« AnteriorContinua »
vancement of Religion ;" in which, after enume. rating all the corruptions and depravities of the age, he shows, that the chief source of them was the neglect, or contempt of religion, which so generally prevailed. Though at first view this pamphlet seemed to have no other drift, but to lay down a very rational scheme for a general reformation of manners, yet upon a closer examination it will
appear to have been a very strong, though covert attack, upon the power of the whigs. It could not have escaped a man of Swist's penetration, that the queen had been a long time wavering in hier sentiments, and that she was then meditating that change in the ministry, which some time afterward took place. To confirm her in this intention, and to basten the execution of it, appears, from the whole tenour of the pamphlet, to have been the main object he had in view, in publishing it at that time. For though it seems designed for the use of the world in general, and is particularly addressed to the countess of Berkeley, yet that it was chicfly calculated for the queen's perusal, appears from this; that the whole execution of his project depended upon the impression which it might make upon her mind; and the only means of reformation proposed, were such as were altogether in her own power. At setting out, he says;
Now, as universal and deep rooted as these corruptions appear to be, I am utterly deccived, if an effectual remedy inight not be applied to most of them ; neither am I now upon a wild speculative project, but such a one as may be easily put in execution. For, while the prerogative of giving all employments continues in the crown, either immediately, or by subordination ; it is in the power of the prince to
make piety and virtue become the fashion of the age, if, at the same time, he would make them necessary qualifications for favour and preferment." He then proceeds to show the necessity of her majesty's exerting her authority in this way, by a very free observation, couched under one of the finest compliments that ever was penned : “ It is clear from present experience, that the bare example of the best prince, will not have any mighty influence where the age is very corrupt. For, when was there ever a better prince on the throne than the present queen? I do not talk of her talent for government, her love of the people, or any other qualities that are purely regal; but her piety, charity, temperance, conjugal love, and whatever other virtues do best adorn a private life; wherein, without question, or flattery, she has no superiour : yet, neither will it be satire or peevish invective to affirm, that infidelity and vice are not much diminished since her coming to the crown ; nor will, in all probability, until more effectual remedies be provided.”
The chief remedy he proposes, is, “ To bring re. ligion into countenance, and encourage those who, from the hope of future reward, and dread of future punishment, will be moved to act with justice and integrity. This is not to be accomplished in any other way than by introducing religion as much as possible, to be the turn and fashion of the age, which only lies in the power of the administration ; the prince, with utmost strictness, regulating the court, the ministry, and other persons in great employment; and these, by their example and authority, reforming all who have dependence on them.” Having expatiated on this topick, and shown how
easily such a design might be carried into execution, if the queen would only form such a determination, he proceeds to enforce his arguments by conscientious motives ; which were likely to have the strongest effects upon one of such a truly religious turn as the queen was.
After having just mentioned some points of reformation, in which the aid of the legislature might be found necessary, he says, “ But this is beside my present design, which was only to show what degree of reformation is in the power of the queen, without interposition of the legislature; and which her majesty is, without question, obliged in conscience to endeavour by her authority, as much as she does by her practice.”
And in another place he still more forcibly urges arguments of the same nature: “ The present queen is a prince of as many and great virtues, as ever filled a throne : how would it brighten her character to the present, and after ages, if she would exert her utmost authority to instil some share of those virtues into her people, which they are too degenerate to learn, only from her example. And, be it spoke with all the veneration possible for so excellent a sovereign ; her best endeavours in this weighty affair, are a most important part of her duty, as well as of her interest, and her honour."
Nothing could have been better contrived to work upon the queen's disposition, than the whole of this tract. In which the author first shows that all the corruptions and wickedness of the times, arose from irreligion: he shows that it is in her majesty's power alone, without other aid, to restore religion to its true lustre and force, and to make it have a general influence on the manners and conduct of her people:
and then he urges the strongest motives, of honour, of interest, and of duty, to induce her to enter upon the immediate exercise of that power. And to render what he offered upon that head more forcible, it was apparently written by some disinterested hand, from no other principle but a due regard to religion and morality. For the author artfully suppressed all mention of party : and yet, upon a closer examination, it would appear, that nothing could be more directly, though covertly, aimed at the destruction of the power of the whigs. For, the first step proposed to render the design effectual, was, that the queen should employ none in her ministry, or in any offices about her person, but such as had the cause of religion at heart; now this was in effect to say, that she must begin with turning out the whigs, or low church party, who in general professed either an indifference to, or contempt of religion; and choose her officers from among the tories, or high church party, with whom the support of the interests of religion was the first and most generally avowed principle.
After the publication of this piece, Swift went to Ireland, where he remained till the revolution in the ministry took place, which happened in the following year ; when Mr. Harley, and Mr. St. John, the heads of the tory party in the house of commons, were appointed to fill the chief offices; the former, that of chancellor of the exchequer, the latter, that of principal secretary of state. During this interval, Swift passed much of his time with Mr. Addison, who had gone over to Ireland as first secretary to the earl of Wharton, then lord lieutenant of that kingdom. By this means he had an opportunity
of being an eye witness of the corrupt administration of affairs in that kingdom, under that lord's government, which he afterwards exposed to the world in such strong and odious colours. Had Swift been intent only on his own promotion, it is probable that he might easily have obtained preferment in Ireland at that juncture, on account of his great intimacy with the secretary; but he would have scorned to pay court to a viceroy of such a character, or even to have accepted. any favour at his hands. Upon the change of affairs at court, when a new ministry was appointed, Swift was requested by the bishops of Ireland to take upon him the charge of soliciting a remission of the first fruits, and twentieth parts, to the clergy of that kingdom. It was not without great reluctance that he accepted of this office, for reasons hereafter to be assigned; but his regard to the interests of the church, outweighed all other considerations, and he accordingly set out for England as soon as his credentials were ready,
FROM THE INTRODUCTION TO MR. HARLEY, TO THE
DEATH OF THE QUEEN. ON
N his arrival in London in the month of September 1710, he found that open war was declared be tween the two parties, and raged with the utmost violence. There was no room for moderating schemes, and according to his own: maxim, that a good citizen could not remain neutral in such a situation of affairs, Swift was to choose his party, and to VOL. I.