Dismissing Legitimate Solutions in Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal"
Gavin Shulman, English 171 Brown University, Autumn 2003
Swift introduces his "modest proposal" as the only way to cure the poverty problem plaguing Ireland. It is the cheapest, simplest, and most effective method. However, after laying out the entirety of his plan, Swift introduces us to some other possible expedients that may aid in solving the poverty epidemic. However, these other solutions, Swift ensures us, unlike his own proposal, contain no real potential.
Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither cloaths, nor houshold furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants. Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.
Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice."
Why does Swift even bring up these additional suggestions if he knows there is no sincere chance of their being enacted?
How does Swift's plan make more sense than these other possibilities?
How does Swift's plan make less?Which suggestions in the text does Swift believe would truly contibute to the revigoration of Ireland and the eradication of the poverty problem?
Last modified: 7 September 2003