Political Pamphlets
by George Saintsbury
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A collection, in separate volumes, partly of extracts from long books, partly of short pieces, by the same writer, on the same subject, or of the same class.

Vol I.—Tales of Mystery. II.—Political Verse. III.—Defoe's Minor Novels. IV.—Political Pamphlets. V.—Seventeenth Century Lyrics. VI.—Elizabethan and Jacobean Pamphlets.





I. LETTER TO A DISSENTER. (By George Savile, Marquess of Halifax)


III. THE DRAPIER'S LETTERS. (By Jonathan Swift) To the Tradesmen, Shop-Keepers, Farmers, and Common-People in general, of the Kingdom of Ireland; concerning the Brass half-pence coined by Mr. Wood

A Letter to Mr. Harding the Printer, upon occasion of a Paragraph in his News-Paper of August 1, 1724, relating to Mr. Wood's Half-pence

IV. SECOND LETTER ON A REGICIDE PEACE. (By the Right Honourable Edmund Burke)





It is sometimes thought, and very often said, that political writing, after its special day is done, becomes more dead than any other kind of literature, or even journalism. I do not know whether my own judgment is perverted by the fact of a special devotion to the business, but it certainly seems to me that both the thought and the saying are mistakes. Indeed, a rough-and-ready refutation of them is supplied by the fact that, in no few cases, political pieces have entered into the generally admitted stock of the best literary things. If they are little read, can we honestly say that other things in the same rank are read much more? And is there not the further plea, by no means contradictory, nor even merely alternative, that the best examples of them are, as a rule, merged in huge collected 'Works,' or, in the case of authors who have not attained to that dignity, simply inaccessible to the general? At any rate my publishers have consented to let me try the experiment of gathering certain famous things of the sort in this volume, and the public must decide.

I do not begin very early, partly because examples of the Elizabethan political pamphlet, or what supplied its place, will be given in another volume of the series exclusively devoted to the pamphlet literature of the reigns of Eliza and our James, partly for a still better reason presently to be explained. On the other hand, though another special volume is devoted to Defoe, the immortal Shortest Way with the Dissenters is separated from the rest of his work, and given here. Most of the contents, however, represent authors not otherwise represented in the series, and though very well known indeed by name, less read than quoted. The suitableness of the political pamphlet, both by size and self-containedness, for such a volume as this, needs no justification except that which it, like everything else, must receive, by being put to the proof of reading.

There is no difficulty in showing, with at least sufficient critical exactness, why it is not possible or not desirable to select examples from very early periods even of strictly modern history. The causes are in part the same as those which delayed the production of really capital political verse (which has been treated in another volume), but they are not wholly the same. The Martin Marprelate pamphlets are strictly political; so are many things earlier, later, and contemporary with them, by hands known and unknown, great and small, skilled and unskilled; so are some even in the work of so great a man as Bacon. But very many things were wanting to secure the conditions necessary to the perfect pamphlet. There was not the political freedom; there was not the public; there was not the immediate object; there was not, last and most of all, the style. Political utterances under a more or less despotic, or, as the modern euphemism goes, 'personal' government, were almost necessarily those of a retained advocate, who expected his immediate reward, on the one hand; or of a rebel, who stood to make his account with office if he succeeded, or with savage punishment if he failed, on the other. A distant prospect of impeachment, of the loss of ears, hands, or life if the tide turns, is a stimulant to violence rather than to vigour. I do not think, however, that this is the most important factor in the problem. Parliamentary government, with a limited franchise of tolerably intelligent voters, a party system, and newspapers comparatively undeveloped, may not suit an ideally perfect politeia, but it is the very hotbed in which to nourish the pamphlet. There is also a style, as there is a time, for all things; and no style could be so well suited for the pamphlet as the balanced, measured, pointed, and polished style which Dryden and Tillotson and Temple brought in during the third quarter of the seventeenth century, and which did not go out of fashion till the second quarter of the nineteenth. We have indeed seen pamphlets proper exercising considerable influence in quite recent times; but in no instance that I can remember has this been due to any literary merits, and I doubt whether even the bare fact will be soon or often renewed in our days. The written word—the written word of condensed, strengthened, spirited literature—has lost much, if not all, of its force with an enormously increased electorate, and a bewildering multiplicity of print and speech of all kinds.

Whatever justice these reasonings may have or may lack, the facts speak for themselves, as facts intelligently regarded have a habit of doing. The first pamphlets proper of great literary merit and great political influence are those of Halifax in the first movement of real party struggle during the reign of Charles the Second; the last which unite the same requisites are those of Scott on the eve of the first Reform Bill. The leaflet and circular war of the anti-Corn Law League must be ruled out as much as Mr. Gladstone's Bulgarian Horrors.

This leaves us a period of almost exactly a hundred and fifty years, during which the kind, whether in good or bad examples, was of constant influence; while its best instances enriched literature with permanent masterpieces in little. I do not think that any moderately instructed person will find much difficulty in comprehending the specimens here given. I am sure that no moderately intelligent one will fail, with a very little trouble, to take delight in them. I do not know whether an artful generaliser could get anything out of the circumstances in which the best of them grew; I should say myself that nothing more than the system of government, the conditions of the electorate and the legislature, and the existence from time to time of a superheated state in political feeling, can or need be collected. In some respects, to my own taste, the first of these examples is also the best. To Halifax full justice has never been done, for we have had no capable historian of the late seventeenth century but Macaulay, and Halifax's defect of fervour as a Jacobite was more than made up to Macaulay by his defect of fervour as a Williamite. As for the moderns, I have myself more than once failed to induce editors of 'series' to give Halifax a place. Yet Macaulay himself has been fairer to the great Trimmer than to most persons with whom he was not in full sympathy. The weakness of Halifax's position is indeed obvious. When you run first to one side of the boat and then to the other, you have ten chances of sinking to one of trimming her. To hold fast to one party only, and to keep that from extremes, is the only secret, and it is no great disgrace to Halifax, that in the very infancy of the party and parliamentary system, he did not perceive it. But this hardly interferes at all with the excellence of his pamphlets. The polished style, the admirable sense, the subdued and yet ever present wit, the avoidance of excessive cleverness (the one thing that the average Briton will not stand), the constant eye on the object, are unmistakable. They are nearly as forcible as Dryden's political and controversial prefaces, which are pamphlets themselves in their way, and they excel them in knowledge of affairs, in urbanity, in adaptation to the special purpose. In all these points they resemble more than anything else the pamphlets of Paul Louis Courier, and there can be no higher praise than this.

No age in English history was more fertile in pamphlets than the reigns of William and of Anne. Some men of real distinction occasionally contributed to them, and others (such as Ferguson and Maynwaring) obtained such literary notoriety as they possess by their means. The total volume of the kind produced during the quarter of a century between the Revolution and the accession of George the First would probably fill a considerable library. But the examples which really deserve exhumation are very few, and I doubt whether any can pretend to vie with the masterpieces of Defoe and Swift. Both these great writers were accomplished practitioners in the art, and the characteristics of both lent themselves with peculiar yet strangely different readiness to the work. They addressed, indeed, different sections of what was even then the electorate. Defoe's unpolished realism and his exact adaptation of tone, thought, taste, and fancy to the measure of the common Englishman were what chiefly gave him a hearing. Swift aimed and flew higher, but also did not miss the lower mark. No one has ever doubted that Johnson's depreciation of The Conduct of the Allies was half special perversity (for he was always unjust to Swift), half mere humorous paradox. For there was much more of this in the doctor's utterances than his admirers, either in his own day or since, have always recognised, or have sometimes been qualified by Providence to recognise. As for the Drapier's Letters I can never myself admire them enough, and they seem to me to have been on the whole under-rather than over-valued by posterity.

