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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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crossed Hounslow Heath, on their way to Ireland, to take possession of
their bishoprics, they have been regularly robbed and murdered by the
highwaymen frequenting that common, who seize upon their robes and
patents, come over to Ireland, and are consecrated bishops in their
stead." To prevent, therefore, the encroachments of such individuals he
wrote this tract, in which he clearly demonstrates the justice and
salutariness of Charles's act. His contention, as Monck Mason points out
("History of St. Patrick's Cathedral," p. 392, note 1) "is confirmed by
all writers upon the subject," and quotes from Carte's "Life of James,
Duke of Ormond," where it is stated that the bishoprics in Ireland had,
"the greatest part of them, been depauperated in the change of religion
by absolute grants and long leases (made generally by the popish bishops
that conformed)--some of them not able to maintain a bishop, several
were, by these means, reduced to L50 a year, as Waterford, Kilfenora,
and others, and some to five marks, as Cloyne and Kilmacduagh." To Swift
is largely due the fact that the House of Commons, when they received
the bill from the Lords, threw it out.

Scott, in his note on this pamphlet (amended from one by Lord Orrery),
takes his usual course when considering Swift's attitude of opposition
--he implies a motive or prejudice. In his opinion, Swift considered the
bill for the repeal of Charles's act, "an indirect mode of gratifying
the existing bishops, whom he did not regard with peculiar respect or
complacency, at the expense of the Church establishment," and that,
therefore, "the spirit of his opposition is, in this instance,
peculiarly caustic." As a matter of fact, the spirit of Swift's
opposition was always peculiarly caustic, in this case no more so than
in any other. But to imply that his motive was a self gratifying one
only, is to treat Swift unfairly. If the bishops required an example as
to how they should deal with their lands, they could easily have found
one in Swift himself. In all the renewals of the leases of the Deanery
lands, Swift never sought his own immediate advantage, his terms were
based on the consideration that the lands were his only in trust for a
successor. To take one instance only, the instance of the parish of
Kilberry in county Kildare, cited by Monck Mason (p. 27, note h). In
1695 the rent of this parish was reserved at L100 English sterling, in
1717, Swift raised this rent to L150, in 1731 to L170, and in 1741 to
L200 per annum, with a proportionable loss of fine upon each occasion.

The tract is dated October 21st, 1723, but as I have not come across a
copy of the original separate issue, I have based the text on that given
by Faulkner (vol. iv, 1735), and the title page here reproduced is from
that edition. The fifth volume of "Miscellanies," also issued in 1735,
contains this tract, and I have compared the texts of the two. The notes
given in Scott's edition are, in the main, altered from Faulkner's


REMARKS on some _Queries_
lately published.

_Mibi credite, major haereditas venit unicuique vestraem in iisdem bonis ae
jure & ae legibus, quam ab iis ae quibus illa ipsa bona relicta sunt._

Cicero _pro_ A. Caecina.

Written in the Year 1723.

Printed in the Year MDCCXXXIII.

In handling this subject, I shall proceed wholly upon the supposition,
that those of our party, who profess themselves members of the church
established, and under the apostolical government of bishops, do desire
the continuance and transmission of it to posterity, at least, in as
good a condition as it is at present. Because, as this discourse is not
calculated for dissenters of any kind; so neither will it suit the talk
or sentiments of those persons, who, with the denomination of churchmen,
are oppressors of the inferior clergy, and perpetually quarrelling at
the great incomes of the bishops; which is a traditional cant delivered
down from former times, and continued with great reason, although it be
now near 200 years since almost three parts in four of the church
revenues have been taken from the clergy: Besides the spoils that have
been gradually made ever since, of glebes and other lands, by the
confusion of times, the fraud of encroaching neighbours, or the power of
oppressors, too great to be encountered.

About the time of the Reformation, many popish bishops of this kingdom,
knowing they must have been soon ejected, if they would not change their
religion, made long leases and fee-farms of great part of their lands,
reserving very inconsiderable rents, sometimes only a chiefry; by a
power they assumed, directly contrary to many ancient canons, yet
consistent enough with the common law. This trade held on for many years
after the bishops became Protestants; and some of their names are still
remembered with infamy, on account of enriching their families by such
sacrilegious alienations. By these means, episcopal revenues were so low
reduced, that three or four sees were often united to make a tolerable
competency. For some remedy to this evil, King James the First, by a
bounty that became a good Christian prince, bestowed several forfeited
lands on the northern bishoprics: But in all other parts of the kingdom,
the Church continued still in the same distress and poverty; some of the
sees hardly possessing enough to maintain a country vicar. About the
middle of King Charles the First's reign, the legislature here thought
fit to put a stop, at least, to any farther alienations; and so a law
was enacted, prohibiting all bishops, and other ecclesiastical
corporations, from setting their lands for above the term of twenty-one
years; the rent reserved to be one half of the real value of such lands
at the time they were set, without which condition the lease to be void.

Soon after the restoration of King Charles the Second, the parliament
taking into consideration the miserable estate of the Church, certain
lands, by way of augmentation, were granted to eight bishops in the act
of settlement, and confirmed in the act of explanation; of which bounty,
as I remember, three sees were, in a great measure, defeated; but by
what accidents, it is not here of any importance to relate.

This, at present, is the condition of the Church in Ireland, with regard
to Episcopal revenues: Which I have thus briefly (and, perhaps,
imperfectly) deduced for some information to those, whose thoughts do
not lead them to such considerations.

By virtue of the statute, already mentioned, under King Charles the
First, limiting ecclesiastical bodies to the term of twenty-one years,
under the reserved rent of half real value, the bishops have had some
share in the gradual rise of lands, without which they could not have
been supported, with any common decency that might become their station.
It is above eighty years since the passing of that act: The see of
Meath, one of the best in the kingdom, was then worth about L400 _per
annum_; the poorer ones in the same proportion. If this were their
present condition, I cannot conceive how they would have been able to
pay for their patents, or buy their robes: But this will certainly be
the condition of their successors, if such a bill should pass, as they
say is now intended, which I will suppose, and believe, many persons,
who may give a vote for it, are not aware of.

However, this is the act which is now attempted to be repealed, or, at
least, eluded; some are for giving bishops leave to let fee-farms;
others would allow them to let leases for lives; and the most moderate
would repeal that clause, by which the bishops are bound to let their
lands at half value.

The reasons for the rise of value in lands, are of two kinds. Of the
first kind, are long peace and settlement after the devastations of war;
plantations, improvements of bad soil, recovery of bogs and marshes,
advancement of trade and manufactures, increase of inhabitants,
encouragement of agriculture, and the like.

But there is another reason for the rise of land, more gradual, constant
and certain; which will have its effects in countries that are very far
from flourishing in any of the advantages I have just mentioned: I mean
_the perpetual decrease in the value of gold and silver_. I shall
discourse upon these two different kinds, with a view towards the bill
now attempted.

As to the first: I cannot see how this kingdom is at any height of
improvement, while four parts in five of the plantations for 30 years
past, have been real disimprovements; nine in ten of the quick-set
hedges being ruined for want of care or skill. And as to forest trees,
they being often taken out of woods, and planted in single rows on the
tops of ditches, it is impossible they should grow to be of use, beauty,
or shelter. Neither can it be said, that the soil of Ireland is improved
to its full height, while so much lies all winter under water, and the
bogs made almost desperate by the ill cutting of the turf. There hath,
indeed, been some little improvement in the manufactures of linen and
woollen, although very short of perfection: But our trade was never in
so low a condition: And as to agriculture, of which all wise nations
have been so tender, the desolation made in the country by engrossing
graziers, and the great yearly importation of corn from England, are
lamentable instances under what discouragement it lies.

But, notwithstanding all these mortifications, I suppose there is no
well-wisher to his country, without a little hope, that in time the
kingdom may be on a better foot in some of the articles above mentioned.
But it would be hard, if ecclesiastical bodies should be the only
persons excluded from any share in public advantages; which yet can
never happen, without a greater share of profit to their tenants: If God
"sends rain equally upon the just and the unjust;" why should those who
wait at His altars, and are instructors of the people, be cut off from
partaking in the general benefits of law, or of nature?

But, as this way of reasoning may seem to bear a more favourable eye
to the clergy, than perhaps will suit with the present disposition, or
fashion of the age; I shall, therefore, dwell more largely upon the
second reason for the rise of land, which is the perpetual decrease of
the value of gold and silver.

This may be observed from the course of the Roman history, above two
thousand years before those inexhaustible silver mines of Potosi were
known. The value of an obolus, and of every other coin between the time
of Romulus and that of Augustus, gradually sunk about five parts in six,
as appears by several passages out of the best authors. And yet, the
prodigious wealth of that state did not arise from the increase of
bullion in the world, by the discovery of new mines, but from a much
more accidental cause, which was, the spreading of their conquests, and
thereby importing into Rome and Italy, the riches of the east and west.

When the seat of empire was removed to Constantinople, the tide of money
flowed that way, without ever returning; and was scattered in Asia. But
when that mighty empire was overthrown by the northern people, such a
stop was put to all trade and commerce, that vast sums of money were
buried, to escape the plundering of the conquerors; and what remained
was carried off by those ravagers.

It were no difficult matter to compute the value of money in England,
during the Saxon reigns; but the monkish and other writers since the
Conquest, have put that matter in a clearer light, by the several
accounts they have given us of the value of corn and cattle, in years of
dearth and plenty. Every one knows, that King John's whole portion,
before he came to the crown, was but five thousand pounds, without a
foot of land.

I have likewise seen the steward's accounts, of an ancient noble family
in England, written in Latin, between three and four hundred years ago,
with the several prices of wine and victuals, to confirm my

I have been at the trouble of computing (as others have done) the
different values of money for about four hundred years past. Henry Duke
of Lancaster, who lived about that period, founded an hospital in
Leicester, for a certain number of old men; charging his lands with a
groat a week to each for their maintenance, which is to this day duly
paid them. In those times, a penny was equal to ten-pence half-penny,
and somewhat more than half a farthing in ours; which makes about eight
ninths' difference.

This is plain also, from the old custom upon many estates in England, to
let for leases of lives, (renewable at pleasure) where the reserved rent
is usually about twelve-pence a pound, which then was near the half real
value: And although the fines be not fixed, yet the landlord gets
altogether not above three shillings in the pound of the worth of his
land: And the tenants are so wedded to this custom, that if the owner
suffer three lives to expire, none of them will take a lease on other
conditions; or, if he brings in a foreigner who will agree to pay a
reasonable rent, the other tenants, by all manner of injuries, will make
that foreigner so uneasy, that he must be forced to quit the farm; as
the late Earl of Bath felt, by the experience of above ten thousand
pounds loss.

The gradual decrease for about two hundred years after, was not
considerable, and therefore I do not rely on the account given by some
historians, that Harry the Seventh left behind him eighteen hundred
thousand pounds; for although the West Indies were discovered before his
death, and although he had the best talents and instruments for exacting
of money, ever possessed by any prince since the time of Vespasian,
(whom he resembled in many particulars); yet I conceive, that in his
days the whole coin of England could hardly amount to such a sum. For in
the reign of Philip and Mary, Sir Thomas Cokayne of Derbyshire, [1] the
best housekeeper of his quality in the county, allowed his lady fifty
pounds a year for maintaining the family, one pound a year wages to each
servant, and two pounds to the steward; as I was told by a person of
quality who had seen the original account of his economy. Now this sum
of fifty pound, added to the advantages of a large domain, might be
equal to about five hundred pounds a year at present, or somewhat more
than four-fifths.

