Modest Proposal is a satirical essay by the 18th century author Jonathan Swift. In the voice of a rich gentleman, largely out of touch with society. It outlines an argument for selling infant children for meat. To do so would reignite Ireland's industries, bringing the country out of its current financial slump.
The author states that Ireland needs a cheap and simple solution to help its impoverished population. The Irish streets are full of woman beggars and many of them have children, which they struggle to feed. Despite these struggles, the children mostly grow up to become thieves.
The author argues that among the 1.5 million people in the country, approximately 120,000 are children who have no use to society. He considers that the mother could sell her child at the age of twelve, but then she would only receive the paltry sum of three pounds The author states the best solution would be to keep 20,000 of the 120,000 children as breeders and sell the remaining 100,000 for meat.
The beggar women would profit greatly. He calculates that it only costs them two shillings to look after their child in the first year. After that a merchant would buy it for at least ten shillings, leaving the beggar woman with eight shillings. With the modest life that money could afford her, she would soon be fit to join the workforce.
The author states there are six advantages to his idea.
First of all, it would lessen the number of Catholics in the country who the author states are the enemy of the people.
Secondly, the poor people would own something valuable, allowing them to pay their rent and pay for their cattle.
Third of all, there would be a circulation of money from goods manufactured from within the country.
Fourthly, the breeder of the children, the beggar woman, wouldn't have to look after the children after the first year.
The fifth reason is that taverns would become places fitter for gentlemen.
His last and final reason is that the proposal would help marriage. The husband and wife would so happy that they can contribute something valuable that they would treat each other with great respect.
The author claims to have no other interest than to relieve the poor and give pleasure to the rich.