Masters of the Mint,
Introduction by W. A. Shaw,
SIR ISAAC NEWTON'S MINT REPORTS
On the Proportion of Gold and Silver in Value in several European Currencies (Sept. 1701).
Report of the Officers of the Mint about the Preservation of the Coyne, including an assessment of various European coins (July 1702).
On Finances of the Mint at Edinburgh (Feb. 1710).
Sir Is. Newton's Memorial with Mr. Attorney Generall's opinion concerning Plate carried into the Mint to be coyned (July 1711).
The Value of the Spanish Real (Aug. 1711).
On the Value of Gold and Silver in English, Irish and European Coins (Mar. - June 1712).
Upon the Memorial of Mr. Brydges's relating to the Reduction of the Current Money at Dunkirk into Sterling Money for the Paying of the Forces there (Aug. 1712 - Oct. 1712).
Report of the Mint upon the Petition of Tunnah & Dale [to substitute Gold in Coins] (Jan. 1713).
On the Value of Gold and Silver in European Currencies and the Consequences on the World-wide Gold- and Silver-Trade (Sept. 1717).
On Sweden's Rix dollars, German Reichsthaler and Lübische Mark (Apr. 1720).
Memorial about Tryall of the Copper Coynage, Ireland (Apr. 1724).
Mr. Fauquière's Report of the Ballance on the Copper Coynage Account (July 1725).
Mint Report on Portugese Coins (Nov. 1725).
SIR ISAAC NEWTON was offered the post of Warden of the Mint by Montagu on the 19th March 1696. The offer was accepted, and for the three years which witnessed the great recoinage Newton acted in that capacity. In 1699 he succeeded as Master of the Mint, and held the post until his death in 1727. The thirty years or more during which he continued Master and Warden of the Mint are of no little interest in English monetary history. Apart from the recoinage of 1696, through which he piloted the nation, apart too from the adventitious drama of Wood's halfpence, and Swift's nefarious rancour, these years witnessed that change in the relative values of the precious metals which virtually consecrated England to gold by actually, through the greater part of the eighteenth century, restricting the currency to that metal. Yet there is a paucity of first-hand information on mint affairs during those years. Newton contented himself with official reports to the Lords of the Treasury on the subject of exchange, or on the state of the coins. He never appeared before the world as an author in this connection.
Of these official reports only three have hitherto appeared in print. In the following pages, however, I have reprinted from the original copies in the Treasury Board Papers at the Record Office all these papers which distinctly bear on coinage or exchange matters.
The papers are mostly in Newton's own hand; and as being the copies actually forwarded as reports to the Treasury, must be regarded as the most final and authentic form of the documents he drafted. On the other hand, it is quite apparent that the Treasury Board Papers do not now contain many reports and papers of Newton on mint, coinage, and exchange affairs, which he drew up during his official career.
Newton's stepniece, Elizabeth Barton, daughter of his stepsister, Hannah Barton, married John Conduitt, who succeeded Newton in the Mastership of the Mint, on the latter's death. Conduitt's daughter Catherine married John Viscount Lymington, eldest son of the first Earl of Portsmouth, and carried with her into the Portsmouth family all Newton's papers. Of these papers the scientific portion has been presented to the Cambridge University Library. But the portion containing his official papers, mint documents and correspondence, etc., are still preserved in the library of the Earl of Portsmouth, Hurstbourne Park, Hampshire.
The mint papers were arranged with loving care by Conduitt, and are now bound in three large folios. A glance at their contents (see Historical Manuscripts Reports, viii. 60) reveals the fact of Newton's immense industry in equipping himself for and in executing his office, and at the same time the smallness of the number of his papers which have survived in the national archives as compared with the drafts and reports which are preserved in these family papers. It would be gratifying if this attempt at a reproduction of the official papers of Newton should lead to something further.
All merely administrative papers-such as relate to appointments of officers under Newton at the mint, or to the conduct of the Scotch mint, or to the management of the tin revenues of the Crown, on all which subjects numerous papers exist among the Treasury Board Papers — are here omitted. Those alone are printed in which Newton reports on questions relating to coinage or exchange. They will speak for themselves, with their masterly brevity and clearness. And if the train of thought which runs through this volume has been grasped, it will be at once apparent how different, and more expert and true, was his attitude of mind towards the monetary difficulty of his time than that of John Locke in 1696. It would be difficult to express sufficient admiration of the skill and modesty with which Newton pierced the secrets of the exchanger's craft.
William A. Shaw, Select Tracts and Documents Illustrative of English Monetary History 1626-1730 (London: Wilsons & Milne, 1896) [reprint: (New York: Augustus Kelley Publishers, 1967)], p.132-134 — html by Olaf Simons, Sep. 2004.