The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 3/The Examiner, Number 37



Semper causæ eventorum magis movent quam ipsa eventa.

We are always more moved at the causes of events, than at the events themselves.

I AM glad to observe that several among the whigs have begun very much to change their language of late. The style is now among the reasonable part of them, when they meet a man in business, or a member of parliament; well, gentlemen, if you go on as you have hitherto done, we shall no longer have any pretence to complain: they find, it seems, that there have been yet no overtures made to bring in the pretender, nor any preparatory steps toward it. They read no enslaving votes, nor bills brought in to endanger the subject. The indulgence to scrupulous consciences is again confirmed from the throne, inviolably preserved, and not the least whisper offered that may affect it. All care is taken to support the war; supplies cheerfully granted, and funds readily subscribed to, in spight of the little arts made use of to discredit them. The just resentments of some, which are laudable in themselves, and to which, at another juncture, it might be proper to give way, have been softened or diverted by the calmness of others; so that, upon the article of present management, I do not see how any objection of weight can well be raised.

However, our adversaries still allege, that this great success was wholly unexpected, and out of all probable view; that in publick affairs we ought least of all others to judge by events; that the attempt of changing a ministry during the difficulties of a long war, was rash and inconsiderate; that if the queen were disposed, by her inclinations, or from any personal dislike, for such a change, it might have been done with more safety in a time of peace; that if it had miscarried by any of those incidents, which in all appearance might have intervened, the consequences would perhaps have ruined the whole confederacy; and therefore, however it has now succeeded, the experiment was too dangerous to try[1].

But this is what we can by no means allow them. We never will admit rashness, or chance, to have produced all this harmony and order. It is visible to the world, that the several steps toward this change were slowly taken, and with the utmost caution. The movers observed as they went on, how matters would bear; and advanced no farther at first, than so as they might be able to stop, or go back, if circumstances were not mature. Things were grown to such a height, that it was no longer the question, whether a person who aimed at an employment, were a whig or tory; much less, whether he had merit, or proper abilities, for what he pretended to: he must owe his preferment only to the favourites; and the crown was so far from nominating, that they would not allow it a negative. This the queen was resolved no longer to endure; and began to break into their prescription, by bestowing one or two places of consequence, without consulting her ephori, after they had fixed them for others, and concluded as usual, that all their business was to signify their pleasure to her majesty. But, although the persons the queen had chosen, were such, as no objection could well be raised against upon the score of party, yet the oligarchy took the alarm; their sovereign authority was, it seems, called in question; they grew into anger and discontent, as if their undoubted rights were violated. All former obligations to their sovereign now became cancelled; and they put themselves upon the foot of the people, who are hardly used after the most eminent services.

I believe all men, who know any thing in politicks, will agree, that a prince thus treated by those he has most confided in, and perpetually loaded with his favours, ought to extricate himself as soon as possible; and is then only blameable in his choice of time, when he defers one minute after it is in his power; because, from the monstrous encroachments of exorbitant avarice and ambition, he cannot tell how long it may continue to be so. And it will be found, upon inquiring into history, that most of those princes, who have been ruined by favourites, have owed their misfortune to the neglect of earlier remedies; deferring to struggle, until they were quite sunk.

The whigs are every day cursing the ungovernable rage, the haughty pride, and insatiable covetousness of a certain person, as the cause of their fall; and are apt to tell their thoughts, that one single removal might have set all things right. But the interests of that single person, were found, upon experience, so complicated and woven with the rest, by love, by awe, by marriage, by alliance, that they would rather confound Heaven and earth, than dissolve such a union.

I have always heard and understood, that a king of England, possessed of his peoples hearts, at the head of a free parliament, and in full agreement with a great majority, made the true figure in the world that such a monarch ought to do; and pursued the real interest of himself and his kingdom. Will they allow her majesty to be in those circumstances at present? and was it not plain, by the addresses sent from all parts of the island, and by the visible disposition of the people, that such a parliament would undoubtedly be chosen? And so it proved, without the court's using any arts to influence elections.

