The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 19/From Charles Wogan to Jonathan Swift - 1
FROM SIR CHARLES WOGAN TO DR. SWIFT.
FEBRUARY 7, 1732-3.
I HAVE had the honour of a very obliging letter, from a person whose penetration I flattered myself I could have escaped; although I might assure him with great sincerity, that I never had a more earnest desire for any man's acquaintance and friendship, than for his. Upon the late occasion, it is true, my design was to have travelled and been received incognito. I had taken my measures for it in the best manner I could devise. But all my art and travestie was vain. His Mentor was superiour to my Uranius, who could not avoid being discovered, as in the story of Telemachus, and striking sail to a more exalted divinity. I own I was somewhat concerned at my being seen in my undress, through all the magnificence of those disguises I had put on. But Mentor has so much the air of a benign and friendly spirit, that my confusion was soon over: and methinks I could be exposed in the midst of all my defects, without any concern, provided it were only to those whom he judges worthy of his intimacy.
Nothing can be more distinguishing, in regard of an unhappy people, than his character of those abroad; nor more just than his remarks upon the genius and sufferings of those at home. But jacta est alea: the set of people he means, can no longer be looked upon as a nation, either in or out of their country. Those who have chosen a voluntary exile, to get rid of oppression, have given themselves up, with great gayety of spirit, to the slaughter, in foreign and ungrateful service, to the number of above 120,000 men, within these forty years. The rest, who have been content to stay at home, are reduced to the wretched condition of the Spartan helots. They are under a double slavery. They serve their inhuman lordlings, who are the more severe upon them, because they dare not yet look upon the country as their own; while all together are under the supercilious dominion and jealousy of another overruling power.
To return to our exiles. Mentor certainly does them that justice which cannot be denied them by any of those nations, among whom they have served; but is seldom or never allowed them by those who can write or speak English correctly. They have shown a great deal of gallantry in the defence of foreign states and pretences, with very little advantage to themselves, but that of being free; and without half the outward marks of distinction they deserved. These southern governments are very slow in advancing foreigners to considerable or gainful preferments. Their chief attention is reserved for their own subjects, to make them some amends for the heavy yoke they have laid over them. The only fruit the Irish have reaped by their valour, is their extinction; and that general fame, which they have lost themselves, to acquire for their country, already lost, with respect to them. They had the honour of Ireland at heart; while those who actually possessed their country, were little affected with any other glory but that of England; which they advanced with great bravery during all the late wars. They were content to forget they were Irishmen; and England, in return for that compliment, has graciously conferred upon them, as she still does, the first employments both at sea and land; whereby they have been enabled to leave very comfortable establishments to their children: whereas the Irish exiles can only be said to have buried the synagogue with honour. They were undoubtedly the flower of the catholick distinction of subjects. They are extinct to a very inconsiderable number, and have not left one single settlement in all the continent to any of their posterity. They had always the post of honour allowed them, where it was mixed with danger; and lived in perpetual fire, which was all they could bequeath as an inheritance to their issue, who are extremely few, on account of the little encouragement given for begetting them. The very scum of French refugees have had much better treatment and fortune in those countries, where they were only a charge to the government, than the Irish nobility and gentry have met with, where their courage and fidelity were in a great measure its support. Had it not been much better for them to have gone in search of new establishments out of the known world, and made some settlement for themselves and their posterity in the antipodes?
As I was but a new comer among them, I have often blamed their men of chief distinction and sense, for having rejected the terms offered by the prince of Orange to my uncle Tyrconnel, in favour of the Irish catholicks in general, before the decisive battle of Aghrim; which (by the by) till the sudden fall of their general, was fought with more bravery on their side, than any battle has been, perhaps, for some centuries past, by any people under equal disadvantages. The prince was touched with the fate of a gallant nation, that had made itself a victim to French promises, and ran headlong to its ruin for the only purpose, in fact, of advancing the French conquests in the Netherlands, under the favour of that hopeless diversion in Ireland, which gave work enough to 40000 of the best troops of the grand alliance of Augsbourg. He longed to find himself at the head of the confederate army, with so strong a reinforcement. In this anxiety he offered the Irish catholicks the free exercise of their religion; half the churches of the kingdom; half the employments civil and military too, if they pleased, and even the moiety of their ancient properties. These proposals, though they were to have had an English act of parliament for their sanction, were refused with universal contempt. Yet the exiles, in the midst of their hard usage abroad, could not be brought to repent of their obstinacy. Whenever I pressed them upon the matter, their answer was generally to this purpose; "If England can break her publick faith, in regard of the wretched articles of Limerick, by keeping up a perpetual terrour and persecution over that parcel of miserable, unarmed peasantry, and dastard gentry we have left at home, without any other apology or pretence for it, but her wanton fears and jealousies; what could have been expected by the men of true vigour and spirit, if they had remained in their country, but a cruel war, under greater disadvantages, or such a universal massacre as our fathers have often been threatened with by the confederate rebels of Great Britain?" — Ad quod non fuit responsum. — Yet their liberty and glory abroad is but the price of their blood; and, even at that expense, they have only purchased a more honourable Haseldama.
It was impossible for a people to thrive, after having been driven by their too warrantable distrust of their enemies, into the snares laid for them by their false friends. France, upon their arrival, gave them a cruel reform of their officers and of their pay for a welcome, by a scandalous breach of faith; sacrificed them to her wars; made their zeal and spirit the dupes of her idle pretences; and, at last, inhumanly disbanded great numbers of them to the wide world, after the peace of Ryswick. Had they been kept together in one body from the beginning, to the number of 30000 men, according to the promise that tempted them partly to quit their country, they had made a much better figure in the world. Richelieu's politicks were against it. He was a great master, particularly in the judgment he had formed of the valour of his countrymen; since he has left it on record, that bodies of foreign troops must be mixed with French, in order to give them emulation. Upon this account the Irish were parcelled by brigades among the many armies entertained by the French king. Although this repartition was very mortifying to them, they ever behaved in their several bands apart with particular distinction. They never found themselves in any engagement, where they did not pierce the opposite enemy. Not one regiment of them ever fled, till it was in a manner left alone; and during all the late wars, in which their principals were generally worsted, they cannot be said to have lost two pair of colours. The French never gained a victory, to which those handfuls of Irish were not known to have contributed in a singular manner; nor lost a battle, in which they did not preserve, or rather augment their reputation, by carrying off colours and standards from the victorious enemy. From this we may conclude, without any great vanity, that they had been an impenetrable phalanx, if they had been allowed to continue in one body; and that, instead of acquiring glory by retail, they had gained complete victories; as one single brigade of them did at Mellazo, having driven the whole German army into the town or the sea, after they had been deserted by the Spanish troops and generals to a man. Yet their principal officers, who have signalized themselves equally upon all occasions, have been advanced to no higher preferment than that of lieutenant general; whereas Scots, Germans, Livonians, Italians, have been promoted to the dignity of marêchals of France. But as the valour of the Irish is already taken for granted abroad, and their zeal turned into a sort of ridicule, on account of the unprecedented usage it has met with at home, it is modestly presumed all over the world, that they scarce need any reward for their virtue, but their virtue alone.
I have often been at a loss for the cause of this odd destiny, that attends the Irish catholicks in all foreign courts and countries. They are the first called upon for any service that requires fidelity and resolution; the last distinguished with any eminent marks of honour or advantage. Let them behave ever so well, if it be thought fit to give them any recompense, it is always inferiour to what might be judged suliicient for men of any other country in the like case. Whatever others might be entitled to grumble at as a reward, must be received by them as a gift. Whatever is taken from them, either at home or abroad, is lawful prize. Their zeal, in regard of loyalty and religion, has been so cruelly misrepresented, and their unparallelled sufferings so involved in shades, or clad with an air of justice, that they are become a by-word in all countries alike; which are perfectly agreed to keep them low, after the example of their own princes, upon a presumption that they could not have been used so extremely ill, if they had not in some measure deserved it. A long and perpetual train of misfortunes has a strange tendency toward putting a people in the wrong; or, at best, making them the objects of ridicule. The Irish, for having been steady to their principles, and not as cunning knaves as the two neighbouring nations, have groaned, during the two last centuries, under all the weight of injustice, calumny, and tyranny, of which there is no example, in equal circumstances, to be shown in any history of the universe. All this calumny has been sounded into the ears of all Europe by their enemies, both foreign and domestick; and thereby gained credit, more or less, on account of not having been sufficiently controverted or refuted in time. Their constant misfortunes have given a sort of sanction to all this imposture and iniquity. They could not defend themselves, in the midst of so much division at home, from so many powerful and confederated enemies, who had alienated the hearts of their very sovereigns from them, in order to make him the first, and them the last victims of the tragedy. In the mean time they were involved in too much war, or in too much misery, to be the relaters of their own story with any advantage; or found the English language as backward as the English nation and government, to do them common justice. Their enemies have spared them the labour with a vengeance.
