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The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, Vol. III.: Swift's Writings on Religion and the Church, Vol. I. by Jonathan Swift

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[Illustration: _Jonathan Swift,

from a picture by Frances Bindon

In the possession of Sir F R Falkiner_]

















The inquiry into the religious thought of the eighteenth century forms
one of the most interesting subjects for speculation in the history of
the intellectual development of western nations. It is true, that in
that history Swift takes no special or distinguished part; but he forms
a figure of peculiar interest in a special circle of his own. Swift had
no natural bent for the ministry of a church; his instincts, his
temperament, his intellect, were of that order which fitted him for
leadership and administration. He was a born magistrate and commander of
men. It is, therefore, one of the finest compliments we can pay Swift to
say, that no more faithful, no more devoted, no stauncher servant has
that Church possessed; for we must remember the proud and haughty temper
which attempted to content itself with the humdrum duties of a parish
life. Swift entered the service of that Church at a time when its need
for such a man was great; and in spite of its disdain of his worth, in
spite of its failure to recognize and acknowledge his transcendent
qualities, he never forgot his oath, and never shook in his allegiance.
To any one, however, who reads carefully his sermons, his "Thoughts on
Religion," and his "Letter to a Young Clergyman," there comes a
question--whether, for his innermost conscience, Swift found a
satisfying conviction in the doctrines of Christianity. "I am not
answerable to God," he says, "for the doubts that arise in my own
breast, since they are the consequence of that reason which he hath
planted in me, if I take care to conceal those doubts from others, if I
use my best endeavours to subdue them, and if they have no influence on
the conduct of my life." We search in vain, in any of his writings, for
any definite expression of doubt or want of faith in these doctrines.
When he touches on them, as he does in the sermon "On the Trinity," he
seems to avoid of set purpose, rational inquiry, and contents himself
with insisting on the necessity for a belief in those mysteries
concerning God about which we cannot hope to know anything. "I do not
find," he says, in his "Letter to a Young Clergyman," "that you are
anywhere directed in the canons or articles to attempt explaining the
mysteries of the Christian religion; and, indeed, since Providence
intended there should be mysteries, I don't see how it can be agreeable
to piety, orthodoxy, or good sense to go about such a work. For to me
there seems a manifest dilemma in the case; if you explain them, they
are mysteries no longer; if you fail, you have laboured to no purpose."

It must at once be admitted that Swift had not the metaphysical bent;
philosophy--in our modern sense of the word--was to him only a species
of word spinning. That only was valuable which had a practical bearing
on life--and Christianity had that. He found in Christianity, as he knew
it--in the Church of England, that is to say--an excellent organization,
which recognized the frailties of human nature, aimed at making
healthier men's souls, and gave mankind a reasonable guidance in the
selection of the best motives to action. He himself, as a preacher, made
it his principal business, "first to tell the people what is their duty,
and then to convince them that it is so." He had a profound faith in
existing institutions, which to him were founded on the fundamental
traits of humanity. The Church of England he considered to be such an
institution; and it was, moreover, regulated and settled by order of the
State. To follow its teachings would lead men to become good citizens,
honest dealers, truthful and cleanly companions, upright friends. What
more could be demanded of any religion?

The Romish Church led away from the Constitution as by law established.
Dissent set up private authority, which could no more be permitted in
religious than it was in political matters; it meant dissension,
revolution, and the upheaval of tried and trusted associations.
Therefore, the Church of Rome and the teachings of Dissent were alike
dangerous; and against both, whenever they attempted the possession of
political power, he waged a fierce and uncompromising war. "Where sects
are tolerated in a State," he says, in his "Sentiments of a Church of
England Man," "it is fit they should enjoy a full liberty of conscience,
and every other privilege of free-born 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."

Swift had no passionate love for ideals--indeed, he may have thought
ideals to be figments of an overheated and, therefore, aberrated
imagination. The practically real was the best ideal; and by the real he
would understand that power which most capably and most regulatively
nursed, guided, and assisted the best instincts of the average man. The
average man was but a sorry creature, and required adventitious aids for
his development. Gifted as he was with a large sympathy, Swift yet was
seemingly incapable of appreciating those thought-forms which help us to
visualize mentally our religious aspirations and emotions. A mere
emotion was but subject-matter for his satire. He suspected any zeal
which protested too much for truth, and considered it "odds on" it being
"either petulancy, ambition, or pride."

Whatever may have been his private speculations as to the truth of the
doctrines of Christianity they never interfered with his sense of his
responsibilities as a clergyman. "I look upon myself," he says, "in the
capacity of a clergyman, to be one appointed by Providence for defending
a post assigned me, and for gaining over as many enemies as I can.
Although I think my cause is just, yet one great motive is my submitting
to the pleasure of Providence, and to the laws of my country." If anyone
had asked him, what was the pleasure of Providence, he would probably
have answered, that it was plainly shown in the Scriptures, and required
not the aid of the expositions of divines who were "too curious, or too
narrow, in reducing orthodoxy within the compass of subtleties,
niceties, and distinctions." Truth was no abstraction--that was truth
which found its expression in the best action; and this explains Swift's
acceptance of any organization which made for such expression. He found
one ready in the Church of England; and whatever his doubts were, those
only moved him which were aroused by action from those who attempted to
interfere with the working of that organization. And this also helps to
explain his political attitude at the time when it was thought he had
deserted his friends. The Church was always his first consideration. He
was not a Churchman because he was a politician, but a politician
because he was a Churchman. These, however, are matters which are more
fully entered into by Swift himself in the tracts herewith reprinted,
and in the notes prefixed to them by the editor.

It was originally intended that Swift's writings on Religion and the
Church should occupy a single volume of this edition of his works. They
are, however, so numerous that it has been found more convenient to
divide them into two volumes--the first including all the tracts, except
those relating to the Sacramental Test; the second containing the Test
pamphlets and the twelve sermons, with the Remarks on Dr. Gibbs's
paraphrase of the Psalms, in an appendix. It is hoped that this
division, while it entails upon the student the necessity for a double
reference, will yet preserve the continuity of form enabling him to view
Swift's religious standpoint and work with as much advantage as he would
have obtained by the original plan.

The editor again takes the opportunity to thank Colonel F. Grant for the
service he has rendered him in placing at his disposal his fine
collection of Swift's tracts. The portrait which forms the frontispiece
to this volume is one of those painted by Francis Bindon, and was
formerly in the possession of Judge Berwick. For permission to
photograph and reproduce it here, thanks are due to Sir Frederick R.
Falkiner, Recorder of Dublin.























***** ***** ***** ***** *****







In November, 1707, Swift left Dublin in the train of the then Lord
Lieutenant, Lord Pembroke. His travelling companion was Sir Andrew
Fountaine, who, on landing in England, set out with Lord Pembroke for
Wilton, while Swift went on to Leicester to visit his mother. He stayed
with her until some time in December, but, by the middle of the same
month, he was in London. During this absence from Ireland Swift
corresponded somewhat freely with Archbishop King of Dublin, and with
Archdeacon Walls--the letters to the former were first printed in
Forster's "Life of Swift." For these Forster was indebted to the Rev.
Mr. Reeves (vicar of Lusk, co. Dublin), who discovered them in the
record-room of the see of Armagh (see "Life," p. 205 et seq. and note).
One of Swift's intentions, while in the metropolis, was to push forward
the claim of the Irish clergy for the remission of the First Fruits and
Tenths, a grant which had already been conceded to the English clergy;
and his letters to King often include requests for the necessary papers
by means of which he could lay the matter before either Godolphin or
Somers. Walls had written to Swift of the vacancy of the see of
Waterford, and, from the reply to the archdeacon, we learn that even at
so early a date Swift suffered a grievous disappointment; for in
January, 1708, the bishopric, of which Swift had hopes, was presented to
Dr. Thomas Milles. In his letter to Walls Swift confesses that he "once
had a glimpse that things would have gone otherwise.... But let us
talk no further on this subject. I am stomach-sick of it already. ...
Pray send me an account of some smaller vacancy in the Government's
gift." It was to Somers, and through him to Lord Halifax, that Swift
looked for recognition, either for services rendered, or because of
their appreciation of his abilities. But, however much he may have been
disappointed at their inaction, it may not be argued, as it has been,
that Swift's so-called change in his political opinions was the outcome
either of spleen or chagrin against the Whigs for their ingratitude
towards him. It is, indeed, questionable whether Swift ever changed his
political opinions, speaking of these as party opinions. From the day of
his entrance, it may be said, into the orders of the Church, his first
thought was for it; and on all political questions which touched Church
matters Swift was neither Whig nor Tory, but churchman. It was because
of the attitude of the Whigs towards the Church that Swift left them;
and in his writings he does not spare the Tories even when he finds them
taking up similar attitudes. On purely political questions Swift was too
independent a thinker to be influenced by mere party views. That he
wrote for the Tories must be put down to Harley's personal influence,
and to his foresight which saw in Swift a man who must be treated as an
equal with the highest in the land. Swift's intercourse with the leading
men of his day only served to accentuate his consciousness of his
superiority; and a party which would permit him the free play of his
powers would be the party to which Swift would give his adhesion.
Godolphin, Somers, and Walpole either did not recognize the genius of
the man, or their own "points of view" did not permit them to give him
the free play they felt he would obtain. Be that as it may, Harley
gained not only a splendid party fighter, but a friend on whose
affection he could ever rely.

In these tracts on Religion and the Church, which he wrote in the year
1708, Swift is not a party man, speaking for party purposes. He
believed, and sincerely believed, that for such beings as were the men
and women of this kingdom, the Church was, if not the highest and
noblest instrument for good, yet the worthiest and ablest they had.
Swift never lost himself in theories. He was, however, not blind to the
dangers which an established religion might engender; but whatever its
dangers, these would be inevitable to the most perfect system so long as
human nature was as base as it was. The "Argument" is written in a vein
of satirical banter; but the Swiftian cynicism permeates every line. It
is the first of four tracts which form Swift's most important expression
of his thoughts on Religion and the Church. Scott well describes it as
"one of the most felicitous efforts in our language, to engage wit and
humour on the side of religion," and Forster speaks of it as "having
also that indefinable subtlety of style which conveys not the writer's
knowledge of the subject only, but his power and superiority over it."

