The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 9/The Humble Petition of the Footmen in Dublin

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THAT your petitioners are a great and numerous society, endowed with several privileges time out of mind.

That certain lewd, idle, and disorderly persons, for several months past, as it is notoriously known, have been daily seen in the publick walks of this city, habited sometimes in green coats, and sometimes laced, with long oaken cudgels in their hands, and without swords; in hopes to procure favour by that advantage with a great number of ladies who frequent those walks; pretending and giving themselves out to be the true genuine Irish footmen; whereas they can he proved to be no better than common toupees, as a judicious eye may soon discover, by their awkward, clumsy, ungenteel gait and behaviour; by their unskilfulness in dress even with the advantage of our habits; by their ill favoured countenances, with an air of impudence and dulness peculiar to the rest of their brethren, who have not yet arrived at that transcendent pitch of assurance; and although it may be justly apprehended, that they will do so in time, if these counterfeits shall happen to succeed in their evil designs of passing for real footmen, thereby to render themselves more amiable to the ladies.

Your petitioners do farther allege, that many of the said counterfeits, upon a strict examination, have been found in the act of strutting, staring, swearing, swaggering in a manner that plainly showed their best endeavours to imitate us. Wherein, although they did not succeed, yet by their ignorant and ungainly way of copying our graces, the utmost indignity was endeavoured to be cast upon our whole profession.

Your petitioners do therefore make it their humble request, that this honourable house (to many of whom your petitioners are nearly allied) will please to take this grievance into your most serious consideration: humbly submitting, whether it would not be proper, that certain officers might, at the publick charge, be employed to search for, and discover all such counterfeit footmen; to carry them before the next justice of peace, by whose warrant, upon the first conviction, they shall be stripped of their coats and oaken ornaments, and be set two hours in the stocks; upon the second conviction, beside stripping, be set six hours in the stocks with a paper pinned on their breasts signifying their crime in large capital letters, and in the following words: "A. B. commonly called A. B. esq., a toupee, and a notorious impostor, who presumed to personate a true Irish footman."

And for any other offence, the said toupee shall be committed to Bridewell, whipped three times, forced to hard labour for a month, and not to be set at liberty till he shall have given sufficient security for his good behaviour.

Your honours will please to observe, with what lenity we propose to treat these enormous offenders, who have already brought such a scandal on our honourable calling, that several well meaning people have mistaken them to be of our fraternity, in diminution to that credit and dignity whereby we have supported our station, as we always did, in the worst of times. And we farther beg leave to remark, that this was manifestly done with a seditious design to render us less capable of serving the publick in any great employments, as several of our fraternity, as well as our ancestors, have done.

We do therefore humbly implore your honours to give necessary orders for our relief in this present exigency, and your petitioners (as in duty bound) shall ever pray, &c.