The mongrel historians of the birth of Ireland, from Stanihurst and Dr. King down to the most wretched scribbler, cannot afford them a good word, in order to curry favour with England. Our callow bards of the drama, with the same view, draw their first pens against their country, and force their way into the world through their mother's womb. The English writers take the hints from them with pleasure; and delight in grafting the flattest nonsense, and most silly artifices, upon teigueism, to divert that honest generation of numskulls, the mobs of England, from the Land's End to Berwick upon Tweed. In regard of improprieties in the turn of a foreign speech or accent, totus mundus egit histrionem; but the genuine characters of a nation ought to be as sacred, even upon the stage, as in history. In the days of king Charles the second, the Irish bravery and fidelity had the applause of whole theatres; but now nothing but Irish stupidity, and wretched small craft, will go down, even upon that of Dublin.
As all the honour the protestant Irish have acquired by their pen or their swords, passes generally for English; so the English, and their adherents in Ireland, have been in a long confederacy, before Clarendon appeared, to suppress or tarnish all the renown accruing to that unhappy country, from the worth and gallant actions of the catholicks. Their pens are ever dipped in bitterness and detraction; as if whatever could be reckoned valuable in that unfortunate people, were a lessening to the honour of the English nation, to which all their incense is addressed. However, though they have done horrible outrages to justice and veracity, by propagating lies, more or less, all over the world, they must be allowed to have acted with great sagacity, in favour of themselves. For if the Irish had not been represented, with uncommon industry, and in full cry, as a barbarous and stupid people, breakers of pubiick faith, cowards, murderers of the innocent, without any provocation, in every corner of their country; rebels to their lawful sovereigns, in whose defence they have ruined and annihilated themselves; all these attributes (except that of folly) had necessarily fallen to the share of England; and she must have been looked upon, by the whole universe, as the most lawless and inhuman tyrant upon the face of the earth. Yet all this villany ought not, in strict justice, to be imputed to her. She had not gone all those lengths of cruelty and iniquity, if she had not been under the force of Cromwell, and the influence of a Clarendon.
In the mean time Ireland is left to trapes in her old draggletailed weeds, by her own children; bribed, by their attention and respect for England, to abandon her to all the dirt and barbarism laid at her door by her ancient and modern enemies; while other countries are brightening up in their story and character by the industry of their writers successively labouring to adorn them. The newest accounts given all over Europe, of the soil, genius, improvement, and customs of Ireland, may be dated 400 years ago. She is still reckoned as savage as she was under the oppression of the Danes, or after the first incursion of the English, who drove her, in spite of her voluntary submission, into wildness. For, after all, if I invite people civilly into my house, and they will not admit me to sit at my own fire, but rather will grow insolent, and force my family to herd in the bare court among my cattle, which I cannot reckon my own, but upon the foot of their will and pleasure; I must either quit my dwelling altogether, or lay about me like a madman till I can repossess it.
On account of this perpetual silence about Ireland, all Europe looks upon her as under a constant fog, the seat of dulness, and the dismal mansion of ignorance and distress. Scarce any people are taken for mere Irish, either in England or on the continent, but the vulgar of the country, and the few unfortunate exiles. The very distinction carries in the face of it a lessening, and strikes the fancy with the ungrateful idea of misery. Besides, the arms of whiggism are extremely long, and reach them to their remotest haunts. There are a thousand instances of this enchantment; and, notwithstanding the known ingratitude of France, some of the Irish had been marêchals of France before now: the whole voice of that nation was for them; but the fear of disobliging the present government of England, gave a check to their promotion. As for the new nobility and gentry of Ireland, they pass currently for English abroad; and Dublin, the fourth city of Christendom, is still taken for no more than the Eblana of Ptolemy.
Thus Ireland has not only lost all her ancient progeny of any distinction, and seen them buried under the ruins of calumny and distress, by the overbearing pride and power of those several swarms of inmates thrown in upon her, at several times, and supported by her masters of Great Britain; those very colonies are no sooner settled in that country, and warmed into affection for it, than they are taken for mere Irish too; and so must be driven off to make room for new ones. Yet all this is not enough. Ireland might still have some name in the world, if she were allowed what belongs to her: But she is stripped into the bargain of all the honour and merit that might redound to her, either from the actions or geniuses of her latter offspring. The very name of Irish carries so uncouth an idea along with it, especially in England, that all those who depend chiefly upon her for their fortune, or their fame, are shy, at their first setting out, of making an open confession of their country, and suffer themselves to pass for English; while England permits the cheat to pass upon the rest of the world, and naturalizes them by a tacit consent; upon the modest presumption that wit and merit, such as theirs, can be only of her own growth. Thus England, without being at the pains of assuming it, is allowed a right to all those who have either written or fought in English with any distinction, as Scotland impudently whips away from Ireland all her old saints and her sophists, on account of having shared with her the same name of Scotia. The Ushers, Boyles, Congreves, Garths, Denhams, Swifts, Ormonds, Cadogans, Aylmers, &c. are all taken for English in foreign countries. Mac Flecno, and all the wretched adepts in metaphysicks, are counted Irish in course: We have had but one Dunse of irrefragable fame, the father of Dunses by thousands all over Europe; and the Scots have kidnapped him from us, by the consent or connivance of all modern dictionaries, notwithstanding the number of sheriffs and sheriffs bailiffs, of the same name, upon the records of our ancient city of Dublin. In short, what can Ireland have left her, but her bogs and her stupidity, since England and Scotland have swept away the stakes? If we must give up all our great men of war and figure to England, let her even show us the example, and resign to the Normans her Plantagenets, Talbots, and Nevills, conquerors of France.
However, we will not stick out in our controversy about these mighty men. They shall belong to England, since they have made her a present of their arms and allegiance. But, in the name of wonder, let us have our men of parts and letters. Let not the English wits, and particularly my friend Mr. Pope (whom I had the honour to bring up to London, from our retreat in the forest of Windsor, to dress à la mode, and introduce at Will’s coffeehouse), run down a country, as the seat of dulness, to whose geniuses he owns himself so much indebted. What encomiums does he not lay out upon Roscommon and Walsh, in the close of his excellent Essay upon Criticism? How gratefully does he express his thanks to Dr. Swift, sir Samuel Garth, Mr. Congreve, and my poor friend and neighbour doctor Parnell, in the preface to his admirable translation of the Iliad, in return for the many lights and lessons they administered to him both in the opening, and the prosecution of that great undertaking? Is it possible that these heroes of wit and learning, whom he commemorates with so much applause, and of whom he glories in having been the pupil, could have been of the birth of Ireland? while England could only furnish him with titled pageants and names of quality, fitter to swell and encourage the subscription, than to polish or enrich the performance? But, granting they were Irishmen; that it seems is no manner of argument in favour of their country. Were not all those lights and lessons given by them to Mr. Pope, in the purer air of England? Was it not to that air alone they owed the refinement and elevation of their geniuses? Mr. Pope, though the best natured man living, to my knowledge, had laughed at them, with great gayety, had they pretended to forward any notices or instructions to him by letters written under their native fogs.
