The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 23


I HAVE two or three times begun letters to your grace, and have torn what I writ, hoping I might send you something decisive about the peace. But all still continues to lie very loose, and I continue to be very desponding, although the people in affairs laugh at me for it. I have one plain maxim in dealing with those, who have more cunning, and less honesty than myself, which is, what we call keeping the staff in my own hand, and contriving that they shall trust me rather than I them. A man may reason until he is weary upon this proceeding of the Dutch. The soldiers tell me that the duke of Ormond could not possibly take possession of Dunkirk, since the foreign troops have refused to march, and that the states will not suffer us to go through their towns. But I had a whisper from one who should know best, that Dunkirk might now have been ours, if right methods had been taken. And another great man said to a friend of mine, above a fortnight ago, that the least wrong step on that side the water might have very ill consequences at this juncture. time, the discontented party seems full of hopes, and many of the court side, beside myself, desponding enough. The necessity of laying the proposals before the parliament drew us into all this; for now we are in a manner pinned down, and cannot go back an inch with any good grace: so that, if the French play us foul, I dread the effects, which are too visible to doubt[1]. And on the other side, if the peace goes smoothly on, I cannot but think that some severe inquiries will be made; and I believe, upon very manifest grounds. If there be any secret in this matter of Dunkirk, it must be in very few hands; and those who most converse with men at the helm, are, I am confident, very much in the dark. Some people go so far as to think that the Dutch will hinder even the English forces under the duke of Ormond from going by the French country to Dunkirk: but I cannot be of that opinion. We suppose a few days will decide this matter; and I believe, your grace will agree, that there was never a more nice conjuncture of affairs; however, the court appears to be very resolute: several changes have been made, and more are daily expected. The Dutch are grown so unpopular, that, I believe, the queen might have addresses to stand by her against them with lives and fortunes.

I had your grace's letter of May 29, written in the time of your visiting; from whence, I hope, you are returned with health and satisfaction.

The difficulties in the peace, by the accidents in the Bourbon family, are, as your grace observes, very great, and what indeed our ministers chiefly apprehend. But we think Philip's renouncing to be an effectual expedient; not out of any regard he would have for it, but because it will be the interest of every prince of the blood in France to keep him out, and because the Spaniards will never assist him to unite the two kingdoms.

I am in hopes yet that your grace may pay your treat; for it is yet four weeks to November, at least I believe we shall be happy, or ruined, before that time.

It is certain that there is something in what people say ........ But the court is so luckily constituted at present, that every man thinks the chief trust cannot be any where else so well placed; neither do I know above one man that would take it, and it is a great deal too soon for him to have such thoughts.

I humbly thank your grace for your concern about my health: I have still the remainder of some pains, which has partly occasioned my removing hither about three weeks ago; I was recommended to country air, and chose this, because I could pass my time more agreeably near my friends at court. We think the queen will go to Windsor in three weeks; and, I believe, I shall be there most of the time I stay in England, which I intend until toward the end of summer.

My lord treasurer has often promised he will advance my design of an academy; so have my lord keeper, and all the ministers; but they are now too busy to think of any thing beside what they have upon the anvil. My lord treasurer and I have already pitched upon twenty members of both parties; but perhaps it may all come to nothing.

If things continue as they are another session, perhaps your grace may see the bill of resuming the grants carried on with a great deal more rigour than it lately was. It was only desired that the grantees should pay six years purchase, and settle the remainder on them by act of parliament, and those grants are now worse than other lands by more years purchase than six; so that, in effect, they would have lost nothing. I am, with the greatest respect,

Your grace's most dutiful

and most humble servant,

  1. It should be — 'too visible to be doubted of.'