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Ch. 3: Sentiments of a Church of England Man

THE SENTIMENTS OF A CHURCH OF ENGLAND MAN, WITH RESPECT TO RELIGION AND GOVERNMENT.

WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1708.


NOTE.


The writing of this tract, as has been already observed, placed Swift in a position where allegiance to party was not easy to maintain. It amounted to a warning to Whigs as well as Tories. To the former he urged that the Church of England was wide enough for the highest principles of civil liberty; to the latter he tried to show that to be a religious and God-fearing man it was not absolutely necessary to be a Tory in politics. "Whoever has examined the conduct and proceedings of both parties for some years past, whether in or out of power, cannot well conceive it possible to go far towards the extremes of either, without offering some violence to his integrity or understanding." It is true that Whiggism and "fanatical genius" were almost synonymous terms for Swift; but that was because the Church was of prime consideration with him, and the Whigs numbered in their ranks the great army of Dissent. Swift, in his famous letter to Pope, dated Dublin, January 10th, 1720-21, reviews his political opinions of 1708 to justify himself against the misrepresentations of "the virulence of libellers: whose malice has taken the same train in both, by fathering dangerous principles in government upon me, which I never maintained, and insipid productions, which I am not capable of writing." That review is but a summary of what is given fully in this tract. No appeal was ever better intentioned. "I only wish," he says to Pope, "my endeavours had succeeded better in the great point I had at heart, which was that of reconciling the ministers to each other." But High Church and Low Church were cries which had divided politicians as if they did not belong to one nation. To Swift it was easy enough to be a staunch Churchman and at the same time expose the fallacies underlying the faith in the sovereign power; but then Swift was here no party fanatic who would use the "Church in danger" cry for party purposes. "If others," he writes twelve years later, "who had more concern and more influence, would have acted their parts," his appeal had not been made in vain. As it was it failed in its intended purpose, and Swift lost what hold he had on Somers, Godolphin, and the rest. It remains, however, to testify to Swift's principles in a manner least expected by those who have set him down as intemperate and inconsistent. Certainly, no principles were ever more moderately expressed; and, assuredly, no expression of principles found fitter realization in conduct.

The text of this edition is based on that given in the "Miscellanies" of 1711. I have not succeeded in obtaining a copy of the original issue; but I have collated the various texts given in the re-issues by Faulkner, Hawkesworth, Scott, and the "Miscellanies" of 1728 (vol. i.) and 1747 (vol. i.).

[T. S.]


       *      *      *      *      *      *      *


THE SENTIMENTS OF A CHURCH OF ENGLAND MAN


Whosoever hath examined the conduct and proceedings of both parties for some years past, whether in or out of power, cannot well conceive it possible to go far towards the extremes of either, without offering some violence to his integrity or understanding. A wise and a good man may indeed be sometimes induced to comply with a number whose opinion he generally approves, though it be perhaps against his own. But this liberty should be made use of upon very few occasions, and those of small importance, and then only with a view of bringing over his own side another time to something of greater and more public moment. But to sacrifice the innocency of a friend, the good of our country, or our own conscience to the humour, or passion, or interest of a party, plainly shews that either our heads or our hearts are not as they should be: Yet this very practice is the fundamental law of each faction among us, as may be obvious to any who will impartially, and without engagement, be at the pains to examine their actions, which however is not so easy a task: For it seems a principle in human nature, to incline one way more than another, even in matters where we are wholly unconcerned. And it is a common observation, that in reading a history of facts done a thousand years ago, or standing by at play among those who are perfect strangers to us, we are apt to find our hopes and wishes engaged on a sudden in favour of one side more than another. No wonder then, we are all so ready to interest ourselves in the course of public affairs, where the most inconsiderable have some real share, and by the wonderful importance which every man is of to himself, a very great imaginary one.

And indeed, when the two parties that divide the whole commonwealth, come once to a rupture, without any hopes left of forming a third with better principles, to balance the others; it seems every man's duty to choose a side,[1] though he cannot entirely approve of either; and all pretences to neutrality are justly exploded by both, being too stale and obvious, only intending the safety and ease of a few individuals while the public is embroiled. This was the opinion and practice of the latter Cato, whom I esteem to have been the wisest and best of all the Romans. But before things proceed to open violence, the truest service a private man may hope to do his country, is, by unbiassing his mind as much as possible, and then endeavouring to moderate between the rival powers; which must needs be owned a fair proceeding with the world, because it is of all others the least consistent with the common design, of making a fortune by the merit of an opinion.

[Footnote 1: Faulkner and Scott have "one of the two sides." [T. S.]]

I have gone as far as I am able in qualifying myself to be such a moderator: I believe I am no bigot in religion, and I am sure I am none in government. I converse in full freedom with many considerable men of both parties, and if not in equal number, it is purely accidental and personal, as happening to be near the court, and to have made acquaintance there, more under one ministry than another. Then, I am not under the necessity of declaring myself by the prospect of an employment. And lastly, if all this be not sufficient, I industriously conceal my name, which wholly exempts me from any hopes and fears in delivering my opinion.