I remember to have been present at a scene humorous enough upon this very subject at Will's coffeehouse. The sages there, in profound contemplation, were very gravely offering their several reasons, why wit could not be of the growth of Ireland. Some would have it owing to the bogginess of the soil, which must undoubtedly and imperceptibly convey too much humidity to the brain; others to the perpetual cloudiness of the sky, that must, of all necessity, cast a dull influence, infusing melancholy, sloth, and heaviness to the understanding: many to the want of sunshine, so sovereign in invigorating and giving cheerfulness and alacrity to the spirits. Among such a number of shining geniuses, who brightened up under the continual mist over London, it was hard to end the dispute about the cause, while all were agreed about the fact. At length the wag, Bob Dodwell (who had a little before forced a company of foot from lord Peterborow, as a sort of amends for a severe joke upon his country), rose up with a very demure countenance, as demanding audience of the very oaf-full assembly; which being granted ——
"My lords and gentlemen" says he, "it is a very moot point to which of those causes we may ascribe the universal dulness of the Irish. It may be owing, perhaps, to some one; perhaps to the combination of all together: God only knows, who was pleased to order it so from the beginning. But that the case is, as you agree it in your great wisdom, I shall offer a familiar and unanswerable proof. My father had studied with great applause in Oxford (for had he studied in Dublin, where he was born, he had made but a very slender progress in learning, as you shall find by the sequel.) In short, he was allowed, in that famous university, to be both an excellent divine, and a most eloquent preacher. From thence he removed to Dublin; where, on account of the reputation he had justly acquired abroad, he was instantly preferred to the parish of St. Mican's. Great was the concourse to hear him; but much greater the surprise to find how little his sermons answered the character the world had given of him. This could not miss being whispered to him: he made several efforts, in vain, to regain his credit: his sermons were still worse and worse liked: at length his church was almost forsaken, and he left to hold forth to very few but the old women.
"The man was at his wit's end to find the cause of this unaccountable change in him: at last he wisely judged it must be owing to the climate in which he writ; and to make proof of it, set out one Monday morning in the packetboat for Holyhead; there composed his sermon for next Sunday; and returning to Dublin on the eve, after having begged of some friends, out of mere charity, to assist at it, preached divinely well, to the utter astonishment of his auditory, charmed at the excellency of his performance. This miracle rung immediately over the whole city; and he, making use of the same happy stratagem every week, of composing at Holyhead what he was to deliver from the pulpit in Dublin, the doctor's name was up: all Dublin thronged to hear him; and persons of the best distinction resorted thither from all parts of the kingdom to see this second Livy.
"However, as the devil owed the doctor a spite, it chanced unfortunately for him, that he was obliged, for some slight indispositions, to take physick two or three several times on the very days the packet boat set out; and being thereby under the unhappy necessity of penning his sermons for the week in Dublin, his auditory were astonished, on those occasions, to find them good for nothing. By these ups and downs of the doctor the mystery at length came out; and whenever the packet boat sailed for Holyhead, the common question, over the whole city, was, whether the doctor had gone on board? If the answer was in the affirmative, there was a universal joy throughout; all were sure of being charmed the next Sunday. If in the negative, the poor doctor was left, on that day, to preach to the bare walls."
While Bob held forth in this manner, with a very grave phyz, that covered a wicked undersneer, very natural to him, the scene (I must own) was admirable, in regard of the auditory; and could give a by-stander room to form a certain judgment of the weight of brains that came to the share of every one of them. Upon the opening of the discourse, all ears were alert: it was a solemn silence and profound attention! for when that Demogorgon, Ireland, is to be run down, it is wonderful how almost every English heart bounds for joy. Before Bob had brought his father back from Holyhead the first time, some had sense enough to see the ridicule levelled at themselves, and sneaked off. Others were so numskull'd as to wait for the sermon composed in Anglesey, and delivered with applause at St. Mican's, whereat a sudden light broke in upon their noddles; they could stand the joke no longer, and slunk away too. But when it came to the unhappy consequences of the doctor's taking physick, the whole shoal of virtuosoes were sensible to the stroke, and voided the room at once, except one blue, one green ribbon, and a lieutenant-general of the queen's army, that had courage and insipidity enough to hear the poor doctor preach to the bare walls. Then the cloud that had hung so long and so obstinately over their intellectuals, disappeared. However, they were too stout to quit the field as their betters had done, and so contented themselves with casting sheep's eyes and silly leers at each other, while Bob and I enjoyed their stupidity.
This received notion of dulness in the Irish, has not taken its rise from the mob, though they gladly join in the cry. The English populace, the bluntest and most unenlightened race of people in Europe, are incapable of making so nice a discovery. They can readily imagine that the Irish have horns and hoofs; and it has been found easy, and of excellent use in politicks, not very long ago, to persuade them that every Irishman was somewhat more than of Venner's gang; since, instead of only chasing, he was to have slain his thousands. What affects the English mob, with regard to Irishmen, is terrour. Our English ancestors dispatched into Ireland, and their descendants, have taken effectual care to fasten this bugbear upon their mother country, and represent the Irish as monsters and cannibals, in order to justify their own more barbarous oppressions upon that people. These dreadful ideas have left so strong an impression, that even at this day, when the nations are more mixed than they have been formerly, an Irishman is looked upon by the vulgar in England, remote from great towns, as a raw head and bloodybones! It is therefore that the rumour spread of an Irish massacre has been found, of all stratagems, the most effectual toward promoting any change of government in England, by the extreme facility of raising a fright in the good people there, whenever the Trojan horse is supposed to be filled with Irishmen. This may suffice to excuse that honest generation of mortals (for whom I have a great regard, as I have a real concern for all men that are easily thrown into a panick fear) from having had any hand in introducing the opinion of Irish dulness. That grand arcanum could be discovered only by the sublimer geniuses of England.
However, this opinion, foolishly attributed to the climate, has some truth in it, with regard to those remnants of old nobility and gentry, who have been stripped, by the iniquity of Cromwell, and the greater one of Clarendon, of all they had a title to, except the blood and spirit of their ancestors. These are a severe and a very inconvenient burden to them at home, where they are obliged to keep them under hatches in the neighbourhood of barracks, and of more tyrannical justices of peace. There are in Ireland a thousand well born Brutuses of this kind, whose souls are stupified by the perpetual dread of persecution, and dare not peep out of their bodies, lest they should fall under the lash of the penal laws. But snatch these potatoe mongers from their immediate slavery, or from the ploughshares to which their fathers have been reduced, into an air of liberty and politeness; transplant them but for one month into the hotbeds of London, how sudden is the change! how surprising the improvement! The booby instantly commences beau, bully, sharper, and cuckoldmaker with a vengeance! he is passe, presto, vite, Jack of all trades; all fire, all mercury, in the turn of a hand! With what dexterity does he empty the pockets of that notable son of earth, the English squire, at seven or eleven? What a sturdyback is he to a bashful English peer? What an awe does his modest assurance create in all the assemblies of men? How do the London ladies fall into fits at his approach, alarmed at the sight of his broad shoulders, and engaging, though somewhat rough, addresses? But, to conclude this wonderful metamorphose of mere animals into smart and dextrous fellows, by the change of air, though it may go against one's stricter morals to justify their industry; it is hard to blame them for taking what reprisals they can upon the publick in England, by way of revenge, or at least some amends for the irreparable wrongs and losses at home.
In the mean time, it is impossible for an upright and good natured spirit, not to look with concern upon the inhuman slavery of the poor in Ireland. Since they have neither libery nor schools allowed them; since their clergy, generally speaking, can have no learning but what they scramble for, through the extremities of cold and hunger, in the dirt and ergotism of foreign universities; since all together are under the perpetual dread of persecution, and have no security for the enjoyment of their lives or their religion, against the annual thunders of the English vatican, but the present moment: how can it be expected they should keep clear of superstition, which is so elegantly and so truly called by a modern author, the spleen of the soul? But that of my spirit is up, and I must out with it, after having asked pardon of my friend Mr. Pope, for having animadverted upon his jokes in the Dunciad, with regard to Ireland. Those railleries are so agreeable to the humour of the world in general, that, like favourite vices, they carry their excuse along with them.
Heu patria! infidis nimium vicina Britannis;
Olim altrix divûm; soboli jam sæpe noverca
Dura tuæ, inque dies aliis data præda colonis.
Te, dum spernit, arat novus accola: mox ubi cultam
Diligit, illiciti pœnas luit exul amoris;
Aut sua colla jugo, demissis aurbus, ultro
Aptat, inops animi, et jam non sua seminat arva.
Sic, uno excusso, te comprimit alter adulter
Nequior, et scortum infœlix post improba calcat
Oscula; seu Scotus ille rapax, seu Saxo superbus.
Quis Deus hisce favet stupris? tua deperit usque
Stirps antiqua; novis solum licet esse beatis:
Inque vicem sese tam dira examina pellunt
Certatim: tibi rara quies; tibi perfidus idem
Hostis et hospes inest. Qui dividit, imperat Anglus,
Immeritam in terris matrem te scilicet unam
Temnere fas, et amare nefas? Quis strenuus ausit
Consuluisse tibi, et non immemor esse parentis,
Semper in exitium præceps ruit. Imminet Anglus,
Iratisque frui divis jubet; utque tumescit
Bile jecur, crudelis et implacabilis instat.