I have not been able to find a copy of the original edition of the
"Argument" upon which to base the present text--for that I have gone to
the first edition of the "Miscellanies," published in 1711; but I have
collated this with those given by the "Miscellanies" (1728), Faulkner,
Hawkesworth, Scott, Morley, and Craik.

[T. S.]


I am very sensible what a weakness and presumption it is, to reason
against the general humour and disposition of the world. I remember it
was with great justice, and a due regard to the freedom both of the
public and the press, forbidden upon several penalties to write,[1] or
discourse, or lay wagers against the Union, even before it was confirmed
by parliament, because that was looked upon as a design, to oppose the
current of the people, which, besides the folly of it, is a manifest
breach of the fundamental law that makes this majority of opinion the
voice of God. In like manner, and for the very same reasons, it may
perhaps be neither safe nor prudent to argue against the abolishing of
Christianity, at a juncture when all parties appear[2] so unanimously
determined upon the point, as we cannot but allow from their actions,
their discourses, and their writings. However, I know not how, whether
from the affectation of singularity, or the perverseness of human
nature, but so it unhappily falls out, that I cannot be entirely of this
opinion. Nay, though I were sure an order were issued for my immediate
prosecution by the Attorney-General, I should still confess that in the
present posture of our affairs at home or abroad, I do not yet see the
absolute necessity of extirpating the Christian religion from among us.

[Footnote 1: This refers to the Jacobitism of the time, particularly
among those who were opposed to the Union. A reference to Lord Mahon's
"Reign of Queen Anne" will show how strong was the opposition in
Scotland, and how severe were the measures taken to put down that
opposition. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 2: Craik and Hawkesworth print the word "seem," but the
"Miscellanies," Faulkner, and Scott give it as in the text. [T.S.]]

This perhaps may appear too great a paradox even for our wise and
paradoxical age to endure; therefore I shall handle it with all
tenderness, and with the utmost deference to that great and profound
majority which is of another sentiment.

And yet the curious may please to observe, how much the genius of a
nation is liable to alter in half an age. I have heard it affirmed for
certain by some very old people, that the contrary opinion was even in
their memories as much in vogue as the other is now; and, that a project
for the abolishing of Christianity would then have appeared as singular,
and been thought as absurd, as it would be at this time to write or
discourse in its defence.

Therefore I freely own that all appearances are against me. The system
of the Gospel, after the fate of other systems is generally antiquated
and exploded, and the mass or body of the common people, among whom it
seems to have had its latest credit, are now grown as much ashamed of it
as their betters; opinions, like fashions, always descending from those
of quality to the middle sort, and thence to the vulgar, where at length
they are dropped and vanish.

But here I would not be mistaken, and must therefore be so bold as to
borrow a distinction from the writers on the other side, when they make
a difference between nominal and real Trinitarians. I hope no reader
imagines me so weak to stand up in the defence of real Christianity,
such as used in primitive times (if we may believe the authors of those
ages) to have an influence upon men's belief and actions: To offer at
the restoring of that would indeed be a wild project; it would be to dig
up foundations; to destroy at one blow all the wit, and half the
learning of the kingdom; to break the entire frame and constitution of
things; to ruin trade, extinguish arts and sciences with the professors
of them; in short, to turn our courts, exchanges, and shops into
deserts; and would be full as absurd as the proposal of Horace,[3] where
he advises the Romans all in a body to leave their city, and seek a new
seat in some remote part of the world, by way of cure for the corruption
of their manners.

[Footnote 3: This proposal is embodied in the 16th Epode, where, in an
appeal "to the Roman people," Horace advises them to fly the evils of
tyranny and civil war by sailing away to "the happy land, those islands
of the blest:"

"Nos manet Oceanus circumvagus! arva, beata
Petamus arva, divites et insulas!"

Therefore I think this caution was in itself altogether unnecessary,
(which I have inserted only to prevent all possibility of cavilling)
since every candid reader will easily understand my discourse to be
intended only in defence of nominal Christianity; the other having been
for some time wholly laid aside by general consent, as utterly
inconsistent with our present schemes of wealth and power.

But why we should therefore cast off the name and title of Christians,
although the general opinion and resolution be so violent for it, I
confess I cannot (with submission) apprehend the consequence
necessary.[4] However, since the undertakers propose such wonderful
advantages to the nation by this project, and advance many plausible
objections against the system of Christianity, I shall briefly consider
the strength of both, fairly allow them their greatest weight, and offer
such answers as I think most reasonable. After which I will beg leave to
shew what inconveniences may possibly happen by such an innovation, in
the present posture of our affairs.

[Footnote 4: I give the reading of the "Miscellanies" (1711), Faulkner
and Hawkesworth. Scott and Craik print it: "I confess I cannot (with
submission) apprehend, nor is the consequence necessary." [T.S.]]

_First,_ One great advantage proposed by the abolishing of Christianity
is, that it would very much enlarge and establish liberty of conscience,
that great bulwark of our nation, and of the Protestant Religion, which
is still too much limited by priestcraft, notwithstanding all the good
intentions of the legislature, as we have lately found by a severe
instance. For it is confidently reported, that two young gentlemen of
real hopes, bright wit, and profound judgment, who upon a thorough
examination of causes and effects, and by the mere force of natural
abilities, without the least tincture of learning, having made a
discovery, that there was no God, and generously communicating their
thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, by an
unparalleled severity, and upon I know not what obsolete law, broke for
blasphemy.[5] And as it hath been wisely observed, if persecution once
begins, no man alive knows how far it may reach, or where it will end.

[Footnote 5: No record of this "breaking" has been discovered. [T.S.]]

In answer to all which, with deference to wiser judgments, I think this
rather shews the necessity of a nominal religion among us. Great wits
love to be free with the highest objects; and if they cannot be allowed
a God to revile or renounce, they will speak evil of dignities, abuse
the government, and reflect upon the ministry; which I am sure few will
deny to be of much more pernicious consequence, according to the saying
of Tiberius, _Deorum offensa diis curae._[6] As to the particular fact
related, I think it is not fair to argue from one instance, perhaps
another cannot be produced; yet (to the comfort of all those who may be
apprehensive of persecution) blasphemy we know is freely spoken a
million of times in every coffeehouse and tavern, or wherever else good
company meet. It must be allowed indeed, that to break an English
free-born officer only for blasphemy, was, to speak the gentlest of such
an action, a very high strain of absolute power. Little can be said in
excuse for the general; perhaps he was afraid it might give offence to
the allies, among whom, for aught we know, it may be the custom of the
country to believe a God. But if he argued, as some have done, upon a
mistaken principle, that an officer who is guilty of speaking blasphemy,
may some time or other proceed so far as to raise a mutiny, the
consequence is by no means to be admitted; for, surely the commander of
an English army is likely to be but ill obeyed, whose soldiers fear and
reverence him as little as they do a Deity.

[Footnote 6: Tacitus, "Annals," bk. i., c. lxxiii. [T.S.]]

It is further objected against the Gospel System, that it obliges men to
the belief of things too difficult for free-thinkers, and such who have
shaken off the prejudices that usually cling to a confined education. To
which I answer, that men should be cautious how they raise objections
which reflect upon the wisdom of the nation. Is not every body freely
allowed to believe whatever he pleases, and to publish his belief to the
world whenever he thinks fit, especially if it serves to strengthen the
party which is in the right? Would any indifferent foreigner, who should
read the trumpery lately written by Asgil, Tindal, Toland, Coward,[7]
and forty more, imagine the Gospel to be our rule of faith, and
confirmed by parliaments? Does any man either believe, or say he
believes, or desire to have it thought that he says he believes one
syllable of the matter? And is any man worse received upon that score,
or does he find his want of nominal faith a disadvantage to him in the
pursuit of any civil or military employment? What if there be an old
dormant statute or two against him, are they not now obsolete, to a
degree, that Empsom and Dudley[8] themselves if they were now alive,
would find it impossible to put them in execution?

[Footnote 7: John Asgill (1659-1738), became a member of Lincoln's Inn,
and went over to Ireland in 1697, where he practised as a barrister,
amassed a large fortune, and was elected to the Irish parliament. For
writing "An Argument, proving that Man may be translated from hence
without passing through Death," he was, in 1700, expelled the House, and
the book ordered to be burnt. On returning to England he was elected to
parliament for Bramber, but suffered a second expulsion in 1712, also on
account of this book. He was imprisoned for debt, and remained under the
rules of the Fleet and King's Bench for thirty years, during which time
he wrote and published various political tracts. His "Argument"
attempted to "interpret the relations between God and man by the
technical rules of English law," and Coleridge thought no little of its
power and style.

Matthew Tindal (1657-1733) was born at Beer Ferrers, in Devonshire. He
studied at Oxford, and obtained a fellowship in All Souls. He was made
LL.D. in 1685, and, although he professed himself a Roman Catholic in
James II.'s reign, he managed to keep his fellowship after that
monarch's flight by becoming Protestant again. His most important work
was "The Rights of the Christian Church Asserted," which the House of
Commons in 1710 adjudged fit for burning by the hangman. In 1730 he
published anonymously, the first part of "Christianity as Old as
Creation," a work which attacked strongly the authority of the
Scriptures; a second volume was never published.

John Toland (1669-1722), born near Londonderry, and educated in a
Catholic school. He professed himself a Protestant, and was sent to
Glasgow and Edinburgh. In the latter university he graduated in his
master's degree. While studying at Leyden he became a sceptic, and in
1695 published his "Christianity not Mysterious," a work which aroused a
wide controversy. In his "Life of Milton" (1698) he denied that King
Charles was the author of "Eikon Basilikae," and also attacked the
Gospels. This also brought upon him rejoinders from Dr. Blackall and Dr.
Samuel Clarke. He died at Putney, in easy circumstances, due to the
presents made him while visiting German courts. He wrote other works,
chief among which may be mentioned, "Socinianism truly Stated" (1705),
"Nazarenas" (1718), and "Tetradymus." His "Posthumous Works" were issued
in two volumes in 1726, with a life by Des Maizeaux. Craik calls him "a
man of utterly worthless character," and refers to his being "mixed up
in some discreditable episodes as a political spy."

