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Letter VI: A Letter to the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Molesworth


NOTE.


This letter, hitherto styled the Drapier's fifth letter, is here printed as the sixth, for the reasons already stated. It was published on the 14th December, 1724, at a time when the Drapier agitation had reached its last stage. The Drapier had taught his countrymen that "to be brave is to be wise," and he now struck the final blow that laid prostrate an already tottering opposition.

Walpole realized that to govern Ireland from England he must have a trustier aid, a heavier hand, and a more vigilant eye, than were afforded in Carteret. Carteret, however, was better away in Ireland, and, moreover, as Lord-Lieutenant, he was an ameliorating influence on the Irish patriotic party in Dublin. But that party was now backed by a very important popular opinion. For the present, therefore, he gave way; but his real feelings might have been discovered by an interpretation of his appointment of Hugh Boulter as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland.[1] Boulter's letter to the Duke of Newcastle, written after his arrival in Dublin towards the end of November, 1724, gave a very unambiguous account of the state of the country towards the patent. On the 3rd of December, he wrote, "We are at present in a very bad state, and the people so poisoned with apprehensions of Wood's halfpence, that I do not see there can be any hopes of justice against any person for seditious writings, if he does but mix somewhat about Wood in them.... But all sorts here are determinedly set against Wood's halfpence, and look upon their estates as half sunk in their value, whenever they shall pass upon the nation."[2] On January 19th 1724-1725, the Primate wrote again to the same effect. On the 3rd of July, he hopes that, as parliament is about to meet, the Lord-Lieutenant "will be impowered in his speech to speak clearly as to the business of the halfpence, and thoroughly rid this nation of their fear on that head."[3] Boulter's advice was taken. On the 14th August, 1725, a vacation of the patent was issued, and when parliament met shortly after, the Lord-Lieutenant was able, in his speech, to announce that his Majesty had put an entire end to the patent granted Wood for coining copper halfpence and farthings. He alluded to the surrender as a remarkable instance of royal favour and condescension which should fill the hearts of a loyal and obedient people with the highest sense of duty and gratitude. He doubted not the Houses would make suitable acknowledgment of their sense of happiness enjoyed under his Majesty's most mild and gracious government.[4]

[Footnote 1: See note on pp. 111-112.]

[Footnote 2: Boulter's letter, vol. i., p. 3. Dublin edition, 1770.]

[Footnote 3: Ibid., p. 29.]

[Footnote 4: Comm. Journals, vol. iii., p. 398.]

The Commons unanimously voted an address suitable to the occasion and in harmony with the Lord-Lieutenant's suggestion. But the Lords procrastinated in debates. It was a question whether their address should or should not include the words "great wisdom" in addition to the word "condescension" to express their sense of his Majesty's action. Finally, however, the address was forthcoming, though not before some strenuous expressions of opinion had been made by Midleton and Archbishop King against Walpole's administration. As passed, their Address included the debated words; as presented the Address omitted them.

Thus ended this famous agitation in which the people of Ireland won their first victory over England by constitutional means. Wood was no loser by the surrender; indeed, he was largely the gainer, since he was given a pension of 3,000 per annum for twelve years.[5]

[Footnote 5: Coxe says for eight years.]

Now that the fight was over the people, to use Scott's words, "turned their eyes with one consent on the man, by whose unbending fortitude, and pre-eminent talents, this triumph was accomplished." He was hailed joyously and blessed fervently wherever he went; the people almost idolized him; he was their defender and their liberator. No monarch visiting his domains could have been received with greater honour than was Swift when he came into a town. Medals and medallions were struck in his honour. A club was formed to the memory of the Drapier; shops and taverns bore the sign of the Drapier's Head; children and women carried handkerchiefs with the Drapier's portrait woven in them. All grades of society respected him for an influence that, founded in sincerity and guided by integrity and consummate ability, had been used patriotically. The DEAN became Ireland's chiefest citizen; and Irishmen will ever revere the memory of the man who was the first among them to precipitate their national instincts into the abiding form of national power--the reasoned opinion of a free people.

The text of this letter is based on that given by Sir Walter Scott, collated with the original edition and with the text given in "Fraud Detected" (1725).

[T.S.]



They compassed me about also with Words of
  Deceit, and fought against me without a Cause.

For my Love they are my Adversaries, but I give my self unto Prayer.

And they have rewarded me Evil for Good, and Hatred for my Love. Psalm 109. v. 3, 4, 5.

Seek not to be Judge, being not able to take away Iniquity, lest at any Time thou fear the Person of the Mighty, and lay a stumbling Block in the Way of thy Uprightness.