The 'Great Walpolian Battle' and the attacks on Bute and other favourite ministers were very fertile in the pamphlet, but already there were certain signs of alteration in its character. Pulteney and Walpole's other adversaries had already glimmerings of the newspaper proper, that is to say, of the continual dropping fire rather than the single heavy broadside; to adopt a better metaphor still, of a regimental and professional soldiery rather than of single volunteer champions. The Letters of Junius, which for some time past have been gradually dropping from their former somewhat undue pride of place (gained and kept as much by the factitious mystery of their origin as by anything else) to a station more justly warranted, are no doubt themselves pamphlets of a kind; but they are separated from pamphlets proper not less by their contents than by their form and continuity. The real difference is this, that the pamphlet, though often if not always personal enough, should always and generally does affect at least to discuss a general question of principle or policy, whereas Junius is always personal first, and very generally last also. On the other hand, Burke, whether his productions be called Speeches or Letters, Thoughts or Reflections, is always a pamphleteer in heart and soul, in form and matter. If the resemblance of his pamphlets to speeches gives the force and fire, it is certain that the resemblance of his speeches to pamphlets accounts for that 'dinner-bell' effect of his which has puzzled some people and shocked others. Burke always argued the point, if he only argued one side of it, and it is the special as it is the saving grace of the pamphlet that it must, or at least should, be an argument, and not merely an invective or an innuendo, a sermon or a lampoon.

Sydney Smith belonged both to the old school and the new. He was both pamphleteer and journalist; but he kept the form and even to some extent the style of his pamphlets and his articles well apart. I may seem likely to have some difficulty in admitting the claim of Cobbett after disallowing that of Junius under the definition just given, but I have no very great fear of being unable to making it good. Much as Cobbett disliked persons, and crotchety as he was in his dislikes, they were always dislikes of principle in the bottom. The singular Tory-Radicalism which Cobbett exhibited, and which has made some rank him unduly low, was no doubt partly due to accidents of birth and education, and to narrowness of intellectual form. But boroughmongering after all was a Whig rather than a Tory institution, and Cobbett's hatred of it, as well as that desire for the maintenance of a kind of manufacturing yeomanry (not wholly different from the later ideal of Mr. William Morris,) which was his other guiding principle throughout, was by no means alien from pure Toryism. His work in relation to Reform, moreover, is unmistakable—as unmistakable as is that of Sydney Smith, who precedes him here, with regard to Catholic Emancipation. I should have voted and written against both these things had I lived then; but this does not make me enjoy Cobbett or Sydney any the less.

As for the latest example I have selected, it is a crucial one. The Letters of Malachi Malagrowther come from a man who is not often rated high as a political thinker, even by those who sympathise with his political views. But here as elsewhere the politician, no less than the poet, the critic, the historian, bears the penalty of the pre-eminent greatness of the novelist. Nothing is more uncritical than to regard Scott as a mere sentimentalist in politics, and I cannot think that any competent judge can do so after reading Malagrowther, even after reading Scott's own Diary and letters on the subject. As he there explains, he was not greatly carried, as a rule, to interest himself in the details of politics. As both Lockhart and he admit, he might not have been so interested even at this juncture had it not been for the chagrin at his own misfortunes, which, nobly and stoically repressed as it was, required some issue. But his general principle on this occasion was clear; it can be thoroughly apprehended and appreciated even by an Englishman of Englishmen. It was thoroughly justified by the event, and, I may perhaps be permitted to observe, ran exactly contrary to a sentiment rather widely adopted of late. No man, whether in public writings or private conduct, could be more set than Scott was against a spurious Scotch particularism. He even earned from silly Scots maledictions for the chivalrous justice he dealt to England in The Lord of the Isles, and the common-sense justice he dealt to her in the mouth of Bailie Jarvie. But he was not more staunch for the political Union than he was for the preservation of minor institutions, manners, and character; and the proposed interference with Scotch banking seemed to him to be one of the things tending to make good Scotchmen, as he bluntly told Croker, 'damned mischievous Englishmen.' Therefore he arose and spoke, and though he averted the immediate attempt, yet the prophecies which he uttered were amply fulfilled in other ways after the Reform Bill.

These, then, are the principles on which I have selected the pieces that follow (some minor reasons for the particular choices being given in the special introductions):—That they should be pamphlets proper (Malachi appeared first in a newspaper, but that was a sign of the time chiefly, and the numbers of Cobbett's Register were practically independent pieces); that they should deal with special subjects of burning political, and not merely personal, interest; and that they should either directly or in the long-run have exercised an actual determining influence on the course of politics and history. This last point is undoubted in the case of the examples from Halifax, Swift, Burke (who more than any one man pointed and steeled the resistance of England to Jacobin tyranny), and Scott; it was less immediate, but scarcely more dubious in those of Defoe, Cobbett, and Sydney Smith. And so in all humility I make my bow as introducer once more to the English public of these Seven Masters of English political writing.



(There is no doubt that Halifax's work deserves to rank first in a collection of political pamphlets. He signed none; it was indeed almost impossible for a prominent person in the State then safely or decently to do so, and different attributions were made at the time of some of them, as of the Character of a Trimmer to Coventry, and of this Letter (this 'masterly little tract,' as Macaulay justly calls it) to Temple. But shortly after his death all were published as his unchallenged, and there never has been any doubt of their authorship in the minds of good judges. Four of them are so good that extrinsic reasons have to be brought in for preferring one to the other. The Character of a Trimmer is rather too long for my scheme; the Anatomy of an Equivalent is too technical, and requires too much illustration and exegesis; the Cautions for Choice of Members of Parliament, though practically valuable to the present day, is a little too general. The Letter to a Dissenter escapes all these objections. It is brief, it is thoroughly to the point, it is comprehensible almost without note or comment to any one who remembers the broad fact that by his Declaration of Indulgence James the Second attempted to detach, and almost succeeded in detaching, the Dissenters from their common cause with the Church in opposing his enfranchisement of the Roman Catholics, and his preferment of them to great offices. As for its author, his most eminent acts are written in the pages of the universally read historian above quoted. But he was in reality more of a Tory than it suited Macaulay to represent him, though he gloried in the name of Trimmer, and certainly showed what is called in modern political slang a 'crossbench mind' not only during the madness of the Popish plot, during the greater madness of James's assaults on the Church, the Constitution, and private rights, but also (after the Revolution) towards William of Orange. Born about 1630 he died in April 1695, leaving the fame, unjustified by any samples in those unreported days, of the greatest orator of his time, a reputation as a wit which was partly inherited by his grandson, Chesterfield, and the small volume of Miscellanies, on which we here draw. The pamphlet itself appeared in April 1687.)


Sir—Since addresses are in fashion, give me leave to make one to you. This is neither the effect of fear, interest, or resentment; therefore you may be sure it is sincere: and for that reason it may expect to be kindly received. Whether it will have power enough to convince, dependeth upon the reasons of which you are to judge; and upon your preparation of mind, to be persuaded by truth, whenever it appeareth to you. It ought not to be the less welcome for coming from a friendly hand, one whose kindness to you is not lessened by difference of opinion, and who will not let his thoughts for the public be so tied or confined to this or that sub-division of Protestants as to stifle the charity, which besides all other arguments, is at this time become necessary to preserve us.

I am neither surprised nor provoked, to see that in the condition you were put into by the laws, and the ill circumstances you lay under, by having the Exclusion and Rebellion laid to your charge, you were desirous to make yourselves less uneasy and obnoxious to authority. Men who are sore, run to the nearest remedy with too much haste to consider all the consequences: grains of allowance are to be given, where nature giveth such strong influences. When to men under sufferings it offereth ease, the present pain will hardly allow time to examine the remedies; and the strongest reason can hardly gain a fair audience from our mind, whilst so possessed, till the smart is a little allayed.

I do not know whether the warmth that naturally belongeth to new friendships, may not make it a harder task for me to persuade you. It is like telling lovers, in the beginning of their joys, that they will in a little time have an end. Such an unwelcome style doth not easily find credit. But I will suppose you are not so far gone in your new passion, but that you will hear still; and therefore I am also under the less discouragement, when I offer to your consideration two things. The first is, the cause you have to suspect your new friends. The second, the duty incumbent upon you, in Christianity and prudence, not to hazard the public safety, neither by desire of ease nor of revenge.

