Gullivers travels into s.., p.20
Gulliver's Travels into Several Remote Regions of the World, p.20Jonathan Swift
THE AUTHOR'S LOVE OF HIS COUNTRY. HE MAKES A PROPOSAL OF MUCH ADVANTAGE TO THE KING, WHICH IS REJECTED. THE KING'S GREAT IGNORANCE IN POLITICS. THE LEARNING OF THAT COUNTRY VERY IMPERFECT AND CONFINED. THE LAWS, AND MILITARY AFFAIRS, AND PARTIES IN THE STATE.
Nothing but an extreme love of truth could have hindered me fromconcealing this part of my story. It was in vain to discover myresentments, which were always turned into ridicule; and I was forced torest with patience, while my noble and beloved country was soinjuriously treated. I am as heartily sorry as any of my readers canpossibly be, that such an occasion was given: but this prince happenedto be so curious and inquisitive upon every particular, that it couldnot consist either with gratitude or good manners, to refuse giving himwhat satisfaction I was able. Yet this much I may be allowed to say, inmy own vindication, that I artfully eluded many of his questions, andgave to every point a more favorable turn, by many degrees, than thestrictness of truth would allow. For I have always borne that laudablepartiality to my own country, which Dionysius Halicarnassensis withso much justice, recommends to an historian: I would hide the frailtiesand deformities of my political mother, and place her virtues andbeauties in the most advantageous light. This was my sincere endeavor,in those many discourses I had with that monarch, although itunfortunately failed of success.
But great allowances should be given to a king who lives wholly secludedfrom the rest of the world, and must therefore be altogetherunacquainted with the manners and customs that most prevail in othernations: the want of which knowledge will ever produce many prejudices,and a certain narrowness of thinking, from which we and the politercountries of Europe are wholly exempted. And it would be hard indeed, ifso remote a prince's notions of virtue and vice were to be offered as astandard for all mankind.
To confirm what I have now said, and farther to show the miserableeffects of a confined education, I shall here insert a passage whichwill hardly obtain belief. In hopes to ingratiate myself farther intohis majesty's favor, I told him of an invention discovered between threeand four hundred years ago, to make a certain powder into a heap, onwhich the smallest spark of fire falling would kindle the whole in amoment, although it were as big as a mountain, and make it all fly up inthe air together with a noise and agitation greater than thunder. That aproper quantity of this powder rammed into a hollow tube of brass oriron, according to its bigness, would drive a ball of iron or lead withsuch violence and speed as nothing was able to sustain its force. Thatthe largest balls thus discharged would not only destroy whole ranks ofan army at once, but batter the strongest walls to the ground, sinkdown ships with a thousand men in each to the bottom of the sea; and,when linked together by a chain, would cut through masts and rigging,divide hundreds of bodies in the middle, and lay all waste before them.That we often put this powder into large hollow balls of iron, anddischarged them by an engine into some city we were besieging, whichwould rip up the pavements, tear the houses to pieces, burst and throwsplinters on every side, dashing out the brains of all who came near.That I knew the ingredients very well, which were cheap and common; Iunderstood the manner of compounding them, and could direct his workmanhow to make those tubes of a size proportionable to all other things inhis majesty's kingdom, and the largest need not to be above a hundredfeet long; twenty or thirty of which tubes, charged with the properquantity of powder and balls, would batter down the walls of thestrongest town in his dominions in a few hours, or destroy the wholemetropolis if ever it should pretend to dispute his absolute commands.This I humbly offered to his majesty as a small tribute ofacknowledgment, in return for so many marks that I had received of hisroyal favor and protection.
The king was struck with horror at the description I had given him ofthose terrible engines, and the proposal I had made. He was amazed, howso impotent and grovelling an insect as I (these were his expressions),could entertain such inhuman ideas, and in so familiar a manner, as toappear wholly unmoved at all the scenes of blood and desolation, which Ihad painted, as the common effects of those destructive machines,whereof, he said, some evil genius, enemy to mankind, must have been thefirst contriver. As for himself, he protested, that although few thingsdelighted him so much as new discoveries in art or in nature, yet hewould rather lose half his kingdom than be privy to such a secret, whichhe commanded me, as I valued my life, never to mention any more.
A strange effect of narrow principles and short views! that a princepossessed of every quality which procures veneration, love, and esteem;of strong parts, great wisdom, and profound learning, endowed withadmirable talents for government, and almost adored by his subjects,should, from a nice unnecessary scruple, whereof in Europe we can haveno conception, let slip an opportunity put into his hands, that wouldhave made him absolute master of the lives, the liberties, and thefortunes of his people. Neither do I say this with the least intentionto detract from the many virtues of that excellent king, whose characterI am sensible will on this account be very much lessened in the opinionof an English reader; but I take this defect among them to have arisenfrom their ignorance, by not having hitherto reduced politics into ascience, as the more acute wits of Europe have done. For I remember verywell, in a discourse one day with the king, when I happened to say therewere several thousand books among us, written upon the art ofgovernment, it gave him (directly contrary to my intention) a very meanopinion of our understandings. He professed both to abominate anddespise all mystery, refinement, and intrigue, either in a prince or aminister. He could not tell what I meant by secrets of state, where anenemy or some rival nation were not in the case. He confined theknowledge of governing within very narrow bounds, to common sense andreason, to justice and lenity, to the speedy determination of civil andcriminal causes, with some other obvious topics, which are not worthconsidering. And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make twoears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground,where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do moreessential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians puttogether.