Religio dat opem sceleri; nec deficit atrox
Inter quos, invita paris, discordia fratres.
Tantis victa malis servit fortuna Medusæ
Angliæ; at horrificos angues quatit ista quotannis,
Ut libet esse truci; seu rumpere fœdera malit,
Seu fera bella ciet civilia; spargere pestes
Vafra, dies condit lætos; tibi turpis egestas,
Et metus et dolus, et malesuade peritia legum
Invigilant: at nec melior, neque fortior illa,
Ni divisa ruas; ni tu tibi sævior hostis.
Nec satis est in vota tuæ jurâsse tyrannæ,
Et coluisse novos renuenti poplite ritus,
Improba si miseram non rideat, atque catenis
Crimina ficta tuis et dedecus insuper addat
Historiis fallax mordacibus: inde per orbem
Justis victa diis, simul immiserabilis audis.
Dùm despecta jaces, Angli pueri atque puellæ
Illudent, impunè rudem, stolidamque notantes,
Et magis insulsi jocus es et fabula vulgi.
Undique te lacerant spinæ; rapit Anglia flores
Usque tuos: . . . . .
. . . . . . Frustrà tibi lucet Apollo
Gratus, et æterno faverunt carmine Musæ;
Frustrà animos virtute tuos Mars impiger auxit:
Cedit in Angligenas decus et laus transfuga fures.
Nimirum quodcumque tui fecere nepotes
Fortiter, aut sacris moniti scripsere carnænis,
Desinit esse tuum! nec gens inimica cachinnis
Parcit, dum tibi raptat opes; tua splendida mendax
Induit et falsis ovat insgnita trophæis.
Proh scelus! Harpyæ manibus dum plaudit utrisque,
Te nudam atque inopem totus te sibilat orbis!
Nempe nec è gnatis aderit, qui vindicet ultor
Exuvias? si nemo domi, nisi proditor, ausim
Ferre, parens, licet exul, opem. Sanxisse nefandam,
Aut siluisse nefas fraudem. Manet unicus heros.
Ictus amore tui miseræ (cognomen Achillei
Is, ποδας ὠκυς, habet) nec tantis hostibus impar,
Sortis et invidiæ pergit tela aspera contra,
Et quatit indomitam, mediis in millibus, hastam.
Immemor ipse sui, spretæ memor usque parentis,
Hic tibi fidus adest — Hoc uno excepto, alienos
Quisque domi patitur manes; estque omnis Hibernus
Speve, metuve Anglus. —
The remains of the Irish (Relliquæ Dancum atque immitis Achillei) labour under another very great inconvenience. They are far from partaking of the indulgence, or rather privilege allowed to all other people, by an exemption from any general charge on account of personal defects or vilianies. If one Irishman, of any distinction, be found a blockhead, a knave, a traitor, or coward, there arises a certain mirth upon the discovery, among strangers of all kinds, especially the English; as if they were glad to light upon an example in that nation, of what is a pretty general rule in most countries, at this time of day. But, where they dare joke upon it, the single blot is imputed, with great gayety, to that whole people. Thus all Ireland is made answerable for the faults of every one of her children; and every one of these bears the whole weight of his country upon his shoulders. This is the greatest of all compliments, if taken in a right light. It presupposes a certain infallibility annexed to the Irish alone, which makes the world enjoy any exception from it with so much pleasure. In this uncouth attitude the Irishman must, in his own defence, and that of his whole country, be braver, and more nice, in regard of his reputation, than it is necessary for any other man to be. All that he gets generally for his pains, is the character of having behaved as might be expected from an Irishman: yet, if there be any crime or mistake in his conduct, not only he, but his whole country, is sure to pay for it. This, in strictness, regards only the Irishmen abroad; those at home may be Englishmen, and join in the banter, when they please.
All this is owing to the calumny dispersed, time out of mlnd, by the tongues and pens of the two neighbouring nations, in order to justify their own barbarous proceedings in regard of that unhappy people. But, not to mispend our time upon those wretched historians and geographers, who have continued so long to mislead the world in that respect, there has appeared, of late, a writer of importance, the malignity of whose aspersions upon the Irish, has spread itself, with an air, both at home and abroad. This is the famous lord Clarendon, whose long legend is translated into French. He was the man generally employed by king Charles the first, in that ruinous paper war he unfortunately waged with his parliamentarians, who never entered into negotiation with him, but with a view of imposing upon the people, and procuring a respite for themselves, when they were inferiour in the field. In this fatal medley of war and peace, both out of their proper season, the king was undone, as well as the church and monarchy, by the mixture of fear and corruption that reigned in Clarendon, and his fellows of the privy council. They engaged him to strip himself of his rights in favour of his rebels; and then took effectual care to alienate his mind from his most loyal subjects, especially the Irish, whom they represented as a parcel of inhuman, intractable, and senseless brutes, in order to deter him from accepting all they were worth in men and money, to support his sinking cause. These notable counsellors, after having done all the vile work inspired to them by their cowardice, or their hollow intrigues with parliament, fled generally to it, and became its dupes at last. The king, robbed by their infusions of the assistance of his most gallant and loyal friends, both in England and Ireland, found himself obliged to fly to the Scots, who soon delivered him up to his mortal enemies.
Clarendon followed the fate of the royal son, and would not suffer him to transport himself into Ireland, at the instance of that English hero, lord Digby, in order to vindicate his own cause, and that of his father, while he was yet alive. By his removal into France, that was then, and a long time before, in a tacit confederacy with the parliament, the father lost his life upon the scaffold; the loyalists, and especially the Irish, were devoted to destruction soon after, for having been willing to support the king, in spite of his council. They lost their lives, and all their lands at home, under the violence of a triumphant rebellion, when they had no prince to countenance or unite them. Numbers followed the royal exile; changed sides with him, as he was obliged to change protection with the contending powers of France and Spain; served him faithfully, and assisted him in his distress. But the Clarendons of the council had contrived matters so well, that the father king could not maintain his rights, because they would not let him trust his friends; nor the son ever be restored, but by the declared enemies and assassins of his father.
At the restoration, that ought to have settled the fundamentals both of church and state, upon a basis no more to be shaken by popular commotions, the joy was so universal throughout, upon the meeting of the king and his people, that they unhappily passed their time in capping of courtesy and compliments with each other. The king would exact nothing from them with an air of resolution, out of pure modesty and grateful deference to his restorers. Though he was very hard put to it for the maintaining of his own family, and in no manner of condition to reward his fellow sufferers, he was advised, forsooth, only to recommend to his people, with great humility, what he should have demanded with authority for the redress of his and their former wrongs, and the farther security both of the temporal and spiritual establishment. The people, on the other hand, were grown so weary of their past servitude, and so charmed to see their lawful prince among them, that they waited only for his commands, to show their prompt obedience, and looked upon all his slight overtures, as things he had very little at heart.
In this giddy interval, the occasion of securing the rights both of church and state was lost: and the prime minister Clarendon, who was taken for the king's second self, profited by the mutual ecstacy of king and people, to advance the ends of his own avarice and ambition. While the prince, after so tedious an exile, gave himself up to the enjoyment of his present happiness, the subjects squared all the regulations of government, and the measures of justice, by the standard of Clarendon, whom they reckoned the faithful echo of their master's intentions. The plans of ecclesiastical and civil establishments were equally committed to his care; and he has left such a gangrene in both, as has since reached their very vitals. The church, it is true, was restored to her livings; but her pales were so ill fenced, that an inundation of all those sectaries, who had so lately born her down to the ground, has forced its way into her very sanctuary; and while they graciously suffer her name to subsist, appropriate to themselves all her riches and authority. Clarendon, in that happy conjuncture, might have gone the lengths of Laud and Strafford with success. But their undaunted zeal never could inhabit such a heart as his. They had rendered her one of the most firm and amiable societies in the universe, free from tyranny, inaccessible to heresy: whereas, in her present state, she is become the helpless victim of Clarendon's politicks, and neither durst stand by her principles, nor assert her doctrine, while all her hierarchy is in heterodox hands. Whatever the appearances may be, she has, in fact, changed places with her adversary. Presbytery is become episcopal; and she is reduced, in regard of her authority and livings, to be only presbyterian; in short, she has taken a huge dose of laudanum; and is in no danger, though she have no pulse, because she has been forced to sleep extremely sound.