To the first. Consider that notwithstanding the smooth language which is now put on to engage you, these new friends did not make you their choice, but their refuge. They have ever made their first courtships to the Church of England, and when they were rejected there, they made their application to you in the second place. The instances of this might be given in all times. I do not repeat them, because whatsoever is unnecessary must be tedious; the truth of this assertion being so plain as not to admit a dispute. You cannot therefore reasonably flatter yourselves that there is any inclination to you. They never pretended to allow you any quarter, but to usher in liberty for themselves under that shelter. I refer you to Mr. Coleman's Letters, and to the Journals of Parliament, where you may be convinced, if you can be so mistaken as to doubt; nay, at this very hour they can hardly forbear, in the height of their courtship, to let fall hard words of you. So little is nature to be restrained; it will start out sometimes, disdaining to submit to the usurpation of art and interest.

This alliance, between liberty and infallibility, is bringing together the two most contrary things that are in the world. The Church of Rome doth not only dislike the allowing liberty, but by its principles it cannot do it. Wine is not more expressly forbid to the Mahometans, than giving heretics liberty to the Papists. They are no more able to make good their vows to you, than men married before, and their wife alive, can confirm their contract with another. The continuance of their kindness would be a habit of sin, of which they are to repent; and their absolution is to be had upon no other terms than their promise to destroy you. You are therefore to be hugged now, only that you may be the better squeezed at another time. There must be something extraordinary when the Church of Rome setteth up bills, and offereth plaisters, for tender consciences. By all that hath hitherto appeared, her skill in chirurgery lieth chiefly in a quick hand to cut off limbs; but she is the worst at healing of any that ever pretended to it.

To come so quick from another extreme is such an unnatural motion that you ought to be upon your guard. The other day you were Sons of Belial; now you are Angels of Light. This is a violent change, and it will be fit for you to pause upon it before you believe it. If your features are not altered, neither is their opinion of you, whatever may be pretended. Do you believe less than you did that there is idolatry in the Church of Rome? Sure you do not. See, then, how they treat, both in words and writing, those who entertain that opinion. Conclude from hence, how inconsistent their favour is with this single article, except they give you a dispensation for this too, and not by a non obstante, secure you that they will not think the worse of you.

Think a little how dangerous it is to build upon a foundation of paradoxes. Popery now is the only friend to liberty, and the known enemy to persecution. The men of Taunton and Tiverton are above all other eminent for Loyalty. The Quakers, from being declared by the Papists not to be Christians, are now made favourites, and taken into their particular protection; they are on a sudden grown the most accomplished men of the kingdom in good breeding, and give thanks with the best grace in double-refined language. So that I should not wonder, though a man of that persuasion, in spite of his hat, should be Master of the Ceremonies. Not to say harsher words, these are such very new things, that it is impossible not to suspend our belief, till by a little more experience, we may be informed whether they are realities or apparitions. We have been under shameful mistakes, if these opinions are true; but for the present we are apt to be incredulous, except that we could be convinced that the priest's words in this case too are able to make such a sudden and effectual change; and that their power is not limited to the Sacrament, but that it extendeth to alter the nature of all other things, as often as they are so disposed.

Let me now speak of the instruments of your friendship, and then leave you to judge whether they do not afford matter of suspicion. No sharpness is to be mingled, where healing only is intended; so nothing will be said to expose particular men, how strong soever the temptation may be, or how clear the proofs to make it out. A word or two in general, for your better caution, shall suffice. Suppose then, for argument's sake, that the mediators of this new alliance should be such as have been formerly employed in treaties of the same kind, and there detected to have acted by order, and to have been empowered to give encouragements and rewards. Would not this be an argument to suspect them?

If they should plainly be under engagements to one side, their arguments to the other ought to be received accordingly. Their fair pretences are to be looked upon as a part of their commission, which may not improbably give them a dispensation in the case of truth, when it may bring a prejudice upon the service of those by whom they are employed.

If there should be men, who having formerly had means and authority to persuade by secular arguments, have, in pursuance of that power, sprinkled money among the Dissenting ministers; and if those very men should now have the same authority, practise the same methods, and disburse where they cannot otherwise persuade; it seemeth to me to be rather an evidence than a presumption of the deceit.

If there should be ministers amongst you, who by having fallen under temptations of this kind, are in some sort engaged to continue their frailty, by the awe they are in lest it should be exposed; the persuasions of these unfortunate men must sure have the less force, and their arguments, though never so specious, are to be suspected, when they come from men who have mortgaged themselves to severe creditors, that expect a rigorous observance of the contract, let it be never so unwarrantable. If these, or any others, should at this time preach up anger and vengeance against the Church of England; may it not without injustice be suspected that a thing so plainly out of season springeth rather from corruption than mistake; and that those who act this choleric part, do not believe themselves, but only pursue higher directions, and endeavour to make good that part of their contract, which obligeth them, upon a forfeiture, to make use of their enflaming eloquence? They might apprehend their wages would be retrenched if they should be moderate: and therefore, whilst violence is their interest, those who have not the same arguments have no reason to follow such a partial example.

If there should be men, who by the load of their crimes against the Government, have been bowed down to comply with it against their conscience; who by incurring the want of a pardon, have drawn upon themselves a necessity of an entire resignation, such men are to be lamented, but not to be believed. Nay, they themselves, when they have discharged their unwelcome talk, will be inwardly glad that their forced endeavours do not succeed, and are pleased when men resist their insinuations; which are far from being voluntary or sincere, but are squeezed out of them by the weight of their being so obnoxious.

If, in the height of this great dearness, by comparing things, it should happen that at this instant there is much a surer friendship with those who are so far from allowing liberty that they allow no living to a Protestant under them—let the scene lie in what part of the world it will, the argument will come home, and sure it will afford sufficient ground to suspect. Apparent contradictions must strike us; neither nature nor reason can digest them. Self-flattery, and the desire to deceive ourselves, to gratify present appetite, with all their power, which is great, cannot get the better of such broad conviction, as some things carry along with them. Will you call these vain and empty suspicions? Have you been at all times so void of fears and jealousies, as to justify your being so unreasonably valiant in having none upon this occasion? Such an extraordinary courage at this unseasonable time, to say no more, is too dangerous a virtue to be commended.

If then, for these and a thousand other reasons, there is cause to suspect, sure your new friends are not to dictate to you, or advise you. For instance: the Addresses that fly abroad every week, and murder us with another to the same; the first draughts are made by those who are not very proper to be secretaries to the Protestant Religion: and it is your part only to write them out fairer again.

Strange! that you, who have been formerly so much against set forms, should now be content the priests should indite for you. The nature of thanks is an unavoidable consequence of being pleased or obliged; they grow in the heart, and from thence show themselves either in looks, speech, writing, or action. No man was ever thankful because he was bid to be so, but because he had, or thought he had some reason for it. If then there is cause in this case to pay such extravagant acknowledgments, they will flow naturally, without taking such pains to procure them; and it is unkindly done to tire all the Post-horses with carrying circular letters, to solicit that which would be done without any trouble or constraint. If it is really in itself such a favour, what needeth so much pressing men to be thankful, and with such eager circumstances, that where persuasions cannot delude, threatenings are employed to fright them into a compliance? Thanks must be voluntary, not only unconstrained but unsolicited, else they are either trifles or snares, that either signify nothing or a great deal more than is intended by those that give them. If an inference should be made, that whosoever thanketh the King for his Declaration, is by that engaged to justify it in point of law; it is a greater stride than I presume all those care to make who are persuaded to address. It shall be supposed that all the thankers will be repealers of the Test, whenever a Parliament shall meet; such an expectation is better prevented before than disappointed afterwards; and the surest way to avoid the lying under such a scandal is not to do anything that may give a colour to the mistake. These bespoken thanks are little less improper than love-letters that were solicited by the lady to whom they are to be directed: so that, besides the little ground there is to give them, the manner of getting them doth extremely lessen their value. It might be wished that you would have suppressed your impatience, and have been content, for the sake of religion, to enjoy it within yourselves, without the liberty of a public exercise, till a Parliament had allowed it; but since that could not be, and that the articles of some amongst you have made use of the well-meant zeal of the generality to draw them into this mistake, I am so far from blaming you with that sharpness, which perhaps the matter in strictness would bear, that I am ready to err on the side of the more gentle construction.

