The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift Volume 04

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  • 1898
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A Letter Concerning the Sacramental Test

The Presbyterian’s Plea of Merit

Narrative of Attempts for the Repeal of the Sacramental Test

Queries relating to the Sacramental Test

Advantages proposed by Repealing the Sacramental Test

Reasons for Repealing the Sacramental Test in Favour of the Catholics

Some Few Thoughts concerning the Repeal of the Test

Ten Reasons for Repealing the Test Act


On Mutual Subjection

On the Testimony of Conscience

On the Trinity

On Brotherly Love

On the Difficulty of Knowing One’s Self

On False Witness

On the Wisdom of this World

On Doing Good

On the Martyrdom of King Charles I

On the Poor Man’s Contentment

On the Wretched Condition of Ireland

On Sleeping in Church


I. Remarks on Dr. Gibbs’s Paraphrase of the Psalms

II. Proposal for Preventing the further Growth of Popery

III. Swift and Serjeant Bettesworth

IV. A True and Faithful Narrative of what passed in London



The portrait which forms the frontispiece to this volume is taken, by permission, from the painting in the possession of the Earl of Howth, K.P.

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In the “foreword” to the reprint of this tract in the “Miscellanies” of 1711, Swift remarks: “I have been assured that the suspicion which the supposed author lay under for writing this letter absolutely ruined him with the late ministry.” The “late ministry” was the Whig ministry of which Godolphin was the Premier. To this ministry the repeal of the Test Act was a matter of much concern. To test the effect of such a repeal it was determined to try it in Ireland first. There the Presbyterians had distinguished themselves by their loyalty to William and the Protestant succession. These, therefore, offered a good excuse for the introduction of such a measure, particularly when, in 1708, an invasion was rumoured, they were the first to send in loyal addresses to the Queen. Swift likened this method to “that of a discreet physician, who first gives a new medicine to a dog, before he prescribes it to a human creature.” Further, the Speaker of the Irish House had come over to England to agitate for the repeal. On this matter Swift wrote to Archbishop King, under date April 15th (the letter was first published by Mr. John Forster in his “Life of Swift,” p. 246), as follows: “Some days ago my Lord Somers entered with me into discourse about the Test clause, and desired my opinion upon it, which I gave him truly, though with all the gentleness I could; because, as I am inclined and obliged to value the friendship he professes for me, so he is a person whose favour I would engage in the affairs of the First Fruits…. If it became me to give ill names to ill things and persons, I should be at a loss to find bad enough for the villainy and baseness of a certain lawyer of Ireland [Speaker Brodrick, afterwards Lord Midleton], who is in a station the least of all others excusable for such proceedings, and yet has been going about most industriously to all his acquaintance of both houses towards the end of the session to show the necessity of taking off the Test clause in Ireland by an act here, wherein you may be sure he had his brother’s assistance. If such a project should be resumed next session, and I in England, unless your grace send me your absolute commands to the contrary, which I should be sorry to receive, I could hardly forbear publishing some paper in opposition to it, or leaving one behind me, if there should be occasion.” In August of the same year the agitation for the repeal was renewed, and in December Swift published his “Letter on the Sacramental Test,” writing as if from Dublin and as a member of the Irish House of Commons. When he writes to King in the following month he makes a mild attempt to convince the Archbishop that the pamphlet was not of his authorship. “The author has gone out of his way to reflect on me as a person likely to write for repealing the test, which I am sure is very unfair treatment. This is all I am likely to get by the company I keep. I am used like a sober man with a drunken face, have the scandal of the vice without the satisfaction.” But King was not deceived. In his reply to Swift he simply remarks: “You need not be concerned: I will engage you will lose nothing by that paper.” Swift, however, lost more than the Archbishop thought; for “that paper” led to his severance from the Whigs, and, in after life, to much contumely cast on his character for being a political renegade. Because “he was not Whig enough;” because he would not forsake his Church for his party, critics and biographers have thought fit to make little of him, and to compare him to his discredit with contemporaries whose intellects he held in the palm of his hand, and to whom he might have stood as a moral exemplar.

Swift refers to this tract in his “Memoirs relating to the change in the Queen’s Ministry,” as follows:–“It was everybody’s opinion, that the Earl of Wharton would endeavour, when he went to Ireland, to take off the test, as a step to have it taken off here: upon which I drew up and printed a pamphlet, by way of a letter from a member of parliament here, shewing the danger to the Church by such an intent. Although I took all care to be private, yet the Lieutenant’s chaplain, and some others guessed me to be the author, and told his Excellency their suspicions; whereupon I saw him no more until I went to Ireland.”

The tract is one of the most favourable specimens of Swift’s controversial method and trenchant satire. The style is excellent–forcible and pithy; while the arguments are like most of Swift’s arguments, aptly to the point with yet a potentiality of application which fits them for the most general statement of the principles under discussion. Scott considers the pamphlet “as having materially contributed to the loss of the bill for repeal of the Test Act during the Earl of Pembroke’s vice-royalty.” In the same year Swift wrote “A Letter to a Member of Parliament in Ireland on choosing a new Speaker there.” This short tract bears also on the question of the Test; but it is not included in this volume, since it was intended as an electioneering pamphlet.

I have been unable to obtain access to a copy of the first edition of the “Letter on the Sacramental Test.” The text here given is that of the “Miscellanies” of 1711, collated with that given in the “Miscellanies,” 1728, and with those printed by Faulkner, Hawkesworth, and Scott.




[Footnote 1: This “Advertisement” is taken from “Miscellanies in Prose and Verse,” printed for John Morphew, 1711. On page 314 of that volume it forms a “foreword” to “A Letter concerning the Sacramental Test.” It is omitted from the reprint in the “Miscellanies” of 1728. The page which Swift says he has taken leave to omit cannot be identified. Probably this was another of Swift’s manoeuvres for concealing the identity of the author. The “Advertisement” of George Faulkner to his edition of Swift’s Works (vol. iv., 1735) is as follows:

“In the second volume of Doctor Swift’s and Mr. Pope’s ‘Miscellanies,’ I found the following treatise, which had been printed in London, with some other of the Dean’s works, many years before, but at first came out by itself in the year 1708, as the date shews: And it was at a juncture when the Dissenters were endeavouring to repeal the Sacramental Test, as by common fame, and some pamphlets published to the same purpose, they seem to be now again attempting, with great hope of success. I have, therefore, taken the liberty to make an extract out of that discourse, omitting only some passages which relate to certain persons, and are of no consequence to the argument. But the author’s weight of reasoning seems at present to have more weight than it had in those times, when the discourse first appeared.

“The author, in this letter, personates a Member of Parliament here [Dublin], to a Member of Parliament in England.

“The Speaker mentioned in this letter was Allen Broderick, afterwards Chancellor and Lord Middleton; and the prelate was Dr. Lyndsay, afterwards Lord Primate,” [T.S.]]

_The following letter is supposed by some judicious persons to be of the same author, and, if their conjectures be right, it will be of no disadvantage to him to have it revived, considering the time when it was writ, the persons then at the helm, and the designs in agitation, against which this paper so boldly appeared. I have been assured that the suspicion which the supposed author lay under for writing this letter, absolutely ruined him with the late ministry. I have taken leave to omit about a page which was purely personal, and of no use to the subject._

Dublin, Dec. 4, 1708.


I received your letter, wherein you tell me of the strange representations made of us on your side of the water. The instance you are pleased to mention is that of the Presbyterian missionary, who, according to your phrase, hath been lately persecuted at Drogheda for his religion: But it is easy to observe, how mighty industrious some people have been for three or four years past, to hand about stories of the hardships, the merits, the number, and the power of the Presbyterians in Ireland, to raise formidable ideas of the dangers of Popery there, and to transmit all for England, improved by great additions, and with special care to have them inserted with comments in those infamous weekly papers that infest your coffee-houses. So, when the clause enacting a Sacramental Test was put in execution, it was given out in England, that half the justices of peace through this kingdom had laid down their commissions; whereas upon examination, the whole number was found to amount only to a dozen or thirteen, and those generally of the lowest rate in fortune and understanding, and some of them superannuated. So, when the Earl of Pembroke was in Ireland and the Parliament sitting, a formal story was very gravely carried to his Excellency by some zealous members, of a priest newly arrived from abroad to the north-west parts of Ireland, who had publicly preached to his people, to fall a-murdering the Protestants; which, though invented to serve an end they were then upon, and are still driving at, it was presently handed over, and printed with shrewd remarks by your worthy scribblers. In like manner, the account of that person who was lately expelled our university for reflecting on the memory of King William, what a dust it raised, and how foully it was related, is fresh enough in memory.[2] Neither would people be convinced till the university was at the pains of publishing a Latin paper to justify themselves. And, to mention no more, this story of the persecution at Drogheda, how it hath been spread and aggravated, what consequences have been drawn from it, and what reproaches fixed on those who have least deserved them, we are already informed. Now if the end of all this proceeding were a secret and mystery, I should not undertake to give it an interpretation, but sufficient care hath been taken to give it sufficient explanation.[3] First, by addresses artificially (if not illegally) procured, to shew the miserable state of the dissenters in Ireland by reason of the Sacramental Test, and to desire the Queen’s intercession that it might be repealed. Then it is manifest that our Speaker, when he was last year in England, solicited, in person, several members of both Houses, to have it repealed by an act there, though it be a matter purely national, that cannot possibly interfere with the trade and interest of England, and though he himself appeared formerly the most zealous of all men against the injustice of binding a nation by laws to which they do not consent. And lastly, those weekly libellers, whenever they get a tale by the end relating to Ireland, without ever troubling their thoughts about the truth, always end it with an application against the Sacramental Test, and the absolute necessity there is of repealing it in both kingdoms. I know it may be reckoned a weakness to say anything of such trifles as are below a serious man’s notice; much less would I disparage the understanding of any party to think they would choose the vilest and most ignorant among mankind, to employ them for assertors of a cause. I shall only say, that the scandalous liberty those wretches take would hardly be allowed, if it were not mingled with opinions that _some men_ would be glad to advance. Besides, how insipid soever those papers are, they seem to be levelled to the understandings of a great number; they are grown a necessary part in coffee-house furniture, and some time or other may happen to be read by customers of all ranks, for curiosity and amusement; because they lie always in the way. One of these authors (the fellow that was pilloried I have forgot his name)[4] is indeed so grave, sententious, dogmatical a rogue, that there is no enduring him; the _Observator_[5] is much the brisker of the two, and I think farther gone of late in lies and impudence, than his Presbyterian brother. The reason why I mention him, is to have an occasion of letting you know, that you have not dealt so gallantly with us, as we did with you in a parallel case: Last year, a paper was brought here from England, called, “A Dialogue between the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mr. Higgins,” which we ordered to be burnt by the common hangman, as it well deserved; though we have no more to do with his Grace of Canterbury[6] than you have with the Archbishop of Dublin[7]; nor can you love and reverence your prelate more than we do ours, whom you tamely suffer to be abused openly, and by name, by that paltry rascal of an _Observator_; and lately upon an affair wherein he had no concern; I mean the business of the missionary at Drogheda, wherein our excellent primate was engaged, and did nothing but according to law and discretion. But because the Lord Archbishop of Dublin hath been upon several occasions of late years, misrepresented in England, I would willingly set you right in his character. For his great sufferings and eminent services he was by the late King promoted to the see of Derry. About the same time, he wrote a book to justify the Revolution, wherein was an account of King James’s proceedings in Ireland, and the late Archbishop Tillotson recommended it to the King as the most serviceable treatise that could have been published at such a juncture.[8] And as his Grace set out upon those principles, he has proceeded so ever since, as a loyal subject to the Queen, entirely for the succession in the Protestant line, and for ever excluding the Pretender; and though a firm friend to the Church, yet with indulgence toward dissenters, as appears from his conduct at Derry, where he was settled for many years among the most virulent of the sect; yet upon his removal to Dublin, they parted from him with tears in their eyes, and universal acknowledgments of his wisdom and goodness. For the rest, it must be owned, he does not busy himself by entering deep into any party, but rather spends his time in acts of hospitality and charity, in building of churches, repairing his palace, in introducing and preferring the worthiest persons he can find, without other regards; in short, in the practice of all virtues that can become a public or private life. This and more, if possible, is due to so excellent a person, who may be justly reckoned among the greatest and most learned prelates of his age, however his character may be defiled by such mean and dirty hands as those of the _Observator_ or such as employ him.[9]

