The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 5/Remarks Upon a Letter to the Seven Lords of the Committee Appointed to Examine Gregg






THOSE who have given themselves the trouble to write against me, either in single papers or pamphlets, (and they are pretty numerous) do all agree in discovering a violent rage, and at the same time affecting an air of contempt toward their adversary; which, in my humble opinion, are not very consistent: and therefore it is plain, that their fury is real and hearty, their contempt only personated. I have pretty well studied this matter, and would caution writers of their standard, never to engage in that difficult attempt of despising; which is a work to be done in cold blood, and only by a superiour genius, to one at some distance beneath him. I can truly affirm, I have had a very sincere contempt for many of those who have drawn their pens against me; yet I rather chose the cheap way of discovering it by silence and neglect, than be at the pains of new terms to express it: I have known a lady value herself upon a haughty disdainful look, which very few understood, and nobody alive regarded. Those commonplace terms of infamous scribbler, prostitute libeller, and the like, thrown abroad without propriety or provocation, do ill personate the true spirit of contempt, because they are such as the meanest writer, whenever he pleases, may use toward the best. I remember indeed a parish fool, who, with a great deal of deformity, carried the most disdainful look I ever observed in any countenance: and it was the most prominent part of his folly; but he was thoroughly in earnest, which these writers are not: for there is another thing I would observe, that my antagonists are most of them so, in a literal sense; breathe real vengeance, and extend their threats to my person, if they knew where to find it; wherein they are so far from despising, that I am sensible they do me too much honour. The author of the Letter to the Seven Lords, takes upon him the three characters of a despiser, a threatener, and a railer; and succeeds so well in the two last, that it has made him miscarry in the first. It is no unwise proceeding, which the writers of that side have taken up, to scatter their menaces in every paper they publish; it may perhaps look absurd, ridiculous, and impudent, in people at mercy to assume such a style; but the design is right, to endeavour persuading the world that it is they who are the injured party, that they are the sufferers, and have a right to be angry.

However, there is one point, wherein these gentlemen seem to stretch this wise expedient, a little farther than it will allow. I, who for several months undertook to examine into the late management of persons and things, was content sometimes to give only a few hints of certain matters, which I had charity enough to wish might be buried for ever in oblivion, if the confidence of these people had not forced them from me. One instance whereof, among many, is the business of Gregg, the subject of a letter I am now considering. If this piece has been written by direction, as I should be apt to suspect; yet, I am confident, they would not have us think so, because it is a sort of challenge, to let the world into the whole secret of Gregg's affair. But I suppose they are confident, it is what I am not master of, wherein it is odds but they may be mistaken; for I believe the memorials of that transaction are better preserved, than they seem to be aware of, as perhaps may one day appear.

This writer is offended, because I have said so many severe things with application to particular persons. The Medley has been often in the same story: if they condemn it as a crime in general, I shall not much object; at least I will allow it should be done with truth and caution: but, by what argument will they undertake to prove that it is pardonable on one side, and not on the other? Since the late change of ministry, I have observed many of that party take up a new style, and tell us, "That this way of personal reflection ought not to be endured; they could not approve of it; it was against charity and good manners." When the whigs were in power, they took special care to keep their adversaries silent; then all kind of falsehood and scurrility was doing good service to the cause, and detecting evil principles. Now, that the face of things is changed, and we have liberty to retort upon them, they are for calling down fire from Heaven upon us; though, by a sort of indulgence which they were strangers to, we allow them equal liberty of the press with ourselves; and they even now make greater use of it, against persons in the highest power and credit, than we do against those who have been discarded, for the most infamous abuse of both.

Who encouraged and rewarded the Observator and Review, for many years together, in charging the whole body of the clergy with the most odious crimes and opinions; in declaring all who took oaths to the government, and called themselves tories, to be worse than papists and nonjurors; in exposing the universities, as seminaries of the most pernicious principles in church and state; in defending the rebellion, and the murder of king Charles I, which they asserted to be altogether as justifiable as the late revolution? Is there a great man now in power, or in any credit with the queen, whom those worthy undertakers have not treated, by name, in the most ignominious manner? Even since this great change of affairs, with what amazing licentiousness has the writer of the Medley attacked every person of the present ministry, the speaker of the house of commons, and the whole senate! He has turned into ridicule the results of the council and the parliament, as well as the just and generous endeavours of the latter, to pay the debts, and restore the credit of the nation, almost ruined by the corruption and management of his own party.

