The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 13/From Thomas Wentworth to Jonathan Swift - 1

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LONDON, FEB. 18, 1734-5.

TO honour, and esteem, and admire you, is general to all that know or have heard of you; but to be pleased with your commands, and glad and diligent to obey them, is peculiar to your true friends, of which number I am very desirous to be reckoned. On receiving your letter by Mr. Skerret, I immediately undertook to do him the best service I could, and thought myself happy in having advanced his affair so far, as to get his petition to the house of lords read and agreed to, and a peremptory day agreed to for his being (as this day) heard ex parte, if the other party did not put in their answer before. I likewise got several lords to attend; but, on printing his case, our new lord chancellor[2] (who at present has a great sway in the house) found out, that the petition I had presented for Mr. Skerret had not fully explained matters to the house; because, upon comparing dates, the petition of appeal last year was presented late in the sessions; and that though there was then an order for the respondents to put in their answer in five weeks (the usual time for causes in Ireland) yet the parliament did not sit above a fortnight after; so that it was impossible for the respondents answer to be put in by that time. That the parliament being dissolved, the respondents in Ireland might expect to have been served with a new order this session, which it did not appear was done: and that though in the courts below, if answers were not put in, they proceeded to hear causes ex parte; yet there was this difference, that there they always allowed a time for the defendant to have his cause reheard; but in the house of lords our decrees are final, and it would be hard for any person, by surprise, to be absolutely cut out from making his defence. The whole house seeming to be of the same mind, they put off the cause for Thursday five weeks; and ordered the respondents, in the mean time, to be served with an order to put in their answer; and if they did not answer by that time, the house would proceed absolutely to hear the cause ex parte. I must own to you, the chancellor proposed to put it off only for a month; and it was I alone desired it might be for five weeks, giving for a reason, that since the appellant was disappointed once, after having been at the expense of feeing his counsel, he might not be so a second time: and since his adversaries were ready to make all the chicane possible, they might not have the pretence for another, by saying, as the usual time was five weeks, and this order but for a month, they expected they were to be allowed the usual time; so I thought it was better giving them a week more, than leaving them any room for farther chicane. As I have not seen your friend Mr. Skerret since this order, I do not know how he takes it: but I was resolved to give you this account of what happened but a few hours ago, that you might be convinced of my diligence to gratify you in every thing you desire of, sir, your most sincere faithful humble servant.

As the house of commons were but yesterday on the practice of opening letters, you will not wonder, if I expect this to be opened.

  1. He had been ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the States General during the treaty for the peace of Utrecht.
  2. Talbot.