Offend not against the Multitude of a City, and then thou shalt not cast thy self down among the People.

Bind not one Sin upon another, for in One thou shalt not be Unpunished. Ecclus. Ch. 7. V. 6, 7, 8.


Non jam prima peto Mnesttheus, neque vincere certo: Quanquam O! Sed superent, quibus Hoc, Neptune, dedisti.



DIRECTIONS TO THE PRINTER.


MR. HARDING, When I sent you my former papers, I cannot say I intended you either good or hurt, and yet you have happened through my means to receive both. I pray God deliver you from any more of the latter, and increase the former. Your trade, particularly in this kingdom, is of all others the most unfortunately circumstantiated; For as you deal in the most worthless kind of trash, the penny productions of pennyless scribblers, so you often venture your liberty and sometimes your lives, for the purchase of half-a-crown, and by your own ignorance are punished for other men's actions.

I am afraid, you in particular think you have reason to complain of me for your own and your wife's confinement in prison, to your great expense, as well as hardship, and for a prosecution still impending. But I will tell you, Mr. Harding, how that matter stands. Since the press hath lain under so strict an inspection, those who have a mind to inform the world are become so cautious, as to keep themselves if possible out of the way of danger. My custom is to dictate to a 'prentice who can write in a feigned hand, and what is written we send to your house by a blackguard boy. But at the same time I do assure you upon my reputation, that I never did send you anything, for which I thought you could possibly be called to an account. And you will be my witness that I always desired you by a letter to take some good advice before you ventured to print, because I knew the dexterity of dealers in the law at finding out something to fasten on where no evil is meant; I am told indeed, that you did accordingly consult several very able persons, and even some who afterwards appeared against you: To which I can only answer, that you must either change your advisers, or determine to print nothing that comes from a Drapier.

I desire you will send the enclosed letter, directed "To my Lord Viscount Molesworth at his house at Brackdenstown near Swords;" but I would have it sent printed for the convenience of his Lordship's reading, because this counterfeit hand of my 'prentice is not very legible. And if you think fit to publish it, I would have you first get it read over carefully by some notable lawyer: I am assured you will find enough of them who are friends to the Drapier, and will do it without a fee, which I am afraid you can ill afford after all your expenses. For although I have taken so much care, that I think it impossible to find a topic out of the following papers for sending you again to prison; Yet I will not venture to be your guarantee.

This ensuing letter contains only a short account of myself, and an humble apology for my former pamphlets, especially the last, with little mention of Mr. Wood or his halfpence, because I have already said enough upon that subject, until occasion shall be given for new fears; and in that case you may perhaps hear from me again.

I am,
Your Friend
and Servant,
M.B.

From my shop in
St. Francis-street
Dec. 14. 1724.

P.S. For want of intercourse between you and me, which I never will suffer, your people are apt to make very gross errors in the press, which I desire you will provide against.



LETTER VI

A LETTER TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE LORD VISCOUNT MOLESWORTH, AT HIS HOUSE AT BRACKDENSTOWN NEAR SWORDS.[6]


My Lord, I reflect too late on the maxim of common observers, that "those who meddle in matters out of their calling, will have reason to repent;" which is now verified in me: For by engaging in the trade of a writer, I have drawn upon myself the displeasure of the government, signified by a proclamation promising a reward of three hundred pounds to the first faithful subject who shall be able and inclined to inform against me. To which I may add the laudable zeal and industry of my Lord Chief Justice [Whitshed] in his endeavours to discover so dangerous a person. Therefore whether I repent or no, I have certainly cause to do so, and the common observation still stands good.

[Footnote 6: Robert, Viscount Molesworth (1656-1725), born in Dublin and educated at the University there, was a prominent adherent of the Prince of Orange during the Revolution of 1688. In 1692 William sent him to Denmark as envoy-extraordinary to the Court at Copenhagen; but he left abruptly because of the offence he gave there. Retiring to Flanders, Molesworth revenged himself by writing, "An Account of Denmark as it was in 1692," in which he described that country as no fit place for those who held their liberties dearly. Molesworth had been strongly imbued with the republican teachings of Algernon Sidney, and his book affords ample proof of the influence. Its publication aroused much indignation, and a controversy ensued in which Swift's friend, Dr. William King, took part. In 1695 Molesworth returned to Ireland, became a Privy Councillor in 1697, sat in the Irish parliament in 1703-1705, and in the English House of Commons from 1705 to 1708. In 1713 he was removed from the Irish Privy Council on a charge of a treasonable utterance, which Steele vindicated in "The Englishman" and "The Crisis." The accession of George I., however, brought Molesworth into his honours again, and he was created Baron Molesworth of Philipstown, and Viscount Molesworth of Swords, in 1719. His work entitled "Considerations for Promoting Agriculture," issued in 1723, was considered by Swift as "an excellent discourse, full of most useful hints." At the time Swift addressed him this sixth letter, Molesworth was living in retirement at Brackdenstown. [T.S.]]

