The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to Henry St. John – 2A

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AUG. 7, 1714.

I HAD yours of the third; and our country post is so ordered, that I could acknowledge it no sooner. It is true, my lord, the events of five days last week might furnish morals for another volume of Seneca. As to my lord Oxford, I told him freely my opinion before I left the town, that he ought to resign at the end of the session. I said the same thing often to your lordship and my lady Masham, although you seemed to think otherwise, for some reasons: and said so to him one afternoon, when I met you there with my lord chancellor. But, I remember, one of the last nights I saw him (it was at lady Masham's lodgings) I said to him, "That, upon the foot your lordship and he then were, it was impossible you could serve together two months:" and, I think, I was just a week out in my calculation. I am only sorry, that it was not a resignation, rather than a removal; because the personal kindness and distinction I always received from his lordship and you, gave me such a love for you both (if you great men will allow that expression in a little one) that I resolved to preserve it entire, however you differed between yourselves; and in this I did, for some time, follow your commands and example. I impute it more to the candour of each of you, than to my own conduct, that having been, for two years, almost the only man who went between you, I never observed the least alteration in either of your countenances toward me. I will swear for no man's sincerity, much less for that of a minister of state: but thus much I have said, wherever it was proper, that your lordship's proposals were always the fairest in the world, and I faithfully delivered them as I was empowered: and although I am no very skilful man at intrigue, yet I durst forfeit my head, that if the case were mine, I could have either agreed with you, or put you dans votre tort. When I saw all reconciliation impracticable, I thought fit to retire; and was resolved, for some reasons (not to be mentioned at this distance) to have nothing to do with whomever was to be last in. For either I should not be needed, or not be made use of. And let the case be what it would, I had rather be out of the way. All I pretended was, to speak my thoughts freely, to represent persons and things without any mingle of my own interest or passions, and sometimes to make use of an evil instrument, which was likely to cost me dear, even from those for whose service it was employed. I did believe there would be no farther occasion for me, upon any of those accounts. Besides, I had so ill an opinion of the queen's health, that I was confident you had not a quarter of time left for the work you had to do; having let slip the opportunity of cultivating those dispositions she had got after her sickness at Windsor. I never left pressing my lord Oxford with the utmost earnestness (and perhaps more than became me) that we might be put in such a condition, as not to lie at mercy on this great event: and I am your lordship's witness, that you have nothing to answer for in that matter. I will, for once, talk in my trade, and tell you, that I never saw any thing more resemble our proceedings, than a man of fourscore, or in a deep consumption, going on in his sins, although his physician assured him he could not live a week. Those wonderful refinements, of keeping men in expectation, and not letting your friends be too strong, might be proper in their season — Sed nunc non erat his locus. Besides, you kept your bread and butter till it was too stale for any body to care for it. Thus your machine of four years modelling is dashed to pieces in a moment: and, as well by the choice of the regents as by their proceedings, I do not find there is any intention of managing you in the least. The whole nineteen[1] consist either of the highest partymen, or (which mightily mends the matter) of such who left us upon the subject of the peace, and affected jealousies about the succession. It might reasonably be expected, that this quiet possession might convince the successor of the good dispositions of the church party toward him; and I ever thought there was a mighty failure somewhere or other, that this could not have been done in the queen's life. But this is too much for what is past; and yet, whoever observed and disliked the causes, has some title to quarrel with the effects. As to what is to come, your lordship is in the prime of your years, plein des esprits qui fournissent les espérances; and you are now again to act that part (though in another assembly) which you formerly discharged so much to your own honour, and the advantage of your cause. You set out with the wind and tide against you; yet, at last, arrived at your port, from whence you are now driven back into open sea again. But, not to involve myself in an allegory, I doubt whether, after this disappointment, you can go on with the same vigour you did in your more early youth. Experience, which has added to your wisdom, has lessened your resolution. You are now a general, who, after many victories, have lost a battle, and have not the same confidence in yourself or your troops. Your fellow labourers have either made their fortunes, or are past them, or will go over to seek them on the other side. —— Yet, after all, and to resume a little courage; to be at the head of the church interest is no mean station; and that, as I take it, is now in your lordship's power. In order to which, I could heartily wish for that union you mention; because, I need not tell you, that some are more dexterous at pulling down their enemies than, &c. We have certainly more heads and hands than our adversaries; but, it must be confessed, they have stronger shoulders and better hearts. I only doubt my friends, the rabble, are at least grown trimmers; and that, setting up the cry of "trade and wool," against "Sacheverell and the church," has cooled their zeal. I take it for granted, there will be a new parliament against winter; and if they will retain me on the other side as their counsellor, I will engage them a majority. But, since it is possible I may not be so far in their good graces, if your lordship thinks my service may be of any use in this new world, I will be ready to attend you by the beginning of winter. For the misfortune is, that I must go to Ireland to take the oaths; which I never reflected on till I had notice from some friends in London: and the sooner I go the better, to prevent accidents; for I would not willingly want a favour at present. I think to set out in a few days, but not before your lordship's commands and instructions may reach me. I cannot conclude without offering my humblest thanks and acknowledgments, for your lordship's kind intentions toward me (if this accident had not happened) of which I received some general hints. — I pray God direct your lordship: and I desire you will believe me to be what I am, with the utmost truth and respect,

Your lordship's most obedient, &c.