Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Ireland an Independent Kingdom
By Jonathan Swift (16671745)
From The Drapiers Letters
ANOTHER slander spread by Wood1 and his emissaries is, that by opposing him, we discover an inclination to throw off our dependence upon the crown of England. Pray observe how important a person is this same William Wood, and how the public weal of two kingdoms is involved in his private interest. First, all those who refuse to take his coin are Papists; for he tells us, that none but Papists are associated against him. Secondly, they dispute the Kings prerogative. Thirdly, they are ripe for rebellion. And, fourthly, they are going to shake off their dependence upon the crown of England; that is to say, they are going to choose another king; for there can be no other meaning in this expression, however some may pretend to strain it.
And this gives me an opportunity of explaining to those who are ignorant, another point, which has often swelled in my breast. Those who come over hither to us from England, and some weak people among ourselves, whenever in discourse we make mention of liberty and property, shake their heads, and tell us, that Ireland is a depending kingdom; as if they would seem by this phrase to intend, that the people of Ireland are in some state of slavery or dependence different from those of England: whereas a depending kingdom is a modern term of art, unknown as I have heard to all ancient civilians, and writers upon government; and Ireland is, on the contrary, called in some statutes an imperial crown, as held only from God: which is as high a style as any kingdom is capable of receiving. Therefore, by this expression, a depending kingdom, there is no more to be understood, than that, by a statute made here in the thirty-third year of Henry VIII., the king, and his successors, are to be kings imperial of this realm, as united and knit to the imperial crown of England. I have looked over all the English and Irish statutes, without finding any law that makes Ireland depend upon England, any more than England does upon Ireland. We have indeed obliged ourselves to have the same king with them; and consequently they are obliged to have the same king with us. For the law was made by our own Parliament; and our ancestors then were not such fools (whatever they were in the preceding reign) to bring themselves under I know not what dependence, which is now talked of, without any ground of law, reason, or common sense.
Let whoever thinks otherwise I, M. B., drapier, desire to be excepted; for I declare, next under God, I depend only on the king my sovereign, and on the laws of my own country. And I am so far from depending upon the people of England, that if they should ever rebel against my sovereign (which God forbid!) I would be ready, at the first command from his majesty, to take arms against them, as some of my countrymen did against theirs at Preston. And if such a rebellion should prove so successful as to fix the Pretender on the throne of England, I would venture to transgress that statute so far, as to lose every drop of my blood to hinder him from being King of Ireland.
It is true, indeed, that within the memory of man, the Parliaments of England have sometimes assumed the power of binding this kingdom by laws enacted there; wherein they were at first openly opposed (as far as truth, reason, and justice, are capable of opposing) by the famous Mr. Molineux, an English gentleman born here, as well as by several of the greatest patriots and best Whigs in England; but the love and torrent of power prevailed. Indeed the arguments on both sides were invincible. For, in reason, all government without the consent of the governed, is the very definition of slavery; but, in fact, eleven men well armed will certainly subdue one single man in his shirt. But I have done; for those who have used to cramp liberty, have gone so far as to resent even the liberty of complaining; although a man upon the rack was never known to be refused the liberty of roaring as loud as he thought fit.