There is a great difference between enjoying quietly the advantages of an act irregularly done by others, and the going about to support it against the laws in being. The law is so sacred that no trespass against it is to be defended; yet frailties may in some measure be excused when they cannot be justified. The desire of enjoying liberty, from which men have been so long restrained, may be a temptation that their reason is not at all times able to resist. If in such a case some objections are leapt over, indifferent men will be more inclined to lament the occasion than to fall too hard upon the fault, whilst it is covered with the apology of a good intention. But where, to rescue yourselves from the severity of one law, you give a blow to all the laws, by which your religion and liberty are to be protected; and instead of silently receiving the benefit of this indulgence, you set up for advocates to support it, you become voluntary aggressors, and look like counsel retained by the prerogative against your old friend Magna Charta, who hath done nothing to deserve her falling thus under your displeasure.

If the case then should be, that the price expected from you for this liberty is giving up your right in the laws, sure you will think twice before you go any further in such a losing bargain. After giving thanks for the breach of one law, you lose the right of complaining of the breach of all the rest; you will not very well know how to defend yourselves when you are pressed; and having given up the question when it was for your advantage, you cannot recall it when it shall be to your prejudice. If you will set up at one time a power to help you, which at another time, by parity of reason, shall be made use of to destroy you, you will neither be pitied nor relieved against a mischief which you draw upon yourselves by being so unreasonably thankful. It is like calling in auxiliaries to help, who are strong enough to subdue you. In such a case your complaints will come too late to be heard, and your sufferings will raise mirth instead of compassion.

If you think, for your excuse, to expound your thanks, so as to restrain them to this particular case; others, for their ends, will extend them further: and in these differing interpretations, that which is backed by authority will be the most likely to prevail; especially when, by the advantage you have given them, they have in truth the better of the argument, and that the inferences from your own concessions are very strong and express against you. This is so far from being a groundless supposition, that there was a late instance of it in the last session of Parliament, in the House of Lords, where the first thanks, though things of course, were interpreted to be the approbation of the King's whole speech, and a restraint from the further examination of any part of it, though never so much disliked; and it was with difficulty obtained, not to be excluded from the liberty of objecting to this mighty prerogative of dispensing, merely by this innocent and usual piece of good manners, by which no such thing could possibly be intended.

This showeth that some bounds are to be put to your good breeding, and that the Constitution of England is too valuable a thing to be ventured upon a compliment. Now that you have for some time enjoyed the benefit of the end, it is time for you to look into the danger of the means. The same reason that made you desirous to get liberty must make you solicitous to preserve it, so that the next thought will naturally be, not to engage yourself beyond retreat; and to agree so far with the principles of all religion, as not to rely upon a death-bed repentance.

There are certain periods of time, which being once past, make all cautions ineffectual, and all remedies desperate. Our understandings are apt to be hurried on by the first heats, which, if not restrained in time, do not give us leave to look back till it is too late. Consider this in the case of your anger against the Church of England, and take warning by their mistake in the same kind, when after the late King's Restoration they preserved so long the bitter taste of your rough usage to them in other times, that it made them forget their interest and sacrifice it to their revenge.

Either you will blame this proceeding in them, and for that reason not follow it; or, if you allow it, you have no reason to be offended with them; so that you must either dismiss your anger or lose your excuse; except you should argue more partially than will be supposed of men of your morality and understanding.

If you had now to do with those rigid prelates who made it a matter of conscience to give you the least indulgence, but kept you at an uncharitable distance, and even to your most reasonable scruples continued stiff and inexorable, the argument might be fairer on your side; but since the common danger has so laid open that mistake, that all the former haughtiness towards you is for ever extinguished, and that it hath turned the spirit of persecution into a spirit of peace, charity, and condescension; shall this happy change only affect the Church of England? And are you so in love with separation as not to be moved by this example? It ought to be followed, were there no other reason than that it is virtue; but when, besides that, it is become necessary to your preservation, it is impossible to fail the having its effect upon you.

If it should be said that the Church of England is never humble but when she is out of power, and therefore loseth the right of being believed when she pretendeth to it: the answer is, first, It would be an uncharitable objection, and very much mistimed; an unseasonable triumph, not only ungenerous but unsafe: so that in these respects it cannot be urged without scandal, even though it could be said with truth. Secondly, This is not so in fact, and the argument must fall, being built upon a false foundation; for whatever may be told you at this very hour, and in the heat and glare of your perfect sunshine, the Church of England can in a moment bring clouds again, and turn the royal thunder upon your heads, blow you off the stage with a breath, if she would give but a smile or a kind word; the least glimpse of her compliance would throw you back into the state of suffering, and draw upon you all the arrears of severity which have accrued during the time of this kindness to you; and yet the Church of England, with all her faults, will not allow herself to be rescued by such unjustifiable means, but chooseth to bear the weight of power rather than lie under the burden of being criminal.

It cannot be said that she is unprovoked: books and letters come out every day to call for answers, yet she will not be stirred. From the supposed authors and the style, one would swear they were undertakers, and had made a contract to fall out with the Church of England. There are lashes in every address, challenges to draw the pen in every pamphlet. In short, the fairest occasions in the world given to quarrel; but she wisely distinguisheth between the body of Dissenters, whom she will suppose to act, as they do, with no ill intent, and these small skirmishers, picked and sent out to piqueer, and to begin a fray amongst the Protestants for the entertainment as well as the advantage of the Church of Rome.

This conduct is so good, that it will be scandalous not to applaud it. It is not equal dealing to blame our adversaries for doing ill, and not commend them when they do well.

To hate them because they are persecuted, and not to be reconciled to them when they are ready to suffer rather than receive all the advantages that can be gained by a criminal compliance, is a principle no sort of Christians can own, since it would give an objection to them never to be answered.

Think a little who they were that promoted your former persecutions, and then consider how it will look to be angry with the instruments, and at the same time to make a league with the authors of your sufferings.

Have you enough considered what will be expected from you? Are you ready to stand in every borough by virtue of a conge d'elire, and instead of election be satisfied if you are returned?

Will you, in parliament, justify the dispensing power, with all its consequences, and repeal the test, by which you will make way for the repeal of all the laws that were made to preserve your religion, and to enact others that shall destroy it?

Are you disposed to change the liberty of debate into the merit of obedience; and to be made instruments to repeal or enact laws, when the Roman Consistory are Lords of the Articles?

Are you so linked to your new friends as to reject any indulgence a parliament shall offer you, if it shall not be so comprehensive as to include the Papists in it?

Consider that the implied conditions of your new treaty are no less than that you are to do everything you are desired, without examining; and that for this pretended liberty of conscience, your real freedom is to be sacrificed; your former faults hang like chains still about you, you are let loose only upon bail; the first act of non-compliance sendeth you to gaol again.

You may see that the Papists themselves do not rely upon the legality of this power which you are to justify, since the being so very earnest to get it established by a law, and the doing such very hard things in order, as they think, to obtain it, is a clear evidence that they do not think that the single power of the Crown is in this case a good foundation; especially when this is done under a prince so very tender of the rights of sovereignty that he would think it a diminution to his prerogative, where he conceiveth it strong enough to go alone, to call in the legislative help to strengthen and support it.

You have formerly blamed the Church of England, and not without reason, for going so far as they did in their compliance; and yet so soon as they stopped, you see they are not only deserted, but prosecuted. Conclude, then, from this example, that you must either break off your friendship or resolve to have no bounds in it. If they do succeed in their design, they will leave you first: if they do, you must either leave them, when it will be too late for your safety, or else, after the squeaziness of starting at a surplice, you must be forced to swallow Transubstantiation.