In consequence of this free use of my reason, I cannot possibly think so well or so ill of either party, as they would endeavour to persuade the world of each other, and of themselves. For instance; I do not charge it upon the body of the Whigs or the Tories, that their several principles lead them to introduce Presbytery, and the religion of the Church of Rome, or a commonwealth and arbitrary power. For, why should any party be accused of a principle which they solemnly disown and protest against? But, to this they have a mutual answer ready; they both assure us, that their adversaries are not to be believed, that they disown their principles out of fear, which are manifest enough when we examine their practices. To prove this, they will produce instances, on one side, either of avowed Presbyterians, or persons of libertine and atheistical tenets, and on the other, of professed Papists, or such as are openly in the interest of the abdicated family. Now, it is very natural for all subordinate sects and denominations in a state, to side with some general party, and to choose that which they find to agree with themselves in some general principle. Thus at the restoration, the Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Independents, and other sects, did all with very good reason unite and solder up their several schemes to join against the Church, who without regard to their distinctions, treated them all as equal adversaries. Thus, our present dissenters do very naturally close in with the Whigs, who profess moderation, declare they abhor all thoughts of persecution, and think it hard that those who differ only in a few ceremonies and speculations, should be denied the privilege and profit of serving their country in the highest employments of state. Thus, the atheists, libertines, despisers of religion and revelation in general, that is to say, all those who usually pass under the name of freethinkers, do properly join with the same body; because they likewise preach up moderation, and are not so overnice to distinguish between an unlimited liberty of conscience, and an unlimited freedom of opinion. Then on the other side, the professed firmness of the Tories for Episcopacy as an apostolical institution: Their aversion to those sects who lie under the reproach of having once destroyed their constitution, and who they imagine, by too indiscreet a zeal for reformation have defaced the primitive model of the Church: Next, their veneration for monarchical government in the common course of succession, and their hatred to republican schemes: These, I say, are principles which not only the nonjuring zealots profess, but even Papists themselves fall readily in with. And every extreme here mentioned flings a general scandal upon the whole body it pretends to adhere to.

But surely no man whatsoever ought in justice or good manners to be charged with principles he actually disowns, unless his practices do openly and without the least room for doubt contradict his profession: Not upon small surmises, or because he has the misfortune to have ill men sometimes agree with him in a few general sentiments. However, though the extremes of Whig and Tory seem with little justice to have drawn religion into their controversies, wherein they have small concern; yet they both have borrowed one leading principle from the abuse of it; which is, to have built their several systems of political faith, not upon enquiries after truth, but upon opposition to each other, upon injurious appellations, charging their adversaries with horrid opinions, and then reproaching them for the want of charity; et neuter falso.

In order to remove these prejudices, I have thought nothing could be more effectual than to describe the sentiments of a Church of England man with respect to religion and government. This I shall endeavour to do in such a manner as may not be liable to least objection from either party, and which I am confident would be assented to by great numbers in both, if they were not misled to those mutual misrepresentations, by such motives as they would be ashamed to own.

I shall begin with religion.

And here, though it makes an odd sound, yet it is necessary to say, that whoever professes himself a member of the Church of England, ought to believe a God and his providence, together with revealed religion, and the divinity of Christ. For beside those many thousands, who (to speak in the phrase of divines) do practically deny all this by the immorality of their lives; there is no small number, who in their conversation and writings directly or by consequence endeavour to overthrow it; yet all these place themselves in the list of the National Church, though at the same time (as it is highly reasonable) they are great sticklers for liberty of conscience.

To enter upon particulars: A Church of England man hath a true veneration for the scheme established among us of ecclesiastic government; and though he will not determine whether Episcopacy be of divine right, he is sure it is most agreeable to primitive institution, fittest of all others for preserving order and purity, and under its present regulations best calculated for our civil state: He should therefore think the abolishment of that order among us would prove a mighty scandal and corruption to our faith, and manifestly dangerous to our monarchy; nay, he would defend it by arms against all the powers on earth, except our own legislature; in which case he would submit as to a general calamity, a dearth, or a pestilence.

As to rites and ceremonies, and forms of prayer; he allows there might be some useful alterations, and more, which in the prospect of uniting Christians might be very supportable, as things declared in their own nature indifferent; to which he therefore would readily comply, if the clergy, or, (though this be not so fair a method) if the legislature should direct: Yet at the same time he cannot altogether blame the former for their unwillingness to consent to any alteration; which beside the trouble, and perhaps disgrace, would certainly never produce the good effects intended by it. The only condition that could make it prudent and just for the clergy to comply in altering the ceremonial or any other indifferent part, would be, a firm resolution in the legislature to interpose by some strict and effectual laws to prevent the rising and spreading of new sects how plausible soever, for the future; else there must never be an end: And it would be to act like a man who should pull down and change the ornaments of his house, in compliance to every one who was disposed to find fault as he passed by, which besides the perpetual trouble and expense, would very much damage, and perhaps in time destroy the building. Sects in a state seem only tolerated with any reason because they are already spread; and because it would not be agreeable with so mild a government, or so pure a religion as ours, to use violent methods against great numbers of mistaken people, while they do not manifestly endanger the constitution of either. But the greatest advocates for general liberty of conscience, will allow that they ought to be checked in their beginnings, if they will allow them to be an evil at all, or which is the same thing, if they will only grant, it were better for the peace of the state, that there should be none. But while the clergy consider the natural temper of mankind in general, or of our own country in particular, what assurances can they have, that any compliances they shall make, will remove the evil of dissension, while the liberty still continues of professing whatever new opinion we please? Or how can it be imagined that the body of dissenting teachers, who must be all undone by such a revolution, will not cast about for some new objections to withhold their flocks, and draw in fresh proselytes by some further innovations or refinements?

Upon these reasons he is for tolerating such different forms in religious worship as are already admitted, but by no means for leaving it in the power of those who are tolerated, to advance their own models upon the ruin of what is already established, which it is natural for all sects to desire, and which they cannot justify by any consistent principles if they do not endeavour; and yet, which they cannot succeed in without the utmost danger to the public peace.

