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The Examiner, a weekly political broadside of the same size as
the Tatler, was started by St. John in 1710 as the organ of the Tory party, but at first with small success. “Addison had brought into the field his Whig Examiner with such damaging effect that the ministry were in ill case if better advocacy for them could not be found.” Then Swift undertook the defence, and thirty-three consecutive Examiners, from the fourteenth (Nov. 2, 1710) to the forty-sixth (June 14th 1711), inclusive, were written by him. They were the “ leading articles " of the day, and provided for the first time a statesmanlike exposition of the ministerial policy.
The Conduct of the Allies was written and published in Nov.
1711. This tract was intended to make Marlborough unpopular and prepare the way for a peace, by opening the eyes of the people to the cost of the war, the venality of the General and of the Allies, and the interested motives of its upholders, the “monied men ;” and by showing how other powers were profiting at England's expense. It produced a tremendous effect. “The people, who had been amused with bonfires and triumphal processions, and looked with idolatry on the general and his friends, who, as they thought, had made England the arbitress of nations, were confounded between shame and rage, when they found that 'mines had been exhausted and millions destroyed,' to secure the Dutch, or aggrandize the emperor,
without any advantage to ourselves; that we had been bribing our neighbours to fight their own quarrel ; and that amongst our enemies we might number our allies.”Johnson. The extract here given, which forms but a tenth part of the tract, occurs near the end. Swift has urged his three-headed indictment against the war party and the Allies, and proceeds to show to what a pass the country has been brought by their policy.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 1710.
E quibus hi vacuas implent sermonibus aures,
to interrupt the scheme I had begun in my last paper, by an Essay upon the Art of Political Lying. We are told the devil is the father of lies, and was a liar from the beginning ; so that, beyond contradiction, the invention is old : and, which is more, his first Essay of it was purely political, employed in undermining the authority of his prince, and seducing a
third part of the subjects from their obedience : for which he was driven down from heaven, where (as Milton expresses it) he had been viceroy of a great western province; and forced to exercise his talent in inferior regions among other fallen spirits, poor or deluded men, whom he still daily tempts to his own sin, and will ever do so, till he be chained in the bottomless pit.
But although the devil be the father of lies, he seems, like other great inventors, to have lost much of his reputation by the continual improvements that have been made upon him.
Who first reduced lying into an art, and adapted it to politics, is not so clear from history, although I have made some diligent inquiries, I shall therefore consider it only according to the modern system, as it has been cultivated these twenty years past in the southern part of our own island.
The poets tell us that, after the giants were overthrown by the gods, the earth in revenge produced her last offspring, which was Fame. And the fable is thus interpreted : that when tumults and seditions are quieted, rumours and false reports are plentifully spread through a nation. So that, by this account, lying is the last relief of a routed, earth-born, rebellious party in a state, But here the moderns have made great additions, applying this art to the gaining of power and preserving it, as well as revenging themselves after they have lost it; as the same instruments are made use of by animals to feed themselves when they are hungry, and to bite those that tread upon them.
But the same genealogy cannot always be admitted
for political lying ; I shall therefore desire to refine upon it, by adding some circumstances of its birth and parents. A political lie is sometimes born out of a discarded statesman's head, and thence delivered to be nursed and dandled by the rabble. Sometimes it is produced a monster, and licked into shape : at other times it comes into the world completely formed, and is spoiled in the licking. It is often born an infant in the regular way, and requires time to mature it ; and often it sees the light in its full growth, but dwindles away by degrees. Sometimes it is of noble birth, and sometimes the spawn of a stock-jobber. Here it screams aloud at the opening of the womb, and there it is delivered with a whisper. I know a lie that now disturbs half the kingdom with its noise, [of] which, although too proud and great at present to own its parents, I can remember its whisperhood. To conclude the nativity of this monster ; when it comes into the world without a sting it is still-born; and whenever it loses its sting it dies.
No wonder if an infant so miraculous in its birth should be destined for great adventures ; and accordingly we see it has been the guardian spirit of a prevailing party for almost twenty years.
It can con quer kingdoms without fighting, and sometimes with the loss of a battle. It gives and resumes employments; can sink a mountain to a mole-hill, and raise a mole-hill to a mountain ; has presided for many years at committees of elections; can wash a blackmoor white ; make a saint of an atheist, and a patriot of a profligate ; can furnish foreign ministers with intelligence, and raise or let fall the credit of the nation. This goddess Aies with a huge looking-glass in her
hands, to dazzle the crowd, and make them see, according as she turns it, their ruin in their interest, and their interest in their ruin. In this glass you will behold your best friends, clad in coats powdered with fleurs de lis and triple crowns; their girdles hung round with chains, and beads, and wooden shoes ; and your worst enemies adorned with the ensigns of liberty, property, indulgence, moderation, and a cornucopia in their hands. Her large wings, like those of a flying-fish, are of no use but while they are moist ; she therefore dips them in mud, and, soaring alost, scatters it in the eyes of the multitude, flying with great swiftness ; but at every turn is forced to stoop in dirty ways for new supplies.
I have been sometimes thinking, if a man had the art of the second sight for seeing lies, as they have in Scotland for seeing spirits, how admirably he might entertain himself in this town, by observing the different shapes, sizes, and colours of those swarms of lies which buzz about the heads of some people, like Aies about a horse's ears in summer ; or those legions hovering every afternoon in Exchange-alley, enough to darken the air ; or over a club of discontented grandees, and thence sent down in cargoes to be scattered at elections.
There is one essential point wherein a political liar differs from others of the faculty, that he ought to have but a short memory, which is necessary according to the various occasions he meets with every hour of differing from himself and swearing to both sides of a contradiction, as he finds the persons disposed with whom he has to deal. In describing the virtues and vices of mankind, it is convenient, upon every article,