Remember that the other day those of the Church of England were Trimmers for enduring you; and now, by a sudden turn, you are become the favourites. Do not deceive yourselves; it is not the nature of lasting plants thus to shoot up in a night; you may look gay and green for a little time, but you want a root to give you a continuance. It is not so long since, as to be forgotten, that the maxim was, It is impossible for a Dissenter not to be a REBEL. Consider at this time in France, even the new converts are so far from being employed that they are disarmed; their sudden change maketh them still to be distrusted, notwithstanding that they are reconciled; what are you to expect then from your dear friends, to whom, whenever they shall think fit to throw you off again, you have in other times given such arguments for their excuse?

Besides all this you act very unskilfully against your visible interest, if you throw away the advantages of which you can hardly fail in the next probable Revolution. Things tend naturally to what you would have, if you would let them alone, and not by an unseasonable activity lose the influences of your good star, which promiseth you everything that is prosperous.

The Church of England, convinced of its error in being severe to you; the Parliament, whenever it meeteth sure to be gentle to you; the next heir, bred in the country which you have so often quoted for a pattern of indulgence; a general agreement of all thinking men, that we must no more cut ourselves off from the Protestants abroad, but rather enlarge the foundations upon which we are to build our defences against the common enemy; so that in truth, all things seem to conspire to give you ease and satisfaction, if by too much haste to anticipate your good fortune you do not destroy it.

The Protestants have but one article of human strength to oppose the power which is now against them, and that is not to lose the advantage of their numbers by being so unwary as to let themselves be divided.

We all agree in our duty to our prince; our objections to his belief do not hinder us from seeing his virtues; and our not complying with his religion hath no effect upon our allegiance. We are not to be laughed out of our passive obedience, and the doctrine of non-resistance, though even those who perhaps owe the best part of their security to that principle are apt to make a jest of it.

So that if we give no advantage by the fatal mistake of misapplying our anger, by the natural course of things this danger will pass away like a shower of hail; fair weather will succeed, as lowering as the sky now looketh, and all this by a plain and easy receipt. Let us be still, quiet, and undivided, firm at the same time to our religion, our loyalty, and our laws; and so long as we continue this method it is next to impossible that the odds of two hundred to one should lose the bet; except the Church of Rome, which hath been so long barren of miracles, should now, in her declining age, be brought to bed of one that would outdo the best she can brag of in her legend.

To conclude, the short question will be, Whether you will join with those who must in the end run the same fate with you? If Protestants of all sorts, in their behaviour to one another, have been to blame, they are upon more equal terms, and, for that very reason, it is fitter for them now to be reconciled. Our disunion is not only a reproach, but a danger to us. Those who believe in modern miracles have more right, or at least more excuse, to neglect all secular caution; but for us, it is as justifiable to have no religion as wilfully to throw away the human means of preserving it.—I am, Dear Sir, your most affectionate humble Servant, T.W.



(Defoe wrote an enormous number of pamphlets; for great part of his life he might almost have been described as a pamphleteer pure and simple. In the vast lists of publications which his biographers and bibliographers have compiled, partly by industry and partly by imagination, by far the larger number of entries is of the pamphlet kind. Indeed, as most people know, Defoe did not take to the composition of the fiction which has made his name famous till very late in life. Born in the year 1661, he began pamphleteering when he was scarcely of age, and continued in that way (with occasional excursions into work larger in scale, but not very different in style or matter) for nearly forty years before the publication of Robinson Crusoe. His two most famous and most effective pamphlets were the so-called Legion Letter and The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (given here), to which may perhaps be added the Reasons against War with France. All these, with many others, appeared within the compass of the years 1700-1702. The three together touched upon the three most burning questions of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries—parliamentary factiousness, an aggressive policy abroad, and toleration at home. Little or no annotation is required for their comprehension, but the reader may amuse himself if he likes by meditating whether the Shortest Way is irony or not. My own opinion is that it is not; being a simple statement of the actual views of the other side. The anecdotic history of the piece—how it was taken for serious by both sides, was prosecuted by Government, the author proclaimed, and a reward offered for his detection; how, the printer and publisher being arrested, Defoe surrendered, was tried, pleaded guilty, was fined, pilloried, and imprisoned—may be read in the biographies. His imprisonment lasted till August 1704, when Harley let him out, and he entered upon a course of rather mysterious service as a Government free-lance, which was continued under various ministries, and has not on the whole brought him credit with posterity. For many years, his remarkable Review, a political journal which he conducted single-handed, served as his chief organ; but he never gave up writing pamphlets till his death in 1731, though he never approached either the merit or the effect of that here given.)

Sir Roger L'Estrange tells us a story in his collection of fables, of the cock and the horses. The cock was gotten to roost in the stable among the horses, and there being no racks or other conveniences for him, it seems he was forced to roost upon the ground. The horses jostling about for room, and putting the cock in danger of his life, he gives them this grave advice, 'Pray, gentlefolks, let us stand still, for fear we should tread upon one another.'

There are some people in the world, who now they are unperched, and reduced to an equality with other people, and under strong and very just apprehensions of being further treated as they deserve, begin, with AEsop's cock, to preach up peace and union, and the Christian duties of moderation, forgetting that, when they had the power in their hands, these graces were strangers in their gates.

It is now near fourteen years that the glory and peace of the purest and most flourishing Church in the world has been eclipsed, buffeted, and disturbed by a sort of men whom God in His providence has suffered to insult over her and bring her down. These have been the days of her humiliation and tribulation. She has borne with invincible patience the reproach of the wicked, and God has at last heard her prayers, and delivered her from the oppression of the stranger.

And now they find their day is over, their power gone, and the throne of this nation possessed by a royal, English, true, and ever-constant member of, and friend to, the Church of England. Now they find that they are in danger of the Church of England's just resentments; now they cry out peace, union, forbearance, and charity, as if the Church had not too long harboured her enemies under her wing, and nourished the viperous brood till they hiss and fly in the face of the mother that cherished them.

No, gentlemen, the time of mercy is past, your day of grace is over; you should have practised peace, and moderation, and charity, if you expected any yourselves.

We have heard none of this lesson for fourteen years past. We have been huffed and bullied with your Act of Toleration; you have told us that you are the Church established by law, as well as others; have set up your canting synagogues at our church doors, and the Church and members have been loaded with reproaches, with oaths, associations, abjurations, and what not. Where has been the mercy, the forbearance, the charity, you have shown to tender consciences of the Church of England, that could not take oaths as fast as you made them; that having sworn allegiance to their lawful and rightful King, could not dispense with that oath, their King being still alive, and swear to your new hodge-podge of a Dutch Government? These have been turned out of their livings, and they and their families left to starve; their estates double taxed to carry on a war they had no hand in, and you got nothing by. What account can you give of the multitudes you have forced to comply, against their consciences, with your new sophistical politics, who, like new converts in France, sin because they cannot starve? And now the tables are turned upon you; you must not be persecuted; it is not a Christian spirit.

You have butchered one king, deposed another king, and made a mock king of a third, and yet you could have the face to expect to be employed and trusted by the fourth. Anybody that did not know the temper of your party would stand amazed at the impudence, as well as folly, to think of it.

Your management of your Dutch monarch, whom you reduced to a mere King of Clouts, is enough to give any future princes such an idea of your principles as to warn them sufficiently from coming into your clutches; and God be thanked the Queen is out of your hands, knows you, and will have a care of you.

