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Swift's Political Principles

Irish Humour Home

In a letter to Pope, alluding to the days when he took part in politics,
he thus expresses himself:--

I had likewise in those days a mortal antipathy to standing armies in
times of peace. Because I always took standing armies to be only
servants, hired by the master of the family to keep his own children in
slavery; and because I conceived that a prince who could not think
himself secure without mercenary troops, must needs have a separate
interest from that of his subjects.

As to Parliaments, I adored the wisdom of that Gothic institution which
made them annual, and I was confident that our liberty could never be
placed upon a firm foundation until that ancient law were restored among
us. For who sees not, that while such assemblies are permitted to have a
longer duration, there grows up a commerce of corruption between the
ministry and the deputies, wherein they both find account, to the
manifest danger of liberty; which traffic would neither answer the
design nor expense, if parliaments met once a year.

I ever abominated that scheme of politics (now about thirty years old)
of setting up a moneyed interest in opposition to that of the landed:
for I conceived there could not be a truer maxim in government than
this, that the possessors of the soil are the best judges of what is for
the advantage of the kingdom. If others had thought the same way, funds
of credit and South Sea projects would neither have been felt nor heard

I could never see the necessity of suspending any law upon which the
liberty of the most innocent persons depend: neither do I think this
practice has made the taste of arbitrary power so agreeable as that we
should desire to see it repeated. Every rebellion subdued, and plot
discovered, contributes to the firmer establishment of the Prince: in
the latter case, the knot of conspirators is entirely broken, and they
are to begin their work anew under a thousand disadvantages; so that
those diligent inquiries into remote and problematical guilt, with a new
power of enforcing them by chains and dungeons to every person whose
face a minister thinks fit to dislike, are not only opposite to that
maxim which declares it better that ten guilty men should escape than
one innocent suffer, but likewise leave a gate wide open to the whole
tribe of informers, the most accursed, and prostitute, and abandoned
race that God ever permitted to plague mankind.

Next: Swift's Charity

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