All this has befallen the church, as a necessary consequence of Clarendon's horrible prevarications and injustices with respect to the state. In all national churches, loyalty and religion are linked in a very close union, and tend naturally to the support of each other. Where the one is wounded in any essential part, the evil is taking, and the other suffers of course. Clarendon opened the administration of king Charles the second, with the most unexampled and impolitick scene, in regard of monarchy, that ever appeared in the world. The church and monarchy had been just rescued from the claws of a horrid rebellion. Those loyalists, whom neither the corruption of the former privy council, nor the terrours of the parliament, had withdrawn from their zeal for the royal cause, had been long groaning under cruel oppression or miserable exile. They had now reason to flatter themselves, not only with the repossession of their lands, but the reward of their sufferings and services. But, though thousands of loyal families had been undone by the rebellion, Clarendon, by imposing on his master's indolence and facility, ordered matters so, that he was the only considerable gainer by the Restoration, and made his fortune by perpetuating the distress and unaccountable hard fate of the cavaliers, after the return of their prince. Those men of quality alone, who had the king's immediate favour, or cunning enough to deal with the chancellor in his own way, were reinstated in their lands. The rest, and the far greater number, were left to the wide world, or the permission of sharping by a lottery, which unworthy resource was soon taken from them. The rebels and their issue, the spawn of fanaticism and rebellion, were continued in their ill-gotten possessions; and consequently, as they had art enough to dissemble their old religion and principles, were gaily admitted into the best preferments both in church and state, and lent a helping hand to all their brethren in iniquity, under the same mask. The abandoned cavaliers, and their disinherited offspring, must even make the best of a bad world; and since they were undone by loyalty, endeavour to repair their broken fortunes by faction, and lie in wait for an opportunity to be revenged of the royal family. This could not be long missing in a government, the majority of whose supporters were divided against it by their rotten and antimonarchical principles; and therefore it is observable, that the most strenuous opposers of the royal cause since the restoration, were, and still are, the descendants of those families that had behaved with the staunchest loyalty in the days of king Charles the first.
Thus the proceedings of Clarendon, upon the restoration, only laid in seed for a larger crop of rebellion. How could the church and monarchy thrive, by fostering their covert foes in their very bosom, and obliging their only friends to become their inveterate enemies? No loyalty in the universe, but the Irish alone, could be proof against such usage. No church in Christendom, not even the catholick, could stand firm and united, if sectaries of all the present denominations were admitted, upon the merit of one ceremony, or rather chosen to make up her hierarchy. And thus Clarendon, by his unjust and interested politicks, has been the real father of whiggism, the second edition corrected and amended of the Roundheads, that has found the way to make an indisputable property of Ireland, and to turn the natural frame of the church and state of England hors de page, by the address of stepping into their places.
This may seem hard upon the memory of that gentleman; but, after the most impartial reflection, it will be found undoubted truth. The gallant lord Digby opened the charge against him in parliament, the third year of his maleadministration, to no purpose. His ascendant was still too prevalent over the king and the English nation. Most of the rebellious members, who owed their all to him, were yet alive; and the universities had not yet had time to form the youth to the ancient principles of honour and integrity. At length the veil was drawn off, and the eyes of the whole nation opened upon the iniquity of Clarendon, during the most loyal and wise session of parliament that perhaps ever was seen in England. But it was too late. Foundations could not be removed then, without threatening the whole building once again. The only redress that could be found for such a heap of crying injustices, that are, and ever must be, in force, was the head of Clarendon, that contrived and established them — an admirable statemender, who had found no other expedient for the support of the monarchy, but that of putting loyalty to death!
He fled his country and his master, after he had done them all the mischief he could, because he durst not stand his trial. He vanished, and left a horrible stench behind him to this day. The few friends he had, upon his impeachment, could find no defence for him against the vile treachery of having kept correspondence with his master's enemies during his exile, and made a visit, incognito, to Cromwell, upon his return from his embassy in Spain. He had no pretence to secure him from the vengeance due to his former crimes, but that ample act of oblivion he had penned himself upon the restoration, and had made so vastly comprehensive, in order to find room in it for his own iniquity. But that mare magnum could not save him from the prodigious charge of having sold, not settled the whole kingdom of Ireland afterward. His flight alone could rescue him from the wrath of the whole English nation against him, for his having doomed so many thousands of innocent, or rather of meriting people, to the utmost extremities of shame, cold and hunger, to serve the purposes of his own corruption, and make rebellion as lasting as the world.
Not all the mutual cruelty of the civil war, not the massacre acted in Ireland, first under the connivance of the roundhead justices at Clontarf, Ballock, &c.; next by the Scots in the island of Maggee, near Carrickfergus, and then by sir Phelim O Neil's brutal revenge in a part of the north, which was retaliated more than tenfold by Coote, Ireton, and Cromwell, over that whole kingdom, can equal the list of those loyal Irish families which have been raised out of the world in miserable infamy by the pen of Clarendon! The rump-parliament, and all its emissaries, were but transient plagues, that rioted for a while over the church, the state, and the royal family of England. The hand of God soon overtook them. They died, and all their iniquities and abominations had died with them, had not the church, the state, and the royal family, found their bane perpetuated to immortality, by the single corruption of Mr. Hyde, the chancellor of the exchequer and the lord high chancellor of England.
During his voluntary exile, Clarendon, to justify himself, and his amphibious companions of the former privy council, digested at Rouen that long and eloquent satire he had composed, for the most part, in the isle of Jersey, upon the king's father and all his friends, but especially the Irish; because they never can forgive who do the wrong. He has taken a vast deal of pains to blanch rebellion in all its promoters, and cast invidious colours upon the most eminent loyalists. He can scarce find a man of thorough worth and sense in the royal party in England, except Mr. Hyde, the chancellor of the exchequer, and the lord Falkland. No Irishman, has the honour of his approbation, but Daniel O Neil and colonel Wogan. However, though he allows the former more sense than came to the share of all his countrymen together, he vitiates that sense with a mixture of too much cunning, whereby he mounted to the sublime post of groom of the bedchamber, which, in his opinion, ought to be inaccessible to an Irishman. As for colonel Wogan, he is so much in love with him, that he sinks the mention of his country; and though he executed his purpose with wonderful courage and dexterity, he looks upon him as a little out of his senses, because he was extremely loyal and brave. He omits, however, giving him the honour of having saved the king's life at the battle, or rather flight, of Worcester, by the desperate stand he made at the head of 300 horse against Cromwell's whole army, in the suburbs of that town, till the king and colonel Careless were out of sight. How could the father king be maintained on his throne, or the son be restored to it by their friends, since, in the language of their dastard or corrupt counsellors, all that was brave, was mad; and all that was thoroughly loyal and firm, savoured of popery? But as an instance of the unfair dealing of the English historians, the glory of the escape at Worcester has always been ascribed to their countryman Careless; as if it were more honourable to fly with the king, than to stop those that are in full chace after him. The rest of the Irish, according to Clarendon, were a horrid compound of stupidity and barbarism, except the marquisses of Ormond and Clanricard; who were still more cunning than Daniel O Neil, and not half so mad as Wogan. Yet if the privy council of king Charles the first had been as wise, or as honest, as the supreme council of Kilkenny, he had never been engaged to devest himself of his own will and prerogative, till he was forced to maintain his cause with the wretched remains: he had never been sold by one people, or beheaded by another, who had nothing but treason in their hearts and cant in their religion.
But, on the other hand, Clarendon so kindly recommends the persons, and mixes such shining colours in the talents and characters of the most notorious traitors, that one can hardly find in his heart to detest them for their villanies. The virtues of the bravest cavaliers are tarnished; and the vices of the blackest republicans brightened up in his hands. Milton engages our fancies, perhaps, too far in favour of the devils, by the lively and beautiful images he often mixes with their characters: but if he had dealt with the angels, as Clarendon has with the cavaliers, the devils had undoubtedly been the heroes of his poem. — In short, he has left a legend to all posterity, the best lesson that has ever yet been given to wicked subjects, and the most encouraging, to dethrone or destroy their kings.
If justice had been done to that voluminous treatise, it should have had the same fate with the petition he left behind him in London, addressed to the house of lords, by way of justification, which was unanimously voted, by both houses, a malicious and scandalous paper, and a reproach to the justice of the nation.
