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Gulliver's Travels (1726)

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Jonathan Swift


Chapter VI.

A Continuation of the State of England, so well governed by a Queen as to need no first Minister. The Character of such an one in some European Courts.
1 MY Master was yet wholly at a Loss to understand what Motives could incite this Race of Lawyers to perplex, disquiet, and weary themselves, and engage in a Confederacy of Injustice, merely for the Sake of injuring their Fellow-Animals; neither could he comprehend what I meant in saying they did it for Hire. Whereupon I was at much Pains to describe to him the Use of Money, the Materials it was made of, and the Value of the Metals; that when a Yahoo had got a great Store of this precious Substance, he was able to purchse whatever he had a mind to, the finest Cloathing, the noblest Houses, great Tracts of Land, the most costly Meats and Drinks, and have his choice of the most beautiful Females. Therefore since Money alone, was able to perform all these Feats, our Yahoos thought, they could never have enough of it to spend or to save, as they found themselves inclined from their natural Bent either to Profusion or Avarice. That the Rich Man enjoyed the Fruit of the Poor Man's Labour, and the latter were a thousand to one in proportion to the former. That the Bulk of our People were forced to live miserably, by labouring every Day for small Wages to make a few live plentifully. I enlarged myself much on these and many other Particulars to the same purpose: But his Honour was still to seek: For he went upon a supposition that all Animals had a Title to their share in the Productions of the Earth, and especially those who presided over the rest. Therefore he desired I would let him know, what these costly Meats were, and how any of us happened to want them. Whereupon I enumerated as many sorts as came into my Head, with the various Methods of dressing them, which could not be done without sending Vessels by Sea to every part of the World, as well for Liquors to Drink, as for Sauces, and innumerable other Conveniencies. I assured him, that this whole Globe of Earth must be at least three times gone round, before one of our better Female Yahoos could get her Breakfast, or a Cup to put it in. He said, That must needs be a miserable Country which cannot furnish Food for its own Inhabitants. But what he chiefly wondered at was how such vast Tracts of Ground as I described should be wholly without Fresh-water, and the People put to the Necessity of sending over the Sea for Drink. I replied, that England (the dear Place of my Nativity) was computed to produce three times the quantity of Food, more than its Inhabitants are able to consume, as well as Liquors extracted from Grain, or pressed out of the Fruit of certain Trees, which made excellent Drink, and the same Proportion in every other Convenience of Life. But in order to feed the Luxury and Intemperance of the Males, and the Vanity of the Females, we sent away the greatest Part of our necessary Things to other Countries, from whence in return we brought the Materials of Diseases, Folly, and Vice, to spend among ourselves. Hence it follows of Necessity, that vast Numbers of our People are compelled to seek their Livelihood by Begging, Robbing, Stealing, Cheating, Pimping, Forswearing, Flattering, Suborning, Forging, Gaming, Lying, Fawning, Hectoring, Voting, Scribling, Stargazing, Poysoning, Whoring, Canting, Libelling, Free-thinking, and the like Occupations: Every one of which Terms, I was at much Pains to make him understand.
2 THAT Wine was not imported among us from foreign Countries, to supply the want of Water or other Drinks, but because it was a sort of Liquid which made us merry, by putting us out of our Senses; diverted all melancholy Thoughts, begat wild extravagant Imaginations in the Brain, raised our Hopes, and banished our Fears, suspended every Office of Reason for a Time, and deprived us of the Use of our Limbs, till we fell into a profound Sleep; although it must be confessed, that we always awaked sick and dispirited, and that the Use of this Liquor filled us with Diseases, which made our Lives uncomfortable and short.
3 BUT beside all this, the Bulk of our People supported themselves by furnishng the Necessities and Conveniencies of Life to the Rich, and to each other. For Instance, when I am at home and dressed as I ought to be, I carry on my Body the Workmanship of an Hundred Tradesmen; the Building and Furniture of my House employ as many more and five times the Number to adorn my Wife.
