see Li, 38.
44. Although Moll Flanders was published in 1722, Moll’s narrative is dated 1683, and at
its conclusion she reports that it was written when she was “almost seventy Years of Age”
(Moll Flanders, ed. Edward Kelly [New York: W. W. Norton, 1973], 268). That places
her birth year as approximately 1615, nearly fifty years before any guineas were produced.
Therefore, on the many occasions that she mentions obtaining guineas when she was
young (see for instance, her initial dalliance with the first brother, who gives her five of the
coins [20]), the anachronism occurs.
45. Cf. Rich and Wilson: “Usually these increases in rate were official recognitions of
actual debasement of the current money of account, arising from a deterioration of the
silver basic coins in circulation, a debasement that had already been attended to in the free
market by a rise in the rate of the larger coins” (V:292).
46. Craig, 167.
47. Sir William Petty's Quantulumcunque concerning Money, in The Economic Writings
of Sir William Petty, ed. Charles Flenry Hull, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1899), 439.
48. Petty, 444.
49. John Brewer The Sinews of Power: War, Money, and the English State, 1688-1783
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), 8, 30 (Table 2.1). D. W. Jones more
conservatively estimates about 70,000 troops (9).
50. Jones, esp. Chs. 2, 4.
51. Jones, 131.
52. As D. C. Coleman has pointed out, Smith’s master narrative of the evolution of
economies would require him to construct a “mercantile system” in order to demolish it.
See “Mercantilism Revisited” Historical Journal 23 .4 (1980): HA-11.

114
53. B. E. Supple, “Currency and Commerce in the Early Seventeenth Century” Economic
History Review 10.2 (1957): 246.
54.1 have drawn this three-fold explanation of silver values from Annalisa Rosselli, “Early
Views on Monetary Policy: Antonio Serra and the Theory of Exchange” (paper presented
at the annual meeting of the History of Economics Society, Charleston, South Carolina, 22
June 1997).
55 . It was sometimes called “imaginary money” because the units of measurement—the
French livre, for instance-had existed for centuries, even though the coins they were
named after had long since been discontinued and dropped out of circulation. In this
sense, the “money of account” was an abstraction, even though it was still tied to the
silver content of the coin. For contemporary explanations of the system, see John Scarlett,
The Slile of Exchanges (London: A. Sowle, 1682); and [Alexander Justice], A General
Treatise of Monies and Exchanges (London, 1707).
A brief explanation of how seventeenth-century European mints exchanged silver
bullion, plate, or coin for newly-minted coin is in order here. An individual could bring
silver to the mint in any form and deposit it with a mint accountant who would record the
name of the supplier and the weight of the silver supplied. If the mint did not have a
sufficient quantity of new coin on hand to make the exchange immediately (except in times
of mass recoinages, it usually did), the person who supplied the silver could return to the
Mint a few days later and pick up the appropriate allotment of coin—so many shillings per
original troy ounce. Throughout most of the seventeenth century in Europe, minting costs
were paid by the supplier through a charge called seignorage (so many pence per ounce
coined), levied by the crown. After 1666 in England, however, seignorage was abolished
and mint costs were underwritten by separate taxes.
56. Jones, 141-3.
57. Jones, 228; for the argument that clipping saved England’s war effort, see Chapter 7
generally.
58. Vaughn, 153 «75.
59. One of the most detailed descriptions of the system I have encountered may be found
in Jones (77-82), and I have closely followed his account. Useful explanations of the
loosely organized system are also provided by Kelly, 41-6; and Supple, 239-41.
60. Jones estimates the par was actually 36.400 sch (77), except in terms of Dutch bank
exchange rates, for which the par was 34.680 scheUingen banco. The Dutch government
allowed the Wisselbanh a slightly different rate on bullion (123).
61. Locke describes the specie-point mechanism in SC 268.

62.For details on Swift’s position, see Chapter 1, above. Cf. Swift and Sheridan, The
Intelligencer, ed. James Woolley (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 199)2, 209.
115
63. Rich and Wilson, V:342. Interestingly, the Dutch became so proficient at the specie
trade that it was the one operation of the Amsterdam bank to retain its primacy during the
eighteenth century.
64. Although Li and Horsefield offer excellent summaries of the economic situation
leading up to the Recoinage, Patrick Kelly’s “Introduction” represents by far the most
thorough account of the Parliamentary and ministerial maneuvering surrounding the
debate, and at this point it becomes necessary to closely follow his narrative of events (16-
35). See also Vaughn, 14-16.
65. (London: A. Sowle, 1690). Swift owned a copy of this; see DSL, item # 276. Child’s
Discourse was one of Swift’s “asterisked books”; unfortunately, its whereabouts are
unknown.
66. See Clarke’s correspondence with Locke for 15 December 1691 and 23 January
1691/2. For a detailed account of Clarke’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Locke, see Lee
Davison and Tim Keim, “Edward Clarke and the 1696 Guineas Legislation”
Parliamentary History 7.2 (1988): 228-40.
67. William Lowndes, A Report Containing an Essay for the Amendment of the Silver
Coins (London: C. Bill, 1695), 60.
68. Dickson, 345-6.
69. Li, 10-11; Horsefield, Table C (254).
70. Horsefield 259; cf. Craig 416.
71. Sir Richard Blackmore, A Short History of the Last Parliament (London: J. Tonson,
1699), 25.
72. Kelly, 56.
73. Edwin Cannan, ed. The Paper Pound of 1797-1821: A Reprint of the Bullion Report
(London: P. S. King & Son, 1925), viii-xiv.
74. From a theoretical standpoint, Short Observations is the least interesting of Locke’s
three pamphlets, but it does show his satiric side. The attack on Neale—who in addition to
his duties at the Mint sponsored several lotteries, initiated the Seven Dials, and served as
Groom Porter to the King—appears to have been justified: he was a projector par
excellence and, according to the DNB, “is said to have run through two fortunes,
doubtless through his gaming and speculative tendencies.” Upon his death he was

116
squibbed in the anonymous poem An Elegaick Essay upon the Decease of the Groom-
Porter, and the Lotteries (London: John Nutt, 1699); years later he was lampooned by the
Scriblerians in The Memoirs of Martinas Scriblerus (ed. Charles Kerby-Miller [Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1950], 97-8, 193).
75. Dickson, 58.
76. As Kelly points out, the increase in proposed devaluation from 9% to 20% was the
only essential difference between Lowndes’ Report and the earlier Fourteen Resolutions
(24-5).
77. The others were John Asgill, Charles Chamberlaine, Gilbert Heathcote, Sir Joseph
Heme, Abraham Hill, Sir John Houblon, and John Wallis (Kelly 25). Kelly offers a
synopsis of major points, and reaches the interesting conclusion that the split represented
“a clear division between financiers and mathematicians” (29). Li reprints portions of the
proposals of Wren and Newton in Appendices I and III; Davenant’s opinion, as we have
seen, was eventually published in Two Manuscripts by Charles Davenant, ed. A. P. Usher
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1942).
78. See further Chapter 3, below.
79. Kelly, basing his observation on the closest study of manuscript evidence to date, has
suggested that there was an internecine power struggle between Locke and Newton: “In
place of the co-operation of Locke and Newton with Somers and Montague, so lauded by
Macaulay, there emerges the far more interesting spectacle of Locke’s involvement in
conflict within the ministry and of rivalry between Locke and Newton as to who should be
the principal adviser over Recoinage” (23-4)
80. Lowndes, [160]; cf. PC 480. Hereafter cited in text as Report.
81. Although Locke has been accused of neglecting the consequences of the recoinage on
those least able to afford it, Kelly maintains that Locke’s paper submitted to Sir William
Trumbull exonerates him of this charge (26). See also the discussion of “Trumbull” in
Chapter 3, below.
82. Horsefield, 28.
83. “Grain” had a specific denotation at the Mint: 24 grains made up a penny-weight
(“dwt.”), of which twelve made a shilling, etc.
84. Locke states it most emphatically in SO: “an Ounce of Silver Coin’d or not Coin’d, is,
and eternally will be of equal value to any other Ounce of Silver” (351).
85. (London: A. and J. Churchill, 1696), 25.

86. (London, 1695), 7, 34.
87. (London: E. Whitlock, 1696), 4-5, 10.
117
88. Sir Richard Temple, Some Short Remarks upon Mr. Lock’s Book, in Answer to Mr.
hounds (London: R. Baldwin, 1696), 4.
89. Temple, 5. Locke had in fact said nothing to contradict this proposition.
90. Nicholas Barbón, A Discourse Concerning Coining the New Money Lighter (London:
R. Chiswell, 1696), 6. Hereafter cited in text.
91. James Hodges, The Present State of England as to Coin and Publick Charges
(London: Andr. Bell, 1697), 5-6. Hereafter cited in text. Hodges’ sentiment was echoed
in this century by Sir Albert Feavearyear: “This sanctity which Locke attached to the Mint
weights was something new. Before his time few people regarded the weights of the coins
as in any way immutable. The king had made them; he had altered them many times; and
doubtless if it suited him he would alter them again” (The Pound Sterling: A History of
English Money, 2nd ed. [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963], 148).
92. Appleby, 239.
93. Appleby, 237-41.
94. Thompson, 60. The classic statement of Locke’s ultimate self-interest is C. B.
McPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1962).
95. Maurice Cranston, John Locke: A Biography (New York: Macmillan, 1957), 377; 393
n3.
96. See, for instance, the summary of Locke’s will in Cranston (474-5); it included
provisions for the “Poor of the parishes of High Laver, Publow, and St. Thomas,
Pensford, £2 each; for apprenticing poor children of Pensford, £10 p.a. during his
executors’ lifetime; Lady Masham for the poor of High Laver £10 p.a. for 10 years” (474).
97. See especially Richard Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics and Locke's “Two Treatises
of Government” (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983).
98. Thompson, 51.
99. Thompson, 60.
100. Cranston, 361.