To prevent these inconveniences, he thinks it highly just, that all rewards of trust, profit, or dignity, which the state leaves in the disposal of the administration, should be given only to those whose principles direct them to preserve the constitution in all its parts. In the late affair of Occasional Conformity, the general argument of those who were against it, was not, to deny it an evil in itself, but that the remedy proposed was violent, untimely, and improper, which is the Bishop of Salisbury's opinion in the speech he made and published against the bill: But, however just their fears or complaints might have been upon that score, he thinks it a little too gross and precipitate to employ their writers already in arguments for repealing the sacramental test, upon no wiser a maxim, than that no man should on the account of conscience be deprived the liberty of serving his country; a topic which may be equally applied to admit Papists, Atheists, Mahometans, Heathens, and Jews. If the Church wants members of its own to employ in the service of the public; or be so unhappily contrived as to exclude from its communion such persons who are likeliest to have great abilities, it is time it should be altered and reduced into some more perfect, or at least more popular form: But in the meanwhile, it is not altogether improbable, that when those who dislike the constitution, are so very zealous in their offers for the service of their country, they are not wholly unmindful of their party or of themselves.

The Dutch whose practice is so often quoted to prove and celebrate the great advantages of a general liberty of conscience, have yet a national religion professed by all who bear office among them: But why should they be a precedent for us either in religion or government? Our country differs from theirs, as well in situation, soil, and productions of nature, as in the genius and complexion of inhabitants. They are a commonwealth founded on a sudden by a desperate attempt in a desperate condition, not formed or digested into a regular system by mature thought and reason, but huddled up under the pressure of sudden exigencies; calculated for no long duration, and hitherto subsisting by accident in the midst of contending powers, who cannot yet agree about sharing it among them. These difficulties do indeed preserve them from any great corruptions, which their crazy constitution would extremely subject them to in a long peace. That confluence of people in a persecuting age, to a place of refuge nearest at hand, put them upon the necessity of trade, to which they wisely gave all ease and encouragement: And if we could think fit to imitate them in this last particular, there would need no more to invite foreigners among us; who seem to think no further than how to secure their property and conscience, without projecting any share in that government which gives them protection, or calling it persecution if it be denied them. But I speak it for the honour of our administration, that although our sects are not so numerous as those in Holland, which I presume is not our fault, and I hope is not our misfortune, we much excel them and all Christendom besides in our indulgence to tender consciences.[2] One single compliance with the national form of receiving the sacrament, is all we require to qualify any sectary among us for the greatest employments in the state, after which he is at liberty to rejoin his own assemblies for the rest of his life. Besides, I will suppose any of the numerous sects in Holland, to have so far prevailed as to have raised a civil war, destroyed their government and religion, and put their administrators to death; after which I will suppose the people to have recovered all again, and to have settled on their old foundation. Then I would put a query, whether that sect which was the unhappy instrument of all this confusion, could reasonably expect to be entrusted for the future with the greatest employments, or indeed to be hardly tolerated among them?

[Footnote 2: When this was written there was no law against Occasional Conformity. [Faulkner, 1735.]]

To go on with the sentiments of a Church of England man: He does not see how that mighty passion for the Church which some men pretend, can well consist with those indignities and that contempt they bestow on the persons of the clergy.[3] Tis a strange mark whereby to distinguish High Churchmen, that they are such who imagine the clergy can never be too low. He thinks the maxim these gentlemen are so fond of, that they are for an humble clergy, is a very good one; and so is he, and for an humble laity too, since humility is a virtue that perhaps equally benefits and adorns every station of life.

[Footnote 3: "I observed very well with what insolence and haughtiness some lords of the High-Church party treated, not only their own chaplains, but all other clergy whatsoever, and thought this was sufficiently recompensed by their professions of zeal to the church."]

But then, if the scribblers on the other side freely speak the sentiments of their party, a divine of the Church of England cannot look for much better quarter thence. You shall observe nothing more frequent in their weekly papers than a way of affecting to confound the terms of Clergy and High Church, of applying both indifferently, and then loading the latter with all the calumny they can invent. They will tell you they honour a clergyman; but talk, at the same time, as if there were not three in the kingdom, who could fall in with their definition.[4] After the like manner they insult the universities, as poisoned fountains, and corrupters of youth.

[Footnote 4: "I had likewise observed how the Whig lords took a direct contrary measure, treated the persons of particular clergymen with great courtesy, but shewed much ill-will and contempt for the order in general."]

Now, it seems clear to me, that the Whigs might easily have procured and maintained a majority among the clergy, and perhaps in the universities, if they had not too much encouraged or connived at this intemperance of speech and virulence of pen, in the worst and most prostitute of their party; among whom there has been for some years past such a perpetual clamour against the ambition, the implacable temper, and the covetousness of the priesthood: Such a cant of High Church, and persecution, and being priest-ridden; so many reproaches about narrow principles, or terms of communion: Then such scandalous reflections on the universities, for infecting the youth of the nation with arbitrary and Jacobite principles, that it was natural for those, who had the care of religion and education, to apprehend some general design of altering the constitution of both. And all this was the more extraordinary, because it could not easily be forgot, that whatever opposition was made to the usurpations of King James, proceeded altogether from the Church of England, and chiefly from the clergy, and one of the universities. For, if it were of any use to recall matters of fact, what is more notorious than that prince's applying himself first to the Church of England? And upon their refusal to fall in with his measures, making the like advances to the dissenters of all kinds, who readily and almost universally complied with him, affecting in their numerous addresses and pamphlets, the style of Our Brethren the Roman Catholics, whose interests they put on the same foot with their own: And some of Cromwell's officers took posts in the army raised against the Prince of Orange.[5] These proceedings of theirs they can only extenuate by urging the provocations they had met from the Church in King Charles's reign, which though perhaps excusable upon the score of human infirmity, are not by any means a plea of merit equal to the constancy and sufferings of the bishops and clergy, or of the head and fellows of Magdalen College, that furnished the Prince of Orange's declaration with such powerful arguments to justify and promote the Revolution.

