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An examination of certain abuses, corruptions, and enormities in the city of Dublin (Author: Jonathan Swift)


An examination of certain abuses, corruptions, and enormities in the city of Dublin

Like many of Swift's satirical writings the title of this tract is no indication to its subject-matter. Whatever 'abuses, corruptions and enormities' may have been rife in the city of Dublin in Swift's time, the pamphlet which follows certainly throws no light on them. It is in no sense a social document. But it is a very amusing and excellent piece of jeering at the fancied apprehensions that were rife about the Pretender, the ‘disaffected’ people, and the Jacobites. It is aimed at the Whigs, who were continually using the party cries of ‘No Popery,’ ‘Jacobitism,’ and the other cognate expressions to distress their political opponents. At the same time, these cries had their effects, and created a great deal of mischief. The Roman Catholics, in particular, were cruelly treated because of the anxiety for the Protestant succession, and among the lower tradesmen, for whom such cries would be of serious meaning, a petty persecution against their Roman Catholic fellow-tradesmen continually prevailed. Monck Mason draws attention to some curious instances. (See his History of St. Patrick's Cathedral, p. 399, note y.)

In the Journals of the Irish House of Commons (vol. ii., p. 77) is the record of a petition presented in the year 1695, by the Protestant porters of the city of Dublin, against one Darby Ryan, ‘a papist and notoriously disaffected.’ This Ryan was complained of for employing those of his own persuasion and affection to carry a cargo of coals he had bought, to his own customers. The petitioners complained that they, Protestants, were ‘debased and hindered from their small trade and gains.’ Another set of petitioners was the drivers of hackney coaches. They complained that, ‘before the late trouble, they got a livelihood by driving coaches in and about the city of Dublin, but since that time, so many papists had got coaches, and drove them with such ordinary horses, that the petitioners could hardly get bread . . . They therefore prayed the house that none but Protestant hackney-coachmen may have liberty to keep and drive hackney-coaches.’ Swift may have had these instances in his mind when he urges that the criers who cry their wares in Dublin should be True Protestants, and should give security to the government for permission to cry.

In a country where such absurd complaints could be seriously presented, and as seriously considered, a genuine apprehension must have existed. The Whigs in making capital out of this existing feeling stigmatized their Tory opponents as High Churchmen, and therefore very little removed from Papists, and therefore Jacobites. Of course there were no real grounds for such epithets, but they indulged in them nevertheless, with the addition of insinuations and suggestions—no insinuation being too feeble or too far-fetched so long as it served.

Swift, writing in the person of a Whig, affects extreme anxiety for the


most ridiculous of signs, and finds a Papist, or a Jacobite, or a disaffected person, in the least likely of places. The tract, in this light, is a really amusing piece. Swift takes the opportunity also to hit Walpole, under a pretended censure of his extravagance, corruption, and avarice.

The text here given of this tract is based on that of the original edition issued in Dublin in 1732. The last paragraph, however, does not appear in that edition, and is reprinted here from Scott.