William Coward (1656?--1724?) was born at Winchester. He studied
medicine and became a fellow of Wadham College, Oxford. His "Second
Thoughts concerning Human Souls," published in 1702, occasioned fierce
disputes, on account of its materialism. The House of Commons ordered
the work to be burnt by the hangman.

Asgill, Toland, Tindal, Collins, and Coward are classed as the Deistical
writers of the eighteenth century. In his "History of English Thought in
the Eighteenth Century" Mr. Leslie Stephen gives an admirable exposition
of their views, and their special interpretation of Locke's theories.

[Footnote 8: Of Henry VII. notoriety, who aided the king, by illegal
exactions, to amass his large fortune. They were executed by Henry VIII.

It is likewise urged, that there are, by computation, in this kingdom,
above ten thousand parsons, whose revenues added to those of my lords
the bishops, would suffice to maintain at least two hundred young
gentlemen of wit and pleasure, and freethinking, enemies to priestcraft,
narrow principles, pedantry, and prejudices; who might be an ornament to
the Court and Town: And then, again, so great a number of able [bodied]
divines might be a recruit to our fleet and armies. This indeed appears
to be a consideration of some weight: But then, on the other side,
several things deserve to be considered likewise: As, first, whether it
may not be thought necessary that in certain tracts of country, like
what we call parishes, there shall be one man at least of abilities to
read and write. Then it seems a wrong computation, that the revenues of
the Church throughout this island would be large enough to maintain two
hundred young gentlemen, or even half that number, after the present
refined way of living; that is, to allow each of them such a rent, as in
the modern form of speech, would make them easy. But still there is in
this project a greater mischief behind; and we ought to beware of the
woman's folly, who killed the hen that every morning laid her a golden
egg. For, pray what would become of the race of men in the next age, if
we had nothing to trust to beside the scrofulous, consumptive
productions, furnished by our men of wit and pleasure, when, having
squandered away their vigour, health and estates, they are forced by
some disagreeable marriage to piece up their broken fortunes, and entail
rottenness and politeness on their posterity? Now, here are ten thousand
persons reduced by the wise regulations of Henry the Eighth,[9] to the
necessity of a low diet, and moderate exercise, who are the only great
restorers of our breed, without which the nation would in an age or two
become one great hospital.

[Footnote 9: His seizures of the revenues of the Church. [T.S.]]

Another advantage proposed by the abolishing of Christianity, is the
clear gain of one day in seven, which is now entirely lost, and
consequently the kingdom one seventh less considerable in trade,
business, and pleasure, besides the loss to the public of so many
stately structures now in the hands of the Clergy, which might be
converted into playhouses, exchanges, market houses, common dormitories,
and other public edifices.

I hope I shall be forgiven a hard word, if I call this a perfect
_cavil._ I readily own there has been an old custom time out of mind,
for people to assemble in the churches every Sunday, and that shops are
still frequently shut, in order as it is conceived, to preserve the
memory of that ancient practice, but how this can prove a hindrance to
business or pleasure, is hard to imagine. What if the men of pleasure
are forced one day in the week, to game at home instead of the chocolate
houses?[10] Are not the taverns and coffeehouses open? Can there be a
more convenient season for taking a dose of physic? Are fewer claps got
upon Sundays than other days? Is not that the chief day for traders to
sum up the accounts of the week, and for lawyers to prepare their
briefs? But I would fain know how it can be pretended that the churches
are misapplied? Where are more appointments and rendezvouzes of
gallantry? Where more care to appear in the foremost box with greater
advantage of dress? Where more meetings for business? Where more
bargains driven of all sorts? And where so many conveniences or
enticements to sleep?

[Footnote 10: The chocolate houses seem to have been largely used for
gambling purposes. They were not so numerous as the coffee houses.

There is one advantage greater than any of the foregoing, proposed by
the abolishing of Christianity: that it will utterly extinguish parties
among us, by removing those factious distinctions of High and Low
Church, of Whig and Tory, Presbyterian and Church of England, which are
now so many mutual clogs upon public proceedings, and are apt to prefer
the gratifying themselves, or depressing their adversaries, before the
most important interest of the state.

I confess, if it were certain that so great an advantage would redound
to the nation by this expedient, I would submit and be silent: But will
any man say, that if the words _whoring, drinking, cheating, lying,
stealing_, were by act of parliament ejected out of the English tongue
and dictionaries, we should all awake next morning chaste and temperate,
honest and just, and lovers of truth? Is this a fair consequence? Or, if
the physicians would forbid us to pronounce the words _pox, gout,
rheumatism_ and _stone_, would that expedient serve like so many
talismans to destroy the diseases themselves? Are party and faction
rooted in men's hearts no deeper than phrases borrowed from religion, or
founded upon no firmer principles? And is our language so poor that we
cannot find other terms to express them? Are _envy, pride, avarice_ and
_ambition_ such ill nomenclators, that they cannot furnish appellations
for their owners? Will not _heydukes_ and _mamalukes, mandarins_ and
_patshaws_, or any other words formed at pleasure, serve to distinguish
those who are in the ministry from others who would be in it if they
could? What, for instance, is easier than to vary the form of speech,
and instead of the word church, make it a question in politics, whether
the Monument be in danger? Because religion was nearest at hand to
furnish a few convenient phrases, is our invention so barren, we can
find no other? Suppose, for argument sake, that the Tories favoured
Margarita, the Whigs Mrs. Tofts,[11] and the Trimmers[12] Valentini,[13]
would not _Margaritians, Toftians,_ and _Valentinians_ be very tolerable
marks of distinction? The _Prasini_ and _Veniti,_[14] two most virulent
factions in Italy, began (if I remember right) by a distinction of
colours in ribbons, which we might do with as good a grace[15] about the
dignity of the blue and the green, and would serve as properly to divide
the Court, the Parliament, and the Kingdom between them, as any terms of
art whatsoever, borrowed from religion. And therefore I think, there is
little force in this objection against Christianity, or prospect of so
great an advantage as is proposed in the abolishing of it.

[Footnote 11: Margarita was a famous Italian singer of the day. Her name
was Francesca Margherita de l'Epine, and she was known as "the Italian
woman." In his "Journal to Stella" for August 6th, 1711, Swift writes:
"We have a music meeting in our town [Windsor] to-night. I went to the
rehearsal of it, and there was Margarita and her sister, and another
drab, and a parcel of fiddlers; I was weary, and would not go to the
meeting, which I am sorry for, because I heard it was a great assembly."
(See present edition, vol. ii. p. 219).

Mrs. Catherine Tofts was an Englishwoman, who also sang in Italian
opera. She had a fine figure and a beautiful voice. Steele in the
"Tatler," No. 20, refers to her when in her state of insanity. Her mind,
evidently, could not stand the strain of her great popularity, and she
became mad in 1709. In the "Tatler" she is called Camilla; and Cibber
also speaks of the "silver tone of her voice." [T.S.]]

[Footnote 12: By the Trimmers Swift referred to the nickname given to
the party in the time of Charles II., which consisted of those who
wished to compromise between the advocates of the Crown and the
supporters of the Protestant succession as against the Duke of York.

[Footnote 13: Another Italian singer of the time, who was the rival of
Margarita and Mrs. Tofts. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 14: This refers to the Roman chariot races. They gave rise to
the factions called _Albati, Russati, Prasini,_ and _Veniti._ The
Prasini (green) and Veniti (blue) were the principal, and their rivalry
landed the empire, under Justinian, in a civil war. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 15: Scott has "and we might contend with as good a grace," &c.
Craik follows Scott. The reading in the text is that of the
"Miscellanies" (1711), Faulkner, and Hawkesworth. [T.S.]]

'Tis again objected, as a very absurd ridiculous custom, that a set of
men should be suffered, much less employed and hired, to bawl one day in
seven against the lawfulness of those methods most in use toward the
pursuit of greatness, riches and pleasure, which are the constant
practice of all men alive on the other six. But this objection is, I
think, a little unworthy so refined an age as ours. Let us argue this
matter calmly: I appeal to the breast of any polite freethinker, whether
in the pursuit of gratifying a predominant passion, he hath not always
felt a wonderful incitement, by reflecting it was a thing forbidden; and
therefore we see, in order to cultivate this taste, the wisdom of the
nation hath taken special care, that the ladies should be furnished with
prohibited silks, and the men with prohibited wine. And indeed it were
to be wished, that some other prohibitions were promoted, in order to
improve the pleasures of the town; which, for want of such expedients
begin already, as I am told, to flag and grow languid, giving way daily
to cruel inroads from the spleen.

'Tis likewise proposed as a great advantage to the public, that if we
once discard the system of the Gospel, all religion will of course be
banished for ever; and consequently, along with it, those grievous
prejudices of education, which under the names of _virtue, conscience,
honour, justice,_ and the like, are so apt to disturb the peace of human
minds, and the notions whereof are so hard to be eradicated by right
reason or freethinking, sometimes during the whole course of our lives.

Here first, I observe how difficult it is to get rid of a phrase, which
the world is once grown fond of, though the occasion that first produced
it, be entirely taken away. For several years past, if a man had but an
ill-favoured nose, the deep-thinkers of the age would some way or other
contrive to impute the cause to the prejudice of his education. From
this fountain were said to be derived all our foolish notions of
justice, piety, love of our country, all our opinions of God, or a
future state, Heaven, Hell, and the like: And there might formerly
perhaps have been some pretence for this charge. But so effectual care
has been taken to remove those prejudices, by an entire change in the
methods of education, that (with honour I mention it to our polite
innovators) the young gentlemen who are now on the scene, seem to have
not the least tincture of those infusions, or string of those weeds;
and, by consequence, the reason for abolishing nominal Christianity upon
that pretext, is wholly ceased.