118
101. For a sustained analysis of the relation between the Essay and the Recoinage
treatises, see George Caffentzis, Clipped Coins, Abused Words, and Civil Government
(New York: Autonomedia, 1989).
102. Aristotle, Politics, trans. H. Rackham. Loeb Classical Library. (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1977), I.iii. 13-15 (1257a-1257b).
103. Jean Buridan, in Nicole Oresme, Traites des monnaies (Lyon: La Manufacture,
1989); Gabriel Biel, Treatise on the Power and Utility of Moneys, trans. Robert Belle
Burke (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1930); The "De Moneta” of
Nicholas of Oresme, trans. Charles Johnson (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1956).
See also Schumpeter, 94-107 (I have followed his biographical dating); and Barry Gordon,
Economic Analysis before Adam Smith: Hesiod to Lessius (New York: Barnes and Noble,
1975), 188-95. Odd Langholm discusses whether Oresme taught Buridan or vice versa in
Wealth and Money in the Aristotelian Tradition: A Study in Scholastic Economic Sources
(Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1983).
104. W. Von Leyden’s “Introduction” discusses Locke’s knowledge of Scholastic thought
(Essays on the Law of Nature by John Locke [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954], 36). See
also DSL, item 257; and John Harrison and Peter Laslett, eds., The Library of John Locke
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971).
105. Kelly, 150-1; cf. Vaughn, 17, 110, 123.
106. Cf. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. H. Rackham. Loeb Classical Library.
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), V.v.ll (1133a-l 133b).
107. Plato, Republic, trans. Paul Shorey, 2 vols. Loeb Classical Library. (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1982), I.n.xii (371B); cf. Laws, trans. R. G. Bury. Loeb
Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), V. (742A). For the
interpretation pitting Aristotle against Plato, see Schumpeter, 62-4; and Arthur Eli
Monroe, Monetary Theory before Adam Smith (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1923), 7. Gordon also sees the later Scholastics as anti-Platonic, but he suggests
that Aristotle accepted Plato’s view (164).
108. Oresme, 10.
109. Schumpeter, 91.
110. Petty, 444.
111. Edward Stillingfleet, Origines Sacrae, 4th ed. (London: R. W. for Henry Mortlock,
1675), esp. Book II, Chapter 8. For Stillingfleet’s use of monetary language, see Chapter
3, below.

119
112. Samuel Pufendorf would reach a similar position, but, as Kelly notes, the works were
published nearly contemporaneously, so that they probably did not influence one another
(98). For Pufendorf s theory, see De iure naturae et gentium (1688; rpt. Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1934), esp. V.1.12.
113. Barbón, 9.
114. Hodges, 132.
115. Kelly’s edition includes the final manuscript draft of Some Considerations, but
because I am emphasizing the dissemination of Locke’s ideas I have chosen to cite this
passage as it appears in the first edition ([London: Awnsham and John Churchill, 1692],
30). The differences between the draft and the published text consist almost entirely of
spelling and punctuation (cf. “Draft” 522).
116. As Kelly notes, the discussion of the origin of money is the only portion of the
Second Treatise which helps elucidate the Recoinage treatises: “The problem of exchange
value, central to the pamphlets, is barely touched on in the Second Treatise .... What
should be borne in mind is that the chapter on property is primarily what it describes itself
as, and not, as it has too frequently been taken to be, Locke’s definitive account of how
economic relations between men have evolved” (3).
117. John Locke, Essays on the Law of Nature, ed. W. Von Leyden (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1954), 177.
118. John Dunn, “Consent in the Political Theory of John Locke” in Political Obligation
in Its Historical Context: Essays in Political Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1980), 32.
119. Samuel Pufendorf, Of the Law of Nature and Nations, trans. Basil Kennet, ed. Jean
Barbeyrac (London, 1703), passim, cf. his De iure naturae et gentium.
120. Vaughn, 93.
121. Schumpeter’s litmus test for distinguishing metallists from cartalists is helpful here:
“If the fraud be held to consist in depriving the creditor of part of the metal that is due to
him, we behold a metallist. If the fraud be held to materialize only, if, as, and when
debasement or devaluation increases the money in circulation and hence decreases the
creditor’s potential share in the things that may be bought for money, then we behold a
cartalist” (298 nl7). By this standard, Locke is indisputably a metallist; because he
discounts the non-monetary uses of the precious metals, however, Kelly calls him a
“qualified” metallist (89).
122.Justice, 83.

CHAPTER 3
A TALE OF A TUB: WIT, WEIGHT, AND INTRINSIC VALUE
For the scribblers are infinite, that, like
mushrooms or flies, are bom and die in small
circles of time; whereas books, like proverbs,
receive their chief value from the stamp and
esteem of ages through which they have
passed.
—Sir William Temple
An Essay upon the Ancient and
Modern Learning
A false balance is abomination to the LORD:
but a just weight is his delight.
—Proverbs 11:1
“Good God!—what a genius I had when I wrote that book!” Swift is supposed to
have remarked of his first great satire, A Tale of a Tub' If literary “genius” is at all to be
judged by the interpretive controversy a work inspires among its readers, then Swift’s
assessment of his achievement must have been spoken with a tinge of retrospective regret,
and yet it contained no small degree of prescience: few works have generated such a
welter of conflicting critical commentary as the Tale. Almost immediately upon its
publication in 1704, the satire divided readers into those who, like William Wotton,
assailed it as atheistic and immoral, and those who, like Francis Atterbury, recommended
120

121
it to Robert Harley as likely “to do good service.”2 The former charge dogged Swift for
years, probably removing him from consideration for a coveted English preferment; this, at
least, was the verdict handed down by the Earl of Orrery in his Remarks on the Life and
Writings of Dr. Jonathan Swift (1752), where it was claimed that “Archbishop Sharpe and
a Lady of the highest rank and character [the Duchess of Somerset). . . represented
[Swift] to the Queen, as a person who was not a Christian,” thus debarring him from the
post.3
Swift himself seems to have been no less divided about the interpretive problems
and repercussions of the Tale. Publicly, he felt compelled to defend the work against the
attacks ofWotton and others, and in the “Apology” affixed to the fifth edition (1710) he
pleads clemency for having written with a youthful exuberance: “[The Author] was then a
young Gentleman much in the World, and wrote to the Tast of those who were like
himself; therefore in order to allure them, he gave a Liberty to his Pen, which might not
suit with maturer Years, or graver CharactersThis problem, he disingenuously notes,
could easily have been “corrected with a very few Blots, had he been Master of his Papers
for a Year or two before their Publication" (4). Having made this initial defense, Swift
then shifts tone, displaying rancor for the accusations of impiety and irreligión: “Why
should any Clergyman of our Church be angry to see the Follies of Fanaticism and
Superstition exposed, tho' in the most ridiculous Manner?" (5). The Tale, he bristles,
“celebrates the Church of England as the most perfect of all others in Discipline and
Doctrine, it advances no Opinion they reject, nor condemns any they receive" (5).
Privately, however, Swift appears to have held a quite different view, claiming the book

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actually helped to advance his career. Confiding to Esther Johnson in October of 1710,
after publication of the new edition, he makes what is almost certainly a veiled reference to
the Tale . “They may talk of the yon know what, but, gad, if it had not been for that, I
should never have been able to get the access I have had; and if that helps me to succeed,
then that same thing will be serviceable to the church” (PW XV:47 and note). With its
echo of Atterbury’s correspondence to Harley, this comment suggests that, despite the
charges of atheism and vulgarity, Swift believed that powerful, indeed conservative,
people ultimately read the book as a witty, slashing attack on the Church of England’s
adversaries.4
Nearly three centuries later, the interpretive schism persists. For much the same
reason that Wotton (and others) found the Tale “so crude a Banter upon all that is
esteemed as Sacred among all Sects and Religions” (Tale 316-7)~the apparent
centerlessness, the constant threat of linguistic slippage, the instability of Swift’s savage
irony—it has proven especially amenable to postmodern modes of interpretation.5 For
Terry Castle, the “duplicity, or doubleness” of the satire “informs Swift’s revelation: the
Tale is simultaneously a history and an embodiment of the corruption potential in the
scriptory.” Swift concluded, she maintains, that “[n]o text is privileged in regard to truth;
no text is scriptural.”6 Robert Phiddian similarly asserts that Swift’s parodie satire “both
employs and identifies textual and cultural subversiveness, and it can easily become
subversive of itself. A Tale was received as a witty and destabilising attack on those
religious and philosophical systems Swift claimed it had been written to support, and ‘The
Apology’ suggests that the author himself was guiltily aware of the dangers of parodie

123
reflexivity.”7 Indeed, Frank Palmen has argued that Swift’s satire so devastatingly
excludes any normative position that reason itself is undermined: “The Tale contains no
kernel of reason to be authorized by the deviant peripheries.”8
Recently, however, a number of critics have turned to the Tale's historical
contexts in an effort to restore a degree of hermeneutic determinacy to the work. Both
Marcus Walsh and Ian Higgins, for example, have examined late seventeenth-century
debates between Anglicans and Catholics that would seem to have significant impact on
interpretation of Swift’s satire. Writing against Barthesian “texf’-ualists, Walsh brings to
bear on the Tale the distinction between hermeneutic modes of Catholics and Anglicans,
the former preserving the authority of an oral tradition, the latter relying exclusively on
Scripture as a rule of faith. “Anglican writers,” he points out, “explicitly and repeatedly
defended the Bible on the grounds that, like any other book, it is determinable and
comprehensible, an adequate means of conveying meaning.”9 Although Higgins’ work is
not interested in the concept of textuality per se, he has turned up a long-forgotten but
important debate between the Roman Catholic polemicist Abraham Woodhead and
Atterbury (who would become Bishop of Rochester in 1713), thereby demonstrating how
Swift’s curious description of Martin as “flegmatick and sedate” (Tale 139)—long a
sticking point for scholars trying to explain Swift’s via media position—figured into
contemporary anti-Catholic Anglican apologetic.10
Following the leads of the contextualists, I want to place the Tale against a
particular backdrop, that of contemporary monetary theory, specifically Locke’s
Recoinage treatises. As Palmeri suggests in a perceptive note, “The question of intrinsic

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versus extrinsic value, which was in the air because of questions of monetary policy, may
have helped shape Swift’s reflections on the questions of the values of the exteriors and
interiors in language and philosophy throughout the Tale''" The Recoinage was
undoubtedly the most pressing public controversy during the years in which the bulk of the
Tale was evidently composed—1696 and 169712—and, far from being simply “in the air,”
the Recoinage debate not only drew an anonymous contribution from Swift’s patron, Sir
William Temple, but it also provided combatants in the Battle of the Books with an
especially pertinent language of valuation. For Swift, Locke’s theories endorsed a set
standard that justified opposition to inflation, emphasized substance over form, and
demonstrated the cheat of exteriors that belied their interiors. Thus Swift sets himself up
as an arbiter of value, a satirist holding in his hands the scales with which he will measure
and separate the intrinsically worthy from the counterfeit and debased in both learning and
religion. But in order to impose a standard of measurement, Swift, much as in the case of
Locke, must find ways to contain the paradox of intrinsic value granted by general
consent.
Swift. Temple, and the Great Recoinage
The nature of Swift’s political commitments in the years between 1689, when he
first arrived at Moor Park to work as Temple’s private secretary, and 1710, when he
began writing partisan political tracts for the Harley-Bolingbroke ministry, is something of
a mystery and has been the subject of fierce dispute.13 As I suggested in Chapter 1,
scholars must be cautious when applying party labels in the years between the Glorious