[Footnote 2: The Provost and Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin, had lately expelled Edward Forbes for the cause mentioned in the text. [S.]]

[Footnote 3: Faulkner prints: “But sufficient care hath been taken to explain it.” [T.S.]]

[Footnote 4: Daniel Defoe (1663?-1731), the son of a Cripplegate butcher. Entered business as a hosier, but failed. In 1695 he was appointed one of the commissioners for duties on glass. Wrote “The True Born Englishman” (1701); “The Shortest Way with the Dissenters,” for which he was pilloried, fined, and imprisoned; and numerous other works, including “Robinson Crusoe;” “Life of Captain Singleton;” “History of Duncan Campbell;” “Life of Moll Flanders;” “Roxana;” “Life of Colonel Jack;” “Journal of the Plague;” “History of the Devil;” and “Religious Courtship.” He edited a paper called “The Review,” to which Swift here refers, and against which Charles Leslie wrote his “Rehearsals.” [T.S.]]

[Footnote 5: John Tutchin, a virulent writer of the reign of James II. For a political work in defence of Monmouth he was sentenced by Judge Jefferies to be whipped through several market towns. He wrote the “Observator” (begun April, 1702), and suffered at the hands of the Tories for his writings. He died in great poverty in 1708, at the age of forty-seven. He was also the author of a play entitled, “The Unfortunate Shepherd.” Pope refers to these punishments meted out to Defoe and Tutchin, in the second book of the “Dunciad”:

“Earless on high, stood unabashed De Foe, And Tutchin flagrant from the scourge below.” [T.S.]]

[Footnote 6: Dr. Thomas Tenison (1636-1715), born at Cottenham, Cambridgeshire. For his attacks on the Roman Catholics he was in 1691 created Bishop of Lincoln. He was made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1694. He wrote a “Discourse of Idolatry,” an answer to Hobbes, and published several sermons. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 7: Dr. William King. See vol. iii., p. 241, note. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 8: Dr. King was twice imprisoned in the castle of Dublin after the landing of King James in Ireland in 1699, and narrowly escaped assassination. The title of the work alluded to is: “The State of the Protestants in Ireland under the late King James’s Government, in which their carriage towards him is justified, and the absolute necessity of their endeavouring to be freed from his Government, and of submitting to their present Majesties, is demonstrated.” [S.]]

[Footnote 9: The portion of this paragraph beginning with “The reason why I mention him,” to the end, “such as employ him,” is omitted by Faulkner. [T.S.]]

I now come to answer the other part of your letter, and shall give you my opinion freely about repealing the Sacramental Test; only whereas you desire my thoughts as a friend, and not as I am a member of parliament, I must assure you they are exactly the same in both capacities.

I must begin by telling you, we are generally surprised at your wonderful kindness to us on this occasion, it being so very industrious to teach us to see our interest in a point where we are so unable to see it ourselves. This hath given us some suspicion; and though in my own particular, I am hugely bent to believe, that whenever you concern yourselves in our affairs, it is certainly for our good, yet I have the misfortune to be something singular in this belief, and therefore I never attempt to justify it, but content myself to possess my own opinion in private, for fear of encountering men of more wit or words than I have to spare.

We at this distance, who see nothing of the spring of actions, are forced by mere conjecture to assign two reasons for your desiring us to repeal the Sacramental Test: One is, because you are said to imagine it will be one step towards the like good work in England: The other more immediate, that it will open a way for rewarding several persons who have well deserved upon a great occasion, but who are now unqualified through that impediment.

I do not frequently quote poets, especially English, but I remember there is in some of Mr. Cowley’s love verses, a strain that I thought extraordinary at fifteen, and have often since imagined it to be spoken by Ireland:

“Forbid it Heaven my life should be
Weigh’d with her least conveniency:”

In short, whatever advantage you propose to yourselves by repealing the Sacramental Test, speak it out plainly, ’tis the best argument you can use, for we value your interest much more than our own: If your little finger be sore, and you think a poultice made of our vitals will give it any ease, speak the word and it shall be done; the interest of our whole kingdom is at any time ready to strike to that of your poorest fishing towns; it is hard you will not accept our services, unless we believe at the same time that you are only consulting our profit, and giving us marks of your love. If there be a fire at some distance, and I immediately blow up my house before there be occasion, because you are a man of quality, and apprehend some danger to a corner of your stable; yet why should you require me to attend next morning at your levee with my humble thanks for the favour you have done me?

If we might be allowed to judge for ourselves, we had abundance of benefit by the Sacramental Test, and foresee a number of mischiefs would be the consequence of repealing it, and we conceive the objections made against it by the dissenters are of no manner of force: They tell us of their merits in the late war in Ireland, and how cheerfully they engaged for the safety of the nation; that had they thought they had been fighting only other people’s quarrels, perhaps it might have cooled their zeal; and that for the future, they shall sit down quietly and let us do our work ourselves; nay, that it is necessary they should do so, since they cannot take up arms under the penalty of high treason.

Now supposing them to have done their duty, as I believe they did, and not to trouble them about the _fly on the wheel_; I thought Liberty, Property and Religion had been the three subjects of the quarrel, and have not all those been amply secured to them? Had they not at that time a mental reservation for power and employments? And must these two articles be added henceforward in our national quarrels? It is grown a mighty conceit among some men to melt down the phrase of a _Church Established by law_ into that of the _Religion of the Magistrate_; of which appellation it is easier to find the reason than the sense: If by the magistrate they mean the prince, the expression includes a falsehood; for when King James was prince[10], the Established Church was the same it is now. If by the same word they mean the Legislature, we desire no more. Be that as it will, we of this kingdom believe the Church of Ireland to be the National Church, and the only one established by law, and are willing by the same law to give a toleration to dissenters: But if once we repeal our Sacramental Test, and grant a toleration, or suspend the execution of the penal laws, I do not see how we can be said to have any Established Church remaining; or rather why there will not be as many established churches, as there are sects of dissenters. No, say they, yours will still be the National Church, because your bishops and clergy are maintained by the public; but, that, I suppose, will be of no long duration, and it would be very unjust it should, because, to speak in Tindal’s phrase,[11] it is not reasonable that revenues should be annexed to one opinion more than another, when all are equally lawful, and ’tis the same author’s maxim, that no freeborn subject ought to pay for maintaining speculations he does not believe. _But why should any man, upon account of opinions he cannot help, be deprived of the opportunity of serving his Queen and country?_ Their zeal is commendable, and when employments go a begging for want of hands, they shall be sure to have the refusal, only upon condition they will not pretend to them upon maxims which equally include atheists, Turks, Jews, infidels, and heretics, or which is still more dangerous, even Papists themselves; the former you allow, the other you deny, because these last own a foreign power, and therefore must be shut out. But there is no great weight in this; for their religion can suit with free states, with limited or absolute monarchies, as well as a better, and the Pope’s power in France is but a shadow; so that upon this foot there need be no great danger to the constitution by admitting Papists to employments. I will help you to enough of them who shall be ready to allow the Pope as little power here as you please; and the bare opinion of his being vicar of Christ is but a speculative point, for which no man it seems ought to be deprived of the capacity of serving his country.

[Footnote 10: The words from “the expression” to “was prince” are omitted by Faulkner in his edition. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 11: See vol. iii, p. 9, note. [T.S.]]

But, if you please, I will tell you the great objection we have against repealing this same Sacramental Test. It is, that we are verily persuaded the consequence will be an entire alteration of religion among us in a no great compass of years. And, pray observe, how we reason here in Ireland upon this matter.

We observe the Scots in our northern parts, to be a brave, industrious people, extremely devoted to their religion, and full of an undisturbed affection towards each other. Numbers of that noble nation, invited by the fertilities of the soil, are glad to exchange their barren hills of Loquabar, by a voyage of three hours, for our fruitful vales of Down and Antrim, so productive of that grain, which, at little trouble and less expense finds diet and lodging for themselves and their cattle.[12] These people by their extreme parsimony, wonderful dexterity in dealing, and firm adherence to one another, soon grow into wealth from the smallest beginnings, never are rooted out where they once fix, and increase daily by new supplies; besides when they are the superior number in any tract of ground, they are not over patient of mixture; but such, whom they cannot assimilate, soon find it their interest to remove. I have done all in my power on some land of my own to preserve two or three English fellows in their neighbourhood, but found it impossible, though one of them thought he had sufficiently made his court by turning Presbyterian. Add to all this, that they bring along with them from Scotland a most formidable notion of our Church, which they look upon at least three degrees worse than Popery; and it is natural it should be so, since they come over full fraught with that spirit which taught them to abolish Episcopacy at home.

[Footnote 12: From this passage, perhaps, Johnson derived the famous definition of oats, in his Dictionary, as the food of horses in England, and of men in Scotland. [S.]]