It will sometimes happen, I know not how in the course of human affairs, that a man shall be made liable to legal animadversions, where he has nothing to answer for, either to God or his country; and condemned at Westminster-hall for what he will never be charged with at the Day of Judgment.

After strictly examining my own heart, and consulting some divines of great reputation, I cannot accuse myself of any "malice or wickedness against the public;" of any "designs to sow sedition," of "reflecting on the King and his ministers," or of endeavouring "to alienate the affections of the people of this kingdom from those of England."[7] All I can charge myself with, is a weak attempt to serve a nation in danger of destruction by a most wicked and malicious projector, without waiting until I were called to its assistance; which attempt, however it may perhaps give me the title of pragmatical and overweening will never lie a burthen upon my conscience. God knows whether I may not with all my caution have already run myself into danger, by offering thus much in my own vindication. For I have heard of a judge, who, upon the criminal's appeal to the dreadful Day of Judgment, told him he had incurred a premunire for appealing to a foreign jurisdiction: And of another in Wales, who severely checked the prisoner for offering the same plea, taxing him with reflecting on the Court by such a comparison, because "comparisons were odious."

[Footnote 7: The quotations are from the charges stated in the indictment and proclamation against the writer and printer of the previous letters. [T.S.] ]

But in order to make some excuse for being more speculative than others of my condition, I desire your lordship's pardon, while I am doing a very foolish thing, which is, to give you some little account of myself.

I was bred at a free school where I acquired some little knowledge in the Latin tongue, I served my apprenticeship in London, and there set up for myself with good success, till by the death of some friends, and the misfortunes of others, I returned into this kingdom, and began to employ my thoughts in cultivating the woollen manufacture through all its branches Wherein I met with great discouragement and powerful opposers, whose objections appeared to me very strange and singular They argued that the people of England would be offended if our manufactures were brought to equal theirs; and even some of the weaving trade were my enemies, which I could not but look upon as absurd and unnatural I remember your lordship at that time did me the honour to come into my shop, where I shewed you a piece of black and white stuff just sent from the dyer, which you were pleased to approve of, and be my customer for it.[8]

[Footnote 8: The "piece of black and white stuff just sent from the dyer," refers to his pamphlet, issued in 1720, "The Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufactures." See vol. vii. [T.S.]]

However I was so mortified, that I resolved for the future to sit quietly in my shop, and deal in common goods like the rest of my brethren; till it happened some months ago considering with myself that the lower and poorer sort of people wanted a plain strong coarse stuff to defend them against cold easterly winds, which then blew very fierce and blasting for a long time together, I contrived one on purpose, which sold very well all over the kingdom, and preserved many thousands from agues I then made a second and a third kind of stuffs for the gentry with the same success, insomuch that an ague hath hardly been heard of for some time.[9]

[Footnote 9: The "cold easterly winds" refer to the demands made on the Irish people to accept Wood's halfpence. The three different kinds of "stuffs" are the three letters written under the nom de guerre, "M.B. Drapier." [T.S.]]

This incited me so far, that I ventured upon a fourth piece made of the best Irish wool I could get, and I thought it grave and rich enough to be worn by the best lord or judge of the land. But of late some great folks complain as I hear, "that when they had it on, they felt a shuddering in their limbs," and have thrown it off in a rage, cursing to hell the poor Drapier who invented it, so that I am determined never to work for persons of quality again, except for your lordship and a very few more.[10]

[Footnote 10: This refers to the fourth letter of the Drapier, which brought forth the proclamation, and for the author of which the reward of 300 was offered. [T.S.]]

I assure your lordship upon the word of an honest citizen, that I am not richer by the value of one of Mr. Wood's halfpence with the sale of all the several stuffs I have contrived; for I give the whole profit to the dyers and pressers.[11] And therefore I hope you will please to believe, that no other motive beside the love of my country could engage me to busy my head and hands to the loss of my time and the gain of nothing but vexation and ill-will.

[Footnote 11: The printers [F.]]

I have now in hand one piece of stuff to be woven on purpose for your lordship, although I might be ashamed to offer it you, after I have confessed that it will be made only from the shreds and remnants of the wool employed in the former. However I shall work it up as well as I can, and at worst, you need only give it among your tenants.