125
Revolution and the beginning of the Walpole ministry. Locke, after all, can only be
categorized as a Whig, yet he clearly had reservations about “Whig” developments such as
the Bank of England; moreover, Tory writers like Bolingbroke found Locke’s monetary
writings a useful vehicle by which to criticize Walpole. Despite these imprecise
distinctions, however, one aspect of Swift’s political commitments that can be
reconstructed with confidence is his position on the Great Recoinage.
Although Swift had been in Ireland during 1695 when Locke and Lowndes had
their initial exchange, as he returned to Moor Park (by June of 1696) the battle was
continuing with unabated ferocity. As we have seen, in July Locke re-issued his three
essays on money in order to fend off the renewed attacks on his position by the likes of
Nicholas Barbón and Sir Richard Temple—this is the collection we find in Swift’s library at
his death.14 The intensity of the controversy, not to mention the stature of the disputants,
would certainly have been sufficient to gain Swift’s attention; his nemesis John Toland did
not exaggerate when in 1696 he wrote, “a// the Discourse of late has been almost only of
Coin.”15 Swift, of course, is quiet at this time, apparently working on the materials that
would become the Tale and seeing his patron’s work through publication, but fifteen years
later, in Examiner 3 7 (April 1711), he pro vides an explicit statement on the matter. In a
typical number, Swift defends Queen Anne’s decision to sack the Whig ministry at the
height of the War of the Spanish Succession, which had dragged on for nine long years.
As was often the case, he couched his polemic in economic terms, warning of the threats
to liberty and order posed by the Bank of England, the East India Company, and the
denizens of Exchange Alley generally. He then resorts to a telling metaphor:

126
I see no Reason why the Tories should not value their Wisdom by Events,
as well as the Whigs. Nothing was ever thought a more precipitate or rash
Counsel, than that of altering the Coin at the Juncture it was done; yet the
Prudence of the Undertaking was sufficiently justified by the Success.
Perhaps it will be said, that the Attempt was necessary, because the Whole
Species of Money was so grievously Clipped and Counterfeit. And, is not
her Majesty’s Authority as Sacred as her Coin? And hath not that been
most scandalously Clipped and Mangled; and often Counterfeited too?
(/W 111:135)
When Swift speaks of “altering the Coin” and the uproar that surrounded it, he is
referring, of course, to the Recoinage. His political analogy is damning: the Whig ministry
is implicitly accused of treasonous conduct, of having violated the queen’s authority like
outlaw clippers. Equally implicit in his analogy, though, is an endorsement of Locke’s
proposal to remint the coin at full value—and thus approval of the deflation that necessarily
ensued. This position strongly suggests Swift’s desire to adhere to an established
standard, even if the decision to do so appears “rash” at the time.
Until recently, Examiner 37 represented the best evidence of Swift’s position on
the Recoinage question, at least prior to the Drapier campaign of 1724 (cf. TDL 155).16
However, in 1994 further evidence surfaced shedding new light on Swift’s connections to
the debate-a pamphlet entitled Further Proposals for Amending and Settling the Coyn
(1696), signed by “a person of Honour,” whom we now know to have been Sir William
Temple. The discovery was made by A. C. Elias, Jr., who traced a copy of the pamphlet,
autographed by Rebecca Dingley (Temple’s cousin and Stella’s lifelong companion), to a
collection once owned by Swift himself.17 As Elias correctly observes, this pamphlet
almost certainly was published in December 1695 or January 1695/96, prior to Swift’s
return to Moor Park (hence Dingley’s autograph rather than his), making it unlikely that

127
the young clergyman had a direct hand in its publication.18 Nevertheless, ownership of the
tract strongly suggests that Swift kept thoroughly abreast of the key issues in the debate.
Moreover, while we cannot be absolutely certain that Temple’s pamphlet represents
Swift’s own opinion on the Recoinage, sufficient evidence exists—Swift’s judgment in
Examiner 37, his possession of Locke’s tracts, his later position in The Drapier's Letters—
to quite reasonably infer that there would have been little to distinguish the two views.
Significantly for my argument regarding Swift, Locke, and the Tale, Temple’s position
bears a strong resemblance to Locke’s.
Temple was no stranger to economic affairs. Like Locke, he had spent
considerable time in the Netherlands, the financial center of seventeenth-century Europe,
and some two decades prior to the Recoinage controversy he had published an Essay upon
the Advancement of Trade in Ireland (1673), in which he specifically opposes raising the
value of Irish coin. Arguing that the increase in Irish monetary circulation credited to a
similar adjustment in 1663 was actually caused by other factors, Temple claims:
All the effect, that I conceive was made by crying up the pieces of eight
[Spanish gold coin], was to bring in much more of that species instead of
others current here (as indeed all the money brought from England was of
that sort, and complained of in Parliament to be of a worse allay) and to
carry away much English money in exchange for plate-pieces; by which a
trade was driven very beneficial to the traders, but of mighty loss to the
kingdom in the intrinsic value of their money .19
In Ireland’s situation, he continues, raising the coin would only result in leaving “the stock
that remains equal indeed in denomination, but lower in intrinsic value” (111:7). I hardly
need point out the striking similarities between these concerns and Swift’s in the 1720s
and 1730s; both men are anxious to prevent Ireland from being overrun with foreign gold

128
coin (which was often clipped or counterfeit) and to preserve the overall quality of the
coin circulating in Ireland as measured by its intrinsic value.20 Further Proposals, with its
emphasis on clipped coin passing by weight, is of a piece with Temple’s earlier essay on
Irish trade (and, for that matter, with Swift’s later Irish economic pamphlets).
Further Proposals was published at a critical juncture in the Recoinage process:
the decision to maintain the existing standard had been reached (although behind the
scenes Montague was working to overturn it), and Parliament was considering a bill to
levy a window tax in order to compensate holders of clipped coin.21 Before examining
Temple’s thoughts on this issue, however, it is worth recalling that Locke was
fundamentally opposed to reimbursing holders of clipped coin.22 First, he objected to the
reimbursement as little more than a windfall for the clippers themselves, who held the
greatest quantities of defaced coin: “It seems unreasonable that the Country should out of
their pockets by a Tax make those yet richer who have got vast Estates by engrosseing
and handling the Money of the Nation” (“Trumbull” 366). A compensation, he pointed
out, would simply add incentive to further clip the currency. Second, Locke was
convinced that government acceptance of currency at a fixed percentage of its official
weight would only hasten deterioration of the currency, again to the profit of the clippers:
“For wherever the rule be set you may make sure the currant money will all be brought
presently to that size[,] the clippers being carefull not to loose the benefit which the
Parliament in their wisdom shall thinke fit to propose for the encouragement of their
industry” (“Trumbull” 367). Unfairly, the burden of this policy would ultimately fall on
the poor and those farthest from London:

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By this rule of takeing it at half weight It is sure all your money will be
brought to that weight and the pore Countryman at a distance from
London that has any Money clipd beyond that will be forced to sell it for its
weight to the cunning money jobbers who will be sure to tell him that no
money of which above half is clipd is to be received into the mint and so
the remedie proposd will not reach the honest Countryman who is
pretended to be taken care of but will turn to the profit only of crafty
fellows who prey upon them.
(“Trumbull” 371)23
The best, most equitable solution, Locke believed, was to “put an End to Clipping” by
making all money pass by weight: “For the goeing of every peice according to its value in
weight will presently bring out all your weighty Money now kept close up which will serve
to supply the retail Trade and little sums” (“Trumbull” 369).
Temple was no Locke, but his Further Proposals advocates much the same course
of action. “There are but Two Ways of Redressing the Disorder of our Coyne” Temple
begins. “The One
by calling in all the Old that is Clipp’d, and Coyning it New into
Mill’d Money.
Th’ other of giving all the Old Money course, for at least one Year
longer, but with Denominations different from what they bear at present,
and more proportioned to their Weight or Intrinsick Value.24
Having described Parliament’s dilemma, Temple then proceeds to enumerate the problems
with the first alternative: a shortage of coins in small denominations, loss of remaining
“heavy” coin to foreign traders, etc. The second alternative, he contends, is much to be
preferred. In his proposal, all milled silver coins would be raised 25% in denominative
value; all silver coins clipped “within the ring” lowered 33%, thus making their extrinsic
value commensurate with their intrinsic value. In addition to keeping transactions easy to
negotiate, this plan would encourage bankers and the wealthy to dishoard their supplies of

130
milled coin. If shifting denominative values was impractical, the only option was “for all
Clipp 'dMoney to go by weight.”25 Although Locke, as we have seen, seriously doubted
that predetermined percentages would long deter clippers, he and Temple agreed on the
essential point: monetary value could (and should) be measured by weight. Only when a
coin’s extrinsic, denominative value accurately represented its intrinsic value—the quantity
of silver in the coin-could monetary quality be calculated.
Significantly, Temple’s linkage of weight and value has far broader implications
than an obscure—and ultimately disregarded—Recoinage pamphlet. For Temple, the
language of coinage provided a key metaphor for aesthetic value, one he called upon with
remarkable frequency in two of his best-known essays, both collected in the Miscellanea
volume of 1690: Of Poetry and An Essay upon the Ancient and Modern Learning. As the
latter suggests, for Temple—and for Swift and others involved in the most important
literary conflict of the day—accurate measurement of intrinsic value was vital not only to
the republic, but also to the republic of letters. Unfortunately, much as in the case of
Locke, the definition of intrinsic aesthetic value was as difficult to negotiate as that of
intrinsic monetary value. Temple sought to measure substantial value, but, as we shall see,
his definition admitted a temporal element extrinsic to the text itself. The arch-moderns
Wotton and Richard Bentley were equally interested in evaluation; they argued that an
ancient provenance in no way guaranteed value or that, worse still, readers might
unwittingly be taken in by a mere patina of antiquity. This error, of course, was precisely
the flaw in Temple’s Of Ancient and Modern Learning. As Bentley proved philologically,
the Epistles of Phalaris were not of ancient but of relatively modern origin—Temple had

