In the first months of his tenure of office he had to deal with the furious opposition to Wood's halfpence, and to counteract the effect of Swift's Draper's Letters.
Formerly, when floods resulted from this obstruction, the townsfolk of Helston acquired the right of clearing a passage through it by presenting leathern purses containing three halfpence to the lord of the manor.
In halfpence or farthings.
"I am afraid the people would only say that your majesty was returning them change for their pounds in halfpence," answered Peel.
The first experiment which he has recorded was the construction of a voltaic pile with seven halfpence, seven disks of sheet zinc, and six pieces of paper moistened with salt water.
There is no reason to think that the English ministry wished otherwise; but secret influences were at work, and a patent for supplying Ireland with a coinage of copper halfpence was accorded to William Wood on such terms that the profit accruing from the difference between the intrinsic and the nominal value of the coins, about 40%, was mainly divided between him and George I.'s favourite duchess of Kendal, by whose influence Wood had obtained the privilege.
The former may profit by the study of his marvellous lucidity and vehemence, the latter by his sublime audacity in exaggeration and the sophistry with which he involves the innocent halfpence in the obloquy of the nefarious patentee.
The tremendous uproar raised by Swift about Wood's halfpence was heightened by the fact that Wood shared his profits with the duchess of Kendal, the mistress of George I.