For the rest, it may perhaps admit a controversy, whether the banishing
of all notions of religion whatsoever, would be convenient for the
vulgar. Not that I am in the least of opinion with those who hold
religion to have been the invention of politicians, to keep the lower
part of the world in awe by the fear of invisible powers; unless mankind
were then very different to what it is now: For I look upon the mass or
body of our people here in England, to be as freethinkers, that is to
say, as staunch unbelievers, as any of the highest rank. But I conceive
some scattered notions about a superior power to be of singular use for
the common people, as furnishing excellent materials to keep children
quiet when they grow peevish, and providing topics of amusement in a
tedious winter-night.

Lastly, 'tis proposed as a singular advantage, that the abolishing of
Christianity will very much contribute to the uniting of Protestants, by
enlarging the terms of communion so as to take in all sorts of
dissenters, who are now shut out of the pale upon account of a few
ceremonies which all sides confess to be things indifferent: That this
alone will effectually answer the great ends of a scheme for
comprehension, by opening a large noble gate, at which all bodies may
enter; whereas the chaffering with dissenters, and dodging about this or
t'other ceremony, is but like opening a few wickets, and leaving them at
jar, by which no more than one can get in at a time, and that, not
without stooping, and sideling, and squeezing his body.[16]

[Footnote 16: "In this passage," says Scott, "the author's High Church
principles, and jealousy of the Dissenters, plainly shew themselves; and
it is, perhaps, in special reference to what is here said, that he ranks
it among the pamphlets he wrote in opposition to the party then in
power." [T. S.]]

To all this I answer: that there is one darling inclination of mankind,
which usually affects to be a retainer to religion, though she be
neither its parent, its godmother, or its friend; I mean the spirit of
opposition, that lived long before Christianity, and can easily subsist
without it. Let us, for instance, examine wherein the opposition of
sectaries among us consists, we shall find Christianity to have no share
in it at all Does the Gospel any where prescribe a starched, squeezed
countenance, a stiff, formal gait, a singularity of manners and habit,
or any affected modes of speech different from the reasonable part of
mankind? Yet, if Christianity did not lend its name to stand in the gap,
and to employ or divert these humours, they must of necessity be spent
in contraventions to the laws of the land, and disturbance of the public
peace. There is a portion of enthusiasm assigned to every nation, which,
if it hath not proper objects to work on, will burst out, and set all
into a flame. If the quiet of a state can be bought by only flinging men
a few ceremonies to devour, it is a purchase no wise man would refuse
Let the mastiffs amuse themselves about a sheep's skin stuffed with hay,
provided it will keep them from worrying the flock The institution of
convents abroad, seems in one point a strain of great wisdom, there
being few irregularities in human passions, which may not have recourse
to vent themselves in some of those orders, which are so many retreats
for the speculative, the melancholy, the proud, the silent, the politic
and the morose, to spend themselves, and evaporate the noxious
particles, for each of whom we in this island are forced to provide a
several sect of religion, to keep them quiet And whenever Christianity
shall be abolished, the legislature must find some other expedient to
employ and entertain them For what imports it how large a gate you open,
if there will be always left a number who place a pride and a merit in
not coming in?[17]

[Footnote 17: So the "Miscellanies" (1711) and Hawkesworth Faulkner,
Scott, and Craik print, "in refusing to enter." [T. S.]]

Having thus considered the most important objections against
Christianity, and the chief advantages proposed by the abolishing
thereof, I shall now with equal deference and submission to wiser
judgments as before, proceed to mention a few inconveniences that may
happen, if the Gospel should be repealed, which perhaps the projectors
may not have sufficiently considered.

And first, I am very sensible how much the gentlemen of wit and pleasure
are apt to murmur, and be choqued[18] at the sight of so many draggled
tail parsons, that happen to fall in their way, and offend their eyes,
but at the same time, these wise reformers do not consider what an
advantage and felicity it is, for great wits to be always provided with
objects of scorn and contempt, in order to exercise and improve their
talents, and divert their spleen from falling on each other or on
themselves, especially when all this may be done without the least
imaginable danger to their persons.

[Footnote 18: Shocked Swift's habit when using a word of French origin
was to keep the French spelling. [T. S.]]

And to urge another argument of a parallel nature. If Christianity were
once abolished, how could the freethinkers, the strong reasoners, and
the men of profound learning, be able to find another subject so
calculated in all points whereon to display their abilities? What
wonderful productions of wit should we be deprived of, from those whose
genius by continual practice hath been wholly turned upon raillery and
invectives against religion, and would therefore never be able to shine
or distinguish themselves upon any other subject! We are daily
complaining of the great decline of wit among us, and would we take away
the greatest, perhaps the only topic we have left? Who would ever have
suspected Asgil for a wit, or Toland for a philosopher, if the
inexhaustible stock of Christianity had not been at hand to provide them
with materials? What other subject, through all art or nature, could
have produced Tindal for a profound author, or furnished him with
readers? It is the wise choice of the subject that alone adorns and
distinguishes the writer. For, had a hundred such pens as these been
employed on the side of religion, they would have immediately sunk into
silence and oblivion.

Nor do I think it wholly groundless, or my fears altogether imaginary,
that the abolishing of Christianity may perhaps bring the Church into
danger, or at least put the senate to the trouble of another securing
vote. I desire I may not be mistaken; I am far from presuming to affirm
or think that the Church is in danger at present, or as things now
stand; but we know not how soon it may be so when the Christian religion
is repealed. As plausible as this project seems, there may a dangerous
design lurk under it:[19] Nothing can be more notorious, than that the
Atheists, Deists, Socinians, Anti-trinitarians, and other subdivisions
of freethinkers, are persons of little zeal for the present
ecclesiastical establishment: Their declared opinion is for repealing
the Sacramental Test; they are very indifferent with regard to
ceremonies; nor do they hold the _jus divinum_ of Episcopacy. Therefore
this may be intended as one politic step toward altering the
constitution of the Church established, and setting up Presbytery in the
stead, which I leave to be further considered by those at the helm.

[Footnote 19: Craik follows Scott in altering this sentence to "there
may be a dangerous design lurking under it"; but all other editors,
except Morley and Roscoe, give it as printed in the text. [T.S.]]

In the last place, I think nothing can be more plain, than that by this
expedient, we shall run into the evil we chiefly pretend to avoid; and
that the abolishment of the Christian religion will be the readiest
course we can take to introduce popery. And I am the more inclined to
this opinion, because we know it has been the constant practice of the
Jesuits to send over emissaries, with instructions to personate
themselves members of the several prevailing sects among us. So it is
recorded, that they have at sundry times appeared in the guise of
Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Independents and Quakers, according as any
of these were most in credit; so, since the fashion hath been taken up
of exploding religion, the popish missionaries have not been wanting to
mix with the freethinkers; among whom, Toland the great oracle of the
Antichristians is an Irish priest, the son of an Irish priest; and the
most learned and ingenious author of a book called "The Rights of the
Christian Church,"[20] was in a proper juncture reconciled to the Romish
faith, whose true son, as appears by a hundred passages in his treatise,
he still continues. Perhaps I could add some others to the number; but
the fact is beyond dispute, and the reasoning they proceed by is right:
For, supposing Christianity to be extinguished, the people will never be
at ease till they find out some other method of worship; which will as
infallibly produce superstition, as this will end in popery.

[Footnote 20: Dr. Matthew Tindal (see previous note, p. 9). The book was
afterwards specially criticised by Swift in his "Remarks upon a Book
entitled 'The Rights of the Christian Church.'" See also note to the
present reprint of these "Remarks." [T.S.]]

And therefore, if notwithstanding all I have said, it still be thought
necessary to have a bill brought in for repealing Christianity, I would
humbly offer an amendment; that instead of the word, Christianity, may
be put religion in general; which I conceive will much better answer all
the good ends proposed by the projectors of it. For, as long as we leave
in being a God and his providence, with all the necessary consequences
which curious and inquisitive men will be apt to draw from such
premises, we do not strike at the root of the evil, though we should
ever so effectually annihilate the present scheme of the Gospel: For, of
what use is freedom of thought, if it will not produce freedom of
action, which is the sole end, how remote soever in appearance, of all
objections against Christianity? And therefore, the freethinkers
consider it as a sort of edifice, wherein all the parts have such a
mutual dependence on each other, that if you happen to pull out one
single nail, the whole fabric must fall to the ground. This was happily
expressed by him who had heard of a text brought for proof of the
Trinity, which in an ancient manuscript was differently read; he
thereupon immediately took the hint, and by a sudden deduction of a long
_sorites_, most logically concluded; "Why, if it be as you say, I may
safely whore and drink on, and defy the parson." From which, and many
the like instances easy to be produced, I think nothing can be more
manifest, than that the quarrel is not against any particular points of
hard digestion in the Christian system, but against religion in general;
which, by laying restraints on human nature, is supposed the great enemy
to the freedom of thought and action.

Upon the whole, if it shall still be thought for the benefit of Church
and State, that Christianity be abolished; I conceive however, it may be
more convenient to defer the execution to a time of peace, and not
venture in this conjuncture to disoblige our allies, who, as it falls
out, are all Christians, and many of them, by the prejudices of their
education, so bigoted, as to place a sort of pride in the appellation.
If upon being rejected by them, we are to trust an alliance with the
Turk, we shall find ourselves much deceived: For, as he is too remote,
and generally engaged in war with the Persian emperor, so his people
would be more scandalized at our infidelity, than our Christian
neighbours. For they [the Turks] are not only strict observers of
religious worship, but what is worse, believe a God; which is more than
required of us even while we preserve the name of Christians.

To conclude: Whatever some may think of the great advantages to trade by
this favourite scheme, I do very much apprehend, that in six months time
after the act is passed for the extirpation of the Gospel, the Bank, and
East-India Stock, may fall at least one _per cent._ And since that is
fifty times more than ever the wisdom of our age thought fit to venture
for the preservation of Christianity, there is no reason we should be at
so great a loss, merely for the sake of destroying it.