What people then are these in a corner, to whom the constitution must truckle? If the whole nation's credit cannot supply funds for the war, without humble applications from the entire legislature to a few retailers of money, it is high time we should sue for a peace. What new maxims are these, which neither we nor our forefathers ever heard of before, and which no wise institution would ever allow! must our laws from henceforward pass the Bank and East India company, or have their royal assent, before they are in force?

To hear some of those worthy reasoners talking of credit, that she is so nice, so squeamish, so capricious, you would think they were describing a lady troubled with vapours or the colick, to be removed only by a course of steel, or swallowing a bullet. By the narrowness of their thoughts, one would imagine they conceived the world to be no wider than Exchange alley. It is probable they may have such a sickly dame among them; and it is well if she has no worse diseases, considering what hands she passes through. But the national credit is of another complexion; of sound health, and an even temper; her life and existence being a quintessence drawn from the vitals of the whole kingdom: and we find these money politicians, after all their noise, to be of the same opinion, by the court they paid her, when she lately appeared to them in the form of a lottery.

As to that mighty errour in politicks they charge upon the queen, for changing her ministry in the height of a war, I suppose it is only looked upon as an errour under a whiggish administration: otherwise the late king had much to answer for, who did it pretty frequently. And it is well known, that the late ministry of famous memory, was brought in during the present war; only with this circumstance, that two or three of the chief did first change their own principles, and then took in suitable companions.

But, however, I see no reason why the tories should not value their wisdom by events, as well as the whigs. Nothing was ever thought a more precipitate, rash counsel, than that of altering the coin at the juncture it was done; yet the prudence of the undertaking was sufficiently justified by the success. Perhaps it will be said, that the attempt was necessary, because the whole species of money was so grievously clipped and counterfeit: and is not her majesty's authority as sacred as her coin? and has not that been most scandalously clipped and mangled, and often counterfeited too?

It is another grievous complaint of the whigs, that their late friends, and the whole party, are treated with abundance of severity in print, and in particular by the Examiner. They think it hard, that when they are wholly deprived of power, hated by the people, and out of all hope of establishing themselves, their infirmities should be so often displayed, in order to render them yet more odious to mankind. This is what they employ their writers to set forth in their papers of the week; and it is humourous enough to observe one page taken up in railing at the Examiner, for his invectives against a discarded ministry; and the other side filled with the falsest and vilest abuses, against those who are now in the highest power and credit with their sovereign, and whose least breath would scatter them in silence and obscurity. However, although I have indeed often wondered to see so much licentiousness taken and connived at, and am sure it would not be suffered in any other country of Christendom; yet I never once invoked the assistance of the gaol or pillory, which, upon the least provocation, was the usual style during their tyranny. There has not passed a week these twenty years, without some malicious paper scattered in every coffeehouse by the emissaries of that party, whether it were down or up. I believe they will not pretend to object the same thing to us: nor do I remember any constant weekly paper with reflections on the late ministry or junto. They have many weak defenceless parts; they have not been used to a regular attack: and therefore it is that they are so ill able to endure one, when it comes to be their turn; so that they complain more of a few months truths from us, than we did of all their scandal and malice for twice as many years.

I cannot forbear observing upon this occasion, that those worthy authors I am speaking of, seem to me not fairly to represent the sentiments of their party; who, in disputing with us, do generally give up several of the late ministry, and freely own many of their failings. They confess the monstrous debt upon the navy to have been caused by most scandalous mismanagement; they allow the insolence of some, the avarice of others, to have been insupportable: but these gentlemen are most liberal in their praises to those persons, and upon those very articles, where their wisest friends give up the point. They gravely tell us, that such a one was the most faithful servant that ever any prince had: another, the most dutiful; a third, the most generous; a fourth, of the greatest integrity: so that I look upon these champions rather as retained by a cabal than a party; which I desire the reasonable men among them would please to consider.

  1. It should be 'to be tried.'