The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 3/The Examiner, Number 18
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, 1710.
Quippe ubi fas versum atque nefas; tot bella per orbem;
Tam multæ scelerum facies ——
Where sacred order fraud and force confound;
Where impious wars and tumults rage around.
I AM often violently tempted to let the world freely know, who the author of this paper is; to tell them my name and titles at length; which would prevent abundance of inconsistent criticisms I daily hear upon it. Those who are enemies to the notions and opinions I would advance, are sometimes apt to quarrel with the Examiner, as defective in point of wit, and sometimes of truth. At other times, they are so generous and candid to allow, it is written by a club, and that very great hands have fingers in it. As for those who only appear its adversaries in print, they give me but very little pain. The paper I hold, lies at my mercy, and I can govern it as I please; therefore, when I begin to find the wit too bright, the learning too deep, and the satire too keen for me to deal with, (a very frequent case, no doubt, where a man is constantly attacked by such shrewd adversaries) I peaceably fold it up, or fling it aside, and read no more. It would be happy for me to have the same power over people's tongues, and not be forced to hear my own work railed at, and commended, fifty times a day; affecting all the while a countenance wholly unconcerned, and joining, out of policy or good manners, with the judgment of both parties: this I confess, is too great a hardship for so bashful and unexperienced a writer.
But, alas, I lie under another discouragement of much more weight. I was very unfortunate in the choice of my party, when I set up to be a writer. Where is the merit, or what opportunity to discover our wit, our courage, or our learning, in drawing our pens for the defence of a cause, which the queen and both houses of parliament, and nine parts in ten of the kingdom, have so unanimously embraced? I am cruelly afraid, we politick authors must begin to lessen our expenses, and lie for the future at the mercy of our printers. All hopes are now gone of writing ourselves into places or pensions. A certain starveling author, who worked under the late administration, told me, with a heavy heart, about a month ago, that he, and some others of his brethren, had secretly offered their service, dog-cheap, to the present ministry, but were all refused; and are now maintained by contribution, like Jacobites or fanaticks. I have been of late employed, out of perfect commiseration, in doing them good offices: for, whereas some were of opinion, that these hungry zealots should not be suffered any longer, in their malapert way, to snarl at the present course of publick proceedings; and whereas others proposed, that they should be limited to a certain number, and permitted to write for their masters, in the same manner as counsel are assigned for other criminals, that is, to say all they can in defence of their client, but not reflect upon the court; I humbly gave my advice, that they should be suffered to write on, as they used to do; which I did purely out of regard to their persons; for I hoped it would keep them out of harm's way, and prevent them from falling into evil courses; which, though of little consequence to the publick, would certainly be fatal to themselves. If I have room at the bottom of this paper, I will transcribe a petition to the present ministry, sent me by one of these authors, in behalf of himself and fourscore others of his brethren.
For my own part, notwithstanding the little encouragement to be hoped for at this time from the men in power, I shall continue my paper, till either the world or myself grow weary of it: the latter is easily determined; and for the former, I shall not leave it to the partiality of either party, but to the infallible judgment of my printer. One principal end I designed by it, was, to undeceive those well-meaning people, who have been drawn unawares into a wrong sense of things, either by the common prejudices of education and company, the great personal qualities of some party leaders, or the foul misrepresentations that were constantly made of all, who durst differ from them in the smallest article. I have known such men struck with the thoughts of some late changes, which, as they pretend to think, were made without any reason visible to the world. In answer to this, it is not sufficient to allege, what nobody doubts, that a good and wise prince, may be allowed to change his ministers, without giving a reason to his subjects; because it is probable, that he will not make such a change, without very important reasons; and a good subject ought to suppose, that in such a case there are such reasons, although he be not apprised of them; otherwise he must inwardly tax his prince of capriciousness, inconstancy, or ill-design. Such reasons indeed may not be obvious to persons prejudiced, or at a great distance, or short thinkers; and therefore, if there be no secrets of state, nor any ill consequences to be apprehended from their publication, it is no uncommendable work in any private hand, to lay them open for the satisfaction of all men. And if what 1 have already said, or shall hereafter say, of this kind, be thought to reflect upon persons, although none have been named, I know not how it can possibly be avoided. The queen in her speech, mentions with great concern, that "the navy and other offices are burdened with heavy debts; and desires, that the like may be prevented for the time to come." And if it be now possible to prevent the continuance of an evil, that has been so long growing upon us, and is arrived to such a height; surely those corruptions and mismanagements must have been great, which first introduced them, before our taxes were eaten up by annuities.