Then we proceed farther, and observe, that the gentlemen of employments here, make a very considerable number in the House of Commons, and have no other merit but that of doing their duty in their several stations; therefore when the Test is repealed, it will be highly reasonable they should give place to those who have much greater services to plead. The commissions of the revenue are soon disposed of, and the collectors and other officers throughout this kingdom, are generally appointed by the commissioners, which give them a mighty influence in every country. As much may be said of the great officers in the law; and when this door is open to let dissenters into the commissions of the peace, to make them High Sheriffs, Mayors of Corporations, and officers of the army and militia; I do not see how it can be otherwise, considering their industry and our supineness, but that they may in a very few years grow to a majority in the House of Commons, and consequently make themselves the national religion, and have a fair pretence to demand the revenues of the Church for their teachers. I know it will be objected, that if all this should happen as I describe, yet the Presbyterian religion could never be made the national by act of Parliament, because our bishops are so great a number in the House of Lords, and without a majority there, the Church could not be abolished. But I have two very good expedients for that, which I shall leave you to guess, and I dare swear our Speaker here has often thought on, especially having endeavoured at one of them so lately. That this design is not so foreign from some people’s thoughts, I must let you know that an honest bellwether[13] of our house (you have him now in England, I wish you could keep him there) had the impudence some years ago, in Parliament time, to shake my Lord Bishop of Kilaloe[14] by his lawn sleeve, and tell him in a threatening manner, “that he hoped to live to see the day when there should not be one of his order in the kingdom.”

[Footnote 13: Supposed to be Mr. Broderick. [F.]]

[Footnote 14: Dr. Lindsay, afterwards Lord Primate. [S.]]

These last lines perhaps you think a digression; therefore to return: I have told you the consequences we fully reckon upon from repealing the Sacramental Test, which although the greatest number of such as are for doing it, are actually in no manner of pain about it, and many of them care not threepence whether there be any Church, or no; yet because they pretend to argue from conscience as well as policy and interest, I thought it proper to understand and answer them accordingly.

Now, sir, in answer to your question, whether if an attempt should be made here for repealing the Sacramental Test, it would be likely to succeed? The number of professed dissenters in this Parliament was, as I remember, something under a dozen, and I cannot call to mind above thirty others who were expected to fall in with them. This is certain, that the Presbyterian party having with great industry mustered up their forces, did endeavour one day upon occasion of a hint in my Lord Pembroke’s speech, to introduce a debate about repealing the Test clause, when there appeared at least four to one odds against them; and the ablest of those who were reckoned the most staunch and thorough-paced Whigs upon all other occasions, fell off with an abhorrence at the first mention of this.

I must desire you to take notice, that the terms of Whig and Tory, do not properly express the different interests in our parliament. I remember when I was last in England, I told the King, that the highest Tories we had with us would make tolerable Whigs there; this was certainly right, and still in the general continues so, unless you have since admitted new characteristics, which did not come within our definition.[15] Whoever bears a true veneration for the glorious memory of King William, as our great deliverer from Popery and slavery; whoever is firmly loyal to our present Queen, with an utter abhorrence and detestation of the Pretender; whoever approves the succession to the Crown in the House of Hanover, and is for preserving the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England, with an indulgence for scrupulous consciences; such a man we think acts upon right principles, and may be justly allowed a Whig: And I believe there are not six members in our House of Commons, who may not fairly come under this description. So that the parties among us are made up, on one side, of moderate Whigs, and on the other, of Presbyterians and their abettors; by which last I mean, such who can equally go to a Church or Conventicle, or such who are indifferent to all religion in general, or lastly such who affect to bear a personal rancour toward the clergy: These last are a set of men not of our own growth, their principles at least have been imported of late years; yet this whole party put together will not, I am confident, amount to above fifty men in Parliament, which can hardly be worked up into a majority of three hundred.

[Footnote 15: The passage beginning with “I remember when I was last in England,” and ending with “within our definition,” is omitted by Faulkner. [T.S.]]

As to the House of Lords, the difficulty there is conceived at least as great as in ours. So many of our temporal peers live in England, that the bishops are generally pretty near a par of the House, and we reckon they will be all to a man against repealing the Test; and yet their lordships are generally thought as good Whigs upon our principles as any in the kingdom. There are indeed a few lay lords who appear to have no great devotion for Episcopacy; and perhaps one or two more with whom certain powerful motives might be used for removing any difficulty whatsoever; but these are in no sort of a number to carry any point against the conjunction of the rest and the whole bench of bishops.

Besides, the whole body of our clergy is utterly against repealing the Test, though they are entirely devoted to her Majesty, and hardly one in a hundred who are not very good Whigs in our acceptation of the word. And I must let you know, that we of Ireland are not yet come up to other folk’s refinements; for we generally love and esteem our clergy, and think they deserve it; nay, we are apt to lay some weight upon their opinion, and would not willingly disoblige them, at least unless it were upon some greater point of interest than this. And their judgment in the present affair is the more to be regarded, because they are the last persons who will be affected by it: This makes us think them impartial, and that their concern is only for religion and the interest of the kingdom. Because the act which repeals the Test, will only qualify a layman for an employment, but not a Presbyterian or Anabaptist preacher for a church-living. Now I must take leave to inform you, that several members of our House, and myself among the rest, knowing some time ago what was upon the anvil, went to all the clergy we knew of any distinction, and desired their judgment of the matter, wherein we found a most wonderful agreement; there being but one divine that we could hear of in the whole kingdom, who appeared of a contrary sentiment, wherein he afterwards stood alone in the convocation, very little to his credit, though, as he hoped, very much to his interest.

I will now consider a little the arguments offered to shew the advantages, or rather the necessity, of repealing the Test in Ireland. We are told, the Popish interest is here so formidable, that all hands should be joined to keep it under; that the only names of distinction among us ought to be those of Protestant and Papist, and that this expedient is the only means to unite all Protestants upon one common bottom. All which is nothing but misrepresentation and mistake.

If we were under any real fear of the Papists in this kingdom, it would be hard to think us so stupid, not to be equally apprehensive with others, since we are likely to be the greatest, and more immediate sufferers; but on the contrary, we look upon them to be altogether as inconsiderable as the women and children. Their lands are almost entirely taken from them, and they are rendered incapable of purchasing any more; and for the little that remains, provision is made by the late act against Popery, that it will daily crumble away: To prevent which, some of the most considerable among them are already turned Protestants, and so in all probability will many more. Then, the Popish priests are all registered, and without permission (which I hope will not be granted) they can have no successors; so that the Protestant Clergy will find it perhaps no difficult matter to bring great numbers over to the Church; and in the meantime, the common people without leaders, without discipline, or natural courage, being little better than “hewers of wood, and drawers of water,” are out of all capacity of doing any mischief, if they were ever so well inclined. Neither are they at all likely to join in any considerable numbers with an invader, having found so ill success when they were much more numerous and powerful; when they had a prince of their own religion to head them, had been trained for some years under a Popish deputy, and received such mighty aids from the French king.

As to that argument used for repealing the Test, that it will unite all Protestants against the common enemy, I wonder by what figure those gentlemen speak who are pleased to advance it: Suppose in order to increase the friendship between you and me, a law should pass that I must have half your estate; do you think that would much advance the union between us? Or, suppose I share my fortune equally between my own children, and a stranger whom I take into my protection; will that be a method to unite them? Tis an odd way of uniting parties, to deprive a majority of part of their ancient right, by conferring it on a faction who had never any right at all, and therefore cannot be said to suffer any loss or injury if it be refused them. Neither is it very clear, how far some people may stretch the term of common enemy. How many are there of those that call themselves Protestants, who look upon our worship to be idolatrous as well as that of the Papists, and with great charity put Prelacy and Popery together, as terms convertible?

And, therefore, there is one small doubt, I would be willingly satisfied in before I agree to the repealing of the Test; that is, whether, these same Protestants, when they have by their dexterity made themselves the national religion, and disposed the Church revenues among their pastors or themselves, will be so kind to allow us dissenters, I do not say a share in employments, but a bare toleration by law? The reason of my doubt is, because I have been so very idle as to read above fifty pamphlets, written by as many Presbyterian divines, loudly disclaiming this idol Toleration, some of them calling it (I know not how properly) a rag of Popery, and all agreeing it was to establish iniquity by law. Now, I would be glad to know when and where their successors have renounced this doctrine, and before what witnesses. Because, methinks I should be loth to see my poor titular bishop _in partibus_, seized on by mistake in the dark for a Jesuit, or be forced myself to keep my chaplain disguised like my butler, and steal to prayers in a back room, as my grandfather[l6] used in those times when the Church of England was malignant.

[Footnote 16: This is Thomas Swift, vicar of Goodrich, in Herefordshire, “much distinguished by his courage, as well as his loyalty to King Charles the First, and the sufferings he underwent for that prince, more than any person of his condition in England.” See the “Fragment of Autobiography,” printed by Scott and Forster in their Lives of Swift. [T.S.]]

But this is ripping up old quarrels long forgot; Popery is now the common enemy, against which we must all unite; I have been tired in history with the perpetual folly of those states who call in foreigners to assist them against a common enemy: But the mischief was, those allies would never be brought to allow that the common enemy was quite subdued. And they had reason; for it proved at last, that one part of the common enemy was those who called them in, and so the allies became at length the masters.

‘Tis agreed among naturalists that a lion is a larger, a stronger, and more dangerous enemy than a cat; yet if a man were to have his choice, either a lion at his foot, bound fast with three or four chains, his teeth drawn out, and his claws pared to the quick, or an angry cat in full liberty at his throat; he would take no long time to determine.

I have been sometimes admiring the wonderful significancy of that word persecution, and what various interpretations it hath acquired even within my memory. When I was a boy, I often heard the Presbyterians complain that they were not permitted to serve God in their own way; they said they did not repine at our employments, but thought that all men who live peaceably ought to have liberty of conscience, and leave to assemble. That impediment being removed at the Revolution, they soon learned to swallow the Sacramental Test and began to take very large steps, wherein all that offered to oppose them, were called men of a persecuting spirit. During the time the Bill against Occasional Conformity was on foot, persecution was every day rung in our ears, and now at last the Sacramental Test itself has the same name. Where then is this matter likely to end, when the obtaining of one request is only used as a step to demand another? A lover is ever complaining of cruelty while anything is denied him, and when the lady ceases to be cruel, she is from the next moment at his mercy: So persecution it seems, is everything that will not leave it in men’s power to persecute others.