I am very sensible how ill your lordship is like to be entertained with the pedantry of a drapier in the terms of his own trade. How will the matter be mended, when you find me entering again, though very sparingly, into an affair of state; for such is now grown the controversy with Mr. Wood, if some great lawyers are to be credited. And as it often happens at play, that men begin with farthings, and go on to gold, till some of them lose their estates, and die in jail; so it may possibly fall out in my case, that by playing too long with Mr. Wood's halfpence, I may be drawn in to pay a fine, double to the reward for betraying me, be sent to prison, and "not be delivered thence till I shall have paid the uttermost farthing."

There are my lord, three sorts of persons with whom I am resolved never to dispute: A highwayman with a pistol at my breast, a troop of dragoons who come to plunder my house, and a man of the law who can make a merit of accusing me. In each of these cases, which are almost the same, the best method is to keep out of the way, and the next best is to deliver your money, surrender your house, and confess nothing.

I am told that the two points in my last letter, from which an occasion of offence hath been taken, are where I mention His Majesty's answer to the address of the House of Lords upon Mr. Wood's patent, and where I discourse upon Ireland's being a dependent kingdom. As to the former, I can only say, that I have treated it with the utmost respect and caution, and I thought it necessary to shew where Wood's patent differed in many essential parts from all others that ever had been granted, because the contrary had for want of due information been so strongly and so largely asserted. As to the other, of Ireland's dependency, I confess to have often heard it mentioned, but was never able to understand what it meant. This gave me the curiosity to enquire among several eminent lawyers, who professed they knew nothing of the matter. I then turned over all the statutes of both kingdoms without the least information, further than an Irish act, that I quoted, of the 33d of Henry 8th, uniting Ireland to England under one king. I cannot say I was sorry to be disappointed in my search, because it is certain, I could be contented to depend only upon God and my prince and the laws of my own country, after the manner of other nations. But since my betters are of a different opinion, and desire further dependencies, I shall readily submit, not insisting on the exception I made of M.B. Drapier. For indeed that hint was borrowed from an idle story I had heard in England, which perhaps may be common and beaten, but because it insinuates neither treason nor sedition, I will just barely relate it.

Some hundred years ago when the peers were so great that the commons were looked upon as little better than their dependents, a bill was brought in for making some new additions to the power and privileges of the peerage. After it was read, one Mr. Drewe a member of the house, stood up, and said, he very much approved the bill, and would give his vote to have it pass; but however, for some reasons best known to himself, he desired that a clause might be inserted for excepting the family of the Drewes. The oddness of the proposition taught others to reflect a little, and the bill was thrown out.

Whether I were mistaken, or went too far in examining the dependency must be left to the impartial judgment of the world, as well as to the courts of judicature, although indeed not in so effectual and decisive a manner. But to affirm, as I hear some do, in order to countenance a fearful and servile spirit, that this point did not belong to my subject, is a false and foolish objection. There were several scandalous reports industriously spread by Wood and his accomplices to discourage all opposition against his infamous project. They gave it out that we were prepared for a rebellion, that we disputed the King's prerogative, and were shaking off our dependency. The first went so far, and obtained so much belief against the most visible demonstrations to the contrary, that a great person of this kingdom, now in England, sent over such an account of it to his friends, as would make any good subject both grieve and tremble. I thought it therefore necessary to treat that calumny as it deserved. Then I proved by an invincible argument that we could have no intention to dispute His Majesty's prerogative, because the prerogative was not concerned in the question, the civilians and lawyers of all nations agreeing that copper is not money. And lastly to clear us from the imputation of shaking off our dependency, I shewed wherein as I thought this dependency consisted, and cited the statute above mentioned made in Ireland, by which it is enacted, that "whoever is King of England shall be King of Ireland," and that the two kingdoms shall be "for ever knit together under one King." This, as I conceived, did wholly acquit us of intending to break our dependency, because it was altogether out of our power, for surely no King of England will ever consent to the repeal of that statute.

But upon this article I am charged with a heavier accusation. It is said I went too far, when I declared, that "if ever the Pretender should come to be fixed upon the throne of England (which God forbid) I would so far venture to transgress this statute, that I would lose the last drop of my blood before I would submit to him as King of Ireland."