[Footnote 1: Sir Thomas Cokayne (1519?-1592), known as "a professed
hunter and not a scholler." He was the eldest son of Francis Cokayne, or
Cockaine, of Ashbourne, Derbyshire. One of his sons, Edward, was the
father of Thomas Cokayne, the lexicographer. Sir Thomas, in 1591,
published "A Short Treatise of Hunting, compyled for the Delight of
Noblemen and Gentlemen." [T. S.]]

The great plenty of silver in England began in Queen Elizabeth's reign,
when Drake, and others, took vast quantities of coin and bullion from
the Spaniards, either upon their own American coasts, or in their return
to Spain. However, so much hath been imported annually from that time to
this, that the value of money in England, and most parts of Europe, is
sunk above one half within the space of an hundred years,
notwithstanding the great export of silver for about eighty years past,
to the East Indies, from whence it never returns. But gold being not
liable to the same accident, and by new discoveries growing every day
more plentiful, seems in danger of becoming a drug.

This hath been the progress of the value of money in former ages, and
must of necessity continue so for the future, without some new invasion
of Goths and Vandals to destroy law, property and religion, alter the
very face of nature; and turn the world upside down.

I must repeat, that what I am to say upon this subject, is intended only
for the conviction of those among our own party, who are true lovers of
the Church, and would be glad it should continue in a tolerable degree
of prosperity to the end of the world.

The Church is supposed to last for ever, both in its discipline and
doctrine; which is a privilege common to every petty corporation, who
must likewise observe the laws of their foundation. If a gentleman's
estate which now yields him a thousand pounds a year, had been set for
ever at the highest value, even in the flourishing days of King Charles
the Second, would it now amount to above four or five hundred at most?
What if this had happened two or three hundred years ago; would the
reserved rent at this day be any more than a small chiefry? Suppose the
revenues of a bishop to have been under the same circumstances; could he
now be able to perform works of hospitality and charity? Thus, if the
revenues of a bishop be limited to a thousand pounds a year; how will
his successor be in a condition to support his station with decency,
when the same denomination of money shall not answer an half, a quarter,
or an eighth part of that sum? Which must unavoidably be the consequence
of any bill to elude the limiting act, whereby the Church was preserved
from utter ruin.

The same reason holds good in all corporations whatsoever, who cannot
follow a more pernicious practice than that of granting perpetuities,
for which many of them smart to this day; although the leaders among
them are often so stupid as not to perceive it, or sometimes so knavish
as to find their private account in cheating the community.

Several colleges in Oxford, were aware of this growing evil about an
hundred years ago; and, instead of limiting their rents to a certain sum
of money, prevailed with their tenants to pay the price of so many
barrels of corn, to be valued as the market went, at two seasons (as I
remember) in the year. For a barrel of corn is of a real intrinsic
value, which gold and silver are not: And by this invention, these
colleges have preserved a tolerable subsistence, for their fellows and
students, to this day.

The present bishops will, indeed be no sufferers by such a bill;
because, their ages considered, they cannot expect to see any great
decrease in the value of money; or, at worst, they can make it up in the
fines, which will probably be greater than usual, upon the change of
leases into fee-farms, or lives; or without the power of obliging their
tenants to a real half value. And, as I cannot well blame them for
taking such advantages, (considering the nature of human kind) when the
question is only, whether the money shall be put into their own or
another man's pocket: So they will be never excusable before God or man,
if they do not to the death oppose, declare, and protest against any
such bill, as must in its consequences complete the ruin of the Church,
and of their own order in this kingdom.

If the fortune of a private person be diminished by the weakness, or
inadvertency of his ancestors, in letting leases for ever at low rents,
the world lies open to his industry for purchasing of more; but the
Church is barred by a _dead hand_; or if it were otherwise, yet the
custom of making bequests to it, hath been out of practice for almost
two hundred years, and a great deal directly contrary hath been its

I have been assured by a person of some consequence, to whom I am
likewise obliged for the account of some other facts already related,
that the late Bishop of Salisbury,[2] (the greatest Whig of that bench
in his days) confessed to him, that the liberty which bishops in England
have of letting leases for lives, would, in his opinion, be one day the
ruin of Episcopacy there; and thought the Church in this kingdom happy
by the limitation act.

[Footnote 2: Dr. Barnet.]

And have we not already found the effect of this different proceeding in
both kingdoms? Have not two English prelates quitted their peerage and
seats in Parliament, in a nation of freedom, for the sake of a more
ample revenue, even in this unhappy kingdom, rather than lie under the
mortification of living below their dignity at home? For which, however,
they cannot be justly censured. I know indeed, some persons, who offer,
as an argument for repealing the limiting bill, that it may in future
ages prevent the practice of providing this kingdom with bishops from
England, when the only temptation will be removed. And they allege,
that, as things have gone for some years past, gentlemen will grow
discouraged from sending their sons to the university, and from
suffering them to enter into holy orders, when they are likely to
languish under a curacy, or small vicarage, to the end of their lives:
But this is all a vain imagination; for the decrease in the value of
money will equally affect both kingdoms: And besides, when bishoprics
here grow too small to invite over men of credit and consequence, they
will be left more fully to the disposal of a chief governor, who can
never fail of some worthless illiterate chaplain, fond of a title and
precedence. Thus will that whole bench, in an age or two, be composed of
mean, ignorant, fawning gownmen, humble suppliants and dependants upon
the court for a morsel of bread, and ready to serve every turn that
shall be demanded from them, in hopes of getting some _commendam_ tacked
to their sees; which must then be the trade, as it is now too much in
England, to the great discouragement of the inferior clergy. Neither is
that practice without example among us.

It is now about eighty-five years since the passing of that limiting
act, and there is but one instance, in the memory of man, of a bishop's
lease broken upon the plea of not being statutable; which, in
everybody's opinion, could have been lost by no other person than he who
was then tenant, and happened to be very ungracious in his county. In
the present Bishop of Meath's[3] case, that plea did not avail, although
the lease were notoriously unstatutable; the rent reserved, being, as I
have been told, not a seventh part of the real value; yet the jury, upon
their oaths, very gravely found it to be according to the statute; and
one of them was heard to say, That he would _eat his shoes_ before he
would give a verdict for the bishop. A very few more have made the same
attempt with as little success. Every bishop, and other ecclesiastical
body, reckon forty pounds in an hundred to be a reasonable half value;
or if it be only a third part, it seldom, or never, breeds any
difference between landlord and tenant. But when the rent is from five
to nine or ten parts less than the worth; the bishop, if he consults the
good of his see, will be apt to expostulate; and the tenant, if he be an
honest man, will have some regard to the reasonableness and justice of
the demand, so as to yield to a moderate advancement, rather than engage
in a suit, where law and equity are directly against him. By these
means, the bishops have been so true to their trusts, as to procure some
small share in the advancement of rents; although it be notorious that
they do not receive the third penny (fines included) of the real value
of their lands throughout the kingdom.

[Footnote 3: Dr. Evans, a Welchman. [Faulkner, 1735.]]

I was never able to imagine what inconvenience could accrue to the
public, by one or two thousand pounds a year, in the hands of a
Protestant bishop, any more than of a lay person.[4] The former,
generally speaking, liveth as piously and hospitably as the other; pays
his debts as honestly, and spends as much of his revenue among his
tenants: Besides, if they be his immediate tenants, you may distinguish
them, at first sight, by their habits and horses; or if you go to their
houses, by their comfortable way of living. But the misfortune is, that
such immediate tenants, generally speaking, have others under them, and
so a third and fourth in subordination, till it comes to the welder (as
they call him) who sits at a rack-rent, and lives as miserably as an
Irish farmer upon a new lease from a lay landlord. But suppose a bishop
happens to be avaricious, (as being composed of the same stuff with
other men) the consequence to the public is no worse than if he were a
squire; for he leaves his fortune to his son, or near relation, who, if
he be rich enough, will never think of entering into the Church.

[Footnote 4: This part of the paragraph is to be applied to the period
when the whole was written, which was in 1723, when several of Queen
Anne's bishops were living. [Note in edition of 1761, as amended from
the edition of 1735. T.S.]]

And, as there can be no disadvantage to the public, in a Protestant
country, that a man should hold lands as a bishop, any more than if he
were a temporal person; so it is of great advantage to the community,
where a bishop lives as he ought to do. He is bound, in conscience, to
reside in his diocese, and, by a solemn promise, to keep hospitality;
his estate is spent in the kingdom, not remitted to England; he keeps
the clergy to their duty, and is an example of virtue both to them and
the people. Suppose him an ill man; yet his very character will withhold
him from any great or open exorbitancies. But, in fact, it must be
allowed, that some bishops of this kingdom, within twenty years past,
have done very signal and lasting acts of public charity; great
instances whereof, are the late[5] and present[6] Primate, the Lord
Archbishop of Dublin[7] that now is, who hath left memorials of his
bounty in many parts of his province. I might add, the Bishop of
Raphoe,[8] and several others: Not forgetting the late Dean of Down, Dr.
Pratt, who bestowed one thousand pounds upon the university: Which
foundation, (that I may observe by the way) if the bill proposed should
pass, would be in the same circumstances with the bishops, nor ever able
again to advance the stipends of the fellows and students, as lately
they found it necessary to do; the determinate sum appointed by the
statute for commons, being not half sufficient, by the fall of money, to
afford necessary sustenance. But the passing of such a bill must put an
end to all ecclesiastical beneficence for the time to come; and whether
this will be supplied by those who are to reap the benefit, better than
it hath been done by the grantees of impropriate tithes, who received
them upon the old church conditions of keeping hospitality; it will be
easy to conjecture.

[Footnote 5: Dr. Marsh.]

[Footnote 6: Dr. Lindsay.]

[Footnote 7: Dr. King.]

[Footnote 8: Dr. Forster.]

To allege, that passing such a bill would be a good encouragement to
improve bishops' lands, is a great error. Is it not the general method
of landlords, to wait the expiration of a lease, and then cant[9] their
lands to the highest bidder? And what should hinder the same course to
be taken in church leases, when the limitation is removed of paying half
the real value to the bishop? In riding through the country, how few
improvements do we see upon the estates of laymen, farther than about
their own domains? To say the truth, it is a great misfortune as well to
the public as to the bishops themselves, that their lands are generally
let to lords and great squires, who, in reason, were never designed to
be tenants; and therefore may naturally murmur at the payment of rent,
as a subserviency they were not born to. If the tenants to the Church
were honest farmers, they would pay their fines and rents with
cheerfulness, improve their lands, and thank God they were to give but a
moderate half value for what they held. I have heard a man of a thousand
pounds a year, talk with great contempt of bishops' leases, as being on
a worse foot than the rest of his estate; and he had certainly reason:
My answer was, that such leases were originally intended only for the
benefit of industrious husbandmen, who would think it a great blessing
to be so provided for, instead of having his farm screwed up to the
height, not eating one comfortable meal in a year, nor able to find
shoes for his children.

[Footnote 9: To cant means to call for bidders at an auction sale.
Probably derived from the O. French _cant = quantum_ = how much. [T.S.]]

I know not any advantage that can accrue by such a bill, except the
preventing of perjury in jurymen, and false dealing in tenants; which is
a remedy like that of giving my money to an highwayman, before he
attempts to take it by force; and so I shall be sure to prevent the sin
of robbery.

