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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From William King to Jonathan Swift - 14

DUBLIN, MAY 15, 1711.

I HAD the favour of your's of the 10th instant, by the last packets, and cannot return you sufficient acknowledgment for your kind and prudent management of that affair so much to my advantage. I confess that I did not much fear that such a vile report would do me any great injury with Mr. Harley; for I was persuaded he is too wise to believe such an incredible story. But the publishing it to the world might have influenced some to my disadvantage; and no man can be well pleased to be the subject of a libel, though it often happens to be the fate of honest men.

I doubt not but you will hear of an unlucky contest in the city of Dublin about their mayor. You may remember (I think while you were here, that is, in 1709) alderman Constantine, by a cabal, for so I must call it, lost his election; and a junior alderman, one Forrest, was elected mayor for the ensuing year. Constantine petitioned the council board not to approve the election; for you must know, by the new rules, settled in pursuance of an act of parliament for the better regulation of corporations, their chief officers must be approved of by the governor and council after they are elected, before they can enter into any of their respective offices; and if not approved of in ten days, the corporation that chose them must go to a new election. Now, alderman Constantine, upon the corporation's return of Forrest, complained of it as wrong, and desired to be heard by counsel; but my lord Wharton, then lord lieutenant, would not admit it. This past on to the year 1710, and then the present mayor was chosen, alderman Eccles, another junior alderman; and this year one alderman Barlow, a tailor, another junior. Constantine, finding the government altered, supposed he should have more favour, and petitions again of the wrong done him. The city replied, and we had two long hearings. The matter depended on an old by-law, made about the 12th of queen Elizabeth; by which the aldermen, according to their ancientry, are required to keep their mayoralty, notwithstanding any licenses or orders to the contrary. Several dispensations and instances of contrary practices were produced; but with a salvo, that the law of succession should stand good; and some aldermen, as appeared, had been disfranchised for not submitting to it, and holding in their mayoralty. On the contrary, it was urged, that this rule was made in a time when the mayoralty was looked upon as a great burden, and the senior aldermen got licenses from serving it, and by faction and interest got it put on the junior and poorer; and most of the aldermen were then papists, and being obliged, on accepting the office, to take the oath of supremacy, and come to church, they declined it: but the case was now altered, and most were ambitious of it; and a rule or by-law, that imposed it as a duty and burden, must be understood to oblige them to take it, but could not oblige the electors to put it on them; that it was often dispensed with, and, as alleged, altogether abrogated by the new rules, that took the election out of the city, where the charter places it, and gave it to the aldermen only: that since those rules, which were made in 1672, the elections have been in another manner, and in about 36 mayors, eight or nine were junior aldermen. On the whole, the matter seemed to me to hang on a most slender point; and being archbishop of Dublin, I thought I was obliged to be for the city; but the majority was for the by-law, and disapproved alderman Barlow, who was returned for mayor. I did foresee that this would beget ill blood, and did not think it for my lord duke of Ormond's interest to clash with the city; and I went to several of his grace's friends, whom I much trust, before the debate in council, and desired them to consider the matter, and laid the inconveniency I apprehended before them, and desired them to take notice, that I had warned them; but they told me, that they did not foresee any hurt it would be to his grace. And I pray God it may not; though I am afraid it may give him some trouble.

The citizens have taken it heinously; and, as I hear, met to day, and in common council repealed the by-law, and have chosen alderman Barlow again. I think them wrong in both, and a declaration of enmity against the council and government, which feud is easier begun than laid. It is certain the council must disapprove their choice, it being against the new rules, as well as good manners: and what other steps will be made to correct them, I cannot say; whereas, if they had appointed a committee to view and report what old obsolete by-laws were become inconvenient, and repealed this among the rest, it would not have given offence; and if they had chosen another instead of Barlow, I believe he would have been approved, and there had been an end of the contest.

You must know this is made a party affair, as Constantine sets up for a high churchman, which I never heard he did before: but this is an inconveniency in parties, that whoever has a private quarrel, and finds himself too weak, he immediately becomes a zealous partizan, and makes his private a publick quarrel.

Perhaps it may not be ungrateful, nor perhaps altogether useless to you, to know the truth of this matter; for I imagine it will be talked of.

I believe the generality of the citizens and gentlemen of Ireland are looked on as friends to the whiggish interest. But, it is only so far as to keep out the pretender, whom they mortally fear with good reason; and so many villanous papers have been spread here, and so much pains taken to persuade them that the tories design to bring him in, that it is no wonder they are afraid of them; but God be thanked, this ministry and parliament has pretty well allayed that fear, by their steady and prudent management. And if his grace the duke of Ormond prosecutes the same measures the ministry does in Britain (as I believe he will) I persuade myself, that the generality here will be as zealous for this as any ministry we ever had.

The death of the earl of Rochester is a great blow to all good men, and even his enemies cannot but do justice to his character. What influence it will have on publick affairs, God only knows. I pray let me have your thoughts on it, for I have some fears, that I do not find affect other people: I was of opinion that he contributed much to keep things steady; and I wish his friends may not want his influence. I conclude with my prayers for you.