The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 26
TO ARCHBISHOP KING.
ALTHOUGH your humour of delaying, which is a good deal in fashion, might serve me for authority and example in not sooner acknowledging your grace's letter, I shall not make that use of it; but naturally tell you, that the publick delay has been the cause of mine. We have lived almost these two months past, by the week, expecting that parliament would meet, and the queen tell them that the peace was signed. But unforeseen difficulties have arisen, partly by some mistakes in our plenipotentiaries, as well as of those of France, too long to trouble your grace with, since we now reckon all will be at an end; and the queen has sent new powers to Utrecht, which her ministers there must obey, I think, or be left without excuse. The peace will be signed with France, Holland, the emperor, Savoy, Portugal, and England; but Spain has yet no minister at Utrecht, the Dutch making difficulties about the duke D'Ossune's passports; but the marquis de Montellion will soon begin his journey; at least he tells me so. However, it is of no great moment whether Spain comes in now, or a month hence; and the parliament will be satisfied with the rest. People here have grumbled at those prorogations until they are weary; but they are not very convenient, considering how many funds are out, and how late it is in the year. They think of taking off two shillings in the pound from the landtax; which I always argued earnestly against: but the court has a mind to humour the country gentlemen, and the thing is popular enough; but then we must borrow upon new funds, which it will be of the last difficulty to invent or to raise. The other party are employed in spreading a report most industriously, that the lord treasurer intends, after the peace, to declare for the whigs. They have spread it in Scotland, to prepare people for the next election; and Mr. Annesly told me the other day at my lord steward's, that he had heard I writ the same to my friends in Ireland; which, as it is wholly without ground, so the fact is what I never had the least belief of, although your lordship is somewhat of his grace's mind, in not refusing to converse with his greatest enemies: and therefore he is censured, as you say you are, upon the same account. And to those who charge him with it (as some are free enough to do it) he only says, his friends ought to trust him; and I have some reason to believe, that after a peace, the direct contrary will appear. For my own part, I entirely agree with your grace, that a free man ought not to confine his converse to any one party; neither would I do so, if I were free; but I am not, and perhaps much less is a great minister in such a juncture as this. Among many qualities I have observed in the treasurer, there is one which is something singular, that he will be under an imputation, how wrong soever, without the pains of clearing himself to his nearest friends, which is owing to great integrity, great courage, or great contempt of censure. I know he has abundance of the two last, and I believe he has the first.
Your grace's observations on the French dexterity in negotiation, as well as their ill faith, are certainly right; but let both be as great as possible, we must treat with them one time or other; and if ministers will not be upon their guard against such notorious managers, they are altogether inexcusable. But I do assure your grace, that as it has fallen in my way to know more of the steps of this whole treaty, than perhaps any one man beside, I cannot see that any thing in the power of human prudence, under many difficult conjunctures, has been omitted. We have been forced to conceal the best side, which I agree has been unfortunate and unpopular; but you will please to consider, that this way of every subject interposing their sentiments upon the management of foreign negotiations, is a very new thing among us: and the suffering it has been thought, in the opinion of wise men, too great a strain upon the prerogative; especially giving a detail of particulars, which, in the variety of events, cannot be ascertained during the course of a treaty. — I could easily answer the objection of your grace's friends in relation to the Dutch, and why they made those diffculties at the Hague and Gertruydenberg. And when the whole story of these two last intriguing years comes to be published, the world will have other notions of our proceedings. This perhaps will not be long untold, and might already have been, if other people had been no wiser than I. After all, my lord, I grant that from a distant view of things, abundance of objections may be raised against many parts of our conduct. But the difficulties which gave room to these objections are not seen, and perhaps some of them will never appear; neither may it be convenient they should. If in the end it appears that we have made a good bargain for you, we hope you will take it without entering too nicely into the circumstances. I will not undertake to defend our proceedings against any man who will not allow this postulatum, that it was impossible to carry on the war any longer; which, whoever denies, either has not examined the state of the nation with respect to its debts, or denies it from the spirit of party. When a friend of mine objected this to lord Nottingham, he freely confessed it was a thing he had never considered. But, however, he would be against any peace without Spain; and why? because he was not privy seal. But then, why does he vote with the whigs in every thing else, although peace has no concern? because he was not privy seal. I hope, my lord, we shall in time unriddle you many a dark problem; and let you see that faction, rage, rebellion, revenge, and ambition, were deeply rooted in the hearts of those who have been the great obstructors of the queen's measures, and of the kingdom's happiness; and if I am not mistaken, such a scene may open, as will leave the present age, and posterity, little room to doubt who were the real friends, and real enemies of their country. At the same time, I know nothing is so rash as predicting upon the events of publick councils; and I see many accidents very possible to happen which may soon defeat all my wise conjectures.
I am, my lord,
your grace's most dutiful
and most humble obedient servant.