« AnteriorContinuar »
A project was set on foot in 1720 for the establishing of a national
bank in Dublin. Swift took it for a variety of the stock-jobbing schemes which the South Sea Bubble had made overfamiliar, and wrote several skits upon the subject, including the Swearer's Bank, with the result that the project was rejected in parliament.
The seven Drapier's Letters, which were published at intervals
in 1724, were the first of Swift's writings to exercise that powerful influence over the people of Ireland which he long afterwards retained. Their precise object, the rejection of a copper coinage supposed to be base, and known to be uttered by a party job," presents little of permanent interest, though the fraud, if such it was, stirred the vials of Swift's wrath tempest-high. The real importance of these Letters lies in their effect upon the Irish nation. For the first time an Irish public opinion was brought to bear upon the distant Government. The Drapier's Letters won the day; Wood's Halfpence were countermanded ; and the Dean, with an ineffectual offer of £300 for the discovery of the Drapier upon his head, became the idol of his countrymen and the terror of the lord-lieutenant. But the Letters are not wholly busied with halfpence. In the fourth, along with some of Swift's best manner in the treatment of the threat about the fire-balls, we come upon a noble vindication of Irish liberty and a strenuous repudiation of the doctrine of dependence. It was in this fourth letter that the Government found matter for prosecution, but no jury could be induced to bring a true bill even against the printer; and as for betraying the Dean, the popular feeling was expressed in the scriptural saying, then on everyone's lips, Shall Jonathan die who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel”?
The Modest Proposal was written and published in 1729, when
people in Ireland were starving in thousands and the dead lay unburied at the doors. It gives the essence of Swift's feeling about Ireland, and is “one of the most tremendous pieces of satire in existence. Swift is burning with a passion, the glow of which makes other passions look cold, as it is said that some bright lights cause other illuminating objects to cast a shadow. Yet his face is absolutely grave, and he details his plan as calmly as a modern projector sug: gesting the importation of Australian meat. The superficial coolness may be revolting to tender-hearted people, and has indeed led to condemnation of the supposed ferocity of the author almost as surprising, as the criticisms which can see in it nothing but an exquisite piece of humour. It is, in truth, fearful to read even now. Yet we can forgive and even sympathize when we take it for what it really is the most complete expression of burning indignation against intolerable wrongs."-Leslie Stephen.
Si populus vult decipi, decipiatur. "O believe everything that is said by a certain set of
men, and to doubt of nothing they relate, though ever so improbable,” is a maxim that has contributed as much, for the time, to the support of Irish banks as it ever did to the Popish religion ; and they are not wholly beholden to the latter for their foundation, but they have the happiness to have the same patron saint; for Ignorance, the reputed mother of the devotion of one, seems to bear the same affectionate relation to the credit of the other.
To subscribe to banks, without knowing the scheme or design of them, is not unlike to some gentlemen's signing addresses without knowing the contents of them: to engage in a bank that has neither act of parliament, charter, nor lands to support it, is like sending a ship to sea without a bottom; to expect a coach and six by the former, would be as ridiculous as to hope a return by the latter.
It was well known some time ago that our banks would be included in the bubble-bill; and it was believed those chimeras would necessarily vanish with the first easterly wind that should inform the town of the royal assent.
It was very mortifying to several gentlemen who dreamed of nothing but easy chariots, on the arrival of the fatal packet, to slip out of them into their walking shoes. But should those banks, as it is vainly imagined, be so fortunate as to obtain a charter, and purchase lands; yet, on any run on them in a time of invasion, there would be so many starving proprietors, reviving their old pretensions to land and a bellyful, that the subscribers would be unwilling upon any call to part with their money, not knowing what might happen ; so that in a rebellion, where the success was doubtful, the bank would infallibly break.
Since so many gentlemen of this town have had the courage, without any security, to appear in the same paper with a million or two; it is hoped, when they are made sensible of their safety, that they will be prevailed to trust themselves in a neat skin of parchment, with a single one.
To encourage them, the undertaker proposes the erecting of a bank on parliamentary security, and such security as no revolution or change of times can effect.
To take away all jealousy of any private view of the undertaker, he assures the world that he is now in a garret, in a very thin waistcoat, studying the public good ; having given an undeniable pledge of his love to his country by pawning his coat in order to defray the expense of the press. It is very
well known that, by an act of parliament to prevent profane swearing, the person so offending, on
oath made before a magistrate, forfeits a shilling, which may be levied with little difficulty.
It is almost unnecessary to mention that this is become a pet vice among us; and though age renders us unfit for other vices, yet this, where it takes hold, never leaves us but with our speech.
So vast a revenue might be raised by the execution of this act, that I have often wondered, in a scarcity of funds, that methods have not been taken to make it serviceable to the public.
I dare venture to say, if this act was well executed in England, the revenue of it, applied to the navy, would make the English fleet a terror to all Europe.
It is computed by geographers that there are 2,000,000 in this kingdom (of Ireland), of which number there may be said to be 1,000,000 of swearing souls.
It is thought there may be 5000 gentlemen ; every gentleman, taking one with another, may afford to swear an oath every day, which will yearly produce 1,825,000 oaths ; which number of shillings makes the yearly sum of £91,250.
The farmers of this kingdom, who are computed to be 10,000, are able to spend yearly 500,000 oaths, which gives £25,000 ; and it is conjectured that, from the bulk of the people, £20,000 or £25,000 may be yearly collected.
These computations are very modest, since it is evi. dent that there is a much greater consumption of oaths in this kingdom, and consequently a much greater sum might be yearly raised.
That it may be collected with ease and regularity, it is proposed to settle informers in great towns in propor