***** ***** ***** *****







In placing this tract second in chronological order I am following
Forster and Craik. All the collected editions of Swift's works,
including the "Miscellanies" of 1711, begin with "The Sentiments of a
Church of England Man," continue with the "Argument," and then the
"Project." But the short intervals which separated the publication of
all three tracts and the "Letter on the Sacramental Test," make a strict
chronological order of less value than the order of development of the
subject-matter with which they deal, granting even that the "Project"
appeared after "The Sentiments." There seems, however, nothing
improbable in the suggestion made by Forster, that Swift planned the
writing of both the "Argument" and the "Project" while on a visit to the
Earl of Berkeley, at Cranford, in 1708; and his dedication of the latter
to Lady Berkeley lends this suggestion added weight. That the original
edition of the "Project" is dated 1709 is nothing to the point, since it
is well-known that the booksellers often antedated their publications,
as publishers do now, when the issue occurred towards the end of a year.
Moreover, the letter of the Earl of Berkeley to Swift, which Scott
misdates 1706-1707, but which should be 1708, makes special reference to
this very tract, showing that it was certainly published in 1708. "I
earnestly entreat you," writes the earl, "if you have not done it
already, that you would not fail of having your bookseller enable the
Archbishop of York [Dr. Sterne] to give a book to the queen; for, with
Mr. Nelson, I am entirely of opinion, that Her Majesty's reading of that
book on the Progress for the Increase of Morality and Piety, may be of
very great use to that end." I have never seen a copy of the first
edition of "The Sentiments," and I cannot fix the exact date of its
publication; but it was certainly not written before the "Project." The
"Project," therefore, must be considered in the light of a preliminary
essay to the fuller and more digested statement of "The Sentiments of a
Church of England man"; and I have, on this account, placed it as the
second tract written by Swift in the year 1708.

Whatever may be thought of the particular methods which Swift suggested
for realizing his reformatory scheme, and they were, no doubt,
artificial and wooden enough; the tract itself remains an excellent
survey of the evils and gross habits of the time. The methods may be
Utopian (Swift himself thought they were open to discussion), but the
spirit of sincerity and piety is unmistakable. It is worth remembering,
however, that several of the proposals, such as those for closing the
public-houses at twelve o'clock at night; the penalizing of publicans
who supplied drink to drunken customers; the building of churches, have
since been adopted.

I cannot agree with Mr. Churton Collins ("Jonathan Swift," pp. 59-61) in
suspecting Swift of a special policy of self-interest in writing the
"Project." Swift was too honest a man to use the religious sentiment for
the purpose of counteracting any bad impression his previous writings
had made on those who had the power to advance him. However much he
might delight in the possession of high worldly station, he would never
so prostitute himself to obtain it. Nor did he care to let the world
into the secret of his heart. Indeed, all his life Swift seemed to hide,
almost jealously, the genuine piety of his nature. Whatever suspicion of
policy has surrounded the tract must be ascribed to the well-intentioned
letter of the Earl of Berkeley above quoted; and the Earl would not have
written thus had he felt Swift's motive to be any other than a purely
impersonal one.

Steele, in his review of the "Project" in the fifth "Tatler" (April
20th, 1709), makes some interesting observations, and seems to take
special note of the "Person of Honour," in the character of which Swift
wrote it. Writing from Will's Coffee-House, Steele says: "This week
being sacred to holy things, and no public diversions allowed, there has
been taken notice of even here, a little Treatise, called 'A Project for
the Advancement of Religion: dedicated to the Countess of Berkeley.' The
title was so uncommon, and promised so peculiar a way of thinking, that
every man here has read it, and as many as have done so have approved
it. It is written with the spirit of one who has seen the world enough
to undervalue it with good breeding. The author must certainly be a man
of wisdom, as well as piety, and have spent as much time in the exercise
of both. The real causes of the decay of the interests of religion are
set forth in a clear and lively manner, without unseasonable passions;
and the whole air of the book, as to the language, the sentiments, and
the reasonableness, show it was written by one whose virtue sits easy
about him, and to whom vice is thoroughly contemptible. It was said by
one of this company, alluding to that knowledge of the world the author
seems to have, the man writes much like a gentleman, and goes to Heaven
with a very good mien."

In his "Apology" Steele refers to this "Tatler" note, and remarks: "The
gentleman I here intended was Dr. Swift, this kind of man I thought him
at that time. We have not met of late, but I hope he deserves this
character still."

The present text is based upon the first edition; but this edition was
so wretchedly printed that I have carefully collated it with those given
in the "Miscellanies" (1711), Faulkner (1735), and Hawkesworth (1762).

[T. S.]


_O quisquis volet impias
Caedes, & rabiem tollere civicam:
Si quaeret pater urbium
Subscribi statuis, indomitam audeat
Refraenare licentiam._



Printed and Sold by _H. Hills_, in _Black-fryars_, near the Water-side.
For the Benefit of the Poor. 1709.



My intention in prefixing your Ladyship's name, is not after the common
form, to desire your protection of the following papers; which I take to
be a very unreasonable request; since, by being inscribed to your
Ladyship, though without your knowledge, and from a concealed hand, you
cannot recommend them without some suspicion of partiality. My real
design is, I confess, the very same I have often detested in most
dedications; that of publishing your praises to the world. Not upon the
subject of your noble birth, for I know others as noble; or of the
greatness of your fortune, for I know others far greater; or of that
beautiful race (the images of their parents) which call you mother: for
even this may perhaps have been equalled in some other age or country.
Besides, none of these advantages do derive any accomplishments to the
owners, but serve at best only to adorn what they really possess. What I
intend, is your piety, truth, good sense, and good nature, affability,
and charity; wherein I wish your Ladyship had many equals, or any
superiors; and I wish I could say I knew them too, for then your
Ladyship might have had a chance to escape this address. In the
meantime, I think it highly necessary, for the interest of virtue and
religion, that the whole kingdom should be informed in some parts of
your character: For instance, that the easiest and politest
conversation, joined with the truest piety, may be observed in your
Ladyship, in as great perfection, as they were ever seen apart in any
other persons. That by your prudence and management under several
disadvantages, you have preserved the lustre of that most noble family
into which you are grafted, and which the immeasurable profusion of
ancestors for many generations had too much eclipsed. Then, how happily
you perform every office of life to which Providence has called you: In
the education of those two incomparable daughters, whose conduct is so
universally admired; in every duty of a prudent, complying, affectionate
wife; in that care which descends to the meanest of your domestics; and,
lastly, in that endless bounty to the poor, and discretion where to
distribute it. I insist on my opinion, that it is of importance for the
public to know this and a great deal more of your Ladyship; yet whoever
goes about to inform them, shall instead of finding credit, perhaps be
censured for a flatterer. To avoid so usual a reproach, I declare this
to be no dedication, but properly an introduction to a proposal for the
advancement of religion and morals, by tracing, however imperfectly,
some few lineaments in the character of a Lady, who hath spent all her
life in the practice and promotion of both.

[Footnote 1: This is the same Countess of Berkeley whom Swift hoaxed
with his "Meditation on a Broomstick." She was the daughter of Viscount
Campden and sister to the Earl of Gainsborough. [T.S.]]

Among all the schemes offered to the public in this projecting age, I
have observed with some displeasure, that there have never been any for
the improvement of religion and morals; which beside the piety of the
design from the consequence of such a reformation in a future life,
would be the best natural means for advancing the public felicity of the
state, as well as the present happiness of every individual. For, as
much as faith and morality are declined among us, I am altogether
confident, they might in a short time, and with no very great trouble,
be raised to as high a perfection as numbers are capable of receiving.
Indeed, the method is so easy and obvious, and some present
opportunities so good, that, in order to have this project reduced to
practice, there seems to want nothing more than to put those in mind,
who by their honour, duty, and interest, are chiefly concerned.

But because it is idle to propose remedies before we are assured of the
disease, or to be in pain,[2] till we are convinced of the danger; I
shall first shew in general, that the nation is extremely corrupted in
religion and morals; and then I will offer a short scheme for the
reformation of both.

[Footnote 2: Scott follows Faulkner in using the word "fear." The
reading in the text is that of the first edition, the "Miscellanies"
(1711), and of Hawkesworth. [T.S.]]

As to the first; I know it is reckoned but a form of speech, when
divines complain of the wickedness of the age: However, I believe, upon
a fair comparison with other times and countries, it would be found an
undoubted truth.

For, first; to deliver nothing but plain matter of fact without
exaggeration or satire; I suppose it will be granted, that hardly one in
a hundred among our people of quality or gentry, appears to act by any
principle of religion; that great numbers of them do entirely discard
it, and are ready to own their disbelief of all revelation in ordinary
discourse. Nor is the case much better among the vulgar, especially in
great towns where the profaneness and ignorance of handicraftsmen, small
traders, servants, and the like, are to a degree very hard to be
imagined greater. Then, it is observed abroad, that no race of mortals
hath so little sense of religion, as the English soldiers; to confirm
which, I have been often told by great officers in the army, that in the
whole compass of their acquaintance, they could not recollect three of
their profession, who seemed to regard or believe one syllable of the
Gospel: And the same, at least, may be affirmed of the fleet. The
consequences of all which upon the actions of men are equally manifest.
They never go about, as in former time, to hide or palliate their vices,
but expose them freely to view, like any other common occurrences of
life, without the least reproach from the world, or themselves. For
instance; any man will tell you he intends to be drunk this evening, or
was so last night, with as little ceremony or scruple, as he would tell
you the time of the day. He will let you know he is going to a whore, or
that he has got a clap, with as much indifferency, as he would a piece
of public news. He will swear, curse, or blaspheme, without the least
passion or provocation. And, though all regard for reputation is not
quite laid aside in the other sex, 'tis, however, at so low an ebb, that
very few among them seem to think virtue and conduct of absolute
necessity for preserving it. If this be not so, how comes it to pass,
that women of tainted reputations find the same countenance and
reception in all public places, with those of the nicest virtue, who
pay, and receive visits from them without any manner of scruple? which
proceeding, as it is not very old among us, so I take it to be of most
pernicious consequence: It looks like a sort of compounding between
virtue and vice, as if a woman were allowed to be vicious, provided she
be not a profligate; as if there were a certain point, where gallantry
ends, and infamy begins, or that a hundred criminal amours were not as
pardonable as half a score.