131
been deceived by the appearance of antiquity. The Scriblerians, to be sure, were also wary
of such veneers, and thus they mercilessly ridiculed Dr. John Woodward for having duped
himself into believing the layer of “precious TErugo” covering his famous shield was the
“Rust of Antiquity .”26 For both parties, then, the problem was finding a reliable method of
arriving at intrinsic value, of distinguishing the authentic from the counterfeit.
Wit. Weight, and the Ancients: Sir William Temple
A twentieth-century critic approaching the Tale is confronted by an immediate
paradox: no study of Swift’s work can be called comprehensive without mention of the
Ancients vs. Modems controversy, yet it is difficult to break new ground on the topic
because few of the satire’s contexts have been more thoroughly researched, most recently
(and meticulously) by Joseph Levine.27 Despite the intensive labors of a legion of
scholars, however, there has been no sustained discussion of a metaphor recurring in the
writings of a number of the principal combatants—that of coinage. In a battle pitting
ancient poets such as Homer and Lucan against moderns such as Samuel Wesley and Sir
Richard Blackmore, it was essential for combatants to establish a touchstone by which
aesthetic value could be measured. The monetary standard—with its connotations of
intrinsic and extrinsic value, inflation and deflation, authenticity and fraudulence, purity
and baseness—was more than adequate to the task. Although it predates the battle of the
books, a passage in Dryden’s The Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy (1679) demonstrates
the associative richness of the monetary metaphor:

132
If Shakespeare were stripped of all the bombast in his passions, and dressed
in the most vulgar words, we should find the beauties of his thought
remaining; if Ms embroideries were burnt down, there would still be silver
at the bottom of the melting-pot: but I fear (at least let me fear it for
myself) that we who ape his sounding words have nothing of Ms thought,
but are all outside; there is not so much as a dwarf witMn our giant’s
clothes.28
Woven into Dryden’s analogy are a number of different strands: overstuffed clotMng29
stripped to reveal a beautiful frame, inflated style30 assayed for its intrinsic value, and
imitating giants exposed as dwarves. At a distance of three centuries these differing
strands appear somewhat incongruous, but of interest here are the associations a poet the
stature of Dryden draws among them, associations that reverberate throughout the
Ancients vs. Modems controversy: clotMng and the body (think especially of the Tale),
exteriority and inferiority (again, the Tale), and giants and dwarves (in Ancient and
Modern Learning Temple admits that his point is “commoMy illustrated by the similitude
of a dwarfs standing upon a giant’s shoulders, and seeing more or farther than he”
[III:446]).31 As I have earlier suggested, these associations are the province of satire, for
all involve an aspect of evaluation (think of Sterne’s dwarf carrying his measuring stick)
and the reduction of the hyperinflated to its proper proportion and value.
Temple seized on the coinage metaphor with a zeal befitting one who had
published on the topic already and would do so again. When involved in controversy, he
writes'm Of Poetry's first paragraph, it is best “to take words as they are most commonly
spoken and meant, like coin, as it most currently passes, without raising scruples upon the
weight of the allay, unless the cheat or defect be gross and evident” (111:406). For
Temple, tMs is an effort at intellectual diplomacy; like traders exchanging money,

133
controversialists should accept common linguistic meaning, unless it is clear that the
“weight of the allay” belies the quality of discourse. Words, in short, should fairly and
honestly represent the ideas they signify, or else one is guilty of linguistic fraud. To put it
in the language of Further Proposals, extrinsic value should directly correspond to
intrinsic value.
As his essay progresses, Temple increasingly uses the precious metals as a
metaphor for poetic quality, particularly wit, which he equates with genius. Thus,
comparing Homer and Virgil, he claims, “The ore was richer in one, but in the other more
refined, and better allayed to make up excellent work” (III: 416). Both poets have
intrinsic value, but Virgil’s work is better refined. Having praised ancient poets, Temple
then upbraids the moderns for their inability to produce epic poetry. Lauding Spenser (but
conveniently excluding Milton from his survey), Temple complains, “I know none of the
moderns that have made any atchievements in heroic poetry worth recording.” Instead,
they have turned to less substantial sonnets, odes, and elegies: “But the modern poets, to
value this small coin, and make it pass, though of so much a baser metal than the old, gave
it a new mixture from two new veins [the epigram and ridicule] which were little known or
little esteemed among the ancients” (111:433-4). These forms of false wit comprise the
dross that enables counterfeit verse to pass. Rabelais falls under the same censure: “he
must be confessed to have kept up his vein of ridicule, by saying many things so malicious,
so smutty, and so profane, that either a prudent, a modest, or a pious man, could not have
afforded, though he had never so much of that coin about him: and it were to be wished

134
that the wits who have followed his vein had not put too much value upon a dress that
better understandings would not wear” (111:435-6).
Although Of Poetry was conceived as a companion piece to Of Heroic Virtue, it is
in many respects a prelude to the more famous Of Ancient and Modern Learning. Once
again, Temple addresses-the question of value in the opening paragraph. Books worth
reading, either old or new, are so because of an intrinsic value: “Those [books] of story, or
relations of matters of fact, have a value from their substance as much as from their form”
(111:444). Unfortunately, he continues, the only way to ascertain this quality is to select
books that, like gold and silver, have been considered valuable in different times and
places: “For the scribblers are infinite, that, like mushrooms or flies, are bom and die in
small circles of time; whereas books, like proverbs, receive their chief value from the
stamp and esteem of ages through which they have passed” (111:446).
In judging this intrinsic value, primacy merits special regard; thus, Temple writes,
“All Latin books that we have till the end of Trajan, and all Greek till the end of Marcus
Antoninus, have a true and very estimable value. All written since that time seem to me to
have little more than what comes from the relation of events we are glad to know”
(111:479). There are worthy moderns, he concedes, such as Boccaccio, Machiavelli,
Cervantes, and Montaigne, and more recent moderns such as Voiture and La
Rochefoucauld have even “refined the French language to a degree that cannot well be
exceeded.” Such over-refinement, however, can potentially weaken the allay: “the more
they are filed and polished, the less they have of weight and strength; and as that language
[French] has much more fineness and smoothness at this time, so I take it to have had

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much more force, spirit, and compass in Montaigne’s age” (111:480). The creation of
poetry, Temple implies, is much like the minting process, each poet stamping blanks with
his or her own distinctive style. Unfortunately, when the blanks (one presumes he means
poetic language) are filed excessively, the coins are too light to meet standard value.
Despite evidence that he harbored ill feelings toward his patron,32 Swift clearly
accepted Temple’s views on language and literary value. In Tatler 230 (28 September
1710), one of Swift’s most direct commentaries on linguistic corruption, Isaac Bickerstaff
echoes Temple’s concerns about over-refinement by modern authors: “our English
Tongue. . . without some timely Remedy, will suffer more by the false Refinements of
Twenty Years past, than it hath been improved in the foregoing Hundred" (PWII: 174).
In light of such passages, critics have traditionally linked Swift’s apprehensions about the
mutability of language to anxiety about his own literary legacy. Marilyn Francus, for
instance, suggests that “his personality require[d] a politics of posterity in which linguistic
stability [was] crucial to translate his literature, and himself, through time.”33 We see
concerns of this nature in Tatler 230. “If a Man of Wit,” Swift continues, “who died Forty
Years ago, were to rise from the Grave on Purpose; how would he be able to read this
Letter?” (PWU\ 175). This desire is quite similarly reflected in the Tale through the
assertion of the “Apology” that the book “seems calculated to Uve at least as long as our
Language, and our Tast admit no great Alterations" (Tale 3).
As much as Swift was concerned about his legacy, the significance of the monetary
language—more particularly, the standard of value it implies—that informs many of Swift’s
statements on language and literary merit has not often been recognized.34 In the

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Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue (1712), for
example, he calls for a normative measure of quality for the English language: “And if it
were once refined to a certain Standard, perhaps there might be ways to fix it for ever, or
at least till we are invaded, and made Conquest by some other State: and even then, our
best Writings might probably be preserved with Care” (PWTV.9). If there is such a
“Standard for Language,” he argues, it can be found in the King James Bible and the Book
of Common Prayer, which have helped preserve the language because they have been
“perpetually read in our Churches” (TWIVriS). Again arguing along Temple’s lines,
Swift associates sublime language with temporal primacy: “as to the greatest Part of our
Liturgy, compiled long before the Translation of the Bible now in use, and little altered
since; there seem to be as great Strains of true sublime Eloquence, as are any where to be
found in our Language” (PWYVA5). Swift resumes his monetary metaphor soon
thereafter. Words that “a Society shall give sanction to” may be added to the language,
but only if they are then permanently protected, “Because then the old Books will yet be
always valuable according to their intrinsick Worth, and not thrown aside on Account of
unintelligible Words and Phrases, which appear harsh and uncouth, only because they are
out of Fashion” (F1FIV:15; emphasis added). Years later, in the “Introduction” to A
Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation, According to the Most
Polite Mode and Method (1738), Swift turns once again to a monetary conception of
linguistic value. There the narrator, Simon Wagstaff, uses language strikingly similar to
Temple’s “stamp and esteem of ages” to (ironically) assert the value of his aphorisms: “I
can faithfully assure the Reader, that there is not one single witty Phrase in this whole

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Collection, which hath not received the Stamp and Approbation of at least one hundred
Years” (PW IV:102). For both Temple and Swift, then, books that survive have an
intrinsic value directly parallel to Locke’s concept of gold and silver money: they have
received the general consent of humankind.
Wit. Weight, and the Modems: Sir Richard Blackmore
Temple had given Swift both a standard and its vocabulary-words such as weight,
allay, refine, polish—by which to evaluate wit, but it remained for a hapless modern to
provide the materials for assessment. The poetic substance was unwittingly offered by Sir
Richard Blackmore,35 whose Satyr against Wit (1699) presumed to judge, with
uncompromising severity, the literary value of contemporary poets and playwrights
ranging from Dryden to Wycherley. Blackmore held a medical degree from Padua and
was skilled (or perhaps venal) enough to have been named a physician-in-ordinary to the
King and to have been asked to write A Short History of the Last Parliament (1699),
which gives substantial treatment of the Recoinage and Locke’s proposals to maintain the
existing monetary standard. Blackmore does not mention any names in his summary of
the Recoinage debate, but he appears to have had Locke’s treatises nearby as he wrote:
Those who were for preserving the Old Standard in our Coin, urg’d ....
That the Value of Money among People that liv’d under different
Municipal Laws was intrinsick, and consisted in its Weight and Fineness.
That common Consent had given it this Value for the common
Conveniency of supplying one anothers Wants. That the Weight and
Fineness was the only Worth that other Nations regarded in our Coin, or
we in theirs. All Mony being between Subjects of different Governments,
of no greater Value, excepting the Workmanship, than so many pieces of
uncoin’d Bullion.36