The learning of this people is very defective, consisting only inmorality, history, poetry, and mathematics, wherein they must be allowedto excel. But the last of these is wholly applied to what may be usefulin life, to the improvement of agriculture, and all mechanical arts; sothat among us it would be little esteemed. And as to ideas, entities,abstractions, and transcendentals, I could never drive the leastconception into their heads.
No law of that country must exceed in words the number of letters intheir alphabet, which consists only in two-and-twenty. But indeed few ofthem extend even to that length. They are expressed in the most plainand simple terms, wherein those people are not mercurial enough todiscover above one interpretation; and to write a comment upon any lawis a capital crime. As to the decision of civil causes, or proceedingsagainst criminals, their precedents are so few, that they have littlereason to boast of any extraordinary skill in either.
They have had the art of printing, as well as the Chinese, time out ofmind: but their libraries are not very large; for that of the king,which is reckoned the largest, doth not amount to above a thousandvolumes, placed in a gallery of twelve hundred feet long, from whence Ihad liberty to borrow what books I pleased. The queen's joiner hadcontrived in one of Glumdalclitch's rooms, a kind of wooden machine,five-and-twenty feet high, formed like a standing ladder; the steps wereeach fifty feet long: it was indeed a movable pair of stairs, the lowestend placed at ten feet distance from the wall of the chamber. The book Ihad a mind to read was put up leaning against the wall: I first mountedto the upper step of the ladder, and turning my face towards the bookbegan at the top of the page, and so walking to the right and left abouteight or ten paces, according to the length of the lines, till I hadgotten a little below the level of mine eyes, and then descendinggradually, till I came to the bottom: after which I mounted again, andbegan the other page in the same manner, and so turned over the le
Their style is clear, masculine, and smooth, but not florid; for theyavoid nothing more than multiplying unnecessary words, or using variousexpressions. I have perused many of their books, especially those inhistory and morality. Among the rest, I was much diverted with a littleold treatise, which always lay in Glumdalclitch's bed-chamber, andbelonged to her governess, a grave elderly gentlewoman, who dealt inwritings of morality and devotion. The book treats of the weakness ofhuman kind, and is in little esteem, except among the women and thevulgar. However, I was curious to see what an author of that countrycould say upon such a subject.
This writer went through all the usual topics of European moralists,showing how diminutive, contemptible, and helpless an animal was man inhis own nature; how unable to defend himself from inclemencies of theair, or the fury of wild beasts; how much he was excelled by onecreature in strength, by another in speed, by a third in foresight, by afourth in industry. He added, that nature was degenerated in theselatter declining ages of the world, and could now produce only smallbirths, in comparison to those in ancient times. He said, it was veryreasonable to think, not only that the species of men were originallymuch larger, but also, that there must have been giants in former ages;which as it is asserted by history and tradition, so it hath beenconfirmed by huge bones and skulls, casually dug up in several parts ofthe kingdom, far exceeding the common dwindled race of man in our days.He argued, that the very laws of nature absolutely required we shouldhave been made in the beginning of a size more large and robust, not soliable to destruction, from every little accident, of a tile fallingfrom a house, or a stone cast from the hand of a boy, or being drownedin a little brook. From this way of reasoning the author drew severalmoral applications, useful in the conduct of life, but needless here torepeat. For my own part, I could not avoid reflecting, how universallythis talent was spread, of drawing lectures in morality, or, indeed,rather matter of discontent and repining, from the quarrels we raisewith nature. And I believe, upon a strict inquiry, those quarrels mightbe shown as ill-grounded among us as they are among that people.
As to their military affairs, they boast that the king's army consistsof a hundred and seventy-six thousand foot, and thirty-two thousandhorse: if that may be called an army which is made up of tradesmen inthe several cities, and farmers in the country, whose commanders areonly the nobility and gentry, without pay or reward. They are indeedperfect enough in their exercises, and under very good discipline,wherein I saw no great merit; for how should it be otherwise, whereevery farmer is under the command of his own landlord, and every citizenunder that of the principal men in his own city, chosen after the mannerof Venice, by ballot?
I have often seen the militia of Lorbrulgrud drawn out to exercise in agreat field, near the city, of twenty miles square. They were in all notabove twenty-five thousand foot, and six thousand horse: but it wasimpossible for me to compute their number, considering the space ofground they took up. A cavalier, mounted on a large steed, might beabout ninety feet high. I have seen this whole body of horse, upon aword of command, draw their swords at once, and brandish them in theair. Imagination can figure nothing so grand, so surprising, and soastonishing! it looked as if ten thousand flashes of lightning weredarting at the same time from every quarter of the sky.
I was curious to know how this prince, to whose dominions there is noaccess from any other country, came to think of armies, or to teach hispeople the practice of military discipline. But I was soon informed,both by conversation and reading their histories: for in the course ofmany ages, they have been troubled with the same disease to which thewhole race of mankind is subject; the nobility often contending forpower, the people for liberty, and the king for absolute dominion. Allwhich, however, happily tempered by the laws of that kingdom, have beensometimes violated by each of the three parties, and have more than onceoccasioned civil wars, the last whereof was happily put an end to bythis prince's grandfather, in a general composition; and themilitia, then settled with common consent, hath been ever since kept inthe strictest duty.
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