The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 10/Thoughts concerning the Repeal of the Test





THOSE of either side who have written upon this subject of the test, in making or answering objections, seem to fail, by not pressing sufficiently the chief point, upon which the controversy turns. The arguments used by those who write for the church, are very good in their kind; but will have little force under the present corruptions of mankind, because the authors treat this subject tanquam in republicâ Platonis, et non in fæce Romuli.

It must be confessed, that considering how few employments of any consequence, fall to the share of those English who are born in this kingdom, and those few very dearly purchased, at the expense of conscience, liberty, and all regard for the publick good, they are not worth contending for: and if nothing but profit were in the case, it would hardly cost me one sigh, when I should see those few scraps thrown among every species of fanaticks, to scuffle for among themselves.

And this will infallibly be the case, after repealing the test. For every subdivision of sect will, with equal justice, pretend to have a share; and, as it is usual with sharers, will never think they have enough, while any pretender is left unprovided. I shall not except the quakers; because, when the passage is once let open for sects to partake in publick emoluments, it is very probable the lawfulness of taking oaths, and wearing carnal weapons, may be revealed to the brotherhood: which thought, I confess, was first put into my head by one of the shrewdest quakers in this kingdom[1].

  1. The quaker hinted at by Dr. Swift was Mr. George Rooke, a linen-draper, a man who had a very good taste for wit, had read abundance of history, and was, perhaps, one of the most learned quakers in the world. He was author of an humourous pastoral in the quaker style. In a letter to Mr. Pope, Aug. 30, 1716, Dr. Swift says, "There is a young ingenious quaker in this town who writes verses to his mistress, not very correct, but in a strain purely what a poetical quaker should do, commending her look and habit, &c. It gave me a hint, that a set of quaker pastorals might succeed, if our friend Gay would fancy it; and I think it a fruitful subject: pray hear what he says." This hint produced from Mr. Gay, "The Espousal, a sober eclogue, between two of the people called quakers," in which their peculiarity is well delineated.