4 I WAS going on to tell him of another sort of People, who get their Livelihood by attending the Sick, having upon some Occasions informed his Honour that many of my Crew had died of Diseases. But here it was with the utmost Difficulty, that I brought him to apprehend what I meant. He could easily conceive, that a Houyhnhnm grew weak and heavy a few Days before his Death, or by some Accident might hurt a Limb. But that Nature, who works all Things to Perfection, should suffer any Pains to breed in our Bodies, he thought it impossible, and desired to know the Reason of so unaccountable an Evil. I told him, we fed on a thousand Things which operated the one contrary to each other; that we eat when we were not hungry, and drank without the Provocation of Thirst; That we sate whole Nights drinking strong Liquors without eating a Bit, which disposed us to Sloth, enflamed our Bodies, and precipitated or prevented Digestion. That prostitute Female Yahoos acquired a certain Malady, which bred Rottenness in the Bones of those, who fell into their Embraces; That this and many other Diseases, were propagated from Father to Son, so that great Numbers come into the World with complicated Maladies upon them; that it would be endless to give him a Catalogue of all Diseases incident to human Bodies; for they could not be fewer than five or six hundred, spread over every Limb, and Joynt; in short, every Part, external and intestine, having Diseases appropriated to them. To remedy which, there was a Sort of People bred up among us, in the Profession or Pretence of curing the Sick. And because I had some Skill in the Faculty, I would in Gratitude to his Honour, let him know the whole Mystery and Method by which they proceed.
5 THEIR Fundamental is, That all Diseases arise from Repletion, from whence they conclude, that a great Evacuation of the Body is necessary, either through the natural Passage, or upwards at the Mouth. Their next Business is, from Herbs, Minerals, Gums, Oyls, Shells, Salts, Juices, Seaweed, Excrements, Barks of Trees, Serpents, Toads, Frogs, Spiders, dead Mens Flesh and Bones, Beasts and Fishes, to form a Composition for Smell and Taste the most abominable, nauseous and detestable, they can possibly contrive, which the Stomach immediately rejects with loathing; and this they call a Vomit; or else from the same Store-house, with some other poysonous Additions, they command us to take in at the Orifice above or below, (just as the Physician then happens to be disposed) a Medicine equally annoying and disgustful to the Bowels, which relaxing the Belly, drives down all before it, and this they call a Purge, or a Glyster. For Nature (as the Physicians alledge) having intended the superior anterior Orifice only for the intromission of Solids and Liquids, and the inferior for Ejection, these Artists ingeniously considering that in all Diseases Nature is forced out of her Seat; therefore to replace her in it, the Body must be treated in a manner directly contrary, by interchanging the Use of each Orifice, forcing Solids and Liquids in at the Anus, and making Evacuations at the Mouth.
6 BUT, besides real Diseases, we are subject to many that are only imaginary, for which the Physicians have Invented imaginary Cures; these have their several Names, and so have the Drugs that are proper for them, and with these our Female Yahoos are always infested.
7 ONE great Excellency in this Tribe is their Skill at Prognosticks, wherein they seldom fail; their Predictions in real Diseases, when they rise to any Degree of Malignity, generally portending Death, which is always in their Power, when Recovery is not: And therefore, upon any unexpected Signs of Amendment, after they have pronounced their Sentence, rather than be accused as false Prophets, they know how to approve their Sagacity to the World by a seasonable Dose.
8 THEY are likewise of special Use to Husbands and Wives, who are grown weary of their Mates, to eldest Sons, to great Ministers of State, and often to Princes.
9 I HAD formerly upon occasion discoursed with my Master upon the Nature of Government in general, and particularly of our own excellent Constitution, deservedly the Wonder and Envy of the whole World. But having here accidentally mentioned a Minister of State; he commanded me some time after to inform him, what Species of Yahoo I particularly meant by that Appellation.
10 I TOLD him, that our She Governor or Queen having no Ambition to gratify, no Inclination to satisfy of extending her Power to the Injury of her Neighbours, or the Prejudice of her own Subjects, was therefore so far from needing a corrupt Ministry to carryon or cover any sinister Designs, that She not only directs her own Actions to the Good of her People, conducts them by the Direction, and restrains them within the Limitation of the Laws of her own Country; but submits the Behaviour and Acts of those She intrusts with the Administration of Her Affairs to the Examination of Her great Council, and subjects them to the Penalties of the Law; and therefore never puts any such Confidence in any of her Subjects as to entrust them with the whole and entire Administration of her Affairs: But I added, that in some former Reigns here, and in many other Courts of Europe now, where Princes grew indolent and careless of their own Affairs through a constant Love and Pursuit of Pleasure, they made use of such an Administrator, as I had mentioned, under the Title of first or chief Minister of State, the Description of which, as far as it may be collected not only from their Actions, but from the Letters, Memoirs, and Writings published by themselves, the Truth of which has not yet been disputed, may be allowed to be as follows: That he is a Person wholly exempt from Joy and Grief, Love and Hatred, Pity and Anger; at least makes use of no other Passions but a violent Desire of Wealth, Power, and Titles; That he applies his Words to all Uses, except to the Indication of his Mind; That he never tells a Truth, but with an Intent that you should take it for a Lye; nor a Lye, but with a Design that you should take it for a Truth; That those he speaks worst of behind their Backs, are in the surest Way to Preferment; and whenever he begins to praise you to others or to yourself, you are from that Day forlorn. The worst Mark you can receive is a Promise, especially when it is confirmed with an Oath; after which every wise Man retires, and gives over all Hopes.