And are these the people who complain of personal reflections; who so confidently invoke the men in power (whom they have so highly obliged) to punish or silence me for reflecting on their exploded heroes? Is there no difference between men chosen by the prince, reverenced by the people for their virtue, and others rejected by both for the highest demerits? Shall the Medley and his brothers fly out with impunity against those who preside at the helm? and am I to be torn in pieces, because I censure others, who, for endeavouring to split the vessel against a rock, are put under the hatches?

I now proceed to the pamphlet which I intend to consider. It is a letter written to seven great men, who were appointed to examine Gregg in Newgate. The writer tells their lordships, that the Examiner has charged them with endeavouring, by bribery and subornation of that criminal, to take away Mr. Harley's life. If there be any thing among the papers I have writ, which may be applied to these persons, it would have become this author to have cleared them fully from the accusation, and then he might at leisure have fallen upon me as a liar and misrepresenter; but of that he has not offered a syllable: the weight of his charge lies here; that such an author as the Examiner, should presume, by certain innuendoes, to accuse any great persons of such a crime. My business, in those papers, was to represent facts; and I was as spaiing as possible of reflecting upon particular persons: but the mischief is, that the readers have always found names to tally with those facts; and I know no remedy for this. As for instance, in the case here before us. An under clerk in the secretary's office, of fifty pounds a year, is discovered to hold correspondence with France, and apprehended by his master's order, before he could have opportunity to make his escape by the private warning of a certain person, a professed enemy to the secretary. The criminal is condemned to die. It is found, upon his trial, that he was a poor profligate fellow: the secretary, at that time, was under the mortal hatred of a violent prevailing party, who dreaded him for his great abilities, and his avowed design to break their destructive measures.

It was very well known, that a secretary of state has little or no intercourse with the lower clerks, but with the under secretaries, who are the more immediate masters of those clerks, and are, and ought to be, as they then were, gentlemen of worth: however, it would pass well enough in the world, that Gregg was employed in Mr. secretary Harley's office, and was consequently one of his clerks, which would be ground enough to build upon it what suggestions they pleased. Then for the criminal, he was needy and vicious: he owed his death to the secretary's watchful pursuit of him, and would therefore probably incline to hearken to any offers that would save his life, gratify his revenge, and make him easy in his fortune: so that, if a work of darkness were to be done, it must be confessed, here were proper motives, and a proper instrument. But ought we to suspect any persons of such a diabolical practice? can all faith and honour and justice be thus violated by men? questions proper for a pulpit, or well becoming a philosopher: but what if it were regnandi causa, and that perhaps in a literal sense? Is this an age of the world to think crimes improbable because they are great? Perhaps it is; but what shall we say to some of those circumstances which attended this fact? who gave rise to this report against Mr. Harley? will any of his enemies confess, in cold blood, that they did either believe, suspect, or imagine, the secretary, and one of his under clerks, to be joined in corresponding with France? Some of them, I should think, knew better what belonged to such a correspondence, and how it ought to be managed. The nature of Gregg's crime was such, as to be best performed without any accomplices at all; it was, to be a spy here for the French, and to tell them all he knew; and it appears, by his letters, that he never had it in his power to let them into any thing of importance. The copy of the queen's letter to the emperor, which he sent to the enemy, and has made such a noise, was only to desire that prince Eugene might be employed to command in Spain; which, for six weeks before, had been mentioned in all the Gazettes of Europe. It was evident, from the matter of his letters, that no man of consequence could have any share in them. The whole affair had been examined in the cabinet two months before, and there found and reported as only affecting the person of Gregg, who, to supply his vices and his wants, was tempted to engage in that correspondence; it is therefore hard to conceive, how that examination should be resumed, after such a distance of time, with any fair or honourable intention. Why were not Gregg's examinations published, which were signed by his own hand, and had been taken in the cabinet two months before the committee of the house was appointed to reexamine him? why was he pressed so close, to cry out with horrour, "Good God! would you have me accuse Mr. Harley, when he is wholly innocent?" why were all the answers returned to the queries sent him, immediately burned? I cannot, in my conscience, but think that the party was bound in honour to procure Gregg a pardon, which was openly promised him, upon condition of making an ingenuous confession, unless they had some other notions of what is ingenuous, than is commonly meant by that word. A confession may be nevertheless ingenuous, for not answering the hopes or designs of those who take it: but, though the word was publickly used, the definition of it was reserved to private interpretation, and by a capricious humour of fortune, a most flagitious, though repenting villain, was hanged for his virtue. It could not indeed consist with any kind of prudence then in fashion, to spare his life; and thereby leave it in his power, at any time, to detect their practices, which he might afterward do at any time, with so much honour to himself.