I had wrote thus far, and thought to have put an end; when a bookseller
sent me a small pamphlet, entitled, "The Case of the Laity, with some
Queries;" full of the strongest malice against the clergy, that I have
anywhere met with since the reign of Toland, and others of that tribe.
These kinds of advocates do infinite mischief to OUR GOOD CAUSE, by
giving grounds to the unjust reproaches of TORIES and JACOBITES, who
charge us with being enemies to the Church. If I bear an hearty
unfeigned loyalty to his Majesty King George, and the House of Hanover,
not shaken in the least by the hardships we lie under, which never can
be imputable to so gracious a prince: If I sincerely abjure the
Pretender, and all Popish successors; if I bear a due veneration to the
glorious memory of the late King William, who preserved these kingdoms
from Popery and slavery, with the expense of his blood, and hazard of
his life: And lastly, if I am for a proper indulgence to all dissenters;
I think nothing more can be reasonably demanded of me as a WHIG, and
that my political catechism is full and complete. But whoever, under the
shelter of that party denomination, and of many great professions of
loyalty, would destroy, or undermine, or injure the Church established;
I utterly disown him, and think he ought to choose another name of
distinction for himself, and his adherents. I came into the cause upon
other principles, which, by the grace of God, I mean to preserve as long
as I live. Shall we justify the accusations of our adversaries? _Hoc
Ithacus velit_--The Tories and Jacobites will behold us with a malicious
pleasure, determined upon the ruin of our friends: For is not the
present set of bishops almost entirely of that number, as well as a
great majority of the principal clergy? And a short time will reduce the
whole, by vacancies upon death.

An impartial reader, if he pleases to examine what I have already said,
will easily answer the bold "Queries" in the pamphlet I mentioned: He
will be convinced, that "the reason still strongly exists, for which"
that limiting law was enacted. A reasonable man will wonder, where can
be the insufferable grievance, that an ecclesiastical landlord should
expect a moderate, or third part value in rent for his lands, when his
title is, _at least_, as ancient and as legal as that of a layman; who
is yet but seldom guilty of giving such beneficial bargains. Has "the
nation been thrown into confusion"? And have "many poor families been
ruined" by rack-rents paid for the lands of the church? Does "the nation
cry out" to have a law that must, in time, send their bishops a-begging?
But, God be thanked, the clamour of enemies to the Church is not yet the
cry, and, I hope, will never prove the voice of the nation. The clergy,
I conceive, will hardly allow that "the people maintain them," any more
than in the sense, that all landlords whatsoever are maintained by the
people. Such assertions as these, and the insinuations they carry along
with them, proceed from principles which cannot be avowed by those who
are for preserving the happy constitution in Church and State. Whoever
were the proposers of such "queries," it might have provoked a bold
writer to retaliate, perhaps with more justice than prudence, by shewing
at whose door the grievance lies, and that the bishops, _at least_, are
not to answer for the poverty of tenants.

To gratify this great reformer, who enlarges the episcopal rent-roll
almost one half; let me suppose that all the Church lands in the kingdom
were thrown up to the laity; would the tenants, in such a case, sit
easier in their rents than they do now? Or, would the money be equally
spent in the kingdom? No: The farmer would be screwed up to the utmost
penny, by the agents and stewards of absentees, and the revenues
employed in making a figure at London; to which city a full third part
of the whole income of Ireland is annually returned, to answer that
single article of maintenance for Irish landlords.

Another of his quarrels is against pluralities and non-residence: As to
the former, it is a word of ill name, but not well understood. The
clergy having been stripped of the greatest part of their revenues, the
glebes being generally lost, the tithes in the hands of laymen, the
churches demolished, and the country depopulated; in order to preserve a
face of Christianity, it was necessary to unite small vicarages,
sufficient to make a tolerable maintenance for a minister. The profit of
ten or a dozen of these unions, do seldom amount to above eighty or an
hundred pounds a year: If there be a very few dignitaries, whose
preferments are, perhaps, more liable to this accusation, it is to be
supposed, they may be favourites of the time, or persons of superior
merit, for whom there hath ever been some indulgence in all governments.

As to non-residence, I believe there is no Christian country upon earth,
where the clergy have less to answer for upon that article. I am
confident there are not ten clergymen in the kingdom, who, properly
speaking, can be termed non-residents: For surely, we are not to reckon
in that number, those who, for want of glebes, are forced to retire to
the nearest neighbouring village for a cabin to put their heads in; the
leading man of the parish, when he makes the greatest clamour, being
least disposed to accommodate the minister with an acre of ground. And,
indeed, considering the difficulties the clergy lie under upon this
head, it hath been frequent matter of wonder to me, how they are able to
perform that part of their duty as well as they do.

There is a noble author,[10] who hath lately addressed to the House of
Commons, an excellent discourse for the "Encouragement of Agriculture";
full of most useful hints, which, I hope, that honourable assembly will
consider as they deserve. I am not a stranger to his lordship; and,
excepting in what relates to the Church, there are few persons with
whose opinions I am better pleased to agree; and am, therefore, grieved
when I find him charging the inconveniencies in the payment of tithes
upon the clergy and their proctors. His lordship is above considering a
very known and vulgar truth, that the meanest farmer hath all manner of
advantages against the most powerful clergyman, by whom it is impossible
he can be wronged, although the minister were ever so evil disposed; the
whole system of teasing, perplexing, and defrauding the proctor, or his
master, being as well known to every ploughman, as the reaping or sowing
of his corn, and much more artfully practised. Besides, the leading man
in the parish must have his tithes at his own rate, which is hardly ever
above one quarter of the value. And I have heard it computed by many
skilful observers, whose interest was not concerned, that the clergy did
not receive, throughout the kingdom, one half of what the laws have made
their due.

[Footnote 10: The late Lord Molesworth.]

As to his lordship's discontent against the Bishops' Courts, I shall not
interpose further than in venturing my private opinion, that the clergy
would be very glad to recover their just dues by a more short, decisive,
and compulsive method, than such a cramped and limited jurisdiction will

His lordship is not the only person disposed to give the clergy the
honour of being the _sole_ encouragers of all new improvements. If hops,
hemp, flax, and twenty things more are to be planted, the clergy,
_alone_, must reward the industrious farmer, by abatement of the tithe.
What if the owner of nine parts in ten would please to abate
proportionably in his rent, for every acre thus improved? Would not a
man just dropped from the clouds, upon a full hearing, judge the demand
to be, at least, as reasonable?

I believe no man will dispute his lordship's title to his estate; nor
will I the _jus divinum_ of tithes, which he mentions with some emotion.
I suppose the affirmative would be of little advantage to the clergy,
for the same reason that a maxim in law hath more weight in the world
than an article of faith. And yet, I think there may be such a thing as
sacrilege; because it is frequently mentioned by Greek and Roman
authors, as well as described in Holy Writ. This I am sure of; that his
lordship would, at any time, excuse a parliament for not concerning
itself in his properties, without his own consent.

The observations I have made upon his lordship's discourse, have not, I
confess, been altogether proper to my subject: However, since he hath
been pleased therein to offer some proposals to the House of Commons,
with relation to the clergy, I hope he will excuse me for differing from
him; which proceeds from his own principle, the desire of defending
liberty and property, that he hath so strenuously and constantly

But the other writer openly declares for a law, empowering the bishops
to set fee-farms; and says, "Whoever intimates that they will deny their
consent to such a reasonable law, which the whole nation cries for, are
enemies to them and the Church." Whether this be his real opinion, or
only a strain of mirth and irony, the matter is not much. However, my
sentiments are so directly contrary to his; that I think, whoever
impartially reads and considers what I have written upon this argument,
hath either no regard for the Church established under the hierarchy of
bishops, or will never consent to any law that shall repeal, or elude
the limiting clause, relating to the real half value, contained in the
act of parliament _decimo Caroli_, "For the preservation of the
inheritance, rights and profits of lands belonging to the Church, and
persons ecclesiastical"; which was grounded upon reasons that do still,
and must for ever subsist.

October 21, 1723.

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








Scott's text has been collated with that given in volume eight of the
quarto edition of Swift's Works (1765). In that edition the title is
given as: "The Representation of the Clergy of Dublin," &c.


OF DUBLIN, &c.[1]

[Footnote 1: William King, D.D. (1650-1729), Archbishop of Dublin, was
born in Antrim, and educated at a school at Dungannon and Trinity
College, Dublin. He was installed Dean of St. Patrick's in 1688-9
(February 1st). For his open espousal of the Prince of Orange, he was
confined to the Castle, and suffered many indignities. In 1690-1
(January 9th) he was promoted to the see of Derry. His conduct through
life was that of an ardent Irish Protestant patriot. He fought against
Sectarianism, Roman Catholicism, and the interference of the English
Parliament in Irish affairs. He opposed the Toleration Bill, and
protested against the act confirming the Articles of Limerick. His
relationship with Swift became close when he sent the vicar of Laracor
to London, to obtain for the Irish clergy the restoration of the
first-fruits and twentieth parts; but it was a relationship never
cemented by feelings warmer than those of esteem. King acknowledged the
ability of Swift, but found him ambitious and overbearingly proud.
Throughout life he remained a consistent High Churchman, and a strenuous
supporter of the rights of the Church in Ireland, but his attempt, in
1727, to interfere with the affairs of the Deanery of St. Patrick's,
brought down upon him Swift's wrath, and an open quarrel ensued which
was partly softened by the Archbishop retiring from the matter and
tacitly acknowledging Swift's right.

King's chief published work is his treatise "De Origine Mali," published
in 1702, and received with respectful consideration by the eminent
thinkers of the day. He wrote other minor works, but none of any
distinguished merit. He succeeded Narcissus Marsh as Archbishop of
Dublin in 1702-3 (March 11th). Swift's letters to King during the
former's embassy on the matter of first-fruits, make a most interesting
chapter in the six volumes which Scott devotes to Swift's
correspondence. T. S.]

Jan. 1724.


Your Grace having been pleased to communicate to us a certain brief, by
letters patents, for the relief of one Charles M'Carthy, whose house in
College-Green, Dublin, was burnt by an accidental fire; and having
desired us to consider of the said brief, and give our opinions thereof
to your Grace;

We the Clergy of the city of Dublin, in compliance with your Grace's
desire, and with great acknowledgments for your paternal tenderness
towards us, having maturely considered the said brief by letters
patents, compared the several parts of it with what is enjoined us by
the rubric, (which is confirmed by act of parliament) and consulted
persons skilled in the laws of the Church; do, in the names of ourselves
and of the rest of our brethren, the Clergy of the diocese of Dublin,
most humbly represent to your Grace:

First, That, by this brief, your Grace is required and commanded, to
recommend and command all the parsons, vicars, &c., to advance so great
an act of charity.

We shall not presume to determine how far your Grace may be commanded by
the said brief; but we humbly conceive that the Clergy of your diocese
cannot, by any law now in being, be commanded by your Grace to advance
the said act of charity, any other ways than by reading the said brief
in our several churches, as prescribed by the rubric.