Besides those corruptions already mentioned, it would be endless to
enumerate such as arise from the excess of play or gaming: The cheats,
the quarrels, the oaths and blasphemies among the men; among the women,
the neglect of household affairs, the unlimited freedoms, the indecent
passion; and lastly, the known inlet to all lewdness, when after an ill
run, the person must answer the defects of the purse; the rule on such
occasions holding true in play as it does in law; _quod non habet in
crumena, luat in corpore._

But all these are trifles in comparison, if we step into other scenes,
and consider the fraud and cozenage of trading men and shopkeepers; that
insatiable gulf of injustice and oppression, the law. The open traffic
for all civil and military employments, (I wish it rested there) without
the least regard to merit or qualifications; the corrupt management of
men in office; the many detestable abuses in choosing those who
represent the people, with the management of interest and factions among
the representatives. To which I must be bold to add, the ignorance of
some of the lower clergy; the mean servile temper of others; the pert
pragmatical demeanour of several young stagers in divinity, upon their
first producing themselves into the world; with many other
circumstances, needless, or rather invidious, to mention; which falling
in with the corruptions already related, have, however unjustly, almost
rendered the whole order contemptible.

This is a short view of the general depravities among us, without
entering into particulars, which would be an endless labour. Now, as
universal and deep-rooted as these appear to be, I am utterly deceived,
if an effectual remedy might not be applied to most of them; neither am
I at present upon a wild speculative project, but such a one as may be
easily put in execution.

For, while the prerogative of giving all employments continues in the
Crown, either immediately, or by subordination; it is in the power of
the Prince to make piety and virtue become the fashion of the age, if,
at the same time, he would make them necessary qualifications for favour
and preferment.

It is clear, from present experience, that the bare example of the best
prince will not have any mighty influence, where the age is very
corrupt. For, when was there ever a better prince on the throne than the
present Queen? I do not talk of her talent for government, her love of
the people, or any other qualities that are purely regal; but her piety,
charity, temperance, conjugal love, and whatever other virtues do best
adorn a private life; wherein, without question or flattery, she hath no
superior: yet, neither will it be satire or peevish invective to affirm,
that infidelity and vice are not much diminished since her coming to the
crown, nor will, in all probability, till some more effectual remedies
be provided.

Thus human nature seems to lie under this disadvantage, that the example
alone of a vicious prince, will, in time, corrupt an age; but that of a
good one, will not be sufficient to reform it, without further
endeavours. Princes must therefore supply this defect by a vigorous
exercise of that authority, which the law has left them, by making it
every man's interest and honour, to cultivate religion and virtue; by
rendering vice a disgrace, and the certain ruin to preferment or
pretensions: All which they should first attempt in their own courts and
families. For instance; might not the Queen's domestics of the middle
and lower sort, be obliged, upon penalty of suspension, or loss of their
employments, to a constant weekly attendance, at least, on the service
of the church; to a decent behaviour in it; to receive the Sacrament
four times in the year; to avoid swearing and irreligious profane
discourses; and, to the appearance, at least, of temperance and
chastity? Might not the care of all this be committed to the strict
inspection of proper persons? Might not those of higher rank, and nearer
access to her Majesty's person, receive her own commands to the same
purpose, and be countenanced, or disfavoured, according as they obey?
Might not the Queen lay her injunctions on the Bishops, and other great
men of undoubted piety, to make diligent enquiry, to give her notice, if
any person about her should happen to be of libertine principles or
morals? Might not all those who enter upon any office in her Majesty's
family, be obliged to take an oath parallel with that against simony,
which is administered to the clergy? 'Tis not to be doubted, but that if
these, or the like proceedings, were duly observed, morality and
religion would soon become fashionable court virtues; and be taken up as
the only methods to get or keep employments there, which alone would
have mighty influence upon many of the nobility and principal gentry.

But, if the like methods were pursued as far as possible, with regard to
those who are in the great employments of state, it is hard to conceive
how general a reformation they might in time produce among us. For, if
piety and virtue were once reckoned qualifications necessary to
preferment; every man thus endowed, when put into great stations, would
readily imitate the Queen's example, in the distribution of all offices
in his disposal; especially if any apparent transgression, through
favour or partiality, would be imputed to him for a misdemeanour, by
which he must certainly forfeit his favour and station: And there being
such great numbers in employment, scattered through every town and
county in this kingdom; if all these were exemplary in the conduct of
their lives, things would soon take a new face, and religion receive a
mighty encouragement: Nor would the public weal be less advanced; since,
of nine offices in ten that are ill executed, the defect is not in
capacity or understanding, but in common honesty. I know no employment,
for which piety disqualifies any man; and if it did, I doubt the
objection would not be very seasonably offered at present; because, it
is perhaps too just a reflection, that in the disposal of places, the
question whether a person be _fit_ for what he is recommended to, is
generally the last that is thought on, or regarded.

I have often imagined, that something parallel to the office of censors
anciently in Rome, would be of mighty use among us, and could be easily
limited from running into any exorbitances. The Romans understood
liberty at least as well as we, were as jealous of it, and upon every
occasion as bold assertors. Yet I do not remember to have read any great
complaint of the abuses in that office among them; but many admirable
effects of it are left upon record. There are several pernicious vices
frequent and notorious among us, that escape or elude the punishment of
any law we have yet invented, or have had no law at all against them;
such as atheism, drunkenness, fraud, avarice, and several others; which,
by this institution, wisely regulated, might be much reformed. Suppose,
for instance, that itinerary commissioners were appointed to inspect
everywhere throughout the kingdom, into the conduct (at least) of men in
office, with respect to their morals and religion, as well as their
abilities; to receive the complaints and informations that should be
offered against them, and make their report here upon oath, to the
court, or the ministry, who should reward or punish accordingly. I avoid
entering into the particulars of this, or any other scheme, which,
coming from a private hand, might be liable to many defects, but would
soon be digested by the wisdom of the nation; and surely, six thousand
pounds a year would not be ill laid out among as many commissioners duly
qualified, who, in three divisions, should be personally obliged to take
their yearly circuits for that purpose.

But this is beside my present design, which was only to show what degree
of reformation is in the power of the Queen, without the interposition
of the legislature, and which her Majesty is, without question, obliged
in conscience to endeavour by her authority, as much as she does by her

It will be easily granted, that the example of this great town hath a
mighty influence over the whole kingdom; and it is as manifest, that the
town is equally influenced by the court, and the ministry, and those
who, by their employments, or their hopes, depend upon them. Now, if
under so excellent a princess as the present Queen, we would suppose a
family strictly regulated, as I have above proposed; a ministry, where
every single person was of distinguished piety; if we should suppose all
great offices of state and law filled after the same manner, and with
such as were equally diligent in choosing persons, who, in their several
subordinations, would be obliged to follow the examples of their
superiors, under the penalty of loss of favour and place; will not
everybody grant, that the empire of vice and irreligion would be soon
destroyed in this great metropolis, and receive a terrible blow through
the whole island, which hath so great an intercourse with it, and so
much affects to follow its fashions?

For, if religion were once understood to be the necessary step to favour
and preferment; can it be imagined that any man would openly offend
against it, who had the least regard for his reputation or his fortune?
There is no quality so contrary to any nature, which men cannot affect,
and put on upon occasions, in order to serve an interest, or gratify a
prevailing passion. The proudest man will personate humility, the
morosest learn to flatter, the laziest will be sedulous and active,
where he is in pursuit of what he has much at heart. How ready,
therefore, would most men be to step into the paths of virtue and piety,
if they infallibly led to favour and fortune!

If swearing and profaneness, scandalous and avowed lewdness, excessive
gaming and intemperance, were a little discountenanced in the army, I
cannot readily see what ill consequences could be apprehended; if
gentlemen of that profession were at least obliged to some external
decorum in their conduct; or even if a profligate life and character
were not a means of advancement, and the appearance of piety a most
infallible hindrance, it is impossible the corruptions there should be
so universal and exorbitant. I have been assured by several great
officers, that no troops abroad are so ill disciplined as the English;
which cannot well be otherwise, while the common soldiers have
perpetually before their eyes the vicious example of their leaders; and
it is hardly possible for those to commit any crime, whereof these are
not infinitely more guilty, and with less temptation.

It is commonly charged upon the gentlemen of the army, that the beastly
vice of drinking to excess, hath been lately, from their example,
restored among us; which for some years before was almost dropped in
England. But, whoever the introducers were, they have succeeded to a
miracle; many of the young nobility and gentry are already become great
proficients, and are under no manner of concern to hide their talent,
but are got beyond all sense of shame or fear of reproach.

This might soon be remedied, if the Queen would think fit to declare,
that no young person of quality whatsoever, who was notoriously addicted
to that, or any other vice, should be capable of her favour, or even
admitted into her presence, with positive command to her ministers, and
others in great office, to treat them in the same manner; after which,
all men, who had any regard for their reputation, or any prospect of
preferment, would avoid their commerce. This would quickly make that
vice so scandalous, that those who could not subdue, would at least
endeavour to disguise it.

By the like methods, a stop might be put to that ruinous practice of
deep gaming; and the reason why it prevails so much is, because a
treatment, directly opposite in every point, is made use of to promote
it; by which means, the laws enacted against this abuse are wholly

It cannot be denied, that the want of strict discipline in the
universities, hath been of pernicious consequence to the youth of this
nation, who are there almost left entirely to their own management,
especially those among them of better quality and fortune; who, because
they are not under a necessity of making learning their maintenance, are
easily allowed to pass their time, and take their degrees, with little
or no improvement; than which there cannot well be a greater absurdity.
For, if no advancement of knowledge can be had from those places, the
time there spent is at best utterly lost, because every ornamental part
of education is better taught elsewhere: And as for keeping youths out
of harm's way, I doubt, where so many of them are got together, at full
liberty of doing what they please, it will not answer the end. But,
whatever abuses, corruptions, or deviations from statutes, have crept
into the universities through neglect, or length of time; they might in
a great degree be reformed, by strict injunctions from court (upon each
particular) to the visitors and heads of houses; besides the peculiar
authority the queen may have in several colleges, whereof her
predecessors were the founders. And among other regulations, it would be
very convenient to prevent the excess of drink, with that scurvy custom
among the lads, and parent of the former vice, the taking of tobacco,
where it is not absolutely necessary in point of health.

