The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 3/The Examiner, Number 39


THURSDAY, MAY 3, 1711.

Quis tulerit Gracchos de seditione querentes?

——— in vain

The Gracchi of sedition will complain.

THERE have been certain topicks of reproach liberally bestowed, for some years past, by the whigs and tories, upon each other. We charge the former, with a design of destroying the established church, and introducing fanaticism and freethinking in its stead. We accuse them as enemies to monarchy; as endeavouring to undermine the present form of government, and to build a commonwealth, or some new scheme of their own, upon its ruins. On the other side, their clamours against us may be summed up in those three formidable words, Popery, Arbitrary Power, and the Pretender. Our accusations against them we endeavour to make good by certain overt acts; such as their perpetually abusing the whole body of the clergy; their declared contempt for the very order of priesthood; their aversion against episcopacy; the publick encouragement and patronage they give to Tindal, Toland, and other atheistical writers; their appearing as professed advocates retained by the dissenters, excusing their separation, and laying the guilt of it to the obstinacy of the church; their frequent endeavours to repeal the test, and their setting up the indulgence to scrupulous consciences, as a point of greater importance than the established worship. The regard they bear to our monarchy, has appeared, by their openly ridiculing the martyrdom of king Charles I in their calves-head clubs, their common discourses, and their pamphlets; their denying the unnatural war raised against that prince, to have been a rebellion; their justifying his murder in the allowed papers of the week; their industry in publishing and spreading seditious and republican tracts, such as Ludlow's Memoirs, Sidney of Government, and many others; their endless lopping of the prerogative, and mincing into nothing her majesty's titles to the crown.

What proofs they bring for our endeavouring to introduce popery, arbitrary power, and the pretender, I cannot readily tell, and would be glad to hear: however, those important words having, by dextrous management, been found of mighty service to their cause, although applied with little colour either of reason or justice; I have been considering, whether they may not be adapted to more proper objects.

As to popery, which is the first of these; to deal plainly, I can hardly think there is any set of men among us, except the professors of it, who have any direct intention to introduce it here; but the question is, whether the principles and practices of us, or the whigs, be most likely to make way for it? It is allowed on all hands, that among the methods concerted at Rome, for bringing over England into the bosom of the catholick church, one of the chief was to send jesuits, and other emissaries, in lay habits; who, personating tradesmen and mechanicks, should mix with the people, and under the pretence of a farther and purer reformation, endeavour to divide us into as many sects as possible; which would either put us under the necessity of returning to our old errours, to preserve peace at home; or, by our divisions, make way for some powerful neighbour, with the assistance of the pope's permission, and a consecrated banner, to convert and enslave us at once. If this has been reckoned good politicks, (and it was the best the jesuit schools could invent) I appeal to any man, whether the whigs, for many years past, have not been employed in the very same work? They professed on all occasions, that they knew no reason why any one system of speculative opinions (as they term the doctrines of the church) should be established by law, more than another; or why employments should be confined to the religion of the magistrate, and that called the church established. The grand maxim they laid down was, that no man, for the sake of a few notions and ceremonies, under the names of doctrine and discipline, should be denied the liberty of serving his country: as if places would go a begging unless brownists, familists, sweet-singers, quakers, anabaptists, and muggletonians, would take them off our hands.

I have been sometimes imagining this scheme brought to perfection, and how diverting it would be to see half a dozen sweet-singers on the bench in their ermines, and two or three quakers with their white staves at court. I can only say, this project is the very counterpart of the late king James's design, which he took up as the best method for introducing his own religion, under the pretext of a universal liberty of conscience, and that no difference in religion should make any in his favour. Accordingly, to save appearances, he dealt some employments among dissenters of most denominations; and what he did was no doubt, in pursuance of the best advice he could get at home or abroad; but the church thought it the most dangerous step he could take for her destruction. It is true king James admitted papists among the rest, which the whigs would not: but this is sufficiently made up by a material circumstance, wherein they seem to have much out-done that prince, and to have carried their liberty of conscience to a higher point, having granted it to all the classes of freethinkers, (which the nice conscience of a popish prince would not give him leave to do) and were therein mightily overseen; because it is agreed by the learned, that there is but a very narrow step from atheism, to the other extreme, superstition. So that upon the whole, whether the whigs had any real design of bringing in popery or not, it is very plain that they took the most effectual step toward it; and if the jesuits had been their immediate directors, they could not have taught them better, nor have found apter scholars.