Secondly, Whereas it is said in the said brief, "That the parsons,
vicars, &c. upon the first Lord's day, or opportunity after the receipt
of the copy of the said brief, shall, deliberately and affectionately,
publish and declare the tenor thereof to His Majesty's subjects, and
earnestly persuade, exhort, and stir them up to contribute freely and
cheerfully towards the relief of the said sufferer;"

We do not comprehend what is meant by the word _opportunity_. We never
do preach upon any day except the Lord's day, or some solemn days
legally appointed; neither is it possible for the strongest constitution
among us to obey this command (which includes no less than a whole
sermon) upon any other opportunity than when our people are met together
in the church; and to perform this work in every house where the
parishes are very populous, consisting sometimes here in town of 900 or
1,000 houses, would take up the space of a year, although we should
preach in two families every day; and almost as much time in the
country, where the parishes are of large extent, the roads bad, and the
people too poor to receive us, and give charity at once.

But, if it be meant that these exhortations are commanded to be made in
the church, upon the Lord's day, we are humbly of opinion, that it is
left to the discretion of the clergy, to choose what subjects they think
most proper to preach on, and at what times; and, if they preach either
false doctrine or seditious principles, they are liable to be punished.

It may possibly happen that the sufferer recommended may be a person not
deserving the favour intended by the brief; in which case no minister,
who knows the sufferer to be an undeserving person, can with a safe
conscience, deliberately and affectionately publish the brief, much less
earnestly persuade, exhort, and stir up the people to contribute freely
and cheerfully towards the relief of such a sufferer.[2]

[Footnote 2: This M'Carthy's house was burnt in the month of August
1723, and the universal opinion of mankind was, that M'Carthy himself
was the person who had set fire to the house. [Note in edition of
Swift's Works, vol. viii., 1765, 4to.]]

Thirdly, Whereas in the said brief the ministers and curates are
required, "on the week-days next after the Lord's day when the brief was
read, to go from house to house, with their church-wardens, to ask and
receive from all persons the said charity:" We cannot but observe here,
that the said ministers are directly made collectors of the said charity
in conjunction with the church-wardens; which however, we presume, was
not intended, as being against all law and precedent: And therefore, we
apprehend, there may be some inconsistency, which leaves us at a loss
how to proceed. For, in the next paragraph, the ministers and curates
are only required, where they conveniently can, to accompany the
church-wardens, or procure some other of the chief inhabitants, to do
the same. And, in a following paragraph, the whole work seems left
entirely to the church-wardens, who are required to use their utmost
diligence to gather and collect the said charity, and to pay the same,
in ten days after, to the parson, vicar, &c.

In answer to this, we do represent to your Grace our humble opinion,
that neither we nor our church-wardens can be legally commanded or
required to go from house to house to receive the said charity; because
your Grace hath informed us in your order, at your visitation An. Dom.
1712, that neither we nor our church-wardens are bound to make any
collections for the poor, save in the church; which also appears plainly
by the rubric, that appoints both time and place, as your Grace hath
observed in your said order.

We do likewise assure your Grace, that it is not in our power to procure
some of the chief inhabitants of our parishes to accompany the
church-wardens from house to house in these collections: And we have
reason to believe, that such a proposal, made to our chief inhabitants
(particularly in this city, where our chief inhabitants are often peers
of the land) would be received in a manner very little to our own
satisfaction, or to the advantage of the said collections.

Fourthly, The brief doth will, require, and command the bishops, and all
other dignitaries of the Church, that they make their contributions
distinctly, to be returned in the several provinces to the several
archbishops of the same.

Upon which we take leave to observe that the terms of expression here
are of the strongest kind, and in a point that may subject the said
dignitaries (for we shall say nothing of the bishops) to great

The said dignitaries are here willed, required, and commanded to make
their contributions distinctly; by which it should seem that they are
absolutely commanded to make contributions (for the word _distinctly_ is
but a circumstance), and may be understood not very agreeable to a
voluntary, cheerful contribution. And therefore, if any bishop or
dignitary should refuse to make his contribution, (perhaps for very good
reasons) he may be thought to incur the crime of disobedience to His
Majesty, which all good subjects abhor, when such a command is according
to law.

Most dignities of this kingdom consist only of parochial tithes, and the
dignitaries are ministers of parishes. A doubt may therefore arise,
whether the said dignitaries are willed, required, and commanded, to
make their contributions in both capacities, distinctly as dignitaries,
and jointly as parsons or vicars.

Many dignities in this kingdom are the poorest kind of benefices; and it
should seem hard to put poor dignitaries under the necessity either of
making greater contributions than they can afford, or of exposing
themselves to the censure of wanting charity, by making their
contributions public.

Our Saviour commands us, in works of charity, to "let not our left hand
know what our right hand doeth;" which cannot well consist with our
being willed, required, and commanded by any earthly power, where no law
is prescribed, to publish our charity to the world, if we have a mind to
conceal it.

Fifthly, Whereas it is said in the said brief, "That the parson, vicar,
&c. of every parish, shall, in six days after the receipt of the said
charity, return it to his respective chancellor, &c." This may be a
great grievance, hazard, and expense to the said parson, in remote and
desolate parts of the country, where often an honest messenger (if such
a one can be got) must be hired to travel forty or fifty miles going and
coming; which will probably cost more than the value of the contribution
he carries with him. And this charge, if briefs should happen to be
frequent, would be enough to undo many a poor clergyman in the kingdom.

Sixthly, We observe in the said brief, that the provost and fellows of
the University, judges, officers of the courts, and professors of laws
common and civil, are neither willed, required, nor commanded to make
their contributions; but that so good a work is only recommended to
them. Whereas we conceive, that all His Majesty's subjects are equally
obliged, with or without His Majesty's commands, to promote works of
charity according to their power; and that the clergy, in their
ecclesiastical capacity, are only liable to such commands as the rubric,
or any other law shall enjoin, being born to the same privileges of
freedom with the rest of His Majesty's subjects.

We cannot but observe to your Grace, that, in the English act of the
fourth year of Queen Anne, for the better collecting charity money on
briefs by letters-patent, &c. the ministers are obliged only to read the
briefs in their churches, without any particular exhortations; neither
are they commanded to go from house to house with the church-wardens,
nor to send the money collected to their respective chancellors, but pay
it to the undertaker or agent of the sufferer. So that, we humbly hope,
the clergy of this kingdom shall not, without any law in being, be put
to greater hardships in this case than their brethren in England, where
the legislature, intending to prevent the abuses in collecting charity
money on briefs, did not think fit to put the clergy under any of those
difficulties we now complain of, in the present brief by letters patent,
for the relief of Charles M'Carthy aforesaid.

The collections upon the Lord's day are the principal support of our own
numerous poor in our several parishes; and therefore every single brief,
with the benefit of a full collection over the whole kingdom, must
deprive several thousands of poor of their weekly maintenance, for the
sake only of one person, who often becomes a sufferer by his own folly
or negligence, and is sure to overvalue his losses double or treble: So
that, if this precedent be followed, as it certainly will if the present
brief should succeed, we may probably have a new brief every week; and
thus, for the advantage of fifty-two persons, whereof not one in ten is
deserving, and for the interest of a dozen dexterous clerks and
secretaries, the whole poor in the kingdom will be likely to starve.

We are credibly informed, that neither the officers of the Lord Primate,
in preparing the report of his Grace's opinion, nor those of the
great-seal, in passing the patent for briefs, will remit any of their
fees, both which do amount to a considerable sum: And thus the good
intentions of well-disposed people are in a great measure disappointed,
a large part of their charity being anticipated, and alienated by fees
and gratuities.

Lastly, We cannot but represent to your Grace our great concern and
grief, to see the pains and labour of our church-wardens so much
increased, by the injunctions and commands put upon them in this brief,
to the great disadvantage of the clergy and the people, as well as to
their own trouble, damage, and loss of time, to which great additions
have been already made, by laws appointing them to collect the taxes for
the watch and the poor-house, which they bear with great unwillingness;
and, if they shall find themselves further laden with such briefs as
this of M'Carthy, it will prove so great a discouragement, that we shall
never be able to provide honest and sufficient persons for that weighty
office of church-warden, so necessary to the laity as well as the
clergy, in all things that relate to the order and regulation of

Upon all these considerations, we humbly hope that your Grace, of whose
fatherly care, vigilance, and tenderness, we have had so many and great
instances, will represent our case to his Most Excellent Majesty, or to
the chief governor in this kingdom, in such a manner, that we may be
neither under the necessity of declining His Majesty's commands in his
letters patent, or of taking new and grievous burthens upon ourselves
and our church-wardens, to which neither the rubric nor any other law in
force oblige us to submit.

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






In the note to the tract, "Some Arguments against enlarging the Power of
Bishops in letting Leases" (p. 219), it was pointed out that the Bill
against which this tract was written was an attempt on the part of the
bishops to get back a power which they once had abused. Failing in this
attempt, in 1723, they renewed the attack in 1731 by promoting two
bills, one called a Bill of Residence, the other a Bill of Division.

The ostensible object of the Bill of Residence was to compel the clergy
to reside on their livings. By this bill, any person taking a benefice,
with cure of souls, of the annual value of L100, was forced, if the land
attached to that benefice had no house fit for residence, to build one
thereon, in any situation the bishop might think suitable, this house to
cost one year and a half's income, and to be completed within a time
fixed by the bishop. It will at once be seen that the power over the
inferior clergy which this bill placed in the bishops' hands was by no
means insignificant; and Swift felt that to make such a bill law would
not only tend to impoverish, the inferior clergy, but would place them
in a position of subjection at once degrading and dispiriting. He
opposed the bill, with the consequence that the House of Commons
rejected it.

By the Bill of Division "it was intended to be enacted that whenever a
church should become vacant, although the incumbent should refuse his
consent, it might be lawful for the chief governor, with the assent of
the major part of the Privy Council, six at least consenting, by and
with the consent of the ordinary and the patron, to subdivide any parish
into as many portions as they might think fit, provided that, after such
division, the church of the old parish should continue worth, at the
least, L300 per annum." This bill, which passed the House of Lords two
days after the Bill of Residence, Swift opposed in a spirited and
somewhat bitter manner. His opposition largely influenced the Lower
House in rejecting it. The two tracts which state the grounds of his
opposition to both bills are the present one, and the following tract,
"Considerations upon two Bills, sent down from the House of Lords to the
House of Commons in Ireland, relating to the Clergy."

Scott notes that the "tone of _aigreur_," which is more distinctly felt
in the second of these tracts, intimates a "deep dissatisfaction with
late ecclesiastical preferments, which may perhaps be traced as much to
personal disappointment as to any better cause;" a statement which it
was hardly worth making; since, however deep may have been Swift's
personal feelings, he never allowed them to be the impelling motive to
his work. It should suffice us to know that the cause which Swift
espoused was a disinterested one. As Vicar of Laracor he knew what it
was to make a shift of living on an insufficient income; and it may have
been, this experience as much as "personal disappointment" which gave
pungency to his criticism. It is easy enough to find questionable
motives for a satirist, especially when that satirist is Swift; let us
not, however, forget that in his case the personal element was never
permitted to overweight the impersonal purpose. Other men when they
reach prosperity often forget or ignore the hard conditions of their
previous state; to Swift these conditions were always existing factors
in his considerations for the amelioration of his fellow-men. This it is
which gives to his writings so much of the "tone of _aigreur_."

