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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Jonathan Swift to John Barber - 1

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 13

MARCH 30, 1737.

YOU will read the character of the bearer, Mr. Lloyd, which he will deliver to you, signed by the magistrates and chief inhabitants of Coleraine. It seems, your society has raised the rents in that town, and of your lands about it, within three years past, to four times the value of what the tenants formerly paid; which is beyond what I have ever heard, even among the most screwing landlords of this kingdom: and the consequence has already been, that many of your tenants in that town, and the lands about it, are preparing for the plantations of America, for the same reasons that are driving some thousands of families in the north to the same plantations: I mean, the oppression of landlords. My dear friend, you are to consider, that no society can, or ought, in prudence or justice, let their lands at so high a rate as a squire, who lives upon his estate, and is able to distrain at an hour's warning. All bodies corporate must give easy bargains, so as to be ready to pay all the incident charges to which they are subject. Thus bishops, deans, and chapters, as well as other corporations, seldom or never let their lands even so high as half the value: and when they raise those rents which are unreasonably low, it is by degrees. I have instances of this conduct in my own practice, as well as that of my chapter; although my own lands, as dean, are let four-fifths under their value. On the other side, there is no reason why an honourable society should rent their estate for a trifle. And therefore I told Mr. Lloyd my opinion, "That, if you could be prevailed on just to double the rent, and no more, I hoped the tenants might be able to live in a tolerable manner." For, I am as much convinced as I can be of any thing human, that this wretched oppressed country must necessarily decline for ever. If, by a miracle, things should mend, you may, in a future renewal, make a moderate increase of rent; but not by such leaps as you are now taking: for, you ought to remember the fable of the hen, who laid every second day a golden egg; upon which, her mistress killed her, to get the whole lump together. I am told, that one condition in your charter is, to plant a colony of English in those parts. If that be so, you are too wise to let it be a colony of Irish beggars. I would not have said thus much in an affair, and about persons to whom I am a stranger, if I had not been long assured of the poor condition those people in and about Coleraine have lain under, since that enormous raising of their rents. The bearer, whom I never saw until yesterday, seems to be a gentleman of truth and good sense: yet, if he has misrepresented this matter to me, I shall never be his advocate again.

My health is very indifferent: spirits I have none left. I decline every day. I hope and hear it is better with you. May you live as long as you desire! for I have lost so many friends without getting any new, that I must keep you as a sample of the former. I am, my dear friend,

Yours, &c.