From the universities, the young nobility, and others of great fortunes,
are sent for early up to town, for fear of contracting any airs of
pedantry, by a college education. Many of the younger gentry retire to
the Inns of Court, where they are wholly left to their own discretion.
And the consequence of this remissness in education appears, by
observing that nine in ten of those, who rise in the church or the
court, the law, or the army, are younger brothers, or new men, whose
narrow fortunes have forced them upon industry and application.

As for the Inns of Court, unless we suppose them to be much degenerated,
they must needs be the worst instituted seminaries in any Christian
country; but whether they may be corrected without interposition of the
legislature, I have not skill enough to determine. However, it is
certain, that all wise nations have agreed in the necessity of a strict
education, which consisted, among other things, in the observance of
moral duties, especially justice, temperance, and chastity, as well as
the knowledge of arts, and bodily exercises: But all these among us are
laughed out of doors.

Without the least intention to offend the clergy, I cannot but think,
that through a mistaken notion and practice, they prevent themselves
from doing much service, which otherwise might lie in their power, to
religion and virtue: I mean, by affecting so much to converse with each
other, and caring so little to mingle with the laity. They have their
particular clubs, and particular coffee-houses, where they generally
appear in clusters: A single divine dares hardly shew his person among
numbers of fine gentlemen; or if he happens to fall into such company,
he is silent and suspicious, in continual apprehension that some pert
man of pleasure should break an unmannerly jest, and render him
ridiculous. Now, I take this behaviour of the clergy to be just as
reasonable, as if the physicians should agree to spend their time in
visiting one another, or their several apothecaries, and leave their
patients to shift for themselves. In my humble opinion, the clergy's
business lies entirely among the laity; neither is there, perhaps, a
more effectual way to forward the salvation of men's souls, than for
spiritual persons to make themselves as agreeable as they can, in the
conversations of the world; for which a learned education gives them
great advantage, if they would please to improve and apply it. It so
happens that the men of pleasure, who never go to church, nor use
themselves to read books of devotion, form their ideas of the clergy
from a few poor strollers they often observe in the streets, or sneaking
out of some person of quality's house, where they are hired by the lady
at ten shillings a month; while those of better figure and parts, do
seldom appear to correct these notions. And let some reasoners think
what they please, 'tis certain that men must be brought to esteem and
love the clergy, before they can be persuaded to be in love with
religion. No man values the best medicine, if administered by a
physician, whose person he hates or despises. If the clergy were as
forward to appear in all companies, as other gentlemen, and would a
little study the arts of conversation to make themselves agreeable, they
might be welcome at every party where there was the least regard for
politeness or good sense; and consequently prevent a thousand vicious or
profane discourses, as well as actions; neither would men of
understanding complain, that a clergyman was a constraint upon the
company, because they could not speak blasphemy, or obscene jests before
him. While the people are so jealous of the clergy's ambition, as to
abhor all thoughts of the return of ecclesiastic discipline among them,
I do not see any other method left for men of that function to take, in
order to reform the world, than by using all honest arts to make
themselves acceptable to the laity. This, no doubt, is part of that
wisdom of the serpent, which the Author of Christianity directs, and is
the very method used by St. Paul, who _became all things to all men, to
the Jews a Jew, and a Greek to the Greeks._

How to remedy these inconveniences, may be a matter of some difficulty;
since the clergy seem to be of an opinion, that this humour of
sequestering themselves is a part of their duty; nay, as I remember,
they have been told so by some of their bishops in their pastoral
letters, particularly by one[3] among them of great merit and
distinction, who yet, in his own practice, hath all his lifetime taken a
course directly contrary. But I am deceived, if an awkward shame and
fear of ill usage from the laity, have not a greater share in this
mistaken conduct, than their own inclinations: However, if the outward
profession of religion and virtue, were once in practice and countenance
at court, as well as among all men in office, or who have any hopes or
dependence for preferment, a good treatment of the clergy would be the
necessary consequence of such a reformation; and they would soon be wise
enough to see their own duty and interest in qualifying themselves for
lay-conversation, when once they were out of fear of being chocqued by
ribaldry or profaneness.

[Footnote 3: Bishop Burnet of Salisbury. See Swift's "Remarks on the
Bishop of Sarum's Introduction." [T.S.]]

There is one further circumstance upon this occasion, which I know not
whether it will be very orthodox to mention: The clergy are the only set
of men among us, who constantly wear a distinct habit from others; the
consequence of which (not in reason but in fact) is this, that as long
as any scandalous persons appear in that dress, it will continue in some
degree a general mark of contempt. Whoever happens to see a scoundrel in
a gown, reeling home at midnight, (a sight neither frequent nor
miraculous), is apt to entertain an ill idea of the whole order, and at
the same time to be extremely comforted in his own vices. Some remedy
might be put to this, if those straggling gentlemen, who come up to town
to seek their fortunes, were fairly dismissed to the West Indies, where
there is work enough, and where some better provision should be made for
them, than I doubt there is at present. Or, what if no person were
allowed to wear the habit, who had not some preferment in the church, or
at least some temporal fortune sufficient to keep him out of contempt?
Though, in my opinion, it were infinitely better, if all the clergy
(except the bishops) were permitted to appear like other men of the
graver sort, unless at those seasons when they are doing the business of
their function.

There is one abuse in this town, which wonderfully contributes to the
promotion of vice, that such men are often put into the commission of
the peace, whose interest it is, that virtue should be utterly banished
from among us, who maintain, or at least enrich themselves, by
encouraging the grossest immoralities, to whom all the bawds of the ward
pay contribution, for shelter and protection from the laws. Thus these
worthy magistrates, instead of lessening enormities, are the occasion of
just twice as much debauchery as there would be without them. For those
infamous women are forced upon doubling their work and industry, to
answer double charges, of paying the justice, and supporting themselves.
Like thieves who escape the gallows, and are let out to steal, in order
to discharge the gaoler's fees.

It is not to be questioned, but the Queen and ministry might easily
redress this abominable grievance, by enlarging the number of justices
of the peace, by endeavouring to choose men of virtuous principles, by
admitting none who have not considerable fortunes, perhaps, by receiving
into the number some of the most eminent clergy. Then, by forcing all of
them, upon severe penalties, to act when there is occasion, and not
permitting any who are offered to refuse the commission, but in these
two last cases, which are very material, I doubt there will be need of
the legislature.

The reformation of the stage is entirely in the power of the Queen, and
in the consequences it hath upon the minds of the younger people, does
very well deserve the strictest care. Besides the indecent and profane
passages, besides the perpetual turning into ridicule the very function
of the priesthood, with other irregularities, in most modern comedies,
which have by others been objected to them, it is worth observing the
distributive justice of the authors, which is constantly applied to the
punishment of virtue, and the reward of vice, directly opposite to the
rules of their best critics, as well as to the practice of dramatic
poets, in all other ages and countries. For example, a country squire,
who is represented with no other vice but that of being a clown, and
having the provincial accent upon his tongue, which is neither a fault,
nor in his power to remedy, must be condemned to marry a cast wench, or
a cracked chambermaid. On the other side, a rakehell of the town, whose
character is set off with no other accomplishment, but excessive
prodigality, profaneness, intemperance, and lust, is rewarded with a
lady of great fortune to repair his own, which his vices had almost
ruined. And as in a tragedy, the hero is represented to have obtained
many victories in order to raise his character in the minds of the
spectators; so the hero of a comedy is represented to have been
victorious in all his intrigues, for the same reason. I do not remember,
that our English poets ever suffered a criminal amour to succeed upon
the stage, till the reign of King Charles the Second. Ever since that
time, the alderman is made a cuckold, the deluded virgin is debauched,
and adultery and fornication are supposed to be committed behind the
scenes, as part of the action. These and many more corruptions of the
theatre, peculiar to our age and nation, need continue no longer, than
while the court is content to connive at or neglect them. Surely a
pension would not be ill employed on some men of wit, learning, and
virtue, who might have power to strike out every offensive or unbecoming
passage, from plays already written, as well as those that may be
offered to the stage for the future. By which, and other wise
regulations, the theatre might become a very innocent and useful
diversion, instead of being a scandal and reproach to our religion and

The proposals I have hitherto made for the advancement of religion and
morality, are such as come within reach of the administration; such as a
pious active prince, with a steady resolution, might soon bring to
effect. Neither am I aware of any objections to be raised against what I
have advanced; unless it should be thought, that making religion a
necessary step to interest and favour might increase hypocrisy among us;
and I readily believe it would. But if one in twenty should be brought
over to true piety by this, or the like methods, and the other nineteen
be only hypocrites, the advantage would still be great. Besides,
hypocrisy is much more eligible than open infidelity and vice; it wears
the livery of religion; it acknowledges her authority, and is cautious
of giving scandal. Nay, a long continued disguise is too great a
constraint upon human nature, especially an English disposition; men
would leave off their vices out of mere weariness, rather than undergo
the toil and hazard, and perhaps expense, of practising them perpetually
in private. And I believe it is often with religion, as it is with love;
which, by much dissembling, at last grows real.

All other projects to this great end have proved hitherto ineffectual.
Laws against immorality have not been executed; and proclamations
occasionally issued out to enforce them are wholly unregarded as things
of form. Religious societies, though begun with excellent intention, and
by persons of true piety,[4] have dwindled into factious clubs, and
grown a trade to enrich little knavish informers of the meanest rank,
such as common constables, and broken shopkeepers.

[Footnote 4: The original edition omits here the words, "are said, I
know not whether truly or not." All other editions give these words. [T.

And that some effectual attempt should be made toward such a
reformation, is perhaps more necessary than people commonly apprehend;
because the ruin of a state is generally preceded by a universal
degeneracy of manners, and contempt of religion; which is entirely our
case at present.

"Dis te minorem quod geris imperas."--HOR. [5]

[Footnote 5: "Carmina," iii. 6. 5.]

Neither is this a matter to be deferred till a more convenient time of
peace and leisure: Because a reformation in men's faith and morals is
the best natural, as well as religious means, to bring the war to a good
conclusion. For, if men in trust performed their duty for conscience
sake, affairs would not suffer through fraud, falsehood, and neglect, as
they now perpetually do. And if they believed a God, and his Providence,
and acted accordingly, they might reasonably hope for his divine
assistance, in so just a cause as ours.