But I have the luck to be accused by this author in very good company; the two houses of parliament in general, and the speaker of the house of commons in particular; whom he taxes with falsehood and absurdity, as well as myself, though in a more respectful manner, and by a sort of irony. The whole kingdom had given the same interpretation that I had done, to some certain passages in the address from both houses, upon the attempt of Guiscard; friends and enemies agreed in applying the word faction. But the speaker is much clearer; talks (as I have mentioned in another place) of some unparallelled attempts, and uses other terms that come pretty home to the point. As to what the parliament affirms, this author makes it first as absurd and impracticable as he can; and then pretends to yield, as pressed by so great an authority; and explains their meaning into nonsense, in order to bring them off from reflecting upon his party. Then for the speaker, this writer says, he is but a single man; and, because his speech was in words too direct to avoid[3], he advises him to save his honour and virtue, by owning a solecism in speech; and to write less correctly, rather than mean maliciously. What an expedient this advocate has found to remove the load of an accusation! He answers, "The crime is horrible; that great men ought not to be thus insolently charged." I reply, "That the parliament and speaker appear, in many points, to be of the same opinion." He rejoins, "That he is pressed by too great an authority; that perhaps those wise assemblies, and that honourable gentleman (who besides is but a single man) may probably speak nonsense; they must either deliver a solecism, or be malicious; and, in good manners, he rather thinks it may be the former."

The writer of the letter, having thus dispatched the Examiner, falls next upon a paper called Secret Transactions, &c. written, as he tells us, by one Francis Hoffman, and the ordinary of Newgate, persons whom I have not the honour to be known to, (whatever my betters may be) nor have yet seen their productions: but, by what is cited from them in the letter, it should seem, they have made some untoward observations; however, the same answer still serves: not a word to control what they say; only they are a couple of daring, insolent wretches, to reflect upon the greatest and best men in England: and there is an end. I have no sort of regard for that same Hoffman, to whose character I am a perfect stranger; but methinks the ordinary of Newgate should be treated with more respect, considering what company he has kept, and what visitors he may have had. However, I shall not enter into a point of controversy, whether the lords were acquainted with the ordinary, or the ordinary with the lords, since this author leaves it undecided. Only one thing I take to be a little hard. It is now confessed on all hands, that Mr. Harley was most unjustly suspected of joining with an under clerk, in corresponding with France: the suspicion being in itself unreasonable, and without the least probable grounds, wise men began to consider what violent enemies that gentleman had: they found the report most industriously spread; the whigs in common discourse, discovering their wishes, that he might be found guilty: the management of the whole affair was put into the hands of such as, it is supposed, would at least not be sorry to find more than they expected. The criminal's dying speech is unfortunately published, wherein he thanks God he was not tempted to save his life by falsely accusing his master; with more to the same purpose: from all this put together, it was no very unnatural conjecture, that there might have been some tampering. Now, I say, it is a little hard, that Mr. Harley's friends must not be allowed to have their suspicions, as well as his enemies: and this author, if he intended to deal fairly, should have spent one paragraph in railing at those who had the impudence and villany to suspect Mr. Harley, and then proceeded in due method to defend his committee of examiners: but that gentleman being, as this author says of the speaker, but a single man, I suppose his reputation and life were esteemed but of little consequence.

There is one state of the case in this letter, which I cannot well omit, because the author, I suppose, conceives it to be extremely cunning and malicious; that it cuts to the quick, and is wonderfully severe upon Mr. Harley, without exposing the writer to any danger. I say this to gratify him, to let him know I take his meaning, and discover his inclinations. His parallel case is this: "Supposing Guiscard had been intimate with some great officer of state, and had been suspected to communicate his most secret affairs with that minister; then he asks, 'Whether it would have been subornation, or seeking the life and blood of that officer, in these great lords of the council, if they had narrowly examined this affair, inquired with all exactness what he knew of this great officer, what secrets he had imparted to him, and whether he were privy to his corresponding?" &c. In this parallel, Guiscard's case is supposed to be the same with Gregg's: and that of the great officer, with Mr. Harley's. So that here he lays down as a thing granted, that Gregg was intimate with Mr. Harley, and suspected to communicate his most secret affairs to him. Now did ever any rational man suspect, that Mr. Harley, first principal secretary of state, was intimate with an under clerk, or upon the foot of having most secret affairs communicated to him from such a counsellor, from one in so inferiour a station, whom perhaps he hardly knew by sight? why was that report raised, but for the uses which were afterward made of it? or, why should we wonder that they, who were so wicked as to be authors of it, would be scrupulous in applying it to the only purpose for which it could be raised?