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Blackmore goes on to recite several of the Lockean arguments against devaluation (it
would lead to rampant inflation, foreign traders were interested only in bullion content,
etc ), all but ignoring the claims of Lowndes and his supporters. Significantly, this
discussion sets up the Recoinage conceit we find in the Satyr against Wit, in which
Blackmore calls for a Recoinage of various wits to determine their intrinsic value.
Although we are now inclined to join Swift and Pope in ridiculing Blackmore’s bid
for poetic immortality, in 1699 he could lay claim to a considerable literary reputation. He
had published two epics in honor of William III, Prince Arthur (1695) and King Arthur
(1697), both of which appear to have been well-received. At the time, Locke praised
Blackmore’s “extraordinary talent” and the “strength and penetration of judgment”
matched only by his poetry’s “flights of fancy.”37 (It seems more than coincidence that
both works were published by Locke’s booksellers, Awnsham and John Churchill.) Nor
did Blackmore’s reputation wane during the eighteenth century; no less a poet-critic than
Samuel Johnson would select him, albeit begrudgingly, for inclusion in the Lives of the
English Poets (1779-81).38 Swift was certainly familiar with Blackmore’s two epics, for in
1697 he lists Prince Arthur on his inventory of personal reading (Tale lvi), and in the
Battle of the Books he specifically parodies the bombastic style of King Arthur in Momus’
flight to the Den of Criticism (Tale 240).39 Elsewhere in the Battle, however, Swift treats
Blackmore more generously, preserving the physician from Lucan’s lance:
Lucan appeared upon a fiery Horse, of admirable Shape, but head-strong,
bearing the Rider where he list, over the Field; he made a mighty Slaughter
among the Enemy’s Horse; which Destruction to stop, Bl—ckm—re, a
famous Modern (but one of the Mercenaries) strenuously opposed himself;
and darted a Javelin, with a strong Hand, which falling short of its Mark,

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struck deep in the Earth. Then Lucan threw a Lance; but ALsculapius came
unseen, and turn’d off the Point. Brave Modem, said Lucan, I perceive
some God protects you, for never did my Arm so deceive me before; But,
what Mortal can contend with a God? Therefore, let us Fight no longer,
but present Gifts to each other. Lucan then bestowed the Modern a Pair
of Spurs, and Bl—ckm—re gave Lucan a Bridle.
(Tale 248)
As this passage makes clear, in 1697, when the Battle was probably composed (Tale
xlvii), Swift harbored considerable ambivalence about Blackmore’s dual roles as poet and
physician. On the one hand, Blackmore’s javelin falls short, suggesting, as do the spurs,
his poetic impotence; on the other hand, /Esculapius protects the “Mercenary” modem,
and Lucan’s excesses are suggested by the gift of a bridle. As Hawkesworth put it,
Blackmore’s “skill as a physician attoned for his dullness as a poet” (Tale 248, nl); Swift,
we might add, shows an awareness that, in the balancing of accounts, excess can be just as
damaging as short supply.
If in 1697 Swift held some ambivalence toward Blackmore, by the end of 1699,
when the Satyr against Wit first appeared, he had reason to be less equivocal. The Satyr
was a riposte to Samuel Garth’s mock-epic The Dispensary (also of 1699), and their
exchange was related to the quarrel of the Ancients and Modems: in his poem Blackmore
actively sought to defend Bentley against the aspersions of Tom Brown, Charles Boyle,40
and the Covent-Garden Wits with whom Garth was friendly.41 Although we need not
explore details of the dispute between physicians and apothecaries that engendered The
Dispensary, it is worth noting that the controversy revolved around the decision of the
newly-formed Physicians’ Dispensary to sell medicines according to their “intrinsick

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value.”42 More to the point is Garth’s indictment of Blackmore’s style. After parodying a
series of Blackmore’s poetic blunders, Garth chastens his fellow physician:
Then dare not, for the future once rehearse
Th’offensive Discord of such hideous Verse.
But in your Lines let Energy be found,
And learn to rise in Sense, and sink in Sound.
Harsh words, tho’ pertinent, uncouth appear.
None please the Fancy, who offend the Ear.43
Garth’s satiric exposure of Blackmore’s literary shortcomings prefigures Pope’s Peri
Balhous and Dimciad, where Blackmore consistently serves as the principal avatar of
dullness.44 Garth, moreover, continues, urging Blackmore to revise his reading if he
intends to persist in writing: “In Sense and Numbers if you would excel, / Read
Wycherley, consider Dryden well” (11. 210-11).
Blackmore’s rebuttal was less aesthetic than moral and political. Like Jeremy
Collier, who similarly complained of foul language spoken on stage (“At another time the
Oaths are dipt, but not so much within the Ring, but that the Image and Superscription
are visible”),45 Blackmore accuses Dryden and the Wits of corrupting morality with
lewdness in poetry and drama. Wit, Blackmore laments, will soon undo his “Native
Land,”46 and he longs for the days when poets were virtuous and chaste:
How happy were the old unpolished Times,
As free from Wit as other modern Crimes?
As our Forefathers Vig’rous and Brave;
So they were Virtuous, Wise, Discreet and Grave,
Detesting both alike the Wit and Knave.
They justly Wits and Fools believ’d the same,
And Jester was for both the common Name.
(11. 13-19)

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After protesting at length the mobs of mad wits overrunning the nation, Blackmore turns
to his principal conceit, a Recoinage metaphor in which wit—the coin of the literary
realm—is assayed at the mint, purging away the dross to reveal the intrinsic merit of the
work. He begins the analogy by soliciting prominent Whig politicians to take charge of
affairs:
O Somers, Talbot, Dorset, Montague,
Grey, Sheffield, Cavendish, Pembroke, Vernon, you
Who in Parnassus have Imperial Sway,
Whom all the Muses Subjects here obey,
Are in your Service and receive your Pay;
Exert your Soveraign Power, in Judgment sit
To regulate the Nation’s Grievance, Wit.
(11. 182-88)
Blackmore’s heavy-handed catalog, I should note, was not entirely consistent with his
Recoinage conceit. As we have seen, Montague secretly attempted to undermine Locke’s
proposals and “raise” the coin.47
Nevertheless, what Blackmore lacked in subtlety he made up for in party spirit; not
for nothing had he written the obsequiously Whig Short History of the Last Parliament,
which whitewashes the aftermath of the Recoinage Act: “no Patriots ever merited more of
their Country, none having ever rescu’d it [from] greater, and more apparent Danger. By
restoring our Coin, they restor’d Health and Strength to a Nation under the worst
Symptoms in the World. They restor’d the Honour of the English, confirm’d the Shaking
Government, and laid the Foundation of that Honourable Peace, which after ensu’d, and
which we now enjoy.”48 To achieve parallel success in the republic of letters, the Whig

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guardians of Parnassus must act quickly, lest counterfeit wit continue to pass, endangering
the national welfare:
Set forth your Edict, let it be enjoyn’d
That all defective Species be recoyn’d.
St. Evremont and Rymer both are fit
To oversee the Coining of our Wit.
Let these be made Masters of Essay,
They’ll every Piece of Metal touch and weigh,
And tell which is too light, which has too much Allay.
’Tis true, that when the course and worthless Dross
Is purg’d away, there will be mighty Loss.
(11. 195-203)
As these lines make abundantly clear, the Minting process and the battle waged between
Locke and the devaluationists was transmuted into a figure for the Battle of the Books.49
Literary (and other) works, like so many coins, were to be assayed by the Master of the
Mint, “touched” (rubbed on a touchstone),50 and weighed so that their intrinsic value
could be certified. Blackmore would thereby expose counterfeit works, their base
mixtures having been “purg’d away.” Thus, in a direct rejoinder to Garth, he condemns
Wycherley and Dryden to the melting pot:
Ev’n Congreve, Southern, Manly Wycherly,
When thus refin’d will grievous Suff rers be.
Into the melting Pot when Dryden comes,
What horrid Stench will rise, what noisome Fumes?
How will he shrink, when all his leud Allay,
And wicked Mixture shall be purg’d away?
(11. 204-9)
Although Blackmore would in later lines mitigate his criticism of Congreve (“ Vanbrugh
and Congreve both are wealthy they / Have Funds of Standard-Sense, need no Allay / And
yet mix’d Metal oft they pass away” [11. 242-4]), the assault on Dryden remains

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unchecked: “When once his boasted Heaps are melted down, / A Chest-fiill scarce will
yield one Sterling Crown” (11. 210-11). By thus reducing the former poet-laureate to his
“proper” value, Blackmore ironically turns Dryden’s remarks in The Grounds of Criticism
in Tragedy against him, agreeing that he does not measure up to Shakespeare. Indeed, the
refining process will so purify Dryden and the wits, the physician-poet assures us, that
whatever survives will “Somers’ Scales and Talbot’s Test abide, / And with their Mark
please all the World beside” (11. 218-9). Surely the analogy had special force in a world in
which so many Londoners had to take clipped money to the Mint to be recoined.
Blackmore might well have ended his conceit with the melting down of Dryden’s
literary production, but he develops another important—indeed, in light of my argument
about A Tale of a Tub, crucial-stage to his economic analogy. Once again Blackmore
mirrors the Parliamentary decisions he had previously lauded in the Short History, in this
instance the success of the 1697 issue of Exchequer Bills. “By this means Trade and
Commerce were maintain’d; and without Silver we had an Artificial Treasure Circulating
through the Kingdom, which . . . prov’d an effectual, tho’ a Paper, Prop to support the
State, when its Silver Pillars were for a time remov’d.”51 The Satyr against Wit offers a
direct parallel for Exchequer Bills in the republic of letters. To make good the loss of
circulating coin effected by the purge of Dryden, Wycherley, and the other wits,
Blackmore proposes establishing a Bank of Wit and Sense:
But when our Wit’s call’d in, what will remain
The Muses learned Commerce to maintain?
That such a failure no Man may incense,
Let us erect a Bank for Wit and Sense.

