The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 3

LONDON, JUNE 10, 1708.

I SENT your grace a long letter several weeks ago, enclosed in one to the dean[1]. I know not whether it came to your hands, having not since been honoured with your commands. I believe I told your grace, that I was directly advised by my lord Sunderland, my lord Somers, Mr. Southwell, and others, to apply to my lord treasurer[2], in behalf of the clergy of Ireland; and lord Sunderland undertook to bring me to lord treasurer, which was put off for some time on account of the invasion. For, it is the method here of great ministers, when any publick matter is in hand, to make it an excuse for putting off all private application, I deferred it some time longer, because I had a mind my lord Sunderland should go along with me; but either the one or the other was always busy, or out of the way; however, his lordship had prepared lord treasurer, and engaged him (as he assured me) to think well of the matter; and the other day lord treasurer appointed me to attend him. He took me into a private room, and I told him my story; that I was commanded by your grace, and desired by some other bishops, to use what little credit I had, to solicit (under the direction of my lord lieutenant) the remitting of the first fruits; which, from the favourable representation of his lordship to the queen about four years ago, the clergy were encouraged to hope would be granted: that I had been told it might be of use, if some person could be admitted to his presence, at his usual times of being attended, in order to put him in mind; for the rest, they relied entirely on his excellency's good office, and his lordship's dispositions to favour the church. He said, in answer, he was passive in this business: that he supposed my lord lieutenant would engage in it, to whom, if I pleased, he would repeat what I had said. I replied, I had the honour of being well known to his excellency; that I intended to ask his leave to solicit this matter with his lordship, but had not mentioned it yet, because I did not know whether I had credit enough to gain that access he was now pleased to honour me with: that upon his lordship's leave to attend him, signified to me by the earl of Sunderland, I went to inform his excellency, not doubting his consent; but did not find him at home, and therefore ventured to come: but, not knowing how his excellency might understand it, I begged his lordship to say nothing to my lord lieutenant, until I had the honour to wait on him again. This my lord treasurer agreed to, and entering on the subject, told me, that since the queen's grant of the first fruits here, he was confident, not one clergyman in England was a shilling the better. I told him, I thought it lay under some incumbrances; he said, it was true; but besides, that it was wholly abused in the distribution; that as to those in Ireland, they were an inconsiderable thing, not above 1000l. or 1200l. a year, which was almost nothing for the queen to grant, upon two conditions: First, That it should be well disposed of: And, secondly, That it should be well received, with due acknowledgments; in which cases he would give his consent: otherwise, to deal freely with me, he never would. I said, as to the first, that I was confident the bishops would leave the methods of disposing it entirely to her majesty's breast; as to the second, her majesty and his lordship might count upon all the acknowledgments that the most grateful and dutiful subjects could pay to a prince. That I had the misfortune to be altogether unknown to his lordship, else I should presume to ask him, whether he understood any particular acknowledgments? He replied, By acknowledgments, I do not mean any thing under their hands; but I will so far explain myself to tell you, I mean better acknowledgments than those of the clergy of England. I then begged his lordship to give me his advice, what sort of acknowledgements he thought fittest for the clergy to make, which I was sure would be of mighty weight with them. He answered, I can only say again, such acknowledgments as they ought. We had some other discourse of less moment; and after license to attend him on occasion, I took my leave. I tell your grace these particulars in his very words, as near as I can recollect, because I think them of moment, and I believe your grace may think them so too. I told Southwell all that had passed, and we agreed in our comments, of which I desired him now to inform you. He set out for Ireland this morning: I am resolved to see my lord Sunderland in a day or two, and relate what my lord treasurer said, as he has commanded me to do; and perhaps I may prevail on him to let me know his lordship's meaning, to which I am prepared to answer, as Mr. Southwell will let you know. At evening, the same day, I attended my lord lieutenant, and desired to know what progress he had made; and at the same time, proposed, that he would give me leave to attend lord treasurer, only as a common solicitor, to refresh his memory. I was very much surprised at his answer, that the matter was not before the treasurer, but entirely with the queen, and therefore it was needless; upon which I said nothing of having been there. He said, he had writ lately to your grace an account of what was done; that some progress was made; that they put it off because it was a time of war, but that he had some hopes it would be done: but this is only such an account as his excellency thinks fit to give, although I send it your grace by his orders. I hope that in his letters he is fuller. My lord treasurer on the other hand assured me, he had the papers (which his excellency denied) and talked of it as a matter that had long lain before him, which several persons in great employments assure me is and must be true. Thus your grace sees that I shall have nothing more to do in this matter, farther than pursuing the cold scent of asking his excellency, once a month how it goes on; which, I think, I had as good forbear, since it will turn to little account. All I can do is, to engage my lord Sunderland's interest with my lord treasurer, whenever it is brought before him; or to hint it to some other persons of power and credit; and likewise to endeavour to take off that scandal the clergy of Ireland lie under, of being the reverse of what they really are, with respect to the revolution, loyalty to the queen, and settlement of the crown; which is here the construction of the word tory.

I design to tell my lord treasurer, that, this being a matter my lord lieutenant has undertaken, he does not think proper I should trouble his lordship; after which, recommending it to his goodness, I shall forbear any farther mention. I am sensible how lame and tedious an account this is, and humbly beg your grace's pardon; but I still insist, that if it had been solicited four years ago by no abler a hand than my own, while the duke of Ormond was in Ireland, it might have been done in a month; and I believe it may be so still, if his excellency lays any weight of his credit upon it; otherwise, God knows when. For myself, I have nothing more to do here but to attend my lord lieutenant's motions, of whose return we are very uncertain, and to manage some personal affairs of my own. I beg the continuance of your grace's favour, and your blessing; and am, with all respect,

Your grace's most obedient, &c.