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Forum Second Response of Warren Montag to Carole Fabricant Before I turn to the theoretical issues Carole Fabricant raises in her response, let me begin by stating the positions on early eighteenth-century Ireland and Swift's place in it outlined in my book and in my reply. First, I categorically reject the claim that there existed from 1692 to the middle of the eighteenth century a single Irish nation united by interest, if not by inclination, against England, for which Swift (especially in works such as the Drapier's Letters) would be a leading spokesperson. Far from exhibiting the characteristics of what is now called "hybridity," Irish society suffered a process of differentiation, hierarchization, and recomposition. Indeed, if there is any example of hybridity to be found in Ireland in this period, it is within the Roman Catholic community itself. As Thomas Bartlett has described in some detail, the legal and coercive forms of oppression succeeded in producing an entity that demonstrably did not pre-exist the "Penal era": a Roman Catholic nation.1 At the same time, the very penal laws that forged a Catholic collectivity capable of decisive action later in the century sundered the Protestant community, producing contradictions that would seriously weaken it (although, again, not until several decades after Swift's death). Unlike Fabricant, I hold that the distinction between the oppressor and the oppressed in early eighteenth-century Ireland is quite clear and becomes increasingly so until mid-century, even as the relations of force that produced this distinction were complex and, in the long run, unstable. By the end of the 1720s, the Roman Catholic majority was disarmed, dispossessed, and disenfranchised ; the Protestant minority was protected by an English military garrison of 1 Thomas Bartlett, The Fall and Rise ofthe Irish Nation (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1992). EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY FICTION, Volume 10, Number 1, October 1997 102 EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY FICTION 10:1 remarkable strength by contemporary standards, flush with confiscated wealth and endowed with a monopoly of political power. Swift, in the Letter Concerning the Sacramental Test, likens the Catholic community to "a Lyon ... bound fast with three or four chains, his teeth drawn out and his claws pared to the quick"2—by which he intends to show that "the common people without leaders , without discipline, or natural courage, being little better than Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water are out of all capacity of doing any mischief, if they were so ever well inclined."3 Fabricant has accused me of interpreting the Letter abusively by citing it as an example of Swift's attitude towards Roman Catholics when it manifestly concerns the Dissenters. In response, I would say both that Swift's intolerance for Dissenters has as its condition the successful containment of the Catholic community (the military garrison rendered Protestant unity superfluous) and that the Letter, brief as it is, contains probably the most extensive treatment of the Catholic question (apart from allegorical sections of A Tale of a Tub) in Swift's entire œuvre. Second, in the face of such conflicts and inequality of power, the notion of the English state (particularly the Executive with its de facto, if not de jure, veto power over Irish parliaments) as oppressor of the "whole people of Ireland " during Swift's lifetime is untenable. In fact, the demand for Irish legislative independence during the era of penal legislation had a meaning diametrically opposed to the one it would acquire when Catholics won the franchise. A catalogue of the legislation passed by the Protestant House of Commons (leaving aside some of the bizarre bills introduced) and rejected by the English Privy Council reads like an agenda for an inquisition, replete with proposals for the torture and castration of Roman Catholic clergy and, in some cases, for the execution of those who gave them shelter.4 Fabricant appears to believe that the legitimacy of Protestant rule was virtually unquestionable (at least among Protestants) and that the opposition to the oppression of Catholics could only be expressed in the paradoxical form of the near total silence it takes in Swift's writing. In fact, prominent Anglican clergy (mainly those Whig bishops Swift so distrusted...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-0243
Print ISSN
0840-6286
Pages
pp. 101-106
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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