[Footnote 5: De Foe's "History of Addresses" contains some humbling instances of the applause with which the sectaries hailed their old enemy, James II., when they saw him engaged in hostility with the established Church. [T. S.]]

Therefore a Church of England man abhors the humour of the age in delighting to fling scandals upon the clergy in general; which besides the disgrace to the Reformation, and to religion itself, casts an ignominy upon the kingdom that it does not deserve. We have no better materials to compound the priesthood of, than the mass of mankind, which corrupted as it is, those who receive orders must have some vices to leave behind them when they enter into the Church, and if a few do still adhere, it is no wonder, but rather a great one that they are no worse. Therefore he cannot think ambition, or love of power more justly laid to their charge than to other men, because, that would be to make religion itself, or at least the best constitution of Church-government, answerable for the errors and depravity of human nature.

Within these last two hundred years all sorts of temporal power have been wrested from the clergy, and much of their ecclesiastic, the reason or justice of which proceeding I shall not examine; but, that the remedies were a little too violent with respect to their possessions, the legislature hath lately confessed by the remission of their First Fruits.[6] Neither do the common libellers deny this, who in their invectives only tax the Church with an insatiable desire of power and wealth (equally common to all bodies of men as well as individuals) but thank God, that the laws have deprived them of both. However, it is worth observing the justice of parties: The sects among us are apt to complain, and think it hard usage to be reproached now after fifty years for overturning the state, for the murder of a king, and the indignity of a usurpation; yet these very men and their partisans, are continually reproaching the clergy, and laying to their charge the pride, the avarice, the luxury, the ignorance, and superstition, of Popish times for a thousand years past.

[Footnote 6: The first fruits were the first year's income of ecclesiastical benefices. In the middle ages they were taken by the Pope as a right; but were handed over to the English crown in 1534. Anne in 1703 gave them back to the Church by letters patent, an act confirmed by Parliament in 1704. The "Bounty" of Queen Anne, however, did not extend to Ireland; and one of Swift's missions in London was to obtain this remission of the first fruits for the Irish clergy also. [T. S.]]

He thinks it a scandal to government that such an unlimited liberty should be allowed of publishing books against those doctrines in religion, wherein all Christians have agreed, much more to connive at such tracts as reject all revelation, and by their consequences often deny the very being of a God. Surely 'tis not a sufficient atonement for the writers, that they profess much loyalty to the present government, and sprinkle up and down some arguments in favour of the dissenters; that they dispute as strenuously as they can for liberty of conscience, and inveigh largely against all ecclesiastics, under the name of High Church; and, in short, under the shelter of some popular principles in politics and religion, undermine the foundations of all piety and virtue.

As he doth not reckon every schism of that damnable nature which some would represent, so he is very far from closing with the new opinion of those who would make it no crime at all, and argue at a wild rate, that God Almighty is delighted with the variety of faith and worship, as He is with the varieties of nature. To such absurdities are men carried by the affectation of freethinking, and removing the prejudices of education, under which head they have for some time begun to list morality and religion. It is certain that before the rebellion in 1642, though the number of Puritans (as they were then called) was as great as it is with us, and though they affected to follow pastors of that denomination, yet those pastors had episcopal ordination, possessed preferments in the Church, and were sometimes promoted to bishoprics themselves.[7] But, a breach in the general form of worship was in those days reckoned so dangerous and sinful in itself, and so offensive to Roman Catholics at home and abroad, and that it was too unpopular to be attempted; neither, I believe, was the expedient then found out of maintaining separate pastors out of private purses.

[Footnote 7: In the reign of Elizabeth, and even in that of James, the Puritans were not, properly speaking, Dissenters; but, on the contrary, formed a sort of Low Church party in the national establishment. Archbishop Abbot himself has been considered as a Puritan. [T. S.]]

When a schism is once spread in a nation, there grows at length a dispute which are the schismatics. Without entering on the arguments, used by both sides among us, to fix the guilt on each other; 'tis certain, that, in the sense of the law, the schism lies on that side which opposes itself to the religion of the state. I leave it among the divines to dilate upon the danger of schism, as a spiritual evil, but I would consider it only as a temporal one. And I think it clear that any great separation from the established worship, though to a new one that is more pure and perfect, may be an occasion of endangering the public peace, because it will compose a body always in reserve, prepared to follow any discontented heads upon the plausible pretext of advancing true religion, and opposing error, superstition, or idolatry. For this reason Plato lays it down as a maxim, that, men ought to worship the gods according to the laws of the country, and he introduces Socrates in his last discourse utterly disowning the crime laid to his charge, of teaching new divinities or methods of worship. Thus the poor Huguenots of France were engaged in a civil war, by the specious pretences of some, who under the guise of religion sacrificed so many thousand lives to their own ambition and revenge. Thus was the whole body of Puritans in England drawn to be instruments, or abettors of all manner of villainy, by the artifices of a few men whose[8] designs from the first were levelled to destroy the constitution both of religion and government. And thus, even in Holland itself, where it is pretended that the variety of sects live so amicably together, and in such perfect obedience to the magistrate, it is notorious how a turbulent party joining with the Arminians, did in the memory of our fathers attempt to destroy the liberty of that republic. So that upon the whole, where sects are tolerated in a state, 'tis fit they should enjoy a full liberty of conscience, and every other privilege of freeborn subjects to which no power is annexed. And to preserve their obedience upon all emergencies, a government cannot give them too much ease, nor trust them with too little power.

[Footnote 8: Lord Clarendon's History; but see also Gardiner's "History of England." [T. S.]]