Having thus considered the main design of this letter, I shall make a few remarks upon some particular passages in it.

First, Though it be of no consequence to this dispute, I cannot but observe a most evident falsehood, which he repeats three or four times in his letter, that I make the world believe I am set on work by great people. I remember myself to have several times affirmed the direct contrary, and so I do still; and if I durst tell him my name, which he is so desirous to know, he would be convinced that I am of a temper to think no man great enough to set me on work; nay, I am content to own all the scurrilous titles he gives me, if he be able to find one innuendo through all those papers that can any way favour this calumny: the malice of which is nor intended against me, but the present ministry; to make the world believe, that what I have published is the utmost effort of all they can say or think against the last: whereas it is nothing more than the common observations of a private man, deducing consequences and effects from very natural and visible causes.

He tells us, with great propriety of speech, that the seven lords and their friends, are treated as subverters of the constitution, and such as have been long endeavouring to destroy both church and state. This puts me in mind of one, who first murdered a man, and afterward endeavoured to kill him: and therefore I here solemnly deny them to have been subverters of the constitution; but that some people did their best endeavours, I confidently believe.

He tells me particularly, that I acquit Guiscard, by a blunder, of a design against Mr. Harley's life. I declare he injures me; for I look upon Guiscard to be full as guilty of the design, as even those were who tampered with the business of Gregg; and both (to avoid all cavilling) as guilty as ever any man was that suffered death by law.

He calls the stabbing of Mr. Harley, a sore blow; but I suppose he means his recovery: that indeed was a sore blow to the interests of his party: but I take the business of Gregg to have been a much sorer blow to their reputation.

This writer wonders how I should know their lordship's hearts, because he hardly knows his own. I do not well see the consequence of this: perhaps he never examines into his own heart, perhaps it keeps no correspondence with his tongue or his pen: I hope, at least, it is a stranger to those foul terms he has strewed throughout his letter; otherwise I fear I know it too well: for out of the abundance of the hearty the mouth speaketh. But, however, actions are pretty good discoverers of the heart, though words are not; and whoever has once endeavoured to take away my life, if he has still the same, or rather much greater cause, whether it be a just one or not, and has never shown the least sign of remorse; I may venture, without being a conjurer, to know so much of his heart, as to believe he would repeat his attempt, if it were in his power. I must needs quote some following lines in the same page, which are of an extraordinary kind, and seem to describe the blessed age we should live in, under the return of the late administration. "It is very well (says he) that people's heads are to stand on their shoulders as long as the laws will let them; if it depended upon any thing besides, it may be your lordships seven heads might be as soon cut off, as that one gentleman's, were you in power." Then he concludes the paragraph with this charitable prayer, in the true moderation style, and in Italick letter: "May the head that has done the kingdom the greatest mischief, fall first, let it be whose it will!" The plain meaning of which is this: If the late ministry were in power, they would act just as the present ministry would if there were no law, which perhaps may be true: but I know not any ministry upon earth that I durst confide in, without law; and if, at their coming in again, they design to make their power the law, they may as easily cut off seven heads as one. As for the head that has done the greatest mischief to the kingdom, I cannot consent it should fall, till he and I have settled the meaning of the word mischief. Neither do I much approve this renewing an old fashion of whipping off heads by a prayer; it began from what some of us think an ill precedent. Then that unlimited clause, let it be whose it will, perplexes me not a little: I wish in compliance with an old form, he had excepted my lord mayor: otherwise, if it were to be determined by their vote, whose head it was that had done the greatest mischief; which way can we tell how far their predecessors principles may have influenced them? God preserve the queen and her ministers from such undistinguishing disposers of heads!

