Part III - Chapter VI
IN THE SCHOOL of political projectors I was but ill entertained; the professors appearing, in my judgment, wholly out of their senses, which is a scene that never fails to make me melancholy. These unhappy people were proposing schemes for persuading monarchs to choose favorites upon the score of their wisdom, capacity, and virtue; of teaching ministers to consult the public good; of rewarding merit, great abilities, and eminent services; of instructing Princes to know their true interest by placing it on the same foundation with that of their people; of choosing for employment persons qualified to exercise it, with many other wild, impossible chimeras that never entered before into the heart of man to conceive; and confirmed in me the old observation that there is nothing so extravagant and irrational which some philosophers have not maintained for truth.
But, however, I shall so far do justice to this part of the academy as to acknowledge that all of them were not so visionary. There was a most ingenious doctor who seemed to be perfectly versed in the whole nature and system of government. This illustrious person had very usefully employed his studies in finding out effectual remedies for all diseases and corruptions to which the several kinds of public administration are subject, by the vices or infirmities of those who govern, as well as by the licentiousness of those who are to obey. For instance, whereas all writers and reasoners have agreed that there is a strict universal resemblance between the natural and the political body, can there be anything more evident than that the health of both must be preserved and the diseases cured by the same prescriptions. It is allowed that senates and great councils are often troubled with redundant, ebullient, and other peccant humors; with many diseases of the head, and more of the heart; with strong convulsions, with grievous contractions of the nerves and sinews in both hands, but especially the right; with spleen, flatus, vertigos, and deliriums; with scrofulous tumors full of fetid, purulent matter; with foul, frothy ructations, with canine appetites and crudeness of digestion, besides many others needless to mention. This doctor therefore proposed that, upon the meeting of the senate, certain physicians should attend at the three first days of their sitting, and, at the close of each day's debate, feel the pulse of every senator; after which, having maturely considered and consulted upon the nature of the several maladies and the methods of cure, they should on the fourth day return to the senate-house, attended by their apothecaries stored with proper medicines, and, before the members sat, administer to each of them lenitives, aperitives, abstersives, corrosives, restringents, palliatives, laxatives, cephalalgics, icterics, apophlegmatics, acoustics, as their several cases required; and, according as these medicines should operate, repeat, alter, or admit them at the next meeting.
This project could not be of any great expense to the public, and would, in my poor opinion, be of much use for the despatch of business in those countries where senates have any share in the legislative power; beget unanimity, shorten debates, open a few mouths which are now closed, and close many more which are now open; curb the petulancy of the young and correct the positiveness of the old, rouse the stupid and damp the pert.
Again: because it is a general complaint that the favorites of Princes are troubled with short and weak memories, the sane doctor proposed that whoever attended a first minister, after having told his business with the utmost brevity and in the plainest words, should, at his departure, give the said minister a tweak by the nose or a kick in the belly, or tread on his corns, or lug him thrice by both ears, or run a pin into his breech, or pinch his arm black and blue to prevent forgetfulness, and at every levee day repeat the same operation till the business were done or absolutely refused.
He likewise directed that every senator in the great council of a nation, after he had delivered his opinion and argued in the defense of it, should be obliged to give his vote directly contrary, because, if that were done, the result would infallibly terminate in the good of the public.
When parties in a state are violent he offered a wonderful contrivance to reconcile them. The method is this: you take a hundred leaders of each party, you dispose them into couples of such whose heads are nearest of a size, then let two nice operators saw off the occiput of each couple at the same time, in such a manner that the brain may be equally divided. Let the occiputs thus cut off be interchanged, applying each to the head of his opposite party-man. It seems, indeed, to be a work that requireth some exactness, but the professor assured us that if it were dexterously performed, the cure would be infallible. For he argued thus: that, the two half-brains being left to debate the matter between themselves within the space of one skull, would soon come to a good understanding and produce that moderation, as well as regularity of thinking, so much to be wished for in the heads of those who imagine they come into the world only to watch and govern its motion; and as to the difference of brains in quantity or quality, among those who are directors in faction, the doctor assured us, from his own knowledge, that “it was a perfect trifle.
I heard a very warm debate between two professors about the most commodious and effectual ways and means of raising money without grieving the subject. The first affirmed the justest method would be to lay a certain tax upon vices and folly, and the sum fixed upon every man to be rated after the fairest manner by a jury of his neighbors. The second was of an opinion directly contrary, to tax those qualities of body and mind for which men chiefly value themselves; the rate to be more or less according to the degrees of excelling: the decision whereof should be left entirely to their own breast. The highest tax was upon men who are the greatest favorites of the other sex, and the assessments according to the number and natures of the favors they have received; for which they are allowed to be their own vouchers. Wit, valor, and politeness were likewise proposed to be largely taxed, and collected in the same manner, by every person giving his own word for the quantum of what he possessed. But as to honor, justice, wisdom, and learning, they should not be taxed at all; because they are qualifications of so singular a kind that no man will either allow them in his neighbor or value them in himself.