In his letter to John Stearne, Bishop of Clogher, dated July, 1733,
which is one of Swift's most characteristic epistles--characteristic,
because the embodiment of truthful candour--he gives no equivocal
expression of opinion on these two bills. He calls them, "abominable
bills, for enslaving and beggaring the clergy, (which took their birth
from hell)." "I call God to witness," he adds, "that I did then, and do
now, and shall for ever, firmly believe, that every Bishop who gave his
vote for either of these bills, did it with no other view (bating
further promotion), than a premeditated design, from the spirit of
ambition, and love of arbitrary power, to make the whole body of the
clergy their slaves and vassals until the day of judgment, under the
load of poverty and contempt."

About the same time, 1732, appeared another pamphlet entitled, "The
Reconciler ... shewing how all the good ends proposed by either of those
bills, may, by a more gentle and easy method, be attained, without
injury to the rights of my lords the bishops; or rigour and violence to
the inferior clergy." In the main, the writer agrees with Swift; but the
tract is valuable as showing that the controversy was no small one, and
it furnishes also what is, apparently, an impartial history of the whole
affair. Three Irish prelates voted against the bills on a
division--Theophilus Bolton, Archbishop of Cashel, Charles Carr, Bishop
of Killaloe, and Robert Howard, Bishop of Elphin.

The text of this tract is based on that which appeared in a volume of
"Miscellanies in Prose and Verse" in the year 1789. It has been collated
with those given by Scott, Hawkesworth, and other editors.



Those gentlemen who have been promoted to bishoprics in this kingdom for
several years past, are of two sorts: first, certain private clergymen
from England, who, by the force of friends, industry, solicitation, or
other means and merits to me unknown, have been raised to that character
by the _mero motu_ of the crown.

Of the other sort, are some clergymen born in this kingdom, who have
most distinguished themselves by their warmth against Popery, their
great indulgence to Dissenters, and all true loyal Protestants; by their
zeal for the House of Hanover, abhorrence of the Pretender, and an
implicit readiness to fall into any measures that will make the
government easy to those who represent His Majesty's person.

Some of the former kind are such as are said to have enjoyed tolerable
preferments in England; and it is therefore much to their commendation
that they have condescended to leave their native country, and come over
hither to be bishops, merely to promote Christianity among us; and
therefore in my opinion, both their lordships, and the many defenders
they bring over, may justly claim the merit of missionaries sent to
convert a nation from heresy and heathenism.

Before I proceed farther, it may be proper to relate some particulars
wherein the circumstances of the English clergy differ from those of

The districts of parishes throughout England continue much the same as
they were before the Reformation; and most of the churches are of the
gothic architecture, built some hundred years ago; but the tithes of
great numbers of churches having been applied by the Pope's pretended
authority to several abbeys, and even before the Reformation bestowed by
that sacrilegious tyrant Henry VIII., on his ravenous favourites, the
maintenance of an incumbent in most parts of the kingdom is contemptibly
small; and yet a vicar there of forty pounds a year, can live with more
comfort, than one of three times the nominal value with us. For his
forty pounds are duly paid him, because there is not one farmer in a
hundred, who is not worth five times the rent he pays to his landlord,
and fifty times the sum demanded for the tithes; which, by the small
compass of his parish, he can easily collect or compound for; and if his
behaviour and understanding be supportable, he will probably receive
presents now and then from his parishioners, and perhaps from the
squire; who, although he may sometimes be apt to treat his parson a
little superciliously, will probably be softened by a little humble
demeanour. The vicar is likewise generally sure to find upon his
admittance to his living, a convenient house and barn in repair, with a
garden, and a field or two to graze a few cows, and one horse for
himself and his wife. He hath probably a market very near him, perhaps
in his own village. No entertainment is expected from his visitor beyond
a pot of ale, and a piece of cheese. He hath every Sunday the comfort of
a full congregation, of plain, cleanly people of both sexes, well to
pass, and who speak his own language. The scene about him is fully
cultivated (I mean for the general) and well inhabited. He dreads no
thieves for anything but his apples, for the trade of universal stealing
is not so epidemic there as with us. His wife is little better than
Goody, in her birth, education, or dress; and as to himself, we must let
his parentage alone. If he be the son of a farmer it is very sufficient,
and his sister may very decently be chambermaid to the squire's wife. He
goes about on working days in a grazier's coat, and will not scruple to
assist his workmen in harvest time. He is usually wary and thrifty, and
often more able to provide for a numerous family than some of ours can
do with a rectory called 300_l_. a year. His daughters shall go to
service, or be sent 'prentice to the sempstress of the next town; and
his sons are put to honest trades. This is the usual course of an
English country vicar from twenty to sixty pounds a year.

As to the clergy of our own kingdom, their livings are generally larger.
Not originally, or by the bounty of princes, parliaments, or charitable
endowments, for the same degradations (and as to glebes, a much greater)
have been made here, but, by the destruction and desolation in the long
wars between the invaders and the natives; during which time a great
part of the bishops' lands, and almost all the glebes, were lost in the
confusion. The first invaders had almost the whole kingdom divided
amongst them. New invaders succeeded, and drove out their predecessors
as native Irish. These were expelled by others who came after, and upon
the same pretensions. Thus it went on for several hundred years, and in
some degree even to our own memories. And thus it will probably go on,
although not in a martial way, to the end of the world. For not only the
purchasers of debentures forfeited in 1641, were all of English birth,
but those after the Restoration, and many who came hither even since the
Revolution, are looked upon as perfect Irish; directly contrary to the
practice of all wise nations, and particularly of the Greeks and Romans,
in establishing their colonies, by which name Ireland is very absurdly

Under these distractions the conquerors always seized what lands they
could with little ceremony, whether they belonged to the Church or not:
Thus the glebes were almost universally exposed to the first seizers,
and could never be recovered, although the grants, with the particular
denominations, are manifest, and still in being. The whole lands of the
see of Waterford were wholly taken by one family; the like is reported
of other bishoprics.

King James the First, who deserves more of the Church of Ireland than
all other princes put together, having the forfeitures of vast tracts of
land in the northern parts (I think commonly called the escheated
counties), having granted some hundred thousand acres of these lands to
certain Scotch and English favourites, was prevailed on by some great
prelates to grant to some sees in the north, and to many parishes there,
certain parcels of land for the augmentation of poor bishoprics, did
likewise endow many parishes with glebes for the incumbents, whereof a
good number escaped the depredations of 1641 and 1688. These lands, when
they were granted by King James, consisted mostly of woody ground,
wherewith those parts of this island were then overrun. This is well
known, universally allowed, and by some in part remembered; the rest
being, in some places, not stubbed out to this day. And the value of the
lands was consequently very inconsiderable, till Scotch colonies came
over in swarms upon great encouragement to make them habitable; at least
for such a race of strong-bodied people, who came hither from their own
bleak barren highlands, as it were into a paradise; who soon were able
to get straw for their bedding, instead of a bundle of heath spread on
the ground, and sprinkled with water. Here, by degrees, they acquired
some degree of politeness and civility, from such neighbouring Irish as
were still left after Tyrone's last rebellion, and are since grown
almost entirely possessors of the north. Thus, at length, the woods
being rooted up, the land was brought in, and tilled, and the glebes
which could not before yield two-pence an acre, are equal to the best,
sometimes affording the minister a good demesne, and some land to let.

These wars and desolations in their natural consequences, were likewise
the cause of another effect, I mean that of uniting several parishes
under one incumbent. For, as the lands were of little value by the want
of inhabitants to cultivate them, and many of the churches levelled to
the ground, particularly by the fanatic zeal of those rebellious saints
who murdered their king, destroyed the Church, and overthrew monarchy
(for all which there is a humiliation day appointed by law, and soon
approaching); so, in order to give a tolerable maintenance to a
minister, and the country being too poor, as well as devotion too low,
to think of building new churches, it was found necessary to repair some
one church which had least suffered, and join sometimes three or more,
enough for a bare support to some clergyman, who knew not where to
provide himself better. This was a case of absolute necessity to prevent
heathenism, as well as popery, from overrunning the nation. The
consequence of these unions was very different, in different parts; for,
in the north, by the Scotch settlement, their numbers daily increasing
by new additions from their own country, and their prolific quality
peculiar to northern people; and lastly by their universally feeding
upon oats (which grain, under its several preparations and
denominations, is the only natural luxury of that hardy people) the
value of tithes increased so prodigiously, that at this day, I confess,
several united parishes ought to be divided, taking in so great a
compass, that it is almost impossible for the people to travel timely to
their own parish church, or their little churches to contain half their
number, though the revenue would be sufficient to maintain two, or
perhaps three worthy clergymen with decency; provided the times mend, or
that they were honestly dealt with, which I confess is seldom the case.
I shall name only one, and it is the deanery of Derry; the revenue
whereof, if the dean could get his dues, exceeding that of some
bishoprics, both by the compass and fertility of the soil, the number as
well as industry of the inhabitants, the conveniency of exporting their
corn to Dublin and foreign parts; and, lastly, by the accidental
discovery of marl in many places of the several parishes. Yet all this
revenue is wholly founded upon corn, for I am told there is hardly an
acre of glebe for the dean to plant and build on.

I am therefore of opinion, that a real undefalcated revenue of six
hundred pounds a year, is a sufficient income for a country dean in this
kingdom; and since the rents consist wholly of tithes, two parishes, to
the amount of that value, should be united, and the dean reside as
minister in that of Down, and the remaining parishes be divided among
worthy clergymen, to about 300_l_. a year to each. The deanery of Derry,
which is a large city, might be left worth 800_l_. a year, and Rapho
according as it shall be thought proper. These three are the only
opulent deaneries in the whole kingdom, and, as I am informed, consist
all of tithes, which was an unhappy expedient in the Church, occasioned
by the sacrilegious robberies during the several times of confusion and
war; insomuch that at this day there is hardly any remainder left of
dean and chapter lands in Ireland, that delicious morsel swallowed so
greedily in England, under the fanatic usurpations.

As to the present scheme of a bill for obliging the clergy to residence,
now or lately in the privy council, I know no more of the particulars
than what hath been told me by several clergymen of distinction; who
say, that a petition in the name of them all hath been presented to the
lord lieutenant and council, that they might be heard by their counsel
against the bill, and that the petition was rejected, with some reasons
why it was rejected; for the bishops know best what is proper for the
clergy. It seems the bill consists of two parts: First, a power in the
bishops, with consent of the archbishop, and the patron, to take off
from any parish whatever, it is worth above L300 a year; and this to be
done without the incumbent's consent, which before was necessary in all
divisions. The other part of the bill obligeth all clergymen, from forty
pounds a year and upwards, to reside, and build a house in his parish.
But those of L40 are remitted till they shall receive L100 out of the
revenue of first-fruits granted by Her late Majesty.

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





"In the year 1731 a Bill was brought into the House of Lords by a great
majority of the Right Reverend the Bishops, for enabling them to divide
the livings of the inferior Clergy; which Bill was approved of in the
Privy-Council of Ireland, and passed by the Lords in Parliament. It was
afterwards sent to the House of Commons for their approbation; but was
rejected by them with a great majority. The supposed author of the
following Considerations, who hath always been the best friend to the
inferior Clergy of the Church of England, as may be seen by many parts
of his writings, opposed this pernicious project with great success;
which, if it had passed into law, would have been of the worst
consequence to this nation." [Advertisement to the reprint of this
pamphlet in Swift's Works, vol. vi. Dublin: Faulkner, 1738.]

Fuller details of the circumstances which gave Swift the opportunity for
writing this tract are given in the note prefixed to the previous
pamphlet (see p. 250).

