Success of the Agitation

Justin McCarthy
Chapter VIII | Start of Chapter

Swift was filled with a generous detestation for the system under which Ireland was governed, and made use of this grievance about Wood's copper coinage as an opportunity for expressing his feelings on the whole subject. The sensation created by the Drapier's Letters brought the Irish Viceroy to a recognition of the fact that the agitation was too serious and too reasonable to be got rid of by arrests and imprisonments. The Viceroy, Lord Carteret, was new to his work; he only arrived in Ireland at a time when the agitation was reaching its height. He began his official career, according to the principles of rule just then, by issuing a proclamation against the Drapier's Letters, offering a large reward for the discovery of the author and ordering the arrest of the printer. When the printer was put on his trial the Grand Jury unanimously threw out the Bill sent up against him. Lord Carteret had wisdom enough to see that the time had come for concession rather than repression, and he strongly urged his views on the Government in England. His advice prevailed in the end. Wood's patent was withdrawn, and a pension was given to him to console him for his loss. The authorship of the Drapier's Letters became known, and the Irish people made an idol of Swift. The whole episode has a lasting interest for literature, but it has also a political interest of the highest importance, because it embodies the first national and at the same time purely argumentative protest of the Irish people against the system of arbitrary government from the centre of English rule.