E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
A contemptuous synonym for Protestant used by the Roman Catholics. Cardinal Cullen, in 1869, gave notice that he would deprive of the sacrament all parents who sent their children to be taught in mixed Model
schools, where they were associated with Presbyterians, Socinians, Arians, and Swaddlers. (See Times, September 4, 1869.)
The origin of the term is as follows:
It happened that Cennick, preaching on Christmas Day, took for his text these words from St. Lukes Gospel: And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. A Catholic who was present, and to whom the language of Scripture was a novelty, thought this so ridiculous that he called the preacher a swaddler in derision, and this unmeaning word became a nickname for Protestant, and had all the effect of the most opprobrious appellation. (Southey: Life of Wesley, ii. 153.)