There is one argument offered against a Sacramental Test, by a sort of men who are content to be styled of the Church of England, who perhaps attend its service in the morning, and go with their wives to a conventicle in the afternoon, confessing they hear very good doctrine in both. These men are much offended that so holy an institution as that of the Lord’s Supper should be made subservient to such mercenary purposes as the getting of an employment. Now, it seems, the law, concluding all men to be members of that Church where they receive the Sacrament; and supposing all men to live like Christians (especially those who are to have employments) did imagine they received the Sacrament in course about four times a year, and therefore only desired it might appear by certificate to the public, that such who took an office were members of the Church established, by doing their ordinary duty. However, lest we should offend them, we have often desired they would deal candidly with us; for if the matter stuck only there, we would propose it in parliament, that every man who takes an employment should, instead of receiving the sacrament, be obliged to swear, that he is a member of the Church of Ireland by law established, with Episcopacy, and so forth; and as they do now in Scotland, _to be true to the Kirk_. But when we drive them thus far, they always retire to the main body of the argument, urge the hardship that men should be deprived the liberty of serving their Queen and country, on account of their conscience: And, in short, have recourse to the common style of their half brethren. Now whether this be a sincere way of arguing, I will appeal to any other judgment but theirs.

There is another topic of clamour somewhat parallel to the foregoing: It seems, by the Test clause, the military officers are obliged to receive the Sacrament as well as the civil. And it is a matter of some patience to hear the dissenters declaiming upon this occasion: They cry they are disarmed, they are used like Papists; when an enemy appears at home, or from abroad, they must sit still, and see their throats cut, or be hanged for high treason if they offer to defend themselves. Miserable condition! Woful dilemma! It is happy for us all, that the Pretender was not apprized of this passive Presbyterian principle, else he would have infallibly landed in our northern parts, and found them all sat down in their formalities, as the Gauls did the Roman senators, ready to die with honour in their callings. Sometimes to appease their indignation, we venture to give them hopes that in such a case the government will perhaps connive, and hardly be so severe to hang them for defending it against the letter of the law; to which they readily answer, that they will not lie at our mercy, but let us fight our battles ourselves. Sometimes we offer to get an act, by which upon all Popish insurrections at home, or Popish invasion from abroad, the government shall be empowered to grant commissions to all Protestants whatsoever, without that persecuting circumstance of obliging them to say their prayers when they receive the Sacrament; but they abhor all thoughts of occasional commissions, they will not do our drudgery, and we reap the benefit: It is not worth their while to fight _pro aris et focis_, and they had rather lose their estates, liberties, religion and lives, than the pleasure of governing.

But to bring this discourse toward a conclusion: If the dissenters will be satisfied with such a toleration by law as hath been granted them in England, I believe the majority of both Houses will fall readily in with it; farther it will be hard to persuade this House of Commons, and perhaps much harder the next. For, to say the truth, we make a mighty difference here between suffering thistles to grow among us, and wearing them for posies. We are fully convinced in our consciences, that _we_ shall always tolerate them, but not quite so fully that _they_ will always tolerate us, when it comes to their turn; and _we_ are the majority, and _we_ are in possession.

He who argues in defence of a law in force, not antiquated or obsolete, but lately enacted, is certainly on the safer side, and may be allowed to point out the dangers he conceives to foresee in the abrogation of it.

For if the consequences of repealing this clause, should at some time or other enable the Presbyterians to work themselves up into the National Church; instead of uniting Protestants, it would sow eternal divisions among them. First, their own sects, which now lie dormant, would be soon at cuffs again with each other about power and preferment; and the dissenting Episcopals, perhaps discontented to such a degree, as upon some fair unhappy occasion, would be able to shake the firmest loyalty, which none can deny theirs to be.

Neither is it very difficult to conjecture from some late proceedings, at what a rate this faction is likely to drive wherever it gets the whip and the seat. They have already set up courts of spiritual judicature in open contempt of the laws: They send missionaries everywhere, without being invited, in order to convert the Church of England folks to Christianity. They are as vigilant as _I know who_, to attend persons on their death-beds, and for purposes much alike. And what practices such principles as these (with many other that might be invidious to mention) may spawn when they are laid out to the sun, you may determine at leisure.

Lastly, Whether we are so entirely sure of their loyalty upon the present foot of government as you may imagine, their detractors make a question, which however, does, I think, by no means affect the body of dissenters; but the instance produced is, of some among their leading teachers in the north, who having refused the Abjuration Oath, yet continue their preaching, and have abundance of followers. The particulars are out of my head, but the fact is notorious enough, and I believe has been published; I think it a pity, it has not been remedied.

Thus, I have fairly given you, Sir, my own opinion, as well as that of a great majority in both Houses here, relating to this weighty affair, upon which I am confident you may securely reckon. I will leave you to make what use of it you please.

I am, with great respect, Sir,

Yours, &c.

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



THE reference casually made by Swift, in his “Letter on the Sacramental Test,” to his grandfather and the “malignant Church,” probably points to one of the causes for his persistent dislike towards the Protestant dissenters. His attitude displays a profound disgust both for their teaching and their conduct; and he found, very early, occasion to ridicule them, as may be seen in his description of Jack, Martin, and Peter in “A Tale of a Tub” (see vol. i. of this edition). In spite, however, of this attitude, Swift seems to have remained silent on the question of the repeal of the Test Act for a period of more than twenty years. He had published his “Letter from a Member of the House of Commons in Ireland” in 1708; but it was not until 1731 that he again took up his pen against Dissent.

In that year, and in the two subsequent ones, the Presbyterians fought very strenuously for a mitigation of the laws against them; and the literature which has been handed down to us of that fight is by no means insignificant. The tracts which we know to be of Swift’s authorship are: “The Presbyterians’ Plea of Merit” (1731); “A Narrative of the several Attempts which the Dissenters of Ireland have made for a repeal of the Sacramental Test” (1731); “The Advantages proposed by Repealing the Sacramental Test impartially considered” (1732); “Queries Relating to the Sacramental Test” (1732); “Reasons humbly offered to the Parliament of Ireland for Repealing the Test in favour of Roman Catholics” (1733); “Some Few Thoughts Concerning the Test;” and, according to Sir Walter Scott, “Ten Reasons for Repealing the Test Act.”

Monck Mason, in his elaborate note on this particular literature of the period (see “History of St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” pp. 387, 388, notes), gives a list of sixteen pamphlets, many of which he considers to be so well written that they would have done no discredit to Swift himself. The list is here transcribed for the benefit of the student:

(i.) “Nature and Consequences of the Sacramental Test considered; with Remarks humbly offered for the Repeal of it.” 1732.

(ii.) “Remarks on a Pamphlet, entitled, ‘The Nature and Consequences of the Sacramental Test Considered.'” Dublin, 1732, 12mo.

(iii.) “The History of the Test Act: in which the Mistakes in some Writings against it are Rectified, and the Importance of it to the Church explained.” Printed at London and Dublin: and reprinted by George Faulkner. 1733, 12mo.

(iv.) “Plain Reasons against the Repeal of the Test Act; humbly offered to publick Consideration.” Dublin: printed by George Faulkner. 1733, 12mo.

(v.) “The Test Act Examined by the Test of Reason.” Dublin, 1733, 12mo.

(vi.) “The Case of the Episcopal Dissenters in Scotland, and that of the Dissenters in Ireland Compared; with Relation to Toleration, and a Capacity for Civil Offices. In a Letter to a Member of Parliament.” Dublin, 1733, 8vo.

¶ This tract refers to another entitled: “The Tables Turned against the Presbyterians; or, Reasons against the Sacramental Test, by a General Assembly of Scotland.”

(vii.) “The Case of the Test Considered, with respect to Ireland.” Dublin, Faulkner, 1733.

(viii) “The natural Impossibilities of better Uniting Protestants &c. by Repealing the Test.” Dublin: Printed by George Faulkner, 1733.

(ix.) “Ten Reasons for Repealing the Test Act.”

¶ Scott reprints this as Swift’s from the broadside original.

(x-xi.) “A Vindication of the Protestant Dissenters from the Aspersions Cast upon them in a late Pamphlet, entitled, ‘The Presbyterians ‘Plea of Merit &c.,’ with some Remarks on a Paper called ‘The Correspondent,’ giving a pretended Narrative, &c.”

¶ Swift refers to this pamphlet in his “Roman Catholic Reasons for Repealing the Test.” It is also noted by the printer of the undated second edition of the London reprint of “The Plea.”

(xii.) “The Dispute Adjusted, about the _proper time_ of applying for a Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts: by shewing that _no time is proper_. By the Reverend Father in God, Edmund Lord Bishop of London.”

¶ Faulkner, in the second edition of “The Presbyterians’ Plea,” advertises this tract to appear in 1733. The author of “The Case of the Episcopal Dissenters in Scotland” mentions that it has been “lately re-printed” in Ireland, but that it is “falsely ascribed to the Bishop of London.”

(xiii.) “The Test Act considered in a Political Light.” 1733. Broadside.

(xiv.) “Queries upon the Demand of the Presbyterians to have the Sacramental Test Repealed at this Session of Parliament.” 1733. Broadside.

¶ These Queries differ somewhat from those put by Swift in 1732.

(xv.) “A Letter from a Freeman of a certain Burrough, in the North of Ireland, to his Friend and Representative in Parliament; shewing Reasons why the Test Act should not be Repealed.” 1733. Broadside.

“The Grunter’s Request
To take Off the Test.”
[A Poem.] 1733. 12mo.

Scott suggests (“Life of Jonathan Swift,” 1824, p.401) that “probably more occasional tracts” were written by the Dean on the subject of the Test “than have yet been recovered.” The curious student may satisfy himself on this matter by reading the above pamphlets. Neither Monck Mason, Dr. Barrett, nor Scott himself, cared to take upon themselves to decide whether any of them were by Swift; nor have any of the Dean’s modern biographers thrown any light on the subject. A point to note in this consideration is the fact that Faulkner, in his collected edition of Swift’s works, did not include any of these; and, as he himself published many of them, he would certainly have known something of their authorship.

Swift’s agitation against the repeal of the Test was so successful that the Irish House of Commons found itself in a majority for the Test. In addition to the prose tracts Swift wrote a stinging poem “On the Words Brother Protestants and Fellow Christians,” an expression familiarly used by the advocates for the Repeal of the Test Act. This poem brought him into personal conflict with one Serjeant Bettesworth, who “openly swore, before many hundreds of people, that upon the first opportunity, by the help of ruffians, he would murder or maim the Dean of St. Patrick’s.” The lines to which the Serjeant took exception were:

“Thus at the bar the booby Bettesworth, Though half-a-crown o’erpays his sweat’s worth; Who knows in law, nor text, nor margent, Calls Singleton his brother serjeant.”

The affair ended in the further ridicule of Bettesworth, who complained in the Irish House of Commons that the lampoon had cost him L1,200 a year. A full account of Swift’s interview with Bettesworth is given by Swift in a letter to the Duke of Dorset, dated January, 1733-1734; and the “Grub Street Journal” for August 9th, 1734, tells how the inhabitants of the City of Dublin came to Swift’s aid. Perhaps Bettesworth finally found consolation in the thought, satirically suggested by Dr. William Dunkin, that, after all, it might be worth the loss of money to be “transmitted to posterity in Dr. Swift’s works.”