But that posthumous work came out in excellent season for him. The church was wonderfully prevented for him, which made her overlook the mortal wound he had given her through the side of the state. The state was possessed by his grandchild. The witnesses against his falsehoods and calumnies were no more in being. That England, which had him in the greatest detestation in 1667, and for many years after, subsisted no longer. The lists, both ecclesiastical and civil, were thronged either with the unwary admirers of his style, or with those that owed their fortunes to his motley establishments. His perpetual running down of the Irish, was no small help toward gaining him a general benevolence among the English and Scots, whose rank treasons he had taken so much pains to soften, or to spare. His books had frontlets of Scripture to recommend and sanctify all their venom. This is but the second part of the Spanish hypocrisy in America, while they murdered whole nations in cold blood, with their beads in their hands.
How could any better dealings be expected from a man who had resolved to make his fortune at any rate, nay at the expense of his trust, honour, and loyalty when abroad; as most of his companions in the former privy council had done before him, to keep their estates at home? He had none to lose that could be as beneficial to him as his attendance on his exiled master. However, in order to bid fair for one, it is notorious, that in the year 1657, when he found his master's affairs desperate, he made his peace and terms with Cromwell, by the mediation of Mr. secretary Thurlo, whom he was afraid, on account of that confidence, not to protect after the restoration; and then, since he could not sell his master during his exile, he made himself more than amends after his return. He first sold one of his kingdoms, with all its loyal subjects (who had ruined themselves by their endeavours to serve and assist him, both in and out of their country), to his known enemies: he then, by his base and faithless moderation, sold the church and state of England to their false friends: and, lastly, did worse, by the rotten foundations he laid, than Cromwell and all his accomplices could ever have compassed, since he sold the royal family of England to distress and exile for all eternity.
As I am under voluntary articles neither to conceal nor disguise any of my thoughts from Mentor, my spirit has been tempted to wander into this long dissertation, in order to give itself some ease, while it had the satisfaction of opening itself entirely to him. I am willing to flatter myself it has some sympathy with his, which I should be extremely sorry to shock, or even disoblige, by this frank confession of my sentiments. If I have incurred his displeasure, by any freedom of speech that may be offensive, or any notions that may be repugnant to his, I submit to his censure, and am willing to stand corrected. I do not pretend either to instruct his better genius, or to force my thoughts upon him. I am a fond admirer of that worth and generosity which has put a stop to his rising in the world. I have no personal enmity to any man living, nor any interest in view, that can interfere in the least with Mentor's.
It is true, I reckon Clarendon a more pernicious subject, and a worse man, than the brave and wicked Cromwell. I take him to be the author of most irreparable mischiefs to the church, the state, and more especially to the people of England, whom his design to maintain in a perpetual superiority over their prince, has devoted to perpetual slavery. He, for his own ends (as he fairly declared to the earl of Southampton), as well as in compliment to them, hindered the first parliament after the restoration to settle a constant and indefeasible revenue upon the crown; whereby it had been skreened from factions, and the government from revolution, which must necessarily happen, where the prince must depend on the people for his yearly subsistence, and the maintenance of his own state and family. This was by no means the circumstance of the kings of England, till James the first had squandered away all the royal demesnes upon his hungry and insatiable countrymen; and so made his son a sacrifice, by forcing him to become a bull-beggar.
All the constitutions of our western world began by limited monarchies, after the fall of the Roman empire, as most adapted to the spirit and genius of our gothick ancestors. These limitations regarded the measures of peace, the means of war, and the regular administration of justice; but not the daily bread of the sovereigns, who had lands and immediate vassalages of their own, for the support of their estate and dignity. Our Norman monarchs were the only arbitrary ones in Europe, except those of Castile, who were complimented with absolute sway by the people, to enable them, without any delay or consultation, to issue their orders, and repress the sudden invasions of the Moors, whose neighbourhood was a perpetual alarm.
However, as the common people of England were generally villains or slaves to their lords, these lords became, by the importance of their vassalages, an hereditary council of state, upon extraordinary occasions, when it was thought convenient to gain their assistance, by the compliment of asking their advice, or their concurrence in taxing their vassals for the publick good. The weak princes of the Plantagenet family (which has produced the greatest in Europe) were strangely given over to favourites and minions; as weak princes generally are, because they have not their glory and real power so much at heart as their private satisfaction. The barons, as counsellors by their birth and fortune, were so disgusted at this humour, and at subsidies and other vexations that had their rise in the king's closet, and not in his council, that they made frequent confederacies of rebellion, on pretence of grievances; and as they were supported by the people, obtained great concessions in their favour from the crown. The kings found no way of supporting themselves against the barons, but by disengaging the people from them. This they effected by admitting them who had no manner of pretence to it before, to appear by their representatives in the great council of the nation, which obtained the name of parliament, whenever they had any occasion for subsidies against the barons, or the foreign enemies of the state. The people, in return of their liberalities, obtained frequent enlargements of their privileges. But the Plantagenets and Tudors had still an ample share of their absolute dominion left, and were greatly superiour both to the people and the barons. They had it always in their power to divide and rule, because they had wherewithal, by their own demesnes, to maintain their state independent of them, except where the right of the crown was in dispute. They called parliaments when they listed, and dissolved them as freely; or browbeat them, when they had spirit, into what they pleased. Whether it regarded peace or war, church or state, their will, in effect, was a law; and they had no need either of tricks or double dealings, or of upstart prime ministers. These they made use of to execute their orders, not to gain their points.
But, after king James the first had lavished the ample demesnes left him by queen Elizabeth, the case was quite altered. His successor could neither maintain his authority over the people, nor in his own house, for want of means to support his dignity. He was reduced to a wretched dependency on his vassals, who never fail of becoming insolent where they know they are masters. As fast as he called them together, they began with complaints, though they never had less cause for them. He wanted subsidies, in fact, for the maintenance of his household, but made use of other pretences, after the example of his ancestors, who were under no such extremities at home. They immediately called for the previous redress of supposed grievances, and so he dissolved, and redissolved them, which was almost the only branch of power he had left him. Under these hardships he could hold out no longer; and, without debasing his majesty, could find no other resource for subsisting in independency, but that of reviving some rights and claims of his despotick ancestors, which were grown into disuse, because they had no need of them. All this came very short of his necessary expenses, and increased the ill humour of the people; who were growing extremely rich and luxuriant, on account of giving him nothing but extorted trifles. At length his wants obliged him to lay himself at the mercy of a saucy and inexorable house of commons, upon which he, his ministers, and his barons split at last. Surely no prince ever found himself in so forlorn and deplorable a situation as his, from the first sitting of that parliament upon his majesty, till the last sitting upon his life.
He had been long borrowing from all the world, upon the credit of dead authority, in order to give bread to a household he could not pay. All his servants, from the secretaries of state down to the scullions of his kitchen, were in an interest contrary to that of his dignity, and could never hope either for their arrears or their current wages, but by his being well with a parliament that never intended to be well with him. His honour was concerned in supporting his rights: his necessity and conscience in making away with them by degrees, in hopes that his parliament might at length be engaged, by his condescensions, to allow him wherewithal to pay his debts and defray his daily expenses. All those that served him, either in his council, or his house, or his parliament, had a personal interest in making him take this party; except those very few that were sacrificed for voting generously, and at their own cost, on the side of his honour. All the rest were bribed against his royal dignity, by their wants and their fears; and not only left him to be worried unmercifully by two nations, under the insolent pretences of loyalty and religion; but obliged him to waste part of his force, and all his indignation, against a third, the only one that had real loyalty and religion enough to restore him.
The mettle and superiour genius of Cromwell subdued faction and rebellion, by the very power they had put into their hands against the lawful sovereign. He supported his state and terrified all Europe, as well as the three nations, by the grandeur of his courage, and the spirit of his army; which he made, in effect, his parliament. They paid themselves, and laughed at the constitution. Upon the return of king Charles the second, the English nation, grown wise by a very dear bought experience, had resolved, at their first meeting in parliament, to set the royal family in its ancient state of independency upon the people, except upon extraordinary occasions, by settling a perpetual revenue on the crown, and thereby securing it from, the unavoidable danger and insolence of faction. Clarendon, as perfidious to his country as to his sovereign, has hindered this excellent purpose from taking effect, by his vile and interested infusions, and made himself a merit with the English nation, of what has left it a prey ever since to unavoidable discontents and convulsions. By this means, and the abrogation of the ancient tenures, the crown was abandoned to a more wretched necessity of begging annually, and condescending than before; and robbed of its old influence and authority over the people. Thus the kings of England were left in a worse state than the ancient kings of Sparta. Their cellars, their kitchens, and the wages of their footmen and grooms, depended upon the good graces of the house of commons: their inherent rights of making war and peace and alliances, or issuing quo warrantoes, &c., were but mere feathers, the sport of every wind that blew from the ephori of the people.