The clergy are usually charged with a persecuting spirit, which they are said to discover by an implacable hatred to all dissenters; and this appears to be more unreasonable, because they suffer less in their interests by a toleration than any of the conforming laity: For while the Church remains in its present form, no dissenter can possibly have any share in its dignities, revenues, or power; whereas, by once receiving the sacrament, he is rendered capable of the highest employments in the state. And it is very possible, that a narrow education, together with a mixture of human infirmity, may help to beget among some of the clergy in possession such an aversion and contempt for all innovators, as physicians are apt to have for empirics, or lawyers for pettifoggers, or merchants for pedlars: But since the number of sectaries doth not concern the clergy either in point of interest or conscience, (it being an evil not in their power to remedy) 'tis more fair and reasonable to suppose their dislike proceeds from the dangers they apprehend to the peace of the commonwealth, in the ruin whereof they must expect to be the first and greatest sufferers.

To conclude this section, it must be observed, there is a very good word, which hath of late suffered much by both parties, and that is, MODERATION, which the one side very justly disowns, and the other as unjustly pretends to. Beside what passeth every day in conversation; any man who reads the papers published by Mr. Lesley[9] and others of his stamp, must needs conclude, that if this author could make the nation see his adversaries under the colours he paints them in, we have nothing else to do, but rise as one man and destroy such wretches from the face of the earth. On the other side, how shall we excuse the advocates for moderation? among whom, I could appeal to a hundred papers of universal approbation by the cause they were writ for, which lay such principles to the whole body of the Tories, as, if they were true, and believed; our next business should in prudence be, to erect gibbets in every parish, and hang them out of the way. But I suppose it is presumed, the common people understand raillery, or at least, rhetoric, and will not take hyperboles in too literal a sense; which however in some junctures might prove a desperate experiment.

[Footnote 9: This was Charles Leslie, the second son of the Bishop of Clogher (1650-1722). He was educated for the bar, but forsook that, and entered into holy orders. In his zeal for the established Church he persecuted the Catholics; but this did not interfere with his adhesion to Jacobite political principles. He settled in London, and wrote a weekly paper called "The Rehearsal, or a Review of the Times," in which he attacked Locke and Hoadly. He did all he could for the cause of the exiled James, but he gave up the work when he found it hopeless, and died in Ireland. He wrote many virulent theological works, as well as a host of political tracts. [T. S.]]

And this is moderation in the modern sense of the word, to which, speaking impartially, the bigots of both parties are equally entitled.

SECTION II.

The Sentiments of a Church of England Man with respect to Government.

We look upon it as a very just reproach, though we cannot agree where to fix it, that there should be so much violence and hatred in religious matters, among men who agree in all fundamentals, and only differ in some ceremonies, or at most mere speculative points. Yet is not this frequently the case between contending parties in a state? For instance: Do not the generality of Whigs and Tories among us, profess to agree in the same fundamentals, their loyalty to the Queen, their abjuration of the Pretender, the settlement of the crown in the protestant line, and a revolution principle? Their affection to the Church established, with toleration of dissenters? Nay sometimes they go further, and pass over into each other's principles; the Whigs become great assertors of the prerogative, and the Tories of the people's liberty; these crying down almost the whole set of bishops, and those defending them; so that the differences fairly stated, would be much of a sort with those in religion among us, and amount to little more than, who should take place or go in and out first, or kiss the Queen's hand; and what are these but a few court ceremonies? Or, who should be in the ministry? And what is that to the body of the nation, but a mere speculative point? Yet I think it must be allowed, that no religious sects ever carried their aversions for each other to greater heights than our state-parties have done, who the more to inflame their passions have mixed religious and civil animosities together; borrowing one of their appellations from the Church, with the addition of High and Low, how little soever their disputes relate to the term as it is generally understood.

I now proceed to deliver the sentiments of a Church of England man with respect to government.

He doth not think the Church of England so narrowly calculated, that it cannot fall in with any regular species of government; nor does he think any one regular species of government more acceptable to God than another. The three generally received in the schools have all of them their several perfections, and are subject to their several depravations. However, few states are ruined by any defect in their institution, but generally by the corruption of manners, against which the best institution is no long security, and without which a very ill one may subsist and flourish: Whereof there are two pregnant instances now in Europe. The first is the aristocracy of Venice, which founded upon the wisest maxims, and digested by a great length of time, hath in our age admitted so many abuses through the degeneracy of the nobles, that the period of its duration seems to approach. The other is the united republics of the States-general, where a vein of temperance, industry, parsimony, and a public spirit, running through the whole body of the people, hath preserved an infant commonwealth of an untimely birth and sickly constitution, for above an hundred years, through so many dangers and difficulties, as a much more healthy one could never have struggled against, without those advantages.

Where security of person and property are preserved by laws which none but the Whole can repeal, there the great ends of government are provided for whether the administration be in the hands of One, or of Many. Where any one person or body of men, who do not represent the Whole, seize into their hands the power in the last resort, there is properly no longer a government, but what Aristotle and his followers call the abuse and corruption of one. This distinction excludes arbitrary power in whatever numbers; which notwithstanding all that Hobbes, Filmer[10] and others have said to its advantage, I look upon as a greater evil than anarchy itself; as much as a savage is in a happier state of life than a slave at the oar.

[Footnote 10: Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679), the English philosopher, and author of "De Cive" (1642), "Treatise on Human Nature" (1650), "De Corpore Politico" (1650), "Leviathan" (1651), and other works. Swift is here combating Hobbes's advocacy for a sovereign power, as vested in a single person.

Filmer, Sir Robert (died 1647), author of "The Anarchy of a limited and mixed Monarchy," "Patriarcha," and "The Freeholder's Grand Inquest." In the "Patriarcha" Filmer attempted to prove that absolute government by a monarch was a patriarchal institution. Locke replied to this work in his "Two Treatises on Government." [T.S.]]