There is no doubt but the supreme authority of a nation has in itself a power, and a right to that power, to execute the laws upon any part of that nation it governs. The execution of the known laws of the land, and that with a weak and gentle hand neither, was all this fanatical party of this land have ever called persecution; this they have magnified to a height, that the sufferings of the Huguenots in France were not to be compared with. Now, to execute the known laws of a nation upon those who transgress them, after voluntarily consenting to the making those laws, can never be called persecution, but justice. But justice is always violence to the party offending, for every man is innocent in his own eyes. The first execution of the laws against Dissenters in England was in the days of King James the First; and what did it amount to truly? The worst they suffered was at their own request: to let them go to New England and erect a new colony, and give them great privileges, grants, and suitable powers, keep them under protection, and defend them against all invaders, and receive no taxes or revenue from them. This was the cruelty of the Church of England. Fatal leniency! It was the ruin of that excellent prince, King Charles the First. Had King James sent all the Puritans in England away to the West Indies, we had been a national, unmixed Church; the Church of England had been kept undivided and entire.

To requite the lenity of the father they take up arms against the son; conquer, pursue, take, imprison, and at last put to death the anointed of God, and destroy the very being and nature of government, setting up a sordid impostor, who had neither title to govern nor understanding to manage, but supplied that want with power, bloody and desperate counsels, and craft without conscience.

Had not King James the First withheld the full execution of the laws, had he given them strict justice, he had cleared the nation of them, and the consequences had been plain: his son had never been murdered by them nor the monarchy overwhelmed. It was too much mercy shown them was the ruin of his posterity and the ruin of the nation's peace. One would think the Dissenters should not have the face to believe that we are to be wheedled and canted into peace and toleration when they know that they have once requited us with a civil war, and once with an intolerable and unrighteous persecution for our former civility.

Nay, to encourage us to be easy with them, it is apparent that they never had the upper hand of the Church, but they treated her with all the severity, with all the reproach and contempt that was possible. What peace and what mercy did they show the loyal gentry of the Church of England in the time of their triumphant Commonwealth? How did they put all the gentry of England to ransom, whether they were actually in arms for the King or not, making people compound for their estates and starve their families? How did they treat the clergy of the Church of England, sequestered the ministers, devoured the patrimony of the Church, and divided the spoil by sharing the Church lands among their soldiers, and turning her clergy out to starve? Just such measure as they have meted should be measured them again.

Charity and love is the known doctrine of the Church of England, and it is plain she has put it in practice towards the Dissenters, even beyond what they ought, till she has been wanting to herself, and in effect unkind to her sons, particularly in the too much lenity of King James the First, mentioned before. Had he so rooted the Puritans from the face of the land, which he had an opportunity early to have done, they had not had the power to vex the Church as since they have done.

In the days of King Charles the Second how did the Church reward their bloody doings with lenity and mercy, except the barbarous regicides of the pretended court of justice? Not a soul suffered for all the blood in an unnatural war. King Charles came in all mercy and love, cherished them, preferred them, employed them, withheld the rigour of the law, and oftentimes, even against the advice of his Parliament, gave them liberty of conscience; and how did they requite him with the villanous contrivance to depose and murder him and his successor at the Rye Plot?

King James, as if mercy was the inherent quality of the family, began his reign with unusual favour to them. Nor could their joining with the Duke of Monmouth against him move him to do himself justice upon them; but that mistaken prince thought to win them by gentleness and love, proclaimed an universal liberty to them, and rather discountenanced the Church of England than them. How they requited him all the world knows.

The late reign is too fresh in the memory of all the world to need a comment; how, under pretence of joining with the Church in redressing some grievances, they pushed things to that extremity, in conjunction with some mistaken gentlemen, as to depose the late King, as if the grievance of the nation could not have been redressed but by the absolute ruin of the prince. Here is an instance of their temper, their peace, and charity. To what height they carried themselves during the reign of a king of their own; how they crept into all places of trust and profit; how they insinuated into the favour of the King, and were at first preferred to the highest places in the nation; how they engrossed the ministry, and above all, how pitifully they managed, is too plain to need any remarks.

But particularly their mercy and charity, the spirit of union, they tell us so much of, has been remarkable in Scotland. If any man would see the spirit of a Dissenter, let him look into Scotland. There they made entire conquest of the Church, trampled down the sacred orders, and suppressed the Episcopal government with an absolute, and, as they suppose, irretrievable victory, though it is possible they may find themselves mistaken. Now it would be a very proper question to ask their impudent advocate, the Observator, pray how much mercy and favour did the members of the Episcopal Church find in Scotland from the Scotch Presbyterian Government? and I shall undertake for the Church of England that the Dissenters shall still receive as much here, though they deserve but little.

In a small treatise of the sufferings of the Episcopal clergy in Scotland, it will appear what usage they met with; how they not only lost their livings, but in several places were plundered and abused in their persons; the ministers that could not conform turned out with numerous families and no maintenance, and hardly charity enough left to relieve them with a bit of bread. And the cruelties of the parties are innumerable, and not to be attempted in this short piece.

And now to prevent the distant cloud which they perceived to hang over their heads from England, with a true Presbyterian policy they put in for a union of nations, that England might unite their Church with the Kirk of Scotland, and their Presbyterian members sit in our House of Commons, and their Assembly of Scotch canting long-cloaks in our Convocation. What might have been if our fanatic Whiggish statesmen continued, God only knows; but we hope we are out of fear of that now.

It is alleged by some of the faction—and they began to bully us with it—that if we won't unite with them they will not settle the crown with us again, but when Her Majesty dies, will choose a king for themselves.

If they won't, we must make them, and it is not the first time we have let them know that we are able. The crowns of these kingdoms have not so far disowned the right of succession but they may retrieve it again; and if Scotland thinks to come off from a successive to an elective state of government, England has not promised not to assist the right heir and put them into possession without any regard to their ridiculous settlements.

These are the gentlemen, these their ways of treating the Church, both at home and abroad. Now let us examine the reasons they pretend to give why we should be favourable to them, why we should continue and tolerate them among us.

First, they are very numerous, they say; they are a great part of the nation, and we cannot suppress them.

To this may be answered:—

1. They are not so numerous as the Protestants in France, and yet the French King effectually cleared the nation of them at once, and we don't find he misses them at home. But I am not of the opinion they are so numerous as is pretended; their party is more numerous than their persons, and those mistaken people of the Church who are misled and deluded by their wheedling artifices to join with them, make their party the greater; but these will open their eyes when the Government shall set heartily about the work, and come off from them, as some animals, which they say always desert a house when it is likely to fall.

2. The more numerous the more dangerous, and therefore the more need to suppress them; and God has suffered us to bear them as goads in our sides for not utterly extinguishing them long ago.

3. If we are to allow them only because we cannot suppress them, then it ought to be tried whether we can or not; and I am of opinion it is easy to be done, and could prescribe ways and means, if it were proper; but I doubt not the Government will find effectual methods for the rooting the contagion from the face of this land.

Another argument they use, which is this, that it is a time of war, and we have need to unite against the common enemy.

We answer, this common enemy had been no enemy if they had not made him so. He was quiet, in peace, and no way disturbed or encroached upon us, and we know no reason we had to quarrel with him.

But further, we make no question but we are able to deal with this common enemy without their help; but why must we unite with them because of the enemy? Will they go over to the enemy if we do not prevent it by a union with them? We are very well contented they should, and make no question we shall be ready to deal with them and the common enemy too, and better without them than with them.

Besides, if we have a common enemy, there is the more need to be secure against our private enemies. If there is one common enemy, we have the less need to have an enemy in our bowels.

It was a great argument some people used against suppressing the old money, that it was a time of war, and it was too great a risk for the nation to run; if we should not master it, we should be undone. And yet the sequel proved the hazard was not so great but it might be mastered, and the success was answerable. The suppressing the Dissenters is not a harder work nor a work of less necessity to the public. We can never enjoy a settled, uninterrupted union and tranquillity in this nation till the spirit of Whiggism, faction, and schism is melted down like the old money.

To talk of the difficulty is to frighten ourselves with chimeras and notions of a powerful party, which are indeed a party without power. Difficulties often appear greater at a distance than when they are searched into with judgment and distinguished from the vapours and shadows that attend them.