Nor could the majesty of the English Crown appear, upon any occasion, in
a greater lustre, either to foreigners or subjects, than by an
administration, which, producing such great effects, would discover so
much power. And power being the natural appetite of princes, a limited
monarch cannot so well gratify it in anything, as a strict execution of
the laws.

Besides; all parties would be obliged to close with so good a work as
this, for their own reputation: Neither is any expedient more likely to
unite them. For the most violent party men, I have ever observed, are
such, as in the conduct of their lives have discovered least sense of
religion or morality; and when all such are laid aside, at least those
among them as shall be found incorrigible, it will be a matter perhaps
of no great difficulty to reconcile the rest.

The many corruptions at present in every branch of business are almost
inconceivable. I have heard it computed by skilful persons, that of six
millions raised every year for the service of the public, one third, at
least, is sunk and intercepted through the several classes and
subordinations of artful men in office, before the remainder is applied
to the proper use. This is an accidental ill effect of our freedom. And
while such men are in trust, who have no check from within, nor any
views but toward their interest, there is no other fence against them,
but the certainty of being hanged upon the first discovery, by the
arbitrary will of an unlimited monarch, or his vizier. Among us, the
only danger to be apprehended is the loss of an employment; and that
danger is to be eluded a thousand ways. Besides, when fraud is great, it
furnishes weapons to defend itself: And at worst, if the crimes be so
flagrant, that a man is laid aside out of perfect shame, (which rarely
happens) he retires loaded with the spoils of the nation; _et fruitur
diis iratis_. I could name a commission, where several persons, out of a
salary of five hundred pounds, without other visible revenues, have
always lived at the rate of two thousand, and laid out forty or fifty
thousand upon purchases of lands or annuities. A hundred other instances
of the same kind might easily be produced. What remedy, therefore, can
be found against such grievances, in a constitution like ours, but to
bring religion into countenance, and encourage those, who, from the hope
of future reward, and dread of future punishment, will be moved to act
with justice and integrity?

This is not to be accomplished any other way, but by introducing
religion, as much as possible, to be the turn and fashion of the age;
which only lies in the power of the administration; the prince with
utmost strictness regulating the court, the ministry, and other persons
in great employment; and these, by their example and authority,
reforming all who have dependence on them.

It is certain, that a reformation successfully carried on in this great
town, would in time spread itself over the whole kingdom, since most of
the considerable youth pass here that season of their lives, wherein the
strongest impressions are made, in order to improve their education, or
advance their fortune, and those among them, who return into their
several counties, are sure to be followed and imitated, as the greatest
patterns of wit and good breeding.

And if things were once in this train, that is, if virtue and religion
were established as the necessary titles to reputation and preferment,
and if vice and infidelity were not only loaded with infamy, but made
the infallible ruin of all men's pretensions, our duty, by becoming our
interest, would take root in our natures, and mix with the very genius
of our people, so that it would not be easy for the example of one
wicked prince to bring us back to our former corruptions.

I have confined myself (as it is before observed) to those methods for
the advancement of piety, which are in the power of a prince, limited
like ours, by a strict execution of the laws already in force. And this
is enough for a project, that comes without any name or recommendation,
I doubt, a great deal more than will suddenly be reduced into practice.
Though, if any disposition should appear towards so good a work, it is
certain, that the assistance of the legislative power would be necessary
to make it more complete. I will instance only a few particulars.

In order to reform the vices of this town, which, as we have said, hath
so mighty an influence on the whole kingdom, it would be very
instrumental to have a law made, that all taverns and alehouses should
be obliged to dismiss their company at twelve at night, and shut up
their doors, and that no woman should be suffered to enter any tavern or
alehouse, upon any pretence whatsoever. It is easy to conceive what a
number of ill consequences such a law would prevent, the mischiefs of
quarrels, and lewdness, and thefts, and midnight brawls, the diseases of
intemperance and venery, and a thousand other evils needless to mention.
Nor would it be amiss, if the masters of those public-houses were
obliged, upon the severest penalties, to give only a proportioned
quantity of drink to every company, and when he found his guests
disordered with excess, to refuse them any more.

I believe there is hardly a nation in Christendom, where all kind of
fraud is practised in so immeasurable a degree as with us. The lawyer,
the tradesman, the mechanic, have found so many arts to deceive in their
several callings, that they far outgrow the common prudence of mankind,
which is in no sort able to fence against them. Neither could the
legislature in anything more consult the public good, than by providing
some effectual remedy against this evil, which, in several cases,
deserves greater punishment than many crimes that are capital among us.
The vintner, who, by mixing poison with his wines, destroys more lives
than any one disease in the bill of mortality; the lawyer, who persuades
you to a purchase which he knows is mortgaged for more than the worth,
to the ruin of you and your family; the goldsmith or scrivener, who
takes all your fortune to dispose of, when he has beforehand resolved to
break the following day, do surely deserve the gallows much better than
the wretch who is carried thither for stealing a horse.

It cannot easily be answered to God or man, why a law is not made for
limiting the press; at least so far as to prevent the publishing of such
pernicious books, as, under pretence of freethinking, endeavour to
overthrow those tenets in religion which have been held inviolable,
almost in all ages, by every sect that pretend to be Christian; and
cannot, therefore, with any colour of reason, be called points in
controversy, or matters of speculation, as some would pretend. The
Doctrine of the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the Immortality of the
Soul, and even the truth of all revelation, are daily exploded and
denied in books openly printed; though it is to be supposed neither
party will avow such principles, or own the supporting of them to be any
way necessary to their service.[6]

[Footnote 6: This passage refers to the deistical publications of
Asgill, Toland, Tindal, and Collins, already noted. [T. S.]]

It would be endless to set down every corruption or defect which
requires a remedy from the legislative power. Senates are like to have
little regard for any proposals that come from without doors; though,
under a due sense of my own inabilities, I am fully convinced, that the
unbiassed thoughts of an honest and wise man, employed on the good of
his country, may be better digested than the results of a multitude,
where faction and interest too often prevail; as a single guide may
direct the way better than five hundred, who have _contrary views_, or
_look asquint_, or _shut their eyes_.

I shall therefore mention but one more particular, which I think the
Parliament ought to take under consideration; whether it be not a shame
to our country, and a scandal to Christianity, that in many towns, where
there is a prodigious increase in the number of houses and inhabitants,
so little care should be taken for the building of churches, that five
parts in six of the people are absolutely hindered from hearing divine
service? Particularly here in London, where a single minister, with one
or two sorry curates, hath the care sometimes of above twenty thousand
souls incumbent on him. A neglect of religion so ignominious, in my
opinion, that it can hardly be equalled in any civilized age or

[Footnote 7: This paragraph is known to have given the first hint to
certain bishops, particularly to Bishop Atterbury, to procure a fund for
building fifty new churches in London. [T. S.]]

But, to leave these airy imaginations of introducing new laws for the
amendment of mankind; what I principally insist on is, a due execution
of the old, which lies wholly in the crown, and in the authority derived
from thence. I return, therefore, to my former assertion; that if
stations of power, trust, profit, and honour, were constantly made the
rewards of virtue and piety, such an administration must needs have a
mighty influence on the faith and morals of the whole kingdom: And men
of great abilities would then endeavour to excel in the duties of a
religious life, in order to qualify themselves for public service. I may
possibly be wrong in some of the means I prescribe towards this end; but
that is no material objection against the design itself. Let those who
are at the helm contrive it better, which, perhaps, they may easily do.
Everybody will agree that the disease is manifest, as well as dangerous;
that some remedy is necessary, and that none yet applied hath been
effectual, which is a sufficient excuse for any man who wishes well to
his country, to offer his thoughts, when he can have no other end in
view but the public good. The present Queen is a princess of as many and
great virtues as ever filled a throne: How would it brighten her
character to the present and after ages, if she would exert her utmost
authority to instil some share of those virtues into her people, which
they are too degenerate to learn only from her example! And, be it spoke
with all the veneration possible for so excellent a sovereign, her best
endeavours in this weighty affair are a most important part of her duty,
as well as of her interest and her honour.

But, it must be confessed, that as things are now, every man thinks that
he has laid in a sufficient stock of merit, and may pretend to any
employment, provided he has been loud and frequent in declaring himself
hearty for the government. 'Tis true, he is a man of pleasure, and a
freethinker, that is, in other words, he is profligate in his morals,
and a despiser of religion; but in point of party, he is one to be
confided in; he is an assertor of liberty and property; he rattles it
out against Popery and Arbitrary Power, and Priestcraft and High Church.
'Tis enough: He is a person fully qualified for any employment, in the
court or the navy, the law or the revenue; where he will be sure to
leave no arts untried, of bribery, fraud, injustice, oppression, that he
can practise with any hope of impunity. No wonder such men are true to a
government where liberty runs high, where property, however attained, is
so well secured, and where the administration is at least so gentle:
'Tis impossible they could choose any other constitution, without
changing to their loss.

Fidelity to a present establishment is indeed the principal means to
defend it from a foreign enemy, but without other qualifications, will
not prevent corruptions from within; and states are more often ruined by
these than the other.

To conclude. Whether the proposals I have offered toward a reformation,
be such as are most prudent and convenient, may probably be a question;
but it is none at all, whether some reformation be absolutely necessary;
because the nature of things is such, that if abuses be not remedied,
they will certainly increase, nor ever stop, till they end in the
subversion of a commonwealth. As there must always of necessity be some
corruptions, so, in a well-instituted state, the executive power will be
always contending against them, by _reducing things_ (as Michiaevel
speaks) _to their first principles_; never letting abuses grow
inveterate, or multiply so far, that it will be hard to find remedies,
and perhaps impossible to apply them. As he that would keep his house in
repair, must attend every little breach or flaw, and supply it
immediately; else time alone will bring all to ruin; how much more the
common accidents of storms and rain? He must live in perpetual danger of
his house falling about his ears; and will find it cheaper to throw it
quite down, and build it again from the ground, perhaps upon a new
foundation, or at least in a new form, which may neither be so safe, nor
so convenient, as the old.

***** ***** ***** *****








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.]


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_

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.

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