The text here given is that of the first edition.


Sent down from the R---- H---- the
H---- of L----
To the H----ble
H---- of C----
Relating to the


Printed for A. MOORE, near St. _Paul's_, and Sold by the Booksellers of
_Westminster_ and _Southwark_, 1732.

I have often, for above a month past, desired some few clergymen, who
are pleased to visit me, that they would procure an extract of two
bills, brought into the council by some of the bishops, and both of them
since passed in the House of Lords: but I could never obtain what I
desired, whether by the forgetfulness, or negligence of those whom I
employed, or the difficulty of the thing itself. Therefore, if I shall
happen to mistake in any fact of consequence, I desire my remarks upon
it, may pass for nothing; for my information is no better than what I
received in words from several divines, who seemed to agree with each
other. I have not the honour to be acquainted with any one single
prelate of the kingdom, and am a stranger to their characters, further
than as common fame reports them, which is not to be depended on.
Therefore, I cannot be supposed to act upon a principle of resentment. I
esteem their functions (if I may be allowed to say so without offence)
as truly apostolical, and absolutely necessary to the perfection of a
Christian Church.

There are no qualities more incident to the frailty and corruption of
human kind, than an indifference, or insensibility for other men's
sufferings, and a sudden forgetfulness of their own former humble state,
when they rise in the world. These two dispositions have not, I think,
anywhere so strongly exerted themselves, as in the order of bishops with
regard to the inferior clergy; for which I can find no reasons, but such
as naturally should seem to operate a quite contrary way. The
maintenance of the Clergy, throughout the kingdom, is precarious and
uncertain, collected from a most miserable race of beggarly farmers; at
whose mercy every minister lies to be defrauded: His office, as rector
or vicar, if it be duly executed, is very laborious. As soon as he is
promoted to a bishopric, the scene is entirely and happily changed; his
revenues are large, and as surely paid as those of the king; his whole
business is once a-year, to receive the attendance, the submission, and
the proxy-money of all his clergy, in whatever part of the diocese he
shall please to think most convenient for himself. Neither is his
personal presence necessary, for the business may be done by a
Vicar-General. The fatigue of ordination, is just what the bishops
please to make it, and as matters have been for some time, and may
probably remain, the fewer ordinations the better. The rest of their
visible office, consists in the honour of attending parliaments and
councils, and bestowing preferments in their own gift; in which last
employment, and in their spiritual and temporal courts, the labour falls
to their Vicars-General, Secretaries, Proctors, Apparitors, Seneschals,
and the like. Now, I say, in so quick a change, where their brethren in
a few days, are become their subjects, it would be reasonable, at least,
to hope, that the labour, confinement, and subjection from which they
have so lately escaped, like a bird out of the snare of the fowler,
might a little incline them to remember the condition of those, who were
but last week their equals, probably their companions or their friends,
and possibly, as reasonable expectants. There is a known story of
Colonel Tidcomb, who, while he continued a subaltern officer, was every
day complaining against the pride, oppression, and hard treatment of
colonels toward their officers; yet in a very few minutes after he had
received his commission for a regiment, walking with a friend on the
Mall, he confessed that the spirit of colonelship, was coming fast upon
him, which spirit is said to have daily increased to the hour of his

It is true, the Clergy of this kingdom, who are promoted to bishoprics,
have always some great advantages; either that of rich deaneries,
opulent and multiplied rectories and dignities, strong alliances by
birth or marriage, fortified by a superlative degree of zeal and
loyalty; but, however, they were all at first no more than young
beginners; and before their great promotion, were known by their plain
Christian names, among their old companions, the middling rate of
clergymen; nor could, therefore, be strangers to their condition, or
with any good grace, forget it so soon as it hath sometimes happened.

I confess, I do not remember to have observed any body of men, acting
with so little concert as our clergy have done, in a point where their
opinions appeared to be unanimous: a point where their whole temporal
support was concerned, as well as their power of serving God and his
Church, in their spiritual functions. This hath been imputed to their
fear of disobliging, or hopes of further favours upon compliance;
because it was observed, that some who appeared at first with the
greatest zeal, thought fit suddenly to absent themselves from the usual
meetings; yet, we know what expert solicitors the Quakers, the
Dissenters, and even the Papists have sometimes found, to drive a point
of advantage, or present an impending evil.

I have not seen any extract from the two bills introduced into the Privy
Council by the bishops; where the Clergy, upon some failure in favour,
or through the timorousness of many among their brethren, were refused
to be heard by the Council. It seems these bills were both returned,
agreed to by the King and Council in England; and the House of Lords
hath, with great expedition, passed them both, and it is said they are
immediately to be sent down to the Commons for their consent.

The particulars, as they have been imperfectly reported to me, are as

By one of the bills, the bishops have power to oblige the country
clergy, to build a mansion-house upon whatever part of their glebes
their lordships shall command; and if the living be above L50 a-year,
the minister is bound to build, after three years, a house that shall
cost one year and a half's rent of his income. For instance, if a
clergyman with a wife and seven children gets a living of L55 per annum,
he must after three years, build a house that shall cost L77 10s., and
must support his family during the time the bishop shall appoint for the
building of it with the remainder. But, if the living be under L50
a-year, the minister shall be allowed an L100 out of the first-fruits.

But, there is said to be one circumstance a little extraordinary; that
if there be a single spot in the glebe more barren, more marshy, more
expos'd to winds, more distant from the church, or skeleton of a church,
or from any conveniency of building: the rector, or vicar may be obliged
by the caprice, or pique of the bishop, to build, under pain of
sequestration, (an office, which ever falls into the most knavish
hands,) upon whatever point his lordship shall command; although the
farmers have not paid one quarter of his due.

I believe, under the present distresses of the kingdom (which
inevitably, without a miracle, must increase for ever) there are not ten
country clergymen in Ireland reputed to possess a parish of L100 per
annum who, for some years past, have actually received L60, and that
with the utmost difficulty and vexation. I am, therefore, at a loss what
kind of valuators the bishops will make use of, and whether the starving
vicar, shall be forced to build his house with the money he never

The other bill, which passed in two days after the former, is said to
concern the division of parishes into as many parcels as the bishop
shall think fit, only leaving L300 a-year to the Mother Church; which
L300 by another act passed some years ago, they can divide likewise, and
crumble as low as their will and pleasure will dispose them. So that
instead of 600 clergymen, which, I think, is the usual computation, we
may have, in a small compass of years, almost as many thousands to live
with decency and comfort, provide for their children, &c., be charitable
to the poor, and maintain hospitality.

But it is very reasonable to hope, and heartily to be wished by all
those who have the least regard to our holy religion, as hitherto
established, or to a learned, pious, diligent, conversible clergyman, or
even to common humanity; that the honourable House of Commons will in
their great wisdom, justice, and tenderness to innocent men, consider
these bills in another light. It is said, they well know this kingdom
not to be so over stocked with neighbouring gentry; but a discreet,
learned clergyman, with a competency fit for one of his education, may
be an entertaining, a useful, and sometimes a necessary companion. That
although such a clergyman may not be able constantly to find BEEF and
WINE for his own family, yet he may be allowed sometimes to afford both
to a neighbour, without distressing himself; and the rather, because he
may expect at least as good a return. It will probably be considered,
that in many desolate parts, there may not be always a sufficient number
of persons considerable enough to be trusted with commissions of the
peace, which several of the Clergy now supply much better, than a
little, hedge, contemptible, illiterate vicar from twenty to fifty
pounds a-year, the son of a weaver, pedlar, tailor, or miller, can be
presumed to do.

The landlords and farmers by this scheme can find no profit, but will
certainly be losers; for instance, if the large northern livings be
split into a dozen parishes, or more, it will be very necessary for the
little threadbare gownman, with his wife, his proctor and every child
who can crawl, to watch the fields at harvest time, for fear of losing a
single sheaf, which he could not afford under peril of a day's starving;
for according to the Scotch proverb, a hungry louse bites sore. This
would of necessity, breed an infinite number of brangles and litigious
suits in the spiritual courts, and put the wretched pastor at perpetual
variance with his whole parish. But, as they have hitherto stood, a
clergyman established in a competent living is not under the necessity
of being so sharp, vigilant, and exacting. On the contrary, it is well
known and allowed, that the Clergy round the kingdom think themselves
well treated, if they lose only one single third of their legal demands.

The honourable House may perhaps be inclined to conceive, that my lords
the bishops enjoy as ample a power, both spiritual and temporal, as will
fully suffice to answer every branch of their office; that they want no
laws to regulate the conduct of those clergymen, over whom they preside;
that if non-residence be a grievance, it is the patron's fault, who
makes not a better choice, or caused the plurality. That if the general
impartial character of persons chosen into the Church had been more
regarded, and the motive of party, alliance, kindred, flatterers, ill
judgment, or personal favour regarded less, there would be fewer
complaints of non-residence, neglect of care, blameable behaviour, or
any other part of misconduct, not to mention ignorance and stupidity.

I could name certain gentlemen of the gown, whose awkward, spruce, prim,
sneering, and smirking countenances, the very tone of their voices, and
an ungainly strut in their walk, without one single talent for any one
office, have contrived to get good preferment by the mere force of
flattery and cringing: for which two virtues (the only two virtues they
pretend to) they were, however, utterly unqualified. And whom, if I were
in power, although they were my nephews or had married my nieces, I
could never in point of good conscience or honour, have recommended to a
curacy in Connaught.

The honourable House of Commons may likewise perhaps consider, that the
gentry of this kingdom differ from all others upon earth, being less
capable of employments in their own country, than any others who come
from abroad, and that most of them have little expectation of providing
for their younger children, otherwise than by the Church, in which there
might be some hopes of getting a tolerable maintenance. For after the
patrons should have settled their sons, their nephews, their nieces,
their dependants, and their followers, invited over from t'other side,
there would still remain an overplus of smaller church preferments, to
be given to such clergy of the nation, who shall have their quantum of
whatever merit may be then in fashion. But by these bills, they will be
all as absolutely excluded, as if they had passed under the denomination
of Tories, unless they can be contented at the utmost with L50 a-year,
which by the difficulties of collecting tithes in Ireland, and the daily
increasing miseries of the people, will hardly rise to half the sum.

It is observed, that the divines sent over hither to govern this Church,
have not seemed to consider the difference between both kingdoms, with
respect to the inferior clergy. As to themselves, indeed, they find a
large revenue in lands let at one quarter value, which consequently must
be paid while there is a penny left among us; and, the public distress
so little affects their interests, that their fines are now higher than
ever, they content themselves to suppose that whatever a parish is said
to be worth, comes all into the parson's pocket.

The poverty of great numbers among the Clergy of England, hath been the
continual complaint of all men who wish well to the Church, and many
schemes have been thought on to redress it; yet an English vicar of L40
a-year, lives much more comfortably than one of double the value in
Ireland. His farmers generally speaking, are able and willing to pay him
his full dues. He hath a decent church of ancient standing, filled every
Lord's day with a large congregation of plain people, well clad, and
behaving themselves as if they believed in God and Christ. He hath a
house and barn in repair, a field or two to graze his cows, with a
garden and orchard. No guest expects more from him than a pot of ale; he
lives like an honest, plain farmer, as his wife is dressed but little
better than Goody. He is sometimes graciously invited by the squire,
where he sits at humble distance; if he gets the love of his people,
they often make him little useful presents; he is happy by being born to
no higher expectation, for he is usually the son of some ordinary
tradesman or middling farmer. His learning is much of a size with his
birth and education, no more of either than what a poor hungry servitor
can be expected to bring with him from his college. It would be tedious
to shew the reverse of all this in our distant poorer parishes, through
most parts of Ireland, wherein every reader may make the comparison.