This I hear on all sides, is the strongest and weightiest objection against me, and which hath given the most offence; that I should be so bold to declare against a direct statute, and that any motive how strong soever, could make me reject a King whom England should receive. Now if in defending myself from this accusation I should freely confess, that I "went too far," that "the expression was very indiscreet, although occasioned by my zeal for His present Majesty and his Protestant line in the House of Hanover," that "I shall be careful never to offend again in the like kind." And that "I hope this free acknowledgment and sorrow for my error, will be some atonement and a little soften the hearts of my powerful adversaries." I say if I should offer such a defence as this, I do not doubt but some people would wrest it to an ill meaning by some spiteful interpretation, and therefore since I cannot think of any other answer, which that paragraph can admit, I will leave it to the mercy of every candid reader.

I will now venture to tell your lordship a secret, wherein I fear you are too deeply concerned You will therefore please to know that this habit of writing and discoursing, wherein I unfortunately differ from almost the whole kingdom, and am apt to grate the ears of more than I could wish, was acquired during my apprenticeship in London, and a long residence there after I had set up for myself. Upon my return and settlement here, I thought I had only changed one country of freedom for another. I had been long conversing with the writings of your lordship,[12] Mr. Locke, Mr. Molineaux,[13] Colonel Sidney[14] and other dangerous authors, who talk of "liberty as a blessing, to which the whole race of mankind hath an original title, whereof nothing but unlawful force can divest them." I knew a good deal of the several Gothic institutions in Europe, and by what incidents and events they came to be destroyed; and I ever thought it the most uncontrolled and universally agreed maxim, that freedom consists in a people being governed by laws made with their own consent; and slavery in the contrary. I have been likewise told, and believe it to be true, that liberty and property are words of known use and signification in this kingdom, and that the very lawyers pretend to understand, and have them often in their mouths. These were the errors which have misled me, and to which alone I must impute the severe treatment I have received. But I shall in time grow wiser, and learn to consider my driver, the road I am in, and with whom I am yoked. This I will venture to say, that the boldest and most obnoxious words I ever delivered, would in England have only exposed me as a stupid fool, who went to prove that the sun shone in a clear summer's day; and I have witnesses ready to depose that your lordship hath said and writ fifty times worse, and what is still an aggravation, with infinitely more wit and learning, and stronger arguments, so that as politics run, I do not know a person of more exceptionable principles than yourself; and if ever I shall be discovered, I think you will be bound in honour to pay my fine and support me in prison; or else I may chance to inform against you by way of reprisal.[15]

[Footnote 12: See note ante, p. 161. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 13: William Molyneux (1656-1698), the correspondent of John Flamsteed and Locke. His "Dioptrica Nova" contains a warm appreciation of Locke's "Essay on the Human Understanding." He died in October, 1698, but in the early part of this year, he published his famous inquiry into the effect of English legislation on Irish manufactures. The work was entitled, "The Case of Ireland's being bound by Acts of Parliament in England stated," and its publication made a great stir both in England and in Ireland. Molyneux attempted to show that the Irish Parliament was independent of the English Parliament. His book was reported by a Committee of the House of Commons, on June 22nd, 1698, to be "of dangerous consequence to the Crown and Parliament of England," but the matter went no further than embodying this resolution of the committee in an address to the King. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 14: Algernon Sidney (1622-1682), the author of the well known "Discourses concerning Government," and the famous republican of the Cromwellian and Restoration years, was the second surviving son of the second Earl of Leicester His career as soldier, statesman, agitator, ambassador and author, forms an interesting and even fascinating chapter of the story of this interesting period of English history. He was tried for treason before Jeffreys, and in spite of a most excellent defence, sentenced to death. His execution took place on December 7th, 1682. [T. S.]]

[Footnote 15: A writer, signing himself M.M., replying to this letter of Swift's in a broadside entitled, "Seasonable Advice to M.B. Drapier, Occasioned by his Letter to the R--t. Hon. the Lord Visct. Molesworth," actually takes this paragraph to mean that Swift intended seriously to turn informer: "Now sir, some people are of opinion that you carried this too far, inasmuch as you become a precedent to informers: others think that you intimate to his lordship, the miserable circumstance you are in by the menaces of the prentice to whom you dictate; they conceive your declaring to inform, if not fee'd, to the contrary, signifies your said prentice on the last occasion to swear, if you don't forthwith deliver him his indentures, and half of your stock to set up trade with, he will inform against you, bring you to justice, be dismissed by law, and get the promised 300 to begin trade with; how near these conceptions be to truth I can't tell; but I know people think that word inform unseasonable. . . ." [T.S.]]

In the meantime, I beg your lordship to receive my confession, that if there be any such thing as a dependency of Ireland upon England, otherwise than as I have explained it, either by the law of God, of nature, of reason, of nations, or of the land (which I shall never hereafter contest,) then was the proclamation against me, the most merciful that ever was put out, and instead of accusing me as malicious, wicked and seditious, it might have been directly as guilty of high treason.