The women were proposed to be taxed according to their beauty and skill in dressing, wherein they had the same privilege with the men, to be determined by their own judgment. But constancy, chastity, good sense, and good nature were not rated, because they would not bear the charge of collecting.
To keep senators in the interest of the crown it was proposed that the members should raffle for employments, every man first taking an oath, and giving security that he would vote for the court, whether he won or no; after which the losers had, in their turn, the liberty of raffling upon the next vacancy. Thus hope and expectation would be kept alive; none would complain of broken promises, but impute their disappointments wholly to Fortune, whose shoulders are broader and stronger than those of a ministry.
Another professor showed me a large paper of instructions for discovering plots and conspiracies against the government. He advised great statesmen to examine into the diet of all suspected persons; their times of eating, upon which side they lay in bed, with which hand they wipe their posteriors; to take a strict view of their excrements; and, from the color, the odor, the taste, the consistence, the crudeness, or maturity of digestion, form a judgment of their thoughts and designs: because men are never so serious, thoughtful, and intent as when they are at stool which he found by frequent experiment. For, in such conjunctures, when he used, merely as a trial, to consider which was the best way of murdering the King, his ordure would have a tincture of green, but quite different when he thought only of raising an insurrection or burning the metropolis.
The whole discourse was written with great acuteness, containing many observations both curious and useful for politicians; but, as I conceived, not altogether complete. This I ventured to tell the author, and offered, if he pleased, to supply him with some additions. He received my proposition with more compliance than is usual among writers, especially those of the projecting species, professing he would be glad to receive further information.
I told him that in the kingdom of Tribnia, by the natives called Langden, where I had sojourned some time in my travels, the bulk of the people consist in a manner, wholly of discoverers, witnesses, informers, accusers, prosecutors, evidences, swearers, together with their several subservient and subaltern instruments, all under the colors, the conduct, and pay of ministers of state and their deputies. The plots in that kingdom are usually the workmanship of those persons who desire to raise their own characters of profound politicians; to restore new vigor to a crazy administration; to stifle or divert general discontents; to fill their pockets with forfeitures, and raise or sink the opinion of the public credit as either shall best answer their private advantage. It is first agreed and settled among them what suspected persons shall be accused of a plot; then effectual care is taken to secure all their letters and papers, and put the criminal in chains. These papers are delivered to a set of artists very dexterous in finding out the mysterious meanings of words, syllables, and letters; for instance, they can discover a close stool, to signify a privy council; a flock of geese to signify a senate; a lame dog, an invader; the plague, a standing army; a buzzard, a prime minister; the gout, a high priest; a gibbet, a secretary of state; a chamber chamber pot, a committee of grandees; a sieve, a court lady; a broom, a revolution; a mouse-trap, an employment; a bottomless pit, a treasury; a sink, a court; a cap and bells, a favorite; a broken reed, a court of justice; an empty tun, a general; a running sore, the administration.
Where this method fails they have two others more effectual, which the learned among them call acrostics and anagrams. First, they can decipher all initial letters into political meanings. Thus N shall signify a plot, B a regiment of horse, L a fleet at sea; or, secondly, by transposing the letters of the alphabet in any suspected paper, they can lay open the deepest designs of a discontented party. So, for example, if I should say in a letter to a friend, our brother Tom has just got the piles, a skilful decipherer would discover that the same letters which compose that sentence may be analyzed in the following words: Resist—a plot is brought home—the tour. And this is the anagrammatic method.
The professor made me great acknowledgments for communicating these observations, and promised to make honorable mention of me in his treatise.
I saw nothing in this country that could invite me to a longer continuance, and began to think of returning home to England.
A further account of the academy. The Author proposes some improvements, which are honorably received.
— Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
The idea of choosing senators by raffle, and that conspirators can be located by examining their excrement, is absurd. Swift uses a hilariously extreme example to liken the reliability of English political appointments to a random raffle and to emphasize that the English government accuses citizens of treason based on outlandish claims.
— Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
“Purulent” means resembling, containing, or consisting of pus. Swift emphasizes the imperfections of humans again, following the symbol of excrement.
— Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
“Scrofulous” refers to scrofula, a tuberculosis of the lymph nodes. The disease is characterized by enlargement and degeneration of the lymph nodes, commonly in the neck.
— Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
In Greek mythology, a “chimera” was a fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. However when used abstractly, as it is here, it refers broadly to an illusion or a wild fabrication of the mind.