“For had he not pointed me out, I had slept till E’en Doomsday, a poor insignificant reptile; Half lawyer, half actor, pert, dull, and inglorious, Obscure, and unheard of–but now I’m notorious: Fame has but two gates, a white and a black one; The worst they can say is, I got in at the back one: If the end be obtained ’tis equal what portal I enter, since I’m to be render’d immortal: So clysters applied to the anus, ’tis said, By skilful physicians, give ease to the head– Though my title be spurious, why should I be dastard, A man is a man though he should be a bastard. Why sure ’tis some comfort that heroes should slay us, If I fall, I would fall by the hand of Aeneas; And who by the Drapier would not rather damn’d be, Than demigoddized by madrigal Namby.”[1]

[Footnote 1: Namby was the nickname for Ambrose Philips.]

Scott, and all Swift’s editors and biographers, state that “The Presbyterians’ Plea of Merit” was first published in 1731. What authority they have for this statement, I have not been able to discover. My own research has, so far, failed to find a copy of it with the date, 1731, on the title-page. The edition upon which the present text is based, is that printed by Faulkner in 1733, of the title-page of which, a facsimile is here given. This, I believe to be the first edition. Scott, following Nichols, states that in the first edition of “The Plea,” the “Ode to Humphry French, Esq.,” appeared, and that in the second edition, this ode was omitted to make room for the “Narrative of the Several Attempts made for the Repeal of the Test Act.” Now in the British Museum, there are two _undated_ editions of “The Plea,” which bear out this statement; but these, as the title-pages inform us, are London reprints of Dublin editions. Since, however, no one has recorded dated Dublin editions corresponding exactly to these London reprints, the evidence of the reprints counts for very little. Monck Mason, a very accurate authority, usually, says distinctly, “The Plea” was printed in 1731, and a second edition issued in 1733; but one gathers from his note that the only edition in his possession was that of 1733, and this has neither the “Ode” nor the “Narrative”; the last page consisting of an advertisement of the collected editions of Swift’s works, which Faulkner was then preparing. The first of the London reprints bears no indication of any particular edition; the second has the words “second edition” on the title-page. In his note to this reprint of the “Narrative,” and in his “Life of Swift,” Scott refers to a Dublin periodical called “The Correspondent” (in which the “Narrative” was first published) as being printed in 1731. The only edition of this periodical, of which I have either seen or heard, is the copy in the British Museum, and that copy distinctly states: “Printed by James Hoey in Skinner-Row, 1733.” If, therefore, this be the first edition of “The Correspondent,” the “Narrative” must be ascribed to the year 1733, and the second edition of “The Plea” to the end of the same, or the beginning of the following year. I conclude, therefore, first, that the first edition of “The Plea” is that dated “Dublin, 1733;” second, that the undated London reprint with the “Ode” is of the same year; and, lastly, that the undated second London reprint with the “Narrative,” is probably of the year, 1734. Examining Scott’s text of this tract, one is forced to the conclusion that he could not have seen the Dublin edition of 1733; whereas, its almost exact similarity to the London reprint suggests that he used that. For purposes of the present text all three editions have been collated with one another, and with those given by Faulkner, Hawkesworth and Scott.


_Presbyterians_ PLEA
In Order to take off the
Impartially Examined.



Printed and fold by GEORGE FAULKNER, in _Essex-Street_, opposite to the _Bridge_, 1733.

We have been told in the common newspapers, that all attempts are to be made this session by the Presbyterians, and their abettors, for taking off the Test, as a kind of preparatory step, to make it go down smoother in England. For, if once their light would so shine, the Papists, delighted with the blaze, would all come in, and dance about it. This I take to be a prudent method; like that of a discreet physician, who first gives a new medicine to a dog, before he prescribes it to a human creature.[1]

[Footnote 1: See note prefixed to the “Letter on the Sacramental Test.” [T.S.]]

The Presbyterians have, ever since the Revolution directed their learned casuists to employ their pens on this subject; by shewing the merits and pretensions upon which they claim this justice; as founded upon the services they did toward the restoration of King Charles the Second; and at the Revolution under the Prince of Orange. Which pleas I take to be the most singular, in their kind, that ever were offered in the face of the sun, against the most glaring light of truth, and against a continuation of public facts, known to all Europe for twenty years together. I shall, therefore, impartially examine the merits and conduct of the Presbyterians, upon those two great events; and the pretensions to favour, which they challenge upon them.

Soon after the Reformation of the Church in England, under Edward the Sixth, upon Queen Mary’s succeeding to the crown, who restored Popery, many Protestants fled out of England, to escape the persecution raised against the Church, as her brother had left it established. Some of these exiles went to Geneva; which city had received the doctrine of Calvin, and rejected the government of bishops; with many other refinements. These English exiles readily embraced the Geneva system; and having added farther improvements of their own, upon Queen Mary’s death returned to England; where they preached up their own opinions; inveighing bitterly against Episcopacy, and all rites and ceremonies, however innocent and ancient in the Church: building upon this foundation; to run as far as possible from Popery, even in the most minute and indifferent circumstances: this faction, under the name of Puritan, became very turbulent, during the whole reign of Queen Elizabeth; and were always discouraged by that wise queen, as well as by her two successors. However, their numbers, as well as their insolence and perverseness, so far increased, that soon after the death of King James the First, many instances of their petulancy and scurrility, are to be seen in their pamphlets, written for some years after; which was a trade they began in the days of Queen Elizabeth: particularly with great rancour against the bishops, the habits, and the ceremonies: Such were that scurrilous libel under the title of Martin Mar-prelate,[2] and several others. And, although the Earl of Clarendon[3] tells us, that, until the year 1640, (as I remember) the kingdom was in a state of perfect peace and happiness, without the least appearance of thought or design toward making any alterations in religion or government; yet I have found, by often rummaging for old books in Little Britain and Duck-Lane, a great number of pamphlets printed from the year 1530[4] to 1640, full of as bold and impious railing expressions, against the lawful power of the Crown, and the order of bishops, as ever were uttered during the Rebellion, or the whole subsequent tyranny of that fanatic anarchy. However, I find it manifest, that Puritanism did not erect itself into a new, separate species of religion, till some time after the Rebellion began. For, in the latter times of King James the First, and the former part of his son, there were several Puritan bishops, and many Puritan private clergymen; while people went, as their inclinations led them, to hear preachers of each party in the parish churches. For the Puritan clergy had received Episcopal orders as well as the rest. But, soon after the Rebellion broke out, the term Puritan gradually dropped, and that of Presbyterian succeeded; which sect was, in two or three years, established in all its forms, by what they called an Ordinance of the Lords and Commons, without consulting the King; who was then at war against his rebels. And, from this period the Church continued under persecution, till monarchy was restored in the year 1660.

[Footnote 2: According to Mr. Edward Arber the writers of these famous tracts were the Rev. John Penny and Job Throckmorton, Esq. He calls these two writers “the most eminent prose satirists of the Elizabethan age.” For a full account of these tracts and the controversy, see Mr. Arber’s “Introductory Sketch to the Martin Mar-prelate Controversy, 1588-1590” (1879, English Scholar’s Library). The aim of the Mar-prelate writers is thus stated by the able author of that sketch: “To ridicule and affront a proud hierarchy [the bishops] endowed with large legal means of doing mischief, and not wanting in will to exercise these powers to the full. The spell of the unnatural civil power which had been enjoyed by the Papal prelates in this country remained with their Protestant successors until this Controversy broke it: so that from this time onwards the bishops set about to forge a new spell, ‘the Divine Right of their temporal position and power’, which hallucination was dissolved by the Long Parliament: from which time a bishop has usually been considered no more than a man” (Preface, pp. 11-12). [T.S.]]

[Footnote 3: Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon (1608-1674), the author of the “History of the Great Rebellion.” [T.S.]]

[Footnote 4: The original edition has 1630. [T.S.]]

In a year or two after; we began to hear of a new party risen, and growing in the Parliament, as well as the army; under the name of Independent: It spread, indeed somewhat more in the latter; but not equal with the Presbyterians, either in weight or number, till the very time[5] that the King was murdered.

[Footnote 5: Faulkner prints: “until some time before the King was murdered.”[T.S.]]

When the King, who was then a prisoner in the Isle of Wight, had made his last concessions for a peace to the Commissioners of the Parliament, who attended him there; upon their return to London, they reported his Majesty’s answer to the House. Whereupon, a number of moderate members, who, as Ludlow[6] says, had secured their own terms with his Majesty, managed with so much art, as to obtain a majority, in a thin house, for passing a vote, that _the King’s concessions were a ground for future settlement_. But the great officers of the army, joining with the discontented members, came to a resolution, of excluding all those who had consented to that vote; which they executed in a military way. Ireton told Fairfax the General,[7] a rigid Presbyterian, of this resolution; who thereupon issued his orders for drawing out the army the next morning, and placing guards in Westminster-hall, the Court of Requests, and the lobby; who, in obedience to the General, in conjunction with those members who opposed the vote, would let no member enter the House, except those of their own party. Upon which, the question for bringing the King to justice, was immediately put and carried without opposition, that I can find. Then, an order was made for his trial; the time and place appointed; the judges named; of whom Fairfax himself was one; although by the advice or threats of his wife, he declined sitting among them. However, by fresh orders under his own hand, which I have seen in print, he appointed guards to attend the judges at the trial, and to keep the city in quiet; as he did likewise to prevent any opposition from the people, upon the day of execution.

[Footnote 6: Edmund Ludlow (1620?-1693) lieutenant-general of the Parliamentary army. He was one of the judges of King Charles’s trial, and who signed the death-warrant. He died at Vevay, in Switzerland, where he had fled on finding that Charles’s judges were not included in the Act of Indemnity. His memoirs were printed at Vevay in 1698-1699.3 vols. 8vo. It is to these Swift refers. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 7: Ireton and Fairfax were two famous generals of the Parliamentary army serving with Cromwell. [T.S.]]

From what I have already deduced, it appears manifest, that the differences between those two sects, Presbyterian and Independent, did not then amount to half so much as what there is between a Whig and Tory at present among us. The design of utterly extirpating monarchy and episcopacy, was equally the same in both; evidently the consequence of the very same principles, upon which the Presbyterians alone began, continued, and would have ended in the same events; if towards the conclusion, they had not been bearded by that new party, with whom they could not agree about dividing the spoil. However, they held a good share of civil and military employments during the whole time of the usurpation; whose names, and actions, and preferments, are frequent in the accounts of those times. For I make no doubt, that all the prudent Presbyterians complied in proper seasons, falling in with the stream; and thereby got that share in employments, which many of them held to the Restoration; and perhaps too many of them after. In the same manner, we find our wisest Tories, in both kingdoms, upon the change of hands and measures at the Queen’s death, have endeavoured for several years, by due compliances, to recover the time they had lost by a temporary obstinacy; wherein they have well succeeded, according to their degrees of merit. Of whose names I could here make honourable mention, if I did not fear it might offend their modesty.

