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spect and esteem; but his Rehearsal, and the rest of his political papers, are yet more pernicious than those of the former two. If the generality of the people know not how to talk or think, until they have read their lesson in the papers of the week, what a misfortune is it that their duty should be conveyed to them through such vehicles as those! For, let some gentlemen think what they please, I cannot but suspect that the two worthies I first mentioned, have, in a degree, done mischief among us; the mock authoritative manner of the one, and the insipid mirth of the other, however insupportable to reasonable ears, being of a level with great numbers among the lowest part of mankind. Neither was the author of the Rehearsal, while he continued that paper, less infectious to many persons of better figure, who, perhaps, were as well qualified, and much less prejudiced, to judge for themselves.
It was this reason that moved me to take the matter out of those rough, as well as those dirty hands; to let the remote and uninstructed part of the nation see, that they have been misled on both sides, by mad ridiculous extremes, at a wide distance on each side of the truth; while the right path is so broad and plain as to be easily kept, if they were once put into it.
Farther: I had lately entered on a resolution to take little notice of other papers, unless it were such, where the malice and falsehood had so great a mixture of wit and spirit as would make them dangerous which, in the present circle of scribblers, from twelve-pence to a halfpenny, I could easily foresee would not very frequently occur. But here again I am forced to dispense with my resolution, although it be only to tell my reader what measures I am likely to take on such occasions for
the future. I was told, that the paper called The Observator, was twice filled last week with remarks upon a late Examiner. These I read with the first opportunity, and, to speak in the news-writers phrase, they gave me occasion for many speculations. I observed, with singular pleasure, the nature of those things which the owners of them usually call answers, and with what dexterity this matchless author had fallen into the whole art and cant of them. To transcribe here and there three or four detached lines of least weight in a discourse, and by a foolish comment mistake every syllable of the meaning, is what I have known many, of a superior class to this formidable adversary, entitle an Answer. * This is what he has exactly done, in about thrice as many words as my whole discourse; which is so mighty an advantage over me, that I shall by no means engage in so unequal a combat; but, as far as I can judge of my own temper, entirely dismiss him for the future; heartily wishing he had a match exactly of his own size to meddle with, who should only have the odds of truth and honesty; which, as I take it, would be an effectual way to silence him for ever. Upon this occasion I cannot forbear a short story of a fanatic farmer, who lived in my neighbourhood, and was so great a disputant in religion, that the servants in all the families thereabouts reported how he had confuted the bishop and all his clergy. I had then a footman, who was fond of reading the Bible: and I borrowed a comment for him, which he studied so close, that in a month or two I thought him a match for the farmer. They disputed at several houses,
*Swift has given an humourous specimen of such an Answer in No. XXII. of the Examiner.
with a ring of servants and other people always about them; where Ned explained his texts so full and clear to the capacity of his audience, and shewed the insignificancy of his adversary's cant to the meanest understanding, that he got the whole country on his side, and the farmer was cured of his itch of disputation for ever after.
The worst of it is, that this sort of outrageous party-writers I have spoken of above, are like a couple of makebates, who inflame small quarrels by a thousand stories, and by keeping friends at a distance, hinder them from coming to a good understanding; as they certainly would, if they were suffered to meet and debate between themselves: for let any one examine a reasonable honest man, of either side, upon those opinions in religion and government, which both parties daily buffet each other about, he shall hardly find one material point in difference between them. I would be glad to ask a question about two great men of the late ministry, How they came to be Whigs? and by what figure of speech, half a dozen others, lately put into great employments, can be called Tories? I doubt, whoever would suit the definition to the persons, must make it directly contrary to what we understood it at the time of the Revolution.
In order to remove these misapprehensions among us, I believe it will be necessary, upon occasion, to detect the malice and falsehood of some popular maxims, which those idiots scatter from the press twice a-week, and draw a hundred absurd consequences from them.
*The Duke of Marlborough, and Lord Godolphin, who commenced their political career as Tories, and only became Whigs through the necessity of identifying their own principles with that of the party which supported their power.
For example; I have heard it often objected, as a great piece of insolence in the clergy and others, to say or hint, that the church was in danger, when it was voted otherwise in parliament some years ago; and the queen herself, in her last speech, did openly condemn all such insinuations. Notwithstanding which, I did then, and do still believe the church has, since that vote, been in very imminent danger; and I think I might then have said so, without the least offence to her majesty, or either of the two Houses. The queen's words, as near as I can remember, mentioned the church being in danger from her administration; and whoever says or thinks that, deserves, in my opinion, to be hanged for a traitor: but that the church and state may be both in danger, under the best princes that ever reigned, and without the least guilt of theirs, is such a truth, as a man must be a great stranger to history and common sense, to doubt. The wisest prince on earth may be forced, by the necessity of his affairs, and the present power of an unruly faction; or deceived by the craft of ill-designing men. One or two ministers, most in his confidence, may at first have good intentions, but grow corrupted by time, by avarice, by love, by ambition, and have fairer terms offered them to gratify their passions or interests, from one set of men than another, until they are too far involved for a retreat; and so be forced to take seven spirits more wicked than themselves. This is a very possible case; and will not the last state of such men be worse than the first? that is to say, will not the public, which was safe at first, grow in danger by such proceedings as these? And shall a faithful subject, who foresees and trembles at the consequences, be called disaffected, because he delivers his opinion, although the prince declares, as he justly
may, that the danger is not owing to his administration? or shall the prince himself be blamed, when, in such a juncture, he puts his affairs into other hands, with the universal applause of his people? As to the vote against those who should affirm the church was in danger, I think it likewise referred to danger from, or under the queen's administration; for I neither have it by me, nor can suddenly have recourse to it; but, if it were otherwise, I know not how it can refer to any dangers but what were past, or at that time present; or how it could affect the future, unless the senators were all inspired, or at least that majority which voted it neither do I see it is any crime, farther than ill manners, to differ in opinion from a majority of either, or both Houses; and that ill manners, I must confess, I have been often guilty of for some years past, although I hope I never shall again.
Another topic of great use to these weekly inflamers is, the young Pretender in France, to whom their whole party is in a high measure indebted for all their greatness; and whenever it lies in their power, they may perhaps return their acknowledgments, as, out of their zeal for frequent revolutions, they were ready to do to this supposed father; which is a piece of secret history, that I hope will one day see the light; and I am sure it shall, if ever I am master of it, without regarding whose ears may tingle. * But at present, the word Pretender is a
* The Duke of Marlborough was more than once suspected of being engaged in schemes for a counter-revolution. Sir John Dalrymple affirms, on the authority of Principal Gordon of the Scotch College, that the Earl of Oxford had obtained possession of a letter of the Duke of Marlborough, when Lord Churchill, addressed to James II., and giving him information of the projected attempt upon Brest in 1694; and that the Duke, perceiving