Item of the Day: Swift's Conduct of the Allies (1712)
The Conduct of the Allies, and of the Late Ministry, in Beginning and Carrying on the Present War.
Written by Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745. Printed in London for John Morphew, 1712.
I Cannot sufficiently admire the Industry of a sort of Men, wholly out of Favour with the Prince and People, and openly possessing a separate Interest from the Bulk of the Landed Men, who yet are able to raise, at this Juncture, so great a Clamour against a Peace, without offering one single Reason, but what we find in their Ballads. I lay it down for a Maxim, That no reasonable Man, whether Whig or Tory (since it is necessary to use those foolish Terms) can be of the Opinion for continuing the War, upon the Foot it now is unless he be a Gainer by it, or hopes it may occasion some new Turn of Affairs at home, to the Advantage of his Party; or lastly, unless he be very ignorant of the Kingdom's Condition, and by what Means we have been reduced to it. Upon the two first Cases, where Interest is concerned, I have nothing to say: But as to the last, I think it highly necessary, that the Publick should be freely and impartially told what Circumstances they are in, after what Manner they have been treated by those whom they trusted so many Years with the Disposal of their Blood and Treasure, and what the Consequences of this Management are like to be upon themselves and their Posterity.
Those who either by Writing or Discourse, have undertaken to defend the Proceedings of the Late Ministry, in the Management of the War, and of the Treaty at Gertruydenburg, have spent time in celebrating the Conduct and Valour of our Leaders and their Troops, in summing up the Victories they have gained and the Towns they have taken. Then they tell us what high Articles were insisted on by our Ministers and those of the Confederates, and what Pains both were at in persuading France to accept them. But nothing of this can give the least Satisfaction to the just Complaints of the Kingdom. As to the War, our Grievances are, That a greater Load has been laid on Us than was either just or necessary, or than we have been able to bear; that the grossest Impositions have been submitted to for the Advancement of private Wealth and Power, or in order to forward the more dangerous Designs of a Faction, to both which a Peace would have put an End; And that the Part of the War which was chiefly our Province, which would have been most beneficial to us, and destructive to the Enemy, was wholly neglected. As to a Peace, We complain of being deluded by a Mock Treaty; in which those who Negotiated, took care to make such Demands as they knew were impossible to be complied with, and therefore might securely press every Article as if they were in earnest.
These are some of the Points I design to treat of in the following Discourse; with several others which I thought it necessary, at this time, for the Kingdom to be informed of. I think I am not mistaken in those Facts I mention; at least not in any Circumstance so material, as to weaken the Consequences I draw from them.
After Ten Years War with perpetual Success, to tell us it is yet impossible to have a good Peace, is very surprising, and seems so different from what hath ever hapned in the World before, that a Man of any Party may be allowed suspecting, we have either been ill used, or have not made the most of our Victories, and might therefore desire to know where the Difficulty lay: Then it is natural to enquire into our present Condition; how long we shall be able to go on at this Rate; what the Consesquences may be upon the present and future Ages; and whether a Peace, without that impracticable Point which some People do so much insist on, be really ruinous in it self, or equally so with the Continuance of the War.