As to what is alleged, that some of the Presbyterians declared openly against the King’s murder, I allow it to be true. But, from what motives? No other can possibly be assigned, than perfect spite, rage, and envy, to find themselves wormed out of all power by a new infant spawn of Independents, sprung from their own bowels. It is true; the differences in religious tenets between them are very few and trifling; the chief quarrel, as far as I remember, relating to congregational and national assemblies. But, wherever interest or power thinks fit to interfere, it little imports what principles the opposite parties think fit to charge upon each other: for, we see, at this day, that the Tories are more hated by the whole set of zealous Whigs, than the very Papists themselves; and, in effect, as much unqualified for the smallest office: although, both these parties assert themselves to be of the same religion, in all its branches of doctrine and discipline; and profess the same loyalty to the same Protestant King and his heirs.

If the reader would know what became of this Independent party, upon whom all the mischief is charged by their Presbyterian brethren; he may please to observe, that during the whole usurpation, they contended by degrees with their parent sect, and, as I have already said, shared in employments; and gradually, after the Restoration, mingled with the mass of Presbyterians; lying ever since undistinguished in the herd of dissenters.

The Presbyterian merit is of as little weight, when they allege themselves instrumental towards the King’s restoration. The kingdom grew tired with those ridiculous models of government: First, by a House of Lords and Commons, without a king; then without bishops; afterwards by a Rump[8] and lords temporal: then by a Rump alone; next by a single person for life, in conjunction with a council: by agitators: by major-generals: by a new kind of representatives from the three kingdoms: by the keepers of the liberties of England; with other schemes that have slipped out of my memory. Cromwell was dead; his son Richard, a weak, ignorant wretch, who gave up his monarchy much in the same manner with the two usurping kings of Brentford.[9] The people harassed with taxes and other oppressions; the King’s party, then called the Cavaliers began to recover their spirits. The few nobility scattered through the kingdom, who lived in a most retired manner, observing the confusion of things, could no longer endure to be ridden by bakers, cobblers, brewers, and the like, at the head of armies; and plundering everywhere like French dragoons: The Rump assembly grew despicable to those who had raised them: The city of London, exhausted by almost twenty years contributing to their own ruin, declared against them. The Rump, after many deaths and resurrections, was, in the most contemptuous manner, kicked out, and burned in effigy. The excluded members were let in: a free Parliament called in as legal a manner as the times would allow; and the King restored.

[Footnote 8: This name was given to that part of the House of Commons which remained after the moderate men had been expelled by military-force. [S.]]

[Footnote 9: In the “Rehearsal.”]

The second claim of Presbyterian merit is founded upon their services against the dangerous designs of King James the Second; while that prince was using all his endeavours to introduce Popery, which he openly professed upon his coming to the crown: To this they add, their eminent services at the Revolution, under the Prince of Orange.

Now, the quantum of Presbyterian merit, during the four years’ reign of that weak, bigoted, and ill-advised prince, as well as at the time of the Revolution, will easily be computed, by a recourse to a great number of histories, pamphlets, and public papers, printed in those times, and some afterwards; beside the verbal testimonies of many persons yet alive, who are old enough to have known and observed the Dissenters’ conduct in that critical period.

It is agreed, that upon King Charles the Second’s death, soon after his successor had publicly owned himself a Roman Catholic; he began with his first caresses to the Church party; from whom having received very cold discouraging answers; he applied to the Presbyterian leaders and teachers, being advised by the priests and Popish courtiers, that the safest method toward introducing his own religion, would be by taking off the Sacramental Test, and giving a full liberty of conscience to all religions, (I suppose, that professed Christianity.) It seems, that the Presbyterians, in the latter years of King Charles the Second, upon account of certain plots, (allowed by Bishop Burnet to be genuine) had been, for a short time, forbid to hold their conventicles: Whereupon, these charitable Christians, out of perfect resentment against the Church, received the gracious offers of King James with the strongest professions of loyalty, and highest acknowledgments for his favour. I have seen several of their addresses, full of thanks and praises, with bitter insinuations of what they had suffered; putting themselves and the Papists upon the same foot; as fellow-sufferers for conscience; and with the style of, _Our brethren the Roman Catholics_. About this time began the project of closeting, (which has since been practised many times, with more art and success,) where the principal gentlemen of the kingdom were privately catechised by his Majesty, to know whether, if a new parliament were called, they would agree to pass an act for repealing the Sacramental Test, and establishing a general liberty of conscience. But he received so little encouragement, that, despairing of success, he had recourse to his dispensing power, which the judges had determined to be part of his prerogative. By colour of this determination, he preferred several Presbyterians, and many Papists, to civil and military employments. While the king was thus busied, it is well known, that Monsieur Fagel, the Dutch envoy in London, delivered the opinion of the Prince and Princess of Orange, concerning the repeal of the Test; whereof the king had sent an account to their Highnesses, to know how far they approved of it. The substance of their answer, as reported by Fagel, was this, “That their highnesses thought very well of a liberty of conscience; but by no means of giving employments to any other persons, than those who were of the National Church.” This opinion was confirmed by several reasons: I cannot be more particular, not having the paper by me, although it hath been printed in many accounts of those times. And thus much every moderate churchman would perhaps submit to: But, to trust any part of the civil power in the hands of those whose interest, inclination, conscience, and former practices have been wholly turned to introduce a different system of religion and government, hath very few examples in any Christian state; nor any at all in Holland, the great patroness of universal toleration.

Upon the first intelligence King James received of an intended invasion by the Prince of Orange; among great numbers of Papists, to increase his troops, he gave commissions to several Presbyterians; some of whom had been officers under the Rump; and particularly he placed one Richards, a noted Presbyterian, at the head of a regiment; who had been governor of Wexford in Cromwell’s time, and is often mentioned by Ludlow in his Memoirs. This regiment was raised in England against the Prince of Orange: the colonel made his son a captain, whom I knew, and who was as zealous a Presbyterian as his father. However at the time of the prince’s landing, the father easily foreseeing how things would go, went over, like many others to the prince, who continued him in his regiment; but coming over a year or two after to assist in raising the siege of Derry, he behaved himself so like either a coward or a traitor, that his regiment was taken from him.

I will now consider the conduct of the Church party, during the whole reign of that unfortunate king. They were so unanimous against promising to pass an act for repealing the Test, and establishing a general liberty of conscience; that the king durst not trust a parliament; but encouraged by the professions of loyalty given him by his Presbyterian friends, went on with his dispensing power.

The Church clergy, at that time are allowed to have written the best collection of tracts against Popery that ever appeared in England; which are to this day in the highest esteem. But, upon the strictest enquiry, I could never hear of above one or two papers published by the Presbyterians at that time upon the same subject. Seven great prelates (he of Canterbury among the rest) were sent to the Tower, for presenting a petition, wherein they desired to be excused in not obeying an illegal command from the King. The Bishop of London, Dr. Compton,[10] was summoned to answer before the Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Affairs, for not suspending Dr. Sharp[11] (afterwards Archbishop of York) by the King’s command. If the Presbyterians expressed the same zeal upon any occasion, the instances of it are not as I can find, left upon record, or transmitted by tradition. The proceedings against Magdalen College in Oxford, for refusing to comply with the King’s mandate for admitting a professed Papist upon their foundation, are a standing proof of the courage and firmness in religion shewn by that learned society, to the ruin of their fortunes. The Presbyterians know very well, that I could produce many more instances of the same kind. But these are enough in so short a paper as I intend at present.

[Footnote 10: Henry Compton (1632-1713), educated at Oxford, was created Bishop of London in 1675. During the Revolution of 1688 he conveyed the Princess Anne from London to Nottingham. After, he crowned her Queen of England. He was the author of a few works of little importance, such as the “Treatise on the Holy Communion.” [T.S.]]

[Footnote 11: John Sharp (1644-1714) was educated at Cambridge, and created Archbishop of York in 1691. He gave great offence to James II. by his preaching against Roman Catholicism. This is the same Archbishop Sharp who prevented Swift’s appointment to a bishopric, by urging that the author of “A Tale of a Tub” was not a proper person to hold such an office. See note prefixed to “A Tale of a Tub,” vol. i., p. xcvi, of this edition of Swift’s Works. [T.S.]]

It is indeed very true, that after King William was settled on the English throne, the Presbyterians began to appear, and offer their credentials, and demand favour; and the new King having been originally bred a Calvinist, was desirous enough to make them easy (if that would do it) by a legal toleration; although in his heart he never bore much affection to that sect; nor designed to favour them farther than it stood with the present scheme of politics: as I have long since been assured by the greatest men of Whig principles at that time in England.

It is likewise true, nor will it be denied; that when the King was possessed of the English crown; and the remainder of the quarrel was left to be decided in this kingdom; the Presbyterians wisely chose to join with the Protestant army, rather than with that of King James their old friend, whose affairs were then in a manner desperate. They were wise enough to know, that this kingdom, divided against itself, could never prevail against the united power of England. They fought _pro aris et focis_; for their estates and religion; which latter will never suffer so much by the Church of England as by that of Rome, where they are counted heretics as well as we: and consequently they have no other game to play. But, what merit they can build upon having joined with a Protestant army, under a King they acknowledged, to defend their own liberties and properties against a Popish enemy under an abdicated King; is, I confess to me absolutely inconceivable; and I believe will equally be so for ever, to any reasonable man.

When these sectaries were several years ago making the same attempt for abolishing the Test, many groundless reports were industriously and seasonably spread, of an invasion threatened by the Pretender on the north of Ireland. At which time the Presbyterians in their pamphlets, argued in a menacing manner, that if the Pretender should invade those parts of the kingdom, where the numbers and estates of dissenters chiefly lay; they would sit still, and let us fight our own battles;[12] since they were to reap no advantage, whichever side should be victors. If this were the course they intended to take in such a case; I should desire to know, how they could contrive safely to stand neuters, otherwise than by a compact with the Pretender and his army, to support their neutrality, and protect them against the forces of the Crown? This is a necessary supposition; because they must otherwise have inevitably been a prey to both. However, by this frank declaration, they sufficiently shewed their good-will; and confirmed the common charge laid at their door; that a Scottish or northern Presbyterian hates our Episcopal Established Church more than Popery itself. And, the reason for this hatred, is natural enough; because it is the Church alone, that stands in the way between them and power, which Popery doth not.

[Footnote 12: See the poem, reprinted by Monck Mason (“History of St. Patrick’s,” p. 388 note), entitled:

“The Grunters’ request
To take off the Test,”

in which the poet advises his “lauds” to “faight y’er ain battel.” [T.S.]]