It is reckoned ill manners, as well as unreasonable, for men to quarrel upon difference in opinion; because that is usually supposed to be a thing which no man can help in himself; which however I do not conceive to be an universal infallible maxim, except in those cases where the question is pretty equally disputed among the learned and the wise; where it is otherwise, a man of tolerable reason, small experience, and willing to be instructed, may apprehend he is got into a wrong opinion, though the whole course of his mind and inclination would persuade him to believe it true: He may be convinced that he is in error though he does not see where it lies, by the bad effects of it in the common conduct of his life, and by observing those persons for whose wisdom and goodness he has the greatest deference, to be of a contrary sentiment. According to Hobbes's comparison of reasoning with casting up accounts, whoever finds a mistake in the sum total, must allow himself out, though, after repeated trials he may not see in which article he has misreckoned. I will instance in one opinion, which I look upon every man obliged in conscience to quit, or in prudence to conceal; I mean, that whoever argues in defence of absolute power in a single person, though he offers the old plausible plea, that, it is his opinion, which he cannot help unless he be convinced, ought, in all free states to be treated as the common enemy of mankind. Yet this is laid as a heavy charge upon the clergy of the two reigns before the Revolution, who under the terms of Passive Obedience and Non-Resistance are said to have preached up the unlimited power of the prince, because they found it a doctrine that pleased the Court, and made way for their preferment. And I believe there may be truth enough in this accusation, to convince us, that human frailty will too often interpose itself among persons of the holiest function. However, it may be offered in excuse for the clergy, that in the best societies there are some ill members, which a corrupted court and ministry will industriously find out and introduce. Besides, it is manifest that the greater number of those who held and preached this doctrine, were misguided by equivocal terms, and by perfect ignorance in the principles of government, which they had not made any part of their study. The question originally put, and as I remember to have heard it disputed in public schools, was this; whether under any pretence whatsoever it may be lawful to resist the supreme magistrate? which was held in the negative; and this is certainly the right opinion. But many of the clergy, and other learned men, deceived by dubious expression, mistook the object to which passive obedience was due. By the supreme magistrate is properly understood the legislative power, which in all government must be absolute and unlimited. But the word magistrate seeming to denote a single person, and to express the executive power, it came to pass, that the obedience due to the legislature was for want of knowing or considering this easy distinction, misapplied to the administration. Neither is it any wonder, that the clergy or other well-meaning people should fall into this error, which deceived Hobbes himself so far, as to be the foundation of all the political mistakes in his book, where he perpetually confounds the executive with the legislative power, though all well-instituted states have ever placed them in different hands, as may be obvious to those who know anything of Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and other republics of Greece, as well as the greater ones of Carthage and Rome.

Besides, it is to be considered that when these doctrines began to be preached among us, the kingdom had not quite worn out the memory of that unhappy rebellion, under the consequences of which it had groaned almost twenty years. And a weak prince in conjunction with a succession of most prostitute ministers, began again to dispose the people to new attempts, which it was, no doubt, the clergy's duty to endeavour to prevent, if some of them had not for want of knowledge in temporal affairs, and others perhaps from a worse principle, proceeded upon a topic that strictly followed would enslave all mankind.

Among other theological arguments made use of in those times, in praise of monarchy, and justification of absolute obedience to a prince, there seemed to be one of a singular nature: It was urged that Heaven was governed by a monarch, who had none to control his power, but was absolutely obeyed: Then it followed, that earthly governments were the more perfect, the nearer they imitated the government in Heaven. All which I look upon as the strongest argument against despotic power that ever was offered; since no reason can possibly be assigned why it is best for the world that God Almighty hath such a power, which doth not directly prove that no mortal man should ever have the like.

But though a Church of England man thinks every species of government equally lawful, he does not think them equally expedient; or for every country indifferently. There may be something in the climate, naturally disposing men toward one sort of obedience, as is manifest all over Asia, where we never read of any commonwealth, except some small ones on the western coasts established by the Greeks. There may be a great deal in the situation of a country, and in the present genius of the people. It hath been observed, that the temperate climates usually run into moderate governments, and the extremes into despotic power. 'Tis a remark of Hobbes, that the youth of England are corrupted in their principles of government, by reading the authors of Greece and Rome who writ under commonwealths. But it might have been more fairly offered for the honour of liberty, that while the rest of the known world was overrun with the arbitrary government of single persons; arts and sciences took their rise, and flourished only in those few small territories were the people were free. And though learning may continue after liberty is lost, as it did in Rome, for a while, upon the foundations laid under the commonwealth, and the particular patronage of some emperors; yet it hardly ever began under a tyranny in any nation: Because slavery is of all things the greatest clog and obstacle to speculation. And indeed, arbitrary power is but the first natural step from anarchy or the savage life; the adjusting of power and freedom being an effect and consequence of maturer thinking: And this is nowhere so duly regulated as in a limited monarchy: Because I believe it may pass for a maxim in state, that the administration cannot be placed in too few hands, nor the legislature in too many. Now in this material point, the constitution of the English government far exceeds all others at this time on the earth, to which the present establishment of the Church doth so happily agree, that I think, whoever is an enemy to either, must of necessity be so to both.

