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Preaching Patriotism

Irish Humour Home

Dean Swift is said to have jocularly remarked, that he never preached
but twice in his life, and then they were not sermons, but pamphlets.
Being asked, upon what subject? he replied, they were against Wood's
halfpence. One of these sermons has been preserved, and is from this
text, As we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men. Its
object was to show the great want of public spirit in Ireland, and to
enforce the necessity of practising that virtue. I confess, said he,
it was chiefly the consideration of the great danger we are in, which
engaged me to discourse to you on this subject, to exhort you to a love
of your country, and a public spirit, when all you have is at stake; to
prefer the interest of your prince and your fellow subjects before that
of one destructive impostor, and a few of his adherents.

Perhaps it may be thought by some, that this way of discoursing is not
so proper from the pulpit; but surely when an open attempt is made, and
far carried on, to make a great kingdom one large poor-house; to deprive
us of all means to excite hospitality or charity; to turn our cities and
churches into ruins; to make this country a desert for wild beasts and
robbers; to destroy all arts and sciences, all trades and manufactures,
and the very tillage of the ground, only to enrich one obscure
ill-designing projector, and his followers; it is time for the pastor
to cry out that the wolf is getting into his flock, to warn them to
stand together, and all to consult the common safety. And God be praised
for his infinite goodness, in raising such a spirit of union among us at
least in this point, in the midst of all our former divisions; which
union, if it continues, will in all probability defeat the pernicious
design of this pestilent enemy to the nation.

It will scarcely be credited, that this dreadful description, when
stripped of its exaggerations, meant no more than that Ireland might
lose about six thousand a year during Wood's patent for coining

Next: Swift And His Butler

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