Tuesday, 1 December 2009

HCJ. Jonathn Swift: A Modest Proposal

This is by far the most entertaining piece I have read, although to begin with, I was slightly oblivious to Swift’s mocking tone and did take it quite seriously!

‘For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland from being aburden to their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the public.’
• Swift opens the proposal by expressing his displeasure about females with a number of children, who are ‘forced’ to beg as means of money.
• Swift describes the’ prodigious number of children in the arms’ as an ‘additional grievance.’ He wishes to find a ‘fair, cheap and easy’ way of putting these children to use.
• He proposes not only to support the children of ‘professed beggars,’ but children of a certain age whose parents are unable to support them, supposedly Swift is speaking financially.
• Swift wishes to provide for the children from one year of age. Sees it as a bigger scheme which would eventually contribute to helping thousands.
• Swift thought the scheme would prevent voluntary abortion and women killing their unwanted children. He attributes the afore mentioned to women avoiding expense rather than shame.
• Swift adopts a mathematical approach to calculating how many women would have children/ continue to have children they could not support. He also tried to take into account those that would die from disease or natural causes. Swift estimated 120,000 children were born of poor parents annually.
• Swift explored and rejected options such as employment.
• Swift then approaches his suggestion in a reassuring manner by referring to his ‘very knowing American friend’ who suggests... EATING CHILDREN!
• Swift proposes that of the estimated 120,000 children born into poverty, 20,000 should be reserved for ‘breeding,’ one fourth of which should be males (again quite a mathematical approach).
• Swift suggests selling the children to the people of ‘quality and fortune,’ which in turn makes money for the parents.
• ‘A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends.’
• Swift estimated a newborn would weigh approximately 12Ibs and if nursed well could increase to 28Ibs.
• ‘Infants flesh will be in season throughout the year.’
• ‘I believe no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child...’
• Swift continues in a drastic manner, stating that the skin of the child could be use to make gloves and boots.
• Swift also suggests the ideas of specified child butchers, so the children would not have to be brought alive.
• Then are the advantages of this ‘modest proposal,’ they are as follows:
1. Lessen the number of papists
2. The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own
3. Money will circulate, nations stock will increase
4. ‘Constant breeders’ would be rid of the charge of maintaining the children after one year and would make a profit
5. The food would bring greater custom to taverns
6. ‘Men would become more fond of their wives during the time of pregnancy as they are now of their mares in foal...’
• ‘I can think of not one objection, that will possibly be raised against this proposal.’
• Swift does not take into account maternal instinct or human emotion. How does it differ from murder?
• Although he has considerable logistics and states the positive impact the proposal could have, there is lack of emotion and it is merely put forth as a business proposal.
• The way Swift writes, he makes it seem entirely achievable.
• Swift does, however, appear open to other suggestion, not narrow minded.
• Swift’s motive... ‘The public good of my own country by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor and giving some pleasure to the rich.’
• Interestingly, Swift points out that he has no children young enough to sell and his wife is past child bearing age. No personal gain for him, but no compassion either.

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