§ MAJOR BERESFORD
begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Master of the Mint whether a report was correct, that the issue of the new two-shilling piece, "the florin," had been countermanded by the authorities of the Mint?
§ MR. SHEIL
I might insist, with perfect truth, that the Master of the Mint is not responsible for the design of a coin, and that the coin in question was approved by an Order of Council which I did not attend; but, although this is literally the case, it would be disingenuous on my part to shelter myself behind these allegations, when, in point of fact, whatever fault has been committed, has been committed through my instrumentality, which, in an assembly of English Gentlemen, I think it better frankly and unhesitatingly to acknowledge, rather than to rely upon the mere forms of office in my defence. The facts are simply these. The design of the new two-shilling piece having been determined on, and directions having been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that upon the reverse of the florin there should be inscribed the word "one florin" and "one-tenth of a pound," it occurred to me, that in order to make up for the complexity of the reverse, the obverse of the coin should be made as simple as possible, and I accordingly suggested to Mr. Wyn, the chief engraver at the Mint, that "Victoria Regina" should be alone inscribed on the obverse, and that everything else should be omitted. I found that upon coins struck at Calcutta, no other words than "Victoria Regina" were inscribed. On the copper coinage the name of the Sovereign only has been frequently inscribed. My suggestion was adopted, and accordingly "Fidei Defensatrix" and "Dei Gratia" were left out; but I need hardly assure those who have the least acquaintance with me that I was not influenced by any fanatical feeling in the adoption of this course. The coin passed from my hands, and was submitted to the Council, where the omission was not observed, although it did not escape the microscopic eye of my hon. Friend, by whom this question has been sent to me. I may mention as a proof that I was not swayed by any preposterous—and worse than preposterous—prejudice to the employment of the words thus left out, that since I became Master of the Mint a very beautiful five-shilling coin has been issued from that establishment, with the words which are not inserted on the florin. I have no difficulty in professing my faith in 1335 reference to the import of these words. It may, at first view appear to be incongruous that the Sovereign of this Protestant country should be designated by a title conferred by the Pope on Henry the Eighth; but I conceive that these words may he reasonably considered to have lost their original signification, and that they now imply nothing more than that the Sovereign is the head of the Protestant Church, which I trust that the Sovereign will never cease to be; and with regard to the other words, "Dei Gratia," no man is more prompt to acknowledge that a Queen, adorned by so many virtues, is the special gift of Providence to her faithful and devoted people.
§ Subject dropped.