May 12, 2013

The Drapier’s Fourth Letter

From The Drapier’s Fourth Letter: To the Whole People of Ireland (Jonathan Swift, Oct. 13, 1724):

But I find, that Cordials must be frequently applied to weak Constitutions, Political as well as Natural. A People long used to Hardships, lose by Degrees the very Notions of Liberty, they look upon themselves as Creatures at Mercy, and that all Impositions laid on them by a stronger Hand, are, in the Phrase of the Report, Legal and Obligatory. Hence proceeds that Poverty and Lowness of Spirit, to which a Kingdom may be subject as well as a Particular Person. And when Esau came fainting from the Field at the Point to Die, it is no wonder that he Sold his Birth-Right for a Mess of Pottage.


I entreat you, my dear Countrymen, not to be under the least Concern upon these and the like Rumours, which are no more than the last Howls of a Dog dissected alive, as I hope he hath sufficiently been. These Calumnies are the only Reserve that is left him.


’Tis true indeed, that within the Memory of Man, the Parliaments of England have Sometimes assumed the Power of binding this Kingdom by Laws enacted there, wherein they were at first openly opposed (as far as Truth, Reason and Justice are capable of Opposing) by the Famous Mr. Molineux, an English Gentleman born here, as well as by several of the greatest Patriots, and best Whigs in England; but the Love and Torrent of Power prevailed. Indeed the Arguments on both sides were invincible; For in Reason, all Government without the Consent of the Governed is the very Definition of Slavery: But in Fact, Eleven Men well Armed will certainly subdue one Single Man in his Shirt. But I have done. For those who have used Power to cramp Liberty have gone so far as to Resent even the Liberty of Complaining, altho’ a Man upon the Rack was never known to be refused the Liberty of Roaring as loud as he thought fit.

And as we are apt to sink too much under unreasonable Fears, so we are too soon inclined to be Raised by groundless Hopes (according to the Nature of all Consumptive Bodies like ours). Thus, it hath been given about for several Days past, that Somebody in England empowered a Second Somebody to write to a third Somebody here to assure us, that we should no more be troubled with those Half-pence. And this is Reported to have been done by the Same Person, who was said to have Sworn some Months ago, that he would Ram them down our Throats (though I doubt they would stick in our Stomachs) but whichever of these Reports is True or False, it is no Concern of ours. For in this Point we have nothing to do with English Ministers, and I should be sorry it lay in their Power to Redress this Grievance or to Enforce it: For the Report of the Committee hath given me a Surfeit. The Remedy is wholly in your own Hands, and therefore I have digressed a little in order to refresh and continue that Spirit so seasonably raised amongst you, and to let you see that by the Laws of GOD, of NATURE, of NATIONS, and of your own Country, you ARE and OUGHT to be as FREE a People as your Brethren in England.

If the Pamphlets published at London by Wood and his Journey-men in Defence of his Cause, were Reprinted here, and that our Country-men could be persuaded to Read them, they would convince you of his wicked Design more than all I shall ever be able to say. ...

There was a few Days ago a Pamphlet sent me of near 50 Pages Written in Favour of Mr. Wood and his Coynage, Printed in London; it is not worth answering, because probably it will never be published here: But it gave me an Occasion to reflect upon an Unhappiness we lye under, that the People of England are utterly Ignorant of our Case, which however is no wonder, since it is a Point they do not in the least concern themselves about, farther than perhaps as a Subject of Discourse in a Coffee-House when they have nothing else to talk of. For I have Reason to believe that no Minister ever gave himself the Trouble of Reading any Papers Written in our Defence, because I suppose their Opinions are already determined, and are formed wholly upon the Reports of Wood and his Accomplices; else it would be impossible that any Man could have the Impudence to write such a Pamphlet as I have mentioned. ...

However they are so far to be excused in Relation to the present Subject, that, hearing only one Side of the Cause, and having neither Opportunity nor Curiosity to examine the Other, they believe a Lye merely for their Ease, and conclude, because Mr. Wood pretends to have Power, he hath also Reason on his side.

Therefore to let you see how this Case is represented in England by Wood and his Adherents, I have thought it proper to extract out of that Pamphlet a few of those Notorious Falshoods in Point of Fact and Reasoning contained therein; the Knowledge whereof will confirm my Country-men in their Own Right Sentiments, when they will see by comparing both, how much their Enemies are in the Wrong.

First, The Writer, positively asserts, That Wood’s Half-pence were Current among us for several Months with the universal Approbation of all People, without one single Gain-sayer, and we all to a Man thought ourselves Happy in having them.

Secondly, He affirms, That we were drawn into a Dislike of them only by some Cunning Evil designing Men among us, who opposed this Patent of Wood to get another for themselves.

Thirdly, That those who most declared at first against Wood’s Patent were the very Men who intended to get another for their own Advantage.

Fourthly, That our Parliament and Privy Council, the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of Dublin, the Grand-Juries and Merchants, and in short the whole Kingdom, nay the very Dogs (as he expresseth it) were fond of those Half-pence, till they were inflamed by those few designing Persons aforesaid.

Fifthly, He says directly, That all those who opposed the Half-pence were Papists and Enemies to King George.

Thus far I am confident the most Ignorant among you can safely swear from your own Knowledge that the Author is a most notorious Lyar in every Article, the direct contrary being so manifest to the whole Kingdom ....