He thinks, as our monarchy is constituted, a hereditary right is much to be preferred before election. Because the government here, especially by some late amendments, is so regularly disposed in all its parts, that it almost executes itself. And therefore upon the death of a prince among us, the administration goes on without any rub or interruption. For the same reasons we have little to apprehend from the weakness or fury of our monarchs, who have such wise councils to guide the first, and laws to restrain the other. And therefore this hereditary right should be kept so sacred, as never to break the succession, unless where the preserving of it may endanger the constitution; which is not from any intrinsic merit, or unalienable right in a particular family, but to avoid the consequences that usually attend the ambition of competitors, to which elective kingdoms are exposed; and which is the only obstacle to hinder them from arriving at the greatest perfection that government can possibly reach. Hence appears the absurdity of that distinction between a king de facto, and one de jure, with respect to us. For every limited monarch is a king de jure, because he governs by the consent of the whole, which is authority sufficient to abolish all precedent right. If a king come in by conquest, he is no longer a limited monarch, if he afterward consent to limitations, he becomes immediately king de jure for the same reason.

The great advocates for succession, who affirm it ought not to be violated upon any regard or consideration whatsoever, do insist much upon one argument that seems to carry little weight. They would have it, that a crown is a prince's birthright, and ought at least to be as well secured to him and his posterity as the inheritance of any private man: In short, that he has the same title to his kingdom which every individual has to his property. Now the consequence of this doctrine must be, that as a man may find several ways to waste, misspend, or abuse his patrimony, without being answerable to the laws; so a king may in like manner do what he will with his own, that is, he may squander and misapply his revenues, and even alienate the crown, without being called to an account by his subjects. They allow such a prince to be guilty indeed of much folly and wickedness, but for those he is to answer to God, as every private man must do that is guilty of mismanagement in his own concerns. Now the folly of this reasoning will best appear, by applying it in a parallel case. Should any man argue, that a physician is supposed to understand his own art best; that the law protects and encourages his profession; and therefore although he should manifestly prescribe poison to all his patients, whereof they should immediately die, he cannot be justly punished, but is answerable only to God: Or should the same be offered in behalf of a divine, who would preach against religion and moral duties; in either of these two cases everybody would find out the sophistry, and presently answer, that although common men are not exactly skilled in the composition or application of medicines, or in prescribing the limits of duty; yet the difference between poisons and remedies is easily known by their effects, and common reason soon distinguishes between virtue and vice: And it must be necessary to forbid both these the further practice of their professions, because their crimes are not purely personal to the physician or the divine, but destructive to the public. All which is infinitely stronger in respect to a prince, with whose good or ill conduct the happiness or misery of a whole nation is included; whereas it is of small consequence to the public, farther than examples, how any private person manages his property.

But granting that the right of a lineal successor to a crown were upon the same foot with the property of a subject, still It may at any time be transferred by the legislative power, as other properties frequently are. The supreme power in a state can do no wrong, because whatever that doth, is the action of all; and when the lawyers apply this maxim to the king, they must understand it only in that sense as he is administrator of the supreme power, otherwise it is not universally true, but may be controlled in several instances easy to produce.

And these are the topics we must proceed upon to justify our exclusion of the young Pretender in France; that of his suspected birth being merely popular, and therefore not made use of as I remember, since the Revolution in any speech, vote, or proclamation where there was occasion to mention him.

As to the abdication of King James, which the advocates on that side look upon to have been forcible and unjust, and consequently void in itself, I think a man may observe every article of the English Church, without being in much pain about it. 'Tis not unlikely that all doors were laid open for his departure, and perhaps not without the privity of the Prince of Orange, as reasonably concluding that the kingdom might be settled in his absence: But to affirm he had any cause to apprehend the same treatment with his father, is an improbable scandal flung upon the nation by a few bigotted French scribblers, or the invidious assertion of a ruined party at home, in the bitterness of their souls: Not one material circumstance agreeing with those in 1648; and the greatest part of the nation having preserved the utmost horror for that ignominious murder: But whether his removal were caused by his own fears or other men's artifices, 'tis manifest to me, that supposing the throne to be vacant, which was the foot they went upon, the body of the people were thereupon left at liberty, to choose what form of government they pleased, by themselves or their representatives.

The only difficulty of any weight against the proceedings at the Revolution, is an obvious objection, to which the writers upon that subject have not yet given a direct or sufficient answer, as if they were in pain at some consequences which they apprehend those of the contrary opinion might draw from it, I will repeat this objection as it was offered me some time ago, with all its advantages, by a very pious, learned, and worthy gentleman[11] of the nonjuring party.

[Footnote 11: Mr. Nelson, author of "The Feasts and Fasts of the Church of England."]

The force of his argument turned upon this; that the laws made by the supreme power, cannot otherwise than by the supreme power be annulled: That this consisting in England of a King, Lords, and Commons, whereof each have a negative voice, no two of them can repeal or enact a law without consent of the third; much less may any one of them be entirely excluded from its part of the legislature by a vote of the other two. That all these maxims were openly violated at the Revolution; where an assembly of the nobles and people, not summoned by the king's writ (which was an essential part of the constitution) and consequently no lawful meeting, did merely upon their own authority, declare the king to have abdicated, the throne vacant, and gave the crown by a vote to a nephew, when there were three children to inherit; though by the fundamental laws of the realm the next heir is immediately to succeed. Neither does it appear how a prince's abdication can make any other sort of vacancy in the throne, than would be caused by his death, since he cannot abdicate for his children (who claim their right of succession by act of parliament) otherwise than by his own consent in form to a bill from the two houses.

And this is the difficulty that seems chiefly to stick with the most reasonable of those, who from a mere scruple of conscience refuse to join with us upon the revolution principle; but for the rest, are I believe as far from loving arbitrary government, as any others can be, who are born under a free constitution, and are allowed to have the least share of common good sense.

In this objection there are two questions included: First, whether upon the foot of our constitution, as it stood in the reign of the late King James, a king of England may be deposed? The second is, whether the people of England convened by their own authority, after the king had withdrawn himself in the manner he did, had power to alter the succession?

