The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Jonathan Swift to Francis Grant - 1
I RETURN you my hearty thanks for your letter, and discourse upon the fishery: you discover, in both, a true love of your country, and (excepting your civilities to me) a very good judgment, good wishes to this ruined kingdom, and a perfect knowledge in the subject you treat. But you are more temperate than I, and consequently much wiser: for corruptions are apt to make me impatient, and give offence, which you prudently avoid.
The last lord Wemys told me, he was governor of a castle in Scotland near which the Dutch used to fish: he sent to them, in a civil manner, to desire they would send him some fish, which they brutishly refused; whereupon he ordered three or four cannon to be discharged from the castle, (for their boats were in reach of the shot;) and, immediately, they sent him more than he wanted.
The Dutch are like a knot of sharpers among a parcel of honest gentlemen, who think they understand play, and are bubbled of their money. I love them for the love they have to their country; which, however, is no virtue in them, because it is their private interest, which is directly contrary in England. In the queen's time, I did often press the lord treasurer Oxford, and others of the ministry, upon this very subject; but the answer was, "We must not offend the Dutch;" who, at that very time, were opposing us in all our steps toward a peace. I laughed to see the zeal that ministry had about the fishing at Newfoundland, (I think) while no care was taken against the Dutch fishing just at our doors.
As to my native country, I happened indeed, by a perfect accident, to be born here, my mother being left here from returning to her house at Leicester, and I was a year old before I was sent to England: and thus I am a Teague, or an Irishman, or what people please, although the best part of my life was in England.
What I did for this country was from perfect hatred of tyranny and oppression, for which I had a proclamation against me of 300l. which my old friend my lord Carteret was forced to consent to, the very first or second night of his arrival hither. The crime was that of writing against a project of one Wood, an ironmonger, to coin 100,000l. in halfpence, not worth a sixth part of the money, which was laid before the people in so plain a manner, that they all refused it; and so the nation was preserved from immediate ruin.
I have done some smaller services to this kingdom, but I can do no more. I have too many years upon me, and have too much sickness. I am out of favour at court, where I was well received, during two summers, six and seven years ago. The governing people here do not love me. For as corrupt as England is, it is a habitation of saints in comparison of Ireland. We are sl—s, and kn—s, and fools; and all, but bishops and people in employments, beggars. The cash of Ireland does not amount to 200,000l.: the few honest men among us are deadhearted, poor, and out of favour and power.
I talked to two or three gentlemen of this house of commons, now sitting here; and, mentioning your scheme, showed how very advantageous it would be to Ireland. They agreed with me; but said, that if such a thing were proposed, the members would all go out, as at a thing they had no concern in.
I believe the people of Lapland, or the Hottentots, are not so miserable a people as we; for oppression, supported by power, will infallibly introduce slavish principles. I am afraid that, even in England, your proposal will come to nothing. There is not virtue enough left among mankind. If your scheme should pass into an act, it will become a job: your sanguine temper will cool: r——s will be the only gainers. Party and faction will intermingle, and defeat the most essential parts of the whole design. Standing armies, in times of peace; projects of excise, and bribing at elections, are all you are like to be employed in; not forgetting septennial parliaments, directly against the old whig principles, which always have been mine.
A gentleman of this kingdom, about three years ago, joined with some others in a fishery here, in the northern parts: they advanced 200l. by way of trial: they got men from Orkney to cure their fish, who understood it well. But the vulgar folks of Ireland are so lazy and so knavish, that it turned to no account, nor would any body join with them: and so the matter fell, and they lost two thirds of their money. Oppressed beggars are always knaves; and, I believe, there hardly are any other among us. They had rather gain a shilling by knavery, than five pounds by honest dealing. They lost 30,000l. a year for ever in the time of the plague at Marseilles, when the Spaniards would have bought all their linen from Ireland: but the merchants and the weavers sent over such abominable linen, that it was all returned back, or sold for a fourth part of the value. This is our condition, which you may please to pity, but never can mend. I wish you good success with all my heart. I have always loved good projects, but have always found them to miscarry. I am, sir, with true esteem for your good intentions,
Your most obedient servant.
P. P. I would subscribe my name, if I had not a very bad one; so I leave you to guess it. If I can be of any service to you in this kingdom, I shall be glad you will employ me.