Their second accusation is, that we encourage and maintain arbitrary power in princes; and promote enslaving doctrines among the people. This they go about to prove by instances; producing the particular opinions of certain divines in king Charles II's reign, a decree of Oxford university, and some few writers since the revolution. What they mean is the principle of passive obedience and nonresistance, which those who affirm, did I believe never intend should include arbitrary power. However, although I am sensible that it is not reckoned prudent in a dispute to make any concessions, without the last necessity; yet I do agree, that in my own private opinion, some writers did carry that tenet of passive obedience to a height, which seemed hardly consistent with the liberties of a country, whose laws can neither be enacted nor repealed, without the consent of the whole people: I mean not those, who affirm it due in general, as it certainly is, to the legislature; but such as fix it entirely in the prince's person. This last has, I believe, been done by a very few; but when the whigs quote authors to prove it upon us, they bring in all who mention it as a duty in general, without applying it to princes abstracted from their senate.

By thus freely declaring my own sentiments of passive obedience, it will at least appear that I do not write for a party; neither do I upon any occasion pretend to speak their sentiments, but my own. The majority of the two houses, and the present ministry (if those be a party) seem to me in all their proceedings to pursue the real interest of church and state; and if I should happen to differ from particular persons among them, in a single notion about government, I suppose they will not upon that account explode me and my paper. However, as an answer, once for all, to the tedious scurrilities of those idle people, who affirm I am hired and directed what to write, I must here inform them, that their censure is an effect of their principles. The present ministry are under no necessity of employing prostitute pens; they have no dark designs to promote by advancing heterodox opinions.

But (to return) suppose two or three private divines under king Charles the second, did a little overstrain the doctrine of passive obedience to princes; some allowance might be given to the memory of that unnatural rebellion against his father, and the dismal consequences of resistance. It is plain, by the proceedings of the churchmen before and at the Revolution, that this doctrine was never designed to introduce arbitrary power.

I look upon the whigs and dissenters to be exactly of the same political faith; let us therefore see, what share each of them had in advancing arbitrary power. It is manifest, that the fanaticks made Cromwell the most absolute tyrant in Christendom. The rump abolished the house of lords, the army abolished the rump, and by this army of saints he governed. The dissenters took liberty of conscience and employments from the late king James, as an acknowledgment of his dispensing power; which makes a king of England as absolute as the Turk. The whigs, under the late king, perpetually declared for keeping up a standing army in times of peace; which has, in all ages, been the first and great step to the ruin of liberty. They were besides discovering every day their inclinations to destroy the rights of the church, and declared their opinion in all companies against the bishops sitting in the house of peers; which was exactly copying after their predecessors of 1641. I need not say, their real intentions were to make the king absolute; but whatever be the designs of innovating men, they usually end in a tyranny; as we may see by a hundred examples in Greece, and in the later commonwealths of Italy mentioned by Machiavel.

In the third place, the whigs accuse us of a design to bring in the pretender; and to give it a greater air of probability, they suppose the queen to be a party in this design; which, however, is no very extraordinary supposition in those, who have advanced such singular paradoxes concerning Greg and Guiscard. Upon this article their charge is general, without ever offering to produce an instance. But I verily think and believe, it will appear no paradox, that if ever he be brought in, the whigs are his men. For first, it is an undoubted truth, that a year or two after the Revolution, several leaders of that party had their pardons sent them by the late king James; and had entered upon measures to restore him, on account of some disobligation they received from king William. Besides, I would ask, whether those who were under the greatest ties of gratitude to king James, are not at this day become the most zealous whigs? and of what party those are now, who kept a long correspondence with St. Germains?

It is likewise very observable of late, that the whigs, upon all occasions, profess their belief of the pretender's being no impostor, but a real prince, born of the late queen's body; which, whether it be true or false, is very unseasonably advanced, considering the weight such an opinion must have with the vulgar, if they once thoroughly believe it. Neither is it at ail improbable, that the pretender himself puts his chief hopes in the friendship he expects from the dissenters and whigs, by his choice to invade the kingdom, when the latter were most in credit; and he had reason to count upon the former, from the gracious treatment they received from his supposed father, and their joyful acceptance of it. But farther, what could be more consistent with the whiggish notion of a revolution principle, than to bring in the pretender? A revolution principle, as their writings and dscourses have taught us to define it, is a principle perpetually disposing men to revolutions; and this is suitable to the famous saying of a great whig, that the more revolutions the better; which, how odd a maxim soever in appearance, I take to be the true characteristick of the party.

A dog loves to turn round often; yet after certain revolutions he lies down to rest: but heads under the dominion of the moon, are for perpetual changes, and perpetual revolutions: besides, the whigs owe all their wealth to wars and revolutions; like the girl at Bartholomew fair, who gets a penny by turning round a hundred times with swords in her hands.

To conclude, the whigs have a natural faculty of bringing in pretenders, and will therefore probably endeavour to bring in the great one at last. How many pretenders to wit, honour, nobility, politicks, have they brought in these last twenty years; In short, they have been sometimes able to procure a majority of pretenders in parliament; and wanted nothing to render the work complete, except a pretender at their head.