11 THERE are three Methods by which a Man may rise to be chief Minister: The first is, by knowing how with Prudence to dispose of a Wife, a Daughter, or a Sister: The second, by betraying or undermining his Predecessor: And the third is, by a furious Zeal in publick Assemblies against the Corruptions of the Court. But a Wise Prince would rather choose to employ those who practice the last of these Methods; because such Zealots prove always the most obsequious and subservient to the Will and Passions of their Master. That these Ministers having all Employments at their Disposal, preserve themselves in Power by bribing the Majority of a a Senate or great Council; and at last by an Act of Indemnity (whereof I described the Nature to him) they secured themselves from after Reckonings, and retired from the Publick, laden with the Spoils of the Nation.
12 THE Palace of a Chief Minister, is a Seminary to breed up others in his own Trade: The Pages, Lacquies, and Porter, by imitating their Master, become Ministers of State in their several Districts, and learn to excel in the three principal Ingredients, of Insolence, Lying, and Bribery. Accordingly, they have a Subaltern Court paid to them by Persons of the best Rank, and sometimes by the Force of Dexterity and Impudence, arrive through several Gradations to be Successors to their Lord.
13 HE is usually governed by a decayed Wench or favourite Footman, who are the Tunnels through which all Graces are conveyed, and may properly be called, in the last Resort, the Governors of the Kingdom.
14 ONE Day in Discourse my Master, having heard me mention the Nobility of my Country, was pleased to make me a Compliment which I could not pretend to deserve: That he was sure, I must have been born of some Noble Family, because I far exceeded in Shape, Colour, and Cleanliness, all the Yahoos of his Nation, although I seemed to fail in Strength, and Agility, which must be imputed to my different Way of Living from those other Brutes, and besides, I was not only endowed with the Faculty of Speech, but likewise with some Rudiments of Reason, to a Degree, that with all his Acquaintance I passed for a Prodigy.
15 HE made me observe, that among the Houyhnhnms, the White, the Sorrel, and the Iron-grey, were not so exactly shaped as the Bay, the Dapplegrey, and the Black; nor born with equal Talents of the Mind, or a Capacity to improve them; and therefore continued always in the Condition of Servants, without ever aspiring to match out of their own Race, which in that Country would be reckoned monstrous and unnatural.
16 I MADE his Honour my most humble Acknowledgements for the good Opinion he was pleased to conceive of me; but assured him at the same time, that my Birth was of the lower Sort, having been born of plain honest Parents, who were just able to give me a tolerable Education: That Nobility among us was altogether a different Thing from the Idea he had of it; That our Young Noblemen are bred from their Childhood in Idleness and Luxury; that as soon as Years will permit, they consume their Vigor, and contract odious Diseases among lewd Females; and when their Fortunes are almost ruined, they marry some Woman of mean Birth, disagreeable Person, and unsound Constitution, merely for the Sake of Money, whom they hate and despise. That the Productions of such Marriages are generally scrophulous, ricketty, or deformed Children, by which means the Family seldom continues above Three Generations, unless the Wife takes care to provide a healthy Father among her Neighbours, or Acquaintance, in order to improve and continue the Breed. That a weak diseased Body, a meager Countenance, and sallow Complexion, are no uncommon Marks of a Great Man; and a healthy robust Appearance is so far disgraceful in a Man of Quality, that the World is apt to conclude his real Father to have been one of the Inferiors of the Family, especially when it is seen that the Imperfections of his Mind run parallel with those of his Body and are little else than a Composition of Spleen, Dulness, Ignorance, Caprice, Sensuality, and Pride.

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