The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift Volume 03 Swift’s Writings on Religion and the Church, Volume I

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  • 1898
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[Illustration: _Jonathan Swift,

from a picture by Frances Bindon

In the possession of Sir F R Falkiner_]

















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

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

The Romish Church led away from the Constitution as by law established. Dissent set up private authority, which could no more be permitted in religious than it was in political matters; it meant dissension, revolution, and the upheaval of tried and trusted associations. Therefore, the Church of Rome and the teachings of Dissent were alike dangerous; and against both, whenever they attempted the possession of political power, he waged a fierce and uncompromising war. “Where sects are tolerated in a State,” he says, in his “Sentiments of a Church of England Man,” “it is fit they should enjoy a full liberty of conscience, and every other privilege of free-born subjects, to which no power is annexed. And to preserve their obedience upon all emergencies, a government cannot give them too much ease, nor trust them with too little power.”

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

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

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

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























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

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

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

[T. S.]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asgill, Toland, Tindal, Collins, and Coward are classed as the Deistical writers of the eighteenth century. In his “History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century” Mr. Leslie Stephen gives an admirable exposition of their views, and their special interpretation of Locke’s theories. [T.S.]]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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

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

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

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

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

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

[T. S.]


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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dis te minorem quod geris imperas.”–HOR. [5]

[Footnote 5: “Carmina,” iii. 6. 5.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shall therefore mention but one more particular, which I think the Parliament ought to take under consideration; whether it be not a shame to our country, and a scandal to Christianity, that in many towns, where there is a prodigious increase in the number of houses and inhabitants, so little care should be taken for the building of churches, that five parts in six of the people are absolutely hindered from hearing divine service? Particularly here in London, where a single minister, with one or two sorry curates, hath the care sometimes of above twenty thousand souls incumbent on him. A neglect of religion so ignominious, in my opinion, that it can hardly be equalled in any civilized age or country.[7]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[T. S.]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shall begin with religion.

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