As for the first; it is a point I shall not presume to determine, and shall therefore only say, that to any man who holds the negative, I would demand the liberty of putting the case as strongly as I please. I will suppose a prince limited by laws like ours, yet running into a thousand caprices of cruelty like Nero or Caligula. I will suppose him to murder his mother and his wife, to commit incest, to ravish matrons, to blow up the senate, and burn his metropolis, openly to renounce God and Christ, and worship the devil. These and the like exorbitances are in the power of a single person to commit without the advice of a ministry, or assistance of an army. And if such a king as I have described, cannot be deposed but by his own consent in parliament, I do not well see how he can be resisted, or what can be meant by a limited monarchy; or what signifies the people's consent in making and repealing laws, if the person who administers hath no tie but conscience, and is answerable to none but God. I desire no stronger proof that an opinion must be false, than to find very great absurdities annexed to it; and there cannot be greater than in the present case: For it is not a bare speculation that kings may run into such enormities as are above-mentioned; the practice may be proved by examples not only drawn from the first Caesars or later emperors, but many modern princes of Europe; such as Peter the Cruel, Philip the Second of Spain, John Basilovitz[12] of Muscovy, and in our own nation, King John, Richard the Third, and Henry the Eighth. But there cannot be equal absurdities supposed in maintaining the contrary opinion; because it is certain, that princes have it in their power to keep a majority on their side, by any tolerable administration; till provoked by continual oppressions, no man indeed can then answer where the madness of the people will stop.

[Footnote 12: Peter the Cruel is Pedro of Castile. Ivan Basilovitz was the first emperor of Russia who assumed the title of Czar. He was born in 1529, and died in 1584.]

As to the second part of the objection; whether the people of England convened by their own authority, upon King James's precipitate departure, had power to alter the succession?

In answer to this, I think it is manifest from the practice of the wisest nations, and who seem to have had the truest notions of freedom, that when a prince was laid aside for mal-administration, the nobles and people, if they thought it necessary for the public weal, did resume the administration of the supreme power (the power itself having been always in them) and did not only alter the succession, but often the very form of government too; because they believed there was no natural right in one man to govern another, but that all was by institution, force, or consent. Thus, the cities of Greece, when they drove out their tyrannical kings, either chose others from a new family, or abolished the kingly government, and became free states. Thus the Romans upon the expulsion of Tarquin found it inconvenient for them to be subject any longer to the pride, the lust, the cruelty and arbitrary will of single persons, and therefore by general consent entirely altered the whole frame of their government. Nor do I find the proceedings of either, in this point, to have been condemned by any historian of the succeeding ages.

But a great deal hath been already said by other writers upon this invidious and beaten subject; therefore I shall let it fall, though the point is commonly mistaken, especially by the lawyers; who of all others seem least to understand the nature of government in general; like under-workmen, who are expert enough at making a single wheel in a clock, but are utterly ignorant how to adjust the several parts, or regulate the movements.

To return therefore from this digression: It is a Church of England man's opinion, that the freedom of a nation consists in an absolute unlimited legislative power, wherein the whole body of the people are fairly represented, and in an executive duly limited; because on this side likewise there may be dangerous degrees, and a very ill extreme. For when two parties in a state are pretty equal in power, pretensions, merit, and virtue, (for these two last are with relation to parties and a court, quite different things) it hath been the opinion of the best writers upon government, that a prince ought not in any sort to be under the guidance or influence of either, because he declines by this means from his office of presiding over the whole, to be the head of a party; which besides the indignity, renders him answerable for all public mismanagements and the consequences of them; and in whatever state this happens, there must either be a weakness in the prince or ministry, or else the former is too much restrained by the legislature.[1]

[Footnote 1: This is as given in the "Miscellanies" (1711). Scott and Faulkner print "by the nobles, or those who represent the people." [T. S.]]

To conclude: A Church of England man may with prudence and a good conscience approve the professed principles of one party more than the other, according as he thinks they best promote the good of Church and State; but he will never be swayed by passion or interest, to advance an opinion merely because it is that of the party he most approves; which one single principle he looks upon as the root of all our civil animosities. To enter into a party as into an order of friars with so resigned an obedience to superiors, is very unsuitable both with the civil and religious liberties we so zealously assert. Thus the understandings of a whole senate are often enslaved by three or four leaders on each side; who instead of intending the public weal, have their hearts wholly set upon ways and means how to get or to keep employments. But to speak more at large, how has this spirit of faction mingled itself with the mass of the people, changed their nature and manners, and the very genius of the nation; broke all the laws of charity, neighbourhood, alliance and hospitality; destroyed all ties of friendship, and divided families against themselves! And no wonder it should be so, when in order to find out the character of a person, instead of inquiring whether he be a man of virtue, honour, piety, wit, good sense, or learning; the modern question is only, whether he be a Whig or a Tory, under which terms all good and ill qualities are included.

Now, because it is a point of difficulty to choose an exact middle between two ill extremes, it may be worth enquiring in the present case, which of these, a wise and good man would rather seem to avoid: Taking therefore their own good and ill characters with due abatements and allowances for partiality and passion; I should think that in order to preserve the constitution entire in Church and State, whoever has a true value for both, would be sure to avoid the extremes of Whig for the sake of the former, and the extremes of Tory on account of the latter.

I have now said all that I could think convenient upon so nice a subject, and find I have the ambition common with other reasoners, to wish at least that both parties may think me in the right, which would be of some use to those who have any virtue left, but are blindly drawn into the extravagancies of either, upon false representations, to serve the ambition or malice of designing men, without any prospect of their own. But if that is not to be hoped for, my next wish should be, that both might think me in the wrong; which I would understand as an ample justification of myself, and a sure ground to believe, that I have proceeded at least with impartiality, and perhaps with truth.


Jonathan Swift