His remarks upon what the ordinary told Hoffman, are singular enough. The ordinary's words are, "That so many endeavours were used to corrupt Gregg's conscience, &c. that he felt as much uneasiness lest Gregg should betray his master, as if it had been his own case." The author of the letter says to this, "That, for aught the ordinary knew, he might confess what was exactly true of his master; and that therefore an indifferent person might as well be uneasy, for fear Gregg should discover something of his master, that would touch his life, and[4] yet might have been true." But, if these were really the ordinary's thoughts at that time, they were honest and reasonable. He knew it was highly improbable that a person of Mr. Harley's character and station, should make use of such a confederate in treason: if he had suspected his loyalty, he could not have suspected his understanding. And knowing how much Mr. Harley was feared and hated by the men in power, and observing that resort to Gregg at unseasonable hours, and that strange promises were often made him by men of note; all this put together, might naturally incline the ordinary to think, the design could be nothing else, but that Mr. Harley should be accused in spite of his innocence.

This charge of subornation is, it seems, so extraordinary a crime, that the author challenges all the books in the new lord's library (because he hears it is the largest) to furnish us with an instance like it. What if this charge should be true? Then I, in my turn, would challenge all the books in another lord's library, which is ten times larger (though perhaps not so often disturbed) to furnish us with an instance like this. If it be so monstrous a thing to accuse others of subornation, what epithet is left to bestow upon those who were really guilty of the crime itself? I think it beyond controversy, that subornation was practised in the business of Gregg. This manifestly appears from those few facts I have mentioned: let the whigs agree among them where to fix it. Nay, it is plain, by the great endeavours made to stifle his last speech, that they would have suborned the poor man even after he was dead: and is this a matter now to be called in question, much less to be denied?

He compares the examination of Guiscard with that of Gregg; talks of several great persons who examined the former in prison, and promised him the queen's pardon, if he would make a full discovery. Then the author puts the case, "How wicked it would be to charge these honourable counsellors with suborning Guiscard by promises of life, &c. to accuse the innocent, and betray his friend!" Does it any where appear, that those noble persons who examined Guiscard, put leading questions to him, or pointed out where they would have him fix an accusation? did they name some mortal enemy of their own, and then drop words of pardon and reward, if he would accuse him? did Guiscard leave any paper behind him, to justify the innocence of some great person whom he was tempted to accuse? Yet perhaps I could think of certain people, who were much more likely to act in concert with Guiscard, than ever Mr. Harley was to be confederate with Gregg. I can imagine several who wished the penknife in Mr. Harley's heart, though Guiscard alone was desperate enough to attempt it. Who were those, that by their discourses, as well as countenances, discovered their joy when the blow was struck? who were those, that went out, or stood silent, when the address and congratulation were voted? and who were those that refined so far, as to make Mr. Harley confederate with his own assassin?

There is one point, which this author affirms more than once or twice in a transient way, as if he would have us suppose it a thing granted; but is of such a weight, that it wants nothing but truth to make the late change of ministry a very useless and dangerous proceeding: for, so it must he allowed, if, as he affirms, "Affairs are still under the like management, and must be so, because there is no better; that this set of men must take the same courses in their ministration, with their predecessors, or ten times worse; that the new servants go on in the old methods, and give the same counsel and advice, on the like occasions, with the old ones:" with more to the same purpose. A man may affirm, without being of the cabinet, that every syllable of this is absolutely false; unless he means that money is still raised by parliament, and borrowed upon new funds; that the duke of Marlborough still commands the army; that we have a treasurer, keeper, president, and secretaries, as we had before; and that because the council meets much about the same times and places as formerly, therefore they give the same advice, and pursue the same measures. What does he think of finding funds to pay the old unprovided for debt of the navy, and erecting a company for the South Sea trade? what does he think of Mr. Hill's expedition, to preserve our trade in the West Indies? what, of the methods taken to make our allies pay their quotas to the war, which was a thing so scandalously either neglected, connived at, or encouraged? what, of the care to retrench the exorbitant expenses of the Spanish war? what, of those many abuses and corruptions at home, which have been so narrowly inquired into, and in a good part redressed? Evils, so deeply radicated, must require some time to remedy them, and cannot be all set right in a few months. Besides, there are some circumstances known by the names of honour, probity, good sense, great capacity for business; as likewise, certain principles of religion and loyalty, the want, or possession of all which, will make a mighty difference even in the pursuit of the same measures. There is also one characteristick, which will ever distinguish the late ministry from the present; That the former, sacrificing all other regards, to the increase of their wealth and power, found those were no[5] otherwise to be preserved, but by continuance of the war; whereas the interests, as well as inclinations of the present, dispose them to make use of the first opportunities, for a safe and honourable peace.

