The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 9/The Dean's Speech to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen

This speech is dated in the Index to the 19-volume set: see the entry for Jonathan Swift, 1737.








WHEN his lordship had said a few words, and presented the instrument, the dean gently put it back, and desired first to be heard. He said, "He was much obliged to his lordship and the city for the honour they were going to do him; and which, as he was informed, they had long intended him: That it was true, this honour was mingled with a little mortification, by the delay which attended it; but which, however, he did not impute to his lordship or the city; and that the mortification was the less, because he would willingly hope the delay was founded on a mistake; for which opinion he would tell his reason." He said, "It was well known, that some time ago, a person with a title was pleased, in two great assemblies, to rattle bitterly somebody without a name, under the injurious appellations of a tory, a jacobite, an enemy to king George, and a libeller of the government; which character," the dean said, "many people thought was applied to him: but he was unwilling to be of that opinion, because the person who had delivered those abusive words had, for several years, caressed and courted and solicited his friendship, more than any man in either kingdom had ever done; by inviting him to his house in town and country, by coming to the deanery often, and calling or sending almost every day when the dean was sick, with many other particulars of the same nature, which continued even to a day or two of the time, when the said person made those invectives in the council and house of lords. Therefore, that the dean would by no means think those scurrilous words could be intended against him; because such a proceeding would overthrow all the principles of honour, justice, religion, truth, and even common humanity. Therefore the dean will endeavour to believe, that the said person had some other object in his thoughts; and it was only the uncharitable custom of the world that applied this character to him. However, that he would insist on this argument no longer: but one thing he would affirm and declare, without assigning any name or making any exception. That, whoever either did, or does, or shall hereafter at any time, charge him with the character of a jacobite, an enemy to king George, or a libeller of the government, the said accusation was, is, and will be, false, malicious, slanderous, and altogether groundless. And he would take the freedom to tell his lordship, and the rest that stood by, that he had done more service to the Hanover title, and more disservice to the pretender's cause, than forty thousand of those noisy, railing, malicious, empty zealots, to whom nature has denied any talent that could be of use to God or their country, and left them only the gift of reviling, and spitting their venom, against all who differ from them in their destructive principles, both in church and state. That he confessed, it was sometimes his misfortune to dislike some things in publick proceedings in both kingdoms, wherein he had often the honour to agree with wise and good men; but this did by no means affect either his loyalty to his prince, or love to his country. But, on the contrary, he protested that such dislikes, never arose in him from any other principles, than the duty he owed to the king, and his affection to the kingdom. That he had been acquainted with courts and ministers long enough, and knew too well that the best ministers might mistake in points of great importance; and that he had the honour to know many more able, and at least full as honest, as any can be at present." The dean farther said, "That since he had been so falsely represented, he thought it became him to give some account of himself for above twenty years, if it were only to justify his lordship and the city for the honour they were going to do him." He related briefly how, "merely by his own personal credit, without other assistance, and in two journeys at his expense, he had procured a grant of the first-fruits to the clergy, in the late queen's time; for which he thought he deserved some gentle treatment from his brethren. That during all the administration of the said ministry, he had been a constant advocate for those who are called the whigs; had kept many of them in their employments, both in England and here, and some who were afterward the first to lift up their heels against him." He reflected a little upon the severe treatment he had met with upon his return to Ireland after her majesty's death, and for some years after: "That, being forced to live retired, he could think of no better way to do publick service, than by employing all the little money he could save, and lending it, without interest, in small sums, to poor industrious tradesmen, without examining their party or their faith. And God had so far pleased to bless his endeavours, that his managers tell him he has recovered above two hundred families in this city from ruin, and placed most of them in a comfortable way of life." The dean related how much he had suffered in his purse, and with what hazard to his liberty, by a most iniquitous judge; who, to gratify his ambition and rage of party, had condemned an innocent book, written with no worse a design, than to persuade the people of this kingdom to wear their own manufactures. How the said judge had endeavoured to get a jury to his mind; but they proved so honest, that he was forced to keep them eleven hours, and send them back nine times, until at last they were compelled to leave the printer to the mercy of the court; and the dean was forced to procure a noli prosequi from a noble person, then secretary of state, who had been his old friend. The dean then freely confessed himself to be the author of those books called "The Drapier's Letters;" and spoke gently of the proclamation, offering three hundred pounds to discover the writer. He said, "That although a certain person was pleased to mention those books in a slight manner at a publick assembly, yet he (the dean) had learned to believe, that there were ten thousand to one in the kingdom who differed from that person: and the people of England, who had ever heard of the matter, as well as in France, were all of the same opinion." The dean mentioned several other particulars, some of which those from whom I had the account could not recollect, and others, although of great consequence, perhaps his enemies would not allow him. The dean concluded with acknowledging to have expressed his wishes, that an inscription might have been graven on the box, showing some reason why the city thought fit to do him that honour, which was much out of the common forms to a person in a private station; those distinctions being usually made only to chief governors, or persons in very high employments.