In this manner king Charles the second, though the idol of England, was forced, by the malign ascendant of Clarendon, to become her wretched pensioner. King only (and a very limited king) of Scotland, and tyrant of Ireland, to no manner of purpose for himself, but to the exceeding joy of his own and his father's enemies; he led a life of continual struggle and uneasiness, from which he had no relief, but in turning rake, and drowning his royal spleen in all the common pleasures he could afford himself. To ward against those factions that arose naturally out of the triumph of the good old cause, and aimed at nothing less than his life and dignity, he found himself obliged to become a captain Tom too, to mix his majesty with the mob, and turn caballist and factioneer, as well, and as knavishly, as the best of them. He must call parliaments as oft as his wants called upon him, not to advise him (according to their original institution) but merely to keep him from starving. At length he grew weary of acting a part so far beneath him: he plucked up his spirit, by calling to mind the power of his ancestors, cast his enemies into a panick fear, put presbytery to death, and died soon after he had made himself, in effect, king of England.
His successor, who had not the force of his genius, and had more religion than either he or Clarendon would have thought necessary, was soon outwitted and outdone by faction. He had been used to closetting, favourites, and intrigues, during his former life, in order to secure his rights against the inconvenience of that religion: and after he had mounted the throne with great acclamation, he misplaced his confidence upon those that grew too hard for him at his own weapons. As he had made himself pretty easy in his domestick circumstances, by making up a little demesne of forfeited estates, he was not so entirely at the devotion of his parliament as his predecessors had been; and so began to reassume the old prerogatives of the crown, without a sufficient fund of money, or friends, or art, to make them pass upon a people that had so long looked upon themselves as masters, with a great deal of reason. He did not sink under the mutual villany of privy council and parliament, like his father; his favourites in the privy council alone were more than enough for him. Deserted by two kingdoms, and attacked by a foreign power; since he was too good natured to allow any foreign power to support him, he had nothing left but the common people of Ireland, and those remnants of catholick nobility and gentry there, who had wrested their estates, by favour or interest at court, out of the intricacies of Clarendon's act of settlement: for the infinitely greater number of Irish proprietors, though restored to their lands by the act of repeal, had been bred in so much distress and ignorance, that they could scarce be of any use to him. And so he was obliged to abandon that kingdom to its evil destiny, as the other two had abandoned him.
Now Clarendon's politicks began to have their full eflect. His posterity was seated on the throne. The republican tares had been sown so thick in the church and state of England, that they choked and overtopped the genuine grain. King James the second had given a liberty of conscience in general. This, as it was shocking to the established church, was exchanged, by the prevalence of calvinistical and freethinking interlopers, for the softer title of toleration, which has been improved, by a very easy turn of lergerdemain into actual dominion. A great cry was kept up on all sides, about the dangers that threatened the church. The unthinking tories, or church of England men, joined in it along with the whigs, with a view of keeping out popery. The whigs heightened it at every turn, not to keep out popery, which they made use of as a bugbear, but to oblige the church to suppress her true doctrine and discipline, and let in presbytery. The tories were all along the dupes of this farce, and king William, with all his penetration, could not see through the whole plot, or did not go all the lengths he should to favour the whigs, and thereby secure his own independency on the people. He had a very uneasy time of it, while he laboured in vain to mix parties that never can incorporate. The whig will never become tory: the tory, generally speaking, is not so stubborn. It is true, he never will expose his life or his fortune, by rising to the sublime pitch of a cavalier, which renders any government secure against him. He may drink, and prate, and protest, to get a name among the vulgar; but Clarendon's usage of the loyalists after the restoration is a sufficient warning to him to keep his own house, and live within the verge of the laws in being. However, as he will not play the fool for church or state, he is extremely wise in regard of himself. Loyalty and religion hang loose enough about him, and he can turn whig without much difficulty, where he can find a considerable advantage in it. And thus king William, by endeavouring to jumble both parties together, became agreeable to neither; and had shared the same fate with his predecessor, if the war which England necessarily drew upon itself, and the absolute dominion he had over the Seven Provinces, had not kept him on the throne. For since the government of England has been reduced to a democracy by Clarendon, the whigs must reign alone, or it must be in perpetual convulsions.
That prince had not found out this grand arcanum, which has since been discovered, and put in practice with infallible success; and has rendered his successors, under an air of limitation, as absolute in fact as any of our ancient monarchs, or of the present kings of Christendom. It is true, the tories had a lucid interval in the last years of queen Anne; but it could not last, because they never can have spirit enough to play all their game, and fix their fortune. The whigs, that will ever despise them as a rope of sand, have still art and mettle enough, though they be at the lowest ebb, to frighten, or make them fall together by the ears, and thereby make a jest of all their projects. While the crown has no demesnes, nor any settled revenue, the tories can never do its business with unanimity and success. The whigs, whose birthright it is to make the people uneasy and mutinous, can never miss of breaking, or at least thwarting, their measures, under colour of their concern for the grievances and unsupportable taxes laid on the publick. But let the prince put himself wholly under their protection, he is perfectly safe, in regard of the tories; and the whigs will easily find the method of paying him, and themselves into the bargain, at the expense of the people, and with the most careless contempt of their adversaries. A prime minister, under the inoffensive title of treasurer, or secretary; a privy council, under the title of parliament, the majority of which is gained over by his art or his largesses, and who, in return, secure the nation, with all its wealth, will, and power, in the most implicit obedience to him, and consequently to his master; does all the business of the crown to a wonder, and reduces the people, by their own consent, to as much slavery as is convenient for all the purposes of the prince.
Thus, in regard of the government, Clarendon's politicks are entirely overset. He has ruined one royal family by leaving it at the mercy of the people: he has ruined the rights of the people, by leaving them at the mercy of another, that has been too cunning for him, and found the knack of keeping them, whom he proposed to leave masters for ever, under perpetual and unlimited subjection, by the help and corruption of their representatives, notwithstanding the addition of new and more irksome limitations of the crown. He had destroyed the cavaliers at the restoration; and has given the coup de grace to the tories at the revolution, which was a child of his own begetting upon the body of the former iniquity.
The world has never seen a frame of government so nicely fitted for all the purposes of the sovereign, as the present constitution of England. The king has not a foot of land; yet all Great Britain is his property in fact: he is under the most unbecoming restrictions in the eyes of the people; however, he can be as despotick, when he thinks it necessary, as William the Conqueror; provided he save appearances, by letting old forms subsist in the administration, he can turn them to what use he thinks proper, and has no need of very great dexterity in the management. The people flatter themselves with a notion of being free, because they have an air of being represented, and yet it is that very representation makes them slaves. They have no real liberty left, but that of the press; which would soon grow contemptible in their own eyes, if the minister (against whom it is generally directed) had sense enough to despise it. The barons have no shadow of their old authority, only in the vain formality of entering their protests, by half dozens, against the votes of a vast and a sure majority, that speaks the sense of the minister, while it pretends to speak that of the nation. All this is a riddle, — yet every cobler in England can unfold it, to no manner of purpose for himself, or his country. The charm is irresistible; all the subjects are caught in the snare that Clarendon had laid for the sovereign.
In the mean time, the prince, vested by this magick in as much real state and power as the most arbitrary monarch in Europe, has other advantages which none of them can share with him. The interposition of his parliament skreens him from all censure, as well as danger or want. Though he be an errant knave in his dealings with his people, or a notorious trickster, and breaker of publick faith, in regard of his foreign alliances, he is ever absolved by the unthinking world, and the blame thrown entirely on his parliament; which he is still supposed, upon the credit of a received tradition, not to be able to govern or lead into all his honest purposes, though it he, in reality, the best trained, and most easily managed, of any beast of burden in the universe. So that as things now stand, Clarendon's antimonarchical scheme is like to continue for ever the surest support of tyranny. The whigs must be the majority in parliament. They alone can be bribed to sell and subdue the people; and a king of Great Britain must be a downright fool, or a madman, not to be on a surer foot of reputation, as well as power, than any other sovereign upon earth. He may be at the head of different alliances at the same time, as well as of different churches; and has a more undisputed right to personal infallibility than the pope. The other monarchies of Europe, originally limited, have become absolute by the policy of keeping their ancient demesnes, and adding those of the rebellious barons to them from time to time: that of England, by having no demesnes at all.