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A Bank whose current Bills may payment make,
Till new Mill’d Wit shall from the Mint come back.
(11. 220-7)
Blackmore’s proposal for a Bank of Wit may be significantly contrasted with Swift’s
stance in Examiner 37. To propose a central bank for issuing paper instruments was,
strictly speaking, to advocate an inflationary monetary policy, even if the object was
simply to stabilize the money supply. As Blackmore phrased it in his Short History, by
authorizing paper Bills Parliament “created Mony without Bullion.”52 Swift, on the
contrary, never publicly supported a bank, much less paper money, and his remarks in the
Examiner essay (“the Prudence of the Undertaking was sufficiently justified by the
Success”) clearly suggest his willingness to suffer the consequences of severe deflation in
order to preserve the existing monetary standard.
In the republic of letters, where literary quality was judged by intrinsic value, the
corollary of issuing paper money was the sanctioning of increased commercial publication,
exactly the profusion of Grub Street literary production that Swift assails in the Tale.53
Not coincidentally, both developments were linked with the rise of the printing press:
neither paper money nor the explosion of literary ephemera was plausible prior to the age
of print. Of course Blackmore was no more willing than Swift to surrender literary
production to the caprices of taste, so he offered standards of his own—sense, learning,
and eloquence. Thus, to prevent the wits whom he perceived as immoral and debauched
from once again inflating literary value, Blackmore summons Locke, among others, for
assistance:

145
But how would all this new Contrivance Prize,
How high in value would their Actions rise?
Would Freek engraft his solid, manly Sense,
His Learning Lock, Fleetwood his Eloquence.
(11. 259-62)
Blackmore’s parallel history culminates in these lines. As we would expect, he alludes to
names closely associated with the Recoinage: John Freke, a member of the “College” in
close touch with Locke throughout the debate, and whose 1695 paper “Some Thoughts
Concerning Money, Exchange, Trade, & Mending the Coin” Blackmore probably had
read;54 Locke, whose arguments for intrinsic value carried the day; and Fleetwood,
Chaplain-in-Ordinary to William and Mary, whose 1694 Sermon against Clipping
delineated the evils of clipping coin.S5
It would be easy enough to criticize Blackmore for pressing his conceit to the
point of excess; as Johnson wryly commented in his Life of Blackmore, the poet “had lived
in the city till he had learned its note” and could not “keep his poetry unmingled with
trade”56 But to dismiss Blackmore’s Recoinage analogy so readily does him a disservice.
He was locked in a fierce battle over literary quality, and, much as did Dryden and
Temple, he employed an available economic discourse to depreciate the value of his
enemies. As is often the case in such matters, however, Blackmore soon found his
Recoinage trope turned against him. Early in Abel Boyer’s English Theophrastus (1702),
the wits at Will’s Coffee-House retaliate:
“No, B re, we judge oí Poetry as we do oí Metals, not by the Lump,
but the intrinsick Value. New cast your Poems, purge ’em of their Dross,
reduce ’em to the Bulk of the Dispensary, and if then they weigh in the
Balance with that, we will allow you a place among the First-Rate Heroick
Poets.’’57

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Boyer’s parodie attack amply demonstrates the extent to which assertions of literary
quality had become linked to monetary discourse, particularly the idea of intrinsic value.
Literary quality was to be measured only by substance, not by the mass (“lump”) of metal,
since it could be lead, and certainly not by “face value”; only a true wit could properly
assay specie content. Thus, in an irony verging on sublimity, Blackmore had elevated
Temple’s coinage metaphor to a defining trope in the Battle of the Books.
Intrinsic Value and Abuses in Learning
No one denies Blackmore’s presence in A Tale of a Tub. Twice Swift’s hack
narrator parodies the physician-poet’s foolish admission in the preface of Prince Arthur
that “Poetry has been so far from my Business and Profession, that it has imploy 'd but a
small part of my Time," and that he had written it during the “Vacancies and Intervals” of
“about two years past."5* (In the preface to King Arthur Blackmore would again defend
the earlier poem: “the greatest part of that Poem was written in Coffee-houses, and in
passing up and down the Streets; because / had little leisure elsewhere to apply to it.")59
The first of Swift’s parodies occurs in the initial line of “The Epistle Dedicatory, to His
Royal Highness, Prince Posterity”: “I here present Your Highness with the Fruits of a very
few leisure Hours, stollen from the short Intervals of a World of Business, and of an
Employment quite alien from such Amusements as this” (Tale 30). The second occurs in
Section X of the satire: “Ask an Author how his last Piece hath succeeded; Why, truly he
thanks his Stars, the World has been very favourable, and he has not the least Reason to
complain: And yet, By G—, He writ it in a Week at Bits and Starts, when he could steal an

147
Hour from his urgent Affair^' (Tale 182). Shortly thereafter the hack satirizes Blackmore
a third time, in this instance targeting his frequency of publication, and naming him as a
kindred modem:
THERE is in this famous Island of Britain a certain paultry Scribbler, very
voluminous, whose Character the Reader cannot wholly be a Stranger to.
He deals in a pernicious Kind of Writings, called Second Parts, and usually
passes under the Name of The Author of the First. I easily foresee, that as
soon as I lay down my Pen, this nimble Operator will have stole it, and
treat me as inhumanly as he hath already done Dr. Bl re, L ge, and
many others who shall here remain nameless.
(Tale 183)
These allusions obviously disparage both the methods and the rapid succession of
Blackmore’s literary production (years later, in his marginalia to Addison’s Freeholder,
Swift would further excoriate Blackmore as “so insipid a Scoundrel” [PWY:254]). To
any serious poet, the idea that an epic worthy of the name could be written in two years—
between house calls, no less—was farcical. Much more legitimate was the approach of
Milton, who, in producing by far the greatest epic of seventeenth-century England, had
followed the Virgilian model of spending a career in preparation for the epic work.
While the attack on Blackmore’s dabbling in epic poetry is clear enough, more
difficult to detect are the ways in which the Tale responds to the questions of intrinsic
value raised by the Battle of the Books but foregrounded in the Satyr against Wit.
Readers attuned to this discourse, however, can recognize that Swift’s response begins
virtually from the outset of the satire, at least as it was initially published in 1704 (that is,
without the “Apology”).® In “The Bookseller to the Reader,” the bookseller~a mask for
Swift himself-explains why he has finally elected to publish the work: “But I have been

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lately alarm tí with Intelligence of a surreptitious Copy [of the manuscript], which a
certain great Wit had new polish tí and refill ’ct’ (Tale 29). The words “polish W and
refin tí’ glance at the Recoinage conceit not only of Blackmore’s Satyr, but also at the
language of Temple’s earlier Of Poetry and Essay upon the Ancient and Modem
Learning. Here Swift’s “bookseller” mocks the literary presumptions of Moderns such as
Blackmore, who, unproven, pass themselves off as having an intrinsic value. According to
Temple’s paradoxical formulation, however, intrinsic value was best judged by the
approval of different ages and cultures: “books, like proverbs, receive their chief value
from the stamp and esteem of ages through which they have passed.” In an irony
paralleling the paradox of the Ancients and Modems (by which the Ancients lived in the
world’s infancy and the Modems in its maturity), this temporal standard operated to the
distinct disadvantage of modem authors, who virtually by definition were excluded from
consideration.
This temporal component of evaluation cannot be underestimated, for it explains
precisely why Swift includes the “Epistle to Prince Posterity,” which, as we have seen,
opens with a parody of Blackmore’s prefaces. Because the Modem age lacks competent
judges, Prince Posterity is the only recourse for the assessment of literary merit: “For
altho’ Your Highness is hardly got clear of Infancy, yet has the universal learned World
already resolv’d upon appealing to Your future Dictates with the lowest and most
resigned Submission: Fate having decreed You sole Arbiter of the Productions of human
Wit, in this polite and most accomplish’d Age” (Tale 31). At first glance this appeal to
posterity has little to do with the measurement of intrinsic value, but the monetary

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associations of the allegory become more apparent when Time is portrayed as an
accountant conducting an assessment of modern literary works. “I know very well,” the
hack complains, “that when Your Highness shall come to riper Years, and will have gone
through the Learning of Antiquity, you will be too curious to neglect inquiring into the
Authors of the very age before You: And to think that this Insolent, in the Account he
[Time] is preparing for Your View, designs to reduce them to a Number so insignificant as
I am asham’d to mention” (Tale 31). Especially alarming to the hack is the merciless
demeanor of Time, so he beseeches Posterity “to observe that large and terrible Scythe
which your Governour affects to bear continually about him. . . . And then reflect whether
it be possible for any mortal Ink and Paper of this Generation to make a suitable
Resistance” (Tale 32). The hack continues: “Oh, that Your Highness would one day
resolve to disarm this Usurping* Maitre du Palais, of his furious Engins, and bring Your
Empire* hors de Page" (Tale 32-3). Significantly, Swift adds a marginal gloss on the
French phrase “maitre du palais,"6' defining it as “Comptroller,” one who keeps track of
the treasury or estate accounts. The function of accounting, I believe, is central to the
Tale's, satiric project; even though Swift delegates the responsibility to Time, his role as
satirist is fundamentally one of measurement and evaluation. Indeed, the role is hinted at
in the title of the satire itself, for the word “tale” also denoted a counting or reckoning.62
Important as the allegorical portrayal of Time-as-accountant may be in the early
portion of the “Epistle Dedicatory,” we must also pay close attention to a passage
embedded within the allegory, for it marks the introduction of a motif that becomes
pervasive in the Tale, that of weight. Linked via the idea of exchange value, both