All I desire is, that the cause of my country against Mr. Wood may not suffer by any inadvertency of mine; Whether Ireland depends upon England, or only upon God, the King and the law, I hope no man will assert that it depends upon Mr. Wood. I should be heartily sorry that this commendable resentment against me should accidentally (and I hope, what was never intended) strike a damp upon that spirit in all ranks and corporations of men against the desperate and ruinous design of Mr. Wood. Let my countrymen blot out those parts in my last letter which they dislike, and let no rust remain on my sword to cure the wounds I have given to our most mortal enemy. When Sir Charles Sidley[16] was taking the oaths, where several things were to be renounced, he said "he loved renouncing," asked "if any more were to be renounced, for he was ready to renounce as much as they pleased." Although I am not so thorough a renouncer; yet let me have but good city security against this pestilent coinage, and I shall be ready not only to renounce every syllable in all my four letters, but to deliver them cheerfully with my own hands into those of the common hangman, to be burnt with no better company than the coiner's effigies, if any part of it hath escaped out of the secular hands of the rabble.

[Footnote 16: This must be Sir Charles Sedley (properly Sidley), the famous wit and dramatist of Charles II.'s reign. In his reprint of 1735, Faulkner prints the name "Sidley," though the original twopenny tract and the "Hibernian Patriot" print it as "Sidney." Sir W. Scott corrects it to "Sedley." [T.S.]]

But whatever the sentiments of some people may be, I think it is agreed that many of those who subscribed against me, are on the side of a vast majority in the kingdom who opposed Mr. Wood; and it was with great satisfaction that I observed some right honourable names very amicably joined with my own at the bottom of a strong declaration against him and his coin. But if the admission of it among us be already determined the worthy person who is to betray me ought in prudence to do it with all convenient speed, or else it may be difficult to find three hundred pounds in sterling for the discharge of his hire; when the public shall have lost five hundred thousand, if there be so much in the nation; besides four-fifths of its annual income for ever.

I am told by lawyers, that in all quarrels between man and man, it is of much weight, which of them gave the first provocation or struck the first blow. It is manifest that Mr. Wood hath done both, and therefore I should humbly propose to have him first hanged and his dross thrown into the sea; after which the Drapier will be ready to stand his trial. "It must needs be that offences come, but woe unto him by whom the offence cometh." If Mr. Wood had held his hand every body else would have held their tongues, and then there would have been little need of pamphlets, juries, or proclamations upon this occasion. The provocation must needs have been great, which could stir up an obscure indolent Drapier to become an author. One would almost think the very stones in the street would rise up in such a cause: And I am not sure they will not do so against Mr. Wood if ever he comes within their reach. It is a known story of the dumb boy, whose tongue forced a passage for speech by the horror of seeing a dagger at his father's throat. This may lessen the wonder that a tradesman hid in privacy and silence should cry out when the life and being of his political mother are attempted before his face, and by so infamous a hand.

But in the meantime, Mr. Wood the destroyer of a kingdom walks about in triumph (unless it be true that he is in jail for debt) while he who endeavoured to assert the liberty of his country is forced to hide his head for occasionally dealing in a matter of controversy. However I am not the first who hath been condemned to death for gaining a great victory over a powerful enemy, by disobeying for once the strict orders of military discipline.

I am now resolved to follow (after the usual proceeding of mankind, because it is too late) the advice given me by a certain Dean. He shewed the mistake I was in of trusting to the general good-will of the people, "that I had succeeded hitherto better than could be expected, but that some unfortunate circumstantial lapse would probably bring me within the reach of power. That my good intentions would be no security against those who watched every motion of my pen, in the bitterness of my soul." He produced an instance of "a writer as innocent, as disinterested, and as well meaning as myself, where the printer, who had the author in his power, was prosecuted with the utmost zeal, the jury sent back nine times, and the man given up to the mercy of the court."[17] The Dean further observed "that I was in a manner left alone to stand the battle, while others who had ten thousand times better talents than a Drapier, were so prudent to lie still, and perhaps thought it no unpleasant amusement to look on with safety, while another was giving them diversion at the hazard of his liberty and fortune, and thought they made a sufficient recompense by a little applause." Whereupon he concluded with a short story of a Jew at Madrid, who being condemned to the fire on account of his religion, a crowd of school-boys following him to the stake, and apprehending they might lose their sport, if he should happen to recant, would often clap him on the back, and cry, "Sta firme Moyse (Moses, continue steadfast)."