In this happy circumstance, a king of England, while he is in perfect security at home, can keep his foreign enemies in awe, by the terrour of his fleets at sea, and confederacies on the continent; or by sowing corruption in councils and cabinets abroad, which are now as accessible to it, as his parliament. If intrigue should fail, the whigs, by whom he reigns, will always find him money enough to do the business. In the mean time, he can stand in no manner of apprehension with respect to any part of his subjects, except a distant one, in regard of those established by Clarendon, to wit, the Irish whigs. These have had earnest longings after independency both upon the church and state of England, ever since their establishment in Ireland. The division of the vulgar of that country from them, in point of religion, and the long peace of the neighbouring powers with England, have rendered all their views impracticable hitherto. England is mad enough to encourage persecution in that country; and if they can, by executing the penal laws in all their rigour, force the people at length to be of a piece with them, they may not he long to seek for a proper occasion to withdraw themselves from the dominion of England, as the Portuguese did, some time ago, from that of Spain, though upon the same continent. In that case, as they were founded upon presbytery and fanaticism, the ecclesiastical livings will be no small accession of power and encouragement for them to return to the religion of their fathers. Their honour will be concerned in having a church of their own; and there is nothing so easy, as to make five hundred as good as any of those now in being, within the comprehensive system of Clarendon.
Who can think it strange, after all, that Clarendon should reckon the Irish a blind and stupid people, since they could not discover the broad way to their temporal and eternal happiness, as well as he and all his pupils of the present latitude? But, in the name of wonder, since they could have made the way to Heaven, notwithstanding the needless burden of their articles of faith, why should they be destroyed in this world merely upon account of them? After having suffered so much for their rebellion against Cromwell, why should they be made martyrs to their loyalty, when their king was actually on the throne? a man must be stupid indeed, not to see through all this mechanism of sacrificing people to God and to the devil at once. But, thanks to their stars! their friend Clarendon is still alive: his spirit of persecution will open their eyes at last, and bring them to their senses. Whenever they can get clear of the devil, in his way, by having little or no religion at all, they will soon become as wise as their neighbours; and by agreeing among themselves, get clear of England and her church too into the bargain.
Dear Mentor, excuse me for having finished, as folks do generally in their drink, with a dispute about religion; I love religion, with all my soul, where it is sincere; but abhor, above all things, the pretence or abuse of it, to advance any purpose but those that regard the other world. As I have a soul (I hope) to be saved, I have studied all the present religions with care: and if my creed did not determine me to be a catholick, I freely own I should be troubled with none of them, because of all the vile and cruel rogueries I have seen them misapplied to. Most of them, for want of authority, are lost in freethinking; others, by arrogating too much authority, vanish into superstition. These two kinds, abandoned to such extremities, have infinitely more business upon earth, than ever they are like to have in Heaven. The catholick may be free from either, if he pleases: if he fall into either, he must be knave or fool. The same may be said of a national church, guarded by the civil, and fenced by her own ecclesiastical authority. She may be very catholick, without being enslaved to the decretals and extravagancies of popery; or overlaid by the heavier weight of presbytery; or made the jest and handmaid of freethinking! It is a general remark, that two of a trade cannot agree. The most sanguine Jesuits, though they are forced to keep some measures, are horribly cried out at by those that pretend to the strictest kind of reformation: yet these, whenever they get the temporal power into their hands, outdo them infinitely in all their arts of double dealing and tyranny. But all our jars are a noise about nothing — Clarendon, a man of much more religion and sense than either the apostles, fathers, or councils, has discovered, of late, that heresy is only a dream; since, according to him, catholick and christian are one and the same thing in fact. So let us burn our books and our schools, for there is an end of controversy. However, let us keep rancour and persecution on foot, with all the zeal of our fathers. There has been, and there is still, something to be got by it.
I own I am a little mad; so Mentor must take nothing ill that I say to him. My patience is exhausted, and I have done all I could to tire his. He must blame his own good nature, that has given me room to vent my spleen. As I have no friend here of genius or freedom of thought enough to comprehend these notions, they had rotted in my breast, and thrown me, perhaps, into some dangerous indisposition, if I had not come out with them. I am now setting out upon an expedition against the Moors, since the modern christians are too hard for me; and whatever may be my fate, it is an exceeding comfort to me to have thus discharged my conscience in regard of these, before I enter the lists against their brethren the mahometans.
As for the blank verses which I recommended so earnestly to the care of Mentor, I now abandon them to his discretion. If he thinks them worth his correction, he will give them to the publick as he proposes, without the name of an author, and with his own, after the epistle to recommend them. It will do me a great deal of honour, and I will take care it shall do him no manner of mischief. If he neglect publishing them, I shall have the mortification of believing the present I took the liberty to make him not worth his while, or that my present liberty of speech is offensive to him. This must not be. We are all brethren in fact: and no man should be angry at another, for using him with all the intmiacy of a friend, and opening his whole heart to him without malice or disguise. I beg pardon of Mentor, and of all those great names he mentions, for my censures upon rhyme and raillery, which he may soften or expunge entirely, according to his better judgment. I should be very sorry to make enemies of those, whom, of all mankind, I would choose to make my friends. Mr. Pope and I lived in perfect union and familiarity for two or three summers, before he entered upon the stage of the world; where he has since gained so great and so just an applause. The other geniuses have a right to all my regard, by the merit of sharing the affection and esteem of Mentor, who will do me a great deal of honour, if he allow me any place in so learned and polite a society. Without any compliment, they are fitter for the Augustan age than for this. They are at home, and endeavour to give the world a sense of its follies with great humour and gayety. The cheerfulness of my temper is, in a great measure, sunk under a long and a hopeless exile, which has given it a serious, or, if you will, a supercilious turn. I lash the world with indignation and grief, in the strain of Jeremy. But the world is grown so inveterate in iniquity, that I fear we shall all lose our labour. It will have just the same effect to flog, as to tickle them. — However, if there be any room for a grave, sullen fellow, that has been one of the merriest fellows in Europe, in Mentor's academy, I offer myself: and, to pay my entrance, as I did in Newgate, I send him a kilderkin of the best wine on this side of the country, to drink their healths, and mine, if he pleases. I accept, with a great deal of acknowledgment, the present of books offered me by Mentor, and desire he will send along with them doctor Jonathan Swift's Miscellanies, which they tell me are worth them all. I can give him nothing in return, but some heads of the Saracens of Oran, which I shall be ordered to cut off, because they will not become christians. I must be their executioner in my own defence; for, with all my spleen and vexation of spirit, I am the most inoffensive creature in the world in regard of religion. I would not shed one ounce of blood in anger or enmity, or wrong any man living of a cracked sixpence, to make all the world catholicks; yet I am as staunch a one myself as any pope in the universe. I am all for the primitive church, in which people made proof of their religion only at their own expense. But I laugh, with great contempt, at those who will force others to Heaven their way, in spite of charity.
Though I should be in the deserts of Lybia, I can still hear from Mentor. It is not necessary he should submit his criticism or correction to me, since I constitute him my judge, without appeal. The gentleman of my family mentioned by him, is the honestest, but the idlest fellow breathing. I cannot even get a letter from him. Thus my reliance for the revising and publishing of those pieces is entirely upon Mentor, whom I embrace with all my heart, this 27th of February, 1732.
- ↑ This tract, written in the epistolary style, was addressed to Dr. Swift by its author, sir Charles Wogan, a gentleman at that time of high reputation, and much distinguished at most of the courts of Europe. He was of an ancient Irish family, and nephew to the famous duke of Tyrconnel; who was first minister to king James II, and commander in chief of his forces, during his residence in Ireland. Of course he was bred up in all the principles of jacobitism, and being also a Roman Catholick, was tinctured with all the bigotry of the times. He followed his unfortunate master into exile, where he continued to serve him with a zeal worthy of a better cause. See an account of him in vol. XII, p. 436, where the dean's letter here alluded to is printed; and a second letter from sir Charles Wogan in vol. XIII, p. 208.
- ↑ Field of blood.