150
accounting (“telling”) and weighing were crucial processes of monetary valuation. We
have seen that throughout the Recoinage controversy monetary worth was closely
associated with weight. On one side, pamphlets such as Fleetwood’s Sermon against
Clipping and Temple’s Further Proposals equated weight with value; on the other,
Nicolas Barbon’s anti-Lockean Discourse Concerning Coining the New Money Lighter
exemplifies how devaluationist (i.e., inflationary) monetary policy connoted “lightness.”
For Temple and Swift as well, intrinsic value was directly linked to weight. With these
associations in mind, it is significant that the hack, as he cowers before Time, measures
literary survival by weight. Begging Posterity to recover the ephemeral “Productions” of
the modern age, he asks: “Who has mislaid them? Are they sunk in the Abyss of Things?
’Tis certain, that in their own Nature they were light enough to swim upon the Surface for
all Eternity. Therefore the Fault is in Him, who tied Weights so heavy to their Heels, as to
depress them to the Center. Is their very Essence destroyed?” (Tale 32; emphasis in
original). It is a rich metaphor, combining the language of aesthetic valuation with that of
metaphysical substance (“Nature,” “Essence”).63 In rhetoric that became a Scriblerian
hallmark, literary works that “sunk in the Abyss” were bathetic, unable to sustain their
pretensions to elevated style; this is the grand joke of Pope’s Peri Bathous: or, Martinus
Scriblerus, His Treatise of the Art of Sinking in Poetry. That Swift equates such
valuation with substance, moreover, is significant. Like the clipped coin that circulated so
easily prior to the Recoinage, literary works that were “light” contained little of intrinsic
worth and were certain not to last “for all Eternity.” By the same token, counterfeit,
leaden weight was destined to sink into literary oblivion. The hack, seeking to identify a

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culprit who has attached (leaden) “Weights so heavy to [the] Heels” of modern
productions, fails to comprehend that in their “Essence” they have no intrinsic value.
For precisely these reasons Swift’s evaluative concerns in the Tale very often
revolve around the idea of accurate representation. To Swift’s mind, extrinsic value—the
literary quality authors proclaim for their works—should be commensurate with intrinsic
value—the merit of a piece as determined by a true arbiter of value. He states this concern
most explicitly in the introduction to Taller 230 (28 September 1710), a contribution from
Isaac Bickerstaff:
I cannot but observe to you, that until of late Years, a Grub-street Book
was always bound in Sheep-skin, with suitable Print and Paper; the Price
never above a Shilling.... But now they appear in all Sizes and Shapes,
and in all Places: They are handed about from Lapfulls in every Coffee¬
house to Persons of Quality; are shewn in Westminster-Hall and the Court
of Requests. You may see them gilt, and in Royal Paper offive or six
Hundred Pages, and rated accordingly.
(PIE 11:174)
In the Tale Swift derides the “modem” custom of appending lengthy prefaces “which by
Rule ought to be targe in proportion as the subsequent Volume is small" (Tale 54),
specifically skewering Dryden on the point: “He has often said to me in Confidence, that
the World would never have suspected him to be so great a Poet, if he had not assured
them so frequently in his Prefaces, that it was impossible they could either doubt or forget
it” (Tale 131).
The Tale parodies this modern development with its own prolusion of prefatory
materials. Because the hack’s “Invention” has been drained by the treatise that follows, he
lacks sufficient “Genius” to begin his own preface and thus plagiarizes the work of his

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“more successful Brethren the Moderns" (Tale 42). Unfortunately, however, modem
prefaces are devoid of intrinsic value, and the stolen lines cannot survive transmission:
“nothing is so very tender as a Modern Piece of Wit, and which is apt to suffer so much in
the Carriage. Some things are extreamly witty to day, or fasting, or in thus place, or at
eight a clock, or over a Bottle, or spoke by Mr. What d’y’call’m, or in a Summer's
Morning: Any of which, by the smallest Transposal or Misapplication, is utterly
annihilate” (Tale 43). A dunce unable to adequately assess intrinsic worth, the hack is
blind to the value of ancient works, but in a painful irony he seems to realize the
worthlessness of modem wit: “I cannot imagine why we should be at Expence to furnish
Wit for succeeding Ages, when the former have made no sort of Provision for ours;
wherein I speak the Sentiment of the very newest, and consequently the most Orthodox
Refiners, as well as my own” (Tale 44). As Guthkelch and Smith note (Tale 44/; 1), the
word “Refiners” invokes language clearly reminiscent of Temple’s Miscellanea essays, but
the irony is more extensive than even they seem to recognize. If wit deserving of the name
had received the “stamp and esteem” of the ages, as was the belief of both Temple and
Swift, then the Moderns are not simply weakening the Ancients through over-refinement;
they are false refiners producing works so debased that time will purge them like dross.
This critique of the transitory nature of modem wit reaches its climax when the
hack reveals the exact conditions under which he composed the treatise. The only way to
fathom the sublimity of his work, he maintains, is by imitation of his circumstances:
However, being extreamly sollicitous, that every accomplished Person who
has got into the Taste of Wit, calculated for this present Month of August,
1697, should descend to the very bottom of the Sublime throughout this

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Treatise; I hold fit to lay down this general Maxim. Whatever Reader
desires to have a thorow Comprehension of an Author’s Thoughts, cannot
take a better Method, than by putting himself into the Circumstances and
Postures of Life, that the Writer was in, upon every important Passage as it
flow’d from his Pen; For this will introduce a Parity and Strict
Correspondence of Idea’s between the Reader and the Author.
(Tale 44)
Since true sublimity would be recognizable regardless of time or circumstance,64 the
hack’s “Maxim” exemplifies, of course, the false sublime. Significantly, the transfer of
“Idea’s”—and later in the Tale Swift hints at the notion of an idea as coin (“every bright
Idea with its Reverse” [158])—from the hack to his reader occurs at a thoroughly debased
“Parity.” With wit so completely reduced, the hack descends still deeper into the false
sublime:
Now, to assist the diligent Reader in so delicate an Affair, as far as brevity
will permit, I have recollected, that the shrewdest Pieces of this Treatise,
were conceived in Bed, in a Garret: At other times (for a Reason best
known to my self) I thought fit to sharpen my Invention with Hunger; and
in general, the whole Work was begun, continued, and ended, under a long
Course of Physick, and a great want of Money.
( Tale 44)
The hack’s self-revelation here as a hungry, diseased Grub Street hireling constitutes
more, I believe, than sarcastic commentary on the (from Swift’s standpoint, deservedly)
destitution of second-rate writers. The hack’s privation reflects the poverty-the lack of
intrinsic value—of his wit. His writing is ephemeral precisely because the substance of his
invention and imagination is, as determined by time’s course of exchange, valueless.
Not coincidentally, the topic of alchemy, another recurring motif of the Tale, is
introduced at this juncture. “The Modemsthe hack relates, “have artfully fixed this
Mercury [i.e., wit], and reduced it to the Circumstances of Time, Place, and Person” (Tale

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43). By grounding the nature of wit in a metallic substance, and specifically alluding to
alchemy in the process, Swift may well be satirizing Blackmore, but he is more certainly
performing a series of ironies at the general expense of the modems. On one level,
modem (and hence false) wit is essentially volatile, quite unlike the precious metals, which
derived value partly “by reason of their durableness” (SC 233). The effort to purify (“fix”)
the substance, moreover, renders it useless, since it is consequently limited to
“Circumstances of Time, Place, and Person.” The modern experiment is imbued with
irony on another level as well, for the labor has been wasted on a base metal,
“quicksilver,” not a precious metal. Evidently Swift’s point was not without foundation:
the alchemical experiments of the great Dutch physician Herman Boerhaave (1664-1734),
a direct contemporary of Swift, resulted in similar frustration. Although mercury,
Boerhaave concluded, could acquire “different degrees of Fixedness,” it never attained the
“Fixedness of Gold or Silver.”65
There is still another level of irony to Swift’s hermetic metaphor, an irony directed
at the folly of alchemical objectives. Unlike Locke, who, as we have seen, expressed
interest in Robert Boyle’s experiments, Swift was always skeptical about alchemists and
their attempts to pervert the laws of nature, efforts usually driven by avarice and ambition.
(Compare the ragged scientist that Gulliver encounters at the Academy of Lagado, who
begs for money to continue his experiments in “extracting Sun-Beams out of Cucumbers”
[PW XI: 163].) The literary alchemy of modern authors is no less perverse, no less
avaricious, and no less futile. A passage in Pope’s Essay on Man offers an instructive
contrast to Swift’s view:

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Th’ Eternal Art educing good from ill,
Grafts on this Passion our best principle:
’Tis thus the Mercury of Man is fix’d,
Strong grows the Virtue with his nature mix’d;
The dross cements what else were too refin’d,
And in one interest body acts with mind.66
For Pope, as for Swift, “Man” is a creature whose mercurial “Passion” must be harnessed
and controlled if it is to yield any good. But Pope’s alchemical process is ultimately
successful; indeed, the base dross acts as a binding agent, enabling the more refined
“Virtue” to coexist in the individual person. For Swift, on the contrary, alchemy is never
successful and dross is always worthless.67 Not only did alchemy attempt to defy the
natural order, but its principal aim, the transmutation of base metals into gold, was finally
self-defeating. By potentially multiplying the quantity of gold in the world, alchemy
threatened to nullify the monetary standard, which could be preserved only if the precious
metals maintained their “Scarcity” and inability “to be Counterfeited” (SC 233).68
Wit, as a finite substance, could not be increased, and any attempt to substitute an
alternate medium of exchange could only result in an inflationary economy in the republic
of letters. Blackmore, it will be recalled, had proposed a “Bank of Wit” to counteract the
deflationary effects of his literary Recoinage, but Swift, in a quite different maneuver,
depicts an explosion of print, thereby satirizing the debasement of the written word
brought about by the multiplication of witless authors. The satire on literary inflation
begins in the “Epistle Dedicatory” when the hack asks Time, “What is then become of
those immense Bales of Paper, which must needs have been employ’d in such Numbers of
Books?” (Tale 35). In the “Preface” the satire resumes when the hack protests that “some

