A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, IN IRELAND,
UPON THE CHOOSING A NEW SPEAKER THERE.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1708.
In the note prefixed to the reprint of Swift’s “Letter concerning the Sacramental Test,” the circumstances under which this “Letter to a Member of Parliament in Ireland” was written, are explained (see vol. iv., pp. 3-4, of present edition). The Godolphin ministry was anxious to repeal the Test Act in Ireland, as a concession to the Presbyterians who had made themselves prominent by their expressions of loyalty to William and the Protestant succession. In this particular year also (1708), rumours of an invasion gave them another opportunity to send in loyal addresses. In reality, however, the endeavour to try the repeal in Ireland, was in the nature of a test, and Swift ridiculed the attempt as being like to “that of a discreet physician, who first gives a new medicine to a dog, before he prescribes it to a human creature.” It seems that Swift had been consulted by Somers on the question of the repeal, and had given his opinion very frankly. The letter to Archbishop King, revealing this, contains some bitter remarks about “a certain lawyer of Ireland.” The lawyer was Speaker Brodrick, afterwards Lord Midleton, who was enthusiastic for the repeal. The present letter gives a very clear idea of what Swift thought should be a Speaker’s duties both as the chairman of the House and as related to this particular measure of the Test.
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The text of the present reprint is based on the original manuscript in Swift’s handwriting; but as this was found to be somewhat illegible, it has been collated with the text given in vol. viii. of the quarto edition of Swift’s collected works, published in 1765.
You may easily believe I am not at all surprised at what you tell me, since it is but a confirmation of my own conjecture that I sent you last week, and made you my reproaches upon it at a venture. It looks exceeding strange, yet, I believe it to be a great truth, that, in order to carry a point in your house, the two following circumstances are of great advantage; first, to have an ill cause; and, secondly, to be a minority. For both these circumstances are extremely apt to unite men, to make them assiduous in their attendance, watchful of opportunities, zealous for gaining over proselytes, and often successful; which is not to be wondered at, when favour and interest are on the side of their opinion. Whereas, on