The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 3/The Examiner, Number 35



Nullo suo peccato impediantur, quo minus alterius peccata demonstrare possint.
No fault or crime in themselves, hinders them from searching into, and pointing out the faults of others.

I HAVE been considering the old constitution of this kingdom; comparing it with the monarchies and republicks whereof we meet so many accounts in ancient story, and with those at present in most parts of Europe. I have considered our religion, established here by the legislature soon after the Reformation. I have likewise examined the genius and disposition of the people under that reasonable freedom they possess. Then I have turned my reflections upon those two great divisions of whig and tory (which some way or other take in the whole kingdom) with the principles they both profess, as well as those wherewith they reproach one another. From all this, I endeavour to determine, from which side her present majesty may reasonably hope for most security to her person and government; and to which, she ought in prudence to trust the administration of her affairs. If these two rivals were really no more than parties, according to the common acceptation of the word, I should agree with those politicians, who think a prince descends from his dignity, by putting himself at the head of either; and that his wisest course is to keep them in a balance, raising or depressing either, as it best suits wdth his designs. But when the visible interest of his crown and kingdom lies on one side; and when the other is but a faction, raised and strengthened by incidents and intrigues, and by deceiving the people with false representations of things; he ought in prudence to take the first opportunity of opening his subjects eyes, and declaring himself in favour of those, who are for preserving the civil and religious rights of the nation, wherewith his own are so interwoven.

This was certainly our case: for I do not take the heads, advocates, and followers of the whigs to make up, strictly speaking, a national party; being patched up of heterogeneous, inconsistent parts, whom[1] nothing served to unite, but the common interest of sharing in the spoil and plunder of the people; the present dread of their adversaries, by whom they[2] apprehended to be called to an account; and that general conspiracy of endeavouring to overturn the church and state, which, however, if they could have compassed, they would certainly have fallen out among themselves, and broke in pieces, as their predecessors did after they destroyed the monarchy and religion. For, how could a whig, who is against all discipline, agree with a presbyterian, who carries it higher than the papists themselves? How could a socinian adjust his models to either? or how could any of these cement with a deist, or freethinker, when they came to consult upon points of faith? Neither would they have agreed better in their systems of government; where some would have been for a king under the limitations of a duke of Venice; others for a Dutch republic; a third party for an aristocracy; and most of all for some new fabrick of their own contriving.

But, however, let us consider them as a party, and under those general tenets wherein they agreed, and which they publickly owned, without charging them with any that they pretend to deny. Then, let us examine those principles of the tories, which their adversaries allow them to profess, and do not pretend to tax them with any actions contrary to those professions: after which, let the reader judge which of these two parties a prince has most to fear; and whether her majesty did not consider the ease, the safety, and dignity of her person, the security of her crown, and the transmission of monarchy to her protestant successors, when she put her affairs into the present hands.

Suppose the matter were now entire; the queen to make her choice; and for that end should order the principles on both sides to be fairly laid before her. First, I conceive the whigs would grant, that they have naturally no very great veneration for crowned heads; that they allow the person of the prince may, upon many occasions, be resisted by arms; and they do not condemn the war raised against king Charles the first, or own it to be a rebellion, although they would be thought to blame his murder. They do not think the prerogative to be yet sufficiently limited; and have therefore taken care (as a particular mark of their veneration for the illustrious house of Hanover) to clip it still closer against the next reign; which, consequently, they would be glad to see done in the present: not to mention, that the majority of them, if it were put to the vote, would allow that they prefer a commonwealth before a monarchy. As to religion; their universal undisputed maxim is, that it ought to make no distinction at all among protestants; and in the word protestant, they include every body who is not a papist, and who will by an oath give security to the government. Union in discipline and doctrine, the offensive sin of schism, the notion of a church and a hierachy, they laugh at, as foppery, cant, and priestcraft. They see no necessity at all that there should be a national faith; and what we usually call by that name, they only style the religion of the magistrate. Since the dissenters and we agree in the main, why should the difference of a few speculative points, or modes of dress, incapacitate them from serving their prince and country, in a juncture, when we ought to have all hands up against the common enemy? and why should they be forced to take the sacrament from our clergy's hands, and in our posture; or indeed why compelled to receive it at all, when they take an employment which has nothing to do with religion?