We are not to be frightened with it; this age is wiser than that by all our own experience and theirs too. King Charles the First had early suppressed this party if he had taken more deliberate measures. In short, it is not worth arguing to talk of their arms. Their Monmouths, and Shaftesburys, and Argyles are gone; their Dutch sanctuary is at an end; Heaven has made way for their destruction, and if we do not close with the Divine occasion we are to blame ourselves, and may remember that we had once an opportunity to serve the Church of England by extirpating her implacable enemies, and having let slip the minute that Heaven presented, may experimentally complain, Post est occasio calva.

Here are some popular objections in the way:—

As first, the Queen has promised them to continue them in their tolerated liberty, and has told us she will be a religious observer of her word.

What Her Majesty will do we cannot help; but what, as head of the Church, she ought to do, is another case. Her Majesty has promised to protect and defend the Church of England, and if she cannot effectually do that without the destruction of the Dissenters, she must of course dispense with one promise to comply with another. But to answer this cavil more effectually: Her Majesty did never promise to maintain the toleration to the destruction of the Church; but it is upon supposition that it may be compatible with the well-being and safety of the Church, which she had declared she would take especial care of. Now if these two interests clash, it is plain Her Majesty's intentions are to uphold, protect, defend, and establish the Church, and this we conceive is impossible.

Perhaps it may be said that the Church is in no immediate danger from the Dissenters, and therefore it is time enough. But this is a weak answer.

For first, if a danger be real, the distance of it is no argument against, but rather a spur to quicken us to prevention, lest it be too late hereafter.

And secondly, here is the opportunity, and the only one perhaps that ever the Church had, to secure herself and destroy her enemies.

The representatives of the nation have now an opportunity; the time is come which all good men have wished for, that the gentlemen of England may serve the Church of England. Now they are protected and encouraged by a Church of England Queen.

What will you do for your sister in the day that she shall be spoken for?

If ever you will establish the best Christian Church in the world; if ever you will suppress the spirit of enthusiasm; if ever you will free the nation from the viperous brood that have so long sucked the blood of their mother; if ever you will leave your posterity free from faction and rebellion, this is the time. This is the time to pull up this heretical weed of sedition that has so long disturbed the peace of our Church and poisoned the good corn.

But, says another hot and cold objector, this is renewing fire and faggot, reviving the act De Heretico Comburendo; this will be cruelty in its nature, and barbarous to all the world.

I answer, it is cruelty to kill a snake or a toad in cold blood, but the poison of their nature makes it a charity to our neighbours to destroy those creatures, not for any personal injury received, but for prevention; not for the evil they have done, but the evil they may do.

Serpents, toads, vipers, etc., are noxious to the body, and poison the sensitive life; these poison the soul, corrupt our posterity, ensnare our children, destroy the vitals of our happiness, our future felicity, and contaminate the whole mass.

Shall any law be given to such wild creatures? Some beasts are for sport, and the huntsmen give them advantages of ground; but some are knocked on the head by all possible ways of violence and surprise.

I do not prescribe fire and faggot, but, as Scipio said of Carthage, Delenda est Carthago. They are to be rooted out of this nation, if ever we will live in peace, serve God, or enjoy our own. As for the manner, I leave it to those hands who have a right to execute God's justice on the nation's and the Church's enemies.

But if we must be frighted from this justice under the specious pretences and odious sense of cruelty, nothing will be effected: it will be more barbarous to our own children and dear posterity when they shall reproach their fathers, as we do ours, and tell us, 'You had an opportunity to root out this cursed race from the world under the favour and protection of a true English queen; and out of your foolish pity you spared them, because, forsooth, you would not be cruel; and now our Church is suppressed and persecuted, our religion trampled under foot, our estates plundered, our persons imprisoned and dragged to jails, gibbets, and scaffolds: your sparing this Amalekite race is our destruction, your mercy to them proves cruelty to your poor posterity.'

How just will such reflections be when our posterity shall fall under the merciless clutches of this uncharitable generation, when our Church shall be swallowed up in schism, faction, enthusiasm, and confusion; when our Government shall be devolved upon foreigners, and our monarchy dwindled into a republic.

It would be more rational for us, if we must spare this generation, to summon our own to a general massacre, and as we have brought them into the world free, send them out so, and not betray them to destruction by our supine negligence, and then cry, 'It is mercy.'

Moses was a merciful, meek man, and yet with what fury did he run through the camp, and cut the throats of three and thirty thousand of his dear Israelites that were fallen into idolatry. What was the reason? It was mercy to the rest to make these examples, to prevent the destruction of the whole army.

How many millions of future souls we save from infection and delusion if the present race of poisoned spirits were purged from the face of the land!

It is vain to trifle in this matter, the light, foolish handling of them by mulcts, fines, etc.,—it is their glory and their advantage. If the gallows instead of the Counter, and the galleys instead of the fines, were the reward of going to a conventicle, to preach or hear, there would not be so many sufferers. The spirit of martyrdom is over; they that will go to church to be chosen sheriffs and mayors would go to forty churches rather than be hanged.

If one severe law were made and punctually executed, that whoever was found at a conventicle should be banished the nation and the preacher be hanged, we should soon see an end of the tale. They would all come to church, and one age would make us all one again.

To talk of five shillings a month for not coming to the sacrament, and one shilling per week for not coming to church, this is such a way of converting people as never was known; this is selling them a liberty to transgress for so much money. If it be not a crime, why don't we give them full license? And if it be, no price ought to compound for the committing it, for that is selling a liberty to people to sin against God and the Government.

If it be a crime of the highest consequence both against the peace and welfare of the nation, the glory of God, the good of the Church, and the happiness of the soul, let us rank it among capital offences, and let it receive a punishment in proportion to it.

We hang men for trifles, and banish them for things not worth naming; but an offence against God and the Church, against the welfare of the world and the dignity of religion, shall be bought off for five shillings! This is such a shame to a Christian Government that it is with regret I transmit it to posterity.

If men sin against God, affront His ordinances, rebel against His Church, and disobey the precepts of their superiors, let them suffer as such capital crimes deserve. So will religion flourish, and this divided nation be once again united.

And yet the title of barbarous and cruel will soon be taken off from this law too. I am not supposing that all the Dissenters in England should be hanged or banished, but, as in cases of rebellions and insurrections, if a few of the ringleaders suffer, the multitude are dismissed; so, a few obstinate people being made examples, there is no doubt but the severity of the law would find a stop in the compliance of the multitude.

To make the reasonableness of this matter out of question, and more unanswerably plain, let us examine for what it is that this nation is divided into parties and factions, and let us see how they can justify a separation, or we of the Church of England can justify our bearing the insults and inconveniences of the party.

One of their leading pastors, and a man of as much learning as most among them, in his answer to a pamphlet, entitled 'An Inquiry into the Occasional Conformity,' has these words, p. 27, 'Do the religion of the Church and the meeting-houses make two religions? Wherein do they differ? The substance of the same religion is common to them both; and the modes and accidents are the things in which only they differ.' P. 28: 'Thirty-nine articles are given us for the summary of our religion; thirty-six contain the substance of it, wherein we agree; three the additional appendices, about which we have some differences.'

Now, if, as by their own acknowledgment, the Church of England is a true Church, and the difference between them is only in a few modes and accidents, why should we expect that they will suffer galleys, corporeal punishment, and banishment for these trifles? There is no question but they will be wiser; even their own principles will not bear them out in it; they will certainly comply with the laws and with reason; and though at the first severity they may seem hard, the next age will feel nothing of it; the contagion will be rooted out; the disease being cured, there will be no need of the operation; but if they should venture to transgress and fall into the pit, all the world must condemn their obstinacy, as being without ground from their own principles.

Thus the pretence of cruelty will be taken off, and the party actually suppressed, and the disquiets they have so often brought upon the nation prevented.

Their numbers and their wealth make them haughty, and that is so far from being an argument to persuade us to forbear them, that it is a warning to us, without any delay, to reconcile them to the unity of the Church or remove them from us.