Upon this occasion I am in some doubt, whether the political spreaders of those chimerical invasions, made a judicious choice in fixing the northern parts of Ireland for that romantic enterprize. Nor, can I well understand the wisdom of the Presbyterians in countenancing and confirming those reports. Because it seems to cast a most infamous reflection upon the loyalty and religious principles of their whole body: For if there had been any truth in the matter, the consequence must have been allowed, that the Pretender counted upon more assistance from his father’s friends the Presbyterians, by choosing to land in those very parts, where their number, wealth, and power most prevailed; rather than among those of his own religion. And therefore, in charity to this sect, I rather incline to believe, that those reports of an invasion were formed and spread by the race of small politicians, in order to do a seasonable job.

As to Popery in general, which for a thousand years past hath been introducing and multiplying corruptions both in doctrine and discipline; I look upon it to be the most absurd system of Christianity professed by any nation. But I cannot apprehend this kingdom to be in much danger from it. The estates of Papists are very few; crumbling into small parcels, and daily diminishing. Their common people are sunk in poverty, ignorance, and cowardice, and of as little consequence as women and children. Their nobility and gentry are at least one-half ruined, banished, or converted: They all soundly feel the smart of what they suffered in the last Irish war. Some of them are already retired into foreign countries; others as I am told, intend to follow them; and the rest, I believe, to a man, who still possess any lands, are absolutely determined never to hazard them again for the sake of establishing their superstition. If it hath been thought fit, as some observe, to abate of the law’s rigour against Popery in this kingdom, I am confident it was done for very wise reasons, considering the situation of affairs abroad at different times, and the interest of the Protestant religion in general. And as I do not find the least fault in this proceeding; so I do not conceive why a sunk discarded party, who neither expect nor desire anything more than a quiet life; should under the names of highflyers, Jacobites, and many other vile appellations, be charged so often in print, and at common tables, with endeavouring to introduce Popery and the Pretender; while the Papists abhor them above all other men, on account of severities against their priests in her late Majesty’s reign; when the now disbanded reprobate party was in power. This I was convinced of some years ago by a long journey into the southern parts; where I had the curiosity to send for many priests of the parishes I passed through; and, to my great satisfaction found them everywhere abounding in professions of loyalty to the late King George; for which they gave me the reasons above-mentioned; at the same time complaining bitterly of the hardships they suffered under the Queen’s last ministry.

I return from this digression to the modest demands of the Presbyterians for a repeal of the Sacramental Test, as a reward for their merits at the Restoration and the Revolution; which merits I have fairly represented as well as my memory will allow me. If I have committed any mistakes they must be of little moment. The facts and principal circumstances are what I have obtained and digested, from reading the histories of those times, written by each party; and many thousands have done the same as well as I, who I am sure have in their minds drawn the same conclusions.

This is the faction, and these the men, who are now resuming their applications, and giving in their bills of merit to both kingdoms upon two points, which of all others, they have the least pretensions to offer. I have collected the facts with all possible impartiality, from the current histories of those times; and have shewn, although very briefly, the gradual proceedings of those sectaries under the denomination of Puritans, Presbyterians, and Independents, for about the space of an hundred and eighty years, from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth to this present time. But, notwithstanding all that can be said, these very schismatics (for such they are in temporals as well as spirituals) are now again expecting, soliciting, and demanding, (not without insinuating threats, according to their custom) that the Parliament should fix them upon an equal foot with the Church established. I would fain know to what branch of the legislature they can have the forehead to apply. Not to my lords the bishops; who must have often read, how the predecessors of this very faction, acting upon the same principles, drove the whole bench out of the house; who were then, and hitherto continue one of the three estates. Not to the temporal peers, the second of the three estates; who must have heard, that, immediately after those rebellious fanatics had murdered their king, they voted a House of Lords to be useless and dangerous, and would let them sit no longer, otherwise than when elected as commoners: Not to the House of Commons; who must have heard, that in those fanatic times the Presbyterian and Independent commanders in the army, by military power, expelled all the moderate men out of the house, and left a Rump to govern the nation. Lastly, not to the Crown, which those very saints destined to rule the earth, trampled under their feet, and then in cold blood murdered the blessed wearer.

But, the session now approaching, and a clan of dissenting teachers being come up to town from their northern headquarters, accompanied by many of their elders and agents, and supported by a general contribution, to solicit their establishment, with a capacity of holding all military as well as civil employments; I think it high time, that this paper should see the light. However, I cannot conclude without freely confessing, that if the Presbyterians should obtain their ends, I could not be sorry to find them mistaken in the point which they have most at heart by the repeal of the Test; I mean the benefit of employments. For, after all, what assurance can a Scottish northern dissenter, born on Irish ground, have, that he shall be treated with as much favour as a true Scot born beyond the Tweed?

I am ready enough to believe that all I have said will avail but little. I have the common excuse of other men, when I think myself bound by all religious and civil ties, to discharge my conscience, and to warn my countrymen upon this important occasion. It is true, the advocates for this scheme promise a new world, after this blessed work shall be completed: that all animosities and faction must immediately drop; that the only distinction in this kingdom will then be of Papist and Protestant. For, as to Whig and Tory, High Church and Low Church, Jacobite and Hanoverian, Court and Country party, English and Irish interests, Dissenters and Conformists, New Light and Old Light, Anabaptist and Independent, Quaker and Muggletonian, they will all meet and jumble together into a perfect harmony, at the sessions and assizes, on the bench and in the revenues; and upon the whole, in all civil and military trust, not excepting the great councils of the nation. For it is wisely argued thus, that a kingdom being no more than a larger knot of friends met together, it is against the rules of good manners to shut any person out of the company, except the Papists; who profess themselves of another club.

I am at a loss to know what arts the Presbyterian sect intends to use, in convincing the world of their loyalty to kingly government; which long before the prevalence, or even the birth of their independent rivals, as soon as the King’s forces were overcome, declared their principles to be against monarchy, as well as Episcopacy and the House of Lords, even till the King was restored: At which event, although they were forced to submit to the present power, yet I have not heard that they did ever, to this day, renounce any one principle by which their predecessors then acted; yet this they have been challenged to do, or at least to shew that others have done it for them, by a certain doctor,[13] who, as I am told, has much employed his pen in the like disputes. I own, they will be ready enough to insinuate themselves into any government: But, if they mean to be honest and upright, they will and must endeavour by all means, which they shall think lawful, to introduce and establish their own scheme of religion, as nearest approaching to the word of God, by casting out all superstitious ceremonies, ecclesiastical titles, habits, distinctions, and superiorities, as rags of Popery; in order to a thorough reformation; and, as in charity bound, to promote the salvation of their countrymen: wishing with St. Paul, that the whole kingdom were as they are. But what assurance will they please to give, that when their sect shall become the national established worship, they will treat Us Dissenters as we have treated them? Was this their course of proceeding during the dominion of the saints? Were not all the remainders of the Episcopal Church in those days, especially the clergy, under a persecution for above a dozen years, equal to that of the primitive Christians under heathen emperors? That this proceeding was suitable to their principles, is known enough; for many of their preachers then writ books expressly against allowing any liberty of conscience, in a religion different from their own; producing many arguments to prove that opinion; and among the rest one frequently insisted on; that allowing such a liberty would be to establish iniquity by a law: Many of these writings are yet to be seen;[14] and I hear, have been quoted by the doctor above mentioned.

[Footnote 13: Dr. Tisdal, in a tract entitled, “The Case of the Sacramental Test stated and argued.” Tisdal died 4th June, 1736. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 14: See many hundred quotations to prove this, in the treatise called “Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence.” [Note in Faulkner’s edition, 1738.]]

As to their great objection of prostituting that holy institution, the blessed Sacrament, by way of a test before admittance into any employment; I ask, whether they would not be content to receive it after their own manner, for the office of a judge, for that of a commissioner in the revenue, for a regiment of horse, or to be a lord justice? I believe they would scruple it as little, as a long grace before and after dinner; which they can say without bending a knee; for, as I have been told, their manner of taking bread and wine in their conventicles, is performed with little more solemnity than at their common meals. And, therefore, since they look upon our practice in receiving the elements, to be idolatrous; they neither can, nor ought, in conscience, to allow us that liberty, otherwise than by connivance, and a bare toleration, like what is permitted to the Papists. But, lest we should offend them, I am ready to change this test for another; although, I am afraid, that sanctified reason is, by no means, the point where the difficulty pinches; and only offered by pretended churchmen, as if they could be content with our believing, that the impiety and profanation of making the Sacrament a test, were the only objection. I therefore propose, that before the present law be repealed, another may be enacted; that no man shall receive any employment, before he swears himself to be a true member of the Church of Ireland, in doctrine and discipline, &c., and, that he will never frequent, or communicate with any other form of worship. It shall likewise be further enacted, that whoever offends, &c., shall be fined five hundred pounds, imprisoned for a year and a day, and rendered incapable of all public trust for ever. Otherwise, I do insist that those pious, indulgent, external professors of our national religion, shall either give up that fallacious hypocritical reason for taking off the Test; or freely confess, that they desire to have a gate wide open for every sect, without any test at all, except that of swearing loyalty to the King: Which, however, considering their principles, with regard to monarchy yet unrenounced, might, if they would please to look deep enough into their own hearts, prove a more bitter test than any other that the law hath yet invented.

For, from the first time that these sectaries appeared in the world, it hath been always found, by their whole proceeding, that they professed an utter hatred to kingly government. I can recollect, at present, three civil establishments, where Calvinists, and some other reformers who rejected Episcopacy, possess the supreme power; and, these are all republics; I mean Holland, Geneva, and the reformed Swiss cantons. I do not say this in diminution, or disgrace to commonwealths; wherein, I confess, I have much altered many opinions under which I was educated, having been led by some observation, long experience, and a thorough detestation for the corruptions of mankind: Insomuch, that I am now justly liable to the censure of Hobbes, who complains, that the youth of England imbibe ill opinions, from reading the histories of Ancient Greece and Rome, those renowned scenes of liberty and every virtue.

But, as to monarchs; who must be supposed well to study and understand their own interest; they will best consider, whether those people, who in all their actions, preachings, and writings, have openly declared themselves against regal power, are to be safely placed in an equal degree of favour and trust with those who have been always found the true and only friends to the English establishment. From which consideration, I could have added one more article to my new test, if I had thought it worth my time.