These are the notions which most of that party avow, and which they do not endeavour to disguise or set off with false colours, or complain of being misrepresented about. I have here placed them on purpose in the same light, which themselves do in the very apologies they make for what we accuse them of; and how inviting even these doctrines are for such a monarch to close with, as our law both statute and common understands a king of England to be, let others decide. But then, if to these we should add other opinions, which most of their own writers justify, and which their universal practice has given a sanction to; they are no more than what a prince might reasonably expect, as the natural consequence of those avowed principles. For, when such persons are at the head of affairs, the low opinion they have of princes will certainly lead them to violate that respect they ought to bear[3]; and at the same time their own want of duty to their sovereign, is largely made up, by exacting greater submissions to themselves, from their fellow-subjects; it being indisputably true, that the same principle of pride and ambition makes a man treat his equals with insolence, in the same proportion, as he affronts his superiours; as both prince and people have sufficiently felt from the late ministry.

Then, from their confessed notions of religion, as above related, I see no reason to wonder, why they countenanced not only all sorts of dissenters, but the several gradations of freethinkers among us, all which are openly enrolled in their party; nor why they were so averse from the present established form of worship, which, by prescribing obedience to princes from the topick of conscience, would be sure to thwart all their schemes of innovation.

One thing I might add, as another acknowledged maxim in that party, and in my opinion as dangerous to the constitution as any I have mentioned; I mean, that of preferring on all occasions the monied interest before the landed; which they were so far from denying, that they would gravely debate the reasonableness and justice of it; and at the rate they went on, might in a little time have found a majority of representatives, fitly qualified to lay those heavy burdens on the rest of the nation, which themselves would not touch with one of their fingers.

However, to deal impartially, there are some motives, which might compel a prince under the necessity of affairs to deliver himself over to that party. They were said to possess the great bulk of cash, and consequently of credit, in the nation; and the heads of them had the reputation of presiding over those societies, who have the great direction of both; so that all applications for loans to the publick service, upon any emergency, must be made through them; and it might prove highly dangerous to disoblige them, because in that case it was not to be doubted, that they would be obstinate and malicious, ready to obstruct all affairs, not only by shutting their own purses, but by endeavouring to sink credit, although with some present imaginary loss to themselves, only to show it was a creature of their own.

From this summary of whig principles and dispositions, we find what a prince may reasonably fear and hope from that party. Let us now very briefly consider the doctrines of the tories, which their adversaries will not dispute. As they prefer a well-regulated monarchy before all other forms of government, so they think it next to impossible to alter that institution here, without involving our whole island in blood and desolation. They believe that the prerogative of a sovereign, ought at least to be held as sacred and inviolable as the rights of his people; if only for this reason, because, without a due share of power, he will not be able to protect them. They think, that by many known laws of this realm, both statute and common, neither the person, nor lawful authority of the prince, ought upon any pretence whatsoever to be resisted or disobeyed. Their sentiments in relation to the church are known enough, and will not be controverted, being just the reverse to what I have delivered as the doctrine and practice of the whigs upon that article.

But here I must likewise deal impartially too; and add one principle as a characteristick of the tories, which has much discouraged some princes from making use of them in affairs. Give the whigs but power enough to insult their sovereign, engross his favours to themselves, and to oppress and plunder thier fellow subjects; they presently grow into good humour and good language toward the crown; profess they will stand by it with their lives and fortunes; and whatever rudenesses they may be guilty of in private, yet they assure the world that there never was so gracious a monarch. But to the shame of the tories it must be confessed, that nothing of all this has been ever observed in them; in or out of favour, you see no alteration, farther than a little cheerfulness or cloud in their countenances; the highest employments can add nothing to their loyalty; but their behaviour to their prince, as well as their expressions of love and duty, are in all conditions exactly the same.

Having thus impartially stated the avowed principle of whig and tory, let the reader determine as he pleases, to which of these two a wise prince may, with most safety to himself and the publick, trust his person and his affairs: and whether it were rashness or prudence in her majesty, to make those changes in the ministry, which have been so highly extolled by some, and condemned by others.

  1. Instead of whom it should have been which, as referring more immediately to parts.
  2. It should be 'by whom they apprehended they should be called to an account.'
  3. It should be 'they ought to bear them.'