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curious Wit may object against me, for proceeding thus far in a Preface, without
declaiming, according to the Custom, against the Multitude of writers whereof the whole
Multitude of Writers most reasonably complains” (Tale 45).
The hack reiterates these concerns when he tells the “short Tale” of the crowd
assembled in Leicester-Fields, using terms that again suggest inflation 69 In the anecdote,
a weaver angrily responds to “a fat unweildy Fellow” who is forcing his way through the
throng:
A Plague confound you (said he) for an over-grown Sloven; and who (in
the Devil's Name) l wonder, helps to make up the Crowd half so much as
your self? Don't you consider (with a Pox) that you take up more room
with that Carkass than any five here? . . . Bring your own Guts to a
reasonable Compass (and be d n’d) and then I ’ll engage we shall
have room enough for us all.
(Tale 46)
This passage captures Swift in a position quite similar to Locke’s—that is, desiring to
arrive at consensual value but fearful that irrational public sentiment would continue to
accept substandard coin at face value rather than by weight. In Swift’s case, the Ancients
are competent judges, but the danger posed by the modern world is that dunces incapable
of perceiving true worth will impose a false standard. The fact that the crowd, signifying
the glut of modern writers, gathers around a knave indicates that a fraudulent standard is
in place, and both the girth of the new arrival and his arrogance (“Lord! what a filthy
Crowd is here” [46]) suggest the increasing inflation and vanity of the moderns. The
weaver—who, as a part of the rabble congregation, is a modem as well—does indeed
demand that the obese man reduce himself to a “reasonable Compass,” but this overture

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toward a deflationary standard is ultimately empty, ironically undercut by the weaver’s
presence amidst the gathering of fools.
Since the intrinsic value of gold and silver was recognized by collective agreement,
modern inflationary substitutes, whether paper or lead, were, by negative definition,
grounded not in general consent, but in the individual consciousness. Thus Swift
satirically depicts the solipsism of the Modems, who must bestow praise on themselves.
“AS for the Liberty I have thought fit to take of praising my self, upon some Occasions or
none; I am sure it will need no Excuse,” the hack claims. “For it is here to be noted, that
Praise was originally a Pension paid by the World: but the Moderns finding the Trouble
and Charge too great in collecting it, have lately bought out the Fee-Simple, since which
time, the Right of Presentation is wholly in our selves” (Tale 47). Since the Modems
cannot earn a pension—etymologically suggesting weight, but also a payment in futurity70—
they resort to a leveraged buyout of the fee-simple, an estate belonging to a family forever.
But the bankrupt Moderns can ill afford such a purchase; the contradiction becomes
manifest in the lines that follow: “For this Reason it is, that when an Author makes his
own Elogy, he uses a certain form to declare and insist upon his Title, which is commonly
in these or the like words, I speak without Vanity” (Tale 47). Any wealth or title the
moderns can declare is based not on substance but on form, and is linked with vain,
superficial self-absorption. Like the spider in the Battle of the Books, the moderns create
an empty, specious form of wealth out of themselves (“the Right of Presentation is wholly
in our selves”) that only underscores the impoverishment of their wit.

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Unaware of his own irony, the hack recognizes that in a world overrun by
bankrupt moderns, the “Satyrical Itch” will flourish, even though the world “is insensible
to the Lashes of it” (Tale 48-9). Satire was traditionally relegated to the bottom of the
literary hierarchy (epic being at the top), but the hack understands that he cannot aspire
even to that lowly genre: “I am not like other Men, to envy or undervalue the Talents I
cannot reach; for which Reason I must needs bear a true Honour to this large eminent Sect
of our British Writers. And I hope, this little Panegyrick will not be offensive to their
Ears, since it has the Advantage of being only designed for themselves” (Tale 49). The
acerbic irony here—the Tale is a brilliant satire, not a panegyric (and we must not forget
that Swift’s first literary forays, the early Pindaric odes, were panegyrics)—belies the
narrative mask, and at this point one senses Swift’s own voice breaking through: “Indeed,
Nature her self has taken order, that Fame and Honour should be purchased at a better
Pennyworth by Satyr, than by any other Productions of the Brain; the World being soonest
provoked to Praise by Lashes, as Men are to Love” (Tale 49). The rhetoric of value
informing this passage indicates just how thoroughly debased Swift finds the modern era.
Satire has supplanted praise in the literary hierarchy because it is the honest writer’s only
recourse in a corrupt age. The hack, having confessed to the reader that his dull wit
cannot attain the lofty heights of satire, must settle on false praise, ludicrously
proclaiming, “I am so entirely satisfied with the whole present Procedure of human
Things, that I have been for some Years preparing Materials towards A Panegyrick upon
the World” (Tale 53).

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In the “Introduction” Swift more explicitly satirizes the witlessness of the Moderns
through a materialist theory of language and epistemology that devastatingly ridicules their
leaden intellects and their consequent inability to perceive real literary worth. “Air being a
heavy Body,” the hack declares, “and therefore (according to the System of * Epicurus
[the marginal note cites Lucretius]) continually descending, must needs be more so, when
loaden and press’d down by Words; which are also Bodies of much Weight and Gravity,
as it is manifest from those deep Impressions they make and leave upon us” (Tale 60).
The notion that memory is composed of impressions stamped on the material of the mind
dates back to Aristotle’s On the Soul,1' and Swift evidently read Lucretius, the modem
proponent of the idea, during the years in which the Tale took shape (Tale lvi). For
readers in Aristotle’s day, as in Swift’s, one of the primary connotations of the stamping
image would have been the minting of coin, with a hierarchy of intellectual capabilities
(gold, silver, brass, lead) implicit in the analogy. This epistemological metaphor enables
Swift to assail the “mettle” (up until the early eighteenth century “metal” was spelled both
ways; cf. OED) of lead-brained critics, the category of authors Pope would similarly
deride in the 1743 version of The Dunciad as “Great Cibber’s brazen, brainless
brothers.”72 At the same time, positing a materialist conception of language allows Swift
to link style with the monetary standard, as he would later do in the Proposal for
Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue. Hence, in the discussion of
the “refined . Contrivance and Structure” of modern theaters that follows, Swift uses
the theater’s hierarchically arranged architecture of boxes and galleries to satirize modem
critics who witlessly accept debased language.

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He begins with those located at the bottom: “First; the Pit is sunk below the Stage
with due regard to the Institution above-deduced; that whatever weighty Matter shall be
delivered thence (whether it be Lead or Gold) may fall plum into the Jaws of certain
Criticks (as I think they are called) which stand ready open to devour them” (Tale 61). As
the image of the gaping critics suggests, Swift finds himself beset by an age that can no
longer distinguish between matter grown weighty by virtue of its intrinsic value and that
found sinking due to its saturnine lead. It is a world awash in Blackmores, critics whose
dullness renders them incapable of distinguishing, in the words of Boyer’s English
Theophrastus, between the “lump” of lead and the “intrinsick value” of gold. Next,
Swift’s moralistic bent surfaces, as the looseness of female theater-goers is criticized:
“Boxes are built round, and raised to a Level with the Scene, in deference to the Ladies,
because That large Portion of Wit laid out in raising Pruriences and Protuberances, is
observ’d to run much upon a Line, and ever in a Circle” (Tale 61). Melodramatic and
slavishly ornate language rises to yet another level, where it is received by still duller and
still slower (“frigid”) minds: “The whining Passions, and little starved Conceits, are
generally wafted up by their own extreme Levity, to the middle Region, and there fix [the
word echoes the alchemical language of the “Preface”] and are frozen by the frigid
Understandings of the Inhabitants” (Tale 61). Finally, in an apparent allusion to Dryden’s
Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy, the least substantial language floats to the top, where
the “cheap seats” of eighteenth-century theaters were located: “Bombast and Buffoonry,
by Nature lofty and light, soar highest of all, and would be lost in the Roof, if the prudent
Architect had not with much Foresight contrived for them a fourth Place, called the

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Twelve-PenyGallery [sic], and there planted a suitable Colony, who greedily intercept
them in their Passage” (Tale 61). As the connection between bombastic language and the
twelve-penny Gallery suggests, words have value, but modern playwrights and their
“greedy” audiences (spectators whose insatiable appetites govern their reason), with their
leaden wits, foolishly accept the corrupt and counterfeit (a submerged pun, I suspect, is on
new linguistic “coinages”), thereby jeopardizing the linguistic standard. It was a problem
Swift consistently associated with the uncritical adoption of fashionable jargon from the
theater: “all new affected Modes of Speech,” he remarks in Tatler 230, “whether
borrowed from the Court, the Town, or the Theatre are the first perishing Parts in any
Language” (PWUMl).
In the absence of a secure standard literary production explodes, and moderns
compete to generate ever-increasing quantities of (valueless) paper. Two “Junior start¬
up Societies”—the scientists at Gresham College and the wits at Will’s Coffee-House—
challenge the writers of Grub Street to measure output. “I am informed,” the hack relates,
“Our two Rivals have lately made an Offer to enter into the Lists with united Forces, and
Challenge us to a Comparison of Books, both as to Weight and Number" (Tale 64;
emphasis in original) The choice between measuring value by weight or number (“by
tale”) was, as we have seen, the hinge on which the Recoinage debate turned. Via the
hack’s voice, Swift, however, doubts whether the moderns possess the aptitude to
measure the profusion of books: “For, where can they find Scales of Capacity enough for
the first, or an Arithmetician of Capacity enough for the Second[?]” (Tale 64). The image
of the scales—Swift will use it again at the key point in Section VI—once more suggests

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the assessment of value, but with poets like Blackmore conducting the appraisal, to hope
for an accurate measurement is an exercise in futility. In a very real sense, then, this
passage repeats the irony of the theater-moderns are incapable of separating the weighty
from the intrinsically valuable.
Another passage illustrating the point occurs when the hack declaims against a
“superficial Vein among many Readers of the present Age, who by no means will be
persuaded to inspect beyond the Surface and the Rind of Things” ( Tale 66). The language
is organized around a motif of intrinsic and extrinsic value:
Wisdom is a Fox, who after long hunting, will at last cost you the Pains to
dig out: ’Tis a Cheese, which by how much the richer, has the thicker, the
homelier, and the courser Coat; and whereof to a judicious Palate, the
Maggots are the best. ’Tis a Sack-Posset, wherein the deeper you go, you
will find it the sweeter. Wisdom is a Hen, whose Cackling we must value
and consider, because it is attended with an Egg, But then lastly, ’tis a Nut,
which unless you choose with Judgment, may cost you a Tooth, and pay
you with nothing but a Worm.
(Tale 66)
Critics have sometimes viewed this passage as a series of false choices,73 but the central
issue for Swift, it seems to me, is one of critical acumen and discernment, of recognizing
the difference between dross and gold. The language of economic exchange (“cost,”
“richer,” “value,” “pay”) and taste (“richer,” “Palate,” “sweeter”) in the passage in fact
points to the issues of aesthetic valuation we have been discussing all along. During the
Recoinage Temple had argued that exteriors should accurately represent their interiors,
that denominative value should be commensurate with specie weight, “So that as a great
many would be losers by crying down the current Price of th