The writer goes on upon another parallel case, which is the modern way of reflecting upon a prince and ministry. He tells us, "That the queen was brought to discard her old officers, through the multitude of complaints, secret teasings, and importunate clamours, of a rout of people, led by their priests, and spirited underhand by crafty emissaries." Would not any one who reads this, imagine, that the whole rabble, with the clergy at their head, were whispering in the queen's ear, or came in disguise to desire a word with her majesty, like the army of the two kings of Brentford? The unbiassed majority of the nobility and gentry of the kingdom, are called, by this son of obscurity, a rout of people, and the clergy their leaders. We have often accused that party for their evil talent of railing perpetually against the clergy, which they discovered at first without any visible reason or provocation, as conscious of the designs they had in view, and therefore wisely began by vilifying those whom they intended to destroy. I have observed formerly, that the party malice against the clergy has been so blind and furious, as to charge them with crimes wholly inconsistent. I find they are still in the same disposition, and that this writer has received direction from his superiours, to pursue the old style upon that article. Accordingly, in the paragraph I am now upon, he represents that reverend body as leaders, cuilies, and tools. First, he says, "That rout of secret teasers (meaning the nobility and gentry of the kingdom) were led by the priests." Then he assures us, "That the queen will, in a year or two, begin to consider, who it was that cheated those poor priests." And in case her majesty should have a mind to bring in the old ministry again, he comforts his party, "That the priests are seldom wanting, to become the tools of cunning managers." I desire to know in what sense he would have us to understand, that these poor priests have been cheated. Are they cheated by a fund established for building fifty churches? or the queen's letter empowering them to proceed on the business proper for a convocation? what one single advantage could they possibly lose by this change? They are still indeed abused every day in print, but it is by those who are without the power to hurt them; the serpent has lost his sting, is trodden under foot, and its hissing is contemned. But he confidently affirms, "That, when it shall be thought fit to restore the old ministry, the priests will not be wanting, to become the tools of their cunning managers." This I cannot by any means allow, unless they have some hidden reserve of cunning, which has never yet been produced. The cunningest managers I ever knew among them, are, of all others, most detested by the clergy: neither do I remember they have been ever able to make any of them tools, except by making them bishops; even those few they were able to seduce, would not be their tools at a lower rate.

But, because this author, and others of his standard, affect to make use of that word tool, when they have a mind to be shrewd and satirical; I desire once for all to set them right. A tool and an instrument, in the metaphorical sense, differ thus: the former, is an engine in the hands of knaves; the latter, in those of wise and honest men. The greatest ministers are instruments in the hands of princes, and so are princes themselves in the hands of God; and in this sense, the clergy are ready to be instruments of any good to the prince or people. But that the clergy of England, since the reformation, have at any time been the tools of a party, is a calumny which history and constant experience will immediately confute. Schismatick and fanatick preachers have indeed been perpetually employed that way, with good success; by the faction against king Charles I, to murder their prince, and ruin the monarchy; by king James II, to bring in popery: and ever since the revolution, to advance the unmeasurable appetite of power and wealth, among a set of profligate upstarts. But in all these three instances, the established clergy (except a very few, like tares among wheat, and those generally sown by the enemy) were so far from being tools, that in the first, they were persecuted, imprisoned and deprived; and in the two others, they were great instruments, under God, for preserving our religion and liberty.

In the same paragraph, which contains a project for turning out the present ministry, and restoring the last; he owns, that the queen is now served with more obsequious words, more humble adorations, and a more seeming resignation to her will and pleasure, than she was before. And indeed, if this be not true, her majesty has the worst luck of any prince in Christendom. The reverse of these phrases I take to be rude expressions, insolent behaviour, and a real opposition to her majesty's most just and reasonable commands, which are the mildest terms that the demeanour of some late persons toward their prince, can deserve, in return of the highest favours that subjects ever received, whereof a hundred particulars might be produced. So that, according to our author's way of reasoning, I will put a parallel case in my turn. I have a servant to whom I am exceedingly kind; I reward him infinitely above his merit: beside which, he and his family snap every thing they can lay their hands on; they will let none come near me, but themselves and dependants; they misrepresent my best friends, as my greatest enemies; besides, they are so saucy and malapert, there is no speaking to them; so far from any respect, that they treat me as an inferiour. At last I pluck up spirit, turn them all out of doors, and take in new ones; who are content with what I allow them, though I have less to spare than formerly; give me their best advice when I ask it, are constantly in the way, do what I bid them, make a bow when they come in and go out, and always give me a respectful answer. I suppose the writer of the letter would tell me, that my present domesticks were indeed a little more civil, but the former were better servants.