[Footnote 17: This was for the publication of "A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufactures." [T.S.]]

I allow this gentleman's advice to have been good, and his observations just, and in one respect my condition is worse than that of the Jew, for no recantation will save me. However it should seem by some late proceedings, that my state is not altogether deplorable. This I can impute to nothing but the steadiness of two impartial grand juries, which hath confirmed in me an opinion I have long entertained, that, as philosophers say, "virtue is seated in the middle," so in another sense, the little virtue left in the world is chiefly to be found among the middle rank of mankind, who are neither allured out of her paths by ambition, nor driven by poverty.

Since the proclamation occasioned by my last letter, and a due preparation for proceeding against me in a court of justice, there have been two printed papers clandestinely spread about, whereof no man is able to trace the original further than by conjecture, which with its usual charity lays them to my account. The former is entitled, "Seasonable Advice,"[18] and appears to have been intended for information of the grand jury, upon the supposition of a bill to be prepared against that letter. The other[19] is an extract from a printed book of Parliamentary Proceedings in the year 1680 containing an angry resolution of the House of Commons in England against dissolving grand juries. As to the former, your lordship will find it to be the work of a more artful hand than that of a common Drapier. It hath been censured for endeavouring to influence the minds of a jury, which ought to be wholly free and unbiassed, and for that reason it is manifest that no judge was ever known either upon or off the bench, either by himself or his dependents, to use the least insinuation that might possibly affect the passions or interests of any one single juryman, much less of a whole jury; whereof every man must be convinced who will just give himself the trouble to dip into the common printed trials; so as, it is amazing to think, what a number of upright judges there have been in both kingdoms for above sixty years past, which, considering how long they held their offices during pleasure, as they still do among us, I account next to a miracle.

[Footnote 18: See p. 123. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 19: See note on p. 127. [T.S.]]

As to the other paper I must confess it is a sharp censure of an English House of Commons against dissolving grand juries by any judge before the end of the term, assizes, or sessions, while matters are under their consideration, and not presented; is arbitrary, illegal, destructive to public justice, a manifest violation of his oath, and is a means to subvert the fundamental laws of the kingdom.

However, the publisher seems to have been mistaken in what he aimed at. For, whatever dependence there may be of Ireland upon England, I hope he would not insinuate, that the proceedings of a lord chief justice in Ireland must depend upon a resolution of an English House of Commons. Besides, that resolution although it were levelled against a particular lord chief justice, Sir William Scroggs,[20] yet the occasion was directly contrary: For Scroggs dissolved the grand jury of London for fear they should present, but ours in Dublin was dissolved because they would not present, which wonderfully alters the case. And therefore a second grand jury supplied that defect by making a presentment[21] that hath pleased the whole kingdom. However I think it is agreed by all parties, that both the one and the other jury behaved themselves in such a manner, as ought to be remembered to their honour, while there shall be any regard left among us for virtue or public spirit.

[Footnote 20: Sir William Scroggs (1623?-1683) was appointed Lord Chief Justice of England on the removal of Sir Thomas Ramsford in 1678. One of the eight articles of impeachment against Scroggs, in 1680, was for illegally discharging the grand jury of Middlesex before the end of the term. Although the articles of impeachment were carried to the House of Lords in 1681, the proceedings went no farther than ordering him to find bail and file his answer by a certain time. Scroggs was removed, on account of his unpopularity, on April 11th, 1681. As a lawyer, Scroggs has no great reputation; as a judge he must be classed with the notorious Jeffreys. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 21: See Appendix No. V. [T.S.]]

I am confident your lordship will be of my sentiments in one thing, that some short plain authentic tract might be published for the information both of petty and grand juries, how far their power reacheth, and where it is limited, and that a printed copy of such a treatise might be deposited in every court, to be consulted by the jurymen before they consider of their verdict; by which abundance of inconveniences would be avoided, whereof innumerable instances might be produced from former times, because I will say nothing of the present.

I have read somewhere of an eastern king who put a judge to death for an iniquitous sentence, and ordered his hide to be stuffed into a cushion, and placed upon the tribunal for the son to sit on, who was preferred to his father's office. I fancy such a memorial might not have been unuseful to a son of Sir William Scroggs, and that both he and his successors would often wriggle in their seats as long as the cushion lasted. I wish the relater had told us what number of such cushions there might be in that country.