Lastly, the honourable House of Commons may consider, whether the scheme
of multiplying beggarly clergymen through the whole kingdom who must all
have votes for choosing parliament men (provided they can prove their
freeholds to be worth 40s. per annum, _ultra reprisas_) may not, by
their numbers, have great influence upon elections, being entirely under
the dependance of their bishops. For by a moderate computation, after
all the divisions and subdivisions of parishes, that, my lords, the
bishops, have power to make by their new laws, there will, as soon as
the present set of clergy go off, be raised an army of ecclesiastical
militants, able enough for any kind of service, except that of the

I am, indeed, in some concern about a fund for building a thousand or
two churches, wherein these probationers may read their wall lectures,
and begin to doubt they must be contented with barns; which barns will
be one great advancing step towards an accommodation with our true
Protestant brethren, the Dissenters.

The scheme of encouraging clergymen to build houses by dividing a living
of L500 a-year into ten parts, is a contrivance, the meaning whereof
hath got on the wrong side of my comprehension; unless it may be argued,
that bishops build no houses, because they are so rich; and therefore,
the inferior clergy will certainly build, if you reduce them to beggary.
But I knew a very rich man of quality in England, who could never be
persuaded to keep a servant out of livery; because such servants would
be expensive, and apt, in time, to look like gentlemen; whereas the
others were ready to submit to the basest offices, and at a cheaper
pennyworth might increase his retinue.

I hear, it is the opinion of many wise men, that before these bills pass
both Houses, they should be sent back to England with the following
clauses inserted:

First, that whereas there may be about a dozen double bishoprics in
Ireland, those bishoprics should be split and given to different
persons; and those of a single denomination be also divided into two,
three, or four parts, as occasion shall require; otherwise there may be
a question started, whether twenty-two prelates can effectually extend
their paternal care and unlimited power, for the protection and
correction of so great a number of spiritual subjects. But this proposal
will meet with such furious objections, that I shall not insist upon it,
for I well remember to have read, what a terrible fright the frogs were
in, upon a report that the sun was going to marry.

Another clause should be, that none of these twenty, thirty, forty, or
fifty pounders may be suffered to marry, under the penalty of immediate
deprivation, their marriages declared null, and their children bastards;
for some desponding people, take the kingdom to be not in a condition of
encouraging so numerous a breed of beggars.

A third clause will be necessary, that these humble gentry should be
absolutely disqualified from giving votes in elections for parliament

Others add a fourth, which is a clause of indulgence, that these reduced
divines may be permitted to follow any lawful ways of living, that will
not call them too often or too far from their spiritual offices (for
unless I misapprehend, they are supposed to have episcopal ordination).
For example, they may be lappers of linen, bailiffs of the manor, they
may let blood, or apply plasters, for three miles round; they may get a
dispensation to hold the clerkship and sextonship of their own parish
_in commendam_. Their wives and daughters may make shirts for the
neighbourhood, or if a barrack be near, for the soldiers. In linen
countries, they may card and spin, and keep a few looms in the house:
they may let lodgings, and sell a pot of ale without doors, but not at
home, unless to sober company, and at regular hours. It is by some
thought a little hard, that in an affair of the last consequence, to the
very being of the Clergy, in the points of liberty and property, as well
as in their abilities to perform their duty; this whole reverend body,
who are the established instructors of the nation in Christianity and
moral virtues, and are the only persons concerned, should be the sole
persons not consulted. Let any scholar shew the like precedent in
Christendom for twelve hundred years past. An act of parliament for
settling or selling an estate in a private family, is never passed till
all parties give consent. But in the present case the whole body of the
Clergy is, as themselves apprehend, determined to utter ruin, without
once expecting or asking their opinion, and this by a scheme contrived
only by one part of the convocation, while the other part which hath
been chosen in the usual forms, wants only the regal permission to
assemble, and consult about the affairs of the Church, as their
predecessors have always done in former ages; where it is presumed, the
Lower House hath a power of proposing canons, and a negative voice, as
well as the Upper. And God forbid (say these objectors) that there
should be a real separate interest between the bishops and Clergy, any
more than there is between a man and his wife, a king and his people, or
Christ and his Church.

It seems there is a provision in the bill, that no parish shall be cut
into scraps, without the consent of several persons, who can be no
sufferers in the matter; but I cannot find that the Clergy lay much
weight on this caution, because they argue, that the very persons from
whom these Bills took their rise, will have the greatest share in the

I do not, by any means, conceive the crying sin of the Clergy in this
kingdom, to be that of non-residence. I am sure, it is many degrees less
so here than in England, unless the possession of pluralities may pass
under that name; and if this be a fault, it is well known to whom it
must be imputed: I believe, upon a fair inquiry (and I hear an inquiry
is to be made) they will appear to be most pardonably few, especially
considering how many parishes have not an inch of glebe, and how
difficult it is upon any reasonable terms, to find a place of
habitation. And, therefore, God knows, whether my lords the bishops will
be soon able to convince the Clergy, or those who have any regard for
that venerable body, that the chief motive in their lordships' minds, by
procuring these bills, was to prevent the sin of non-residence, while
the universal opinion of almost every clergyman in the kingdom, without
distinction of party, taking in even those who are not likely to be
sufferers, stands directly against them.

If some livings in the north may be justly thought too large a compass
of land, which makes it inconvenient for the remotest inhabitant to
attend the service of the Church, which in some instances may be true;
no reasonable clergyman would oppose a proper remedy by particular acts
of parliament.

Thus for instance, the deanery of Down, a country deanery, I think,
without a cathedral, depending wholly upon an union of parishes joined
together, in a time when the land lay waste and thinly inhabited; since
those circumstances are so prodigiously changed for the better, may
properly be lessened, leaving a decent competency to the dean, and
placing rectories in the remaining churches, which are now served only
by stipendiary curates.

The case may be probably the same in other parts: and such a proceeding
discreetly managed would be truly for the good of the Church.

For it is to be observed, that the dean and chapter lands, which, in
England were all seized under the fanatic usurpation, are things unknown
in Ireland, having been long ravished from the Church, by a succession
of confusions, and tithes applied in their stead, to support that
ecclesiastical dignity.

The late Archbishop of Dublin[1] had a very different way of encouraging
the clergy of his diocese to residence: When a lease had run out seven
years or more, he stipulated with the tenant to resign up twenty or
thirty acres to the minister of the parish where it lay convenient,
without lessening his former rent; and with no great abatement of the
fine; and this he did in the parts near Dublin, where land is at the
highest rates, leaving a small chiefry for the minister to pay, hardly a
sixth part of the value. I doubt not that almost every bishop in the
kingdom may do the same generous act with less damage to their sees than
his late Grace of Dublin; much of whose lands were out in fee-farms, or
leases for lives, and I am sorry that the good example of that prelate
hath not been followed.

[Footnote 1: The Right Rev. Dr. William King (see p. 241). [T. S.]]

But a great majority of the Clergy's friends cannot hitherto reconcile
themselves to this project, which they call a levelling principle, that
must inevitably root out the seeds of all honest emulation, the legal
parent of the greatest virtues, and most generous actions among men; but
which, in the general opinion (for I do not pretend to offer my own,)
will never more have room to exert itself in the breast of any clergyman
whom this kingdom shall produce.

But, whether the consequences of these Bills may, by the virtues and
frailties of future bishops, sent over hither to rule the Church,
terminate in good or evil, I shall not presume to determine, since God
can work the former out of the latter. But one thing I can venture to
assert, that from the earliest ages of Christianity to the minute I am
now writing, there never was a precedent of SUCH a proceeding, much less
to be feared, hoped, or apprehended from such hands in any Christian
country, and so it may pass for more than a phoenix, because it hath
risen without any assistance from the ashes of its sire.

The appearance of so many dissenters at the hearing of this cause, is
what, I am told, hath not been charged to the account of their prudence
or moderation; because that action hath been censured as a mark of
triumph and insult before the victory is complete; since neither of
these bills hath yet passed the House of Commons, and some are pleased
to think it not impossible that they may be rejected. Neither do I hear,
that there is an enacting clause in either of the Bills to apply any
part of the divided or subdivided tithes, towards increasing the
stipends of the sectaries. So that these gentlemen seem to be gratified
like him, who, after having been kicked downstairs, took comfort when he
saw his friend kicked down after him.

I have heard many more objections against several particulars of both
these Bills, but they are of a high nature, and carry such dreadful
innuendos, that I dare not mention them, resolving to give no offence
because I well know how obnoxious I have long been (although I conceive
without any fault of my own) to the zeal and principles of those, who
place all difference in opinion concerning public matters, to the score
of disaffection, whereof I am at least as innocent as the loudest of my

_Feb_. 24, 1731-2.

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








About the end of 1733 the Irish House of Commons had under consideration
a bill for the encouragement of the growth of flax and the manufacture
of linen. This bill contained a clause by which the tithe upon flax
should be commuted by a _modus_ or money composition. The clergy, to
whom this tithe was an important source of revenue, and, naturally, not
wishing to lose its advantage, took steps to petition Parliament to be
heard by counsel against the bill. Swift signed the petition, which set
forth the injury which would be done to their order if the clause in the
bill, then before the House, were allowed to become law. In addition to
this he committed and arranged his arguments to writing, and issued them
in the following pamphlet. The activity against the bill proved so
efficacious that the House of Commons dropped it. It may be remarked
that Swift's interference was purely disinterested, since no part of the
revenue of St. Patrick's, as Monck Mason points out, comes from the
"district appropriated to the culture of flax;" nor did Swift, "or any
of his predecessors or successors, ever receive one shilling upon
account of that tithe."

This attempt on the part of the House of Commons to regulate the affairs
of the clergy of Ireland seems to have been one of a series which
divided laity and clergy into two strongly opposing parties. On the one
side were the House of Commons and its supporters, on the other the
general body of the Irish clergy, with, for a time, at any rate, Swift
at the head. The tithe of pasturage, or, as it was called, the tithe of
agistment, was being strongly resisted at the time, and many of the
clergy were forced to sue in court before they could obtain it. The
matter of this tithe had been already before an Irish court in 1707, and
had been settled in favour of the suing clergyman, one Archdeacon Neal;
and although the cause was removed to King's Bench in England, the
previous judgment was confirmed. In spite of this decision, however, the
tithe continued to be a subject of litigation, and the landed
proprietors even formed themselves into associations for the purpose of
resisting the clergy's claim. In 1734 the House of Commons aggravated
matters by passing resolutions against the claims, many of which were
then the subject of legal actions, and prevented decisions being come to
while it had the matter under its consideration. From the pamphlets
written at the time it may easily be seen that this interference on the
part of the lower House was both unseemly and unjust. Its conduct so
roused Swift that his indignation found expression in one of his
bitterest and most terrible poetical satires--"The Legion Club"--a
satire so bitter and so scathing that reading it now, after the lapse of
more than a century and a half, one shudders at its invective--"a
blasting flood of filth and vitriol, out of some hellish fountain," Mr.
Churton Collins calls it. We are told that its composition brought on a
violent attack of vertigo, and it remained unfinished.