There are two things wherewith this author is peculiarly angry: first, at the licentious way of the scum of mankind treating the greatest peers in the nation: secondly, that these hedge-writers (a phrase I unwillingly lend him, because it cost me some pains to invent) seldom speak a word against any of the late ministry but they presently fall to compliment my lord treasurer, and others in great places. On the first, he brings but one instance: but I could produce a good many hundred. What does he think of the Observator, the Review, and the Medley? in his own impartial judgment, may not they as fairly bid for being the scum of mankind, as the Examiner? and have they not treated at least as many, and almost as great peers, in as infamous a manner? I grant indeed, that through the great defect of truth, genius, learning, and common sense, among the libellers of that party, they being of no entertainment to the world, after serving the present turn, were immediately forgotten. But this we can remember in gross, that there was not a great man in England, distinguished for his love to the monarchy or the church, who, under the appellations of tory, Jacobite, high-flier, and other cant words, was not represented as a publick enemy, and loaden by name with all manner of obloquy. Nay, have they not even disturbed the ashes, and endeavoured to blast the memories of the dead, and chiefly of those who lost their lives in the service of the monarchy and the church? His other quarrel is at our flattering my lord treasurer, and other great persons in power. To which I shall only say, for every line written in praise of the present ministry, I will engage to furnish the author with three pages of the most fulsome panegyricks on the least deserving members of the last; which is somewhat more than by the proportion of time, while they were in power, could fall to their share. Indeed, I am apt to think, that the men of wit at least, will be more sparing in their incense of this kind for the future, and say no more of any great man, now at the helm, than they believe he deserves. Poems, dedications, and other publick encomiums, might be of use to those who were obliged to keep up an unnatural spirit in the nation, by supplying it with art; and consequently the authors deserved, and sometimes met, encouragement and reward. But those great patriots now at the head of affairs, are sufficiently supported by the un compelled favour of the queen, and the natural disposition of the people. We can do them no service by our applauses, and therefore expect no payment: so that I look upon this kind of stock to have fallen at least ninety per cent since the great changes at court.

He puts a few questions, which I am in some pain to answer. "Cannot," says he, "the successors be excellent men, unless the predecessors be villains? cannot the queen change her ministers, but they must presently be such as neither God nor man can endure? do noblemen fall from all honour, virtue, and religion, because they are so unhappy as to fall from their prince's favour?" I desire to say something, in the first place, to this last question; which I answer in the negative. However, he will own, that "men should fall from their prince's favour, when they are so unhappy as to fall from all honour, virtue, and religion;" though I must confess my belief at the same time, that some certain persons have lately fallen from favour, who could not, for a very manifest reason, be said, properly speaking, to fall from any of the other three. To his other questions I can only say, that the constant language of the whig pamphleteers has been, this twelvemonth past, to tell us, how dangerous a step it was to change the ministry at so nice a juncture; to shake our credit, disoblige our allies, and encourage the French. Then this author tells us, that those discarded politicians were the greatest ministers we ever had: his brethren have said the same thing a hundred times. On the other side, the queen, upon long deliberation, was resolved to part with them: the universal voice of the people was against them: her majesty is the most mild and gracious prince that ever reigned: we have been constantly victorious, and are ruined; the enemy flourishes under his perpetual losses. If these be the consequences of an able, faithful, diligent, and dutiful administration; of that astonishing success, he says, Providence has crowned us with; what can be those of one directly contrary? But, not to enter into a wide field at present, I faithfully promise the author of the letter, his correspondents, his patrons, and his brethren, that this mystery of iniquity shall be very shortly laid open to the view of the world: when the most ignorant and prejudiced reader will, I hope, be convinced, by facts not to be controlled, how miserably this poor kingdom had been deluded to the very brink of destruction.