If I were able to rip up, and discover in all their colours, only about eight or nine thousand of the most scandalous abuses, that have been committed in all parts of publick management, for twenty years past, by a certain set of men and their instruments, I should reckon it some service to my country and posterity. But, to say the truth, I should be glad the authors names were conveyed to future times, along with their actions. For although the present age may understand well enough the little hints we give, the parallels we draw, and the characters we describe; yet all this will be lost to the next. However, if these papers, reduced into a more durable form, should happen to live till our grand-children be men, I hope they may have curiosity enough to consult annals, and compare dates, in order to find out what names were then intrusted with the conduct of affairs, in the consequences whereof themselves will so deeply share; like a heavy debt in a private family, which often lies an incumbrance upon an estate for three generations.
But, leaving the care of informing posterity to better pens, I shall, with due regard to truth, discretion, and the safety of my person from the men of the new-fangled moderation, continue to take all proper opportunities of letting the misled part of the people see, how grossly they have been abused, and in what particulars. I shall also endeavour to convince them, that the present course we are in is the most probable means, with the blessing of God, to extricate ourselves out of all our difficulties.
Among those who are pleased to write or talk against this paper, I have observed a strange manner of reasoning, which I should be glad to hear them explain themselves upon. They make no ceremony of exclaiming, upon all occasions, against a change of ministry, in so critical and dangerous a conjuncture. What shall we, who heartily approve and join in those proceedings, say in defence of them? We own the juncture of affairs to be as they describe: we are pushed for an answer; and are forced at last freely to confess, that the corruptions and abuses in every branch of the administration, were so numerous and intolerable, that all things must have ended in ruin, without some speedy reformation. This I have already asserted in a former paper; and the replies I have read, or heard, have been in plain terms to affirm the direct contrary; and not only to defend and celebrate the late persons and proceedings, but to threaten me with law and vengeance, for casting reflections on so many great and honourable men, whose birth, virtue, and abilities, whose morals and religion, whose love of their country, and its constitution in church and state, were so universally allowed; and all this set off with odious comparisons, reflecting on the present choice: is not this, in plain and direct terms to tell all the world, that the queen has, in a most dangerous crisis, turned out a whole set of the best ministers that ever served a prince, without any manner of reason but her royal pleasure, and brought in others, of a character directly contrary? And how so vile an opinion as this, can consist with the least pretence to loyalty or good manners, let the world determine.
I confess myself so little a refiner in politicks, as not to be able to discover what other motive, beside obedience to the queen, a sense of public danger, and a true love of their country, joined with invincible courage, could spirit up those great men, who have now, under her majesty's authority, undertaken the direction of affairs. What can they expect, but the utmost efforts of malice, from a set of enraged domestic adversaries, perpetually watching over their conduct, crossing all their designs, and using every art to foment divisions among them, in order to join with the weakest, upon any rupture? The difficulties they must encounter, are nine times more and greater than ever; and the prospects of the interest, after the reapings and gleanings of so many years, nine times less. Every misfortune at home or abroad, although the necessary consequence of former counsels, will be imputed to them; and all the good success, given to the merit of former schemes. A sharper has held your cards all the evening, played booty, and lost your money; and when things are almost desperate, you employ an honest gentleman to retrieve your losses.
I would ask, whether the queen's speech does not contain her intentions, in every particular, relating to the publick, that a good subject, a Briton, and a protestant, can possibly have at heart? "To carry on the war in all its parts, particularly in Spain, with the utmost vigour, in order to procure a safe and honourable peace for us and our allies; to find some ways of paying the debts of the navy; to support and encourage the church of England; to preserve the British constitution according to the union; to maintain the indulgence by law allowed to scrupulous consciences; and to employ none but such as are for the protestant succession in the house of Hanover." It is known enough, that speeches on these occasions are ever digested by the advice of those, who are in the chief confidence; and consequently, that these are the sentiments of her majesty's ministers, as well as her own; and we see, the two houses have unanimously agreed with her in every article. When the least counterpaces are made to any of these resolutions, it will then be time enough for our malecontents to bawl out popery, persecution, arbitrary power, and the Pretender. In the mean while, it is a little hard to think, that this island can hold but six men, of honesty and ability enough to serve their prince and country; or that our safety should depend upon their credit, any more than it would upon the breath in their nostrils. Why should not a revolution in the ministry be sometimes necessary, as well as a revolution in the crown? It is to be presumed, the former, is at least as lawful in itself, and perhaps the experiment not quite so dangerous. The revolution of the sun about the earth, was formerly thought a necessary expedient to solve appearances, although it left many difficulties unanswered; until philosophers contrived a better, which is that of the earth's revolution about the sun. This is found, upon experience, to save much time and labour, to correct many irregular motions, and is better suited to the respect due from a planet to a fixed star.
- This mode of finishing a sentence with a preposition, which has prevailed in almost all our writings, is very reprehensible, as in general it may easily be avoided. Thus, in the above sentence, 'which I should be glad to hear them explain themselves upon,' if the arrangement were changed in this manner — 'upon which I should be glad to hear them explain themselves — how much better would the sentence close!