The text here given is that of the first edition collated with those
given by Faulkner, Hawkesworth, and Scott.


Bill for settling the Tyth of _Hemp, Flax,_ &c. by a _Modus_.


The Clergy did little expect to have any cause of complaint against the
present House of Commons; who in the last sessions, were pleased to
throw out a Bill[1] sent them from the Lords, which that reverend body
apprehended would be very injurious to them, if it passed into a law;
and who, in the present sessions, defeated the arts and endeavours of
schismatics to repeal the Sacramental Test.

[Footnote 1: For the bishops to divide livings. See the two preceding
Tracts. [T. S.]]

For, although it hath been allowed on all hands, that the former of
those Bills might, by its necessary consequences, be very displeasing to
the lay gentlemen of the kingdom, for many reasons purely secular; and,
that this last attempt for repealing the Test, did much more affect, at
present, the temporal interest than the spiritual; yet the whole body of
the lower Clergy have, upon both these occasions, expressed equal
gratitude to that honourable House, for their justice and steadiness, as
if the clergy alone were to receive the benefit.

It must needs be, therefore, a great addition to the Clergy's grief,
that such an assembly as the present House of Commons; should now, with
an expedition more than usual, agree to a bill for encouraging the linen
manufacture; with a clause, whereby the Church is to lose two parts in
three, of the legal tithe in flax and hemp.

Some reasons, why the Clergy think such a law will be a great hardship
upon them, are, I conceive, those that follow. I shall venture to
enumerate them with all deference due to that honourable assembly.

_First_; the Clergy suppose that they have not, by any fault or demerit,
incurred the displeasure of the nation's representatives: neither can
the declared loyalty of the present set, from the highest prelate to the
lowest vicar, be in the least disputed: because, there are hardly ten
clergymen, through the whole kingdom, for more than nineteen years past,
who have not been either preferred entirely upon account of their
declared affection to the Hanover line; or higher promoted as the due
reward of the same merit.

There is not a landlord in the whole kingdom, residing some part of the
year at his country-seat, who is not, in his own conscience, fully
convinced, that the tithes of his minister have gradually sunk, for some
years past, one-third, or at least one-fourth of their former value,
exclusive of all non-solvencies.

The payment of tithes in this kingdom, is subject to so many frauds,
brangles, and other difficulties, not only from Papists and Dissenters,
but even from those who profess themselves Protestants; that by the
expense, the trouble, and vexation of collecting, or bargaining for
them, they are, of all other rents, the most precarious, uncertain, and
ill paid.

The landlords in most parishes expect, as a compliment, that they shall
pay little more than half the value of their tithes for the lands they
hold in their own hands; which often consist of large domains: And it is
the minister's interest to make them easy upon that article, when he
considers what influence those gentlemen have upon their tenants.

The Clergy cannot but think it extremely severe, that in a bill for
encouraging the linen manufacture, they alone must be the sufferers, who
can least afford it: If, as I am told, there be a tax of three thousand
pounds a year, paid by the public, for a further encouragement to the
said manufacture; are not the Clergy equal sharers in the charge with
the rest of their fellow subjects? What satisfactory reason can be
therefore given, why they alone should bear the whole additional weight,
unless it will be alleged that their property is not upon an equal foot
with the properties of other men? They acquire their own small pittance,
by at least as honest means, as their neighbours, the landlords, possess
their estates; and have been always supposed, except in rebellious or
fanatical times, to have as good a title: For, no families now in being
can shew a more ancient. Indeed, if it be true, that some persons (I
hope they were not many) were seen to laugh when the rights of the
Clergy were mentioned; in this case, an opinion may possibly be soon
advanced, that they have no rights at all. And this is likely enough to
gain ground, in proportion as the contempt of all religion shall
increase; which is already in a very forward way.

It is said, there will be also added to this Bill a clause for
diminishing the tithe of hops, in order to cultivate that useful plant
among us: And here likewise the load is to lie entirely on the shoulders
of the Clergy, while the landlords reap all the benefit. It will not be
easy to foresee where such proceedings are like to stop: Or whether by
the same authority, in civil times, a parliament may not as justly
challenge the same power in reducing all things titheable, not below the
tenth part of the product, (which is and ever will be the Clergy's
equitable right) but from a tenth-part to a sixtieth or eightieth, and
from thence to nothing.

I have heard it granted by skilful persons, that the practice of taxing
the Clergy by parliament, without their own consent, is a new thing, not
much above the date of seventy years: before which period, in times of
peace, they always taxed themselves. But things are extremely altered at
present: It is not now sufficient to tax them in common with their
fellow subjects, without imposing an additional tax upon them, from
which, or from anything equivalent, all their fellow-subjects are
exempt; and this in a country professing Christianity.

The greatest part of the Clergy throughout this kingdom, have been
stripped of their glebes by the confusion of times, by violence, fraud,
oppression, and other unlawful means: All which glebes are now in the
hands of the laity. So that they now are generally forced to lie at the
mercy of landlords, for a small piece of ground in their parishes, at a
most exorbitant rent, and usually for a short term of years; whereon to
build a house, and enable them to reside. Yet, in spite of these
disadvantages, I am a witness that they are generally more constant
residents than their brethren in England; where the meanest vicar hath a
convenient dwelling, with a barn, a garden, and a field or two for his
cattle; besides the certainty of his little income from honest farmers,
able and willing, not only to pay him his dues, but likewise to make him
presents, according to their ability, for his better support. In all
which circumstances, the Clergy of Ireland meet with a treatment
directly contrary.

It is hoped, the honourable House will consider that it is impossible
for the most ill-minded, avaricious, or cunning clergyman, to do the
least injustice to the meanest cottager in his parish, in any bargain
for tithes, or other ecclesiastical dues. He can, at the utmost, only
demand to have his tithe fairly laid out; and does not once in a hundred
times obtain his demand. But every tenant, from the poorest cottager to
the most substantial farmer, can, and generally doth impose upon the
minister, by fraud, by theft, by lies, by perjuries, by insolence, and
sometimes by force; notwithstanding the utmost vigilance and skill of
himself and his proctor. Insomuch, that it is allowed, that the Clergy
in general receive little more than one-half of their legal dues; not
including the charges they are at in collecting or bargaining for them.

The land rents of Ireland are computed to about two millions, whereof
one-tenth amounts to two hundred thousand pounds. The benefited
clergymen, excluding those of this city, are not reckoned to be above
five hundred; by which computation, they should each of them possess two
hundred pounds a year, if those tithes were equally divided, although in
well cultivated corn countries it ought to be more; whereas they hardly
receive one half of that sum; with great defalcations, and in very bad
payments. There are indeed, a few glebes in the north pretty
considerable, but if these and all the rest were in like manner equally
divided, they would not add five pounds a year to every clergyman.
Therefore, whether the condition of the Clergy in general among us be
justly liable to envy, or able to bear a heavy burden, which neither the
nobility, nor gentry, nor tradesmen, nor farmers, will touch with one of
their fingers; this, I say, is submitted to the honourable House.

One terrible circumstance in this Bill, is, that of turning the tithe of
flax and hemp into what the lawyers call a _Modus_, or a certain sum in
lieu of a tenth part of the product. And by this practice of claiming a
_Modus_ in many parishes by ancient custom, the Clergy in both kingdoms
have been almost incredible sufferers. Thus, in the present case, the
tithe of a tolerable acre of flax, which by a medium is worth twelve
shillings, is by the present Bill reduced to four shillings. Neither is
this the worst part in a _Modus_; every determinate sum must in process
of time sink from a fourth to a four-and-twentieth part, or a great deal
lower, by that necessary fall attending the value of money, which is now
at least nine tenths lower all over Europe than it was four hundred
years ago, by a gradual decline; and even a third part at least within
our own memories, in purchasing almost everything required for the
necessities or conveniencies of life; as any gentleman can attest, who
hath kept house for twenty years past. And this will equally affect poor
countries as well as rich. For, although, I look upon it as an
impossibility that this kingdom should ever thrive under its present
disadvantages, which without a miracle must still increase; yet, when
the whole cash of the nation shall sink to fifty thousand pounds; we
must in all our traffic abroad, either of import or export, go by the
general rate at which money is valued in those countries that enjoy the
common privileges of human kind. For this reason, no corporation, (if
the Clergy may presume to call themselves one) should by any means grant
away their properties in perpetuity upon any consideration whatsoever;
Which is a rock that many corporations have split upon, to their great
impoverishment, and sometimes to their utter undoing. Because they are
supposed to subsist for ever; and because no determination of money is
of any certain perpetual intrinsic value. This is known enough in
England, where estates let for ever, some hundred years ago, by several
ancient noble families, do not at this present pay their posterity a
twentieth part of what they are now worth at an easy rate.

A tax affecting one part of a nation, which already bears its full share
in all parliamentary impositions, cannot possibly be just, except it be
inflicted as a punishment upon that body of men which is taxed, for some
great demerit or danger to the public apprehended from those upon whom
it is laid: Thus the Papists and Nonjurors have been doubly taxed for
refusing to give proper securities to the government; which cannot be
objected against the Clergy. And therefore, if this Bill should pass; I
think it ought to be with a preface, shewing wherein they have offended,
and for what disaffection or other crime they are punished.

If an additional excise upon ale, or a duty upon flesh and bread, were
to be enacted, neither the victualler, butcher, or baker would bear any
more of the charge than for what themselves consumed; but it would be an
equal general tax through the whole kingdom: Whereas, by this Bill, the
Clergy alone are avowedly condemned to be deprived of their ancient,
inherent, undisputed rights, in order to encourage a manufacture by
which all the rest of the kingdom are supposed to be gainers.

This Bill is directly against _Magna Charta_, whereof the first clause
is for confirming the inviolable rights of Holy Church; as well as
contrary to the oath taken by all our kings at their coronation, where
they swear to defend and protect the Church in all its rights.

A tax laid upon employments is a very different thing. The possessors of
civil and military employments are no corporation; neither are they any
part of our constitution: Their salaries, pay, and perquisites are all
changeable at the pleasure of the prince who bestows them, although the
army be paid from funds raised and appropriated by the legislature. But
the Clergy as they have little reason to expect, so they desire no more
than their ancient legal dues; only indeed with the removal of many
grievous impediments in the collection of them; which it is to be feared
they must wait for until more favourable times. It is well known, that
they have already of their own accord shewn great indulgence to their
people upon this very article of flax, seldom taking above a fourth part
of their tithe for small parcels, and oftentimes nothing at all from new
beginners; waiting with patience until the farmers were able, and until
greater quantities of land were employed in that part of husbandry;
never suspecting that their good intentions should be perverted in so
singular a manner to their detriment, by that very assembly, which,
during the time that convocations (which are an original part of our
constitution ever since Christianity became national among us) are
thought fit to be suspended, God knows for what reason, or from what
provocations; I say, from that very assembly, who, during the intervals
of convocations, should rather be supposed to be guardians of the rights
and properties of the Clergy, than to make the least attempt upon

I have not heard upon inquiry, that any of those gentlemen, who, among
us without doors, are called the Court Party, discover the least zeal in
this affair. If they had thoughts to interpose, it might be conceived
they would shew their displeasure against this Bill, which must very
much lessen the value of the King's patronage upon promotion to vacant
sees; in the disposal of deaneries, and other considerable preferments
in the Church, which are in the donation of the Crown; whereby the

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