He would have it, that the people of England have lost their senses; are bewitched and cheated, mad and without understanding: but that all this will go off by degrees, and then his great men will recover their esteem and credit. I did, in one of my papers, overthrow this idle affected opinion, which has been a thousand times urged by those who most wished, and least believed it: I there showed the difference between a short madness of the people and their natural bent or genius. I remember, when king James II went from England, he left a paper behind him, with expressions much to the same purpose; hoping, among other things, that God would open the eyes of the nation. Too much zeal for his religion brought us then in danger of popery and arbitrary power; too much infidelity, avarice, and ambition, brought us lately into equal danger of atheism and anarchy. The people have not yet opened their eyes, to see any advantage in the two former; nor, I hope, will ever find their senses enough to discover the blessings of the two latter. Cannot I see things in another light than this author and his party do, without being blind? is my understanding lost when it differs from theirs? am I cheated, bewitched, and out of my senses, because I think those to have been betrayers of our country, whom they call patriots?

He hopes his seven correspondents will never want their places; but is in pain for the poor kingdom, lest their places should want them. Now I have examined this matter, and am not at all discouraged. Two of them hold their places still, and are likely to continue in them; two more were governors of islands: I believe the author does not imagine those to be among the places which will want men to fill them. God be thanked, a man may command the beefeaters without being a soldier; I will at any time undertake to do it myself. Then it would be a little hard, if the queen should be at a loss for a steward to her family. So that, upon the whole, I see but one great employment which is in any danger of wanting a sufficient person to execute it. We must do as well as we can: yet I have been told, that the bare business of presiding in council does not require such very transcendent abilities; and I am mistaken, if, till within these late years, we have not been some ages without that office. So that I hope things may go well enough, provided the keeper, treasurer, and both the secretaries, will do their duties; and it is happy for the nation, that none of their seven lordships left any of those places to want them.

The writer of the letter concludes it with "an appeal to all the princes and states of Europe, friends and enemies, by name, to give their judgment, whether they think the late ministry were wanting in faithfulness, abilities, or diligence, to serve their prince and country?" Now, if he speaks by order of his party, I am humbly of opinion, they have incurred a præmunire, for appealing to a foreign jurisdiction; and her majesty may seize their goods and chattels whenever she pleases. In the mean time, I will not accept his appeal, which has been rejected by the queen and both houses of parliament. But, let a fair jury be empannelled in any county of England, and I will be determined by their verdict. First, he names the king of France and all h counsellors, with the pretender and all his favourers and abettors. These I except against: I know they will readily judge the late ministry to be faithful, able, and diligent, in serving their prince and country. The counsels of some people have, in their way, served very much to promote the service of the pretender, and to enable the French king to assist him; and is not he, in that monarch's opinion as well as his own, their lawful prince? I except against the emperor and the states; because it can be proved upon them, that the plaintiffs and they have an understanding together. I except against any prince who makes unreasonable demands, and threatens to recall his troops if they be not complied with; because they have been forced of late to change their language, and may perhaps be shortly obliged to observe their articles more strictly. I should be sorry, for the appealers sakes, to have their case referred to the kings of Sweden and Denmark, who infallibly would decree them to be all hanged up for their insolence to their sovereign. But, above all, the king of Spain would certainly be against them, when he considers with how scandalous a neglect his interests have been managed; and that the full possession of his kingdom was made a sacrifice to those, whose private or party interest swayed them to the continuance of the war. The author had reason to omit the grand seignior and czar in the list of his judges: The decrees of those princes are too sudden and sanguinary; and their lessons to instruct subjects in behaviour to their princes, by strangling them with a bowstring, or flinging them to be devoured alive by hogs, were enough to deter them from submitting to their jurisdiction.

  1. The committee consisted of the dukes of Devonshire, Somerset, and Bolton; the earl of Wharton; lord viscount Townshend; lord Somers, and lord Halifax. Gregg was tried at the Old Bailey, Jan. 19, 1707-8, and condemned for high treason; but was not executed till April 28, 1708.
  2. "The Examiner has been down this month, and was very silly the five or six last papers; but there is a pamphlet come out, in answer to a letter to the seven lords who examined Gregg. The answer is by the real author of the Examiner, as I believe, for it is very well written." Journal to Stella, Aug. 24, 1711. Even to this lady, to whom he usually writes with unreserved confidence, Dr. Swift had not yet acknowledged himself to be the author of the Examiner.
  3. This word is improperly used here, both in point of sense and grammar. It should be too direct to be avoided.
  4. It ought to be 'which yet might have been true.'
  5. This is ungrammatical. No, is here an adjective, and cannot, with propriety, be connected with the adverb, otherise It should be 'not otherwise' or 'by no other means ' &c.