At present, Heaven be praised, they are not so formidable as they have been, and it is our own fault if ever we suffer them to be so. Providence and the Church of England seem to join in this particular, that now the destroyers of the nation's peace may be overturned, and to this end the present opportunity seems to be put into our hands.

To this end her present Majesty seems reserved to enjoy the crown, that the ecclesiastic as well as civil rights of the nation may be restored by her hand. To this end the face of affairs have received such a turn in the process of a few months as never has been before; the leading men of the nation, the universal cry of the people, the unanimous request of the clergy, agree in this, that the deliverance of our Church is at hand. For this end has Providence given us such a Parliament, such a Convocation, such a gentry, and such a Queen as we never had before. And what may be the consequences of a neglect of such opportunities? The succession of the crown has but a dark prospect; another Dutch turn may make the hopes of it ridiculous and the practice impossible. Be the house of our future princes never so well inclined, they will be foreigners, and many years will be spent in suiting the genius of strangers to this crown and the interests of the nation; and how many ages it may be before the English throne be filled with so much zeal and candour, so much tenderness and hearty affection to the Church as we see it now covered with, who can imagine?

It is high time, then, for the friends of the Church of England to think of building up and establishing her in such a manner that she may be no more invaded by foreigners nor divided by factions, schisms, and error.

If this could be done by gentle and easy methods, I should be glad; but the wound is corroded, the vitals begin to mortify, and nothing but amputation of members can complete the cure; all the ways of tenderness and compassion, all persuasive arguments, have been made use of in vain.

The humour of the Dissenters has so increased among the people that they hold the Church in defiance, and the house of God is an abomination among them; nay, they have brought up their posterity in such prepossessed aversions to our holy religion that the ignorant mob think we are all idolaters and worshippers of Baal, and account it a sin to come within the walls of our churches.

The primitive Christians were not more shy of a heathen temple or of meat offered to idols, nor the Jews of swine's flesh, than some of our Dissenters are of the Church, and the divine service selemnised therein.

This obstinacy must be rooted out with the profession of it; while the generation are less at liberty daily to affront God Almighty and dishonour His holy worship, we are wanting in our duty to God and our mother, the Church of England.

How can we answer it to God, to the Church, and to our posterity, to leave them entangled with fanaticism, error, and obstinacy in the bowels of the nation; to leave them an enemy in their streets, that in time may involve them in the same crimes, and endanger the utter extirpation of religion in the nation?

What is the difference betwixt this and being subjected to the power of the Church of Rome, from whence we have reformed? If one be an extreme on one hand, and one on another, it is equally destructive to the truth to have errors settled among us, let them be of what nature they will.

Both are enemies of our Church and of our peace; and why should it not be as criminal to admit an enthusiast as a Jesuit? Why should the Papist with his seven sacraments be worse than the Quaker with no sacraments at all? Why should religious houses be more intolerable than meeting-houses? Alas, the Church of England! What with Popery on one hand, and schismatics on the other, how has she been crucified between two thieves!

Now let us crucify the thieves. Let her foundations be established upon the destruction of her enemies. The doors of mercy being always open to the returning part of the deluded people, let the obstinate be ruled with the rod of iron.

Let all true sons of so holy and oppressed a mother, exasperated by her afflictions, harden their hearts against those who have oppressed her.

And may God Almighty put it into the hearts of all the friends of truth to lift up a standard against pride and Antichrist, that the posterity of the sons of error may be rooted out from the face of this land for ever.


(NOS. I AND 2)


(The two pamphlets entitled The Conduct of the Allies and The Public Spirit of the Whigs—which are sometimes considered the capital examples of the political efforts of Swift's magnificent genius—were the very Jachin and Boaz of the Tory administration in the last years of Anne, and the effect of them has been admitted by such a violent Whig and such a good critic as Jeffrey. They seemed, however, not wholly suitable for insertion here; first, because of their length (for one would have occupied nearly a third, the other nearly a fourth of this volume), and secondly, because the greater part of each does really, to some extent, underlie the charge brought against political pamphlets generally, and, being occupied with a great number of personal and particular matters, requires either much intimacy with the period or elaborate and probably tedious comparison and elucidation, to make it intelligible. No such drawback attaches to the almost more famous Drapier's Letters, of which I give the first and second. They were written at the very zenith of their author's marvellous powers, and at the time when his saeva indignatio was heated seven times hotter than usual by the conviction that his last hope of English promotion was gone. Their circumstances are simple and well known. Wood had received a patent to coin copper money for Ireland to the amount of L108,000. Most commentators seem to think that he would have done this honestly enough; to me the simple fact that on the revocation of his patent a pension of L3000 a year was given to him in compensation is proof enough of the contrary. It is impossible to imagine any honest profit on a transaction of such a nature to such an amount which could rise to the capital value of such a pension. That Swift was instigated to take up his pen against the transaction by private griefs against the Ministry is extremely probable; that the thing was not a job less so. As before, I must refer to biographers for the details of the matter; the text is what interests us here. I shall only remind the reader that Swift was fifty-seven when the 'Drapier' wrote, that Gulliver appeared about three years later, and that Swift himself expired—lunatic and miserable beyond utterance—on the 19th October 1745, twenty-one years after all Dublin and half England had rung with the boldness and the triumph of the 'Drapier.')



Brethren, Friends, Countrymen, and Fellow Subjects—What I intend now to say to you, is, next to your duty to God, and the care of your salvation, of the greatest concern to yourselves, and your children; your bread and clothing, and every common necessary of life entirely depend upon it. Therefore I do most earnestly exhort you as men, as Christians, as parents, and as lovers of your country, to read this paper with the utmost attention, or get it read to you by others; which that you may do at the less expence, I have ordered the printer to sell it at the lowest rate.

It is a great fault among you, that when a person writes with no other intention than to do you good you will not be at the pains to read his advices: one copy of this paper may serve a dozen of you, which will be less than a farthing a-piece. It is your folly that you have no common or general interest in your view, not even the wisest among you, neither do you know or enquire, or care who are your friends or who are your enemies.

About four years ago, a little book was written, to advise all people to wear the manufactures of this our own dear country: it had no other design, said nothing against the king or Parliament, or any man, yet the poor printer was prosecuted two years, with the utmost violence, and even some weavers themselves, for whose sake it was written, being upon the jury, found him guilty. This would be enough to discourage any man from endeavouring to do you good, when you will either neglect him or fly in his face for his pains, and when he must expect only danger to himself and loss of money, perhaps to his ruin.

However, I cannot but warn you once more of the manifest destruction before your eyes, if you do not behave yourselves as you ought.

I will therefore first tell you the plain story of the fact; and then I will lay before you how you ought to act in common prudence, and according to the laws of your country.

The fact is thus, It having been many years since copper half-pence or farthings were last coined in this kingdom, they have been for some time very scarce, and many counterfeits passed about under the name of raps. Several applications were made to England, that we might have liberty to coin new ones, as in former times we did; but they did not succeed. At last one Mr. Wood a mean ordinary man, a hard-ware dealer, procured a patent under his Majesty's Broad Seal to coin fourscore and ten thousand pounds in copper for this kingdom, which patent however did not oblige any one here to take them, unless they pleased. Now you must know, that the half-pence and farthings in England pass for very little more than they are worth. And if you should beat them to pieces, and sell them to the brazier, you would not lose above a penny in a shilling. But Mr. Wood made his half-pence of such base metal, and so much smaller than the English ones, that the brazier would not give you above a penny of good money for a shilling of his; so that this sum of fourscore and ten thousand pounds in good gold and silver, must be given for trash that will not be worth above eight or nine thousand pounds real value. But this is not the worst, for Mr. Wood, when he pleases, may by stealth send over another and another fourscore and ten thousand pounds, and buy all our goods for eleven parts in twelve, under the value. For example, if a hatter sells a dozen of hats for five shillings a-piece, which amounts to three pounds, and receives the payment in Mr. Wood's coin, he really receives only the value of five shillings.

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