I have been assured by some persons who were present, that several of these dissenting teachers, upon their first arrival hither to solicit the repeal of the Test, were pleased to express their gratitude, by publicly drinking the healths of certain eminent patrons, whom they pretend to have found among us; if this be true, and that the Test must be delivered up by the very commanders appointed to defend it, the affair is already, in effect, at an end. What secret reasons those patrons may have given for such a return of brotherly love, I shall not inquire: “For, O my soul come not thou into their secret, unto their assembly mine honour be not thou united. For in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel; I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”

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This tract occupies Nos. iii. and iv. of a periodical paper called “The Correspondent,” originally printed at Dublin “by James Hoey in Skinner-Row, 1733.” The text here given is that of the original “Correspondent”; that given by Scott and Nichols is evidently taken from the London reprint. It will be seen that the matter as it was originally printed contains much more than was afterwards reprinted. I have indicated in footnotes where Scott’s omissions occur. The title of the periodical runs: “The Correspondent, No. iii. [No. iv.] Humbly inscribed to the Conforming Nobility and Gentry of Ireland.” Nos. i. and ii. dealt with “Old and New Light Presbyterians”; but these are not by Swift. In Nichols’s edition this pamphlet appears in the second volume of the “Supplement to Dr. Swift’s Works,” 1779, p. 307. See note to the previous pamphlet, where the question of the date of the first publication of this tract is discussed. It may be, as Monck Mason suggests (“History of St. Patrick’s,” p. 389, note h), that a separate and second edition of this “Narrative” was likewise printed, of the same size as “The Presbyterians’ Plea,” and bound up, occasionally with that pamphlet; but such an edition I have never seen. The only reprint of the time examined, is that by A. Dodd, of Temple Bar, affixed to the second London edition of “The Presbyterians’ Plea of Merit,” and the date of which may be put down to 1734.



My intention is in this and some following “Correspondents,” to vindicate the Test Act, from the insolent aspersions which are thrown upon it, and to answer objections, which are raised against it, particularly by an anonymous author, in a paper entitled, “The Nature and Consequence of the Sacramental Test considered,” &c., printed _anno_ 1731, upon the opening of the last session of parliament, and now republished.

As a proper introduction to this, I must take leave to put the conformists in mind, of what (upon recollection) they may very well remember, and which in some measure they have been formerly apprised of, and that is in[1] a narrative of the several attempts, which the Dissenters of Ireland have made, for a repeal of the Sacramental Test.

When the oath of supremacy was repealed which had been the Church’s great security since the second of Queen Elizabeth, against both Papists and Presbyterians, who equally refused it, I presume it is no secret now to tell the reader, that the repeal of that oath opened a sluice and let in such a current of dissenters into some of our corporations, as bore down all before them.

[Footnote 1: From the beginning of this paragraph to the word “in” is omitted in the editions issued by Scott and Nichols. The words “A Narrative… Sacramental Test” are used by Scott as part of the sub-title of the tract; but he adds the date, 1731. This is a mistake, since “The Correspondent” appeared in 1733; and if it did appear in the second edition of “The Plea,” that edition was published either in the same or in the following year. [T.S.]]

Although the Sacramental Test had been for a considerable time in force in England, yet that law did not reach Ireland, where the Church was more oppressed by dissenters; and where her most sanguine friends were glad to compound, to preserve what legal security she had left, rather than to attempt any new, or even to recover what she had lost: And in truth they had no reason to expect it, at a time when the dissenters had the interest to have a motion made and debated in parliament, that there might be a temporary repeal of all the penal laws against them, and when they were so flushed with the conquest they had made in some corporations, as to reject all overtures of a toleration; and to that end, had employed Mr. Boyse[2] to write against it with the utmost contempt, calling it “a stone instead of bread; a serpent instead of a fish.”

[Footnote 2: In his note Scott calls him “Samuel” Boyse, but he is distinctly mentioned further on in the tract as “Jo: Boyse.” The Rev. Joseph Boyse was a native of Leeds, who had settled in Dublin in 1683 as joint-pastor with Dr. Daniel Williams. He died in poverty in 1728; and in the same year his works were published in two folio volumes. His son, Samuel Boyse, the poet, died in 1749. [T.S.]]

When the Church was in this situation, the clause of the Sacramental Test was happily sent over from England, tacked to the Popery Bill, which alarmed the whole body of the dissenters to that degree, that their managers began to ply with the greatest artifice, and industry, to prevent its passing into a law. But (to the honour of that parliament be it spoken), the whole body of both Lords and Commons (some few excepted) passed the clause with great readiness, and defended it afterwards with as great resolution.

The immediate consequence of this law was the recovery of several corporations, which the conformists had given to the dissenters, and the preservation of others, to which the “enterprising people” had made very bold and quick approaches.

It was hoped that this signal defeat would have discouraged the dissenters from any further attempts against a law, which had so unanimously passed both houses: But the contrary soon appeared. For, upon meeting of the Parliament, held by the Earl of Pembroke,[3] they quickly reassumed their wonted courage and confidence, and made no doubt, but they should either procure an absolute repeal thereof, or get it so far relaxed, as that they might be admitted to offices of military trust: To this, they apprehended themselves encouraged by a paragraph in his Excellency’s speech to both Houses (which they applied to themselves) which was, “That the Queen would be glad of any expedient, for strengthening the interests of her Protestant subjects of Ireland.”

[Footnote 3: It will be remembered that the earl’s viceroyalty commenced April 7th, 1707. It was in his train that Swift came to England in that year.[T.S.]]

The advocates for the dissenters immediately took hold of this handle, and in order to prepare the way for this expedient, insisted boldly upon their merit and loyalty, charged the Church with persecution, and extolled their signal behaviour in the late Revolution, to that degree, as if by their signal prowess, they had saved the nation.

But all this, was only to prepare the way for the grand engine, which was forming to beat down this law; and that was their expedient addresses.

The first of this kind was, from a provincial synod of the northern dissenters, beginning with high encomiums upon themselves, and as high demands from the public, “for their untainted loyalty in all turns of government,” which they said, was “the natural consequence of their known principles”; expressions, which, had they been applied to them by their adversaries, must have been understood as spoken ironically, and indeed to have been the greatest sarcasm imaginable upon them; especially, when we consider the insolent treatment given to her Majesty in the very same address; for immediately after they pass this compliment upon themselves, they tell her Majesty, they deeply regret the Sacramental Test; and frankly declared, that neither the gentlemen, nor people of their persuasion, could (they must mean _would_) serve her, whatever exigencies might arise, unless that law was repealed.

The managers for the kirk, following this precedent, endeavoured to obtain addresses to the same purpose from the corporations, and though they proved unsuccessful in most, they procured them from several of our most considerable conforming corporations; and that too at a critical juncture, when numbers of Scotch Presbyterians, who had deserved well in the affair of the Union, and could not be rewarded in England (where the Test Act was in force) stood ready to overrun our preferments as soon as the Test should be repealed in Ireland.

But after all when it came to a decisive trial in the House of Commons, the dissenters were defeated.

When the managers found the House of Commons could not be brought into that scheme of an expedient, to be offered by them; their refinement upon this, was, to move for an address, “That the House would accept of an expedient from her Majesty,” but this also was rejected; for by this project, the managers would have led the Queen into this dilemma, either to disoblige the whole body of the dissenters, by refusing to name the expedient, or else to give up the conformists to the insults and encroachments of the dissenters, by the repeal of that law, which was declared by the House of Lords, to be the great security of the Established Church, and of the English interest of Ireland.

The next attempt they made against the Test was during the government of Lord Wharton.[4]

[Footnote 4: Wharton was appointed Lord Lieutenant on November 25th, 1708. This Wharton is the Thomas, Lord Wharton, against whom Swift wrote one of his bitterest and most personal attacks. He was the eldest son of Philip, Lord Wharton, and was created a marquis by George I. He died April 12th, 1715. The ballad of “Lillibullero” is attributed to him. [T.S.]]

The dissenters seemed more resolute now than ever, to have the Test repealed, especially when his Excellency had declared from the throne, “that they were neither to be persecuted nor molested.” For they who had all along called the Test Act a persecution, might reasonably conclude that grievance would be removed; when they were told by the chief governor, that they were not to be even “molested.” But to their great confusion, they were soon undeceived, when they found upon trial, that the House of Commons, would not bear the least motion towards it.

Their movements to repeal the Test Act being stopped this way; the managers were obliged to take several other ways to come at it: And at the time, that some pretended to soothe, others seemed to threaten even the legislature, with a view, (as must be presumed) that those, whom they could not cajole, might be frightened into it.[5]

[Footnote 5: Scott omits the words from “with a view” to the end of the paragraph. [T.S.]]

There happened about the time, when the project of the expedient was on foot, an excellent occasion, to express their resentments against this law, and that was, when great numbers of them refused the oath of allegiance, and to oppose the Pretender; insisting upon a repeal of the Test Act, as the condition of their arming in defence of their Queen and country.

The government was not reduced to such straits, as to submit to that condition; and the Test stood firm, in spite of both the dissenters and the Pretender, until the latter was driven from our coasts: And then, one would have thought the hopes of the former, would have vanished with him.

But it proved quite contrary: For those sons of the earth, rebounding with fresh vigour from their falls, recovered new strength and spirit from every defeat, and the next attempt was bolder (considering the circumstances they were in) than any they had made before.

The case was this: The House of Lords of Ireland had accused them to the Queen of several illegal practices, which highly concerned the safety of our constitution, both in church and state: The particulars of which charge, were summed up in a representation from the Lords to this effect:

“That they (the dissenters) had opposed and persecuted the conformists, in those parts where their power prevailed, had invaded their congregations, propagated their schism in places where it had not the least footing formerly; that they were protected from a legal prosecution by a _noli prosequi_ in the case of Drogheda.”

“That they refused to take conforming apprentices, and confined trade among themselves, exclusive of the conformists.”

“That in their illegal assemblies they had prosecuted and censured their people for being married according to law.”

“That they have thrown public and scandalous reflections upon the Episcopal order, and upon our laws, particularly the Sacramental Test, and had misapplied the royal bounty of L1,200 _per annum_, in propagating their schism, and undermining the Church: And had exercised an illegal jurisdiction in their Presbyteries and Synods,” &c.

To this representation of the Lords, the dissenters remonstrate in an address to the Queen, or rather an appeal to their own people, in which, although it is evident, they were conscious of those crimes whereof they stood accused, as appears by the evasions they make to this high charge. Yet even under these circumstances (such was their modesty) they pressed for a repeal of the Test Act, by the modest appellation of a grievance and odious mark of infamy, &c. Of which more hereafter. There is one particular in another address which I cannot omit. The House of Lords in their representation, had accused one dissenting teacher in particular (well known to Mr. Boyse). The charge was in these words:

“Nor has the legislature itself escaped the censure of a bold author of theirs, who has published in print, that the Sacramental Test is only an engine to advance a state faction, and to debase religion, to serve base and unworthy purposes.”

To this, Mr. Boyse answers, in an address to the Queen, in the year 1712, subscribed only by himself, and five more dissenting teachers, in these words.

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