I cannot but observe to your lordship how nice and dangerous a point it is grown for a private person to inform the people even in an affair where the public interest and safety are so highly concerned as that of Mr. Wood, and this in a country where loyalty is woven into the very hearts of the people, seems a little extraordinary. Sir William Scroggs was the first who introduced that commendable acuteness into the courts of judicature; but how far this practice hath been imitated by his successors or strained upon occasion, is out of my knowledge. When pamphlets unpleasing to the ministry were presented as libels, he would order the offensive paragraphs to be read before him, and said it was strange that the judges and lawyers of the King's Bench should be duller than all the people of England; and he was often so very happy in applying the initial letters of names, and expounding dubious hints (the two common expedients among writers of that class for escaping the law) that he discovered much more than ever the authors intended, as many of them or their printers found to their cost. If such methods are to be followed in examining what I have already written or may write hereafter upon the subject of Mr. Wood, I defy any man of fifty times my understanding and caution to avoid being entrapped, unless he will be content to write what none will read, by repeating over the old arguments and computations, whereof the world is already grown weary. So that my good friend Harding lies under this dilemma, either to let my learned works hang for ever a drying upon his lines, or venture to publish them at the hazard of being laid by the heels.

I need not tell your lordship where the difficulty lies. It is true, the King and the laws permit us to refuse this coin of Mr. Wood, but at the same time it is equally true, that the King and the laws permit us to receive it. Now it is most certain the ministers in England do not suppose the consequences of uttering that brass among us to be so ruinous as we apprehend; because doubtless if they understood it in that light, they are persons of too much honour and justice not to use their credit with His Majesty for saving a most loyal kingdom from destruction. But as long as it shall please those great persons to think that coin will not be so very pernicious to us, we lie under the disadvantage of being censured as obstinate in not complying with a royal patent. Therefore nothing remains, but to make use of that liberty which the King and the laws have left us, by continuing to refuse this coin, and by frequent remembrances to keep up that spirit raised against it, which otherwise may be apt to flag, and perhaps in time to sink altogether. For, any public order against receiving or uttering Mr. Wood's halfpence is not reasonably to be expected in this kingdom, without directions from England, which I think nobody presumes, or is so sanguine to hope.

But to confess the truth, my lord, I begin to grow weary of my office as a writer, and could heartily wish it were devolved upon my brethren, the makers of songs and ballads, who perhaps are the best qualified at present to gather up the gleanings of this controversy. As to myself, it hath been my misfortune to begin and pursue it upon a wrong foundation. For having detected the frauds and falsehoods of this vile impostor Wood in every part, I foolishly disdained to have recourse to whining, lamenting, and crying for mercy, but rather chose to appeal to law and liberty and the common rights of mankind, without considering the climate I was in.

Since your last residence in Ireland, I frequently have taken my nag to ride about your grounds, where I fancied myself to feel an air of freedom breathing round me, and I am glad the low condition of a tradesman did not qualify me to wait on you at your house, for then I am afraid my writings would not have escaped severer censures. But I have lately sold my nag, and honestly told his greatest fault, which was that of snuffing up the air about Brackdenstown, whereby he became such a lover of liberty, that I could scarce hold him in. I have likewise buried at the bottom of a strong chest your lordship's writings under a heap of others that treat of liberty, and spread over a layer or two of Hobbes, Filmer, Bodin[22] and many more authors of that stamp, to be readiest at hand whenever I shall be disposed to take up a new set of principles in government. In the mean time I design quietly to look to my shop, and keep as far out of your lordship's influence as possible; and if you ever see any more of my writings upon this subject, I promise you shall find them as innocent, as insipid and without a sting as what I have now offered you. But if your lordship will please to give me an easy lease of some part of your estate in Yorkshire,[23] thither will I carry my chest and turning it upside down, resume my political reading where I left it off; feed on plain homely fare, and live and die a free honest English farmer: But not without regret for leaving my countrymen under the dread of the brazen talons of Mr. Wood: My most loyal and innocent countrymen, to whom I owe so much for their good opinion of me, and of my poor endeavours to serve them,

I am
with the greatest respect,
My Lord
Your Lordship's most obedient
and most humble servant,
M.B.

From my shop
in St. Francis-Street,
Dec. 14.
1724.


[Footnote 22: Sir Robert Filmer, the political writer who suffered for his adhesion to the cause of Charles I. His chief work was published after his death in 1680. It is entitled, "Patriarcha," and defends the patriarchal theory of government against the social-compact theory of Hobbes. Locke vigorously attacked it in his "Two Treatises on Government" published in 1690.

Jean Bodin, who died in 1596, wrote the "Livres de la Republique," a remarkable collection of information and speculation on the theoretical basis of political government. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 23: Molesworth's estate in Yorkshire was at Edlington, near Tickhill. [T.S.]]


Jonathan Swift