This is a short picture of the life I have led; which is more miserable than that of the poorest labourer who works for four pence a day; and yet custom is so strong, that I am confident, if I could make my escape at the foot of the gallows, I should be following the same course this very evening. So that upon the whole, we ought to be looked upon as the common enemies of mankind; whose interest it is to root us out likes wolves, and other mischievous vermin, against which no fair play is required.
If I have done service to men in what I have said, I shall hope I have done service to God; and that will be better than a silly speech made for me full of whining and canting, which I utterly despise, and have never been used to; yet such a one I expect to have my ears tormented with, as I am passing along the streets.
Good people fare ye well; bad as I am, I leave many
worse behind me. I hope you shall see me die
like a man, the death of a dog.
MAXIMS IN STATE AND GOVERNMENT,
WITH REFERENCE TO IRELAND.
These maxims, written in the year 1724, may be taken as Swift’s opening of his campaign against the oppressive legislation of England which had brought Ireland to the degraded and poverty-stricken condition it existed in at the time he wrote. Burke characterizes these maxims as “a collection of State Paradoxes, abounding with great sense and penetration.” The subjects they touch on are dealt with in greater detail in the tracts which follow in this volume, and the reader is referred to them and the notes for the causes which had brought Ireland in so low a state.
* * * * *
The text of the present
edition is based on that given by Deane
Swift in the eighth volume of the edition of 1765.
There are certain maxims of state, founded upon long observation and experience, drawn from the constant practice of the wisest nations, and from the very principles of government, nor ever controlled by any writer upon politics. Yet all these maxims do necessarily presuppose a kingdom, or commonwealth, to have the same natural rights common to the rest of mankind, who have entered into civil society; for if we could conceive a nation where each of the inhabitants had but one eye, one leg, and one hand, it is plain that, before you could institute them into a republic, an allowance must be made for those material defects wherein they differed from other mortals. Or, imagine a legislator forming a system for the government of Bedlam, and, proceeding upon the maxim that man is a sociable animal, should draw them out of their cells, and form them into corporations or general assemblies; the consequence might probably be, that they would fall foul on each other, or burn the house over their own heads.